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Seven Years (and counting)

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August 31th, 2008
The Green Bedroom, Malfoy Manor

“Hello, my darling dragon. Aren’t you ready yet?”

Draco Malfoy looked up from his trunk and smiled when he saw his mother at the entrance of his room. Despite the late hour, Narcissa Malfoy nee Black was dressed meticulously in lavender-coloured silk robes, her pale golden hair pinned up and slightly curled. He could smell the gentle perfume of her skin powder as she came closer, but he also noticed the almost sad look she gave him that she had worn ever since he had received his Hogwarts Letter. He loved her dearly, he really did, but he wished she was a bit happier to see him finally go to school.

“Not quite, Mother. I can’t decide which books to take with me. Tween and Coco should soon be finished with my clothes, though.” He carelessly waved towards the two house-elves that were carefully folding his clothes (and a pair of Falmouth Falcons’ pyjamas) beside the big four-poster bed before sorting them into his school trunk. It was a fine piece of work, made out of dark, polished wood that was carved to depict a flock of splendid peacocks. The silver clasps and trims had been fashioned to look like serpents and the inside was lined in rich, dark green satin. His father had used it in his own school days, and his father before him, and his father before him.

“I could charm them to be smaller if you wish. I am sure one of the Prefects will reverse the spell for you. That way I might spend a little more time with you before I have to say goodbye tomorrow.”

He couldn’t help but scowl a bit at that, even though he didn’t really want to upset his mother. “I won’t be gone forever, and I promised to write to you as often as I can. I’m eleven, Mother, not an infant.” Deep inside, however, underneath his sullen reaction, he was pleased. It was very clear that his mother loved him just as much as he loved her. He just wished she wouldn’t cling so much now he was eleven at last.

“Oh, my little dragon. I’m your mother, dear. Each day will be an eternity for me.” The soft sigh got his attention and he hurried towards Narcissa when he saw that she was upset, in a sad and quiet way. When he was close enough to reach, his mother bent forward and gave him a hug before running her hands through his platinum blonde hair. “But like every other mother, I too will endure it. How about we sweeten the evening with a cup of hot chocolate?”

“Maybe two, mother. Who knows if the elves at Hogwarts know how to make a proper cup?” He smiled for her, bright and sweet, and was relieved when he saw some of the sadness disappear. He even hugged her a second time before turning around towards the house-elves.

“Tween, don’t forget my good pair of boots. Coco, once you’re finished with my robes, do place the books I considered on the table for later! And don’t forget to put ‘Erikson's Adventures’ into my bag, I might want to read it while I’m on the train!” The house-elves gave a small chorus of “Yes, Young Master Draco, sir!” and the boy finally let his mother drag him away.

~~~

September 1st, 2008
Great Hall, Hogwarts

The Great Hall was everything and more that his parents have told him about. Despite growing up in a large manor, Draco was very much impressed by the splendour of the castle, the rich feeling of its magic on his very skin. To see the Hall, the four tables, the night sky high above and the thousands upon thousands of floating candles above their heads, to hear the murmuring of hundreds of other wizards and witches… it was overwhelming and exciting.

The train ride had been pleasant enough. He had spent most of the ride with his friends Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson, as well as his sort-of-friends Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe. He’d known them since he was a toddler, what with all of them having parents in the same social circles, and while Greg and Vince were not the smartest blokes, they’d been told to protect him should someone get funny ideas about the Malfoy Heir.

Draco soon spotted another familiar face and smiled. There sat Severus Snape, a long-time friend of his father and his own godfather. It would be Professor Snape from now on, and wasn’t that weird? Instead of a smile, he received a nod from the stern man which didn’t surprise Draco one bit - his godfather had always been a rather strict figure in his life, but he liked him well enough.

All in all the day promised to be one of the best in his life. Only two things were missing to make it perfect - him sitting at the Slytherin table and one Harry Potter sitting next to him. Despite a rigorous search of the train with the help of his friends he had been unable to spot the famously missing boy and even now he couldn’t see anyone amidst the First Years with the lightning bolt scar on the forehead. Which was why he started to pay a lot of attention when Professor McGonagall started to call the names of the First Years to be sorted into the Houses.

“Crabbe, Vincent!”
“Slytherin!”

“You owe me a Galleon, Nott,” Draco heard Pansy whisper. He snickered softly and watched the big boy walk towards the House of green and silver before guessing the sorting of the next kid.

“Goyle, Gregory!”
“Slytherin!”

“Granger, Hermione!”
“Gryffindor!”

“Greengrass, Daphne!”
“Slytherin!”

He watched as the pretty girl with the long, blonde hair floated towards the table, and clapped with appreciation. The Greengrass family was, after all, quite Noble, and it was always good to show your support, as his mother would say. “I hope you haven't bet on me,” he whispered towards his friends when another Galleon changed the owner in a flurry of movement.

“Malfoy, Draco!”

He quickly strode forward when he heard his name, and before he even had a chance to start worrying, it was over. The hat had barely touched his head before shouting out “Slytherin!” and he couldn’t help but smile victoriously towards Theodore and Pansy, who were both trying and failing to look indifferent. He did, however, notice that no coins had been exchanged, which he counted as a compliment.

The rest of the ceremony was just as exciting as the start of it. Draco dutifully clapped after each sorting (once or twice for every Gryffindor and a score for every Slytherin), remembering his mother’s instructions quite clearly regarding manners, and scanned the thinning crowd of unsorted children after Pansy had joined him. But alas, Potter was obviously still missing, which was a shame but not enough to spoil Draco’s fun for more than a couple of minutes. The last boy, “Zabini, Blaise!” joined the gaggle of green-clad Firsties soon enough and took a seat on Draco’s left side, looking quite satisfied with his sorting.

“Zabini, like Lady Serena Zabini?” Tracey Davies was the first one to speak up, as she was often wont to do. She had quite a talent for recognizing what others wanted to do, have or talk about, and the right mind to use it, which was very useful in conversations. That talent and her friendship with the aloof Heiress of House Greengrass made it not only acceptable but also intriguing to interact with the chipper half-blood. Especially when she was right in her guess - the boy’s smooth, dark skin, his sharp eyes and his handsome features had reminded Draco a lot of the devastatingly charming Lady Zabini who sometimes joined the pureblood festivities of Wizarding Britain. He had, however, not known about a son (an Heir!), nor that said unknown son would be one of his classmates.

“Just so,” was Zabini’s answer, a faint Italian accent noticeable in his voice. And then he smiled, showing his white teeth and causing a faint blush to appear on not only Davies’ but also Pansy’s cheeks.

“My name is Malfoy. Draco Malfoy,” he said quickly to regain control of the conversation. Draco had watched his father doing so often enough and was careful to emulate the posture he had seen on those occasions. The smile, however, was that of Narcissa. “And these are my friends Pansy Parkinson, Theodore Nott, Daphne Greengrass, Tracy Davies, Millicent Bullstrode, Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe. Please excuse Tracey’s manners, I am sure she was just about to introduce herself.”

He smirked in Tracy’s direction, who sniffed and rolled her eyes at the jab. Next to him, Pansy was giggling softly while Greengrass shook her beautiful head at his antics. Zabini, however, had finally deigned to look at Draco and slowly raised one eyebrow, immediately making Draco quite jealous as he was still unable to do so. It was one of his godfather’s favourite expressions, and the boy had spent a lot of hours in front of the mirror trying to copy the stern man.

“I think I might just forgive her. Blaise Zabini, but please. Call me Blaise.”

For just a moment, Draco hesitated. Zabini was poised, charming, nearly as pureblooded as himself and definitely just as rich, what with a mother like Serena Zabini. This marked him as a clear rival for the role of the leader in Slytherin, First Year. But Zabini was also smiling at him and didn’t seem to be a bookworm like Theo, and surely he wasn’t as thick as Greg and Vince and, most importantly, he wasn’t a girl. With the Potter boy failing to show up, someone had to be his best friend, and his options were a bit limited. Draco knew of the importance of a good best friend to sweeten seven years of magical schooling. Everybody knew that. Draco had to ask himself: Did he want a rival, or a friend?

And so, they shook hands.

~~~

September 12th, 2008
Grounds, Hogwarts

Blaise Zabini was both the perfect best friend one could wish for and the biggest wanker walking this world. He fulfilled every label Draco had heaved on him that first night, but he was also intelligent, cunning and more of a gossip than Draco had ever met, including Pansy Parkinson who, of course, delighted in the company of one of her own kind. This resulted in her being constantly in their dorm despite the fact that they spent most of their days already in close company.

The Slytherin First Years were, indeed, a very close-knit group. Even Daphne deigned to bless them with her presence more often than not ever since Tracey Davies had attached herself to Theo claiming she needed one friend who understood her need for books. Which was fine, really, as long as Draco managed to cut the study sessions short by sacrificing Greg and Vince (“Really, do you want Professor Snape to assign real study groups? You really ought to pull your weight, because I don’t want to sit the whole day at a table just because you two can’t even transfigure a needle out of a matchstick! Go ask Davies or Nott for help.”) and thus incapacitating his overstudious friends with remedial lessons. Two weeks into term was far too soon to start with daily visits to the Library, thank you very much.

Especially not at such a crucial time. Today was the day they would finally be allowed to fly, and didn’t that still hurt, to part with his broom and then to wait for instructions before he could do so much as a lap around the castle! Draco Malfoy was simultaneously annoyed about the school’s policy that barred First Years from bringing their own brooms and excited to finally have a chance to properly show off his superior skills.

Which was, in a nutshell, why he was currently trying to out-do that horrible Weasley.

“... and then, out of nowhere, there was this muggle practically right in my face! Up in the air! Like, can you believe that? I later asked my Dad and he said that muggles are really crazy and do stuff like hang gliding. Hang Gliding! That’s what that muggle was doing! You know those kites on strings? It just looked like that, only far bigger, and the muggle clings to it. Really crazy, if you ask me, but there he was, eyes as big as saucers. I just managed to evade him with an Oswald Barrel Roll before diving down low enough to hide in the trees. Nearly gave me a heart attack, I tell you...”

“Well, I never saw these… Hang gliders for myself. Ridiculous idea, of course, and how would that work? But I did see one of those helicopters once, up close and all, and it was horrible, I tell you. The top of it spins real quick, you can barely see it, and I bet it would have crashed had I not reacted as fast as I did, but then I have been flying since I was four, naturally. Didn’t even start to worry, everything was perfectly under control…”

“And then there was this thing called an airplane! But not the big ones you sometimes see over Diagon, up in the sky, but a small one with only two seats and it was painted bright yellow. Didn’t know why the muggle was flying right over our house, mind you, but my brother Charlie said that he might have lost his way, but I was already flying up, you see…”

“Oh yeah? Well, have you ever heard of a jet?”

The shrill whistle of Madam Hooch disrupted the heated banter of Draco and Weasley, much to Draco’s relief. He had only once heard of a jet (some kind of faster planes and he really had to learn what planes were about, maybe Davies knew more?) and had scrambled for a good story to spin. He could practically feel Blaise’s smirk and scowled briefly in his direction before meeting eyes with Weasley who now stood in the midst of the gaggle of Gryffindors. Draco sneered, which was answered with a glare and a series of quick hand signs every Quidditch enthusiast should know. He nodded once before directing his attention back to the flying instructor.

“Did you just agree to race Weasley on school brooms?” Blaise asked incredulously while positioning himself next to one of said atrocities.

“Why, of course, Blaise. Everyone knows that the Weasels are practically raised on brooms. It might even be a bit of a challenge. Up!” And with a satisfying smack, the broom shot up against his palm.

~~~

December 25th, 2008
The Lavender Salon, Malfoy Manor

On a very basic level, Draco knew that he was a spoiled child. There was not much he really had to ask for, and what he asked for, he usually got quickly. That said, he never received more than five neatly packed presents from his parents, not on Christmas Day and not on his birthday. He did, of course, receive a sizeable number of presents from his friends and his parents’ friends, but his parents always stopped at five. Two from his father, two from his mother, and one joint gift, always the best of them all.

“It’s the new Nimbus 2000! Didn’t you say I was to wait until summer for one?” He was almost too afraid to touch the sleek, gleaming broom handle. His other gifts, some books and sweets, a new pair of dragonhide gloves, a set of beautiful dress robes and the introductory book on the Italian language from Blaise (together with a small booklet about famous and infamous Italian spells), laid forgotten around him as he knelt in front of the broom.

“You know as well as I do that Malfoy’s don’t wait for others, Draco,” his father admonished softly before smirking. “ Not even for other Malfoys. And I thought you could profit from it while you are here at the Manor. I do look forward to seeing you playing for your House next year.”

“I promise I won’t disappoint you, Father. I will certainly make the team. What a shame that I won’t be allowed to bring it with me!” He ignored the rolling of his father’s eyes and gave both his parents a woeful look, but to no avail. Placing the broom gently down, he raised to give them hugs and his mother a kiss on the cheek. He would try again to persuade them later, for sure.

It was later that day at dinner when he saw his father again. His parents had allowed him to test his new broom, and he had done so with great pleasure. The Nimbus 2000 was marvellous and he still mourned the fact that he would have to leave it at home come January when he returned to Hogwarts for his second term.

His mother greeted him with a hug before they sat down. She had been doting on him since his return for the holidays, but after more than three months without her, he had relished her open displays of motherly love. He was surprised, however, at the curt nod his father gave him. While not the most openly emotional man, Draco was used to a certain degree of warmth from the man, especially at Christmas. Lucius Malfoy, however, seemed tense and not well pleased, but even after a few seconds of contemplation, Draco couldn’t say why.

He should have known that his father chose that exact moment to enlighten him.

“I have just opened the report letter your school sent to me, Draco. First term, and already you show much promise. Severus is quite taken with your aptitude in Potions.”

The boy had to force himself not to smile at that. He was spoiled, that he knew, but he was not daft - he knew perfectly well that there was a ‘but’ attached to that statement, and it was not the right time to preen.

“It is a very interesting subject, father. I do enjoy it very much.” He picked his words very carefully, something his mother noticed almost immediately. He could see how she shifted her weight so that she faced father more than himself. He felt a measure of relief.

“That it is, Draco. That it is. Second best in Slytherin this year! How unfortunate that Miss Davies has not been sorted into Ravenclaw. Young Mister Theo and your friend Blaise also come close, which ought to keep you on your toes.”

It felt like stalking through the woods, Draco thought. A dense, dark forest known for its many pitfalls and traps. You knew they were there, but you didn’t know where and thus had to walk so slow, so careful. It was an awful feeling, especially when his own father was the one to make him feel that way.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Blaise had beaten me or not. He does his mother proud.” He watched his father closely and saw the soft purse of his lips. Which meant that he didn’t agree with Draco, but saw nothing wrong with being friends with Blaise.

“We will see. Still, you did very well this term. Fifth place overall, with Miss Davies in third place. I see one Sue Li on second and one Anthony Goldstein on fourth. I do not, however, recognize the name Granger, a Gryffindor First Year.”

And there it was, the reason for his father's ruined mood. Hermione Granger, muggle-born. A mudblood, as his father would say, even though Draco tried not to parrot that term when at school, not when Millicent Bulstrode’s mother was a muggle-born herself, a girl that could hold her own against Greg or Vince. Especially not when his own godfather was known for his harsh punishments whenever a Slytherin so much as muttered the slur outside of the dormitories, for reasons yet unknown. Draco even suspected that his mother had a disdain for that term, if only because it was rather uncouth to use it in public.

Still, the fact remained that she was a muggle-born, and without a doubt a proper genius. He didn’t know a lot about her besides whatever piece of gossip Pansy and Blaise were able to force down his throat and what Ronald Weasley had to say about the know-it-all at their weekly broom race (they had recently been joined by Weasley’s friend, Seamus Finnigan, and a Ravenclaw boy named Terry Boot).

He did know, however, that her only friend was Neville Longbottom, which was likely the reason why the boy had not yet flunked most of his classes.

“It would be near impossible to beat her, to be honest. She spends most of her time in the library and I heard she’s already working on extra credit. The teachers love her except uncle Severus and they say that she can remember almost everything she reads. And she reads a lot.”

That was probably the wrong thing to say. His father’s eyes narrowed on him, his mouth pressed into a thin, angry line. Next to him, his mother stiffened for one single moment, eyes on her husband.

“And when exactly have I raised my only son and Heir to give up so easily, especially when it comes to mudbloods?” Draco had not once heard his father scream, not even today. Instead of getting louder, the silken voice of Lord Malfoy went cold and distant with silent fury and cut like a sharpened knife. Draco flinched, but he also felt a rising annoyance to be blamed for not being on the same level as the obnoxious girl, muggle-born or not. “I won’t have it, Draco, and you will do better-”

“Lucius.” Draco relaxed ever so slightly. His father, however, found himself silenced by his wife’s soft voice and gentle smile. “Do not pressure our son overmuch. After all, his marks are even better than yours had been when you were his age, remember?” Hers was a gentle knife, but she knew how to twist it - it was one of the many things that Draco admired about her. “It’s depressing just thinking about my darling dragon spending all his time learning when he should make friends instead.” She smiled again before continuing eating her meal - she already knew she had won, she always did when she chose to challenge her husband. It didn’t happen often, but it was mostly for his sake, something Draco would treasure for always.

“Of course, my love.” His father’s voice was rather tight, but he did let the matter drop, for which Draco was thankful. He hated it when his father became angry over such small things. It didn’t make the rest of the meal any less awkward, though.

~~~

February 12th, 2009
The Library, Hogwarts

Everyone knew that the Granger girl was a genius. She had entered the world of magic and wonders and declared that she would do her best. Her best, as it turned out, was a standard so high that even the Ravenclaw Firsties had given up to match her stellar and outstanding theoretical work and, often enough, exemplary practical work too.

But what she had in brains she lacked in her social life. Her roommates still hadn’t warmed up to the bookish girl and the Gryffindor boys were known to occasionally tease her ever since she had dared to correct Weasley in a most snobbish way, or so rumour had it. Her only friends were Neville Longbottom, a perpetual friendly and painfully shy boy, as well as a Ravenclaw girl named Lisa Turpin, though Pansy had once said that Turpin only hung out with Granger to benefit from her well-organized study schedule and otherwise was wont to gossip behind her back.

It wasn’t like Draco was suddenly obsessed with her. He only sometimes listened to Blaise’s and Pansy’s banter at breakfast or watched the bushy-haired girl a couple of times when he was at the Library. It was a strange mix of curiosity and disdain he felt for her. Curiosity because she was a muggle-born and a Gryffindor and still ahead of them all in her studies, disdain because she had been the reason why his Christmas holidays had been a bit of an awkward business for the last week, with mother and father talking in very polite tones to each other and Draco tip-toeing around to not upset either of them. It wasn’t a fight per se, but he knew that his parents had a very different view on his upbringing and that his mother’s protection was the only thing that saved him from a boring school life dedicated to outdoing Granger.

“You know, her hair is rather unique, I can see why you are suddenly so taken.”

The wry remark came from Blaise and was followed by the soft snickering of their friends. Draco scowled and lifted his chin, chiding himself for getting caught staring at Granger. Because he was not obsessed, damn it! He was relatively sure of that. He just happened to get lost in his own thoughts while looking in her direction.

“I have no idea what you are talking about, Zabini. But if you like her hair so much, why don’t you go and ask her out?” he retorted. Pansy was practically chortling now, while Vince looked around rather confused - he had tried to understand Davies lecture about the DADA assignment before the conversation had gone from the tickling curse they were ought to learn to dating Granger.

“Why would Zabini want to go out with a mudblood?”

And with that little remark, the whole table fell silent. Silent enough to clearly hear the soft gasps from other students. Because, of course, Vincent had spoken loud enough that those sitting close had heard it. They were in the library, for Merlin’s sake.

“You should better go apologize now, Vincent,” Pansy said evenly, but her hands were clenched around her DADA book. “Because Granger looks close to tears. Professor Snape doesn’t like her, but he’s really prissy when it comes to that word.”

“I still don’t get it, I mean it’s what she is, right?”

“Crabbe!” This was Davies, and she practically hissed his name. “Just go and apolo- Oh, dear!”

This time, Draco did turn around, and he was fast enough to watch Granger throw her books into her bag before running out of the library, her Gryffindor friend on her heels. Longbottom looked visibly worried and, surprisingly, very angry when he glanced back towards the Slytherin First Years. Other students were watching them too, a mixture of indifference, anger and offence. Curiously, Draco felt himself squirm slightly under the collective disdain.

“I’ll go if you won’t do it, or else it will only get worse,” he offered. Blaise looked surprised and oddly pleased by that statement.

“Let me keep you company then.”

They were quick to exit the Library. Draco had no intention to listen to Davies hissing reproachfully at Vincent for the rest of their study session or to watch Pansy as she tried to keep her face free of open disdain for the stupid boy. Not because of the looming detentions or the threat of lost points. No, their little world had changed after Harry Potter had survived the Killing Curse. His father loved to complain about it. About how good the old days had been, when mudbloods knew their place and the purebloods had been at the top. Always at the top.
Draco knew that Pansy’s father was the same, just like Greg’s and Vince’s parents and Theo’s father. And he was keenly aware of how Draco’s own mother never said these things, only that he had to be clever and cunning, that he had to understand the crowd before he could rule it. And the crowd hated the term mudblood and those who openly used it. It was something to say behind closed doors, something to be hidden, to be hissed and spat around in anger and disgust.

Something Draco had no intentions of copying from his father, regardless of how much he loved him, because it was the very reason why the boy occasionally feared Lucius Malfoy.

“We don’t really have purebloods in Italy, you know.” Draco was startled out of his reflections and turned his head around to stare at Blaise. They were heading towards the staircases because according to the students they asked a Firstie with really bushy hair had run towards the Gryffindor Tower.

“You don’t?”

“Si. We have old families, and some are pureblooded according to the British High Society, but no one cares about someone’s parents. The old families judge others depending on how rich you are, or how influential. But mostly they judge you by how powerful you are. Especially when it comes to marriage. An Heir might marry a muggle-born, but only if they are capable enough with their magic. Mother says that this is the reason why she decided to raise me in Italy, so that I won’t grow up with… outdated ideas.”

Draco was silent for a long time. He had noticed that Blaise was very comfortable talking to other students, regardless of their Houses and blood status. But it was Blaise, charming and poised and well-liked, and no one gave him a hard time for his ‘quirk’. Only that it wasn’t a quirk. For Blaise, it was normal to talk to muggle-borns. For Draco, who had grown up with a father who thought that only purebloods were worth his time, with the occasional well-bred half-blood thrown into the mix, it was a daunting thought.

“I… will think about it. Is it a secret? I won’t tell if it is.”

Blaise smiled, showing off his white, even teeth.

~~~

They had followed Granger until they finally caught up with her on the sixth floor. Longbottom was still with her at that point, and luckily she had stopped crying. Her eyes were red and puffy, though, which made Draco nearly squirm again.

“What are you doing here?” Longbottom sounded angry and accusing and he actually tried to stand between Granger and them. It was surreal to watch the normally shy boy showing some backbone.

“Following you. More precisely, Miss Granger here.” He hesitated for a moment before looking at said girl who glared right back, distrustful and sad and angry. He remembered his mother being sad (he couldn’t remember her ever being angry or distrustful towards him), and how ugly a feeling that had been for him. Like the squirm he had felt, just a lot stronger. Which was why he raised his hands in a peaceful manner. “Only to apologize for Vincent’s words, I promise.”

“Because it’s not like you all think about me that way, anyway!” Granger spat, clenching her hands into trembling fists. Yes, definitely angry.

“Yes, because that is a given - all Slytherins are, after all, blood purists and bigots, right?” Blaise’s drawl caused both Gryffindors to flinch back a bit and Draco to roll his eyes. “Millicent Bullstrode is a half-blood, and so is Tracey Davies, and her mother is a muggle. And while some of our parents do have certain… opinions, that doesn’t mean that we agree with them. Now that we have established some facts, we are really very sorry about Vincent’s remark about you. I assure you that he likely didn’t mean it as a slur.”

Longbottom snorted at the last part, but he had the decency to look guilty afterwards. Granger, however, quickly lost her anger, which left her exhausted and sad.

“And how did he mean it, if not as an insult?” She still sounded weary. It was beyond Draco how one could not understand what Blaise had meant, but then, she was a Gryffindor and likely to think differently. He scowled a bit, but was quick to explain.

“It’s how we’re brought up, that wizards and witches born from muggle parents are called mudbloods. Now, most of us can think for ourselves, which is why we use the correct term.” She didn’t need to know that one of the biggest reasons was a reasonable fear for uncle Severus. “Vincent, on the other side, is not the best cauldron in the cupboard. He knows that your parents are muggles, therefore you are a mudblood. It’s not that he hates you, or even dislikes you, it’s how he learned it. I promise you, Davies is currently doing her best to correct that.”

Draco stopped his dry lecture and lifted his chin imperiously while watching their reactions. Longbottom looked shocked. Granger looked thoughtful. Which was better than her looking angry again, or, Merlin forbid, sad.

“So he… doesn’t know better?” she asked tentatively and sighed in relief when both Slytherin boys nodded at that.

“He usually just does as he’s told,” Blaise added to be on the safe side.

“Apology accepted?” Draco asked.

Hermione Granger smiled.

~~~

May 24th, 2009
Snape’s Office, Hogwarts

“Mr Malfoy, please come to my office after dinner.”

The last three months had passed without any major incidents. Exams were closing in, resulting in Draco spending much more time in the library than he thought was healthy, but other than that, life in Hogwarts was just as fun as he had imagined it. The Slytherin First Years had become a tight-knit group, so much so that his tentative friendship with Granger and even Longbottom, one that had started after the Mudblood incident, was not frowned upon by his friends. He had also been very careful not to alert any of the older Slytherins of his association with the two Gryffindors. There were too many sons and daughters of his father’s business partners in his House to risk being too open about it. It had helped him tremendously, however - he was closing in on Davies in terms of grades, so much so that he wasn’t sure if he would place second or first within his House at the end of the term. All in all a very nice end of his first year.

Which was why he was so startled when he heard the request of his godfather and Head of House.

Oh, he’d been invited by his godfather a couple of times to spend some quality time with him, but those invites had always come by owl. And never to his office, too - Draco was one of the very few who had the privilege of being allowed to enter Snape’s private rooms to join his godfather for a spot of tea and a couple of biscuits while talking about his studies and friends. This, however, was definitely not an invitation from his godfather, but from his Professor. It was something serious, certainly. But what about? Surely he had done nothing bad?

Blaise and Pansy were practically glued to his side after he left the Potions classroom, discussing possible reasons why Draco had been called out. But they, too, were clueless - the only thing that came to Pansy’s mind was Vincent’s slip-up back in February. Blaise’s guesses were Draco’s association with Granger and Weasley. Especially Weasley and the whole Quidditch club that had formed out of the rivalry between the two and which now had eight members of all Houses in it. Draco hoped it was neither. He would never hear the end of it should it reach his father’s ears. Not even his mother would be able to prevent Lucius from sending Draco off to Durmstrang should it be known that he was spending time with muggle-borns and blood traitors.

“Good luck,” Blaise whispered when it was time for Draco to face the music.

~~~

When the door closed behind him Draco could not only hear the audible click but also a faint sizzling sound that indicated that a privacy spell had been activated. That didn’t help to calm the anxiety that only grew when the boy saw his godfather behind the large desk. Parchment was stacked high on both sides, framing the stern Professor in a very severe way. In front of the desk stood a wooden, high-backed chair that was dreaded by a large population of the castle, one which Draco never had the displeasure to sit on before.

“Take a seat, Mr Malfoy. Do not dawdle.” Snape waited for Draco to sit down on the uncomfortably hard chair before sifting through some of his parchments. Draco couldn’t quite make out what was written on them, but he saw that it was solely filled with his godfather's spidery script. He knew better than to speak out and waited until Snape was ready with his preparations and once again looked at the boy.

“I will not waste my time with idle chit-chat. I called you here to clarify a couple of things that I have noticed during your first year at Hogwarts, things that I first want to talk through with you before deciding how to continue with the information I have gathered. You will answer me truthfully - you know that I will notice should you decide to lie to me, as well as the consequences of such a decision.” He paused for a moment, but not in hesitation. It felt like the kind of pause that served to drive the message home. Draco swallowed and nodded his understanding. He had a hard time not to look down or away, but he knew that such behaviour was frowned upon by his godfather.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good. There are a couple of things we will be talking about today. More precisely, you will tell me about how those situations came to be, and what your thought process was in each individual case. First is your little Quidditch Club that started September 21st, not two weeks after your first Flying lessons. As of now, the members are Mr Boot and Mr Entwhistle, Ravenclaw First Years, Mr Hopkins and Miss Abbott, Hufflepuff, Mr Ronald Weasley and Mr Finnigan, Gryffindor, as well as Miss Davies and yourself from Slytherin. Explain.”

And so, Draco did. As best as he could, he described his banter with the youngest Weasley, their little racing bet during Flying lessons and the ongoing meetings that were the results of the said race. That he and Weasley weren’t quite friends, but that the time spent on a broom with the slowly growing group was enjoyable enough. Furthermore, there had been a refreshing absence of House bias between them and provided the opportunity to meet potentially useful allies in other Houses, something that was not very prominent in the upper classes. It was also a way for Draco to spend some time on a broom, so much that he felt confident enough to try out for Seeker next year.

Not once did Snape interrupt him in his careful, yet honest explanation. Not even when Draco started to talk about Granger and Longbottom, the other two people outside of Slytherin he had met on a regular basis since February. It encouraged him to talk about everything - about the views of his peers, the pressure from the upperclassmen, about what had happened at Christmas. About Vincent’s slip-up and Draco’s apology. About how much he had benefited from knowing Granger, at least when it came to his studies, despite her being a muggle-born.

When he finally stopped talking, he felt strangely empty, but in a good way. Like a weight had been taken off his shoulders. His anxiety was gone, and he had no problems looking his godfather in the eyes. There was only anticipation and then elation when he saw approval in them, followed by a single nod.

“I was worried,” Snape started, and with a flick of his dark wand, the chair suddenly felt much more comfortable. “Worried about how you would fit into Hogwarts. But I was wrong to worry about you. I am quite proud, Draco.”

“But why? I… I mean, I am glad that you are, Uncle Severus. But you know Father. You’re friends. Why would you be proud of the way I’ve behaved behind his back?”

“Because you are more than the son of a friend. You are my godson, and thus I expect you to think for yourself and form your own opinions. It is true that your father and I have been friends for a long time now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I share his values and opinions. A Slytherin should never eschew an opportunity when the gain outweighs the cost, but for many years this had been the norm - to wave away anyone who doesn’t meet a certain wasteful standard. But it has been my decision to watch and observe how you would act when on your own - a decision, I might say, that has been supported by your mother.”

Draco looked up sharply, his eyes wide when Snape mentioned his mother. For a couple of long moments, he examined the sallow face of his godfather before he smiled at him. It felt good to know that two of his three most favourite adults were firmly on his side.

“Thank you, Uncle. And I will make sure that I won’t try to keep things a secret from you next year.”

Snape snorted. “Don’t make me promises you can’t keep. I was a student once, too.”

~~~

June 20th, 2009
Kings Cross Station, London

“There you are, darling!” His mother’s embrace felt warm and welcoming, and Draco delighted in the sweet smell of her perfume and the soft touch of her hands on his hair. He did, however, sigh when she placed a kiss on his forehead, if only because he was twelve and it was something boys of his age did.

“Hello, Mother. Hello, Father. I missed you.” His smile and his words were genuine. And if they were more heartfelt for his mother, no one would ever know. He still loved his father, after all, and felt warm and affectionate when he noticed the small smile on Lucius’ lips - that would not change, he was sure, just because he valued different things than his father.

He might even talk with him about those differences. Maybe in a year or five.

Today it was enough for him to know that only Narcissa noticed his discreet wave across the station towards a certain bushy-haired girl. To know that, despite this, her smile would never grow cold for him.