A Bad Death Eater Gone Good
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
ACT TWO: FRENEMIES
Of course, it had to happen: Potter's name had to come out of the Goblet of Fire, the poor teenager looked confused and then the school—led by the Hufflepuffs—turned on him (Hufflepuffs! Who knew Hufflepuffs could be so vicious? The Dark Lord should've used them to take over the world instead).
As Draco contemplated his next move, he vividly remembered Potter's face once Dumbledore called his name earlier that evening. Startled, for sure—confused, then, and finally resigned, like he knew it was going to happen and it was only a matter of time.
Draco raised his arms over his head and slipped his hands beneath, crossed his ankles and then sighed, staring up at the rocky ceiling of the Slytherin dungeons. It wouldn't be until after the First Task with the dragon that people believed Potter could win the Tournament (regardless of the fact that Moody/Crouch would be helping and easing the way), but his friends wouldn't be swayed from the popular opinion until then, anyway. Except Granger, of course, who never left Potter's side at any point in the timeline. Could that be Draco then too? Could he use this as his stepping-stone into the grace of Potter?
Doing so would invoke great political strife within the Slytherin contingent, not to mention how much Snape would ride his ass—but then again, Snape was playing for the other team and could possibly applaud Draco for his rather imaginative and inspiring move?
Draco snorted. Not likely.
Which still brought him back to the original problem: to help Potter, or not to help Potter—that was the question. Hamlet had a kingdom to take back; Potter had an entire nation to win over. It really wasn't that different in Draco's mind, but his role was up in the air.
If he helped Potter — publicly, now— he was, be completely ostracized by the rest of the Slytherins and probably the school as well, who would wonder what a Slytherin like himself was doing cozying up to two Gryffindors. In addition, said two Gryffindors would probably hex him to Saturday and back again before he could ever get close enough to say "hello."
However, if he wanted to do what he was supposed to do – help save the world, then Draco knew there was no other option. He would have to be friends with Potter and Granger. And he had to have them believe he wanted to be friends with him. Hell, he'd Imperio them if he had to (until he remembered that Potter was talented with the Unforgiveable, in both senses: casting and throwing it off).
Well. There was only one way to go then. And if it meant prostrating himself in front of the Gryffindor two—the smarter two, that is—then so be it. Draco was done with his cat-and-mouse bullshit of trying to figure out why no one else remembered the future by him. It was getting tiring, remembering, and trying to not act out in ways that would fundamentally change things too much before he felt comfortable with actually changing things.
But that was earlier. Now...
Now Draco was ready to swallow his Slytherin pragmatism and join the house the hat briefly contemplated putting him in: Gryffindor.
The morning after the TriWizard Champions were picked found Harry and Hermione sitting by the lake and munching on toast. Harry had his arms wrapped loosely around his knees, while Hermione sat with her legs extended and daintily crossed at the ankles, leaning back on her hands.
After Harry told Hermione what happened in the antechamber, Hermione sighed loudly, shaking her head in exasperation.
"Well, of course I knew you hadn't entered yourself," she said. "The look on your face when Dumbledore read out your name...!"
"But who did put my name in, then?" asked Harry, frowning. He slightly rocked on his rear, tilting his head up to look at the overcast sky.
"I think Moody might be right, Harry..." began Hermione, pensively. She brought one of her hands from behind, frowned at the sticky grass on it, wiped it off on her skirt, and then brought the hand to her mouth to chew on the cuticle. "I don't think any student could have done it; they'd never be able to fool the Goblet, or get over Dumbledore's"—
"Have you seen Ron?" asked Harry, interrupting instead. He heard all that about the Age Line the night before.
Hermione hesitated, catching Harry's eyes. When she did so, he rolled his own in response. He knew the answer before she said anything. "Um... he was at breakfast," she began slowly.
"Still thinking I entered myself?" queried Harry in a deceptively light tone.
"Um... oh, well, no, I don't think so... um, not really anyway," continued Hermione slowly.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Isn't it obvious, Potter? He's jealous."
At the strange voice, which was not Hermione's, both Gryffindors jumped to their feet, wands pointed at the interloper.
Draco Malfoy stood before them, hands stuffed deep in his trouser pockets, and a green and silver scarf wrapped around his pale throat. Hoping to look non-threatening, Malfoy brought his hands out of his pockets and let them dangle at his side, however consciously uncomfortable it was.
"Jealous?" asked Harry incredulously. "Jealous of what? He wants to make a prat of himself in front of the whole school, is that it?"
"Probably," muttered Malfoy at the same time Hermione jumped in, "It's always you who gets all the attention; you know how it is, and I know it's not your fault."
Hermione glared at Malfoy briefly before turning back to Harry. "Ron's got all those brothers to compete with at home, and you're his best friend, and you're really famous... he's always shunted to the side when people see you, but he never mentions it."
"One time too many, then?" broke in Malfoy, as he took a step forward.
"Can it, Malfoy," snapped Harry, reflexively. "You were doing so well since school started, don't ruin it for us now."
"Oh, please," snorted Malfoy, "Like you haven't heard him flaunting his role in those adventures you've had over the years? I know I have." Malfoy modulated his voice to approximately Ron's roundish tones: "I beat a giant chess set; I'm a great chess player. Harry never beats me! If I weren't there, we'd never have saved the Philosopher's Stone. I've been down in the Chamber of Secrets—have you? No, I didn't think so."
Hermione and Harry stared at Malfoy.
"Seriously?" Hermione finally asked, her voice dubious.
"Seriously," agreed Malfoy, nodding. "Go and ask his older brothers. Or Longbottom. Or Loony."
"Loony?" asked Harry dangerously.
"Uh," started Malfoy, "Luna Lovegood. Third-year Ravenclaw, friends with the youngest Weasley, the girl. I think. People call her Loony Lovegood because she's a bit spacey and out there." Here, Malfoy frowned. "I think some of the older Ravenclaw girls are stealing her things too, because I saw her without shoes last week, outside for Herbology when I was done flying."
Harry deeply frowned, trying to picture the girl but failing; he had never heard of Luna Lovegood before; nor had Ginny mentioned her—so how was it that Draco Malfoy knew who the girl was? Yet another point in favour of Malfoy having been possessed or lobotomised at some point over the summer.
Anyway, that was beside the point. The point was Ron Weasley being a douche and therefore Harry disowned him. He was done with Ron's attitude.
"Malfoy," began Harry tiredly, rubbing his face under his glasses with his hands, "Why are you here?"
Hermione watched as Malfoy swallowed heavily, his Adam's apple bobbing in his throat through the motion. His grey eyes flashed with something – determination? – before he finally worked up the nerve to state, firmly, "I believe that you didn't enter the tournament."
Both Harry and Hermione eyed the Slytherin warily. Malfoy had never said anything near positive to the two in previous years and it was only their strange Malfoy-was-abducted-by-aliens theory of theirs that had them questioning the teen's motives.
Harry beadily eyed the Slytherin some more, turning to face Hermione with a quirked eyebrow in response. What do you think? It seemed to ask.
Hermione shrugged, turning back to Malfoy. "Malfoy... Draco."
At his name, Malfoy startled and looked at Hermione, a slightly panicked expression on his face. Seeing it, Hermione's lips stretched into a thin, darkly amused smile. It made Malfoy shudder in response, as though he was remembering something he really didn't want to. "Yes?" he croaked out.
"Malfoy," began Hermione, quite seriously. "Were you, at any point this summer, abducted by aliens?"
Malfoy stared at Hermione in disbelief.
"Lobotomised?" offered Harry, warming up to the game.
"Inhaled potions you weren't supposed to?"
"... what are you two on about?" muttered Malfoy, his eyes darting between the two Gryffindors, both which had small grins on their faces.
"Please," began Hermione with an eye roll. "You behave politely towards us at the Quidditch World Cup; you warned us about the Death Eaters moving in our directions and tell me to keep my head down; you don't antagonise us anymore. Personality transplant?"
"I still like aliens," argued Harry evenly.
Blinking, Malfoy soon realised that they were teasing him. In Slytherin, there was no teasing unless it was the result of blackmail; things were rarely down for pure enjoyment. Sometimes he and Nott teased each other, over little things that they only knew about, but nothing like what the two Gryffindors were doing.
"... time travel?" offered Malfoy finally, wondering if he could segue that into his true story.
Hermione's face lit up and she squealed a little. "Oooh, we didn't think of that one yet!"
"Good job, Malfoy," agreed Harry, nodding. "We really should have thought of that one."
"Really?" asked Malfoy, completely perplexed. "Why?"
"We've time travelled before," admitted Hermione, knowingly, with that strange glint still in her eyes.
"... you have?"
"Oh, yes, to save Buckbeak. Remember him?" the glint was becoming stronger.
"We might have to reintroduce you two, then," continued Hermione, blithely ignoring the way Malfoy was turning the colour of sour milk.
"Possibly," he agreed faintly.
"Alright, Hermione, that's enough," Harry finally said, interrupting her game. "Leave him alone, he looks like he's going to be sick. You alright, Draco?"
The Slytherin mumbled something suspiciously like, "I will be," or that Harry took, as "I will be."
Walking a few steps forward, so that he was next to the Slytherin, Harry slapped Draco companionably on the shoulder and happily said, "Wonderful. Of course, we need to verify that Ron has been acting the way you said he was, and once we have confirmation of that, well... then we'll talk about you believing I didn't enter myself. Actions speak louder, you know?"
Draco mumbled something again, nodding his head, eyes darting between Harry and Hermione and determining Harry to be the safer choice. "Understood."
"Great," agreed Harry with a small smile. "See you in class."
Then, he and Hermione walked away, leaving the Slytherin standing by the lake, pale-faced, confused, and most likely, shell-shocked in some form of their handling of the situation.
"Time travel?" muttered Hermione to Harry as they entered the castle.
"He was sincere. He believes it fully," replied Harry. "It wasn't until he suggested it that I thought he was just playing along or ignoring our Gryffindorish behaviour."
"I agree," said the bushy-haired teenager. "Shall I research into this?"
"If you have time," demurred Harry, idly looking down at his nails as they passed near the Great Hall; hearing voices coming from within, Harry glanced that way before mentally reviewing his schedule.
"I'll check with Ginny," offered Hermione, immediately sensing where his thoughts went.
Harry nodded. "Good. I'll grab Neville or Fred or George and ask them. See if you can track down Luna Lovegood as well. I want to know who she is and how the hell Malfoy knew about her already."
Hermione hummed her agreement. "See you in class, then," she said, taking off towards the Gryffindor tower.
Harry watched her disappear before heading to his first class, hands in his pockets and a completely unaffected look on his face; maybe it was time for him to be the person the Sorting Hat saw in him. After all, if Malfoy could do a 180 – then so could he.
A week later, following the announcement of Potter as the fourth TriWizard Champion, Draco came to the startling conclusion that his year mates in Slytherin were stupid. They did not embody the Slytherin code – sly, cunning, and ambitious – and as Death Eaters in the making, they were sorely lacking in all departments.
Blaise Zabini was one of those, Draco thought, eyeing the teenager with disdain as he stood with his classmates outside the Potions classroom.
Why? Because Blaise Zabini had taken it upon himself to act the way Draco previously did in the past timeline, creating the 'Potter Stinks' badges that Draco thought were oh-so-clever (which, they weren't). What was even worse was that nearly all the Slytherins had bought into the stupidity with the exception of Draco, Theodore Nott, and Adrian Pucey. Had Draco not spent three months panicking over being the only time traveller who remembered the future, he would've thought that Nott and Pucey were finally remembering and taking a stand. That, however, was not the case, as when questioned, Nott replied, "It's rather below me," in a very condescending tone, and Pucey frowned, and asked, "Who's Zabini?"
"Like them, Potter?" drawled Zabini as Potter and Granger passed the group to stand with the Gryffindors, opposite the Slytherins. "And this isn't all they do—look!"
The luminous red letters of Support Cedric Diggory – the REAL Hogwarts Champion changed to green and Potter Stinks.
The Slytherins howled with laughter; in the previous timeline, Draco knew that Potter was horribly embarrassed by the situation and Granger's intervention left her with beaver teeth. This time, however, Potter rolled his eyes.
"Yes, yes, very clever. You learned to spell, Zabini," he answered in a clipped tone. "That must have taken you, what? All of last week to figure out?"
The hall descended into silence.
"What did you say Potter?" Zabini asked lowly.
Draco frowned, edging away from the Slytherin group, causing Nott to look at him strangely. Well, no more strangely than his friend had been looking at him since his return to the past.
"I said it was nice to know the Hogwarts educational system can help you improve your language acquisition skills," said Potter, facing Zabini and staring him in the eyes. "Or were there too many words for you to follow, Zabini? Need Mummy to help you?"
Draco groaned. Even Granger looked surprised by Potter's outburst, as did the Gryffindor fourth years that were swivelling their heads between Zabini and Potter like a tennis match.
Zabini scrambled for his wand, pulling it out and pointing it at Potter, who remained calm and still. The Gryffindors who were behind him—Patil and Brown—scrambled over each other to Finnegan and Thomas's side, further down the hallway to avoid the line of fire.
Granger stood near Potter, idly watching with interest as Goyle moved to flank Zabini. She didn't reach for her wand, making Draco wonder what was going on in their minds.
"Go on, then, Potter," sneered Zabini. "Draw your wand. Moody's not here to look after you now—do it, if you've got the guts..."
"Seriously?" asked Harry, reaching into his robe pocket slowly. "You're asking a Gryffindor if they've got the guts to do something? Especially one who, oh, Hermione, help me out here, will you? Took on a mountain troll at eleven..."
Granger's eyes lit up. "Destroyed Professor Quirremort at eleven... entered the fabled Chamber of Secrets at twelve..."
"Defeated a Basilisk at twelve..."
"Survived a bite from said basilisk at twelve..."
"Survived numerous jaunts into the Forbidden Forest..."
"Spiders," moaned Weasley from somewhere down the hallway, causing confusion.
"Travelled through time to save a mass murderer..."
"Fought off over a hundred Dementors..."
"Oh, and let's not forget killing the most feared Dark Lord in the past fifty years before I was toilet trained," finished Potter with a dark look in his eyes, which glittered behind his spectacles. "Now, Zabini... do you really want to dare me to do anything?"
The hallway was silent. The Slytherins were no longer laughing and their faces no longer held the same devious glee they originally had when they pressed their Diggory buttons.
But, Slytherin breeds stupidity, as Draco well knew, and the next thing everyone in the hallway knew, Potter and Zabini had shouted at each other (reminding Draco that Potter desperately need to learn non-verbal casting immediately).
"Densaugeo!" screamed Zabini.
"Furnunculus!" shouted Harry.
When the spells hit – because the aim was precisely for both, so Draco had to give Zabini pointers in targeting, at least – they ricocheted off into separate directions, maintaining their velocity, and hitting Goyle, who bellowed madly and nasally as his hands went to his nose, and Granger, who shrieked and then quietly whimpered.
Weasley began to dart forward, to check on his other friend, but Potter got to the girl first, carefully easing her hands away from her face, and watching in pained horror as her teeth began to grow past her chin.
Weasley tried to move forward, closer to Granger, but Potter's glare had him wilt and meander back to Finnegan and Thomas; interesting, – maybe Potter and Granger learned the truth about Weasley's bragging?
With Goyle blubbering in the background as angry boils erupted over his nose and upper lip, no one noticed Snape's approach but Draco, who had watched him glide down the hallway, behind the Gryffindors.
"And what is all this noise about?"
The deadly whisper cut through Goyle's cries of pain and through Granger's tear-ridden face, causing the fourth years to turn in surprise and horror at the Potions Master. Suddenly, everyone – the Gryffindors and Slytherins together – began clamouring over one another to explain the situation. Except Draco.
Snape noticed, pointed at him, and said, "Explain."
"Ummm," emerged from Draco's mouth without censor.
Snape's expressive eyebrows rose in surprise.
Malfoys never "um" or "ah" in public. It's not done. Yet, Draco had done so. Therefore, he was already halfway on the path he hadn't consciously decided he would take. In for a knut, he thought. I can sleep in the Room of Requirements.
"Zabini taunted Potter with the 'Support Cedric Diggory' badges because they have a slur against Potter hidden in the charm work. Potter verbally replied with an insult against Zabini's intelligence, which led to Zabini drawing his wand. The two exchanged more words before they fired at the same time, their spells hitting each other and then Goyle and Granger."
Snape blinked; Draco knew that was bad. He flummoxed his godfather. Then, deliberately looking Draco over from head to toe for any sign of a Confundus, he turned to Goyle and examined his face. It now resembled something that belonged in a book about poisonous fungi.
Then, he turned to Granger, who was still trying to hide her teeth behind her hands, but clearly failing as her teeth were now past her shirt collar and continuing to grow.
His eyes turned back to Goyle, and then at Zabini, who was heaving heavily and staring mulishly at his Head of House; then, at Potter who looked bored and unaffected, next to Hermione while he and Snape looked at each other. Finally, Snape sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Draco, escort Goyle to the hospital wing. Granger still has use of her eyes and can follow," he said, then turned to the fourth years staring at him. "Now, get inside, or I'll give a weeks' worth of detentions."
The rest of the class scrambled to get inside, following Snape's billowing robes; Potter was one of the last, affectionately touching Granger's shoulder before disappearing into the classroom.
Goyle was still moaning piteously, mumbling, "I can't see, I can't see," every so often while Granger was staring at him curiously.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake, Goyle," snapped Draco, drawing his wand and letting a stupefy hit his fellow Slytherin, dropping him to the floor, silent for a change. Granger's eyes widened – but Draco couldn't tell if it was horror or delight that caused them to do so.
Instead, Draco levitated Goyle to float beside him, and then, thinking about it, deliberately cocked his left elbow out to Granger in a courteous manner. She stared at his elbow.
Did you? Did you learn the truth about Weasley? Are you going to trust me now? thought Draco, looking back at Granger.
Then, to his shock, Granger stepped forward with her shoulder bag switched to her left side, and she hooked her right arm through his left, glancing up at him from under her fringe.
"Hohpital?" she lisped.
Draco struggled not to laugh as his lips twitched in amusement.
"Thop it," the Gryffindor cautioned, wagging a finger at him as she spied the movement of his mouth; her upturned smile told him it wasn't serious.
Together, they walked with Goyle floating beside him to the hospital wing, silently and strangely, comfortable.
Madam Pomfrey didn't quite know what to make of the three of them when they walked in, Goyle floating and Draco escorting Granger without any snide comments. Finally, after rolling her eyes upward (clearly asking Merlin to give her strength), she directed Goyle to one of the beds, draw the curtain around him and then pointed at Granger to sit in the other.
"Thanks," Granger said to Draco as he turned to leave. "An' you were right."
"Right?" asked Draco, turning back to face her as she settled onto the mattress, tucking a leg underneath her.
"About Weathley," continued Hermione, looking at him with wide, brown eyes. "Harry an' I belieth you now."
Draco left the hospital wing feeling strangely elated by the news.
"Okay, Draco," began Theodore slowly, breathing heavily through his nose, as he tried to make sense of it. "Explain to me again, why you helped Potter out this afternoon? And why you're not staying in the Common Room."
Draco shrugged. "What does it mean to be a Slytherin, Theo?"
"What does it mean to be a Slytherin?" asked Draco again. "We're the house of the ambitious. The cunning; the sly. Was anything that Zabini has been doing lately any of that?"
Theo fell silent, staring at his friend out of the corner of his eye as they made their way slowly through the many hallways in Hogwarts. Theo didn't know where they were going, but Draco clearly had some indication of where he wanted to go, as he was moving with purpose.
"Are you saying that you stuck up for Potter and Granger because Zabini isn't the consummate Slytherin?" Theo finally asked.
"No," answered Draco, sighing. "I mean, that's part of it. He's an idiot and if he's supposed to represent the Slytherin house, I don't want to have anything to do with him. But, as for Potter and Granger? They're some of the smartest in our year group – and powerful too. Potter didn't put his name in, you know that right?"
Theo nodded. "Yeah, you could tell on his face that night."
"So what's the point in further alienating him? Obviously someone put his name in there to either kill him, or at least, to have him compete with a bunch of seventeen year olds," continued Draco, glancing at his friend to see if he was following.
He was following.
"Ignoring that," sighed Draco. "The point is, if I show Potter and Granger that I don't believe the same rubbish that ninety percent of the school does, I'm in their good books. I made a mistake in first year and now I'm trying to fix that."
"I offered Potter my hand in friendship and snubbed someone he did make friends with at the time. He wasn't impressed with me," admitted Draco. "But we met in Diagon Alley first... I just wish I wasn't so scared and nervous when we met the first time. Did you know we're cousins?"
Theo gave a half-shrug. "Yeah."
Draco nodded. "I don't think he does."
Draco's best friend frowned, contemplating the knowledge. "So... you're helping him out of a sense of Black family duty?"
Draco shook his head. "No."
"I'm helping him because it's right. And because I think things are going to change this year – the Quidditch World Cup was the start. And, despite everything, Theo," he said, stopping in the middle of the seventh floor corridor, "I plan on being on the winning side."
Life was the shits for Harry once Rita Skeeter's article came out. Many people in the school shouted comments at him as he would walk by and even Hermione was getting her fair share of attention – whether it was because the male populace suddenly saw her a "a stunningly pretty Muggleborn" or because she was a Mudblood and therefore, fun to pick on.
Despite that, Harry didn't really care. He had arranged to speak with Sirius about the entire situation through a Floo call on November 22, and gain some adult experience on how to deal with the petty taunts. Yet, that was minor. The biggest shock had been conferring with Neville and learning that Malfoy was right about how Ron would act when he or Hermione weren't around. Having it further confirmed by the Twins and Lee Jordan made Harry's blood boil in furious shock.
How dare he? How DARE he? Harry thought, a continuous cycle of anger running through his veins. He knew Hermione felt the same; she, too, was shocked by the revelations and strangely, accepting. Perhaps she had a better understanding of Ron Weasley's psychological failings than Harry ever did, since he did only want to see the best of his friends once they were his friends. His loyalty was quite Hufflepuff.
But to have Draco Malfoy – his strange, time-travelling-believing-it-so-it-must-be-true Slytherin quasi-friend – tell him something his Gryffindor friends should've told him... it was gut-wrenchingly awful.
But his pity-party only lasted so long and soon he and Hermione were tucked away in the History section of the library (because no one ever went there willingly), bent over their homework and whispering fiercely at each other.
"Can we trust him?" Harry asked, referencing Hermione and Malfoy's conversation in the hospital.
"I suppose so," agreed Hermione, frowning contemplatively. "I mean, he does seem ridiculously sure he travelled through time. And he's acting differently. And his name isn't any different on the Map, is it?"
"Not that I could tell."
Hermione hummed. "We did say that we'd give him a chance."
"That's true," said Harry, "But is this chance enough?"
Hermione stared at her friend. "Harry. He blabbed about Zabini to Professor Snape. No Slytherin does that. And Parvati heard from Padma, who heard from Greengrass that he's not even sleeping in the Slytherin dorms anymore."
Harry's mouth dropped open. "Hermione!" he said in gleeful shock. "Did you just gossip with me?"
"I did not," huffed Hermione, rolling her eyes, only to catch the strange, hunched-like figure lurking a shelf over.
Sure enough, giggly twitters began to echo around Harry and Hermione as a bunch of eyelash-batting girls rounded the corner, staring at the same hunched figure.
"Oh my freaking God," moaned Hermione, dropping her head on the table and putting her hands over her ears. "He's not even good looking! They only like him because he's famous! They wouldn't even look twice at him if he couldn't do that Wonky-Faint thing..."
"Wronski Feint," corrected a male voice, one that wasn't Harry's.
Hermione raised her head balefully, removing her hands as Draco Malfoy less than gracefully dropped into the free chair next to Harry.
"The what?" she asked.
"Wronksi Feint," sighed Harry, "Honestly, Hermione – for someone who can memorise so much you have a terrible memory when it comes to sports' moves."
"It's Quidditch," she replied.
"Exactly," the two fourth year males said, in the same tone, clearly indicating that Hermione didn't know what she's talking about and Quidditch was the most awesome sport in the history of human civilisation. Then, realising what they had done, both Harry and Draco Malfoy glanced at each other, then away, and cleared their throats as they tried to settle and pretend they didn't have shared, common interests.
"Riiiiiight," said Hermione, her eyes darting between the two. The twitters from the giggly girls grew louder and Hermione felt a headache begin. "Can we go elsewhere?"
Harry shrugged, and Malfoy nodded. "I know a place if you're willing to come."
Harry and Hermione nodded, gathered their books and parchment and were soon out of the library, wandering down the hall and then up the stairs to the seventh floor.
"I hope you're not trying to tell us something, Malfoy," laughed Harry as he watched Barnabas the Barmy trying to teach trolls to ballet dance; the painting wasn't too large, but it was large enough to watch the strange situation take place with ease and detail.
"Not quite," answered Malfoy, instead pacing back and forth three times, when suddenly – a door appeared opposite the painting.
"Ooooh," squealed Hermione, as the door opened and Malfoy ushered them into a comfortable looking room, with a fire roaring in a large fireplace and many, many bookshelves. Several mannequins and dummies were clumped together in a far corner near a raised dueling stage, similar to the one Harry and Malfoy duelled on in their second year; a round table, surrounded by a two-seat divan and several arm chairs, took up the majority of the space by the fireplace.
"Welcome to the Room of Requirements," said Malfoy, waving his hand imperiously and then collapsing on the two-seater.
"Has this always been here?" asked Harry, looking around in wonder, while Hermione was now ignoring them and at one of the floor to ceiling bookshelves.
Malfoy nodded. "It's a part of Hogwarts – the House Elves call it the Come and Go Room. It becomes whatever you need of the room, and whatever you need appears in here as well. When not in use, the room is storage for junk left behind over the years."
"Fascinating!" breathed Hermione, finally pulling herself from the books to settle into an armchair across from Malfoy.
Harry's lips twitched as he sat in the armchair next to Hermione, cutting her an amused look. "Yes, thanks, Spock." Facing Malfoy, he asked, "So why are we here?"
As Malfoy began to slightly squirm on the two-seat divan, Harry's gaze narrowed. "What do you know about the first task?" the blond asked, settling in a semi-comfortable conversation topic.
"I think Krum already knows," answered Hermione, a far-away look on her face. "Traditionally, the first task has something to do with magical creatures, and he's been hanging around the magical creatures section of the library."
"You would know," teased Harry.
Malfoy's head whipped back and forth between the two. "Granger's got a fancy for Krum!?"
Hermione snorted and slouched in the armchair, in a manner Malfoy had clearly never seen before because he was staring at her like a strange, unknown species. Harry chuckled. "Hermione knows the library probably better than the Gryffindor common room. If she says that Krum's been hanging around the magical creatures section, then I'd believe her."
Malfoy nodded, as if unsure, but willing to listen to Harry's declaration.
"But of course," continued Harry with a sharp look at Malfoy, "The question was why you were asking if I knew when you already know what the first task is."
Malfoy's pale face whitened further, and then flushed. "Do you remember?" he breathed out, staring eerily at Harry.
"Remember what?" the Boy-Who-Lived replied, confused.
"You don't remember," sighed Malfoy, settling back in his seat, and dropping his face into his hands.
Hermione and Harry shared a look. Clearly, there was more to this time travel story than what they originally thought. On the other hand, maybe Malfoy was really nutters.
"Why don't you explain it?" asked Hermione cautiously, tentatively.
"Can't," moaned Malfoy in response. "You wouldn't understand. Not yet."
Hermione's expression to Harry, in body language, read: well. I tried. He's clearly certifiable, all communicated through a shrug.
The three were silent, listening to the pop and crack of the fire from the fireplace, with Hermione and Harry trying to avoid making Malfoy feel worse than he currently was. If he thought he time travelled, well, who were they to stop him from believing so? After all, he changed his personality based around that one tidbit, and neither Gryffindor was in a hurry to help change him back.
"We're cousins," the blond finally said. "Did you know that?"
Hermione knew wasn't speaking to her; instead, she turned her head in shock to stare at Harry.
"What?" the Gryffindor asked, jaw dropping. "We're what?"
"Cousins," repeated Malfoy, finally bringing his hands away from his face. "My mother was a Black before marriage; your paternal grandmother was a Black before marriage. We're second or third cousins."
"I was told..." Harry trailed off, surprised.
"That I didn't have any other family except the Dursleys," answered Harry with a soft frown.
Malfoy frowned too. "Really? The Potters are related to like, nearly all of the Purebloods in our year."
Hermione and Harry blinked stupidly at Malfoy.
"You... you didn't know?"
At their wide-eyed stare, Malfoy sighed. "Look, it doesn't matter. Just... when you learn about the first task, Potter... just... think about what you're great at. Something that everyone has known since we were in first year."
"Ermmm..." said Harry, plainly confused.
"You'll understand when the time comes," replied Malfoy, tiredly. He began to relax back into the divan, missing Harry's glance to Hermione, who shrugged in response. Clearly, he was dismissing them.
"Right," said Hermione, in lieu of any response Harry was going to make. "We'll be going then."
They were nearly at the door when Malfoy's voice reached them for a final time. "You're the youngest in a century, Potter. You'll do fine."
Harry frowned. What would Quidditch have to do with the first task?
The two Gryffindors left the Room of Requirement and Draco Malfoy alone in his thoughts.
Draco's standing up for Potter to Snape had earned him the ire of his Slytherin housemates, and certainly didn't help him find a place to sit in the stands for the First Task. However, Granger spotted him walking by himself from the main doors, while she was with Longbottom, and waved him over.
Surprised, but genuinely happy for the company despite who it was, Draco walked over, his hands stuffed in his pockets. "Granger," he said once he was within speaking distance. "Longbottom."
The three began walking, and with almost no thought, Draco stuck his left elbow out to Granger in the same manner he had during their walk to the Hospital wing.
"Going to watch the Task?" asked Granger pleasantly, ignoring Longbottom's blinking stare at her hand tucked in Draco's elbow.
"Yeah," he replied. "Did Potter listen to the advice?"
Granger nodded, her bushy hair bobbing. "He did. He's been practicing manoeuvres all day yesterday. He had me throwing tennis balls at him."
Draco snorted. "That won't help."
"The Bludgers he had Fred and George hit at him should," she replied tartly. "And Neville was asked to make a distraction for Harry to lose concentration too. Lots of noise."
Draco's eyebrow shot up and he glanced at Longbottom, who had flushed at her praise.
"Didn't help much," he mumbled, looking down instead of enjoying Granger's compliment. "He hears more noise at a match."
"Whatever you could do is good enough," Draco argued with a warm tone, even though he personally agreed. "I'm sure Potter appreciated it too."
The three were silent until they reached the stands, looking at whether they would separate from Draco as he turned to the Slytherin section, or remain with them in the Gryffindor section.
He tried to make things easier for everyone involved, disentangling Granger's hand from his elbow and taking a few steps back but making no effort to climb the Slytherin section. He wouldn't be welcomed there.
Longbottom and Granger were staring at him.
"What?" he finally snapped.
"Aren't you coming up with us?" asked Granger, finally. Longbottom was nodding alongside her.
Longbottom snorted, then, sensing Draco's gaze on him, flushed and looked away. Granger spoke up. "Because you're my friend. And Harry's. And we want you sitting with us." She shrewdly looked at him. "And because you're not welcome with the Slytherins at the moment?"
Draco wryly smiled. He was enjoying this Granger, this girl he never had the chance to know. "Fine. But don't grasp my arm that tightly, Granger – you'll break the skin and leave permanent marks."
"Oh, and what a shame it would be for me to mark you, Malfoy," grinned Granger from under her lashes as she motioned for him to follow her and Longbottom. The Malfoy scion in him bristled at following her, but another part enjoyed her banter and teasing. None of the girls in Slytherin had ever taken the time to tease him properly, as friends or through flirting, and by the time he was ready for flirting, and the war had settled down, Pansy had died.
Draco waited for his younger self's consciousness to pipe in, but he was surprisingly silent. Maybe things were changing too rapidly for the younger consciousness to fully comprehend what game Draco was trying to play – or maybe he did. There was no way for Draco to be sure.
At the top of the stairs, Longbottom and Granger made directly for a small space saved for them by the Weasley twins, Thomas, Finnegan, and the Weasel. Several other year mates, as well as the Gryffindor Quidditch team, were around the small space, clearly separating Potter's closest friends from the rest of the house.
Draco felt a pang of tightness in his chest. Had he ever had friends who had done that for him? Saved him a spot at a Quidditch game? Ensured he had something he wanted or needed to support someone else?
It was Lavender Brown who caught sight of the three of them first, pushing and shoving their way through the excited crowd, just as Bagman began his introduction. "Hermione! Neville!" her eyes widened, then her lips curled into a smirk. Draco suppressed a shudder. If people thought the Gryffindors were reckless without cunning, they only had to look towards their women to know how untrue that statement was. "Malfoy. Come join us over here!"
At his name, several of the team and their year mates turned to face them, with the youngest Weasley boy gapping unattractively as Draco climbed over him and Finnegan with a mumbled, "excuse me." He plopped down, rather inelegantly, next to Granger and settled between her and Longbottom, feeling strangely secure despite Angelina Johnson and Katie Bell at his back, two girls he had purposely tried to run off their brooms with Warrington.
"Malfoy," they greeted him coldly, but politely. He nodded back in response.
"How's it going, Malfoy?" one of the twins asked with a beady look in their eyes that promised pain if he wasn't polite.
"Much better than I expected, and if I had sat next to your brother," replied Draco honestly.
The twin that spoke chuckled loudly and the other smirked. "So if you're sitting in the Gryffindor stands, Malfoy, are you making a statement?"
"Of what?" he asked back, loudly, as cheers erupted from the Hogwarts contingent as Cedric Diggory stepped out from the tent opening to face the Swedish Short-Snout.
"That Harry's going to win the most points, of course," called back the first twin.
"Oi, don't think so?" the second scoffed. "Wanna make a bet?"
Draco smirked. "How much?"
"A galleon to start. You seem like a good sort who'd make good on their bets, so if this works out, we'll increase it for the Second Task," the first twin explained.
"Sold," replied Draco, ignoring Granger's eye roll. "Krum and Potter'll tie."
The Twins gleefully wrote his bet down and then turned their attention to the task; Diggory's transfiguration was slowly working.
Draco tuned it all out; he helped Potter, he made the correct bet, and now it was time to sit back and enjoy – besides, it was nice to be swept up in the hollering and shouting noise that the Gryffindors were making. The Slytherins were too refined for that.
And with a smirk planted firmly on his face, Draco sat back, crossed his arms, and for the first time in over a decade (of his consciousness at least), he was happy.
That evening as Gryffindor celebrated, Harry snuck Hermione into his dorm room for a quick chat; as the center of attention, he couldn't be away too long.
"Malfoy knew what the task was," he said quietly.
Hermione nodded. "He made a bet with Fred and George correctly too."
The two fell silent, listening to the cheers and laughter floating up the stairs from the common room.
"He's still nutters," said Harry finally. "We've travelled through time with a time turner. He hasn't said anything about using one yet."
"So you're saying he's not telling the truth? That although he believes he travelled through time, he's not all there?" asked Hermione sceptically.
"Hermione, look," sighed Harry. "I know he believes it, but we've actually done it. Do you believe him?"
Hermione frowned. "Well... no. Not really."
The two fell silent again.
Then, Hermione spoke up, softly. "He was right about the bet."
"And he was right about playing my strength would win against the first task," sighed Harry, rubbing at his eyes under his glasses.
When the two met each other's eyes, they tensed and shifted uneasily.
"It still doesn't mean he's travelled through time," declared Hermione staunchly. "He's probably just Confunded."
"Yeah," agreed Harry. "Confunded."
But both of their tones demonstrated that neither was very sure about Draco Malfoy's state of mind, and neither was fully committed to the idea that he wasn't a time traveller at all. In fact, as Harry led Hermione back downstairs to the common room, both were less sure about Draco Malfoy than they were before their conversation.
Just as they left the final few steps and entered the rowdy Gryffindor party, Hermione caught Harry's arm and they shared another look between the two of them.
"He's not, Hermione," said Harry, "He's just not."
"You believe me, right?"
"Yeah, of course I do, Harry."
Neither believed it.
Author's Note: I don't really like inserting these anymore, but I thought I would say "thank you" for sticking with the story after I hadn't updated. Let's just say as a word of advice, anyone planning on attending graduate school should not post any new stories before school begins, as I can confidently tell you, you will be SWAMPED with work and readings and essays. On the other hand, I have three weeks left, April's filled with essays; May's filled with out-of-the-country research for my MRP, and then the summer months are writing said Major Research Paper. But - I will need a break from writing about cultural studies and regional vs national identity, so when I'm not reading Benedict Anderson or Derrida, I'll keep writing this. And hopefully it won't be another eight months before I update. :)