Summary: AU. OC: Graces Malfoy, Draco's twin sister. Neville, with his usual bad luck, ends up partners with Graces Malfoy for Herbology, just after landing her father in Azkaban after the Ministry ordeal. Will this partnership prove to be as awful as it sounds? 6th year. Rated M for sexual content.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K. Rowling, except Graces Malfoy, who is my own. I do not claim any ownership of the characters or settings contained within. This story is for entertainment only and is not part of the official story line.
Rated M for sexual content and language.
Author's note: A very special thanks to my amazing brilliant betas ArthurDent2 and Denarii! Who have been knights in shining armor to this story, saving it multiple times from my awful grammar mistakes and more.
Neville Longbottom had definitely had better days. His first day back at Hogwarts for his 6th year had already started off poorly. First, Professor Snape had decided to immediately humiliate him in front of the whole class. They hadn't even had their first assignment when he narrowed his eyes and asked how he was still able to be in his class. All Neville could do was stammer. Thankfully, Hermione had spoken up and told the professor that Neville had indeed passed his Potions OWL and was therefore eligible to continue taking the class. Snape was far from pleased with that information and proceeded to make his time in class even more miserable. Not only did he take points away from Gryffindor house, as usual, he then stood behind him and Hermione for the rest of the class, just watching. It was nerve wracking, having the potions master stare him down as he worked, smirking or making a tutting noise every few minutes.
He was becoming increasingly more and more nervous with each second that passed until he could no longer concentrate and his hands began to shake, which, of course, resulted in him accidentally knocking over an ingredient, spilling much more than instructed into the cauldron. Obviously, this was not supposed to happen because the potion began to fizz and bubble violently and the class had to be evacuated, as it was to explode. It was not the first time this had happened to Neville. He was already embarrassed enough, but then to top it off Snape demanded that he spent the rest of the majority of the morning cleaning up the mess he'd made, which meant the entire potions classroom, while Snape glared at him from behind his desk.
Then there were the Malfoys. Neville should have expected Draco to make his life a living hell after the ordeal at the ministry, but he honestly wasn't that worried about it because he felt that Draco could not be any more horrid to him than he already was. He was wrong. Draco Malfoy now was taking every chance he could get to make Neville feel not only emotional, as was his specialty before, but now physical pain. He went out of his way in the halls to shove him or hex his bag open spilling its contents in the middle of a busy, crowded corridor. Now he couldn't use the loo around the school because if any other Slytherin boys saw him alone they would jump him, beating on his chest and stomach until they were so black and blue he could barely breathe. They didn't dare hit him anywhere visible and he couldn't stand the thought of telling anyone and becoming even more pathetic than he usually was considered. He silently wished he was more like his father, a true Gryffindor. If he was anything like him, then he would have done something ages ago to get Draco Malfoy off his back. No one was ever surprised about his father being a Gryffindor, but the whole school, even after six years, still doubted if the hat placed him in the right house.
Then there was the other Malfoy, the one who watched with cold eyes, as she just stood there while her twin taunted him. Graces Malfoy. Neville wondered if she did it because she felt that what Draco was doing was enough torment for the both of them or maybe she just found it uninteresting. Then again, Graces Malfoy always seemed to keep her hands clean from dirty work. He had never once heard her even speak out of class. She was a silent presence by her brother's side. She would occasionally smirk at the comments he'd make and could be seen daily talking with other Slytherins in the halls and at meals, that famous Malfoy sneer on her face as Pansy Parkinson whispered the latest gossip in her ears. Graces Malfoy was a silent mystery to the school. There was no denying she was a beautiful girl, but she was very unapproachable and, of course, a Malfoy. Those two things alone kept any suitors other than Slytherins away. He couldn't help but be more frightened of the female version of Draco though, something told him that, like with plants, the silent beauty was more dangerous.
Neville was lost in thought, wondering about what Graces Malfoy had in store for him. He was so deep in thought, in fact, that he almost walked straight into the very Slytherin girl he was thinking about. Graces Malfoy was clutching her books tightly to her chest and standing completely still in front of Neville's taller frame. The Gryffindor didn't know what to do as he just stood there, gawking at her, waiting for her to pull out her wand and hex him into the hospital wing. But she didn't. She just stood there, her cold gray eyes boring into Neville's bewildered ones. He eventually realized at what close proximity they were standing and awkwardly took a sudden step back. If this had been anyone else he would have babbled apologies, but he couldn't find anything to say to the Malfoy girl standing before him.
Her face held absolutely no emotions. Neville thought that any movement on her face may cause it to crack, it looked so much like stilled porcelain. Her frigid stare was beginning to make him more anxious with every second. He was sure that she was about to unleash an arsenal of hurt on him he almost flinched a bit in anticipation, but she never did. She held his steady gaze for one more moment and then just walked to the door gracefully and exited the castle, heading to the greenhouse. Their strange gaze had ended as suddenly as it had begun. He stood still a few moments, unable to believe his luck at running into a Malfoy and escaping without a single bruise or insult, before cautiously making his way over to the greenhouse.
When Neville entered Greenhouse four, which was reserved for advanced herbology, he noted that Malfoy was already at the very front of the class. He watched the back of her head for a moment before taking a seat with Hermione, who was already writing notes on a piece of parchment, detailing things from their book.
"Malfoy two is in this class. You know she is the only Slytherin that is taking advanced Herbology and she is also the only one that is awful at it. I have no idea why she even bothers," Hannah Abbott said, taking a seat to the left of Neville.
"She must not be that bad if she is able to take this course," Hermione stated, not bothering to look up from her parchment.
"Or Daddy paid her way in," Hannah retorted.
"Professor Sprout wouldn't allow such a thing," Neville stated firmly, "If she is in this class it is because she passed her OWLs for it."
"I don't see how she could have. Neville, you're in here all the time, surely you have seen how much she struggled with each and every project she's had."
Neville couldn't refute that; multiple times he had walked into the greenhouse and seen the blonde struggling to keep her plant alive. If the plant wasn't trying to attack her, it was wilting away into nothing. It was lucky for her that Parkinson was usually able to save said plant every time.
"Since when do you defend Malfoys, anyways?" Hannah asked skeptically.
"I'm not defending her. I am defending Professor Sprout's integrity," Neville stated, taking out his supplies while trying hard to keep a firm look even as his cheeks pinked at being so outspoken on behalf of his favorite professor. "I just don't want anyone saying Professor Sprout can be bought." Then, looking over at Hermione, he quietly added, "I think you know I would be the last person defending those two."
"They will eventually get bored with it all," Hermione reassured him sympathetically. She was aware of the situation with Neville and the Malfoys after she had caught Neville attempting to make a potion to heal his bruising. "I mean they do, after all, have other things to focus on. NEWTS are next year and they're both prefects."
"I don't know if they will," Neville groaned.
"Are you sure you don't want to tell anyone, Nev?" Hermione asked for the umpteenth time, as she put a kind hand on her friends shoulder. "I'm sure that Professor Mcgonagall could do something. I bet you could even do something," she continued encouragingly, "you stood up to Death Eaters just a few months ago, surely you can stand up to two pompous, teenage blondes."
"Two pompous, teenage blondes that are blood-related to Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange," Neville said, more to himself than the girl beside him.
Hermione just rolled her eyes and muttered something about blood not having anything to do with anything and Hannah just sighed in exasperation at Neville.
Professor Sprout started the class with her usual first day business, going over the syllabus. Everyone in the class was drowning out her prattle and looking around the greenhouse at the exotic, dangerous plants they would be allowed to handle this year. Neville was particularly excited to be working with venomous tentacula; it was extremely rare, very expensive and, most of all, temperamental. And yet it was so vital to so many medical potions. It was a necessary plant and a herbologist's dream.
"Now, if everyone could find a partner for the school year, we can begin to discuss the first of our many exciting projects."
Most people were sitting with the person they wanted to be partnered with, so it was a very quick process. Or it would have been, except that the only Slytherin in the room was sitting alone and Neville, Hermione and Hannah were the only trio sitting together.
Graces stood and looked around the room, Neville almost felt sorry that no one had seemed to want to be her partner, but in all reality he was terrified at the idea of having to be the one stuck with her.
"Not it!" Hannah and Hermione exclaimed in unison as silver eyes trailed over to their table and the young girl began to approach them.
"What?" Neville yelped, looking at both girls with wide, panicked eyes, "No way, you can't seriously mean for me to partner with her! I won't survive the term!"
"She won't want to work with me Neville and I really don't fancy being called names every day for the rest of the year," Hermione countered leaving the sandy haired boy to turn to Hannah.
"Nev," Hannah whined, "I won't pass this class with her. Hermione and you are the best in the class and she is the worst, it wouldn't be fair to partner me with her. You, however, will still manage even with her as a partner. And... well... I'm a half-blood... and you are a pure blood... she may... well... treat you better."
"Technically, I'm a 'blood traitor' which apparently is even worse, so that's not going to help me at all, and to top that off I was one of the people that landed her father in Azkaban!" Neville hissed, trying to stay quiet, his panic growing more and more, "She is going to-"
"As much as I am enjoying this utterly thrilling conversation, I am still in need of a partner," a cold voice drawled.
All three heads shot up to see the coolly composed girl in front of them. Neville gave the girls around him a dirty look before packing his things and moving around the desk to where Graces was standing. He didn't even bother to hide his disappointment at being her partner as he stood in front of her. The aristocratic blonde raised one elegant eyebrow at him before giving a single nod and walking back to her desk.
"I don't understand why you are so hostile toward me, Longbottom," Graces stated, calmly taking
Neville didn't bother to respond to such a ridiculous statement. If Graces Malfoy wanted to mock him she very well could without any of the pleasure of his retort. He just continued to place his things on the desk before them, ignoring her.
Neville gritted his teeth and looked up at the Slytherin to see she looked genuinely puzzled, a small frown gracing her face as she stared at him with such intensity he just wanted to shrink.
"Y-you can't be serious."
"Do I look as though I am jesting, Longbottom?"
"No... But I realize you Malfoys combine jesting with cruelty, so I wasn't sure," Neville said bitterly, turning to face the front before he felt a frighteningly strong hand grab his arm.
"When I am being cruel you will know. Now what is it that I have done to make you act as though being partners with me will lead to your demise?" Graces whispered darkly.
Neville could not believe that, of all the people in the world, Graces Malfoy believed herself to be innocent of any offense against him. The fact that she could stand beside him and insinuate that she was undeserving of his hostility made him seethe with righteous anger.
"Well," Neville began before he could regain his temper, "your Aunt is the reason I live with my Gran, your father tried to kill me and my friends last year, oh and let's not forget the fact that your brother has made me his personal punching bag this year!"
Neville could not believe that he just said all of that to a Malfoy. He silently patted himself on the back for actually using his back bone. He almost felt smug and then he looked at Graces face.
"I believe what I asked was, what have I done, not my family. What have I done, Mr. Longbottom, to earn this treatment? Because, as far as I can see, I am the only one that is being regarded so callously, by you. I don't think you have treated anyone with such dispassion as you have done me. And for the record, I have never once called Hermione Granger a mudblood before, so I do not understand why she made the assumption that if she was my partner I would do so."
"Are you trying to say I am the one being cruel?" Neville asked in astonishment.
"You almost plow me over in the hall and then instead of apologizing like I've seen you do a thousand times in the corridors, you look at me like I'm… well... like I'm not something exactly pleasant, to say the least," Graces said, seemingly trying to regain composure and turning to face the front of the class. "Then you and your friends talk about how awful I am in this class and then you three have a discussion about how none of you want to be my partner as I am walking up to you."
Neville just sat there staring at the girl in front of him; he had never really looked at Graces Malfoy as separate from Draco Malfoy before. Like they were always one entity, kind of like the way Fred and George were.
"Are you saying I... hurt your feelings?"
That earned him a very Draco Malfoy-ish glare. "What? No, of course not. Like you have the ability to hurt me. Just forget it."
"Mr. Longbottom, Miss Malfoy, if you two are finished with your conversation, I would ask that you focus your attention back to the front of the class," Professor Sprout said loudly, earning the two students a couple chuckles from around the room.
For the remainder of the class time Neville tried to focus on what Professor Sprout was saying, but he couldn't. He felt guilty for not being more careful of Graces' feelings. He certainly didn't want to be friendly with the blonde, but was she correct in saying that he had been the cruel one? He certainly never meant to be, but, intentional or not, he knew first hand that it still stung when people were careless with your feelings.
When class was dismissed Neville watched as his partner quickly gathered her things and placed them in her rucksack, not bothering to even glance at him. He slowly put away his things as well, trying to figure out what to say to the Slytherin before she left.
"I'm sorry," Neville said quietly as Graces swung her bag over her shoulder. She paused for a moment before turning and actually looking at the sandy haired boy before her. "I...I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
Graces scowled at the last statement. "You don't have the power to hurt my feelings, Longbottom."
Neville sighed in exasperation, "Then why say anything at all?"
"So you and your friends would know that you are not as noble as you think you are." With that, she turned sharply away and strode out of the classroom, leaving Neville to stand alone at his desk.
Neville left the classroom feeling awful. Had he misjudged Graces? She was right in that she had never, herself, been cruel to him, and now that he thought of it he couldn't remember a time where she had ever, herself, done anything to anyone at the school. It did seem as though everyone connected her to her family's actions. What Draco did, she was somehow involved in, what her parents did was a reflection on her character, and what her aunt did, as well. He himself had even said earlier that her mix of blood made her more of a monster than her family. Now that he thought of it, that comment was indeed unfounded and unfair and even a bit hypocritical, in a way.
"Neville," Hermione's voice broke into his thoughts as she and Hannah both joined him on the grounds after class while he made his way back to the castle, "we're really sorry. We saw you two talking and it didn't look at all pleasant. I don't know what she said to you after class, but... well... we can tell it bothered you..."
"Hermione, has she ever said or done anything cruel to you?" the sandy haired boy asked, not even acknowledging her apology.
"No, has she personally ever said anything cruel to you?"
Hermione frowned clearly unsure of where this was coming from, but after a moment she slowly shook her head. "I suppose not. She has refused my help a few times in class and once when she realized that I was the one in front of her at a drinking fountain she scowled and walked away. I suppose she'd rather be thirsty than drink from the same fountain as me."
"What are you trying to insinuate Neville? That Graces Malfoy isn't evil like the rest of her family?" Hannah asked, scowling.
"No... I... I don't know. I just... well, maybe we judged her unfairly..." Neville said shyly, not looking at either girl.
"Just because she isn't as vocal as her brother doesn't change the fact that they hold the same beliefs. She'll be a Death Eater just like her aunt, mark my words," Hannah stated passionately.
"You know," a bored voice sounded from behind the group "some would think it unwise to openly discuss someone's potential at being a Death Eater in such a public setting." Graces Malfoy was now nose to nose with Hannah, but the Hufflepuff girl stood her ground, as always unafraid of toil. "Did you know that in order to become a Death Eater you have to serve a mission involving killing someone for the Dark Lord? That being said, it may be unwise to gain attention from a person who may one day follow the Dark Lord."
"Are you threatening me, Malfoy?" Hannah asked through gritted teeth.
Graces looked into Hannah's green eyes with her cold gray ones, she seemed to be searching for something and didn't seem to mind the proximity at which she was standing near the other girl. Hannah, however, was beginning to feel uncomfortable and as unflinching as she looked, it was obvious she was holding her breath.
"Now Abbott, why would you say such a thing?" Graces asked with false innocence and surprise, "Here I am giving you very good advice, advice that may very well save you from angering the wrong person, thus saving your life and you accuse me of threatening you."
Hannah said nothing, just continued to glare at the blonde in front of her. Hermione reached out her hand and placed it on Graces shoulder only to have the girl whip it away like she had burned her.
"Do not touch me," Graces said darkly, taking a step away from Hannah finally and glaring at Hermione.
"Why? Because I'm not a pureblood like you?" Hermione asked disdainfully.
"You said it Granger, not me," the blonde said contemptuously, before disappearing to her next class.
Hannah and Hermione waited until Graces was completely out of sight before turning to Neville.
"Do you still think that we judged her unfairly?" Hannah spat.
Neville didn't answer, he listened half heartedly as the two girls talked on their way to class, hanging back a bit. His mind was still preoccupied with Graces Malfoy. He wondered if under that cold demeanor and sharp tongue, there was a girl that was hurt by what others were saying about her. If he brought it up to anyone they would probably all deem him mental and try to tell him that Malfoys didn't have feelings to hurt. And yet, he couldn't help but remember how she looked in class when she asked why she deserved such treatment. She had been cold and detached, but there was something in her eyes as she tried to describe how he looked at her in the hall. He could have sworn it was hurt; the emotion had only been on her face briefly before it fluttered away, but seeing her usually cold face exposed with such a raw emotion bothered him.
Maybe she did have all the beliefs that her brother held, but was that alone reason enough for him to behave so spitefully to her? She had the right to her beliefs just as anyone else did. And she wasn't being malicious to anyone like the rest of her family and friends; though she didn't seem to mind their cruelty. He wondered idly why she wasn't as overtly obvious with her beliefs as her brother.