A/N: This was written as a gift for my wonderful husband, who requested that I wrote either Ron/Hermione, Neville/Luna or Draco/Astoria. Darling, as you can see, it has turned out to be the latter. I hope you'll enjoy it!
Draco dreaded going back to Hogwarts. He hadn't exactly been a model student for the past two years and his name would no longer open all doors for him.
"Draco, it is important that you go back. Make a statement. Let them see you're willing to change."
He let out an irritated sigh. "I don't want to. They'll shun me anyway, so I might as well drop out, get a job…"
"Well, you don't get everything you want from life, I thought you'd have learnt that by now." His mother's tone was hard now. "Or perhaps you'd rather your father went to Azkaban?"
Draco hung his head in shame. "No, of course not."
His father had been sentenced to 'community service' as they had called it. The Malfoys were to show the world that they wanted to change, and in a few weeks his parents would enter a Ministry programme called 'Redemption'. It had all kinds of rules they had to obey to, like his parents having to live like Muggles for a year and Draco finishing Hogwarts and taking Muggle studies. If any of the rules were to be discarded, Lucius would go to Azkaban for a decade. So really, what choice did he have? And besides, going back to Hogwarts was probably better than living like a Muggle, without magic, for a year, like his parents had to do.
It was still in a rather foul mood that Draco arrived at Hogwarts on the first of September. Hogwarts was still partially destroyed and only half of the Slytherins in his year had returned. They had to share their dormitories with the 'new seventh-years' as he called them, since they been sixth years last year. He had thought sharing a room with four others had been a nightmare, but as it turned out, sharing one with seven was even worse.
There were only two Slyterins in Muggle Studies, Draco and Theodore. He didn't understand Theodore. His father had refused the programme and was now in Azkaban, but Theodore had still decided to participate in the programme on his own. The new teacher, Professor Paladine was just as boring as he imagined Professor Burbage to have been. The only advantage Professor Paladine had over Professor Burbage was that she knew how to dress herself better.
Draco had little contact with his fellow students. He didn't have anything to say to them, and they didn't want anything to do with him. He didn't know who was trying harder to avoid contact: he or his classmates.
The school year had only started about a week when a girl with dark brown curls set herself beside him on the couch in the Slytherin common room. He recognised her. She was one of the 'new seventh years' and she was Daphne's sister. What was her name again, Astra or something like that. He pretended to read, hoping she would leave him alone. But of course she wouldn't.
"You didn't want to go," she stated.
He rolled his eyes. "Well, glad that came across," he mutteredunder his breath.
"I didn't mean this school year."
He looked up from the book. "Then what do you mean?"
"That day, when the battle took place. You didn't want to go to the Dark L… Voldemort's side. Why not?"
"What is it to you? If you came here just to make fun of me, I suggest you piss off."
She shook her head. "I'm not making fun of you. You only went to his side because your parents urged you to, Isn't it? That shows there is still some good in you, Draco Malfoy."
He stared at her. "Once again, why do you care?"
"Fine, don't answer it then. But I'll just let you know that I can be very persistent. So tomorrow, I'm going to present you with another question. If you don't answer, I'll be back with another one the day after. And so on. But if you answer it truthfully, you get to ask me a question for the next day. Deal?"
"Sure, whatever," Draco scoffed. He mentally told himself to sit nowhere near the girl at breakfast tomorrow.
But unfortunately, they shared most classes, so there was no way he could avoid her.
"Were you scared to become a part of his trusted followers?"
Draco didn't answer, and the next day, she came back with another question. "If your father hadn't been a Death Eater, would you still have joined?"
This went on for a couple of days, and Draco found himself contemplating the questions she had posed so far. They were all rather serious questions, most of them involving his days as a Death Eater and he started thinking about the motives for his actions in the past two years. He had to admit, if his father hadn't been a Death Eater, he probably would not have joined, and he only really joined to save his parents. Terrified he had been, but he couldn't show weakness in front of the Dark Lord.
He also became more curious about the girl herself – Astoria it was, he had learned that now. Who was she, and why did she take such an interest in him? He asked her the next day and she laughed.
"So you've decided to share something."
He grunted. Right, he could only ask questions if he answered one first. "I did it for my parents. They would have been killed if I didn't. But now it's time for you to answer my question: "Who are you and why do you take such an interest in me?"
"My name is Astoria Greengrass, as you very well know. You'll get the rest of your answer tomorrow."
"I think that every person deserves a second chance," she said the day after. "Even if they themselves don't believe in second chances."
He nodded. To an extend, he could see where she was coming from.
"And now my question: If Voldemort were to return once more, would you be pleased or scared?"
He wanted to reply, but she stopped him. "You can tell me tomorrow, when you've thought about your question."
"I would be scared of what would come. I don't know if could do it all over again." He surprised even himself with his honesty. "And what about you: what did you do when Voldemort was reigning?"
"I led a small group of rebellious Slytherins," she explained the next day. "A bit like Dumbledore's Army, but way more secretive. Would you have taken your father's place if he had been sent to Azkaban?"
Bit by bit, day by day, he got accustomed to her blunt way of asking questions, that urged him to reflect on his life. He started to look forward to their daily 'meetings'. They never had an actual conversation though, they just answered each other's questions and posed new ones. One day, when they had been doing this for almost a month and the questions had become even more personal, Draco found himself asking her a question he hadn't intended.
"Will you go to the Halloween Ball with me in two weeks?" It startled him that he had asked that question and apparently he had startled her too. He wanted to spologise, but then a smile started to lighten up her face. "You know what? Do you mind if I answer that straight away instead of telling you tomorrow?" She didn't wait for his response and continued: "That sounds like a really nice plan."
Draco's heart made a little jump. He hadn't expected this answer. Then again, he hadn't expected himself to pose such a question to someone he still hardly knew. But her answer and her smile gave him feelings he hadn't had since he first fell in love with Pansy when he was thirteen. Astoria challenged him and she stood for what she believed in, Which he admired. Trough the questions, he felt that he already knew her better in a month than he had ever known Pansy in six years. It got him thinking that maybe, going back to school for this year, hadn't been an entire waste of time after all.