Summary: Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger return to Hogwarts on September 1st. But war has changed everything, including themselves. Post DH. EWE. Dramione.

I would go on a ridicoulosly long rant; however I'm not in the mood.

Disclaimer : Sadly all of you know that I don't own Harry Potter; because J.K. Rowling is selfish. Didn't she hear the saying Caring is sharing or caring is sharing (forgot which one it is), anyways it's all the same thing. One day I will own Harry Potter just you watch. Also this fic belongs to the amazing Dryadeh I'm just the translator, again I own nothing sadly. I would like to thank the awesome DogBoy01 for editing this chapter.


Draco strolled through the gates of the Great Hall on September 1, just as he had done the previous seven years. But once he saw the four long tables full of delicious dishes: his facial expression went cold and inert.

He did not see students smiling quietly telling the news of their summer: there were hostile faces, lips murmuring insults about him and his family.

He did not see a row of newly arrived children with smiling faces walking single file to the Sorting Hat, he saw strangers passing through a place that should not be.

He did not see glory or pride in the green and silver emblem of the snake nor did he see his comrades waiting for him at the prestigious Slytherin table.

Nothing was as it used to be.

Draco sat, silent, taciturn, as two fifth-year Slytherins departed immediately upon his arrival. Not because they had to, but because they didn't want to be seen near him

Draco decided not to pay attention to the gestures the students gave him and tried to remember the words of his mother.

"They can take everything away from you, but your pride. You're a Malfoy, son, and that means something."

What Draco did not know, was what exactly he was in these times. Since being a Malfoy meant that he was on the fence, without belonging to any specific group. They were rejected by both sides.

They were neither evil enough, nor good enough!

The trial at Wizengamot took place during that summer. There was no jail time for the Malfoy after all: because they did not participate in the final battle and Narcissa Malfoy helped faked the death of Harry Potter, which was crucial to the end of the war. Draco, Potter said as supported by his best friends, did not confirm their identities when the trio was trapped by scavengers and saved their lives by diverting the path of the deadly curses Crabbe threw.

The end verdict? The Draco's were neither guilty nor innocent.

They escaped prison time by giving away some of their properties in the south. The Malfoy Manor was still preserved, but fell from grace in the eyes of the wizarding world.

Those who had fought on the side of Lord Voldemort were social outcasts, but they supported each other. If they went to Hogwarts they were put into cliques. They were marked, but there weren't many and although they were despised, no one bothered them.

The victors were however, the vast majority. Apparently everyone had left to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts and all resisted the regime of the usurper minister. Some resisted more quietly than others, so quietly that no one would have noticed them.

But still, everyone, even the most sadistic Death Eater's son, to the smallest student was better off than the Malfoys: pure blood traitors, traitors to the lovers of the Muggles, only true to themselves.

No one at Hogwarts wanted to approach him.

Draco did not want to return, but his mother insisted. It showed that he had something to prove.

OoO

Hermione stared at Hogwarts amazed, as if seeing it for the first time. The castle had been rebuilt after the war. The North Tower, which had been completely ruined, rose again during mid-August. The walls were intact, with no gaps or cracks and the big doors opened wide, like two arms stretching maternally toward students.

Hogwarts School looked the same as ever, however she could tell the difference. It's like a replica of a masterpiece originally drawn by a great artist and then copied by his talented apprentice. It seems similar at first, but there were subtle differences that would let many know that it will never be what it once was.

There is no magic in the world that can erase the traces of war! The corridors were inhabited by a heavy and ominous silence, the pictures were in darkness and the armor seemed mere pieces of metal without a soul. The entire castle mourned its dead, as we always do at the scene of a battle.

But life goes on and the doors of Hogwarts had to reopen to welcome both old and new students.

Most are older. The previous year, no one had time to finish their N.E.W.T. or O.W.L. Half of the students left school to escape the regime of Carrow, so many ended up hiding in the Room of Requirement. Of the rest, little was learned beyond unforgivable curses, extortion and fear.

As exceptional as the new Prime Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt was, he had decreed that all students wishing to take their O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. had to repeat that respective course. Thus, students who had completed the sixth and seventh year previously, would make up the current seventh grade.

Hermione of course, decided to return.

The Ministry had made an exception for Harry, allowing him to join the Auror studies without having the requirements and Ron decided that after all he had lived through would not return to school. He stayed to help his brother George with Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and though that act, brought sadness to Hermione. She understood returning to Hogwarts without her two best friends was strange, but she had other friends. Neville, Dean Thomas, Ginny, Luna, Seamus and many more.

When she sat at the Gryffindor table the night of the Great Banquet, almost all students there were familiar faces. The vast majority of seventh year students decided to return. Ravenclaw's Terry Boots was there and Hufflepuff's Susan Bones. Her gaze wandered to the Slytherin table and was surprised to find Draco Malfoy there.

Well, he had not done his N.E.W.T. from the previous year, yet Hermione was not expecting his return.

But there he was, sitting alone at the end of the table, staring at his plate, but not touching the food. There was no one near him and his housemates just seemed to stay away from him.

His expression was unreadable, but something in his rigid posture, his head bent obstinately, gave Hermione the impression that he was sad.

She hadn't seen him since the trial of the Malfoys that took place during that summer. Then she and her friends had declared that Draco Malfoy shouldn't be put in jail, for some reason they felt that they should.

Hermione wondered why Draco wore the same expression he had at the trial. The Malfoys youth, whittled very well down to what could have been but just Draco, had all the earmarks of having been imprisoned there in the great Hall.

As if sensing eyes on him, Malfoy looked up, a lightning bolt between them flashed and Hermione felt discovered, but she didn't break eye contact. They look at each other for a moment and he probably was just imagining it, but the girl gave the impression that she greeted Malfoy with a slight nod before looking back to his plate.

And for some strange reason Hermione felt that this year would be very different.

OoO

Changes were not limited to just Hogwarts' new paintings and larger classes. With Snape dead, McGonagall became the director and his deputy Flitwick. Sinistra, Professor of Astronomy, became the
new head of Gryffindor house. He hired a new teacher for Defense against the Dark Arts and another for Transformations.

Also the school environment had changed. Hermione had not lived the previous year at Hogwarts, but nevertheless she did not think it looked like this. However instead of kids living in fear they seemed to live in resentment. This year, the Sorting Hat deemed students qualified for Slytherin less than ever, it was as if the new students asked it not to send them to that particular house.

The Slytherin students no longer strutted as much as they usually did. Few students were related to other houses, or perhaps were children from other houses that were not related to them.

Even within their own ranks there were divisions between those who had supported Lord Voldemort and those who did not, between those who remained to fight the final battle and those who fled. Then there was Draco Malfoy, who seemed to form a category all of his own.

Hermione could not help but notice him. Some people would probably say that she liked him, but that would not be true, she was just watching him out of curiosity. Of all the changes that had occurred at Hogwarts since the last time she went there, the way Draco Malfoy acted now was the biggest.

He was alone, always alone. He sat alone in class, in the last row, next to an empty desk. He ate alone, never had anyone around and the people who were previously closest to him did not even address him anymore. He even went to the library alone and sat in a corner with looks of being lost in thought.

The fact that it appeared this way was already quite significant. In six years, Hermione remembered having seen him there only a couple of times, always accompanied and wanting to disturb people.

But now he was there almost every day. He sat at a table out of the way and read or wrote on a scroll. He remained silent, not looking up unless someone made a disturbing noise.

Could it be that he took his N.E.W.T. very seriously, but Hermione did not think that was it. Since she was someone who had spent many lonely hours in the library, she sensed his reasons. People usually resorted to books when they were lonely and wanted to escape from the real world. She had done that numerous times.

Hermoine thought that Malfoy was doing the same, hiding there from the looks that accompanied him wherever he went and the comments in low voices that emerged wherever he went.

Hermione had heard many things about him. There were many people at Hogwarts who were not happy that his family had so easily escaped from jail. There were students who had tortured him, even by order of Carrow, who continued in school and did not forget or forgive as easily as the Wizengamot. There was much resentment built up and in the irony of life, Draco Malfoy had seemingly become the weakest existence in Hogwarts.

His housemates never spoke to him. Maybe that's why he no longer walked with air of going to conquer the world, as if the school was his. Just participating in class and he did not get involved with anyone. In the three-weeks of the course that had passed, Hermione had not heard him even speak once.

In the classes they shared (Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Potions), he remained in place in the last row, with a neutral expression and eyes wandering. He didn't even do his usual contemptuous snorts every time Hermione raised her hand to answer the question of a teacher (although in reality, she no longer did that as much as she did before).

Apparently, the war had changed them all.

OoO

Insults, quietly threatening comments and contemptuous looks followed. He never had to deal with this much hatred before in his life. Everyone knew who Draco Malfoy was, but then the rest of the world was divided in two: his supporters and those who envied him.

At such times have doubted neither one thing nor the other. He had lost all the privileged status that his last name had once given him.

Most of his housemates behaved as if he didn't exist. Those who were previously on his side (though perhaps he never really had one) resented him because his parents had not suffered the same fates as theirs. Those who had stayed away did not want to be related to a Malfoy.

His old friends were gone. Crabbe and Goyle had died, had not returned to Hogwarts, nor Nott or Zabini. Pansy was still in school but seemed angry at Draco: when he greeted her the first day, she gave him an offended look and left. He made no more attempts to talk with others he had previously known and also none approached him.

Draco did not know what was worse, being ignored or being hated. The hatred of the people would at least guarantee that he existed, but it was none-the-less a heavy load to carry. He was not used to being insulted too softly for teachers to hear them, but high enough that he did; he was not used to people writing obscenities on his desk or people sending him threatening notes. Those were the kinds of things he had done when he had friends to support him.

While still on the Quidditch team he had lost the position of captain and he no longer had the Nimbus 2007. For Draco he had lost interest in this magical sport; however his father had insisted that he remained on the team. "Being a Quidditch player provided some notoriety," he said.

Draco knew that even if he helped Slytherin win the Quidditch cup, things wouldn't go back to the way they were as before.

However, the message of his parents was clear: he had to keep up appearances no matter the cost.

Hermione entered the room carrying a pile of books. She had imposed a strict study schedule to pass the N.E.W.T. She was not clear what she wanted to do when she finished Hogwarts, so she wanted to get perfect grades to be whatever she decided.

However, when she went to the library section of Hogwarts she found Malfoy there, sitting at a table that was almost hidden by the hall dedicated to the History of Magic.

His forearms on the table, with elbows bent and his face hovering over a huge leather-bound book.

Moved by an impulse, Hermione decided to sit at the table that was right behind him. She tiptoed down the aisle next to Malfoy and carefully deposited her books on the surface of the wooden table. He did not move or even look up. He seemed so concentrated that he had probably not noticed her.

Hermione sat down and opened the new manual for the Defense Against the Dark Arts class. She tried to get into reading, but every couple of paragraphs she read her eyes were diverted to Malfoy.

His back was to her and the vision of his neck didn't provide much information, but she could not stop looking at him furtively about every five seconds, as if there was a magnet on his back. Malfoy's presence in the library intrigued and fascinated her in equal measure.

After about ten minutes, she realized that the situation was ridiculous. Malfoy's neck was not going to answer her questions and she was wasting her precious study time. So with a sigh, she forced herself to concentrate on studying.

So Draco Malfoy's voice caught her by surprise.

"Do you enjoy spying on people, Granger?"

Hermione froze in place for a few seconds. Malfoy had not even turned to talk, if he had not said her last name she would not have been sure if he was talking to her.

However there was no doubt he was talking to her and Hermione felt like a child caught stealing some candy.

"I was not ..." she began, then stopped and decided it made no sense to lie. Anyways she had done nothing wrong. "How would you know? Your back is to me."

At that time, Malfoy turned his face toward her; which wore a stony expression.

"I can feel it when people are looking at me. I'm used to it now" he stated and there was a mixture of pride and bitterness in his voice that made Hermione feel bad for secretly observing him.

He was owed an explanation.

"I do not know, I was just surprised to see you at the library. For the past six years you've hardly been here."

Draco made a disgusted face. He turned to his books, picked them up mechanically and stood up. Hermione thought Draco would leave without saying anything, but he glanced at her and said:

"Things have changed Granger."

After that he left the library without adding anything else.

True, he usually wouldn't go to the library, but it's not like he has any other options. In the house of Slytherin it was like he was in the middle of a cold war, the weapons of which were contemptuous looks, whispers and apparently accidental pushing wherever he went.

Without the shelter of his room, it was not fun walking through Hogwarts. Now that the other students had noticed that he was alone, they became more daring. Some-mostly Gryffindor, especially that idiot pig face Seamus Finnigan-mocked him ("Where are your Carrows now?"), others called him" Death Eater"with voices full of contempt. The others were limited to beholding him like a scoundrel for daring to return to school.

So the library had become the only safe place. Nerds were not the kind of person who dared to insult him; because most of them did not even pay much attention, dut tho the fact that it required them to look up from their books.

All except Hermione Granger.

Draco had noticed that recently she looked at him often. More than once he found her watching him as if a paragraph of a book that she could not remember, although the night before he didn't really pay it too much attention.

They had not spoken since Draco asked her if she enjoyed spying, but since then, if discovered staring at him, her lips stretched in a kind of hesitant smile and go back to whatever it she was doing with ease.

It was strange, but even stranger was that he had actually talked to her. Perhaps it was because she was the only one not looking at him with disgust.

Of all the people that went to Hogwarts, it had to be her, whom he had humiliated and abused long before the war, and now she was the only one who treated him with any semblance kindness.

The irony would have been so funny if Draco had the ability to laugh. Now he was the outcast of the school and she was the popular kid. Not that they behaved as such, of course. Granger was too sanctimonious to put on airs, but people seemed to idolize her. She was the friend of Harry Potter, who had accompanied him during those months when no one knew if he was alive or dead.

Draco had to admit that Hermione seemed to feel overwhelmed by all the attention. When someone asked her questions about the previous year, she dispatched a couple of phrases that did not really say much. In class she just raised her hand only when teachers were asking questions and even once appeared to be distracted and not paying attention. She had become more serious than before and also more mature. She was still somewhat paler than normal, as when taken to Malfoy Scavengers Hall.

Sometimes, when he saw her, Draco remembered how his aunt Bellatrix had tortured her in his presence. All his animosity against her had disappeared, along with his innocence. Now she was just someone who he had met in the past, before the war.

That afternoon, when he reached the library, he saw a frustrated Irma Pince. The librarian cowed in her seat like a vulture on the defensive, her head sunk between her shoulders and nose pointing up like an open beak.

Granger's voice came to him as he approached the desk.

"... But there must be more copies, of Principles of Magic Transformation; because it is a recommended reading by Professor Archer."

"As I HAVE said before, Miss Granger, there are no more copies available and we do not know when there will be. Good afternoon," Pince said angrily and again whipped out her notebook in which she wrote something with the fingers clenched, ignoring her.

Granger continued to stare at her for a few seconds as if to tear away from the book, Pince raised her head to pay attention again, but finally she sighed in despair and returned to the table that she had her belongings on.

Draco knew what book she was talking about, because he had under his arm at that time. It was not necessary to pass the class but Archer had mentioned it several times in class and it was clear that it would help

The book he had was not from the library though, McGonagall had recommended it the previous year and Draco had bought it at Christmas at the insistence of his mother (Narcissa had insisted on appearing, even within the walls of Malfoy Manor, he was still the owner of the house and everyone in it was seemingly living a normal life).

He looked at the book for a few seconds and made this decision. Granger looked surprised when she saw him walk up next to her desk, holding the blue book with the words "Principles of Magic Transformation" shining on the cover. He waited a few seconds, as if she were deciding to take it. You'd probably think she was bewitched and that Draco wanted to make a joke in bad taste, but his brown eyes could see the flicker of excitement to be with him and get an excellent for her work.

Draco decided to put it more clearly before speaking.

"I'm finished with the book," he said. Granger hesitated and finally reached her hands toward the book. At the moment she touched it and was found not have cramped or anything like that, a shy smile crept onto her tense face.

"Thanks," she whispered. Draco merely shrugged and went to his usual table, trying not to think about why he had just done that.

At the very moment he sat, he heard an "Oh" whispered. He looked up and saw Granger, watching in amazement.

"But the book ... it's not the library's, it's yours," she said, forgetting to lower her voice.

Draco shrugged sharply and broke eye contact. He quickly opened a book and pretended to read it so hard that it took several seconds to realize that it was not the Book of Spells but of Charms.

"Thanks," she repeated.

Draco felt awkward, nodding grimly as if all this had no importance. At that moment he saw Pince the librarian gave a long "Shhhhhhh" out the corner of his eyes, Draco could see Granger again focused on her duties, failing to look at him.

He had never felt so grateful for the silence.

The new Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts was Mylor Sylvanus, who was an Auror. To Hermione, Mylor slightly reminded her of Mad-Eye Moody. Not because he had a wooden leg or a magical eye, but because of his mannerisms. Although he wasn't even in his forties, his hair was so full of gray hair that it looked completely white and his eyes were like two dark coals. He didn't avoid mentioning the war like the other teachers did not do, nor did he act as if Hogwarts had not been a battlefield.

He spoke bluntly of black magic and about the restricted section of the library. He believed that deleting the contents of this subject and behaving as if it doesn't do the students any good was a clear example of had happened to Voldemort. He wanted them to know, to understand how horrible and dangerous it was.

One of the first activities that he had them to do was to write an essay on how life was during the war.

Hermione had thought about what she was going to write about. She did not know what parts should be omitted or if she should speak freely about the Horcruxes that Voldemort created, given that even some members of the Order had not known of their existence. Finally she decided to go over some points and focus on the months she spent hiding with Harry and Ron, and their participation in the final battle. When the time came she was not able to talk about the death of Fred, or Remus and the Tonks. She did not want to mention that every time she heard the word "wolf" it reminded her of Remus and thought the pink color reminded her of Tonks.

She knew they had died and she accepted it, but she tried to think about it as little as possible because it was too painful. Instead, she preferred to talk about what the war had meant to her.

On the appointed day, all students gave their scroll to the Professor. Hermione noticed Draco Malfoy sneak in; she was curious on how he had lived during the war. However, she could see the Slytherin take a scroll from his pack, wrapped it and delivered it to Professor Sylvanus as if his writing.

Hermione was very intrigued by this gesture. Why had he not drafted the paper? Was it simple laziness or something else? She could not believe that there was no written language for apathy, especially this year when she spent hours in the library. Maybe he just felt even less prepared than she to talk about what he was supposed to have done in the war.

Everyone thought that Malfoy was having a good year: his father was released from Azkaban, walking free at home, him at Hogwarts, Slytherin at the top of the food chain under the direction of Snape and the Carrows.

But Hermione had seen Malfoy when the Snatchers caught him. He did not seem happy, nor did his parents. Lucius was faded and gave off a slight smell of stale booze; Narcissa was thinner even than that time when Hermione found her in Madam Malkin's shop. And Draco looked as frightened as she was.

Seamus Finnigan hated him to death, because Malfoy had ordered Carrow to torture him once. For him he was just as bad as Crabbe and Goyle, because at least he had a brain. However, Neville, calmer and more observant, had said that those who always volunteered to run the torture imposed by the Carrows were Crabbe and Goyle. Malfoy had moved to the background and often looked more terrified than the members of the Resistance when it was time for punishment.

What was the reaction of Professor Sylvanus when he saw the writing on the white scroll, Hermione never knew. In the next class he called Malfoy to his desk when he finished the hour, but Hermione could not stay to eavesdrop because Ginny told her that they would be late to Herbology.

Two weeks later he commissioned a new project, this time in pairs. They had to do an essay on black magic, artifacts, spells, curses... the subject was free as long as they belong to that discipline. All were very excited because they were given the opportunity to investigate the matter but the teacher just said they could not defend themselves against dark magic if they do not know.

The students decreased when grouped in pairs. They were paired, which meant that someone had to go with Draco Malfoy and everyone hurried to catch up with a classmate so that they wouldn't be his partner.

The Slytherin sat in double desks; which remained undisturbed. None was raised to partner with someone from Gryffindor, and vice versa.

Hermione sat in the front row with Ginny. To her left, were Neville and Dean, who had gathered their desks in the early going so that none of the three are left alone. Neville and Dean asked Thomas if he wanted to work with him, so that eventually only left two without a partner; who were Seamus Finnigan and Draco Malfoy.

"Finnigan, Malfoy, you two will work together," said Sylvanus, while scoring the couples formed on the paper with fluid movements

"I'm not working with that thing."

Seamus's voice rose above the noise of the class small, contained but obviously furious. The pen was clutched so tightly in his right hand that Hermione presumed that he was going to break it in half.

Sylvanus looked up from the paper and struck a serious look, intimidating the Gryffindor. He seemed to be the kind of teacher that did not tolerate repeating his instructions.

"Work in pairs" he repeated dryly, as if that was going to settle the argument.

Seamus parted lips and flushed, as if to say a word. The class had fallen silent and the tension could be cut with a knife.

"Never mind, I will just do it alone."

All heads turned at once to Draco Malfoy, the one in the last row. He looked almost defiantly, his lips pursed in that grimace of his. His limpid eyes, were staring stubbornly forward but without looking at anyone. One of his cenched hands, one on the table, the other resting on his thigh. He seemed indifferent, but Hermione sensed that the public did not cared.

No one cared.

"I said that the work must be completed in pairs" Sylvanus responded again. He accompanied his words with a look that would make a child mourn. "Malfoy, you will not do it alone."

Seamus and Malfoy spoke at once to complain. Professor Sylvanus rose from his seat, furious. Hermione swallowed hard.

"I'll work with Malfoy."

And when she spoke, all was silent.


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