It started with a giggle.
It could have been a harmless sound, but considering the tiny, almost unimportant fact that Draco was sprawled on the floor in a highly embarrassing manner while the whole school looked on curiously and the bloody saviour of the wizarding world had fallen on his arse like the idiot that he was, it was certainly no laughing matter. If anything, everyone looked surprised, some even fearful of the dangerous duel that Draco and the dark-haired annoyance had taken part in since several dangerous hexes and curses were thrown carelessly down the Great Hall.
And then it happened; a tiny giggle that changed everything.
Draco's head had barely snapped to the culprit who was one Mudblood Granger when the damage had already been done. One by one, the students who had surrounded them started to chuckle, then outright laugh; and what made his blood boil further was the fact that they were all laughing at him.
Feeling a slight blush creep up his neck, Draco scowled as he got to his feet, dusting his robes as smoothly as he could, given the fact that nearly everyone who surrounded him was pointing and laughing heartily. He aimed a cold glare right at the bushy haired Mudblood, determined to make her see exactly how displeased he was. She seemed immune to his anger, simply choosing to hide her laughter behind a clenched fist.
Keeping his head held high, Draco turned on his heel and stalked off whilst shoving away the students who had blocked his exit. As he moved fast down the corridor, the duel started to slip his mind, the pointing and laughter became a blur; but the giggle - that tiny sound that had burst from her throat - that was burned into his brain.
Naturally, this meant war.
Anyone else would have accepted that he was the laughing stock of Hogwarts; but not Draco Malfoy. When his classmates watched him pass by, he scowled, when underclassman spoke about him in soft whispers, he sneered, when girls giggled in all their bint like glory, he glared. If anything, he hadn’t sported a smile in so long that his mouth hurt from the constant twisting.
But he did have a new hobby, one that held his attention from the moment he awoke to the moment he fell asleep. How to get back at Potter’s curly-haired lackey was all that consumed Draco’s mind.
He wanted her to suffer, he wanted her to taste humiliation, and he was convinced that the only thing that could possibly make him smile was seeing her embarrassed in front of the whole school. If anyone had told him that his thoughts were petty, he would have scoffed in their faces, for Malfoys were not petty, they simply upheld the rules of justice, and Draco was sure that Granger deserved to get a taste of her own medicine.
Draco watched her carefully, studying her likes, her dislikes, her schedule and sneered at the thought that she was never alone. First he considered a good ol' hex, one that could give her boils or set her hair on fire. Then he considered using a curse, the thought of casting the Imperius curse on her and making her strip naked during class giving him endless enjoyment; but the prospect of getting caught and having his wand confiscated made him think twice about using any sort of spell against her.
It was after he saw Sprout choke on her goblet during Halloween, her blubbery words muttering something akin to ‘tastes like poison’ under her breath which finally made Draco’s lips curve upward for the first time in weeks.
He finally knew how to get back at Granger.
His glance fell on the brown-haired witch sitting at the Gryffindor table as she laughed amongst her friends, his chest tightening in jealousy. It had been not that long since the fall of the Dark Lord and his new found status as an outcast from all those who supported or fought against the Second Wizarding War.
His fists clenched unconsciously at the thought that everyone around him was so happy while he was miserable. If Halloween was like this, he could imagine what Hogwarts would be at Christmas. There would be cookies and mistletoe and laughter and he would be the only one in the whole castle who wouldn’t get any gifts, save from his family.
The thought left a bitter taste in his mouth. But then his gaze fell on Slughorn and his mood nearly uplifted. It wouldn’t matter if he didn’t get any gifts, he could give himself one.
This Christmas, giving Granger what she deserves will be his gift. And that thought made the rest of the holiday barely tolerable.
Draco solved his first problem easily enough. A kind word here and an earnest question there and he had Slughorn practically skipping on his heels to tell him of all the students who still kept in touch. While the old potions master spoke enthusiastically of his favourite students, Draco used the time to study the shelf of already made potions that were stated as 'possibly dangerous'. It was a simple matter of stealing the potion and placing something harmless in its place, which was easily done within the span of two short visits. Draco wasn’t really sure exactly what he had taken but he hoped it was something akin to a violent rash, green skin or solitary limb enlargement. Smirking to himself, Draco slipped it into the pocket of his robes before suddenly remembering that he had homework to get to. Slughorn's disappointed expression made him feel that much better.
The issue of how to poison Granger proved much more difficult than getting the poison in the first place. He watched her have her meals and noticed that she always changed her meal depending on what she was in the mood for. She didn't seem to have a favourite pie like Weaselbee who loved stuffing his fat face in custard and she didn't seem to like pumpkin juice the way Pothead loved gulping it down. And after the fiasco of what had happened in sixth year, Draco knew that the most annoying trio were suspicious of any gift they might receive.
This meant that he had to think outside the box. This meant that Draco had to grit his teeth, force a grin and do something that went against every impulse a pure-blood might have. This meant that Draco Malfoy had to befriend Hermione Granger.
The idea was preposterous but necessary.
His father would have threatened to disown him had he known.
Out of all the memories that Draco had of the dreaded eighth year, there would always be one that he would treasure for years and years after Hogwarts. It was the moment when he had focused his gaze on the witch who had happened to occupy the seat across from him, leant to his side and whispered, "Granger, could you help me with this?"
The room suddenly went silent. Slack-jawed, his classmates stared at him; the Slytherins cleaning their ears and the Gryffindors eyeing him in fear. Draco ignored them all, instead keeping his gaze intensely on the one person who mattered.
Her eyes flicked worriedly from one person to another, her gaze never resting on him for more than a few fleeting seconds. She seemed so distracted that she didn’t even notice when her freckled face friend leaned back on his chair so he could see what was happening.
When her eyes finally met his, she mumbled a suspicious ‘Sure’.
While Draco smirked, the classroom gasped and Potter groaned, Weasley lost his balance and fell onto the floor with a loud thump.
McGonagall simply pursed her lips and told them all to get back to work before curtly telling Weasley to stop being lazy and get up off the floor before going back to grading their papers.
Although, Draco couldn't help but notice the way she threw suspicious glances towards him, not unlike every single Gryffindor, when Granger proceeded to give him instruction.
Draco spent a good part of a week being charming and it was one of the hardest things he had ever done. He was polite, friendly, thoughtful and his behaviour only seemed to incense two wankers while confusing one smart witch.
Four times Draco tried to give her something to either eat or drink and four times he failed in his endeavour because of Pothead and Weaselbee. It finally dawned on him that the only way to get her to consume anything is by making sure that she couldn’t refuse what he gave her.
He would have to gain her trust first.
Granger didn't say anything when he seemed to bump into her whenever she happened to turn around or even tell him to leave when he pestered her to help him with one homework assignment or another. Her two bodyguards, on the other hand, followed her wherever she went. Grim faced and sneer in place, they made sure that Draco was kept at a healthy distance from their precious cargo and unbeknownst to them, they were succeeding in thwarting his plan.
Luckily for him, with each passing day, she started to warm up to him more and more.
They spoke of little to nothing at the beginning besides the work she was helping him with. But those small sentences of ‘Thank you’ and ‘You’re welcome’ quickly expanded to topics about teachers, school, friends and family only to expand further to the future while brushing lightly on their opinions and beliefs. The more they talked, the more Draco was aware of how comfortable he was around her. She read as much as he read, she was a perfectionist as much as he was, and she hated laziness as much as he did. How she was friends with the two most annoying child-like adults he would never know. But how she could have all these traits and not be a pure-blood baffled him even more.
One day, Draco asked her why Weasley kept calling him ‘The New Viktor’. She simply said how she never got to eat Chocolate Frogs since Ron finishes them all.
A few days later she asked him why he didn’t give them away at the Manor. In response, he mentioned how he had his eye on a set of quills being sold at Flourish and Blotts.
Draco had a deep seated feeling that they might be becoming fast friends.
He chose to ignore that cumbersome feeling.
“You got me something for Christmas?”
Her eyes were sparkling brightly and her expression clearly told the two who always followed them, ‘See? I told you’. The way she looked at him – as if he had proven that even Death Eaters had good in them - made him almost regret giving her a box of Chocolate Frogs.
It was the first time in weeks that she ate anything that he gave her.
Draco had, with the right amount of deceit, finally gained her trust.
On Christmas Eve, with a friendly smile lighting up her face, she gave him the set of quills he had told her about weeks ago. Draco hadn’t expected this. In fact, he suddenly felt an unwanted feeling in his chest as he grunted out a rough, ‘Thank you’.
Granger seemed confused, but let it drop.
Draco’s frown deepened as he thought of what he had truly wanted for Christmas.
On Christmas Day Draco felt infinitely better after successfully stifling the guilt that had clouded his mind the night before. He even refrained from hexing a second year for throwing a snowball at him by mistake.
As the second year scrambled away from him in fear, Draco couldn’t help but think that he was too good this year before he dusted the remnants of the snow off his shoulder.
He smiled despite himself as he waited impatiently for Slughorn’s Christmas party. Who would have thought that a former Death Eater would get an invitation?
He couldn’t do it.
When the moment came and Granger mentioned how she wanted apple cider, Draco had volunteered to get the drink for her. Once he had emptied the contents of the vial into the liquid and turned to face her, he hesitated.
She gave him a set of quills. How could he forget that?
But then his glance passed her to the red-headed brute who seemed interested in getting his own apple cider. Without another thought, Draco marched right up to him and practically slammed the goblet in his chest, choosing not to be impressed by the bugger’s quick reflexes as his hands came up to take hold of it.
“Here you go, Weasley. Enjoy.”
Without waiting for a response, Draco went right back and got another goblet of apple cider for Granger, his lips tightening in disapproval.
His Aunt Bellatrix had always told him that he was weak. He never liked to prove her right, but in this case, he chose to act on the exception.
Besides, it would be interesting to see what would happen to his favourite freckled, red-headed oaf.
It started with a kiss.
Had Granger not grabbed him by the scruff of his robes and attacked him with her lips and had he not already been tipsy from the large quantities of sugar in the apple cider, Draco was convinced that he would not have, in a million years, kissed her the way he currently was. He would not have eagerly let her part his lips and let her tongue joyously meet his; he would not have circled one arm around her waist while another tangled itself in her messy hair, and he would not have kissed her so deeply and so brilliantly that his knees felt weak.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, hidden in the dark recesses of his thoughts, Draco knew that what he was doing was fraternizing with the enemy. But unfortunately for him, her lips tasted deliciously of sweets, her body was soft and supple against his own and her nails raked the back of his scalp so tantalisingly it almost hurt.
He didn’t even realise that he had her up against the wall, one of her legs over his hips while he snogged her senseless until a cry of outrage pierced through. Had Slughorn not happened to wander into the fray, Draco had no doubt that Potter and Weasley would have hexed him into oblivion. Instead, words were said, glares were answered and Granger bit her lip suggestively when her eyes met his. Apparently Weasley hadn’t trusted him so Granger decided to drink the apple cider to prove that it wasn’t poisoned.
The irony wasn’t lost on Draco.
It was later, after Pothead and Weasel had started to accompany her back to Gryffindor Tower with a hateful glare towards him that Malfoy forced himself not to crumble under the weight of what he had done. He was too busy thinking about how his parents might react to the news to notice Slughorn beside him until the potions professor sighed.
“Ah! Young love. Is there anything better on Christmas?”
“Professor,” Draco began eerily calm, “in your potion shelves there were three potions that you said were possibly dangerous. Was any of them a love potion?”
Slughorn squinted at Draco for a moment before his thoughts seemed to make any sense to him. “Merlin, no,” he said jovially, ignoring the relieved sigh his student had let out. “They were simply potions that increase attraction.”
Draco nearly balked at the realisation. “Increase attraction?” Surely, Granger couldn’t have possibly-
“Of course, it was,” the potions master said sternly. “Less deadly than a love potion but still a potion that could cause a bit of mischief, especially if the person who he or she is attracted to reciprocates.”
He had her up against a wall. Draco wondered vaguely if Granger would consider that as ‘reciprocating’.
“So, not a love potion, then?” Draco muttered more to himself. The sudden feeling in his gut of disappointment laced with hope was wholly unwelcome.
“My dear boy,” Slughorn said with a chuckle. “You didn’t think I would keep anything that dangerous in reach of my students, did you?”
Thinking of how Granger’s walking-talking twits reacted to seeing his hand under her robes, and how she would probably react to the thought of grinding against him in a semi-public place while suffering a moment of insanity, Draco wasn’t entirely sure if the potion he had spiked the apple cider with wasn’t even more dangerous than he had previously thought.
Naturally, he had to prepare for war.