A sigh escaped from pink lips as Hermione sifted through the pages of her book. Her brown eyes looked up around the library, not surprised to see only a few other students in the room. She watched a couple of first years struggle to carry stacks of books to their tables and she contemplated about going to them and teaching them Wingardium Leviosa. She thought better of it when she realized they should be learning it in class any day now. It was only the second week of the new year.
Being older than even her seventh year peers, Hermione felt awkward at times. It was no longer just Lavender and Parvati in the dormitories, but Ginny and a few other girls as well. Returning to Hogwarts after the battle had just felt like the right thing to do. For her, anyway. Harry and Ron had gone straight to Auror training, having been accepted even without their N.E.W.T.S.
Sometimes Hermione would catch herself looking around the Great Hall at so many unfamiliar faces. She didn't know the kids who were second years, having not been there last year, and then it was always new to see first years.
She felt out of place, as if she'd had her chance at seventh year and she'd decided not to go through with it, and now she was just here for no reason. Though, she knew, that wasn't the case; she was back to take her exams to ensure that she'd have a successful career.
She sighed, looking back to the page she'd landed on in her book. Her eyes scanned the words, but she was aware that she wasn't really taking any of the information in. The sound of the chair across from her moving made her jerk her head up. She opened her mouth to say something to the familiar blond sitting down, but nothing came out.
"Do you mind, Granger? I just don't want to sit over there and be ogled at by those first years," Draco hissed, plopping his books down on the table.
"I…No, I don't mind." She cleared her throat.
They sat in silence for a while, Draco making sure he had the right books and pulling out parchment and quills from his bag. Hermione continued to stare blankly at the page of her book. She flipped the page, making it seem like she was really reading.
After about an hour of doing this and listening to Draco scribble words furiously on his parchment, she looked up. He stopped and looked up too, his grey-blue eyes meeting her gaze. With a slight sniff, he put his quill down, working out the cramps in his fingers.
"Does it feel…strange to be back sometimes?" she asked, blinking a few times.
"I didn't sit here with the intention of speaking to you. The war may be over, but the values instilled upon me by my family still hold up," he replied.
She pursed her lips. "You know, I don't exactly want you sitting here. But I'm willing to be civil."
He arched an eyebrow at her. "Civil? To me? Are you sure I deserve it, Granger?"
She blinked, confused. She straightened in her chair. "It's like you said, Malfoy. The war is over and while you may, I don't have any prejudices."
"No ill will towards me? Hatred deep down?"
"Please, Malfoy. I know we don't have the best history, but I'm willing to put it aside and start anew."
He sneered and looked back down at his book. Hermione sighed, doing the same. A few minutes passed before she heard him clear his throat. She glanced up to find him staring at her expectantly. "To answer your earlier question, Granger. Yes, it does feel weird to be back. You must have forgotten that I was here last year. It's like I'm repeating the year, but everything is different now than it was," he said.
"What do you mean?" she questioned.
"While we were at school, it was like we weren't really learning what we were supposed to. Classes weren't the same. Many of us were too scared or something to even bother paying attention."
"But not you, right? Malfoy could never be frightened by Death Eaters, having grown up around them and all." She honestly hadn't meant for it to come out; it was as though her mouth just overpowered her brain and said it.
Draco's eyes flashed maliciously. His lip curled and he hissed, "Don't you dare talk about things you don't know about, Granger."
"Maybe I'd know if you'd tell me," she suggested, not even apologizing for her comment.
He let out a deep laugh, but it was humorless. "You don't want to hear about my childhood. It'd give you nightmares."
Hermione winced. She'd never actually thought about what Draco's childhood must have been like. Or what it had been like having a man like Voldemort living in your house. "I think," she started quietly, "it would be good for you."
He arched an eyebrow at her in question. She looked around the library for a moment, making sure no one was listening to or watching them. She took a deep breath and did something brave- reached across the table and laid her hand on top of his. She felt his fingers twitch, but he didn't pull his hand back.
"To talk about it, Malfoy. It'd be good for you. I know how you must feel- as if you're carrying this heavy burden on your shoulders all the time, right? Like you're still the bad guy even though it's all over now. Like you'll never be yourself, but who your dad and Voldemort made you. You feel like you'll always be defined by your childhood, by your family name, by the role you played in the war," she spoke softly, never taking her eyes from his.
Draco didn't answer, but his jaw clenched and he held it stiffly, lips forming a thin line. He stared back into her eyes, studying the look in her gaze. The look in her eyes was warm, just as the feeling of her hand on his was sending warmth up his arm. He pulled his hand out from under hers, a sudden chill hitting him as he did so, and ran his long fingers through his hair. "You're smart, Granger. I don't know how you know how I feel, but you're pretty dead on," he mumbled.
Hermione couldn't help but smile slightly. "I feel the same way, sort of, I guess. I feel like no one will bother to know the real Hermione Granger. I'll always be Harry Potter's best friend, part of the Golden Trio, the brains behind beating Voldemort. I'll always be the mudblood that helped outsmart the bad guy."
Draco noticeably winced at her use of the word 'mudblood.' "Don't call yourself that, Granger. You're not a mudblood, you're a witch who just happens to be muggle-born," he said.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "I thought you still had your prejudices?" she asked.
"The war…it kind of changed things. I saw so many muggle-born witches and wizards being much braver and showing better skills than most of us pureblood students. So much spilled blood, that was just like mine, that could've been mine." She was surprised when he took her hand in his, flipping her arm over and pushing her sleeve up. The word carved into her skin seemed so bold and visible at that moment. Mudblood.
Hermione reached out with her other hand and pushed his own sleeve up, revealing his Dark Mark. "This is my scar from the war, just as that is yours. It doesn't define us, Malfoy. It just shows that we played a part in everything that happened," she told him.
He nodded, letting go of her hand and pulling his sleeve back down. She tugged her own down and looked down at her book. They sat there for a minute, waiting for the other to say something. When neither did, they went back to reading as if the conversation that had just transpired never happened.
Another hour or so passed before they found themselves gathering all their belongings. Hermione swung her book bag over her shoulder, making her way to the exit, Draco behind her. As they stepped out into thee corridor, he whispered, "Granger."
She turned to look at him. He looked around for a second, pushing his hair back out of his eyes. He swallowed before saying, "I guess you're not so bad. Maybe we can call a truce, try our hand at a…"
He trailed, eyes searching her face, her gaze for a minute. She caught on and gave a small smile. "Friendship," she stated.
He nodded and she returned it, letting him know she was alright with that. She didn't say anything else before heading off down the corridor. Draco stood there, watching her back. He blinked, turning on his heel and heading the opposite way. "Friendship," he whispered to himself, glancing over his shoulder at the disappearing bushy-haired Gryffindor.