I don't own Harry Potter, but I hope that this story is satisfactory.

CHAPTER THIRTY

"Show me how to lie
You're getting better all the time
And turning all against the one
Is an art that's hard to teach
Another clever word
Sets off an unsuspecting herd
And as you step back into line
A mob jumps to their feet"-You're gonna go far kid,
The Offspring

MINISTRY SEEKS EDUCATIONAL REFORM

DOLORES UMBRIDGE APPOINTED FIRST EVER HIGH INQUISITOR

Draco rubbed his eyes, maybe if he was lucky this would be just another one of his nightmares and any minute now a horde of Death Eaters were going to come swarming in and Aveda Kedavra the newspaper dead and Umbridge too for extra measure.

A few minutes later he realised that for once he wasn't dreaming.

This was not the first time in recent weeks that the Minister, Cornelius Fudge, had used new laws to affect improvements at the Wizarding School. As recently as 30th August, Educational Decree Number Twenty-two was passed to ensure that, in the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, that the Ministry would select an appropriate person.

"That's how Dolores Umbridge came to be appointed to the teaching staff at Hogwarts," said Weasley last night. "Dumbledore couldn't find anyone so the Minister put in Umbridge, and of course, she's been an immediate success—"

"She's been a WHAT?" said Potter loudly from the Gryffindors table, letting Draco know he wasn't the only one reading this travesty in absolute fury. He kept reading.

"—an immediate success, totally revolutionising the teaching of Defence Against the Dark Arts and providing the Minister with on-the-ground feedback about what's really happening at Hogwarts.

"It is this last function that the Ministry has now formalized with the passing of Educational Decree Number Twenty-three, which creates the new position of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.

"This is an exciting new phase in the Minister's plan to get to grips with what some are calling the falling standards at Hogwarts," said Weasley. "The Inquisitor will have powers to inspect her fellow educators and make sure that they are coming up to scratch. Professor Umbridge has been offered this position in addition to her own teaching post and we are delighted to say that she has accepted."

At this point he had up and thrust the paper over to another nearby Slytherin and stood to leave.

So this was what his father wanted him to apparently back, Umbridge's little power-trip to educate the stupid into being even stupider, why didn't she just paint a huge MUDBLOOD sign on everyone's forehead and turn them out now?

This was giving him a migraine, what was he going to do? Life had just gotten even harder. Now he had to figure out five riddles, find the Mirror of Erised, understand the meaning behind his stupid nightmares, if the man he saw was his future-self or something else and deal with how weird Hermione was acting, now this. What the bloody hell was a High-Inquisitor supposed to be?!

She didn't show up in his Arithmancy lesson, nor did she show up in his Potions lesson.

Snape was handing back their essay. "I have awarded you the grades you would have received if you presented this work in your O.W.L.s," said Snape with a smirk, as he swept among them, passing back their homework. "This should give you a realistic idea of what to expect in the examination."

Snape reached the front of the class and turned on his heel to face them.

"The general standard of this homework was abysmal. Most of you would have failed had this been your examination. I expect to see a great deal more effort on this week's essay on the various varieties of venom antidotes, or I shall have to start handing out detentions to those dunces who get a 'D.'"

Draco glanced down at his essay and while he was dismally disappointed, he wasn't surprised in the least to see a D scrawled in black ink as Snape looked down at him disappointedly and moved on. Lack of sleep and rest was taking its toll on his schoolwork.

He looked up to where Potter was looking at him. It felt like he'd been doing that a lot since their run in in the Owlery, Potter would often glance up at him in suspicion or curiosity and to be perfectly honest, Draco was too preoccupied with all the things on his plate to care about remembering to be a jerk and consider house rivalries. As far as he was concerned, hating Potter took up too much time in his schedule and he couldn't be bothered anymore. He rested his chin on his fist and waved uninterestedly as Potter scowled and turned away.

Well, it seemed Potter still had time to hate him. Lucky Potter.

The toady woman showed up in Divination as Theo and he were pulling out their dream journals. Draco hated Trelawney, but he hated Umbridge more. As batty as the tower freak was, at least she was dedicated to her subject, she was terrible at it but dedicated and that in itself deserved some respect.

Not the toad though, oh no.

Draco barely paid any attention to Theo interpreting his dream of a fluffy orange cat eating a werewolf wearing a tie. Listening to the conversations, Umbridge asked a lot of dumb questions that in the end pissed off Trelawney so much she fumed. Draco had not known that it was even possible

xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-X-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

Harry rested his chin in his hands as Trelawney turned to him and began to interpret all of his made-up dreams into something gruesome, though honestly he was rather impressed at how she managed to turn a fluffy teddy-bear into being smothered in his sleep by darkness.

His mind reeled over the conversation between Umbridge and Trelawney he'd overheard. So it was true, she was inspecting teachers, this was madness. He'd noticed he'd once again collected an audience, great, just what he needed.

Harry tried to focus on his paper in front of him till something caught his eye, it was Malfoy again.

Ever since that day in the tower, their conversation had never been far from Harry's mind and though he was sure Ron and Hermione hadn't yet noticed, something was different about Malfoy - tamer.

He didn't pick on them as much and when he did it, the taunts were rather empty, Harry could tell, he'd been Malfoy's favourite target for a better part of five years.

If anything, Malfoy was being almost amiable; it was throwing Harry for a complete loop. Was he to be trusted or was this just a plot thought up by his father to get Harry to let his guard down, or was it something more? Harry didn't know.

Their eyes met and he realised that it wasn't scorn patterned across Malfoy's face as he watched the spectacle, it was mirth.

"Porridge!" Trelawney suddenly exclaimed and Harry jumped in his seat.

"Uh…yeah, warm porridge, I dreamt I was eating it for breakfast," she couldn't possibly turn porridge into something deadly, could she?

"Oh my dear, I foresee a gruesome and early death, I would suggest you watch out for pit falls and breakfast foods."

A sound came from the side and Harry's eyes skirted to find Malfoy having bent his head, his shoulders shaking in laughter. To Harry's surprise, seeing Malfoy laugh sort of triggered something in him as he snorted. It was funny, I mean…porridge, how the hell was porridge dangerous, she didn't even mention poison or anything.

And then she turned to him, "Is something funny, Mister Malfoy?" she shrieked.

Under the table, Nott kicked Malfoy who sat up, any traces of laughter gone. "Uhh…no, Professor."

She walked over and picked up his dream journal. "Hmm…dreaming about koalas on purple trees?"

Harry choked on a hoot, koalas? Seriously?

"Yeah, they were really big…and they had rabbit ears…and they couldn't stop singing crappy songs," Malfoy said, scratching his head and his partner smacked himself in the forehead.

"My poor child," she said. "I'm…I'm…I'm afraid that by the end of the month you will find your feet slightly bigger."

"You alright, Harry?" he heard Ron ask as Harry buried his face into the desk to hide the laughter.

When he glanced back up, Trelawney was bending over Lavender's journal and Malfoy was smirking at him in a challenging sort of way.

Maybe he could try making his fake-dreams a little more inventive?

xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-X-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

They made it to Defence Against the Dark arts five minutes before being late, but that didn't pacify Umbridge. Draco managed to get his book open even while it was giving him a headache looking at it.

"Maybe if we're lucky, someone will actually learn something from this book," he murmured.

"Don't hold your breath."

"Huh?" Draco said, turning to Theo who was taking notes.

"What?" he replied. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"What did you say?" Draco asked. "Not to hold my breath?"

"I didn't say anything," Theo said.

Before Draco could reply, Umbridge had begun her lesson. "Wands away," she instructed them all with a smile, "As we finished Chapter One last lesson, I would like you all to turn to page nineteen today and commence 'Chapter Two, Common Defensive Theories and their Derivation.' There will be no need to talk."

Draco opened up his books, and skimmed the words of the page without reading anything, with one hand he doodled and with one eye he watched over the class. No one was protesting, no one was saying anything.

Then suddenly, Hermione thrust her hand up. Draco sat up a little, curious.

Umbridge, from last time's experience, realised that ignoring Hermione was not going to make the problem go away, if anything it would only make it worse, so she came over to her side and bent down. "What is it this time, Miss Granger?" she whispered.

"I've already read Chapter Two," said Hermione.

"Well then, proceed to Chapter Three." Umbridge said frowning.

"I've read that too. I've read the whole book," Hermione replied seriously.

Professor Umbridge blinked but recovered her poise almost instantly. Draco sat up fully. What was she doing?

"Well, then, you should be able to tell me what Slinkhard said about counter-jinxes in Chapter Fifteen," she said, probably thinking she'd caught Hermione put. Draco rolled his eyes; of course she's already finished the book, because that's what Hermione does.

"He says that counter-jinxes are improperly named," said Hermione promptly. "He says 'counter-jinx' is just a name people give their jinxes when they want to make them sound more acceptable."

Professor Umbridge raised her eyebrows and Draco smirked at her impressed surprise. Then Hermione said something that made him full on grin.

"But I disagree," she continued.

Professor Umbridge's eyebrows rose a little higher and her gaze became distinctly colder, "You disagree?" she repeated.

"Yes, I do," said Hermione, who, unlike Umbridge, was not whispering, but speaking in a clear, carrying voice that had by now attracted the attention of the rest of the class and made Draco so pleased. Even though Draco often frowned on Gryffindor bravery, for once he was glad his girlfriend was in the house of the lion. "Mr. Slinkhard doesn't like jinxes, does he?" she continued. "But I think they can be very useful when they're used defensively."

"Oh, you do, do you?" said Professor Umbridge, forgetting to whisper and straightening up. "Well, I'm afraid it is Mr. Slinkhard's opinion, and not yours, that matters within this classroom, Miss Granger."

"But—" Hermione began.

"That is enough," said Professor Umbridge. She walked back to the front of the class and stood before them, all the jauntiness she had shown at the beginning of the lesson gone. "Miss Granger, I am going to take five points from Gryffindor house."

Hermione bit her lip as the muttering continued, but as Draco looked over at her and caught her eye she smiled, not caring who saw. His Hermione would never sit quietly and accept what was wrong, even if it came from a teacher, she was the type to fight and keep fighting in whatever way she could. She didn't care about being scared or damaging her reputation. He was so proud of her and he felt so embarrassed he couldn't be more like her.

But he was so glad he had her, she reminded him of something important, that there were still ways to fight. He didn't have to be scared, he didn't have to be confused, he just needed to find them.

xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-X-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

He was in a pub, the grime in his mug climbed up the sides and practically caked it to rim, but it was filled with firewhiskey and so he downed it all.

"Another?" the older looking Draco looked up at a dark haired man who had settled himself on the stool beside his.

It had been a year since leaving Hogwarts and becoming a Death Eater, since then it had been mission after mission, usually hit-and-runs.

Draco-prime chose not to answer, instead he pushed his glass over as an indication and the dark haired man signalled for another.

Draco-prime recognised him as Theodore Nott, he'd been inducted a lot earlier than Draco, almost immediately after the Dark Lord returned and they'd known each other as children but had never been interested in each other. They'd been on a couple of missions together but never really spoken beyond a greeting and exchange of information.

"Tough night?" Draco-prime asked as Nott downed a double firewhiskey and ordered another. "You have no idea," Nott replied.

This was probably the most they'd ever spoken in all their lives, but being a Death Eater sort of did that for you, you didn't have a lot of choice when picking your companions.

Neither of them spoke beyond that, trust was an easy thing in their line of business and soon Nott's presence was forgotten as Draco kept on downing more and more alcohol. He wanted to dull the pain and the image of the five year old he'd killed earlier that day.

Suddenly, the door burst open and order members began filing in, a raid.

Draco-prime swore, of course they chose now to attack, while he was intoxicated and finally feeling good. Bloody side-of-light and their bloody-inconvenient-timing.

He whipped out his wand and fired a legs-lock curse at his closest attacker. For some reason, Draco-prime was never able to cast dark curses when drunk. Forget the killing curse, not even a simple spell to turn you inside-out was possible. His mind just wouldn't compute and getting rid of thirty people trying to kill you with only leg-locking curses and jelly-arm hexes at your disposal was not easy.

Suddenly he felt someone barrelling into his side, smashing his shoulder into a group of bar stools. "Get your head in the game, Malfoy, you're going to get yourself killed."

Draco-prime blinked, even plastered, he could somewhat tell that Nott had just saved his life as another Killing Curse fired and Nott knocked him out of the way.

There! He did it again, saved his bloody life.

That seemed to sober him up as his inside-out curse retuned to him, and so did his Sectumsempra as he began cutting though his enemies.

They seemed to be greenhorn Order members, probably fresh out of Hogwarts, or maybe even still in Hogwarts. It was the only explanation for coming out victorious in the odds of thirty-to-two.

Then again, as he took a look at the bloody, mutilated carnage left of Nott's opponents; Draco wondered if he survived just because his companion had a bibliography of sociopathic spells.

"You saved me," Draco-prime asked straight out, not bothering with subtleties for once. "Why?"

Nott looked at him, his face completely expressionless. "Don't know," he finally said. "Just…did it."

Draco frowned, not buying it and Theo sighed heavily. "I think I've seen enough death today to last me at least a night, I thought I might give saving someone a go. Obviously…" he indicated the room of bodies around them, "that didn't work out so well."

Draco thought about it, then held out his hand and Nott shook it.

He introduced himself, "My name is…"

"I know," Nott interrupted curtly, "Theodore Nott."

"I know," Draco returned, he did not like being in anyone's debt.

Draco looked up as someone shook him. "Draco, you're doing it again!"

"Theo?" Draco asked, rubbing his eyes.

"You were talking in your sleep again, you kept calling me, only you called me Nott? Care to explain?"

Draco shook his head. "The more I dream, the less I understand of them."

"What happened this time?" Theo asked, relighting all the lamps, quite used to their routine by now.

"I dreamed about meeting you, only it was different, I mean we were different, I mean we were older and…"

"Wait…one at a time, you dreamt about meeting me, so the hippogriff?"

"That's just it. I was meeting you for the first time or the guy who looks like me was meeting someone who looks like an older version of you who's also called Theodore Nott, but there was no Hippogriff involved, it all happened completely differently."

"What happened?" he sat down, "with Draco-prime?" 'Draco-prime' was the nickname they'd come up with for the guy in Draco's dreams.

"We were at a bar, a year after we graduated from Hogwarts, apparently Draco-prime spent all my school time with Crabbe and Goyle and companions and when I…or he, started rising in the Death Eater ranks, they lost contact. He'd just killed a five year old girl, it wasn't pretty and he was in some dingy pub, downing his sorrows in firewhiskey. Then older-Theo walked in and ordered him a drink."

"And then?"

"Nothing much, just Draco-prime getting really drunk then they were attacked by that group I told you about, the Order of the Phoenix, apparently they're this rebel group in the future. Anyway, he was too drunk to fire anything decently useful and just as he was about to get killed the older-you came barrelling into him, saving his life? Then Draco-prime and him sort of...I don't know…met, officially."

"That's really weird? Are you sure it wasn't someone who just looks like me?"

"He introduced himself as Theodore Nott," Draco confirmed and Theo shook his head, "I don't understand, what could this mean?"

"That's what I want to know."

"How are you doing with the riddles?" Theo inquired.

"Ok, I've gotten two of them worked out, more or less," he did not admit it had been Hermione who actually figured them out. "One of them is Grave and the other is Anger."

"Grave and Anger?" Theo questioned, "what does that mean? Do you figure out all the answers and check every door, hope you find the right one?"

"I don't know," Draco admitted. "But I can't help getting the feeling that something is missing here, there's more to these answers that I'm not seeing."

"One of those bad feelings?" Theo asked.

Draco shook his head. "No, one of my bad feelings."

xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-X-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

The next day, Draco was walking down to breakfast with Theo after a prefect meeting; neither had much to say to each other about last night's events, all Draco wanted was food.

However, it seemed fate had other plans as a first year he knew, Livia Alexandra, tapped his arm and said, "Draco, Professor Umbridge wants to see you before breakfast."

Draco groaned as Theo clapped him on the shoulder sympathetically. "Better go before she comes hopping along the hallway."

He nodded. "Ok, Livia, lead the way to penalty," she giggled. Sweet girl, thank Merlin she was nothing like her brother.

When Draco knocked on the door to her office, he was assaulted by all the cats on the wall and rubbed his eyes. No, they were still there.

"Ahh, Mr Malfoy" she said, coming out from her inner office. "You're here, do please take a seat."

"Uhh…that's ok, Professor, I'm ok." Merlin, he hated this woman.

"I insist," she said and something from her tone told Draco this wasn't a insistence, it was an order. So he sat down.

"Well Mr Malfoy, your grades in school are impressive, so is your track record. I have it under good authority that you are quite popular with the Slytherins, especially the first to third years. You're also quite popular with those of your age?"

"We're ok," he admitted. "I'm a prefect, it's what I do."

Most people didn't know this, but Draco was god to the younger students. It was strange, because no one would understand why the spoilt Slytherin prince would even care about the younger years of his house. But they didn't know what he dreamed about every night. Sometime after the third brunette, a little twelve year old girl he killed in a nightmare, Draco couldn't take it anymore. He found that by helping out the children who were still alive to the best he could, he could make some of the pain a little better.

It was easy enough; people didn't really like Slytherins. End of subject. So he ended up being the only one on their side when things got messy and they got in trouble. Helping out only got easier when he became a prefect. Sure it was showing favouritism, but the younger kids adored him, and to be honest, some of the time he had a soft spot for them too. But it wasn't something he wanted anyone to know and though it had started out selfish, now it was just habit.

"Well," she said smiling. "How would you like to help me put together…a little task force?"

"Professor?"

"Nothing too serious, dear," as assured. "It's only because I'll soon be enforcing some new rules and I was hoping that having some of the student body supporting my ideas would help them come over more easy with the other students."

'More rules!' He thought irritated. "What kind of rules, Professor?"

"Oh, good ones," she said ambiguously. "Rules to ensure the good of the school."

'Good for who?' he thought, 'so you basically want me set up a team of whistle blowers, because I'm well connected and because my father's a rotten slimeball, I must automatically be one too. Wonderful.'

Of course, none of these thoughts appeared on his face as he smiled, "What can I do to help, Professor?" might as well make daddy proud.

Before leaving her office, he noticed a pen on her desk, a very suspiciously familiar pen and sighed as it all fit into place, 'oh'.

xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-X-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

Later that day, Professor Umbridge showed up again in Professor Grubby-Plank's lesson, questioning her on her opinion of the school, being an outsider and substitute teacher. She seemed really disappointed when Grubby-Plank had nothing bad to say, so she started questioning the students about accidents.

Pansy told her about the hippogriff and he flinched, Hermione stiffened. They were the only ones who knew the truth.

"Only because he was too stupid to listen to what Hagrid told him to do," said Potter angrily.

Both Weasley and Hermione groaned. Professor Umbridge turned her head slowly in Potter's direction.

"Another night's detention, I think," she said softly. "Well, thank you very much, Professor Grubby-Plank, I think that's all I need here. You will be receiving the results of your inspection within ten days."

"Jolly good," said Professor Grubby-Plank, and Professor Umbridge set off back across the lawn to the castle.

Draco groaned, and glanced at Hermione, remembering how she was still fighting back. She knew why this couldn't go on.

Now it was his turn to do something.

He got his chance sometime as Potter was returning from a detention with Umbridge, as a prefect, Draco had permission to walk the halls late; it wasn't hard tracking him down.

"When are you going to realise that she's baiting you?" he drawled, slinking from behind a corner in the truest Slytherin fashion. Potter whirled around, "Malfoy, what are you doing here?"

They were alone; Draco had made sure of it. So he strode up to Potter and grabbed his wrist, the other boy was so surprised he didn't even fight back as Draco pulled up his sleeve to reveal the words 'I must not tell lies' written again and again, or a better word for it would be carved. "I knew it"

Potter seemed to recollect himself as he shoved Draco off. "Let go, and what do you mean, you know?"

"You were terrible in Quidditch practice; you handle the broom like your wrist was tied up. I guess sliced would be a better word for it. I'm guessing you haven't told Granger about it yet. If you don't get better then every game I win is just going to be another string of me wondering 'was it that I was the best, or he wasn't at his?'"

"Why do you care?" Potter said suspiciously.

Draco ignored his outburst. "But it's probably a good thing you haven't said anything yet. She's using you, you know, as an example, every time you speak out; she just punishes you and hopes you'll tell the others. Because why wouldn't you, to her and the rest of the wizarding world you're St Potter, the Boy-Who-Loves-Attention, why wouldn't you start screeching a sob story to the world, especially after all that tripe Skeeter was pumping last year, and when you do tell people, everyone will fear her doing the same to them if they rebel too."

He saw Potter frown and smirked. "I'm guessing I wasn't the only one who came to this conclusion, very good, an 'O' for Mr Potter if you please."

"What do you want, Malfoy" Potter said seemingly exhausted.

"I want, for the first time in forever, what you want. Umbridge gone, I want my fellow Slytherins to be properly trained and I want the Dark Lord to go slithering back into whatever hellhole he crawled out of."

"Why?" Potter asked,

"Why? Maybe I don't want to be his little slave Death Eater at his beck and call. I have a life. That might happen if the whole school is cursing at a first year level. I should know," he thought about his dream, when an entire team of Order members swarmed him and all he could manage was a jelly-legs hex. If Theo hadn't been there, then Draco-Prime would have been dead.

"I'm here to warn you, Umbridge is taking her power-mad party to the next level. I'm talking new rules."

This got Potter's attention as he took a step forward so he was facing Draco properly. "What kind of rules?"

"The kind she thinks would be good for the school but we both know is her way of controlling it, of taking it away from Dumbledore and putting it under Fudge's thumb."

"You hate Dumbledore," Potter accused.

Suddenly, a flash of something filled Draco's mind, and old man…dead…his wand.

"I don't hate him, and I don't want him dead. I never did," he found himself saying, then blinked, where did that come from?

"Excuse me?" Potter said, confused.

Draco shook his head. "Anyway, what I'm trying to say is she's planning on putting together a little team, a secret police of some kind, she's calling them the Inquisitorial Squad."

"She can't do that!"

"Oh she can, and she's putting me in charge."

Potter rolled his eyes. "Of course you are, you're always knee deep in this kind of thing."

"Hey! I'm trying to help you here, I'm saying that…" and something filled his mind again, the sight of him breaking into a room, that looked like it was for some kind of secret training, "I'm saying…" and the next words didn't come from him, they came from somewhere else entirely. "I'm saying you should do something, take matters into your own hands."

"Are you barking mad?!" Potter exclaimed.

Draco blinked, yeah, was he?! What was that? But now he was thinking about it, it made sense. "Why not? You're Harry-bloody-Potter, people will listen to you. You have an impressive track record, if you started some kind of rebellion, people would listen. And you have Weasley and Granger. I may not think much of him, but even I know he's a pretty good strategist. I saw him playing Wizard chess, he played my mate once, completely beat him and Argyle is pretty good, and then there's Granger…well, Mudblood she may be—" Potter twitched his wand arm. "Don't call her that!"

Draco held up his hands in a peaceful gesture, though his stomach was churning too, he hated that word. "Fine, anyway, I'll be damned if Granger hasn't come up with her own plan already, she was always the brains of your operations, don't deny it. Without her, you'd be dead by now."

Potter sighed and ran a hand though his hair, Draco could see he was having a hard time processing the fact that he was actually talking civilly to his childhood nemesis, never mind the stuff that was coming out of his mouth.

"And where do you come in?"

Draco grinned. "I told you, I'm leading her secret police, and if I should so happen to continuously lead them in the wrong way…"

"What are you playing at?" Potter said. "You don't like me."

"I'm saying, think about it, and get back to me. I don't like you, Potter, you're right about that. But I don't hate you, you've never given me any real reason to hate you, you're not worth my hate," he said this darkly, without noticing it himself.

"Anyway, I think just this once, house rivalries are pointless, and we both want the same thing, just like that time in the Chamber."

"You said never to mention that."

"Well now I'm using it as leverage. At that time we were able to stand each other's presence without killing each other, this time's no difference. It's not a friendship, we're not wiping the slate clean and becoming best buddies, it's a temporary alliance, as soon as we drive the witch out and get a real teacher back in, then we go back to being enemies. Think about it and contact me, I don't care how you do it but please try to be inventive and try not to be an obvious Gryffindor."

He turned and began walking down the hall. Only this time, it was Potter who stopped him. "Malfoy…what you said just now, is there something more, something you're not telling me?"

Potter was sharper than he looked. But Draco didn't let on as he smirked. "No, nothing."

xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-X-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

That night, Hermione suggested that Harry start teaching his own Defence lessons, she and Ron wore all his protests down with the mention of their exploits each and every year against Voldemort, never mind that most of them had been pure dumb luck. He'd even broken a cup in his anger.

But now, in bed, he was thinking about it seriously.

Maybe Malfoy was right, maybe they did have a chance. Harry didn't know whether he was worth trusting, but honestly he never knew. There were some things two people couldn't live through without coming out different and battling a basilisk was one of them. Harry agreed, he didn't much like Malfoy, but he didn't hate him either. He didn't know whether or not to trust him, but he didn't feel certain that he shouldn't trust him either.

Two weeks later and Hermione's suggestion was not brought up but it was never far from Harry's mind, he thought about it constantly.

One blustery September afternoon, Hermione brought the conversation up again. "I was wondering," Hermione said suddenly, "whether you've thought any more about Defence Against the Dark Arts, Harry."

"Course I have," said Harry grumpily, "Can't forget it, can we, with that hag teaching us—"

"You know what I mean?"

He did, and though Harry felt like arguing, delaying for time, he knew he couldn't, not anymore. If it had just been Hermione's crazy idea then he definitely would have delayed for time, but hearing something similar from Malfoy of all people, that gave him a bit of a wake-up call.

This was bigger than him, and it was affecting a lot of people, if Malfoy could stand up and fight back, he sure as hell wasn't going to do anything less.

"You are aware that most of the stuff I did was pure luck?" he said, sighing and Hermione grinned. "Yes, Harry," said Hermione gently, "but all the same, there's no point pretending that you're not good at Defence Against the Dark Arts, because you are. You were the only person last year who could throw off the Imperius Curse completely, you can produce a Patronus, you can do all sorts of stuff that full-grown wizards can't, Viktor always said—"

Ron looked round at her so fast he appeared to crick his neck. Rubbing it, he said, "Yeah? What did Vicky say?"

"Ho ho," said Hermione in a bored voice. "He said Harry knew how to do stuff even he didn't, and he was in the final year at Durmstrang."

Ron was looking at Hermione suspiciously.

"You're not still in contact with him, are you?"

"So what if I am?" said Hermione coolly, though her face was a little pink. "I can have a pen-pal if I—"

"He didn't only want to be your pen-pal," said Ron accusingly.

Hermione shook her head exasperatedly and, ignoring Ron, who was continuing to watch her, said to Harry, "Well, what do you think? Will you teach us?"

"Us?"

"Well… now, don't fly off the handle again, Harry, please… but I really think you ought to teach anyone who wants to learn. I mean, we're talking about defending ourselves against V-Voldemort. Oh, don't be pathetic, Ron. It doesn't seem fair if we don't offer the chance to other people."

He knew, Malfoy said he was only in because he wanted his Slytherins safe, it meant nothing if he only taught Hermione and Ron. First it'd have to be all the houses, then slowly other Slytherins, he'd need to teach as many as possible.

"Yeah, but I doubt anyone except you two would want to be taught by me. I'm a nutter, remember?"

"Well, I think you might be surprised how many people would be interested in hearing what you've got to say," said Hermione seriously. "Look," she leaned towards him—Ron, who was still watching her with a frown on his face, leaned forwards to listen too—"you know the first weekend in October's a Hogsmeade weekend? How would it be if we tell anyone who's interested to meet us in the village and we can talk it over?"

"Why do we have to do it outside school?" said Ron.

"Because," said Hermione, returning to the diagram of the Chinese Chomping Cabbage she was copying, "I don't think Umbridge would be very happy if she found out what we were up to."

xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-X-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx

He was sitting on the train to Hogwarts, he was eleven years old, a first year.

He was with Crabbe and Goyle after kissing his mother and waving his father goodbye. "You scared?" Vincent grunted from opposite him. Draco gave them his best Malfoy smirk. "Scared of what? Hogwarts is easy."

A little later, the Lady with the trolley came and they all bought some sweets, then, after a while the compartment door opened and an ugly girl with busy brown hair and buck-teeth peek her head in. he felt nothing but a mild annoyance and disgust for her appearance.

"Hello," she smiled, what an ugly smile. "Is this compartment full? The one I was sitting in just got taken over by third years."

"Yeah," he said, "it's full," and waved her off.

"Oh, sorry," and she closed the door behind her. As soon as she was gone, he mimed a beaver with his nose. "What a sight." he gasped.

A few hours later he went to the toilet and overheard some information that Harry Potter had come to Hogwarts. He was excited, because this was a chance to make a powerful ally. So he rounded up Crabbe and Goyle and went looking for him, when they found him he was surprised to see it was the dark haired boy from Madam Malkin's, the one who had been so offended when he talked about the great oaf waiting outside.

He entered the compartment with a lot of noise. "So it's you then, you're Potter," he said arrogantly.

"Yes," Potter replied.

"I hear you grew up with Muggles? That's why you don't know anything yet. I'm Malfoy, Draco Malfoy."

A red haired boy seated opposite him sniggered, he recognised him in an instant as one of the rats his father was always going on about - Weasley.

"You think my name's funny, do you?" Draco demanded. He hadn't yet met anyone of the Weasley family, but his father hated them. This was probably why. "Red hair, poor manners, and a hand-me-down robe, you must be a Weasley," he sneered.

"You'll soon find that some wizarding families are better than the rest. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there." He held out his hand expectantly.

Potter looked at his hand and shook his head. "I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself, thanks."

He was furious, how dare this lowly orphan make him look bad, he was nothing but a half-blood Muggle-lover, stupid Saint Potter, at the moment he hated the boy in front of him with everything he had.

"Oi, Malfoy."

Draco sat up, pulling his bangs from his eyes; he had fallen asleep in the library.

A second later, his dream came back to him and he gasped.

This…this didn't make sense, that was, that was the day he met Hermione and then later Potter and Weasley, but it was all different, nothing happened like that. He didn't feel nothing when he saw her, he felt everything. He had looked into that girl's eyes and saw his whole future; he saw a place by her side and wanted nothing more to be the boy in it. From day one, he was drawn to her, as if he'd loved her all his life, but in that dream, he hadn't even cared when she was sad. He had made her sad and then took pleasure in it. And Potter…he hated Potter, for the stupidest reason, simply because of pure arrogance.

What's more, was how this…other Draco, felt. He felt so innocent, so childlike, as if he hadn't done a thing worse than teasing a house-elf in his whole lifetime, a complete spoilt prince. He felt like a completely different person.

"Malfoy," he suddenly remembered why he'd woken and gasped yet again when he realised Potter was talking to him in broad daylight!

"What the hell do you want, Potter?" he said, fixing an arrogant smirk to hide his distress. Didn't he beg Potter to at least try to be discrete; he was going to ruin everything.

"I need to talk to you."

"Well I have nothing to say to you," he stood and ran away, right out the library, but Potter followed him, so Draco made his way to the Quidditch pitch, maybe they wouldn't be overheard up in the air. He could always tell the other Slytherins that he had challenged Potter after messing with his Mudblood; it was a totally believable story.

He grabbed a school broom and tossed one to Potter who caught it with seeker reflexes. "Fine you want to talk, we do it on my terms," and he took off.

It wasn't long till Potter was in the air too, and they circled each other. "What's this all about?" he yelled. "I thought you were the one whose idea it was for me to contact you?"

"I seem to recall asking you to be discrete too, or did that slip your mind when you, a Gryffindor, decided to approach me, a Slytherin, in front of everyone, especially a Slytherin you supposedly hate. You want to ruin everything before it's even begun?" he called back when he was sure they were high enough.

Draco did a loop-de-loop and came up beside Potter. "Don't look now, Potter, but it's still daylight, if you don't want any wanderers wondering what we're doing here, tell me what you want and put on a show."

He pulled away, but Potter seemed to understand as he pulled away too and went for a loop around the pitch.

"Why all the secrecy?" he asked once he'd caught up.

"Because this alliance is a secret, duh. Now what have you got for me?"

"An agreement. You're right, you need me and if I'm going to do what Hermione suggests then I could sure use your help."

"What has Granger come up with?" he said readying himself for the stroke of genius.

"She says I should train them, as many as I can. She said I should teach a defence lesson for anyone who wants one."

Draco did a dive partly for the show, partly to hide his proud grin. Brilliant Hermione, what a brilliant idea. Not only would this make Potter grow up a bit but it would train the others and not just anyone, because only those brave enough to actually be any good as fighters would step up for lessons and will be worth training. Then eventually, they could branch out and teach the lesser students.

Brilliant.

He pulled up beside Potter. "So, where do I come in this arrangement?"

"We're holding a meeting, outside Hogwarts, Hermione reckons it might be a good idea to have it as far away from Hogwarts as possible and she's right, we don't want Umbridge ruining everything before it's even begun."

"Yeah, I see your point, so what; you want me to keep Umbridge away?"

"Yeah, not just now, but in the future, eventually we have to find a meeting place, and times, Hermione's probably sorting it, but when it happens, we need you to protect it."

Draco was actually impressed; Potter came up with this by himself? "You want me as a spy, keep an eye on Umbridge and report to you when she's getting warm, pretty cunning, Potter, I didn't know you had it in you."

"Do we have a deal?" Potter snapped tersely.

"Almost, what about my Slytherins, there's quite a few I can name who would not only be willing, but perfect for your little group, first to third years, I want them trained too," he said, thinking of little Livia and others who looked up to him.

"That might not be so easy Malfoy, they're Slytherins, and you guys aren't exactly known for house unity. People aren't going to accept them with a bouquet."

"It's my condition," he pressed. "Take it or leave it."

Potter nodded, albeit reluctantly, "Deal".

This was going to be a Christmas chapter, but I was a bit busy with Christmas, so it's a Boxing Day story. Please enjoy and please review.