Author's Note: Okay, apologies to anyone who may have been in the middle of reading this and now all the chapters have disappeared. As promised, I'm reloading this story with the clean, betaed version. There are one or two little additions along the way, too. Nothing major but things my beta and I think make the story more realistic.
A massive thanks to swirlsofblack who has put a lot of time and effort over the last five or so months to clean this story up for me.
All Eyes on Me
Hogwarts restarted in January with a bang. The autumn term had been quiet, used as a time for reflection and mourning those who had died in the Great Battle the previous May. The spring term was shaping up to be quite different. It all started on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters; a flurry of scandalised whispers flew around as a tall, white-blond head was spotted.
Of course, everyone was aware that Draco Malfoy had been released from Azkaban at the beginning of December. Thanks to the Daily Prophet, everyone was also aware that he would be returning to Hogwarts to complete his education. It was part of his probation. McGonagall had insisted that if he was to return to the school, he at least be allowed to take lessons whilst he was in Azkaban so he would be up to date with his lessons. It had caused some comment when McGonagall mentioned this in her opening speech during the Welcome Back feast; the fact that the Malfoy heir had been out of sight and out of mind, safely tucked away in Azkaban, meant that the speculation surrounding his fate hadn't lasted too long.
But now Draco Malfoy was back at Hogwarts, the first student-cum-Death Eater-cum- convict to grace its hallowed halls. The student body wasn't too sure how to react. The younger students were, frankly, petrified. The stories about the notorious Draco Malfoy that did the rounds didn't inspire much confidence that he wouldn't callously kill any first-year who happened to get in his way. His stint on Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad was practically legendary. He'd revelled in dishing out the nastiest punishments possible and then there was the fact that he'd let Death Eaters into the school, which had led to Albus Dumbledore's death. He'd spent much of his seventh year at Lord Voldemort's side. His attendance had been sporadic and he hadn't been required to help the Carrows terrorise the rest of the school body, like the other Slytherins. Rumour had it that Voldemort had been preparing him to be his heir. Little first-years, who were seeing the blond Slytherin for the first time, shook in their little shoes as he passed them by, his robes billowing behind him.
It would have been impossible for Draco not to notice the stares and whispers that followed him as he made his away across the platform to board the Hogwarts Express. He sneered at anyone brave enough to meet his gaze, but they weren't too many. A couple of returning Dumbledore's Army members had scowled at his appearance but he shrugged that off, uncaring. He slumped into a seat in an empty compartment, his angry demeanour more than enough to put anyone off from coming in out of curiosity. Astoria Greengrass started to wave cheerily at him but soon scurried away as he looked her up and down with no attempt to hide his scorn. He sat there brooding out the window, looking at all the pathetic, happy school kids running around until it was finally time to depart.
"That's where you got to, mate," Blaise Zabini said, slipping into the compartment with Pansy Parkinson.
"What do you want, Zabini? Permission to fuck Parkinson? I hear you're already doing that," Draco snarled.
"Don't make me come over there and smack that nasty little smirk off your face," Pansy scolded.
"Parkinson, if I wanted a fussing mother, I'd have stayed at the Manor. Now can the pair of you kindly fuck off? You're disturbing precious drinking time with your inane babble," Draco growled.
Blaise was about to say something when Pansy shook her head at him. She looked sadly at the angry blond currently gulping from a bottle of Firewhiskey. She took Blaise's hand and pulled him outside the carriage.
"Leave him, Blaise. I know Draco in this mood and he's impossible. He'll just keep insulting us until one of us gets angry, which is what he wants," Pansy cautioned.
"Now this is why I generally stay away from the prick," Blaise moaned to his girlfriend.
"Please, Blaise, for me. I'm all he's got and I need you to help me out. Greg's gone to Durmstrang and Vincent's dead. Not that those two goons were ever any good at standing up to him anyway."
Blaise looked at his pleading witch. She tugged on his heartstrings and if it weren't for her, he'd be more than happy to give Malfoy a wide berth. Draco Malfoy was trouble at the best of times and this was the very worst of times in the blond's short life.
"Okay, okay. But you realise this is going to alienate us in our own house. No Slytherin is going to want to have anything to do with him. We're all struggling as it is," Blaise said.
Pansy nodded. Her last year at Hogwarts was proving difficult enough as it was without the added complication that was Draco Malfoy. The other three houses made it more than clear, that as far as they were concerned, Slytherin House was no longer welcome at Hogwarts. Even relations with Ravenclaws were strained. The Slytherins kept to themselves and looked out for their first-years who had been bullied mercilessly during their first few weeks. Slytherins tended to keep to their dungeons these days. You rarely even saw them studying in the library. They tended to go at unfashionable hours when you usually only saw Hermione Granger around. Although this year, you didn't even see the celebrated Muggle-born war hero in the library very often as she had her own private dorm. McGonagall had been thrilled that Granger, along with Potter and Weasley, had decided to return and had jumped to make Granger Head Girl, along with Anthony Goldstein from Ravenclaw as Head Boy.
Pansy sighed as she and Blaise joined Theo Nott and Daphne Greengrass in another compartment.
"Given up on Malfoy, I see," said Theo.
Pansy frowned at the brown-haired boy. "You know, Theo, you really should remember that it was only last year that you were jealous of Draco's place. You begged your dad to let you take the Dark Mark, so please, cut it out."
Theo scowled back at her. He didn't need reminding of his stupidity.
"Come on, guys, please don't fight. We have it hard enough as it is without turning on each other," Daphne, forever the peace-maker, pleaded.
"As long as Theo learns to keep his mouth shut," Pansy replied.
"Oho, here I thought you were madly in love with Blaise. I see it only takes Malfoy to come back on the scene for you to start scurrying after him again," Theo said unkindly.
"Watch your mouth, Theo," Blaise warned.
"And you know better than anyone that Draco and I have only ever been friends. He was my first friend and I'll stay loyal to him, especially right now when he needs all the friends he can get," Pansy said pointedly.
"He welcomed you with open arms, I see, which, of course, is why you're sitting here with Daphne and me," Theo responded.
"Fuck off, Theo. You're such a twat," was all Pansy said in response.
Draco was pretty tipsy by the time the Hogwarts Express pulled into the station at Hogsmeade. He managed to not get blinding drunk by only allowing himself to take one bottle of Firewhiskey onto the train. He didn't want to be passing out in front of everyone, but he did need the dullness that being tipsy gave him. He swayed slightly as he jumped into a carriage and smirked evilly as the third-years that had been about to get into the same carriage backed away in alarm. No-one wanted to share a carriage up to the castle in the dark with a potentially deranged murderer.
The Great Hall was loud, bright and altogether too noisy. Good job Draco had had the foresight to bring a flask of Firewhiskey in his pocket. It would help get him through this mess. Six months in solidarity confinement in Azkaban, followed by a peaceful December at Malfoy Manor was not good preparation for a hall bustling with hundreds of school kids. The slight hush that followed him around was annoying but at least it gave him a few moments of blessed silence.
Draco saw that Pansy had optimistically left the seat next to her open. If she thought he was going to play nice and sit like the last three years hadn't happened then she had it all wrong. Draco deliberately ignored her beseeching gaze and sat at the end, next to a couple of scared first-years. Salazar's rod, this new bunch of Slytherins was a pathetic bunch. He scowled as they scooted away from him as he was fucking contagious. Well fuck them, fuck Hogwarts and fuck the Ministry for making him return to this hellhole.
Another silence descended over the Great Hall as the 'Golden Trio' walked in. Draco sneered as hundreds of eyes skittered between him and them as if they expected a confrontation. Mind you, Potter would be doing him a favour if he did hex him on sight. McGonagall had come to visit him during his last week in Azkaban to speak to him about his return to Hogwarts.
"Mr. Malfoy, you will be returning to Hogwarts at the start of the new term. I expect you to board the Hogwarts Express like everyone else on January fourth."
Draco had nodded, knowing that no other response from him was expected. McGonagall had already made her feelings about him more than clear and they were contempt. She had to be strong-armed by the Ministry to even allow him back.
"Now, you may not be aware, but most of your year has decided to return so they can sit their N.E.W.T.s. This includes Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger. I will not tolerate a return to your behaviour towards them. You step a foot out of line, Mr. Malfoy, and you'll be clearing out your dorm quicker than you can say Quidditch."
Draco was seething inside but wasn't going to give the hag the satisfaction of seeing how her words were affecting him. He didn't want to be anywhere near her precious school, or her precious Gryffindor heroes. He'd prefer to remain at home and continue to learn away from Hogwarts.
Potter's eyes rested on Draco for a few seconds. Draco raised his hip flask in a mocking salute to the wizarding world's saviour. Potter eyes flickered back to the front as he failed to respond to the gesture. He was probably under McGonagall's orders not to attack. Fucking prick. Oh well, he could always try to subtly wind up the Weasel. He was always the one out of the dickhead duo who couldn't control his temper. Draco would just have to think of a way to subtly wind him up. He was surprised to see the ginger tumour wasn't sitting next to the Mudblood. He'd seen them holding hands right after the Great Battle, and fully expected Granger to be sporting a pitiful excuse of a diamond on her ring finger by now. The Weaselette was happily splashing her left hand around, shoving her sparkling ring under the nose of anyone who stood still for a nanosecond. Stupid bitch had probably never had her dirty, poor hands on so much wealth before.
Draco sneered at the sight of the Gryffindors. How he hated being back here. It was like the Ministry had read his mind and thought up the worst punishment possible. If Draco wasn't so skilled at Occlumency, he would bet Malfoy Manor that this is what had happened. He took another sip of Firewhiskey. Fuck it, alcohol would surely get him through the next few months and then he could happily never set eyes on this place again.
Draco scorned eating anything, pushing his plate away and just steadily sipping from his hip flask. Pansy eyed him worriedly throughout the meal. The whole of Slytherin House was on a tightrope and Draco was on the highest of them all. One little mistake and he would be kicked out gleefully by the faculty.
"Blaise, help me get Draco back to the common room when this is all over," Pansy begged.
Blaise looked at the blond and saw that he was getting more and more drunk. His infamous constitution or control wouldn't get him back to the common room unaided. Blaise really didn't need this shit this year but Pansy was giving him those puppy dog eyes that made him melt.
"Fine! You'll have to distract him whilst I get an arm around his shoulders. He's going to need steadying. Put some bread in your pocket, too. He's going to need it to soak up all that alcohol."
Pansy leaned in and pecked Blaise on the lips. "You're the best boyfriend ever."
Pansy sat and observed for the rest of the meal. She could see McGonagall staring at Draco. The beady eyes of the Headmistress didn't miss much and she'd be looking for one tiny little mistake to chuck him out. Slughorn was also glancing towards his biggest problem. Pansy could read all too clearly that the old Professor was wishing he hadn't let McGonagall persuade him to come back to head the Slytherins.
Most surprisingly for Pansy, though, were the golden brown eyes that watched Draco from the Gryffindor table. Hermione Granger had been sneaking glances at the young Malfoy for most of the dinner. Pansy couldn't read her expression. She just hoped for Draco's sake that the Head Girl wasn't looking for revenge for the years of insults.
Dinner finally finished and Pansy grabbed Draco's arm as he stood swaying for a brief moment.
"Draco, you need the password to get into the common room," she said.
"Well fucking give it to me then and piss off."
Draco felt a strong arm go around his shoulders. "That's no way to speak to a lady, Draco," Blaise reproached.
Draco snorted. "You calling Pansy a lady?"
Blaise glared at Pansy as he steered the drunk blond out of the Great Hall and down to the Slytherin dungeon. He had a feeling he was going to have put up with the snarky insults for the rest of the year whilst he did this.
Draco was so far gone that he didn't even seem to notice that he was back in his dorm room. Blaise pushed him down onto his bed, stuck a bread roll in his hand and escaped as quickly as possible. Draco's constant cruel comments about Pansy throughout the walk had tested his self-control, but she would be pissed if he gave Draco a black eye.
"Pansy, that boy is going to make me snap," Blaise complained as he reached the common room.
"He just needs time to readjust to things, Blaise, and he needs our help," Pansy replied.
"Why, out of everyone, did he have to be your best friend?" Blaise asked.
Pansy didn't bother responding to this. She knew she was asking a lot of Blaise as Draco was particularly foul at the moment.
"Did you notice anything strange from Granger?" she asked her boyfriend.
"No, but then again, I can't say I actually spend much time looking at Gryffindors, let alone the Golden Trio."
"She noticed Draco," Pansy said.
Blaise shrugged. "What's unusual about that? Everyone noticed Draco today."
"No, I mean really noticed Draco. She kept looking at him and I can't figure out her intentions," Pansy said, frustrated.
Blaise knew this was serious. Pansy could read practically anyone. She had a natural antenna for people's moods. "It doesn't necessarily mean anything bad, Pans," he said, trying to comfort her.
"No, but if I were Hermione Granger then I'd be out for revenge. We made her life a misery and she's Head Girl. She could get him kicked out easily. She's McGonagall's star pupil and she's in a position of power. As much as Draco doesn't think it, he needs the normality that is school, even if he does have everyone staring at him, petrified."
"We'll keep an eye on her and not give her an excuse to get rid of Draco," Blaise promised, tucking his girl up against him.
Great, this year was getting better and better, Blaise and Pansy both thought.