JSympathy for the Slytherin
Disclaimer:I didn't write it. JK wrote it. Thanks, JK. Notes: Just hope I haven't made any factual erros. Feedback is very welcomed.
Summary: (Draco/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Other)
Death eaters, murders, kisses, nightmares, dark lords, black t-shirts, close escapes, kidnappings, suicidal tendencies, tutors, flashbacks, friendships, runaways, fear, loathing, truth, beauty, freedom and above all love, plus this sentence: "What Draco desires more then anything is redemption. And that is what I intend for him to find."
Chapter One: The Tutor
It was nearly Halloween when Draco attempted to make a quiet return to Hogwarts. That is, he was quiet but no one else was. After all, the violent ending of Lucius Malfoy in the middle of a death eater ritual gone awry had been in all the papers and every student at Hogwarts had followed the epic search for Draco. In fact, five death eaters had died that night but the sudden absence of Draco put all the focus on the Malfoy family. What was not publicly known was who killed Lucius and even the motive was questionable. Because so many details were unknown, theories upon theories upon outrageous imaginings abounded. It was fact that when Albus Dumbledore, Lupin and three other aurors arrived on the scene at the foreboding cliff top of Grier's Mountain, the ritual had already been interrupted to some extent. But very little else was confirmed. Dumbledore and the rest, including the survivors, spoke only with the ministry and very little with the press. Certainly, the body count was given to the press. Two muggle children, two muggle mothers, three wizard children, one witch and five death eaters including Lucius were all dead. The rest of the death eaters present were taken to Azkaban. Interestingly, Draco did not seem to fit into either the category of victim or bad guy.
Some thought the victims had managed to overpower the death eaters and the battle was taking place as Dumbledore arrived and on that theory most assumed that Lucius had been killed along with the four others by either Lupin or one of the wizard victims, perhaps even a muggle. Most who believed that theory also believed that Draco had obviously disappeared because he had seen his own father's death or maybe because he was in some way also involved with the ritual itself and fled the scene. Before his recovery, many thought Draco already was a death eater but the lack of a mark on his arm was highly publicized when he was found. Those who thought he was partly responsible for the deaths of innocents assumed he had disappeared as a fugitive, fearing his own imprisonment.
Within Hogwarts, most Slytherins did not know what to think and looked upon the return of Draco with a sense of awe.
Meanwhile, in the Gryffindor common room, the afternoon before Draco's arrival, four friends heatedly discussed their own theories.
Ron and Harry, no longer boys but taller, deeper voiced and rather good looking young wizards crouched before a game of chess. The game wasn't going well, the two kept debating the possibilities with Hermione who sat curled up with a copy of Transcendental Transfiguration and Ginny, who sat next to Harry and was more interested in staring at his hands then at the game, and forgetting to take their turns. This upset the chess pieces so that one of the knights began screaming obscenities at Ron until he made a move.
Ron stroked his chin, feeling the satisfying roughness of stubble because he had not potioned it shaven that morning.
"I think you-know-who made an appearance, don't you? And probably took Draco with him."
"Possible," said Harry, lazily fingering a black pawn. "You think they'd be able to keep it a secret?"
Hermione ran a hand through her ponytail. Over the past year her hair had managed to become a bit less frazzled and was now delightfully smooth, falling in soft waves.
"But what would you-know-who want with Draco?" she asked, having read the same paragraph in her book at least six times.
"Well, you know," said Ron, "with his father dead, maybe he er, tried to adopt him or something."
"Voldemort, the nurturing father," Ginny said, smirking. "Now that's a pleasant thought."
"They say he's different now," Hermione said. "Draco, I mean. That he hardly speaks except to his mother."
"Yes, yes," sighed Ron, "and he was catatonic and he was found pathetic and muddy in Egypt. We know."
"I'm just saying that he's not going to be the same Draco we all know and despise."
Harry's expression hardened and said,"Well, to be honest, I can't believe they're letting him back in here."
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"But Harry we don't know what-"
"C'mon, Hermione!" Harry said suddenly, standing up and knocking over his chair. "Don't give me that bunk about him not being involved! He was present at an assemblage of death eaters where totally innocent people died! And personally I think he does probably have the mark. It's all nonsense! Who observes a death eater ritual unless they're in on it! Nonsense!"
Hermione closed her book and set Harry with a steady gaze.
"I certainly hope you don't become a magistrate, Harry. You assume guilt much too easily."
What's a magistrate?" Ginny asked, frowning.
Harry took a breath and sat back down.
"There is a great possibility that I will be taking potions with a good friend of the grouchy fellow who gave me this mark on my head," he said. "You can understand that I might be upset."
"And you've apparently forgotten that Dumbledore knows what he's doing and that he was there. Trust him. You know your protection is one of his highest priorities, " Hermione pointed out.
"Yes, yes," he said impatiently. "I can't help thinking though that Draco got what he deserved. I know his father died but the man was an evil death eater so I think I'll shed my tears later. And Draco has never shied from aligning himself with his father. I mean if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck..."
"Then it's definitely an elephant, " Ron said casually.
They laughed and Ron congratulated himself for easing the tension in the room.
Harry sighed, "Fine then. Draco's coming back and there's nothing I can do about it. He'd just better stay away from the four of us."
That evening at dinner, the buzz was at an all time high. Certainly there had been more talk about Draco lately then about quidditch games and exams and juicy gossip combined but tonight, everyone at every table had nothing else on their lips.
At the Gryffindor table Ron had everyone captivated with a dream from the night before.
"And then Snape grew a third eye and Flitwick poked it out with a stick!"
"What? I can't help what I dreamt. Crookshanks was there too...except he was a moose. But we called him Crookshanks."
Hermione smiled around a bite of roast beef.
"You have weird dreams," she said. "I had a dream about Crookshanks too last night. Actually, it was about a dragon."
"Oooh, was it a nightmare?" Ginny asked, shivering.
"No, no. It was a friendly dragon. It was sleeping in the common room, curled up next to Crookshanks in front of the fire."
Harry looked good naturedly skeptical.
"But how do you know it was friendly?" he asked.
Hermione chuckled, "Because it could talk, of course. And it let me pet it's head and tickle it's tummy."
Ron laughed, "You've been having Charlie's dreams. If it was a talking dragon, what did it say?"
Hermione thought back to the short but vivid dream.
"Thank you," she asnwered.
"What was it thanking you for?" Ginny said.
"For petting it's head and tickling it's tummy, I suppose. But that's all it said."
"I wish I had dreams about ticklish, talking green dragons in the common room. Better then giant killer snakes and psychotic diarists."
Harry looked alarmed.
"Still?" he asked.
"Only every once in a while."
Ron nudged Hermione and asked, "What kind of dragon was it?"
"I don't know, Ron." Hermione rolled her eyes and went on, "It was just a green dragon. A sweet dragon that could talk...A sweet talking dragon, if you will."
It was just before dessert when Dumbledore stood and asked for the hall's attention.
"Tomorrow, as you all know and can't stop talking about, we will be welcoming back into our midst a student who once missing has been found. All of us at one time or another have come into contact with young Mr.Malfoy and many of us have certain prejudices which I don't doubt were at one time deserved."
At this point, he looked directly at Harry, Ron and Hermione and spoke slowly, "But I would like to assure you for the sake of Mr.Malfoy, that in the matter of certain events which led to his disappearance, he is entirely innocent."
Throughout the hall were emitted light gasps by many who had their doubts but could not disbelieve the headmaster.
"I would ask of all of you that you attempt to forget what you think you know. I would ask of all of you that you not hound him on the matter of his disappearance. And you will become soon aware that he is in no condition to be harassed with questions. I would ask of all of you that treat him with courtesy, that you put your prejudices behind you and that you remember that he is a student of Hogwarts. Just like the rest of you."
There was some muttering on this point as well and Harry stared at the table, for once uncertain if he could respect Dumbledore's wishes.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and clasped his hands together.
"There is..." he trailed off and cleared his throat again, "one more thing of which I must inform you and it is rather unprecedented. Due to... the desires of Lady Malfoy and because of the special circumstances of this case, Draco will be also be... changing houses."
This threw the hall into a frenzy, the Slytherin table looking affronted and upset while the other three houses argued, wide eyed about the possibilities. Snape sat, glaring daggers at Dumbledore perhaps wondering if the whole thing had been his decision.
Meanwhile, at the Gryffindor table, the gang of four sat quietly with bated breath.
Harry's eyes were saucers.
"Why do I think I know exactly what's coming?" he whispered.
"Due to spacial limitations... " said Dumbledore.
"Ravenclaw, say Ravenclaw, " Hermione whimpered.
"And equally due to my own judgment..."
Ron shook his head and muttered,"He wouldn't do this to us. No way."
Dumbledore clasped his hands behind his back.
"Draco Malfoy will now be a student of-"
Ginny looked appropriately terrified.
Dessert ended and the students began making their way back to their rooms, now in a more frantic tizzy then they'd been in before.
"I can't believe this!" Ron shouted. "What are we supposed to do? Welcome him with open arms?"
"A Slytherin in Gryffindor," Harry seethed. "And Malfoy of all people."
Hermione twitched and grumbled, "I can see we're leaving those prejudices behind. Just like Dumbledore said."
She was about ask about which room he would take when she felt a hand on her arm and turned to see Professor McGonagall.
"I must speak with you in private," she said.
Hermione, now a prefect, was accustomed to this and waved at her friends, "I'll see you in the common!"
McGonagall led her out into the hall way and into the nearest classroom. The Scottish witch leaned against a desk as Hermione stood expectantly, her hands in the pockets of her robe.
"I need to ask of you a very great favor, Hermione."
Hermione nodded, assuming it had something to do with attempting to keep her house in line during such a chaotic period.
"Obviously, Draco has missed quite a bit of school work, coming in to the year a month and a half late..." McGonagall began.
Oh bloody hell... Hermione swore to herself.
"And since you are certainly one of the more accomplished students in the school and will be easily accessible to him, we wondered if you might act as his tutor in assisting him to catch up. However, I know your feelings toward him. And if it makes you too uncomfortable, I will understand. The choice is yours."
Being given a choice in the matter made it all the worse.
If she accepted, Ron would certainly kill her if Harry didn't first.
And yet she had just as much of a reason to despise Malfoy as the rest of them. And then she wondered why she was trying to justify it. Why accepting the proposal seemed more natural then refusing it. It was almost a sixth sense that was arguing down the more rational side of her brain. McGonagall seemed fearfully grave to be asking for something as simple as tutoring. And more then that, she felt herself compelled to accept it.
So she took a deep breath, uncertain of what was going to come out of her mouth.
"I'll do it."
McGonagall seemed surprised, though she couldn't have been more surprised then Hermione was with herself.
"Well. That's excellent. Quite excellent. I thank you. It will be... I suppose it will be a challenge at first. You will hardly recognize him," she said with a shook of her head. "But then, perhaps that's for the best."
"Is that all then?" Hermione asked.
"That is all. Thank you very much, Hermione. You can't know how much this means."
Hermione smiled respectfully and made her way back to her house.
No, she thought, I can't know how much it means. That's what worries me...
In the corridor, McGonagall was met quickly by Dumbledore.
"And the verdict is?" he asked.
McGonagall sighed, "She has accepted. And I must admit, I am more then a bit astonished."
"I thought she would, " Dumbledore said, stroking his great beard. "She has it in her."
"Are you sure you know what you're doing? Did Lady Malfoy really ask that he change houses?"
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow as they walked slowly down the hallway, now devoid of any students.
"No, " he said, "I lied on that point. It was Draco who wanted out of Slytherin."
McGonagall gasped, "Draco? You're joking."
He put up a hand, as if swearing an oath.
"On my word. But it was I who chose Gryffindor. Certainly there was a space or two in other houses."
"And why, Albus?" McGonagall demanded, throwing up her hand. "Why pair him with his enemies when he is in such turmoil?"
Dumbledore stopped at a window looking out at a crescent moon that dimly lit the forbidden forest of Hogwarts.
"I have spoken with Draco since he was found. His greatest wish is not for a return to normalcy. It is not even for peace. What Draco desires more then anything is redemption. And that is what I intend for him to find."
Actually, Draco arrived late that night when most of Hogwarts, the parts of it following lights out time anyway, were already asleep. According to Dumbledore, this was to throw off a rather intrusive press so that Draco would not have to fight his way through the gates past reporters. Draco was aided by Mcgonagall and a ministry official through the darkened corridors of Hogwarts at two o'clock in the morning. He remained mostly silent as the professor welcomed him back. In his mind though, he wondered when she would get around to telling him what house he had been given. They seemed to be walking in the opposite direction of Slytherin but Draco did not know where the other houses were. He had assumed they would put him in Ravenclaw for good or ill. It seemed the most logical. Certainly not Hufflepuff.
"What house will I be staying in?" he asked softly.
McGonagall looked uneasy as they continued to walk and turned down another corridor. It was jarring enough talking to someone with Draco Malfoy's face and an entirely different demeanor. This person seemed old, weathered and somewhat...broken.
"You'll soon find out," she said simply.
They approached a large painting at the end of the corridor which Draco made out to be a rather unattractive middle-aged lady in a ridiculous pink dress. The ministry official who had been carrying Draco's luggage left it with McGonagall, had her sign a scroll and made his way.
McGonagall cleared her throat and said in her typical stern tone, "Thrice bison."
The lady nodded curtly and slid away to reveal a tunnel. Draco picked up his luggage and followed McGonagall into...
A comfortable looking common room decked out in crimson and gold banners.
He dropped his bags unceremoniously and glared at his new house dean.
"You can't be serious."
She rubbed her hands together and attempted to reassure him.
"This was Dumbledore's decision," she said. "I'm sure you'll adjust."
"When I asked for a different house, I didn't mean...this different."
McGonagall steeled herself to lie.
"It was the only space available."
"No," he said insistantly, shaking his head, "you don't understand. Everything I've... I can't."
She smiled kindly.
"You can. You must."
"But they'll eat me alive!" he hissed.
She shushed him and whispered, "No one is going to eat you alive, Draco. Now, I'll show you to your room. Try to be quiet, I don't want to wake the other students."
He crept behind her up the stairs and past the girl's dormitories.
"The fates are against me," he grumbled to himself.
McGonagall showed him to his room. Mercifully, it was not Harry and Ron's room. That would've been much too cruel a stroke. Instead he was sharing a room with second years, all mostly strangers to him. He put his things at the foot of the vacant bed nearest the door and McGonagall wished him goodnight. And then he was left alone. He heard the younger boys stir in their sleep and he rubbed his eyes. He had slept all of four hours in the last three days and he was exhausted. He fell onto the luxurious bed, not even bothering to take off his shoes.
Hermione was sleepless with anxiety. What kind of responsibility had she taken on by agreeing to be Draco's tutor? And more then that there was dealing with Ron and Harry to be considered, who were not exactly thrilled when she had told them. Livid was a more appropriate term. She sat on her bed, tapping her quill compulsively and getting arithmancy work done (a week ahead of time) when she heard the pink lady's door open outside her room. Her ears perked up and her prefect's instinct kicked in. Any student caught at this late hour of the night would get a warning and it if it were either Harry, Ginny or Ron, a scolding for not inviting her along. She got up quickly, pulling on her cloak over her pajamas. She tiptoed to the door so as not wake her roomies and opened the door as quietly as she could, peaking out into the common room. She gasped a little in surprise.
It was Malfoy. In the flesh. Already. Here, walking into the Gryffindor common room accompanied by McGonagall. She stepped outside the door and flattened herself against it, knowing she would be all but invisible this deep into the shadows.
Malfoy did look different, even from across a room. Tired and weak and...broken somehow. But he was still Malfoy and seeing his face again brought back all the old resentment and disgust. She watched him drop his bags and look around him disbelievingly.
"You can't be serious," she heard him say.
McGonagall looked quite uncomfortable.
"This was Dumbledore's decision. I'm sure you'll adjust."
Malfoy didn't look angry about it though. Certainly not affronted as she would normally expect. He looked purely miserable. Afraid even.
"When I asked for a different house, I didn't mean...this different."
Hermione's eyes bulged and she just barely managed to withhold a cry of surprise. So Malfoy had requested to leave Slytherin? It was too much. What did it mean?
"It was the only space available."
"No...you don't understand. Everything I've... I can't."
He was conflicted, she thought. He appeared to be almost paralyzed with it. She considered, as if from a distance, that perhaps he really did want to...start over. He called her "mudblood", tortured her, tortured Ron and Harry, picked fights, belittled them, humiliated them and asked only to be hated. And now he wanted starting over?
"You can. You must."
"But they'll eat me alive!"
She couldn't help but smirk a little, purely from the image it conjured up. Harry and Ron sitting at the Gryffindor table, feasting on a juicy portion of roasted Malfoy.
She heard McGonagall mutter something at him and soon they were making their way up the stairs, near to her. She slipped deeper into the shadows and watched Malfoy trudge past carrying his bags. He paused for a moment.
"The fates are against me," she heard him say.
It was something you'd say lightly, an exaggeration. But from the look in his eyes, he seemed to mean it.
She watched until they entered the second year's room and then Hermione slipped back to her bed. So many questions. If Malfoy was innocent, why had he been there that night in the first place? And why had he escaped the scene? She tried to imagine for the hundredth time what might have happened that night on Grier's Mountain. It was not something you would want to imagine. Blood and fatal curses and death... Hermione fell asleep quite bothered, with a frown upon her lovely face.
That morning, three Gryffindor second years awoke to find what seemed like two people. Curled up asleep in the once empty bed was the Draco Malfoy, the mysteriously missing boy who's face had been somewhere on the front-page of The Daily Prophet for four whole months. The second years had heard all manner of silly and outrageous theories. Draco Malfoy was really dead, and the boy returning to Hogwarts was an impostor. Draco Malfoy was a demon. Draco Malfoy was Voldemort incarnate. Draco Malfoy had died and been brought back to life by Voldemort. Or Lucius and Draco were really the same person.
The second person in the room was the dreaded Draco Malfoy. The Malfoy they remembered from the last year who sneered or spat in their general direction, who pulled dirty Quidditch moves and tripped you in the hallway. Someone to be feared. Needless to say when they awoke to find both of those people in their room they were nearly frozen with fear and awe. But Malfoy did appear to be deeply asleep and they weren't about to wake him up. So the three of them, Marro, Nick and Krowle got ready for breakfast quickly and left Malfoy to himself.
But Malfoy was in truth, not asleep. He had slept for one vaguely fitful hour until all too familiar nightmares woke him. He should've known better, he thought. And so he lay staring at his ceiling for the next three and a half hours until he heard another boy in the room stir and quickly turned over, pretending to be asleep. The last thing he needed was conversation with curious young Gryffindors.
He waited until they were gone, when he was sure all the other Gryffindor boys were out of the showers and then got ready for breakfast as quickly as he could, taking a fast rinse not even bothering to put a drying spell on his hair. He threw on his robes and his new Hogwarts cloak and made his way out into the hall. The last thing he wanted to do was be late to breakfast and draw attention to himself. He would much rather have not gone to breakfast at all but he figured it had to be done with sometime.
He ran a hand through his now wet hair trying to convince himself he was alright.
Draco softly sang a song he had learned out in the muggle world to himself, "We skipped the light fandango...you turned cartwheels across the floor..."
He slipped out into the empty hallway and all but ran down toward the main corridor.
Don't let me be late... Don't let me be late...
He was relieved, in a matter of speaking to see the usual hoard of studentia making their way to the dining hall. He stared at the floor and followed, trying not to be noticed.
Hermione watched Harry whip his head around like a nervous chipmunk as they strode down the hallway to breakfast.
"Where is he? Do you think he's here yet? Is he supposed to be at breakfast?"
Ginny chuckled, "Geez, Harry. Is he your enemy or your girlfriend?"
"You won't believe what I heard last night!" Hermione hissed excitedly.
"Lemme guess," Ron said, raising an eyebrow, "you-know-who enrolled as a first year?"
Hermione tossed him an annoyed look.
"No, you prat. I saw him! He got here in the middle of the night!"
"Did he?" Harry said shrilly. "I didn't... Where is he?"
"You won't believe what he said!"
Ron, Harry and Ginny stared at her with wide eyes,
"WHAT!" they all demanded simultaneously.
"He didn't- oof!"
Hermione didn't get her sentence out but instead was knocked forwards and onto the floor by somebody behind her. She caught herself on the palms on her hands, burning them slightly and rolled over to a sitting position.
Her friends stopped in the middle of the hall to help Hermione.
"Are you alright?" Ginny asked.
Hermione blew on her hands.
"Yeah, somebody just..."
Her words trailed off when she saw the very somebody sitting not three feet away and grumbling about his boot laces. A surge of automatic anger and indignance rose up in her at the sight of him. He just couldn't help but provoke that reaction in her.
"What're the odds?" Harry said dryly.
Draco Malfoy looked up from tying his boot to see the face of Hermione and above her to see Harry, Ron and Ginny all looking quite unhappy.
His eyes went wide as he rambled, "I'm sorry, I didn't..." He got up quickly, forgetting his lace. "Sorry."
Harry and Ron watched equally shocked to see a wet haired Malfoy apologize to Hermione Granger and then half stumble quickly down into the great hall.
"Never thought I'd live to see that," Ginny said, helping Hermione to her feet.
"I don't know where he thinks he's running to," said Ron, "we're all eating breakfast at the same table."
Draco saw the heads turning and stared at the floor but looked up when he realized he was making his way automatically to the Slytherin table. He grimaced to himself, turned around and walked back to Gryffindor. He felt not one pair of eyes on him but hundreds.
Ginny had her head tilted to one side and was picking at her pancakes.
"Well, he's got a nice tan," she said matter of factly.
"Hanging around Egypt for weeks will do that to a person," Hermione said with a shrug. "Actually, he does look a bit like a surfer sort now."
Ginny and Ron shot each other confused looks.
It was true, strange as it was. With his wet, white blonde hair, grown longer over the summer and his light tan, Malfoy could've passed for some American beach bum. Though the miserable look on his face and the black robes didn't exactly complete the look.
They watched mutely as Malfoy, staring at the floor, made his way to the Gryffindor table and sat down at the end next to a couple of first years. Everyone stared but no one actually spoke to him.
"This is all very disconcerting," Harry said, grimacing.
"Just...er, think of him as a new student?" Hermione suggested.
Harry stared at her incredulously.
"You want us to think of the boy who once gave you beaver teeth as a new student?"
She stabbed at her sausage and grumbled, "I'm just trying to be a good tutor."
Ron, sitting next to Hermione, across from Harry and Ginny, looked lost in thought.
Ginny glanced from Hermione to the brooding "surfer" at the end of the table.
"Does he know about your little arrangement?"
"I don't know," Hermione said, squirming.
"I should think you'd need some time to get used to the idea," Harry snorted.
Hermione heaved a sigh and explained, "I am attempting to be pragmatic about all this because I don't have all the facts. I am attempting to be a good prefect and a diplomat." She glanced down at Draco again, who was staring at his eggs and then leaned into her friends and hissed, "The truth is I have hated him since the first day I saw him and I still hate him. I don't know how not to hate him but if I am going to be his tutor in the spirit of... whatever McGonagall or Dumbledore have up their respective sleeves then I have to at least pretend he's not a malicious little sniveling arse."
She took a breath and sat back, tossing her fork to her plate.
"Tell us how you really feel," Harry said grinning.
"We're such bleedin' idiots!"
Harry, Ginny and Hermione stared at Ron who looked like he'd just caught another look at Snape's third eye.
"What's the matter?" Harry asked, swallowing his potatoes.
Ron leaned in, glanced down at the hapless Draco and spoke in whispers, "Hermione had a dream about a green dragon sleeping in the Gryffindor common room! And what does 'Draco' mean? Dragon, fellow idiots!"
Hermione slapped a hand to her head and cried, "And the green was for Slytherin!"
"She told us just before Dumbledore made that announcement! And you were petting his head and now you're his tutor!"
"Better not let this slip to Trelawney," Ginny advised. "She'll never leave you alone."
Harry's eyes lit up and said excitedly, "Hermione, maybe you're some kind of oracle or a dream prophetess!
"I'm not an oracle," Hermione said. "I had one coincidental dream...I mean, really we all had Malfoy on the brain anyway. My mind just made a couple of logical connections."
"Logical?" Ron yipped. "You were tickling his tummy!"
"Ron! I was tickling a dragon's tummy! Dont let it get around school that I had some tummy tickling dream about Malfoy!"
Ginny looked over at Malfoy and bit her lip.
"Your new protégé seems to be freaking out."
They looked over to see Malfoy gripping the sides of his head, his eyes shut.
"He'll probably need arithmancy help tonight," she said wistfully. "That's the worst thing to fall behind on."
"Fine, " said Harry, "tutor him. Get him an A in Arithmancy. Just don't go tickling his tummy."
Draco choked down a few bites of breakfast and looked around him to see the sidelong glances of most of the dining hall. He gazed down the Gryffindor table to see Potter and his friends laughing, most likely at him. He looked upon Potter and the rest of them with a mixture of disdain, contempt, remorse, shame... basically all of the emotions he projected onto everything else lately. For as long as his father had been alive, Draco had been caught in the vice grip of his hate and his malice. At the same time he had wished his father dead more times then he could count. And now the bastard was gone. But at Draco's own hand. Every morning he faced the dawn with the same thought, I killed my father... He was only sixteen years old but secure in the knowledge that he would have to live with that for the rest of his life. True, anyone who'd been there would agree it was purely a defensive measure. But that did little to ease his confusion.
Draco stared back down at his unfinished breakfast when a flash of red blocked his sight.
He gasped a little. It happened again. Draco put his hands on the sides of his head. It had happened before. A flash of red and a grinding noise.
"No..." he whispered.
He couldn't breathe, it was suddenly much too hot in the dining hall. The other younger Gryffindors eyed him strangely. Draco's breath came short as he shot up from his seat and rushed out of the dining hall.
The four at the other end of the table watched him go.
"There goes Malfoy," Ron sighed.
"Wonder what's up his arse..." Harry mumbled weakly. Truth be told Harry was intensely curious about the night Malfoy had disappeared. Whatever Malfoy had seen on Grier's Mountain, it sounded similar to what Harry had been through the night of Triwizard Tournament, if not worse. And the biggest question on his mind was weather or not Voldemort himself had been there. But despite Dumbledore's insistence of Malfoy's innocence, he couldn't bring himself to approach the now Gryffindor as anything but an enemy, much less request comparing notes. Harry allowed his mind to wander. It was possible that Malfoy had watched thirteen people die that night. It must've had some kind of effect on him.
He nudged Hermione and asked, "So, when does this tutoring business start anyway?"
"Tonight, I suppose. I thought I'd approach him about it after class."
Ron was glaring daggers at Malfoy's empty chair.
"You do know, Hermione, that if he so much as-"
She sighed, "Yes, Ron. No need to finish that sentence."
"I'm just saying."
Outside the dining hall, Dumbledore had inconspicuously left his seat to then find an ill looking Draco out in the corridor. The young man sat on the floor, his back against the wall, eyes closed, palms flat on the floor, breathing hard as if he'd just run three laps around the quidditch field.
Dumbledore stood in front of him and smiled sadly at the boy.
"Needed a little escape, did you?"
Draco opened his eyes and winced.
"Just...wanted some air," he said.
Dumbledore offered a hand and Draco grudgingly let the headmaster help him to his feet.
"I feel fine now, headmaster. If I could just..."
He gestured back toward the hall and started to turn only to feel a tug on his sleeve. Dumbledore nodded slowly at the front door of Hogwarts.
"The foliage is lovely this time of year."
Draco groaned slightly to himself and nodded, annoyed.
His perspective of Dumbledore had changed somewhat. He'd previously looked upon the headmaster with a sense of irritation and disgust, as a "muggle lover", or so his father had put it. But Dumbledore now knew his deepest secrets and perhaps more then that had visited him a few times when he'd been "recuperating," first at Ministry quarters in Luxor and then at Malfoy Manner. Draco had awoken to the concerned gaze of Dumbledore who sat stroking his chin, speaking in low tones to one ministry official or another. At the time Draco imagined he'd felt like Harry Potter must feel whenever he awoke after some adventure or another. Except that Harry Potter was loved by all, considered noble and heroic, and he, Draco Malfoy, was a Slytherin git who had killed his own father. Yet during those visits, Dumbledore had displayed a genuine interest in Draco's well being, even going so far as to stay for hours when Draco was alone and unspeaking. The two had developed somewhat of a rapport since his recovery.
Draco thought this over as he clasped his hands behind his back obediently and followed Dumbledore out of doors.
"I trust your quarters are acceptable," Dumbledore said diplomatically.
"Other then the fact that they're Gryffindor quarters, yes, they're comfortable."
Dumbledore paused under a reddening maple, the leaves crunching under their feet. The two of them stared out at the lake, Draco hoping this would be over soon.
"I remember your father quite well at this school."
Draco felt a stab of pain in his heart.
But, of course, Dumbledore continued, "Slytherin, as you know. A perfect student and in most respects, not a troublemaker. He did not provoke other students unless they provoked him first and when that happened... Well, few dared. He was quiet and cold. Did not speak to much of anyone. His sixth year, Lucius took a boat out on the lake with, Rochelle, a Ravenclaw girl for an assignment in Magical Creatures. The girl said later that your father did not push her into the lake. That in her enthusiasm she leaned too far over the side and fell into the cold waters. She could not swim. Did not have her wand. The girl was drowning, and not near enough to the merpeople for them to see her. It was a second year Hufflepuff student out on the quidditch field who heard splashes echoing and sensed something was not right. The Hufflepuff ran all the way to the lake to see your father standing stoically in the boat, asked him what had happened. Lucius said Rochelle had fallen into the water and was drowning. And by the time the Hufflepuff found Rochelle in those watery depths, she was very nearly dead."
Draco stared at Dumbledore as he told his story, feeling the general queasiness in his stomach balloon into all out nausea.
"Of course, we could not expel Lucius. He had done nothing wrong. And one cannot expel a student for a sin of omission. But from that day forward...Lucius Malfoy was one to be feared. And we knew then that he had chosen a darken path."
Dumbledore turned and eyed Draco carefully.
"It was the path he chose, Draco. The actions he chose. A man does what he thinks he must do. Your father thought he must choose evil instead of good. To cause suffering, to follow the ways of the dark lord. You know what kind of man your father was better then anyone, I think."
Draco looked out onto the lake and thought back to the childhood he would rather have forgotten, to lessons in pain, hate and suffering for the purposes of greater power.
"Yes," he breathed. "I do."
"And he chose to be that man. Hogwarts does not accept evil children, you know."
Draco's head snapped up. Sometimes Dumbledore's thoughts seemed to arise from nowhere.
"Hogwarts," Dumbledore said slowly, "does not accept evil children. Do you know why?"
Draco shrugged, irritated.
"Bad for business?"
"Because there is no such thing as an evil child. A child does not choose between good or evil. He chooses what he is taught to do. But a man makes a choice, as your father did.
And as his father chose and his father chose before him. As you must. You have seen now what evil does. What evil is. You saw it and you stood up to it."
Draco felt his heart surge and tears behind his eyes but he suppressed it.
"I know it is difficult, Draco-"
"You know," he whispered, shaking his head. "But you can never understand."
"Will you think on what I have said?"
Dumbledore could usually tell when he was on the verge of pushing a student too far.
Draco nodded mutely.
"Very well," Dumbledore said with a sigh. They turned and started making their way back up to the castle doors. "Professor Mcgonagall and I had some concerns about your schoolwork, considering your absence."
"I'll be fine," Draco grumbled.
"Too assure a smooth transition we've paired you with a tutor from the Gryffindor house who can offer you assistance in catching up."
Draco stopped short and shut his eyes.
"Don't tell me. Hermione Granger."
"Excellent guess, Draco."
"So to ensure a smooth transition you paired me with a girl who's blacklist solely consists of me and he who must not be named?"
"We did not force her, Draco. We asked her if she wanted to tutor you and she accepted the position. She had nothing to gain from it."
"Allow me to jump for joy," Dracy said wryly. Yet inside he took quick note of this. That Hermione Granger, of all people, a girl already with plenty on her plate as prefect and as a brilliantly accomplished student, and someone he had continually humiliated would take on the job of tutor toward none other then Draco Malfoy was something of an aberration.
More like a blasphemy, he thought to himself, or maybe she has some crazy masochistic streak.
Dumbledore was chuckling, "I'm certain, Draco, that if you bring this sense of humor to the studying table, the two of you will get along quite well."
Draco doubted that. Hermione had always seemed like a girl with the humor of a jackhammer. Then again, she'd seldom had cause to laugh or make a joke in his presence.
"Did you ever think last year that you would someday be induced to sleep on Gryffindor sheets?"
I still don't sleep on Gryffindor sheets, he thought ironically.
"You've had quite a rough start of it. And the road ahead is rocky. But I am sure, Draco, that if you allow it, this year will have some interesting surprises in store for you."
Following a particularly difficult last class in arithmancy, Hermione entered the common room with a grim determination.
Guess it's Malfoy time, she thought.
After changing into something a little more comfortable, in this case a white t-shirt and jeans, she took a seat at a table near the fire to await Malfoy's arrival. Instead she was greeted by Harry and Ginny, who incidentally looked a bit flushed to Hermione.
"I know who you're waiting for," Ginny said slyly.
"Are you sure you're not being punished for something?" Harry asked. "How is tutoring Malfoy not the seventh circle of hell?"
"Yeah, but I agreed to do it," she said, looking forlorn. "Don't know why. Must be my masochistic streak."
They were interrupted by the devil himself who walked in, saw them, stopped short and then appeared to remember he was supposed to be in the Gryffindor house and kept walking.
Hermione watched him, wondering if he'd even been told who his tutor was.
"Um...Malfoy?" she called out.
"Tutoring. I know. I'm just going to change first," he said softly.
Draco went to his room and Hermione looked back at her friends.
"It's going to be a strange year."
Harry rolled his eyes.
They chitted and chatted until they were interrupted again, this time by a sight that brought raised eyebrows all around the common room. If there was one thing Malfoy had been known for other then his smirking, snarky mouth it was his total rejection of anything related to muggle culture. No one had ever seen him wearing anything that wasn't brought at a fine clothing store in Knockturn Alley. Yet the Malfoy now before them wore a black polo shirt and dark brown trousers as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Hermione couldn't seem to pick her jaw up off the floor as Malfoy walked down the stairs and stood near the table, books under one arm, looking totally awkward.
Harry gathered his wits about him and took a breath after an uncomfortably silent pause.
"Yes, well...We've got to see a man about a...flying car so..."
"See you at dinner," she said.
Ginny smiled at her reassuringly and the two left to go find Ron on the quidditch field.
Malfoy looked shifty.
Hermione noticed that everyone in the common room was still staring at the two of them so she took the initiative.
"Library?" she asked.
Malfoy shrugged so Hermione got up and he followed her out into the corridor. They walked in silence and were almost to the library when Hermione stopped short. She seemed to be staring at his trousers.
"What are those? Dockers?"
"Oh...I don't know."
They walked on and Hermione did well maintaining a neutral exterior, while inside all she could think was git, git, git!
Hermione pushed open the door to the library only to see a more staring faces. She held her head up and walked in, Malfoy at her heels, finally finding a secluded corner in the back.
Hermione set her things on the table and sat, Malfoy sitting across from her.
She saw him wince.
"I don't... I don't really want to be called that anymore."
Hermione narrowed her eyes.
Oh, she thought, just like I didn't want to be called "mudblood?"
"Why not?" she shot back.
He opened his arithmancy book and stared at it.
"I just don't."
Dumbledore's words ran through her head again.
I would ask of all of you that you treat him with courtesy...
For some reason, Malfoy had received absolution from the one person that could truly bestow it at Hogwarts.
She took out last month's notes.
"Fine then...Derrraaco," she said slowly. She strung the name out and her lips twitched. It felt alien. "Draco."
It felt like saying a very bad word or like saying "sex" aloud for the first time. She tapped a quill on her parchment, and tried to get used to the feeling.
"Draco, Draco, Draco..."
He cleared his throat and thumbed to the first chapter.
"Yes," he said, as if in confirmation.
"To be fair, you should call me-"
He looked in her eyes for the first time.
"Hermione," he said firmly.
Hermione furrowed her eyebrows. Now that did feel odd.
"Right," she said, "well, now that we've got names down, you want to start with arithmancy?"