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"But who is it?" Draco asked with his high-pitched voice for what seemed to be the hundredth time. His father didn't roll his eyes, didn't sigh, didn't say anything for a while. He had explained to his young son, who was about to turn ten, that he had to meet someone, which was the case, but he didn't really go over the details with him. Draco had simply followed his father a few days later, late in the evening, before they could finally go home after a very long day. Draco was excited to meet someone apparently important. He was already used to meet people from the Ministry of Magic and to overhear conversations he probably shouldn't hear. It was a part of a sort of routine.

 

"You'll just stay quiet in another room," Lucius simply said. Draco didn't seem satisfied and he crossed his arms, still following his father as fast as he could with his still short legs.

When they arrived and that Draco sat on a couch in the room he would be in to wait for his father, Lucius repeated, "Quiet."

Draco simply nodded, giving his father a little smile, which was not given back. Lucius closed the door behind him and Draco waited. It seemed like he was going to be there for an eternity but he didn't move. He stayed on the couch, moving his legs back and forth and looking around him without making any noise, like his father asked. He was going over what he would do once at the manor again. His mother was probably going to make him play piano again. His father really didn't care about that stuff, he was making him fly and study. Still, Draco could see his mother liked to spend time with him like that, so he was learning with her. His father was probably going to work anyway. Draco put his hands on his legs, going over the song he was learning in his head to be sure he would get it right with his mom, pushing his fingers against his pants.

It shouldn't have happened this way, that's not what was supposed to occur. Still, Lucius and the man he was talking to had to hurry outside the room when, after hearing some muffled noises, Draco's scream reached Lucius' ears.

 

Lucius was certain there was nothing to do. A little boy like him, bitten like that. No, he couldn't survive. And so thought Narcissa once Lucius came back with his son in his arms, uncounscious.

But before that, Draco couldn't stop screaming and crying, bleeding.

After Lucius had used strong Blasting spells to take care of the werewolf, which went through a window before it escaped, the man he was meeting helped him. Lucius teared apart the already damaged and bloody shirt Draco was wearing and he used a mixture of powdered silver and dittany on the fresh wound to seal it and stop the bleeding. It was too late anyway. Lucius gritted his teeth, seeing his son losing consciousness. He slowly stood up before he grabbed the man by his collar, making him suddenly move backwards and pressing him against the wall. When he loosened his grip on him to take his wand from his cane, he pressed it so fast under his chin that the man didn't have any time to move. Lucius was furious.

He asked how a werewolf had been able to enter the house, to receive an answer he was actually expecting. It was living there. Of course, that's why he directly had what they needed for Draco's wound. Lucius would have killed the man if it wasn't for his son's moan, calling for him. It was the first time he had heard Draco calling him "dad" in years. So, he turned around and approached his son.

Lucius looked at his pale face and his untidy hair, sweat and tears rolling down his face. He took Draco under his legs and his back and slowly lifted him up. Then, he walked without looking behind him and he left the manor, keeping Draco in his arms all the way back home.

 

Dobby was the one opening the door, ready to welcome his masters back home. What he saw horrified him, he couldn't even say anything. Lucius didn't look at him, if Dobby hadn't stepped backwards, his master would have kicked him out of the way. Lucius made his way in his home and Dobby disappeared to call Narcissa.

As Lucius was climbing the stairs, he looked at his son. He was even paler than before, his eyes were red and his mouth was slightly opened. He could see his bare chest barely moving and he looked in front of him again, keeping a straight face. He heard quick footsteps, he knew Narcissa was trying to get to him, she was coming closer. But he kept walking towards Draco's big room. He walked in as Narcissa finally arrived.

"Lucius!" She said breathlessly. Lucius didn't say anything, he stopped in front of Draco's bed and carefully placed him on the mattress, a hand under his little head to place it properly on his pillow. Even with all that blood on his injury, his shirt, his pants and his hands, Draco seemed peaceful, tiny on his huge bed. Narcissa came closer, falling on her knees next to the bed, already crying. She sobbed when she got a glimpse of Draco's right side, where the fangs had hurt him. She took his little hand, also covered in blood and her head slowly reached the blanket as she loudly cried.

After a few seconds, she felt Lucius's left hand on her back and when she found the courage to move her head to look at him, she saw him staring at his son. He wasn't crying but she could see that his cold expression had changed a little. He wouldn't break, but his heart had. His right hand was holding firmly Draco's left hand, both of them being on his belly. Narcissa slowly moved to be closer to Lucius, letting her head rest on his shoulder as she sobbed again. 

Chapter Text

"Fine," Severus finally told Dumbledore. The feast was about to begin, the train had arrived some time ago and a few professors were in a room next to the Great Hall. Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape and finally Lupin were talking, trying to find an agreement with Snape.

He had been really reluctant about the situation. Just having Lupin around was infuriating for him. And this time, it wasn't even because he wanted the job. It was just because it was Lupin. To the other professors, he was saying that it was because he was a werewolf and that it was dangerous when it wasn't the real problem. Like McGonagall had reminded him, "Is that what you really think? You seemed pretty inclined to help Mr-" and Snape hadn't let her finish, annoyed. Of course, he couldn't complain about having to make the potion for Lupin when he had already been doing it for three years in order to help Draco.

The new teacher really didn't want to bother them because of his condition but Dumbledore had been clear: there wouldn't be any problem at all. It would be like during his school days for the exception that he wouldn't be the only one, this time. Lupin, surprised and curious, had asked who was the other werewolf, but Dumbledore had refused to say anything until the beginning of the school year. Then, McGonagall had explained Draco Malfoy's situation and Lupin understood.

Still, Snape was the Head of the Slytherin house, he was in charge of Malfoy. Not only he had been during his first two years at school but he had been making his potion since the young boy had been bitten. Being close to Lucius, he had agreed to prepare the Wolfsbane Potion as soon as the Malfoys had asked him for this favour. He had been making the potion for him every months, had made sure that he was taking it every day of an entire week before the cycle and had usually been walking him to the Whomping Willow. Malfoy was a bit short on his first year, he definitely needed someone to help him reach the knot. He had grown up a bit over the first summer but it was now a habit, they were just walking there together. During those times, Draco was really quiet, not that Snape really wanted to talk.

And now, apparently, he had to talk Malfoy into letting Lupin share the passage for him to hide too. He didn't want to leave Draco around Lupin during those nights but he couldn't say no. So, he agreed, "Fine."

And he stormed out.

 

"Mr. Malfoy," a cold voice called, covering the voices of the students. Snape directly recognized the boy he was looking for thanks to his white blond hair, even if there were a few students around and his back was facing the door Snape had just opened. The noise in the entrance stopped, especially the laughters coming from the Slytherins. Once again, Malfoy was mocking Harry because he had fainted in the train. But he stopped laughing too, staring at Harry for a last second before he turned around. Everyone was looking at Snape, intrigued.

The professor directly noticed that Malfoy had grown up during the holidays. His face had changed a little bit too, he was looking more like a young man already, not like a kid anymore, even if he was only thirteen. His hair were also a little bit longer, not styled the way it had been since he was really young. And there was no doubt that he would be bigger in his other form too. Snape's black eyes met Malfoy's. "Follow me."

It wasn't a suggestion and Draco didn't take his words as one anyway. Plus, Snape sounded annoyed. Harry, Ron and Hermione were staring at him. Snape didn't mind the stares, he was still looking at Draco. The students were still silent when Malfoy finally moved, making his way between some second years. He walked past Snape to go in the hallway and Snape glanced at the trio for a second before he turned around to accompany Malfoy, closing the door behind him with a snap.

"You think he's already in trouble?" Hermione asked, still looking at the door. Harry smiled and Ron chuckled.

"I certainly do hope so," he said. So did Harry, he was already annoyed by Malfoy who was bothering him for the third time in a few hours. They didn't have to talk about it anymore though, another door opened and McGonagall called Harry and Hermione to talk to them in her office.

 

Back in the room Snape had left a few minutes before were standing Lupin, Malfoy and himself.

"Mr. Malfoy, this is your new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher," Snape began. Malfoy, having his most contemptuous look on his face was looking at Lupin already, his eyes going from his head to his feet, and then back to his face. He couldn't help but smirk. Snape's lips were also curled up. Lupin didn't mind, he wasn't even surprised actually, knowing the Malfoys reputation and his history with Snape. Actually, he was even smiling kindly at Draco. Again, Malfoy looked at Snape, he still hadn't say a word since his teacher had called him. He looked at Lupin from the corner of his eyes.

"Oh I know him all right," he finally said, referencing to their short meeting just outside the castle when he was making fun of Harry because he had fainted. It was actually the third time he was seeing him, since he had seen Lupin sleeping in Harry's compartment earlier. Snape slowly turned his head to look at Lupin who had his hands joined behind his back and who was still looking at Malfoy.

"There are... special circumstances, do you know those?" Snape asked Malfoy, speaking slowly as he took a step towards Lupin. Draco could see the way Snape was looking at Lupin and clearly, he didn't like the new teacher. There was so much hatred in his eyes that Draco wondered if they weren't about to catch fire in their sockets. "Your professor here, is like you, Malfoy."

Draco raised an eyebrow, skeptical. He was about to say "yeah, I saw that right away" very sarcastically but he stopped himself. Instead, he paid more attention to Lupin, who was still silent, smiling though being clearly uncomfortable. And tired. And ill. He was probably as pale and looking as sick as Draco, he was clearly poor,  had scars on his face, and looked exhausted.

"Surely not," Draco said, losing his smirk and now having a solemn look on his face. He then helped himself, walking slowly around his new teacher, examining him. Lupin met Snape's eyes who still had this nasty little smile on his face. Now, Lupin was getting a bit annoyed, even if he knew that he had to take his time with Draco. When McGonagall had explained what had happened to him, she didn't forget to mention his behavior at school and the way he had been raised. He knew Malfoy was mean, really insolent and thinking he was superior. He wasn't going to tell him anything, he had just met him and if they had to share the Shrieking Shack for now on, he'd rather be in Malfoy's good books. Plus, he actually truly wanted to have a sympathetic relationship with him, this kind of situation wasn't happening often.

When Draco finally stopped in front of Lupin, tilting his head as he met his professor's eyes, Lupin cleared his throat.

"Nice to meet you again, Mr. Malfoy," he said. The pleasure wasn't shared, clearly, if it was even real coming from Lupin. Yet, he was still smiling at Malfoy. "I heard a lot about you from your Transfiguration teacher," he said before he held out his hand. Malfoy ignored the gesture and turned around.

"If that's all you wanted to tell me, I'm gonna get going," he said coldly to Snape.

"Not so fast," Snape said, "You will have to make some compromises, either you want to or not," he explained. Draco closed his eyes as he sighed before he turned around again, glancing at Snape. "Believe me, it wasn't my idea."

 

When Harry and Hermione finally went in the Great Hall, the Sorting Ceremony was over. Harry glanced at the teachers' table where he saw Hagrid in his usual seat. But there was no sign of Lupin or Snape and Draco wasn't back yet either. Crabbe and Goyle looked lost without him and apparently, they had kept a place for him in front of them and next to Pansy Parkinson who was looking everywhere to see if Draco was coming back. 

Dumbledore explained the situation about the Dementors before the door next to the teachers' table opened. Lupin came out first, still with a kind smile on his face and he sat at the table. Dumbledore proceeded to introduce him as well as announcing that Hagrid was going to be a teacher too. Loud cheers were heard, especially from the Gryffindors, and after the silence came back, Dumbledore was about to let the students eat when Draco burst out of the door next to the staff table, which was still open. He didn't pay attention to anyone, not to Dumbledore, not to McGonagall who stood up and followed him with her eyes, taken aback. He certainly didn't want to look at Lupin right now and he walked fast towards his classmates, looking extremely annoyed, furious even. He then sat behind Fred and George, right in Harry, Ron and Hermione's range of vision and Snape went to sit at his table, looking oddly satisfied as he glanced at Lupin.

As soon as Malfoy had sat down, the food appeared and the students began to eat, soon forgetting what they had just witnessed. Pansy moved to be closer to Draco and put one hand on his shoulder, the other on his arm. She wasn't talking too loud but from what the trio heard, she was asking what had happened and what was making him so angry. They thought they heard Malfoy mumbling that he didn't want to talk about it with her, very coldly. It didn't seem to stop Pansy. She kept asking and during a minute, they thought he would just continue to ignore her but in the end, he suddenly removed his arm from her grip, making her suddenly move forwards. She would have fallen from the bench if she hadn't put a hand on it and if the other hadn't gripped the edge of the table. Draco didn't mind at all and she looked as shocked as the trio did. Even Crabbe and Goyle, who were very slow, looked surprised and uncomfortable.

"Why don't you mind your own damn business?" Malfoy said aggressively, getting a bit closer to her face when he said the last word. Pansy slowly moved on her side to let him have some space, she didn't say anything else to him during the rest of the feast, staying close to her girl friends. Draco didn't talk at all during the rest of the evening, he didn't look at anyone, he just stared at his plate and didn't even eat all that much.

It didn't stop Harry and his friends from being in a good mood. If Malfoy was in trouble, then, they were even happier. Still, Harry couldn't help but glance at Snape and Lupin during his meal, wondering what it was all about. He didn’t know that a few minutes before, in the room, Malfoy had started to become really annoyed.

 

"Why should I have to make any compromises?" He had asked. Snape had pursed his lips and Lupin had looked embarassed. He didn't meet Malfoy's eyes when this one gave him a glare. They could make out the noise of the students and Dumbledore outside of the room and for a second Snape had wondered if the teachers were hearing Malfoy who was already speaking a bit louder.

"Look, I really don't want to-"

"I didn't ask you," Malfoy said coldly to Lupin who was about to say that he didn't want to annoy anyone. Lupin let out a heavy sigh, this time, as he tilted his head a bit. Oh, McGonagall had told him all about Malfoy's temper, of course. Clearly, she was happy not to have him in Gryffindor. Still, he didn't imagine he could talk like that to one of his professor, Malfoy or not. He didn't imagine that he could show so much disdain to somebody just because they were shabby, or just not equal to his usual standards. Especially since he was a werewolf too. Snape stepped in.

"Now, Mr. Malfoy, I think we both know how wise it would be for you to show your teacher more respect," he said, looking now at Draco who only glanced at him, his eyebrows still frowned. "So," Snape then articulated slowly, "Why don't you stop acting like a prat and listen silently to what you have to do?"

The mention of him being a prat seemed to be enough for him to shut up. Or was it just because it was Snape? Because Lupin could see that Draco was infuriating with anger. His jaw and his fists were clenched but he wasn't looking at anyone anymore. After all, Snape was the Head of his house, he was the one making his potion and walking him to the passage. Lupin also knew that Snape was close to Lucius Malfoy, he probably met Draco way before the boy had joined the school. Lupin guesssed that they probably had a very different relationship from the one Snape had with the other students.

Which was true. They were closer and Malfoy knew were his place was when talking to Snape. Still, it wasn't usually annoying his teacher when Draco was being mean, on the contrary, he was often amused, especially when it came to Potter. And he was clearly his favorite student out of all. Yes, they were... close.

But even for Malfoy, thinking that was weird. Firstly because he didn't have this kind of relationship with anyone, none of his friends knew about him being a werewolf and Draco was way better off this way. And secondly because Snape wasn't the kind of person showing emotions or affection. Still, he knew that they were somehow close. Because Snape was sometimes calling him "Draco" instead of "Malfoy". Because of their conversations. Because of the look he was giving him sometimes. Because the very first time Draco had to be all alone since he had turned, when he started going to Hogwarts, Snape had told him everything would be alright. He knew that Snape would always be on his side and that right now, he was just trying to make him understand how important all of this was.

He couldn't say no. Hell, Snape couldn't say no. Because of Dumbledore, the Muggle-lover. It was making Draco feel sick. He didn't want Lupin near him. He didn't know him and he had never been around another werewolf, especially during a cycle. He was more anxious about the situation than angry, really, but that's what was irritating him.

So, instead of saying anything, he listened to the conditions. He couldn't talk about Lupin being a werewolf. He also had to share the Shrieking Shack with him.

"Can't he go in the Forest?" Draco heard himself ask. He wondered if he was sounding as bitter as he thought he did. Snape glanced at Lupin.

"I'd rather not," Lupin said. "I want to make sure everyone is safe."

There was a moment of silence. No one said anything. Snape and Lupin were looking at Draco and he wasn't looking at anything, really. He was trying to sort out all those new information. Lupin talked again.

"Of course, if it doesn't go well, I'll leave you there alone," he said. They heard some noise again outside and Lupin cleared his throat.

"Malfoy," Snape said, still waiting for Draco to say something. It was a few seconds before Draco licked his lips and nodded, coming back on Earth.

"Yeah. Alright, then. Ok," he said, speaking quickly. He still wasn't looking at anyone and after another awkward silence, Lupin decided that it was time to join the feast. He would have another occasion to talk with Draco if they needed to. And he actually wanted to learn more about him, to really know him. He could remember how lonely he had been in the beginning of his school days, when no one knew. He had friends but they weren't in the confidence at first, it made him feel not only lonely but guilty. He also had been bitten when he was young, even younger than Draco, he knew how difficult and traumatizing it must have been for him. No wonder Draco was so mean with everyone, if he was feeling like it was unfair.

Lupin opened the door to leave the room and Snape approached Draco.

"You'll tell me how it goes," he told him and Malfoy frowned a little, finally looking up at Snape. He met his eyes. He wanted to shout and to tell him how unfair it was. He even thought about accusing Snape for the situation when he wasn't responsible for anything. It was Dumbledore's fault. And at the same time, could he blame him? After all, he had also accepted him in the school when no one else would have. He gritted his teeth, still staring at Snape. "Being angry isn't going to change anything."

Draco knew so he didn't need to hear that. He didn't want to hear that. It was making him even angrier. He just left the room and Snape smirked. He was glad that Malfoy didn't seem to like Lupin at all.

 

Hermione was in the library, getting some other books for one of her homework. Even if it was the very beginning of the year, she had already a lot of work with all the classes she was taking. So, before heading to the Great Hall for lunch, she decided to come take what she needed with her. But she couldn't reach the one she wanted and she already had some in her hands. She had been struggling for a few minutes already when she heard the door of the library being pushed open.

"Excuse me," she quickly said, still trying to reach the book, "could you help me with that?"

After a few seconds, Hermione thought that either the person she had called hadn't noticed she was talking to them, or that it had been some Slytherin who didn't want to help her. She wasn't right about the first thought but she was partly right about the second. It was a Slytherin, but not some Slytherin. It was Draco Malfoy, already looking a little bit more energized, even though he was still very pale. He also looked way more calm than the day before. When he finally approached and that she glanced at him, she rolled her eyes. Of course, it had to be him.

He had spent the breakfast making fun of Harry, she really didn't want to see him right now, especially if he was about to make fun of her too. Plus, he wasn't saying anything or helping her, he was just staring, not even smirking.

"It's fine, I'll get it myself," she said, shaking her head a bit. Her fingers were almost touching the book but she had been on tip-toe for the last few minutes and she still wasn't able to get it. Malfoy didn't move, though, he was staring at the books she was already holding with an expression saying it all. He was like Ron and Harry, wondering why the heck she would need all those books for. Then, he slowly looked up to see her hand, her fingers trying desperately to touch the book with her cloak's sleeve going down her arm, letting him see the white sleeve of her shirt. He frowned a little, torn between the idea of enjoying this moment a little longer and the idea of taking the book for himself.

And finally, Hermione saw another hand coming near hers but being careful not to touch it. It wasn't new for her to see Draco making sure they never touched, like she was some dirty thing. Even when his cloak was brushing against her, he was acting like it was disgusting and was frantically trying to rub the "dirt" off. What actually surprised her is that he was going to take the book for her. It seemed weird, was he really going to take it for her? Or was he just going to annoy her and leave with the book? She stopped trying to reach it and looked at Malfoy who took the book very easily before he looked at her again.

He glanced at the book, raised an eyebrow and looked up at her. She held out her hand, waiting for him to give her the book but he ended up giving her a little smile as he took a step backwards. She rolled her eyes.

"I really don't have time to play your little game, Malfoy, give me my book," she said, annoyed already.

"You need to say the magic word," Draco said, slightly amused. Making fun of Harry and his friends was helping getting his mind off the conversation he had had before the feast the last evening.

"Malfoy, give me that book!" Hermione said, clearly not amused, just as Madam Pince passed near them. She stopped, glancing at them. Malfoy sighed and bit his lower lip as he handed Hermione the book before he smirked again.

"Need help taking the entire library with you?" He asked, glancing at the books in her hands. Hermione ignored the remark and surprised him instead.

"Are you sick? You look awful," she said. Draco raised an eyebrow, trying to understand. Either she was just making fun of him, or she was asking because... Well, because he looked sick. He decided that she probably wasn't worried for him and that she was just trying to insult him. After all, he already looked like that the two last years, why would she ask now? He didn't want her to be worried anyway, what a shame it would be. And people needed to stop asking if he was sick. He narrowed his eyes.

"Well, at least for me, it's just for today," he said, implying that Hermione was always looking awful. Hermione gritted her teeth, staring, but she didn't really react. It had been a long time since the last time she had shown him that he had really hurt her. Draco gave her an amused smile and she sighed as she finally walked past him to get out of there.

"Very funny, Malfoy."

Chapter Text

Well, Hermione didn’t have to complain for a long time, Malfoy didn't appear during the next few days because of his accident with Buckbeak. Of course, Harry, Ron and herself were sure that he was putting up a show to get Hagrid sacked but still, they were pleased to have some peace, especially Harry. Malfoy was really hard on him since the train episode with the Dementor. But after he came back and annoyed both Harry and Ron during Potions -not without Snape's help-, they didn't care about him anymore; they were finally having their first class with Professor Lupin and they couldn't wait to see how it would be.

They were used to have a new teacher every year for this class and they were slightly afraid that this one might be as awful as Gilderoy Lockhart had been. But he wasn't. They were actually having a real teacher, this time. The first lesson was about Boggarts and they had a really fun time, especially with Neville's biggest fear being Snape.

Malfoy didn't seem to have fun, though -neither did Snape when he learned about the Boggart-. After saying that the class was ridiculous, he just stayed in the back of the room to be at the very end of the line.

"What'd you reckon's Malfoy's biggest fear?" Ron asked Harry, glancing at his enemy.

"Not being the center of the attention, probably," Hermione said with a little smile, making both Ron and Harry chuckle. Hermione was really angry at Malfoy, not only for the usual insults but for his behavior about Buckbeak. He was going to get Hagrid in trouble and she was really afraid of the outcome of the situation, knowing that his father would have whatever he wanted. Surely, no one or nothing was hurting his son without being punished appropriately.

Still, she couldn't help but notice that he seemed way healthier than he did a few days before. Maybe resting at the hospital, even if he was exaggerating his pain, had been a good thing for him. Their new teacher seemed to be feeling better too, actually. In the train and during the feast, the other night, he had looked like he was about to faint. Maybe he had just been really anxious about his new job.

When Harry's turn came and that Lupin took the matter in his own hands with the Boggart, no one noticed that Draco had taken a sudden step backwards as the Boggart changed itself into a full moon. He wondered if it would have changed into a moon for him as well, if he was facing the creature. He couldn't tell if it was his biggest fear, even though everytime the cycle was approaching he was anxious as hell and praying for the time to slow down. He couldn't find out, however, as the Boggart was destroyed before his turn, which he was hoping wouldn't come. What if it had turned into a moon? What if someone had figured it all out? He felt like hitting Lavender Brown in the face when she wondered out loud why Lupin was afraid of crystal balls.

He quickly left the room, not without glancing at Lupin who was staring at him. Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy quickly followed him. The girl was obviously over what had happened during the feast a few days before. He didn't listen to her as she was mocking Neville, wondering if he would ever get used to the cycles. If Lupin was still so afraid of them, would he be all his life? Then, he wondered when Lupin had been bitten. And finally, he slightly shook his head. He didn't want to know anything about Lupin, why would he be curious about him? Why would he care? He took a deep breath, trying to get out of his own head and he smirked when Crabbe and Goyle laughed at whatever Pansy was saying, which earned him a grin from her. He really liked her but he was such in a bad mood that even her couldn't make him feel good.

Deciding that he was definitely asking himself way too many questions, he just let them go in the Great Hall, muttering that he wasn't hungry and that he needed to catch up on his work.

 

"I see you guys after lunch," Hermione told Harry and Ron when they arrived in front of the Great Hall a few minutes after Draco's departure from where they were standing.

"You're not eating with us?" Ron asked but Hermione was already walking fast to go to the library. "What's got into her?"

"I don't know," Harry said as he shrugged, looking at Hermione as she was walking away. She seemed to have a lot of work already. They went to the Great Hall without thinking too much of it, too hungry and still excited because of Lupin, even though Harry was still bothered because of the Boggart. He was wondering if Lupin thought he was too weak to face it.

Hermione walked fast to arrive at the library. She walked in, greeted Madam Pince and quickly sat at the table she was usually using. The noise her books made when she put them all on the table made Malfoy look up from his own book. He frowned. Why was Granger sitting at the same table as him? There was no one else in the library at this time, they were all hurrying to the Great Hall to eat.

"There's plenty of space, Granger, why do you have to sit here?" He asked, staring at her. Hermione, who had already started to write on a parchment, looked up when she heard Draco's voice. She let out a heavy sigh and shook her head as she looked at her parchment again.

"I didn't see you," she mumbled, writing fast. Malfoy slowly looked around and behind him. There really was no one else, even Madam Pince couldn't be seen and Malfoy wasn't really difficult to spot with his white blond hair. He looked irritated but Hermione wasn't paying any attention to him.

"Move," he said. "Mudbloods don't sit at the same table as me. That's a disgrace."

"Move, then, because I'm here to work," Hermione said shortly. Again, Malfoy frowned. What was she thinking he was doing there instead of eating? Who did she think she was anyway? He let out a sigh loud enough for her to hear and she glanced at Malfoy as she saw him standing up. He had his arm in his splint and Hermione looked at it for a moment, still wondering if he was really in pain. Probably not. She started to write again.

"I was here first," Malfoy mumbled as he took his book and walked towards the table next to the one he was sitting at a few seconds before. He dropped it on the table, not minding the noise. Then, he came back and took his bag to do the same. Again, he walked towards the table to take his quill and his rolls of parchments. He kept doing that for the two other books that were on the table but Hermione didn't say a word. She took a deep breath and when she looked up, she saw that he was staring.

"You're so childlish," she said, her eyes narrowed. He shrugged, tilting his head as he glanced at the books.

"Only got one arm," he said shortly. Then, he sat, took an apple from his bag and bit into the fruit. "So, still walking around the school with your own library?" He asked, not actually interested. He liked being able to distract her from her work, it made him feel oddly satisfied.

"Shut up," she said quickly and he lost his smirk.

"Language, Granger, you don't get to tell me that," he said coldly.

"What are you doing here anyway?" She asked, still staring at her parchment. Malfoy could see that her quill was moving way slower than before because she was paying less attention to her work, now.

"I need to catch up," he said, glancing at his arm, "I don't know if you noticed but that Hippogriff attacked me."

"I noticed all right," she said. "Not because it's the second time you're mentioning it in one minute but because you can't stop complaining like a baby. So, why don't you catch up and stop annoying me?"

"Why don't you shut your face?" Malfoy said quickly.

They stayed silent for some time, just interrupted by the noise of Malfoy biting in his fruit. After what seemed to be half an hour of real silence, they heard the door being opened and muffled voices. Hermione glanced at Malfoy, watching him write. When she looked at her parchment again, and after a few seconds, something hit her head. It was a ball of paper. She glanced at Malfoy who was apparently reading before writing again. She opened the paper and let out a sigh as she saw "mudblood" written on it. When she looked up again, Malfoy was staring at her with this satisfied expression he had way too often. She opened her mouth but someone talked before her.

"Malfoy," called a cold voice on Hermione's left. They both looked at Snape who had a serious expression. Apparently, he had come in and asked Madam Pince if Malfoy was there before coming to call him. He made a little and quick movement with his head to ask Draco to follow him. He was fast to put everything back in his bag and he stood up before walking quickly past his professor. Hermione followed him with her eyes and they stopped on Snape who was staring at her. Uncomfortable, she felt her cheeks becoming warmer but she kept looking at him. Snape's gaze drifted from her face to the piece of paper she had in her hands. From where he was, he could totally read what was written on it. Then, he slowly turned around to leave.

 

"I don't know, he's just acting like he always does," Ron said as he shrugged. He actually wasn't looking at what Malfoy was doing on a daily basis.

"I don't think so..." Hermione said after she had told them about what had happened in the library a few days after she met him there. She kept everything to herself because she didn't care at the time but they had learned that Buckbeak was probably going to be sentenced to death and since then, she couldn't stop talking about him. "Well, yes, he's still the same idiot he has always been, I guess, but he and Snape act... oddly," she said.

"You're the only one paying attention to that anyway," Ron said shortly.

"What do you think, Harry?" She asked, turning her head to look at his friend.

"Why are you asking me?" He said, a bit taken aback and not wanting to talk about this. He didn't really care about Malfoy and he didn't know what to say, he had a lot of things on his mind already.

"I just feel like he's even worse than before," Hermione muttered. They stopped talking as Malfoy arrived at the end of the hallway, followed by Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy a few feets behind with her gang of Slytherin girls. Again, Malfoy acted as if he was fainting, which made his friends have a good laugh. "Ignore them," Hermione said, as always.

"You know what, you're right, he's worse. He's probably just getting meaner every year and he'll end up like his father," Harry said, angry at Malfoy. Ron turned his head to look at Malfoy who was walking away but also looking behind him with a little smile, praised by his friends. Ron narrowed his eyes before he looked in front of him again.

"But really, didn't you notice?" Hermione asked. "The way him and Snape act, especially with Professor Lupin," she said. And she was right, Harry had noticed to. He had noticed during the feasts, because of the way Snape and Malfoy were looking at Lupin, or because of the animated conversation they seemed to have had with Malfoy at the beginning of the year.

And Draco was actually the only one disliking Lupin, really. The others liked him, he was a really good teacher and really nice, even to Malfoy. It didn't change anything, Draco kept insulting him after the classes, even if people weren't listening. Sometimes, he wasn't even hiding it, he wasn't speaking correctly to him in front of everyone. Harry couldn't understand why Lupin was staying so calm, why he wasn't even removing points from his house.

"Maybe he'll end up really fainting and will never wake up," Ron said dreamily. "I mean, look at his face. Looks like he's about to die every other months but that you don't hear him complain about."

"Just try to stay out of his way at Hogsmeade," Harry said before he sighed. He had to stay there while they were going to have some fun and it made him sick. It was all because of the Dursleys. Hermione and Ron promised him to bring back as much stuff as they could for him before they finally left.

After that, Harry ended up in Lupin's office. It was a bit weird but they ran into each other and Harry saw there a chance to talk about the Boggart and the Dementors. Well, at least, they were talking about it until Snape came in the room to give Lupin a strange potion, apparently disgusting. All Harry could think was that Snape wanted to poison his new teacher. Ironically, Harry thought that if it was actual poison, he could at least give everyone the pleasure of offering the same potion to Malfoy.

 

"So, what's the deal with you and Lupin?" Malfoy asked Snape as they left the castle to walk towards the Whomping Willow. The days were slowly passing at Hogwarts and the time of the first cycle of this school year had come. The moon wasn't there yet but the day was slowly reaching its end. Malfoy had his hands in his pockets, he had let his cloak in his dormitory as well as his sweater. He still had his white shirt and his tie, which was loosened.

His hair were a mess and he looked so tired that Snape wondered how he could still walk. He frowned and glanced at the boy.

"It is none of your concern, I am afraid," he said with his cold voice.

"Oh come on," Malfoy said, rolling his eyes. He caught sight of Snape's glare and fell silent again. Snape narrowed his eyes. It wasn't in Draco's habits to be talkative just before the beginning of a cycle.

"I met him a long time ago, I didn't like him, nor his friends," Snape said, looking in front of him again. Malfoy frowned a bit but didn't ask for more. He had been shut down a minute before, he didn't want to talk again. He was usually in an even worse mood than usual during that time of the month.

But he was curious about Lupin. He didn't want to share his hidden place with him but the more he was thinking about it, the more he thought that it might be great to have someone to talk about all of this. Well, he always had his parents to talk to, as well as Snape in the school but it wasn't the same. They couldn't understand everything because they weren't living in this situation. They weren't werewolves, they were lucky enough not to be. But Lupin was.

Maybe Lupin would be able to understand what that void Draco was feeling in himself was. He would understand the pain he was feeling, the loneliness, his anger and his questions.

Draco and Snape stopped in front of the huge tree and Draco stared at it for a moment. Snape, as for him, stared at Malfoy. It would be the first cycle of this year, and the first cycle in Lupin's company. He had some apprehensions and could see that Draco was anxious as well. In a way, he even hoped that it wouldn't go well and that Malfoy would be left alone in the house, but he didn't want to find any corpse after the cycle either if it really went bad.

Draco turned to face Snape. He removed his hand from his pocket to take something in the one on the back of his pants.

"Could you take care of that for me?" He asked as he handed what looked like a thin envelope to his professor. Snape raised an eyebrow and took the letter, staring at it. "My owl's in the owlery," he said as Snape turned the envelope around, only seeing the word "Mom" well-written on it. He shortly nodded before he looked at Draco. Again, not something he would accept to do for any other student, he would actually laugh at their faces just for asking. Malfoy sighed. "Well then, I should go in."

Snape didn't say anything, he watched Malfoy turning around to take care of the knot and go in the passage. Soon, Snape couldn't see him anymore and he turned around to leave, the letter still in his hand when he saw Remus standing not too far from him. He frowned.

"When did you arrive?" He asked. Lupin glanced at the tree behind Snape before he looked at Snape again.

"I just saw Draco going in," he said as he approached. Snape narrowed his eyes for a second, staring at Lupin. He was in such a bad shape too. "Thank you again for the potion, Severus."

"My pleasure," Snape said slowly and coldly, making Lupin snort. He walked past him to go towards the tree.

"Don't-" Snape started, not turning around. He just turned his head a bit as he stopped talking for a few seconds. Lupin had stopped walking and was listening. "-do anything to him."

The Wolfsbane potion was very usefull, as it was allowing werewolves to keep their humanity, their mental abilities and was often making them sleepy. Lupin frowned but didn't look at Snape. He finally smiled a little.

"Protective, are we?" He asked, sounding amused. Snape frowned and walked away, not wanting to add anything to this useless conversation.

 

Lupin didn't waste any more time and went into the passage. He sighed when he was finally able to see the entrance of the Shrieking Shack. It had been so long since the last time he had been in there, he had a really weird feeling about the situation. When he started to climb the stairs, he heard footsteps coming from inside, made by Draco. He kept climbing, he was probably in the room with the mattress, where he had always been spending the cycles when he was a student. Nothing had changed, everything Lupin had damaged during his school days were still there, every marks, everything. He looked around him before he finally arrived in the room he was looking for. He saw Draco pacing up and down and he stayed by the door before he cleared his throat. Draco turned quickly, startled. He looked very anxious, he hadn't even heard Lupin coming in.

"Are you ok?" Lupin asked, joining his hands. Draco stared at him during a few seconds before he nodded. He had removed his tie and his shirt was opened. His chest was moving fast and Lupin knew how he was feeling. He finally walked in the room, looking around. There were even more damages now, probably because of Draco. He was still young, probably really frustrated to be locked in there during a transformation. But from what he could see, he didn't seem to hurt himself a lot. Lupin's body was marked by so many scars that he couldn't look at himself in a mirror easily, Draco's body was not, he was attacking evething around him instead. "Why don't you sit down?" He asked, speaking softly. Again, Malfoy stopped walking and opened his mouth. No sound came out.

He stopped himself from saying "Why don't you shut up?" but he didn't see the point. He didn't understand why Lupin seemed to be so calm, how could he be? Was it the fatigue? Draco gritted his teeth and walked away as Lupin sat on the matress, near Draco's tie. Instead of joining him, Draco chose to go near a corner of the room, crossing his arms as he leaned against the wall. He bit his lips a few times, looking everywhere but at Lupin.

"Are you really ok?" Lupin asked again, concerned. He wondered if Draco was always this anxious, or if it was amplified by his presence. He tilted his head, his own respiration being heavier and his jaw being clenched.  

"I'm fine," Malfoy said shortly, a bit hoarse. Lupin narrowed his eyes for half a second before he bent over to remove his shoes and socks. There was no need of having his clothes totally destroyed, he already hadn't a lot of them.

"Have you ever met another werewolf before?" He then asked. Malfoy glanced at him, his arms still crossed. He slowly shook his head before he realized that Lupin wasn't seeing him, still busy with his shoes. Draco cleared his throat.

"No," he said.

"I figured," Lupin said quietly before he stood up again, undoing the buttons of his shirt after he had removed his sweater jacket.

"Good for you," Malfoy mumbled as he looked away. Maybe he should get ready too? He gritted his teeth again. Lupin pursed his lips as he looked at Malfoy.

"This is a good opportunity, Draco, you should consider acting differently," Lupin said as he frowned. The transformation approaching was also making him easily irritable and even if he could be a very patient man, right now, he couldn't act like Draco's behavior wasn't bothering him. Draco finally moved, taking a step towards Lupin, already more aggressive.

"And you should stop talking to me like I'm a child!" He said, his fists clenched. Lupin approached a bit also.

"Then stop acting like one!" He said, louder, making Malfoy step backwards. They stared at each other for a few seconds before Draco turned around to go back towards the wall, finally removing his shirt. He didn't face Lupin after that, he didn't want anyone to see his scar. His parents were the only one knowing what it looked like and he hated it. Still, it wasn't as bad as Lupin's body, from the glimpse Draco had got.

Lupin sighed as he tried to calm down, it really wasn't the time to argue with him. They would both be really frustrated once transformed and he didn't want them to attack each other.

"Look, I know what it's like," Lupin began, glancing at Malfoy's back. This one didn't move, Lupin could see that he was taking deep breaths, probably to try to calm down too. "But it's not my fault. I didn't ask for this."

There was a long and very awkward silence as Draco heard Lupin sitting on the mattress again. The professor hid his head in his hands for a few seconds, closing his eyes, trying to think straight. He could feel that it was close, now, they were slowly running out of time and he knew that Draco was feeling it too. He removed his head from his hands and glanced at Malfoy again, as the boy was slowly turning around. He had his arms crossed again, his left hand trying to hide his right side as much as he could. But Lupin knew why and he looked down, not wanting to make Draco feel too uncomfortable.

"When did it happen?" Draco asked very quietly. Lupin wasn't even sure he had exactly understood what he had asked. He thought about asking him to repeat the question but he was certain Malfoy wouldn't want to. He'd probably act like he hadn't said anything. Lupin figured out the question, having heard "when" at the beginning. He looked up at Draco who was actually looking at him like he was afraid of something.

"I was about to turn five," Lupin said, quietly too. Malfoy directly looked down, his jaw clenched. Lupin licked his dry lips. "Anything else you want to know?" Draco briefly shook his head, still looking away. He leaned against the wall again and after a few seconds, he decided to ask about something that had been in his mind for a very long time.

"Does it ever gets... better?" He asked, not knowing how to say this. Lupin frowned a little as he tilted his head before he smiled sadly.

"The pain, you mean?" He asked. The transformations were atrocious, extremely painful. He saw Draco nodding and he felt bad. He was probably about to destroy the last hope Draco had about his condition but he couldn't lie to him. Or could he?

Lupin stood up and walked towards Draco, who felt trapped. He couldn't move backwards anymore, he was against the wall. He barely glanced at his professor who stopped in front of him.

"I'm sorry..." Lupin muttered. "It'll never change," he said. Draco bit his lower lip from the inside of his mouth, feeling his eyes stinging. Lupin decided to remove his shirt, staring at Draco. "Look at me," he finally said. He was ashamed of his body, he hated his body, but he needed Malfoy to see it. With great difficulty, Draco turned his head to discover the scars all over Lupin's chest. He didn't even realized that they had both stopped breathing at that moment. "I know what it's like, it drives you mad. It hurts so much that you think the only way to stop it is to hurt yourself. So you start being aggressive," Lupin said, his voice being even lower than before. "You feel like you can't control it... But you can't let it get to you."

At that moment, Draco suddenly bent over, a moan of pain crossing his lips. Without noticing, when another painful feeling hit him in the guts, he had grabbed Lupin's wrist, his eyes full of water already. He didn't want to turn. He gritted his teeth, looking up when he felt Lupin's free hand on the back of his neck. He felt tears rolling down his cheeks and his vision was blurry when he got a glimpse of Lupin. He didn't know if it was because of his tears or because of the change.

"Don't let it get to you, Draco, don't let it win," were the last words Draco heard before he let out a long scream, his pupils dilating. He didn't really know what happened to him after that, all he could think about was that he couldn't feel Lupin's grip anymore and that he really didn't want to be alone.

Chapter Text

When Draco woke up, the room was filled with the light coming from the dusty windows. His vision was still blurry but he could make out the wood wall in front of him. He hardly swallowed as he closed his eyes again, feeling his body waking up too. He noticed that he was curled up on the floor. He took a deep breath as he opened his eyes again. He was thirsty and felt like he had slept for ten minutes only, he was really tired. He moved a little and felt a thin blanket covering half of his body. It made him frown and then he realized. He suddenly sat up and felt an acute pain in his right arm. He let out a sound a bit too high-pitched for him but he didn't look at it, he glanced around. He saw Lupin, sitting on the mattress, fully dressed. He was staring at Draco with a serious expression. Malfoy swallowed and glanced at the cover his teacher had put on him maybe an hour ago, or maybe minutes ago, who knew besides him? It was old and there were some holes in it, it wasn't soft and not really clean but Draco was glad to have this on him or he would have been even more embarrassed than he already was. He could feel Lupin's stare and he didn't like that.

"Can you look away?" He finally asked, hoarse.

"Can you look at your arm?" Lupin asked instead, still staring at Draco. This one frowned and slowly glanced at his painful arm. When it had hurt him, he had thought that it couldn't be because of the Hippogriff, he was already feeling better even if the cut had been deep. Needless to say that he was a bit shocked when he saw his forearm. The blood on it was dry but three long cuts were visible. Claws marks. Again, Draco hardly swallowed and took a deep breath. He felt like the more he was looking at it, the more it was hurting him. Finally, he turned his head when he heard Lupin getting up. He was trying to remember what had happened but he was too confused.

Lupin took something on the mattress before he approached Malfoy, it seemed to be clothes. There was his shirt and tie from the day before but it looked like Lupin had got him some new pants.

"Severus gave me those for you. I told him that you were still sleeping, so that I would come back and bring them to you myself", he explained. He crouched next to Draco who still wasn't saying anything. "It was hard to convince him," he kept on going, "He wanted to come directly, he seems to look after you a lot," he said as Draco looked down, clenching his fist slowly, which made his arm hurt again.

"Y-Yeah, he does that..." He told Lupin. It was still difficult for him to think about what had happened during the night, it was often like that. He had never suffered from a total memory loss but it was always taking some time to come back to him and he often ended up remembering during the day, which was making him feel bad enough for him not to concentrate on his lessons. He glanced at Lupin again as he muttered "thank you", nodding towards the clothes. Lupin gave him a kind smile again and Draco wondered what he was going to do with his arm. "What time is it?" He suddenly asked, realizing that Lupin had probably been awake for a while now, if he had the time to go back to the castle then in the Shrieking Shack again.

"Almost midday. The students are probably going to have lunch soon," Lupin said to make him understand that no one should be able to see him come out of the passage. "Do you remember anything?" He asked softly as he moved a hand towards his jacket's pocket to take some chocolate from it. "Here, you should have something in your stomach," he said as he unwrapped the chocolate and handed it to Malfoy. Draco took it, not looking at his teacher. Had Lupin attacked him during the night? Or had he done that to himself? He slowly shook his head, staring at the chocolate between his fingers. Lupin narrowed his eyes for a second before he almost whispered what had happened that night. "You attacked me."

Draco suddenly turned his head to look at Lupin, who was still kindly smiling. He didn't like that, why would he be smiling? Draco shook his head.

"I didn't..." He said, wary. Lupin snorted as he met Malfoy's eyes.

"You did," he said calmly as he pressed his hand on the left side of his chest. Malfoy frowned as he looked at Lupin's hand and he shook his head again. "You're kind of aggressive but it's fine, it's not..." He began to say before he looked at Malfoy's arm. "I can live with it."

"So you... scratched back?" He asked, a bit annoyed by the word he had to use. It was weird and it made Lupin chuckle. His teacher nodded as he kept looking at Draco's arm.

"I'm sorry," he then said. "It was enough to make you back out, though."

"Don't- apologize," Malfoy said shortly, uncomfortable. He didn't know what to say. It was his fault, he attacked him. And at the same time, he wasn't really feeling bad for Lupin, he couldn't even remember his actions. He didn't know why he would have attacked him either. With the potion, he shouldn't have done that. But did it really matter?

"I get that it was disturbing, I wouldn't have attacked you myself if I had been in my right mind... It was weird, being in a room with another werewolf," Lupin said.

Draco shrugged, turning his head and looking at his arm again.

"I wanted to take care of it this morning but the night has been rough, I didn't want to wake you up. And I want to let you the choice..."

"What choice?" Draco asked quickly, glancing at his teacher.

"I'm pretty sure you can't wait to tell Severus what happened," Lupin said, perfectly knowing that Malfoy was capable of saying that Lupin had tried to kill him. He had already so many scars on his skin that they wouldn't believe Draco had hurt him first, and then his father would know, and it would be the end of a short stay at Hogwarts. "And if you choose to do that, we both know what will happen to me," he said. Snape would enjoy the story, there was no doubt about it. "I know what you did with that Hippogriff, so I wouldn't be surprised."

"You don't know me," Draco said coldly, metting Lupin's eyes again. And one more time, Lupin smiled.

"Well then, maybe you will prove me wrong. I just hope you'll be wise," Lupin said before he stood up. He glanced at the mattress. "You can take care of your arm with what's there, Madam Pomfrey was kind enough to give me what you need without asking any question."

There was an awkward silence. Maybe Lupin was hoping that Malfoy would tell him that he wasn't going to tell anyone. Or maybe he just wanted him to say anything, really. But no sound came out of Draco's mouth. He didn't look at his professor, he didn't move, he didn't talk. So, Lupin ended up leaving him alone to take the passage again.

The idea of telling everyone that their dangerous new teacher had attacked him was really tempting, when Draco was thinking about it.

He cleaned his wounds and started to bandage his arm as he imagined Lupin leaving the castle. He would be sacked and Malfoy would be by himself again, not attacking or being attacked, perfectly safe  and seen as some sort of survivor. A smirk appeared on his face as he looked at the band on his arm. Behind his stretched hand, he got a glimpse of the blanket that had been on him when he had woken up and he started glancing around at the damaged room.

Slowly, his smile faded away.

 

Draco really came back in the school a few days later, after he had got some rest in the hospital. Having someone knowing his secret was really weird. And not only that but someone had seen him in his other form, had seen him turn and had witnessed his fear and his pain. When he walked in the Great Hall to join the students for lunch, he felt like everyone was looking at him. It wasn't the case, even if a few students and his friends had noticed him coming in. He had his splint again but this time, it was really hurting. As he walked towards Crabbe and Goyle, he glanced at the staff table. Lupin was sitting there, talking with McGonagall.

After a while, everyone heard the familiar noise of the owls delivering the letters. Draco looked up, hoping to see his eagle owl coming. He hadn't talked to Snape since the night of the cycle, and he was also sitting at the staff table, so he didn't know if his teacher had sent the letter. Apparently, he had, because Draco's owl came in the Hall, making him smirk. It landed near him, directly on Goyle's chicken and this one moved a little, glancing at the huge owl. Draco gave him something to eat before it flew off, one of his large wings hitting Goyle in the face. Malfoy didn't pay attention, he simply looked at his package. As always, his mom had sent him sweets and an envelope was attached to it. She knew that after the moon, she had to wait a few days before sending this to him, it had arrived just in time. He took the envelope first and opened it to take the letter, where his mom had well written an answer to his own words. He bit his lip as he glanced at the package, he had been right to think it was a bit heavier than it usually was.

Talking to his mom was easier than talking to his dad. He had to be very careful about whatever he was telling him, he was too afraid to upset him in any way. How would he react if he knew that he wasn't going as well as he was saying he was? What would he say if Draco kept complaining about the pain of the transformation? If he told him that he was afraid? Would he see him as weak? Draco didn't know, he had never complained to his father, he didn't want to disappoint him. Draco didn't want him to have a lesser opinion of him. Still, it didn't mean that he had clearly told his mom about what was going on lately. He had stated that there were some changes in the school, that it was making him uncomfortable and that he was... Not afraid, but preoccupied. He wouldn't say that he was afraid. He didn't need to. His mom was smart, she could read through the lines, she had sent him more sweets than usual. In her letter, she had reminded him that she loved him and that she was missing him very much, but also that he could tell her everything if he was feeling like it. He didn't smile, but he felt a warm sensation in him.

His parents were affectionate towards each other and his mother was also very affectionate with him. She was always pressing her hand on his shoulder or his arm whenever they were crossing path, or she was gently caressing his back, like she needed to remind him that she was there for him. She was always giving him soft smiles and she was listening to him a lot. His father was listening a lot too, but Draco wasn't telling the same things to him. His father was more cold. He was more abrupt when it came to touch Draco somewhere, his grip was firm and not located in right places. While his mother was pressing his shoulder, his father was pressing the back of his neck. While she was pressing his forearm, he was pressing his wrist. While she was caressing his back, he was tapping it, often making Draco move a bit forwards because of his strength. It had always been different, but Draco knew that every time his father was touching him this way, it was to show him that what Draco was doing was good, or to tell him in a weird way that he was proud. That he was sharing the same feelings as his mother about him. It was just really awkward. His parents were only acting like that with him, they were very scornful with lesser people, and usually cold with almost everyone.

They had also been spoiling him since he was a little kid, always buying everything he wanted to make sure that he was happy and to show that they would always give him what he needed. Draco put the letter back in the envelope and put it in his pocket, thinking he would remind his mom that he loved her too when he would write back.

"Look who's back," Ron said to Harry and Hermione, pointing at Malfoy with his chin as the blond was putting the letter in his pocket. "Doesn't really seem to be feeling better," he said with a little smile, hoping that he was really sick. But even him was wondering what he had, it was just weird. Hermione looked at him for a few seconds before she looked at the staff table, where Lupin was. She narrowed her eyes for a second before she started to write on her parchment again.

"You don't have anything to say about it?" Ron asked, surprised that she wasn't saying that it was weird once again.

"No, you're right, it's stupid," she said quickly, not looking at Harry and Ron. The both of them exchanged a glance but didn't say anything, glad that she wasn't about to talk about Malfoy again.

And she didn't for quite some time. She was too busy to spend a lot of time with Harry and Ron, plus Ron was always angry because of Crookshanks so she was better off alone. So, the days went by, the months, even, they were soon in November. It was like a normal year, if you didn't mind hearing a lot about Sirius Black.

Draco didn't tell Snape or his father about what had happened with Lupin. He was very careful about not talking with Lupin, actually, avoiding him and often acting like he had forgotten something to be able to turn around without his friends following him when they were in the same hallway. He didn't know why he was doing that, though, it wasn't like Lupin was going to stop, wave at him and scream "I see you soon in the Shrieking Shack for our monthly transformation, you know, since we're both werewolves!" in front of everyone. It was stupid, really.

And it wasn't like Lupin hadn't tried to talk about what had happened the next time they were together there, in October, but Draco had started to be really cold with him again and had mainly avoided looking at him to be sure he wouldn't open any door for conversation. They didn't attack each other anymore either. It had been a one time thing, probably because Draco had been really anxious. He had been thinking about it often though, after it had come back to him. He could see Lupin attacking, really to defend himself. He could remember the growls, the howls, the entire night. And every single time he was thinking about it, he was shivering.

 

"Apparently, Potter has the Grim?"

Hermione looked up at Draco. They were in the library, once again during a lunch time. This time, she had been careful and was sitting at another table, hoping that he wouldn't start to bother her. When she had arrived, he had been focused on his work and she was sure he hadn't seen her, so she had sat silently and had started to work, only for him to notice her presence five minutes later.

She stared at him for a few seconds before she looked at her book again.

"It's been a while since the news is out, how come you talk about it now?" She asked, not really interested. Draco shrugged as he looked at his parchment.

"Should be funny enough," he said with a little smirk.

"Yeah, as funny as you and this whole fainting thing," Hermione said sarcastically. She heard Draco snort and she shook her head. "At least he had a real reason to feel bad, do you have a real reason to fake your pain?" She then asked, talking about his arm. Apparently, it would take at least three months for his arm to heal from Buckbeak's attack but Draco hadn't waste any time to let the trio know that he was just taking advantage of the situation. Of course, this was before Lupin had actually hurt him. "Besides being a jerk, obviously," she added. Draco tilted his head, staring at her as he narrowed his eyes. She looked at him too and they exchanged a long look, neither of them wanting to be the first one to look down.

"I'm hilarious," Draco ended up saying, narrowing his eyes a bit more. Hermione just looked jaded before she sighed, finally looking at her book again.

"You usually have better comebacks, is it because you're sick?" Hermione asked, still very curious about the reason Malfoy was missing a lot of classes. She was also surprised that he hadn't called her a "Mudblood" once that day. But it was only the middle of it so there was still plenty of time for Malfoy to retaliate.

"I'm not sick," Malfoy said shortly, still staring at her.

"Really convincing," Hermione said, staring at his very pale face. He had been doing ok for a few weeks and now, he was again looking dreadful.

The door of the library opened and Hermione looked up to wait and see who was coming, the door being hidden by the shelf near the tables. After a few seconds, Harry and Ron showed up to sit near Hermione, not without noticing Malfoy's glare. He didn't even pay any attention to Harry, didn't mock him, didn't look at him, he kept staring at Hermione until she was hidden by Ron, who sat in front of her.

He didn't leave, then, even if he was bothered by the trio's presence. He was way too behind in his classes and needed to keep his grades up. He was the second best student after Hermione and it was already infuriating enough to be beaten by Granger, so he wouldn't let anyone else achieve better marks than him. But the fact was that if he had thought that having to share a room to study with Hermione was annoying, he quickly found out that sharing it with the three of them was even worse.

"Won't you shut up already?" He snapped when Ron complained for the umpteenth time. The redhead suddenly looked at the table behind him and Hermione and Harry both looked up too, staring at Draco as he suddenly closed his book, pushing it in the middle of the table before he stood up and took his bag. "Then they ask me to stop complaining about my arm... You stupid-" He mumbled as he walked away to leave the library, his words being at some point inaudible, leaving the three of them totally stunned. After they heard the door being closed and a few seconds of silence, Ron slowly turned to look at his friends.

"Ok. Is someone going to tell me what is wrong with him this year?" He asked slowly, still taken aback. Harry shrugged, as surprised as they were. Hermione was still looking at the bookshelf next to them.

"Why did you have to wait until now to believe that something is wrong?" She asked, finally looking at Ron. "It's not like I didn't tell you! And for once, he's right, stop complaining." She said shortly. Ron was sure she definitely wouldn't help him with his homework.

It's not like they weren't used to Draco being aggressive or just rude but here, it was somehow totally different. He didn't laugh at any of them, he didn't try to provoke them, he had stayed in silence and had tried to work before he had suddenly snapped, not even insulting them directly.

Hermione knew that he was really late for some of his homeworks, it wasn't a surprise because they had a lot already and he had been missing a lot of classes. Well, clearly, they didn't have as much as she had, she could barely keep up, but she knew the work Harry and Ron had to do. Even if Draco had been missing classes like that during the last two years, they had more work than before. She pursed her lips and tried to focus on her work again. She couldn't tell why she was so worked up about all of this. After all, Malfoy was nothing more to her than a rude and mean spoiled prat, so why would she care? She had so much on her mind already, why would she even take some time to try and find out what was going on? It was ridiculous.

 

At some point, as Christmas was approaching, Harry got his hands on the Marauder's Map thanks to Fred and George. For him, it was a real treasure. He could know where everyone was at any time of the day, as long as he wasn't caught with it. He could use it to go to Hogsmeade and he used it quiet a few time to get back at Malfoy, which was always funny.

He was also often looking at it at night, just because it was entertaining, in some weird way. And lately, it was also less fun to annoy Draco, since he was spending a lot of time in the library or his common room. It reminded him a bit of Hermione with all of her weird work. He and Ron were still wondering how she could put up with all her classes but they had stopped asking questions, knowing she wouldn't answer them.

That night, he couldn't sleep, he had way too many things in his head. He couldn't wait to start learning the Patronus Charm, he was wondering a lot about Sirius Black's whereabouts, Wood was following him a lot to talk about Quidditch and he was just basically anxious about a lot of things. He thought that he would be able to sleep during the week-end but it didn't happen, and the next day would be Monday and he was still really tired. Still, he sat up and took the map.

He looked at it for a while and when he glanced at his watch, he saw that it was already two in the morning. He thought that maybe it was time for him to try and sleep again when he noticed that Draco was still up in his common room. Harry frowned, not thinking too much of it, it wasn't the first time it was happening. Plus, Malfoy had just been sick the last few days, he was probably catching up, nothing to worry about. But before he could say "Mischief managed", he saw that Snape was walking towards the very same common room. Now, that was surprising. He watched his dot enter it and stop, probably talking with Malfoy and they both left the room. Harry's heart skipped a beat. Maybe it was all about what was going on with them and Lupin? Maybe they could finally know what was going on? He knew that he had to follow them, or at least that he really wanted to, even if it was risky.

He glanced at Ron's bed and wondered if he should wake him up. In the end, he decided to get up, take his cloak and leave the dormitory by himself. He was pretty sure that Malfoy wasn't important enough for Ron to get him to wake up in the middle of night. He would tell him all about it a few hours later anyway.

It took less time than he thought it would to get close to them, they were heading for the kitchens, apparently, from what Harry could see on the map. They had to cross path at some point and Harry waited. He didn't hear any voices when they approached, just footsteps. Then, he followed them, hoping that he was as silent as he thought he was. But they didn't notice him, so he probably was. They all walked towards the kitchens and Harry hurried to go past the frame before it closed behind Draco after him and Snape had walked in the room. He stayed near the frame at first, looking around. It was the first time he was seeing the huge kitchens and it was empty, no one was around besides them. After maybe a minute, Harry heard something which made him think of a plate and he walked towards the source of the noise. He heard noises of cuttery and tried to see who was eating, hiding behind a shelf, even if he had his cloak.

He narrowed his eyes, seeing Malfoy sitting at a table with a plate in front of him. Then, Harry remembered that he hadn't been there for the feast. Still, it wasn't explaining why Snape was feeding him at two in the morning. It's not even like they were talking, Malfoy was just eating what looked like rare meat and Snape wasn't far away, behind the table, staring at Draco like he didn't need to blink. He had a really serious expression on his face.

Since they weren't saying anything, Harry took his time to examine Draco. It was weird to see him in something else than his uniform and his black cloak. He had black pajamas pants and a slightly lighter black t-shirt, even black socks. He still had a band on his arm, which made Harry roll his eyes. Oh and for once, he didn't have his Slytherin ring on his hand.

After some other long minutes, during which Harry's legs started to get tired, Malfoy started to talk.

"You know that I really need to work, right?" Malfoy asked Snape, who still wasn't saying anything. He kept staring at Malfoy until this one stopped looking at his plate to look at him.

"How did it go?" He finally asked when he was able to meet his eyes. Malfoy stopped eating, even chewing, as he stared back. "When I told you that I wanted to know, "fine" was not what I expected from you."

Harry frowned.

"Can I go back? I'm late for this essay already," Draco said, looking at his plate again. Snape took what seemed to be a giant step really smoothly and quickly to be closer to the table. He put his hands on the edge and didn't need to use verbal magic to attract the plate towards him.

"How. Did it. Go?" He asked very coldly and slowly. Malfoy didn't look at him. He knew that he wasn't talking about only the last time he had turned, which had been three days before. He knew that something had happened because even if he wanted to, Draco hadn't been able to act natural. If nothing had happened, he would have probably complained about Lupin, but Draco hadn't told him anything. He just kept avoiding any meetings with him, even with their eyes, and just told Snape that everything was fine. But Draco couldn't fool Snape. So, he sighed and got up, taking a step towards his teacher as his left hand became busy with the bands on his right arm. This time, Harry wasn't the only one who frowned, as Snape wasn't able to hide his surprise.

It was the moment Draco didn't want to face. He could lie. He could tell him that Lupin had attacked him and he would be sacked, but he realized something that he didn't know until then. Every time he was thinking about accusing Lupin, he was imagining it as satisfying, but the feeling he had in him wasn't reflecting those thoughts. As soon as he had let Snape see his forearm, he knew why. He didn't want Lupin to go, not now. Not when he could actually have another werewolf around.

From where Harry was standing, he couldn't possibly see Draco's arm. His back was facing Harry and he could only see Snape. But it was enough for him to know that what Draco had on his arm was serious. It couldn't be Buckbeak's fault, Draco had been deeply cut but was clearly fine. He was just faking it. It had something to do with that thing that went... Fine. If it went fine. Harry narrowed his eyes, trying to catch everything they were saying. Now that they were closer and apparently talking about something important, they had started to speak lower, like they were aware that they could be heard. Like it was an automatism.

"It was a bit rough, as you can see," Draco began. Finally, Snape stopped looking at the three cuts on Draco's arm. "But it was my fault, I've never been... With another one before, it was weird and I didn't really like it."

"What did you do with that? Did you show it to Madam Pom-"

"As if," Draco interrupted him, shaking his head. He received a glare from Snape and fell silent again. Harry frowned. Of course, he had shown his arm to Madam Pomfrey, what was that all about? He needed to see what was exactly on Draco's arm.

"So, what did you do with it?"

"I took care of it myself," Draco almost whispered.

"With what?" He asked. Draco didn't look at him, he just stared blankly at his injury. Snape wondered if Draco had stolen what he had needed in order to heal himself or if he just wasn't saying that Lupin had helped him.

"He brought me what I needed but I did it," Draco finally sighed. He couldn't lie to Snape easily. His professor narrowed his eyes as he slowly grabbed Malfoy's wrist between his fingers.

"Did you hurt him?" Snape asked, still staring at the wound. Draco made a little face before he shrugged, his left hand sloftly pressing his right forearm. He didn't want him to look at it too much, it was already annoying him too much. Snape finally looked up at him.

"Don't really know, don't really care..." He said, looking away. He had hurt him, yeah, but could he tell him? After a few seconds of silence, he slowly raised his hand to put it on the left side of his chest. "There, I think," he said, actually sure of it. He could still feel the sensation of him cutting Lupin on the tip of his fingers. The memory was vivid. It had been the first time he had been with another being during a cycle, it had also been the first time he had attacked another being. He had actually been really shocked when he had remembered it clearly. Again, Harry narrowed his eyes. He needed to tell exactly what they were saying to Ron and Hermione, they absolutely needed to know what was going on.

"And-"

"Can we talk about this tomorrow or... I don't know, some other day," Draco said shortly, clearly annoyed. "I really need to work. Unless you'd rather have the old McGonagall taking points from the house because I didn't do my essay?"

"She knows the circumstances," Snape said coldly.

"Yeah and she knows how easily you take points away from Gryffindor so I don't think she will mind," Draco said sarcastically, "especially knowing that I've never handed my homeworks late because of that before."

"Dont talk to me like that," Snape said as he took a step towards Malfoy. They were now even closer and even if Harry couldn't see Malfoy, he didn't think that he was actually looking at Snape's eyes. He was sure that he wouldn't be able to sustain Snape's cold gaze if he was standing so close to him. But Draco was looking at him right in the eyes. Because Harry didn't know that Draco had met Snape when he was still a young kid, he didn't know that he was a close friend of Draco's father. Draco knew that he shouldn't go too far when talking to Snape, but he also knew that Snape wouldn't do anything to him, not ever.

"I'm just saying, you wouldn't want her to think I'm using all of this as an excuse," Malfoy articulated slowly. Snape kept staring for a few seconds before he glanced at his arm again. He ended up backing away.

"Go. You will come see me tomorrow between classes."

Malfoy nodded before he turned away, ready to leave. At some point, he stopped right next to Harry. This one didn't move at all, staring at Malfoy's pale face, afraid that he might have noticed something. As Draco turned around again, Harry tried to take a look at his arm but failed majestically.

"Did you hear? About Umbridge?" He asked Snape, already more calmly. He looked worried as he bit his lip.

"I did," Snape said. "Lucius sent me an owl," he added, surprising Harry. His voice had changed a little and when Harry dared turning his head to look at him, he could see that Snape's expression had changed a little too but it was unfathomable. Snape had always the same serious expression on his face, when he wasn't smirking, he was really intimidating. But somehow, here, he wasn't as much as usual, and his voice wasn't as cold as usual.

"Yeah, Father told me about it in his last letter too... " Draco said as he looked down for a second before he shrugged. "He said that I don't need to worry about that any way, given my situation. I don't know, I just think it sucks."

And without adding anything else, he turned around to leave. Harry didn't wait, knowing that it would probably be his only chance to take the passage once again to leave the room without being noticed. Snape didn't follow. When Harry glanced behind him, he was still looking at Malfoy, right through Harry, with the same weird expression on his face.

Chapter Text

"And you really couldn't see his arm?" Hermione asked the next morning. The three friends were in the Great Hall to have breakfast and they were trying to talk about Draco without anyone noticing. Harry had waited almost all night to tell them, he had wanted to wake Ron up and he had barely slept himself; his mind couldn't stop trying to find out what was going on. As soon as they had sat down to eat, he had started to talk about it, telling them the whole story.

He finally shook his head. No, he hadn't seen Malfoy's arm, unfortunately. He had told them how cold Snape had been, how Draco hadn't wanted to talk about all of this, he mentioned his arm and that he "had never been around another one before". Also, that McGonagall was obviously aware of what was going on, so were probably at least some of the other teachers, and that he had hurt whoever or whatever he had been with at that moment.

"Well, that doesn't really help, it's just really shady," Ron said before taking another bite of his toast. Harry glanced at him, then at Hermione. She was looking like she was lost in her thoughts, probably trying to find a way to discover what Draco and Snape had been talking about. Then, he looked at the staff table. Lupin wasn't there. Malfoy had come back only that morning but not Lupin. In September, they had come back the same day and in October, Malfoy had come back a day after Lupin. And now, it was apparently the opposite.

"Still, I'm really curious," Hermione said, looking at Harry. "Did he say anything else? About Professor Lupin maybe?" Harry didn't answer right away, he was looking at Snape out of the corner of his eyes. His Potion teacher seemed to be staring at the Slytherin table and Harry was sure that he was looking at Malfoy. When Harry glanced at Draco, though, he just seemed to be in an animated conversation with some other Slytherins including Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy. He looked very different, suddenly. He was making them laugh loudly and he seemed to be feeling really good himself, even though he was moving only one of his arm. Harry didn't even care, this time, if Draco was mocking him, he was way too focused on what had happened the night before. He finally looked at Hermione.

"Er- I think that was it..." Harry said, thinking hard to remember everything Draco had said. Then, it hit him. "Wait, he was about to leave when he asked Snape if he had heard about... Umbridge? Is that possible?" Harry asked, having no clue what Draco had been talking about and not really knowing if it was relevant. Ron and Hermione suddenly shared the same expression. They were staring at Harry, not because he was the only one not knowing, but because they were both trying to remember where they had heard that name before. "It didn't sound like it had anything to do with his arm or what happened, it's like he remembered it at the last moment and decided to talk about it."

"I'm sure it's not the first time I've heard this name," Ron said, trying to focus.

"What did he say exactly?" Hermione asked, sure that she had heard that name not so long ago.

"It was something along the lines of "my father told me something happened but I shouldn't worry given my situation but I still thinks it sucks", something like that," Harry summed up, looking at his friends. Hermione frowned and Ron stared at his plate, still thinking.

"If his father told him about it, it probably has something to do with the Ministry, don't you think?" Hermione asked Harry. "Isn't he hardly out of there?" Harry shrugged but it seemed like it had made something click in Ron's mind.

"The Ministry, of course! I know where I heard the name before, my dad told us about her!"

"Oh so it's a woman?" Harry asked, tilting his head a bit.

"Yeah, I think her name's Dolores Umbridge, or whatever. She's the Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office, he only mentioned her because of... What happened with the car last year," Ron said, talking about the inquiry his father had had to face because of him and Harry. Still, Ron was glad to be able to bring new information, hoping it would help. "It's a division of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," Ron said, "the largest and probably the most important Department of the Ministry," he added when he saw Harry's expression. Harry had actually already heard of the Improper Use of Magic Office when Dobby had used magic back at Privet Drive, when the house-elf had been trying to get him to be expelled from Hogwarts. Hermione was still thinking hard before she suddenly stood up, making Ron spill half his pumpkin juice on his robes.

"Watch what you're do-"

"I need to check something before the class starts, I see you then," she said, leaving quickly without paying any attention to Ron.

"Ugh, I hate when she does that!" Ron said, frowning as he looked down at his robes. "So irritating, really," he kept on mumbling. But Harry wasn't paying attention, he was following Hermione with his eyes, stopping on Malfoy who looked at Hermione when she walked very fast past his table. It seemed like she had caught his attention and he didn't look away until she wasn't in sight anymore, his eyes narrowed. Then, he looked at his friends again, apparently telling them something really funny. Except that Pansy didn't seem to laugh as much as the others. Harry frowned, almost certain he was mocking Hermione. He finally looked back at Ron.

"Do you know if Malfoy is staying for Christmas?" He asked. Ron shrugged.

"I hope he doesn't, I don't need him to ruin it," he said. Harry pursed his lips for a second, glancing at Draco.

"I don't know, maybe we could try to find out more about all of this if he stays here," he said.  Ron didn't really answer, he mumbled something and started to eat again. Harry understood that he probably didn't want to talk about Malfoy anymore and he started to eat too. They only left the Great Hall when the bell rang.

 

Not only Harry got late to the Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson because Wood had stopped him to talk about the upcoming Quidditch match against Hufflepuff, but Snape was giving the lesson. That's when he remembered that Lupin was not back yet. Then, they started the lesson about werewolves, which was a bit weird.

They were far from talking about werewolves with Lupin but Snape didn't care. He took pleasure in taking points from Gryffindor, not only because Harry had been late and then asked about Lupin, but also because Hermione had answered without him asking her to. Not before Malfoy had started to put up his show, though. As soon as Hermione had mentioned the howls of the werewolves, he had produced himself a long howl, making his friends laugh. Hermione had glared at him, annoyed, as Harry was staring at Snape. He didn't missed his expression. Obviously, it was alright when the Slytherins were disturbing the lesson, it wasn't a surprise. Still, Snape didn't really show his amusement, his lips just curled up for a second before he spoke again.  

"Thank you, Mr Malfoy," he said coolly as their eyes met for one brief second and again, Harry noticed. Then, Snape started to talk to Hermione, reminding her that she had spoken out of turn and that she was an "insufferable know-it-all", which amused only the Slytherins, as he took five other points from Gryffindor. The rest of the class glared at him. It was alright when they were calling her a know-it-all, not when Snape was doing it. Harry didn't listen to Ron when he took the matter in his own hands and got detention, distracted by Malfoy who had made a piece of paper fly towards him. It was about the Quidditch match. The weather was dreadful and Malfoy made him understand that he hoped he would get hurt.

At that point, Harry hoped that whatever Malfoy had was deadly and that he would succumb soon.

When he looked at Draco, he was even more annoyed by his smugly expression and didn't pay attention to him at all during the rest of the hour. The whole class was actually silent, if it wasn't for Draco who, for some reason, didn't care at all about the lesson. Snape wasn't saying anything, though, if it wasn't for his criticism when it came to Lupin's work. All the Gryffindors were relieved when they heard the bell, even if they were annoyed about the essay they had to write. They left the class quickly, except for Ron who had to stay behind to talk about his detention.

Waiting for him in the hallway, Harry turned to Hermione as they talked about Snape and Lupin. After a moment, something came back in Harry's mind.

"So, did you find what you were looking for?" He asked. She looked around for a second before she shook her head.

"Um, I'm not sure about what I found. It seems weird so... I'm going to keep looking and I'll tell you if I find anything," she said, making Harry even more curious.

"Are you alright?" He asked. Hermione wasn't directly looking at him, she seemed a bit anxious, actually.

"Yeah, I just have a lot of work," she said. Harry frowned a little.

"Wait, is it because of what Snape said? You know that you shouldn't pay attention to him," he said and Hermione smiled.

"Don't worry, I know," she said before she turned her head towards the door when Ron got out of the classroom, explaining he had to clean the bedpans in the hospital without using any magic as a detention and they left as he was insulting Snape.

 

Hermione had found what she was looking for alright, but couldn't say anything for now. She had to do more researches. As soon as they got a break, she went in the library with her books, parchments, quill and a copy of the Daily Prophet. It wasn't the one of that day, though, it was a copy from the week before and it had taken some time for her to find it. When Ron had mentioned that Umbridge was working for the Ministry, she had remembered something that she had read about some new legislation. She sat down, putting her books in front of her and looking around. There was no sign of Malfoy in the room, this time, but there were plenty of students working on their homeworks. She hadn't had the time to read the article before, since she had to be on time in class but now, she did it very seriously, reading every line of what was the new anti-werewolf legislation.

When she was done, she looked around her again, almost hoping to see that Malfoy had arrived to catch up on his work.

He didn't show up.

She looked down at the paper in front of her, concerned. It couldn't be what Draco was talking about, it was absurd. It had nothing to do with him, his father had probably just mentioned it because he was always at the Ministry. But why would he be annoyed by it? Hermione was actually surprised, she thought it would have amused Malfoy. She couldn't accept what it might mean.

Then, she thought of the first feast and what had happened with Snape, Draco and Lupin. How their new teacher and Draco were sick at the same time. If only she could tell if it had been during moon cycles, she would have her answer. She thought about how Draco seemed to dislike Lupin without even knowing him that much. She thought about the conversation he had had with Snape the day before and what might have been on his arm, about who, or what he had hurt too. How he had never "been around another one before". Then, she shook her head, refusing to believe it.

And then, she thought about the lesson they had had that morning. Why would Snape choose werewolves out of all the creatures they still had to study? He seemed to hate Lupin, for some reason, was it... Again, Hermione shook her head, closing her eyes, hoping she was wrong. She heard the howl Malfoy had made during the lesson in her head, she remembered how uninterested he had looked... She took one of her book, deciding to work on Snape's essay, maybe it would help her understand, maybe it would show her that she was wrong. She had to be.

When she came back in the common room later that day, she was looking deathly pale.

"Are you feeling alright, Hermione?" Harry asked her again, and she muttered that she still had work to do before she sat at the table. She had a lot of work, but that very day, she couldn't focus. She hadn't been able to focus at all during her other lessons either. Ron and Harry looked at each other but didn't say anything, they just sat to try and do their homeworks too.

                                                                              ○

The next day, when Hermione left Arithmancy to go the the library, the first thing she saw was Malfoy, apparently struggling with the wrapper of a lollipop. She couldn't tell if it was something that had been in the package his mother had sent him or if he had bought it at Hogsmeade, he just didn't seem able to open it. He wasn't using his right hand, since his arm was injured and Hermione's heart skipped a beat. She knew. She knew that he had been hurt and that it was probably by Lupin. She knew what was under the bands, she knew that this time, he wasn't putting up a show. He kept claiming that he was hurt because of Buckbeak but now, she knew why he was keeping the bands on for so long. It had to heal, and an injury given by a werewolf would never disappear. He would always have the scar. She frowned when she found herself wondering if it was fangs marks or claws marks, under the bands. She shook her head and walked towards the table, putting her books on it, still staring. Malfoy glanced at her and looked almost offended, but more surprised than anything else.

"What are you doing?" He asked vehemently. She didn't care about his tone, she just glanced at the lollipop.

"Need help with that?" She heard herself ask. Any other day, she would have just found this funny, she would have watched him struggle with this stupid little thing before saying that he should stop faking his pain if he wanted to eat sweets but that day, she couldn't. No one was around, it wasn't even like he was trying to show people that he couldn't open it for them to feel sympathy for him, he just couldn't do it. She wondered if his injury was hurting him so bad, if he wasn't even using his arm that much. Malfoy frowned before he made a face, looking at his lollipop again.  

"No thanks," he said shortly and she knew why. He wouldn't let a Mudblood touch his precious sweets. She rolled her eyes, maybe she shouldn't have shown him any sympathy. Maybe he had deserved what had happened? What if he had wanted to impress people, once again, and that he had ended up badly injured by a werewolf? What if it had been all his fault?

But then, she thought about the way he had already been disappearing during his first year at Hogwarts and she doubted he would have been showing off this way when he was that young. She glanced at Malfoy again, wondering when it had happened. Had he been really young? Where did it happen? How? She even wondered where he had been bitten. And how a child had survived it. She couldn't help but stare again when she saw him remove the paper with his teeth instead. She quickly looked down when he turned his head towards her and she gritted her teeth, her heart bumping hard in her chest. She wondered if he could hear it, it seemed to be so loud as she was trying to stop thinking about him biting in anything, but it looked like he wasn't paying that much attention to her, instead, he glanced at his book again. Had he bitten Lupin, that night? He had said that he had hurt the other one, but had they really fought in their other forms? Wouldn't he be way more injured if it was the case?

Hermione heard Madam Pince walking towards them and Malfoy hid the lollipop under the table, acting like he was really focused on his reading. Madam Pince glanced at the book Malfoy was reading. He had probably taken it from one of the shelves and Madam Pince always hated when students were touching her books. Hermione always wondered what was the point of her being a librarian if she couldn't stand people taking her precious books but at the same time, she could understand why she was so afraid for them.  

For once, Draco didn't move, he didn't demand that Hermione choose another seat and he didn't go sit at another table, despite her presence. Since she had worked a big part of the night on her homeworks, she thought she would take this time to work on Buckbeak's trial and she stood up to find some books that would help her do that. As she walked between the shelves, she found herself glancing a lot at Malfoy. Now that she knew, it seemed like it was obvious. Like they had been stupid not to have seen what was going on before and she wondered if his friends knew. How couldn't they? And at the same time, they were pretty thick, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they didn't know. Who knew, maybe that was why Malfoy was hanging out with such stupid people, when himself was smart.  

And she ended up wondering if he had been the victim of a lot of discrimination. Probably, even if it wasn't said directly to him, he had just to hear about the new legislation to feel bad about his condition.

Maybe that's what had made him become so mean.

Now, she could understand why his father had told him that he didn't have to worry. Lucius Malfoy had a lot of influence so Draco would be able to find a job, she was sure of that. But even if he wasn't working, they were ridiculously rich, he could probably live without having to work anyway.  

The same question that had been in her head since she had written her essay came back in her mind. Should she tell Harry and Ron? She was pretty sure that one of them would probably tell him that they knew out of anger if provoked, maybe in front of other people, and she knew that Draco had a lot of reasons for keeping his condition secret. But then, should she talk to him about it? Tell him that she knew but that his secret was safe? What was the point of doing that? Malfoy would be better off not knowing that anyone was aware of his secret. She decided not to tell anything to anyone for now and she sat on her seat again, only talking after a few moments.  

"I don't believe in those things anyway," she said, glancing at Malfoy. This one looked up, raising an eyebrow. What was she even talking about? "The Grim," she said like they had never stopped talking about it since the last time they both were in the library. Draco stared at her during a few seconds, saying nothing.

"Good for you..." He finally mumbled before he blinked, still taken aback.

"Trelawney is just a crazy lunatic," Hermione added and Malfoy tilted his head, frowning a little.

"Since when do you talk like that about a professor, Granger?" He asked. Hermione smirked and shook her head, looking at her book. And since when was she talking to him like that anyway?

"Since I found out Divination was the stupidest class I could attend," she told him. Draco almost snorted, then he remembered who he was talking to.

"Well, too bad it it's not true," he said shortly.

"Do you really want him to die?" She asked absent-mindedly. Draco stared at her until she looked at him too, waiting for his answer. Their eyes met and it was a few seconds before he finally shrugged, not really understanding what was going on. Hermione kept looking at him for a few seconds before she looked at her book again, looking for the sentence she had been reading before she had started to talk a minute before. Draco kept staring for a moment before he did the same, not really able to focus again. Well, that had been weird. Again, they worked in silence during a moment, only interrupted by Malfoy breaking his lollipop between his teeth. When the bell rang, he closed his book, knowing that he hadn't worked a lot. His mind had wandered off during the rest of the hour without him even noticing.

"So, was it difficult?" He heard Hermione ask. He looked at her as she was putting her parchments in her bag full of books.

"What?" He asked, taken aback once again.

"Having a civilized conversation, was it that difficult?" She said as she looked at him again. She wasn't smiling but she didn't seem to ask that to annoy him either, it was just a bit ironic. Draco narrowed his eyes and he shrugged once again before he quickly left the library. Hermione smiled and shook her head as she closed her book, a bit amused by Draco's reaction. Still, they didn't talk again for a while. Hermione was way too busy and they didn't end up alone in the library. She was often working in the common room and everytime Draco had finished catching up on his work, he wasn't going there often until the next cycle.  

 

And this next cycle was approaching very fast. Draco didn't know if it was because of the holidays coming or just because of what was happening with Lupin, but it seemed like the time was flying. He wasn't going back to the Manor for Christmas, that year. The cycle was happening on that day, unfortunately, and his father was working a lot, he would barely see him. He would have liked to be with his mother at that time and they discussed it by letter. In the end, they had decided that it was better for him to stay at Hogwarts, since he would be sick during almost half the holidays. Narcissa wanted for him to be in a comfortable place and didn't want to make him travel too much if he was too tired. As always, she was making sure that Draco had the best settings for the cycle and Draco knew that it was for his own good, even if he was a bit annoyed. He didn't tell her.

He didn't think too much about the "civilized conversation" he had had with Granger, he kept being insufferable with Harry and his friends, as always, and soon, the last Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson before the holidays came. They were done with the subject they were studying before the end of the lesson and Lupin joined his hands behind his back, smiling at the students.

"So, since we still have some time left, what about having another go with a Boggart?" He asked. Murmurs of approval could be heard in the room and he kept smiling. "I wanted you to have some fun before the holidays, you seemed to enjoy the first lesson with it. Since I found another one, I thought we might use it today, given that not everyone had a chance to try the spell."

They all left the classroom to walk towards the one they had used during their very first lesson with Lupin, and they found themselves in front of the same cupboard that had been holding the first Boggart they had faced. The cupboard suddenly moved after Lupin had closed the door, making some students jump with surprise. Lupin smiled at this and walked towards it. Harry wondered if he would have a chance to face it, this time, but he doubted it.

"It is only fair to let different students win points for their house, don't you think?" Lupin asked before he looked at some Slytherins students. Seamus whispered something about them in Dean's ear, which made the boy laugh.

"Why don't we begin with you, Miss Bullstrode?" He asked to a Slythering girl. Millicent walked in front of the crowd and Lupin let out the Boggart. The fun began, Lupin calling students one after another, switching between Slytherins and Gryffindors. After some time, the Boggart suddenly went into the cupboard again, to everyone's surprise. Lupin smiled.

"Well, I guess it's time to finish him off, why don't we?" He said. "Mr. Malfoy, would you do us the honor?" He asked. Excitement rose in Harry and Ron's bodies, while anxiety took Hermione by surprise. Draco didn't move right away, he stared at Lupin for a few seconds. His teacher was still smiling, but Draco didn't find it to be a very good idea. He only moved when he felt Pansy's hand on his shoulder as she got way closer. He turned his head to look at her.  

"What are you waiting for?" She asked, smiling, and he moved quietly forwards. He was a bit dizzy, he could feel his heart beating at an alarming speed and he wanted to loosen his tie, he felt like he couldn't breathe properly. He gave another glance at Lupin, who was still looking at him. What was he playing at? Didn't he know that it would change into a moon? That it wasn't funny? And what was he smiling about? Draco narrowed his eyes a bit. Was it a revenge because of his behavior towards him? He suddenly felt a strong urge to thump him. He didn't know why, he just wanted to keep walking towards him and hit him as hard as he could. He felt like biting him as his body temperature rose dangerously. His jaw clenched as hard as it could, he even thought that he might just do that during their next transformation. That's when he realized where his thoughts were converging and he looked at the cupboard, swallowing with great difficulty. He couldn't think about this kind of things. He couldn't think about hurting someone this way, he couldn't let the beast gain the upper hand. He couldn't let it drive him.

Lupin's words during the first cycle of this school year came back in his head; "Don't let it get to you, don't let it win". He suddenly felt ashamed as he stopped in front of everyone, facing the cupboard. He could feel the stares. They were all going to know what he was fearing the most. They were all going to see a full moon and they were all going to figure it out. Or they were going to mock him, thinking he was afraid of the night, of the dark, or something like that. He bit his cheeks from the inside of his mouth. Or maybe, maybe they would be all too stupid for that. Well, Granger wouldn't be. Granger was smart. Yeah, she was definitely smart. An iron but good taste came in his mouth, as well as a hot liquid and he stopped biting his cheeks. But still, maybe they would all be like Lavender, not being able to make the difference between the moon and a crystal ball. Maybe they were all going to say that it was why he hadn't chosen Divination that year, because he was afraid of... Stupid crystal balls. Maybe it was all going to be alright. Maybe they would think that it was ridiculous, but at least no one would think too much of his fear. Wasn't it a common fear, crystal balls? Maybe he could use one to hit Lupin hard on the head.

Draco took his wand out of his cloak and he slowly raised his hand to point it at the cupboard, waiting for Lupin to open it again. He took a deep breath and clenched his fist hard around his wand when he felt his hand slightly shaking. Lupin turned towards the cupboard, raised his wand and waved it. The lock slowly moved and they waited. The door wasn't opening and Draco thought for a second that the Boggart wasn't going to come back. Maybe it had disappeared once inside? Draco kept feeding himself with hopes before the door suddenly burst open, making everyone jump with surprise. Even Draco took a step back, feeling his hand trembling again. He tried to hold his wand more tightly, staring at the cupboard. Nothing was coming out, it was totally dark inside and they waited, Draco being the most anxious in the room.

Chapter Text

Ron was desperate. Did it mean that Malfoy wasn't afraid of anything if nothing was coming out of the cupboard? That wasn't possible, right? Everyone had to have at least one fear. Still, they were all staring, waiting for the Boggart to come out of the darkness. Even Lupin was staring intently at it.

Then, finally, they saw something coming out. It started by a long and dark stick. They all quickly understood when they saw the end of it that it was actually Lucius Malfoy's cane. Draco instantly stepped back. It couldn't be. It was impossible, he wasn't afraid of his father. Ron smirked, muttering to Harry, "Draco "My Father Will Hear About This" Malfoy is afraid of his daddy?" They both tried not to laugh. The Gryffindors were smiling. Pansy looked tensed and Crabbe and Goyle were just staring, like the other Slytherins. Hermione would have glared at Ron if she wasn't so eager to find out what was going to happen.

Lucius' hand was on the snake at the top of his cane and he slowly stepped out of the cupboard, looking behind him. His left hand wasn't visible yet. He got on the floor one foot after the other and they all understood that he was holding someone's hand. Slowly, his wife, Narcissa, stepped out of the cupboard too and Lucius freed her from his grip, slowly moving his hand behind her to rest it against her back.

What were his parents doing there? He wasn't afraid of them. He didn't get it. He slowly lowered his wand. He couldn't point it at either of his parents, never. He couldn't stop looking at them as they slowly walked towards him, looking fearful of what it might mean. His father looked really serious and Draco could make the expression in his eyes. He had seen it before, it was a weird mix between anger and disgust. And he could read his mother's expression too, unfortunately, he could see that she was silently crying. Draco felt sick. He closed his eyes during what seemed to be a minute, when it actually took him two seconds. His parents were still there when he opened them.

"Draco, your wand," he heard a voice say. It seemed to be coming from really far away, so he didn't recognize Lupin. His head was spinning as he slowly looked down at his mother's body. He could hear it. It seemed to come from far away too but he could hear it falling on the floor. He could see the thick liquid dripping from his mother's coat. He knew what that meant. He knew what his worst fear was. He should have known since he had seen his father's cane, he should have known when he had seen the way he was looking at him. He had so many nightmares about this, he should have known before seeing the tears on his mother's cheeks.

But seeing them in real life, in front of him, he couldn't even tell the difference with a Boggart. They were looking so much like his real parents. He couldn't even raise his wand again. No one was laughing anymore, even Ron had stopped when he had seen Narcissa slowly undoing the button of her coat, letting them discover the injury soaking her dress with blood.

Lucius finally removed his hand from her back, slowly moving towards Draco who was still staring at his mother.

"Draco," he heard again but he didn't pay attention to that, it seemed even more distant than before. Instead, he listened to his father.

"I should have let you die," he said quietly. Draco couldn't tell if he had really talked, though. If it wasn't for the place they were in, it was very similar to some of his dreams, maybe he was imagining it? Maybe he was imagining his father raising his cane. Maybe he would wake up in his bed and start his day, anxious for his Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson? He felt his eyes stinging but he didn't move, he hold his head up high, facing his father. He wasn't afraid of him enough for that. That's not what it was all about, it never had been. He was afraid of himself. Of the way he could hurt his parents. He felt a void in his body, he felt like he was facing them alone, his father's words echoing in his head.

For a split second, he wondered if the others had heard his father. Could a Boggart produce this kind of sounds? He found it almost funny, but not really. Because he knew deep down that it was a Boggart and that the room was full of people. He knew that it was all fake, but he wasn't doing anything to stop it. He was too shocked, like the whole classroom.

They were all staring, some with their mouths open, waiting for what would happen next, Hermione, who had a hand on her mouth, and Lupin were the only ones understanding what was going on.

Draco felt something on his shoulder, as he was waiting for the cane to hit him right across the face, and he was suddenly moving backwards. He blinked and saw the Boggart suddenly starting to change. His parents weren't there anymore, neither was the blood on the floor, and oddly enough, the thought of him wanting to be home during the holidays came back in his mind. It wasn't really the time, it was stupid, he didn't know why he was thinking about it.

After another really long moment for Draco, a moon was facing him and the person in front of him.

"Ridikulus," said Lupin, pointing his wand towards the Boggart. Draco didn't look at it anymore as it was destroyed; his eyes were on the back of Lupin's head.

And then, there was a long silence. Lupin had turned to face Draco, putting a hand on his shoulder once again as he met his eyes. Draco didn't move, he kept looking at Lupin, without really looking at him. Very slowly, he looked down. He wouldn't let his chin shake, he wouldn't give him that pleasure.

The bell rang but no one moved, Draco barely heard it. He didn't hear Lupin when he asked for the second time if he was ok.

"You did that on purpose, didn't you?" He almost whispered. Lupin frowned, trying to meet his eyes again. He wasn't sure to understand Draco.

"What? Of course not," he said, trying to speak softly. He was as surprised as everyone, he had been certain it would turn into a moon, or something like that, never into this. Yes, he had wanted Draco to participate, but he hadn't planned anything. When he found the Boggart, he didn't think of Draco, he just thought it would be another good lesson. Then, when they had started it, he had really wanted for Draco to take part in it, but it was to help him. Facing his fear would help him. He never expected the lesson to end this way.

Lupin looked up, noticing that no one had left. He cleared his throat, putting his other hand on Draco's other shoulder.

"You can go," he said at the class, which was still staring at them. They didn't move at first. "Go on," Lupin said quickly. They finally reacted and moved quietly to leave the room. Hermione was the last one to move, still totally shocked. She still had a hand on her mouth and she met Lupin's eyes before Harry patted her shoulder.

"Come on," he whispered to her, and they finally left the classroom. Draco barely moved his head when he heard people moving behind him, he didn't want to look at anyone. How would he be able to face anyone again? He was so ashamed, he should have reacted and use the spell. Why didn't he do it? He was such an idiot.

"Draco, listen to me," Lupin said. Draco didn't want to listen, he didn't want to look at his teacher, he just wanted to be alone. He put his hands on Lupin's forearms to push his hands away from his shoulders and he stepped back.

"What for?" He asked more aggressively than even he thought he would be.

"Draco-"

"Why don't you just leave me alone?" He coldly asked before he turned around to go take his bag, which was still on the floor. He stormed out of the classroom, catching Harry, Ron and Hermione's attention. They thought Draco would have a long talk with their professor, they weren't really far in the hallway; they had just left the classroom and he was already out. The trio had turned to look at him and he walked past them, bumping hard against Ron's shoulder. He didn't look at anyone, he made his way between the students, elbowing them, and Harry saw that even Pansy wasn't following him this time, she just had a weird expression on her face.

Ron was touching his shoulder, making a face. "What was that all about anyway?" He asked, looking at Harry. This one shrugged, obviously not knowing. They heard a loud and impatient "tuh" coming from Hermione, who wasn't even really back to her senses either. Still, she was capable of answering them.

"Isn't it obvious?" She asked them. It was, she couldn't understand how they were not seeing it. But she was not about to tell anything about Draco nor Lupin. She looked at the other students, Malfoy was long gone now.

 

Draco didn't know how he had managed to make his way to a bathroom that fast. All he knew was that after he had left the classroom, he had found himself in one of them. He had closed the door behind him and thrown his bag across the room out of anger. It had fallen on the floor, rolls of parchments either coming out of it, either being soaked with the bottle of ink broken on the floor. He couldn't get his parents out of his head. He leaned against the door and let the back of his head hitting it. It didn't hurt him, or at least he didn't feel it. What he was feeling were the tears rolling down his cheeks. He couldn't stop thinking about it, about the night everything had changed, about his dreams. He let himself slide against the door and ended up sitting on the floor, crying without being able to help it.

It had always surprised him how clear the memories of the attack were, even if it had happened years ago, it seemed like it had happened the day before. Even if he had fainted, even if he hadn't been paying attention to everything, it was like living it all over again every time he was thinking about it.

He could remember the room he had been in when it happened. He was sitting on the sofa and it wasn't really comfortable. There was a table near it, there were shelves and cupboards, but what had attracted him the most was a really big bay window on his left. At some point, he even stood up to look through it. He could remember clearly what he was doing. He could remember the song he had been practicing on his legs. He could remember hearing some noise and looking around him as he stopped moving his fingers. He had stayed silent for a few seconds and when he had heard another noise, he had glanced at the door on his right. Behind it were his father and the man he was meeting. He had waited during a few seconds and then he had stood up, approaching it quietly. He hadn't heard anything behind it, he had even tried to look through the lock but it was too dark inside. Then, he had heard another noise and he had turned his head to look at the door they all walked through to come in this room.

Maybe he had started to have a bad feeling because he was young at the time and that he was scared too easily. So, he had told himself that he was stupid, and he had just walked in the room, looking at the books on the shelves, before he had stopped in front of the window, still quiet like his father had asked.

He could remember how the room he was in was lighted by candles. He could remember how the outside was lighted by the moonlight.

And then, he went to sit again.

He could remember the moment the door was destroyed, when he first saw it. The thought that it was weird that it was staring at him without moving further more even crossed his mind while panic rose in him. And he moved backwards on the couch. He moved backwards and ended up standing up on it. He could already feel the tears on his cheeks and his body was shaking but he wasn't able to make any sound. Instead, he kept moving backwards. He even fell of the couch and felt a great pain in his wrist. But he didn't moan, there was something blocking anything that wanted to come out of his throat, and blocking the air that wanted to come in.

He couldn't see the beast anymore, because it was hidden behind the couch. And Draco kept moving backwards, pushing himself with his feet and his hands, not caring about the pain in his wrist. And then, it suddenly came from above the couch. It had jump over it and Draco couldn't even feel the pain in his arm anymore, because his side was much more injured. And this time, he could scream. He couldn't stop screaming, actually, and then he wasn't touching the ground, and his body was moving from right to left and he hit something really hard.

The wall, he had flown against the wall. He had hit his head, but he didn't feel it, nor did he feel the thin blood trickle coming from his eyebrow arch. His side was burning. It was burning and bleeding and he thought for a moment that he was on fire. He was still screaming, crying, bleeding. It was keeping him awake, even if his vision was blurred. He didn't even hear his father using strong spells to blast the werewolf away. What he heard, though, was the giant window breaking when the creature went through the glass. And all he could think about were his parents. His mother wasn't even there when the thought that he was probably about to die hit him. He was so cold when he had been so hot thirty seconds before. But his father was there. Maybe he could ask him to help him. Maybe his father would find a solution. And he heard himself articulate "dad".

Draco could remember trying desperately to tell his father that he wanted to be home with him and his mother but he never knew if he ever got the words out. It felt as though the agony was keeping him from moving, then from opening his eyes again. He didn't faint directly, he was just too tired to be able to lift his eyelids.

He then had had the impression that he was falling. Or was he floating? He couldn't feel the wooden floor anymore. Actually, Draco had just never realized that his father was holding him in his arms to leave this hell. He had thought that it was over, that he wasn't even going to suffer anymore. It was like his side was sleeping, he wasn't feeling his blood leaving his body anymore, but he wasn't feeling a lot of air getting in either. So, he had been certain that he was dying and he had just let the tiredness carry him.

 

When he had been able to open his eyes again, finally, he noticed that he wasn't in a coffin, at last. He actually doubted that a coffin would be this comfortable. But he wasn't in the room he had been attacked in either. He had hardly swallowed his spit, which had made him stop breathing for two seconds. He had exhaled a short amount of air directly after that, taking some more just after. It was burning his lungs and his throat.

He was staring at a ceiling. He blinked and slowly moved his fingers. He was definitely in a bed. He had wondered if it had all been a dream and he slowly turned his head. It hurt so bad, and not only because he had the worst headache he ever had in nine years on Earth but because his entire body was aching as though he had been beaten up very violently.

The door of the room was slightly open, letting a really small amount of light in the room. Draco had recognized his own bedroom and he had let his eyes scan it for a few seconds before he noticed her. His mother was next to him, on a chair that shouldn't be in the middle of the way to his bed like it was. She was asleep, her head resting on her shoulder. He couldn't really make her features, he could just hear her steady breathing.

His father wasn't there. Draco had opened his mouth to wake his mother up, he really wanted her to talk to him, to be closer. But his throat was so dry that he only ended up coughing when his voice broke in the beginning of his sentence. It woke his mother up, at least. She had been startled but didn't waste any time, getting to her feet and sitting on the bed. Clearly, she didn't fall deliberately asleep but was waiting anxiously for her son to show a sign that he was alright. She took a glass of water that was on the bedside table and Draco felt her free hand on the back of his neck, then on the back of his head as she helped him to drink. He slowly raised his hands, weakly gripping the glass, one of his hands on his mother's wrist. The water made him feel a bit better already. It was cold and it was a nice feeling after he had felt his body burning the way it did. She only removed the glass from his lips when he pushed it away a little and as soon as his mother had put the glass on the bedside table again, she put her hands on Draco's cheeks, looking at him with her eyes filled with tears. Her hands were cold and he wondered if she wasn't freezing. Maybe she was sick? He thought that she could come in the bed with him, they could rest together and she would feel better, not realizing that she wasn't cold at all. He just had a lot of fever. He didn't say anything about his thoughts, he just stared at his mother, waiting to see what would happen.

"My son..." His mother had kept repeating, her hands caressing his cheeks, her fingers running through his hair. "My son..."

"Mother..." Draco had finally muttered in a low voice. He heard a sob coming from his mother, which made him feel bad, and they both got closer. He needed to be in her arms and she wanted him in hers.

She held him close against her body during a really long time during which Draco became drowsy again. He had been able to feel her heart beating fast and he had closed his eyes, enjoying his mother's whispers and caresses that lead him into a light sleep. When he opened his eyes again, he was still in her arms. She hadn’t moved nor stopped her caresses and he never noticed he had been asleep.

"Where's Father?" He had finally whispered when he felt a weird sensation on one side of his body. He closed his eyes again. He had his mother's fingers running through his hair, her other arm tight around him and he was in a really comfortable position, simply feeling better.

"He will be back... He is taking care of everything..." He heard his mother say. She was speaking with a low voice, softly, and Draco had been sure she had her eyes closed too. His father was taking care of everything, so it would be alright. He felt like his ears were ringing and he suddenly opened his eyes, staring at the wall in front of the bed. In his head, he had seen its face. He couldn't stand it.

"Mother..." He whispered. She didn't say anything but he knew that she was listening to him. "I don't want to die..." He finally said. His mother had a faint smile on her face.

"You are safe now, you don't have to worry anymore," she simply said.

"But Mother," Draco said, his voice trembling. He didn't want to keep talking because he didn't want his mother to stop holding him if he started crying. "I don't want to live like that either..." He muttered. She didn't let go of him, she just stopped moving her fingers on his head. She was a bit more tense and she had opened her eyes. Draco felt his chin shaking and his grip on his mother's dress became a bit tighter. She couldn't let go of him, he didn't want her to.

"Draco," his mother began to say before she felt Draco moving against her. When she looked down, she found him staring at her.

"Father is taking care of everything," he said, "surely, he will find a solution, won't he?"

Taken aback, Narcissa hadn't say anything, she  kept staring at his grey eyes shining because of the tears he was holding back.

"He can do anything, I mean, it's Father, he will help me, won't he?" Draco asked again. Then, he felt his mother's hands on his cheeks again and he closed his eyes when he felt her lips against his forehead. It made him feel good for about a second, because as soon as he had closed his eyes again, the image of the werewolf had appeared in his head.

 

Draco suddenly opened his eyes, facing the empty bathroom he had locked himself in. He was panting and he used his sleeves to dry his cheeks. He took a long breath and stood up. He couldn't let his mind make him live this all over again. He couldn't let his mind show him the nightmares he had had all those years already, were he was mercilessly attacking his parents in his other form before waking up in tears, sweating and panting. He had been running towards their room so many times that they weren't surprise anymore. His father wasn't bothering a lot about that now that they were used to it, he was just telling him that they were alright before laying again on his mattress. His mother, however, was usually walking him to his bedroom to talk with him a little before she could set off to bed again. He couldn't let those images of the werewolf come into his mind again. He had to stop thinking about those eyes, those fangs, his howls. He pushed his hands against his eyes when it came back in his mind, gritting his teeth.

He just wanted it to stop. It was too much pressure for a thirteen year old. He wasn't supposed to feel all of this, was he? And he wasn't supposed to repress every single of those very same stupid feelings. Or was he? No, definitely not. He ran his fingers through his hair as he took really deep breaths, trying to calm down. He couldn't panic now. Everything was going so fine before Lupin arrived in the school. He had to walk in and change everything, even if it wasn't his intentions.

The fact was that even if Lupin wanted to help Draco, he simply was a constant reminder of his condition, of their condition, and it was driving Draco mad. Before, it was easier to avoid thinking about it when the full moon was gone. But he had to cross path with Lupin every day and it was too much. He had no way of stopping those thoughts to come back when he was seeing him in the Great Hall. Every time Draco was walking in to go eat, Lupin was there, sitting next to Snape, and Draco had flashes of the nights spent in the Shrieking Shack with his teacher coming back to him. That wasn't right. That wasn't fair. And now, he had to be careful not to show his arm. It was fine as long as he had bandages but he couldn't keep acting like it was still hurting for a long time. He had already stopped using the splint, what if someone saw his arm after that? In the changing room before his Quidditch team would use the pitch to train, for example? It was already really challenging to change with this big ass scar on his side, but if he had to hide that everyday, now, it would be even more difficult. He wasn't even allowed to roll up his sleeves anymore.

After taking another deep breath, Draco leaned against the wall, staring at his bag that was still on the floor. Maybe he could get a revenge. Maybe there was still time to have him sack. He just had to send an owl to his father and next thing Lupin would know, he would be out of the castle.

But would Draco be satisfied? It wasn't even making him smile, right now. All of this because of Umbridge. Lupin would be out of his way but he wouldn't be able to find another job. If it had been anyone else, Draco wouldn't have cared, but the situation was different. Because it could have easily been him, they just had different upbringings. And because he could understand what it was like, he knew that he wouldn't get any satisfaction with this kind of actions. It was easy to make fun of Potter, he was a loser getting attention for something he certainly didn't do on purpose. Draco had survived too, he had a scar too, what was the difference? It was stupid, really. But did Lupin deserve what had happened to him? Probably not, he had been five. And by the look of it, he was miserable.

Funny. Draco had been able to shut down compassion since... He had always been able to sort out his emotions, shove them in a corner of his mind and let them rot there. And because of one man, it was all coming back to him.

He needed to find a way to escape that. He needed to find a way to stop thinking about it or he would feel like hell for the rest of his schooling. He slowly walked in the room, glancing at the mirror in front of him. God, he was looking as pathetic as Lupin, at that moment. Not only because he was in the weak state he was always in before and after the cycles but also because his eyes were red, his hair were untidy... He basically looked like a mess. A bit of magic on his hair would do the trick but it was still visible that he had cried. He crouched next to his stuff.

"Reparo," he said, flicking his wand towards the ink bottle. It was useless but at least, he felt like he had done something right that day. Pathetic, he thought. And his work was ruined. He took the stained parchments and put them back in his bag. He would have to work on them again. Well, at least, he would be in the library, no one would bother him there. He didn't feel like going to his common room or wander in the hallways, hoping no one would look at him. They all probably already knew what had happened.

He stood up, his bag in his hand, and he walked towards the door. Putting his hand on the doorknob, he took a deep breath. It wasn't the first time he was cracking because of the pressure but it had never been that bad, he had never been so panicky. But as usual, he just needed to breathe and act like nothing was going on. He would just stare at his feet, his red eyes were too visible on his pale face.

At least, he was lucky, no one was in the corridor when he got out of the bathroom. They had already enough to discuss with the Boggart, they didn't need to add a depressed looking Malfoy getting out of a bathroom after what had happened in the classroom. At least, Draco didn't need that.

He walked carefully in the hallway, surprised that no one was there. And then, it hit him. They were all in class. He shook his head as he went down the stairs. He would catch up later, he definitely didn't want to have to go in a class that late. He liked attention, but not that day. So, he walked towards the library, ready to write his homeworks all over again. And possibly, he would think about what he could do to escape the pressure, to feel a bit better sometimes. He needed to find an occupation, it was simple.

 

He heard the bell ring some time after he had started to work. It was lunch time but he wasn't going to join the others in the Great Hall.

"I'm not even hungry, what's the point..." He thought before he heard his stomach betraying his thoughts. "Shut up, you," he muttered, staring at his parchment. He had sat at his usual table, got his homework out of his bag and took the only parchment that wasn't dirty out of his bag. And he kept working without looking at the really rare students walking in. He was focusing on his work, thinking that maybe it was the solution. Maybe he just needed to focus on his school work. He needed to keep his grades up, it might help him get his mind out of everything else. Well, it would if he had enough parchments to copy the rest of his homeworks. He looked in his back, getting out the ones that were dirty and he sighed. Of course, he hadn't any. But he didn't want to go back to his dormitory to take some, lunchtime or not.

"Here, take this," he heard. He looked up to see Hermione Granger sitting on a seat at the same table as him. His mind went blank for a few seconds as he stared at her, not taking the roll of parchment she was handing him. She didn't say anything else, she stared at him too, apparently waiting. He wondered if she had noticed that he had cried. After a moment, he narrowed his eyes.

Of course, she had noticed. She had also noticed the stained parchments and couldn't stand that he was having such an horrible day, Malfoy or not.

"Do you really expect me to take this?" He asked bitterly. Hermione rolled her eyes and put the roll next to her, where it probably was before she had tried to give it to him.

"Right, I forgot, I touched it so it might be contaminated," she said, not amused.

"It's not-" Draco began to say straight away before he stopped himself. He gritted his teeth as she looked at him. Stupid. He was simply stupid. Why did he open his mouth to correct her? He didn't want to refuse because she was a Mudblood, not this time. It wasn't the first thing that had crossed his mind anyway. But he should have rolled with it, she wouldn't have talked to him again. But now, she was looking at him with those stupid eyes of hers and she seemed really eager to know what he was going to say. He didn't plan on continuing his sentence, but she was staring and it was seriously annoying him. "I don't need pity coming from a Mudblood," he finally said coldly even though the last part of his sentence had barely been audible. Hermione let out a derisive laugh.

"Pity," she repeated, shaking her head before starting to write on her parchment again. "Trust me, I don't pity you," she said, not quite honest. Maybe she had felt some pity for him that morning, but that wasn't what was making her help him. "Do whatever you want, Malfoy, I just thought it would be-" she said before she shook her head again. "Think whatever you want."

He didn't say anything. He kept staring at her for a few seconds as she was working. He frowned a little, scanning her features for a while before he finally stood up. He saw that she had stopped writing when he did but she wasn't looking at him. He finally walked towards her and stopped once next to her chair. She glanced at the parchment when she saw his hand reaching it. He was about to turn around when she looked up.

"You're welcome," she said with a satisfied smile. Again, he stared at her, meeting her eyes for a second. It seemed like he wanted to say something, but nothing came out. Instead, he turned and stumbled on the chair that was behind him. Hermione tried not to laugh as he walked sheepishly towards his seat again, sitting.

He didn't get back to work immediately, though. Instead, he stared at the roll for a few seconds before he glanced at Hermione, who was working again.

Chapter Text

"Are you staying for Christmas?" Hermione asked after a while. Draco stopped writing at once and glanced at her. Why did she keep talking to him? He was sure that she didn't like him at all, he had always done everything for her not to feel any sympathy for him. Was she just doing this thinking that he would stop annoying her and her friends if she was nice to him? Still, he was a bit taken aback and that day, he was way too weary to fight about anything. His brain was refusing to find an insult; it didn't want to work properly at the moment.

"I-I," he first managed to say before he cleared his throat, "Yeah," he said reluctantly, still wondering why she was asking. Hermione could clearly tell that he was annoyed. Well, she wasn't exactly sure if he was annoyed about staying there for the holidays or if it was because she was talking to him.

"You don't want to?" She asked, trying to engage in a conversation, even if he had made clear that he wasn't going to give her more information besides his "yeah". It's not that she wanted to be friend with him, he was a horrible and rude little prat, but it wasn't shuting down her curiosity. She had managed to have a... "civilized conversation" with him before in this very same place, why wouldn't they have another one?

"I'd rather be home than surrounded by you three, if you catch my drift," Draco said coldly. That's when he realized that not only he couldn't go home, but that he really was stuck in the castle with the three students he hated the most. He had just said that for Hermione to back off but it suddenly hit him that it was real. There wouldn't even be Crabbe, Goyle or Pansy with him to annoy the younger kids that would stay. Plus, lately, Potter and Weasel had this stupid habit of appearing in his way from who knew where to startle him. He didn't know how they were doing that, but it was starting to piss him off. He'd really rather be home alone than having those two around during three entire weeks, since almost every students were leaving. Granger wasn't really a problem, she wasn't with them during those times, Draco was pretty sure that she'd rather stay far away from him and that was pleasing him.

"Right, we are insufferable and you are the most joyful thing to be around during Christmas," Hermione said as she glanced at Draco. This one wondered if she was using the word "insufferable" as any other words or if it came into her mind because Snape had used it against her when they had had Defence Against the Dark Arts with him.

"You don't need to be so offended because he was telling the truth," Draco said as he smirked for the first time since he had got out of Lupin's class that day. He didn't know if it was a good thing, since it was happening because of Granger, but this conversation was at least taking his mind off things for now. Was it the solution to his problems, having to talk to people? Or just being mean to them? Because clearly, working on his school work wasn't helping.

"I might know a lot of things but I am not insufferable," Hermione said matter-of-factly.

"Keep telling yourself that," Draco said as he raised his eyebrows, not convinced. Hermione looked rather unimpressed by this attack and she looked at her book again. Draco didn't know why, but seeing that she had already lost her interest in their conversation annoyed him. "Come on, admit it. You're proud of making everyone know that you know everything, insufferable or not."

"I wouldn't say that I am proud, I just think it's nice to know what's ahead of us," she said, still not looking at him. "Besides, you know a lot of things too and I don't see anyone telling you anything about that, especially Professor Snape. No even when you're just disturbing his class like you did last week."

"That's because I don't feel the need of showing everyone that I know more things than they do. I mean, look at me. They just know it already," he said. Hermione glanced at him and snorted when she saw his smugly expression.

"What an idiot," she thought, a bit amused. She wasn't sure that Draco had been saying that to show off. There was something on his face telling her that he was just being humorous in his own way and that was really weird. He was only laughing with his friends, usually because they were making fun of students, but never was he trying to amuse Granger the Mudblood. And that was also contrasting with the expression that had been on his face when she had come in the library. He hadn't even noticed her when she sat down, making noise with her chair then her books. She had been surprised to see him there, she thought he had left to go to his common room. Now, his eyes were still red but less than when she had walked in and it had been very difficult to imagine that Draco might have cried because of what had happened in class.

Actually, just imagining Draco crying seemed ridiculous, impossible. Now, it was like... Like Draco was able to feel things, like he had problems on his own -besides this whole werewolf situation- and for Hermione, having those thoughts was as weird as seeing Draco make this... joke. She had only ever seen him being angry or annoying, obnoxious really. Even scared once or twice, but that was about it. Still, she had never thought the day Draco would cry his eyes out would happen. "Oh, I'm looking alright, and all I can see in an idiot thinking it's fine to do whatever he wants when someone is teaching," she said with a little smile, still amused. Draco raised an eyebrow as he tilted his head, looking at her.

"Like you said, I know a lot of things too. He had nothing new to teach me about-" Draco stopped for a second. With anyone else, it would have come off as him searching for an appropriate name for the creature, but Hermione knew that it wasn't like that. He had been talking too fast, for once, to stop so abruptly in the middle of his sentence. "Those disgusting things," he ended up saying, still staring at Hermione like he was scanning her face for her reaction. And Hermione hoped that he hadn't been able to read her face when he had said that. To hide it, she had immediately looked away at her work again, her heart beating fast. Was that what Draco was thinking of himself? Did he think that he was so disgusting for being a werewolf that he couldn't even say what he was without feeling bad? It didn't seem to be a problem back in the classroom, when he had made that howl. Maybe he was just trying to act like it was any other subject and that he was just trying to be offensive, or maybe that he was testing her, to see what someone else was thinking of werewolves.

"I don't think they are disgusting," She finally said, a bit lower than before, still not looking at him. "It's not like they chose to be like that, did they?" Now, she was regretting having turned her head because she couldn't see his expression anymore. But now, if she was staring at him while talking like that, she was sure he might get suspicious. Even if it was hard to admit it, and even if he was sometimes acting like a baby, she knew that Malfoy wasn't born yesterday. He would be able to take the hint.

"Probably because you don't have proper standards. I mean, look at your friends," he said, sounding offended. Hermione couldn't understand why, though. He was basically insulting himself in front of her and sounded as if her accepting the existence of werewolves wasn't something normal. Either Draco really hated his life as one of them, either it was like she thought, he just wanted to be offensive. But there was this tiny note in the way he was talking that made Hermione think that he was talking honestly, and she totally disregarded the fact that he was insulting her best friends.

"We clearly don't have the same standards, then," she said, finally looking at him. "But mine are so much better than yours. If you think that you, an arrogant show off, annoying and insulting everyone because you think they are not worth your presence and who really should get over himself, has better standards than me, we will have to disagree."

There was a moment of wavering that they used to stare at each other. Malfoy didn't look angry or offended, this time, just a bit surprised. And Hermione was only showing that she was standing by every single word she had said. Surely, he wouldn't be able to know what she was really thinking with those words. It only implied that not being disgusted by werewolves wasn't something making her less of a good person than him, on the contrary, and it was something she would have told him even if she hadn't known the truth. Yes, definitely, Malfoy wouldn't get suspicious with that.

"Let's disagree, then," Malfoy said slowly. Hermione bore an expression translating her agreement with their disagreement and she glanced at his parchment and the open book next to it. He was apparently working on his History of Magic homework but she knew that he needed some of the things they had talked about that day. Unfortunately, Draco didn't show up after what had happened in Lupin's class. She frowned.

"You're not going to be able to finish that," she told him. Malfoy frowned before he looked down at his work, then at her again, still frowning. "I mean, Professor Binns talked about some things you need to add in your work today," she explained, waiting for him to understand that he had skipped the class she was talking about. In the end, he blinked and put down his quill on the table as he opened his mouth, taking a gulp of air, before he closed it, gritting his teeth. He was clearly stopping himself from sighing heavily.

"Great, just what I needed," he said sarcastically.

"Do you want my notes?" She asked. Draco looked as shocked as he would have if Potter, Weasel and Granger had just made him their new best friend in chief. "I mean, I've already finished my homework, so I can-" she started but stopped herself, not knowing what to do. Maybe she shouldn't have proposed that. Not only because it was Malfoy, but also because she was probably going to be insulted once again. Too bad, she had more or less succeeded in having a second "nice" conversation with him. He hadn't even said Mudblood once yet. But Draco didn't insult her. Maybe because his mood was so bad that he didn't have the energy to be too obnoxious that day.

"I'm fine, I'll just ask Crabbe or Goyle," he said. Or Pansy. But he doubted that she had that much notes for that class. He couldn't even tell if she was usually listening to Binns anymore. He had never really minded her presence and the attention before, on the contrary, they had quite a strong friendship, but lately he was often faking to listen to her or Crabbe and Goyle. He was merely nodding while he was letting his mind wander on its own. It had actually been a while since he had had a real conversation with somebody without thinking about what was going on with Lupin. He saw Hermione narrowing her eyes.

"Crabbe or... Goyle? Really?" She asked. She was surprised when she heard Malfoy chuckle as he looked down at his parchment.

"Yeah, probably a bit too thick for that," he muttered. Hermione felt a little smile appearing on her lips and she kept looking at Draco for a few seconds.

"I'm not going to tell anyone, you know, I know how much of a disaster it would be," she said and Malfoy looked up, his eyebrows raised. Their eyes met and for a second, Hermione had been sure that he was under the impression she was talking about something else than the History of Magic notes. She looked away. "If you accept to take my notes. As long as you give them back to me, no one will know," she said before she looked at him out of the corner of her eye. Draco's face seemed a bit more relaxed than it had been a second before and for a really short moment, she regretted not telling him that she knew. "So?"

The bell rang but they kept staring at each other for a moment. Realizing that she should probably hurry to go to her next class, Hermione stood up, putting her parchment back in her bag as well as her books. Malfoy watched her do so, wondering how her bag wasn't totally ripped already, still not saying anything until she started to walk towards the exit.

"Wait, Granger-" Draco said as he suddenly stood up, hitting the table with his legs. He made a face as he restrained a groan before he walked quickly towards Hermione who had turned around. "Ok, fine."

Hermione looked at him for a second before she opened her bag again, taking out the notebook she was using for that class.

"Here," she said as she handed him the book. "You shouldn't skip anymore classes today," she then said, not knowing if he was going to join the students for their next lesson. It seemed like Draco hesitated once more before he took the notebook. He didn't say anything else, he didn't thank her, he didn't look at her, he just turned around. Hermione didn't complain, didn't really care if he wasn't thankful, she knew him, it wasn't a surprise. She just turned and walked out.

Draco turned his head when he heard her footsteps and she disappeared behind a shelf. He looked down at the notebook for a moment before he put it on the table, looking at his parchment. He sighed and shoved his belongings in his bag, knowing that she was right. Binns probably didn't notice his absence but McGonagall would. Once he had put his stuff in his bag, he glanced at the notebook that was still on the table. He took it and started to walk to get out of there or he was really going to be late.

At least, he had something to look at while going to his class since he didn't want to look at anyone. Instead, he opened the notebook to look at what was inside. He narrowed his eyes. How could someone taking so much classes and working that much could be that meticulous with their stuff? Unbelievable, Granger really wanted to be perfect, didn't she? Draco slightly shook his head. Of course, when he was thinking perfect, he was thinking about school work. She wanted the teachers to think that she was perfect. That was it. That was her way of showing off. It was as simple as that.

He almost ran into a wall and he finally looked up, glancing around before he kept walking in the right direction, keeping the notebook in his hands. He didn't want to put it in his bag when there was still some ink in it, even if he was sure that it was dry. He didn't want to take any risk. Granger was already beating him when it came to grades, he didn't need her to literally beat him up.

He had to say, the Mudblood could be scary. Besides, who would know it was hers? No one. Definitely no one would know he had accepted something from a Muggle-born.

He didn't look at her when he walked in the class, even if she glanced at him and saw her notebook in his left hand. She kept her smile to herself and listened to what Ron was talking about with Harry. She still couldn't believe that Draco was holding something she was owning in his hands. He really must have been shaken by the class. A lot of people were actually glancing at him, whispering, but he acted like he wasn't seeing them. Harry turned a bit his head to try and see him and even Pansy seemed tense next to him. She was glancing at him but not talking, perhaps because she didn't want him to be aggressive like he had been during the first feast. Draco was too busy reading something to care about her anyway, apparently.

 

Quickly enough, the day was over. The next morning, the students were going back home, leaving behind the only few ones that weren't going back to their places for the holidays.

"Well, I guess that answers your question," Ron told Harry after they crossed path with Snape and Malfoy who was following his teacher in the stairs on their way to the Great Hall. He had given them the most contemptuous look he could possibly give and muttered something under his breath. He didn't have his bandages anymore.

"Yeah, well, in the end I don't know if I want to find out anymore," Harry sighed as he walked through the doors, noticing Hermione surrounded by books at their table.

"Let's just stay far away from him, mate," Ron said as he shrugged, relieved that Harry seemed to be dropping it. At the same time, he knew that what was going on with the Dementors and Sirius Black wasn't helping. Harry couldn't wait to have his first private lesson with Lupin in order to be able to use the Patronus Charm. They sat down near Hermione. "Still working?" Ron asked. Hermione only glanced at him but didn't say anything. Apparently, she was still angry about the argument they had had the night before. Harry thought Ron had a point, Crookshanks was always attacking Scabbers. Still, he didn't like when they were fighting and was glad to see that Ron was trying to act like nothing had happened, even if he knew why he was really doing it.

"Maybe we should finish our homework too, don't you think?" Harry asked innocently.

"Good idea, Harry!" Ron said, taking some parchments from his bag. "Now, I thought we could work on this History stuff, it's the most annoying thing to do," he said, glancing at Hermione who was still not saying anything.

"Right, we should do that," Harry said, looking in his bag. "I think I forgot my notes in the dormitory," he then said, glancing at Hermione too. Ron was about to open his mouth but he was interrupted before he even got the chance to say anything.

"I'm not giving you mine," Hermione said shortly. They both exchanged a look for a second before Ron turned towards Hermione, being next to her, and he put his hands on her arm.

"Come on now, Hermione, I'm not mad at you, I promise!" He said.

"Well, next time, you'll just think about listening during the lesson!" Hermione said, suddenly turning her head towards him. Ron instantly moved from a few inches, removing his hands from her arm.

The truth was that even if it was annoying her to always help them with their work, especially that year, she wouldn't be able to give them her notes, Draco still had them. She only gave them to him the day before and even if he could have already finished his work, they were usually interacting in the library and she doubted that he would take the risk of giving them back to her outside of that place, even if there was barely anyone in the castle. Plus, she was still pissed at Ron, so why not use this as an excuse?

"So, we saw Snape with Draco a minute ago," Harry said to Hermione. She still didn't look up but stopped writing for a second.

"I thought you had decided to drop it?" Ron said to Harry, annoyed. Harry shrugged, of course he still wanted to know, he was just sorting out his priorities. And maybe that for once, Hermione would talk to them. She was working way too much. "You know, you have three weeks to finish all your work, maybe you could cut yourself some slack," Ron said, hoping that she wouldn't talk about Draco with Harry if he was distracting her. She suddenly closed her book, making him jump with suprise and she looked at Harry.

"You're right," she said to Ron without looking at him. "And I know already, he just walked in for breakfast, I suppose, when Snape made him turn around and they left," she explained.

 

"So," Snape said as he walked behind his desk, Draco closing the door behind him. The boy was wondering what was so important to make him miss the breakfast. He hadn't eaten a lot the last evening, he hadn't felt all that hungry, even if his stomach was craving for some food. He just had too much on his plate, no pun intended. "I heard that you had an interesting lesson with Professor Lupin, yesterday. Very interesting, indeed." Draco closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.

"And I'd rather not talk about it, actually, sir," he said. He met Snape's gaze and gave him a little smile.

"He told me exactly what happened," Snape continued.

"Yeah, you mean what he caused," Draco said before realizing that he might been sounding a bit rude. "Sir."

"He seemed genuinely worried but he also told me that you refused to talk to him about it," Snape pursued. Draco shrugged, looking away. "Let me remind you that whatever your relationship with him is like, you can always come here if you need someone to confide in," Snape said as he finally met Draco's eyes again. This one was a bit taken aback. Yes, he knew, he had already told a lot to his teacher over the years, but having Snape putting words on the nature of those conversations was just really weird, especially since he was sounding really cold.

"It was just... You know, nothing, really," Draco said, not capable of telling what he had on his mind. Snape kept staring at him to the point Malfoy became really uncomfortable.

"Are you sure?" Draco heard Snape ask and he simply nodded, trying hard not to rush to the door. "Can I see your arm?" Snape then asked. He had noticed that he didn't have his bandages anymore, when he still had them the day before. "Is it totally healed?" And again, Malfoy nodded, approaching. He pulled the sleeve of his cloak up, then he rolled up his shirt's sleeve. He didn't look at his arm, he just stared as Snape as he let him take a look.

He gritted his teeth when he felt Snape's fingers on his wrist and that his teacher bent a bit more to have a better look. Draco finally glanced at his arm. The long scars were clearly visible, still red because too recent. He found them really ugly.

"It would look better if you had let Madam Pomfrey take care of it," Snape told, still staring at the scars.

"I didn't need to, look, I'm fine," Draco said and Snape finally looked up, meeting his eyes again.

"Are you, really?" He asked. Draco felt like Snape could see right through him and he didn't like that. He looked away.

"Don't try to read my mind," he said.

"I wouldn't dare," Snape said as his lips curled up. He freed Draco's arm and straightened up.

"There's nothing to see anyway," Draco said as he shrugged, trying to look relaxed as he walked towards some shelves to examine their content without any interest.

"Nothing? Now, Draco, I wouldn't go as far as saying "nothing". We both know that is a lie," Snape said, sitting at his desk. Draco kept staring at the flasks on the shelf in front of him as well as the books but his eyes weren't on it. They slowly moved on their left, even if he couldn't see Snape from that angle, he was just really annoyed by what he was saying. Draco distractedly reached one of the flask, touching it with the tip of his fingers. "Do not touch," Snape cold voice said and Draco had automatically slipped his hand in his pocket like he hadn't touched the shelf at all.

"I'm not going to break anything," He said.

"I don't care," Snape said. Draco didn't answer, he didn't see the point.

"So, can I go eat now?" He asked, coming back in front of the desk, acting like nothing was bothering him.

"I still didn't hear you telling me anything about your last class with Lupin. Why don't we talk about this first?" Snape asked, not looking at Draco but writing something on a parchment. A good looking bad mark. It made Draco smirk.

"Because I really don't want to?" Draco said, hopeful that Snape would end up letting him go. But he just got a glance from Snape and he rolled his eyes. "It's not important, really. I don't know what he is worrying about and why you would."

"I presume it's because the whole class got a glimpse of your mo-"

"I don't care," Draco said shortly and coldly, interrupting his teacher. This one slowly looked up to glare at Draco but this time, Draco really didn't care. He didn't need a reminder like this, he knew that they had seen, he knew that everyone was talking about it. Even McGonagall had asked him if he was feeling alright at the end of her last lesson because she had heard about what had happened already. "Why is everyone so obsessed with this anyway? It was just a stupid Boggart!"

"That you were unable to jinx," Snape said as he stood up, walking to join Draco in front of his desk as the boy looked down. "We both know that you are a good wizard, don't we? I don't remember ever seeing you not being able to do something you were learning," he said. Draco didn't even feel good about this compliment, if anything, it made him feel worse. He wondered if it had been Snape's intention, since right now Draco was pretty rude.

"I couldn't use a spell against my parents," Draco said in a low voice.

"That is my point, it wasn't your parents," Snape said, staring at Draco who was still refusing to look at him. Draco gritted his teeth as his hand became a fist in his pocket. Snape had understood than even though Draco knew it had been a Boggart, he couldn't clearly dissociate it from his behavior with his parents. He would never point a wand at either of them, and so he couldn't do it in front of the Boggart either, even if he knew that it was fake.

"Whatever, if felt like it was. Do you really imagine me pointing my wand at either of them?" Drao asked. Snape's lips curled up at that thought. "It's the only reason I didn't do anything, it was too weird. It's not like I was afraid or anything," Draco lied, not noticing that he was talking lower with every word.

"I will just take your word for it, then," Snape said and finally, Draco looked at him with bright eyes.

"Thank you, sir," he felt the need to say. He didn't move, though, he kept staring at his teacher.

"You may go, now," Snape said and Draco turned directly to walk towards the door. "I will see you tonight."

Draco froze with his hand on the doorknob. He swallowed before he opened the door without saying anything and trying not to think about the potion he had to take that evening.

Draco was glad to sit alone at the big Slytherin table. The only student left from his house had probably eaten already and he was pleased not to have to sit near him to reach the food. He had the table for himself. Behind him, though, was the golden trio. He ignored them and they did the same. He ate enough food to remedy to the lack of what he had had in his stomach the day before, even if he was feeling a bit nauseous. When his owl came in the Great Hall, it's with a little smile that he took his father's letter, as well as one from his mother. There was also one from Pansy already, telling her that she had had a good trip back and that she hoped he would have good holidays even if he was stuck there. Before her departure, she had even proposed to write down her name on McGonagall's list to keep him company but he had refused, knowing that it wasn't really necessary since he would be sick. So, he told her that she should enjoy her time with her family.

He had been annoying with her, lately. Always in a bad mood, even his thoughts had turned bad. He couldn't count the number of times he had insulted his friends in his head since the beginning of the year. The pressure on his shoulders wasn't allowing him to be nice with anyone anymore, even in his head, he was constantly horrible with people and just realized that with this letter. Pansy was used to his mood swings since he had always been like that. Once par month, she was comparing him to a girl. But this time, it was worse than ever. Still, Pansy had always been there for him, she was a really good friend, too bad he couldn't confide in her as much as she was confiding in him.

He read his parents' letters as he kept eating and, when he was done and that he stood up, he couldn't help but glance at Granger and her friends. Apparently, she didn't care if it was the holidays, seeing the numerous books around her. Draco wondered why she was staying in such company when she could be at peace in the library. He smirked when he heard Weasley ask her for her History of Magic notes and that she refused, not even knowing that it wasn't the first time that morning.

Ron turned his head to look behind him when he noticed that Harry was staring at something behind he and Hermione. It was Malfoy, who wasn't moving but staring at Hermione. Ron frowned, wondering why he wasn't leaving.

"What are you looking at?" Ron asked aggressively, his mood turning bad as soon as he saw him. Hermione turned her head too, met Draco's eyes for a second before this one blinked and glanced at Ron.

"Because her nasty Mudblood smell is ruining my appetite," Draco said as he made a disgusted face, not looking at Hermione anymore. "Or is that yours? I mean, we all know your family is pretty disgusting but... Here, you have enough water to shower everyday," Draco said as he made another face, looking away from Ron. He finally glanced at Hermione to see her reaction before he smirked, satisfied with himself. He didn't address a word to Harry as he finally decided to leave, his letters in his hand.

Ron wanted to get up and thump him but the teacher's presence made him stop just as Harry was about to tell him not to.

"Just ignore him," Hermione almost whispered. Ron kept complaining, though, wondering how Hermione could hear that and not want to make something bad happen to him. She turned her head, glancing at the door of the Great Hall to see the back of Malfoy's head before he disappeared, walking towards his common room. Then, she tried to focus again. She tried really hard. She also tried not to listen to Ron and Harry who were mocking Draco.

 

Back in his common room, Draco quickly went into his dormitory where he was alone. He crouched in front of his trunk, opened it and removed some clothes to take a notebook hidden under them. He took the beginning of his homework for History of Magic, a quill and some ink before he walked back in the common room. The only other student staying there for Christmas, a fifth-year Draco had barely ever talked to, was sitting at a table, apparently working. Probably because he was going to pass his O.W.Ls this year. Draco went to sit on his favorite armchair and put his stuff on the table, as well as the notebook. He hadn't minded keeping it hidden in his belongings if it meant that no one would touch it and discover what he was up to.

Paranoid, clearly. Still, Draco told the voice calling him crazy in the back of his head to shut up and he opened the notebook. He thought that it would be wise to work now and be free for the rest of the holidays. Well, during the short holidays he would have, knowing he would pass some time in the hospital. But he particularly wanted to begin with his History of Magic homework. He wanted to give Granger her notebook back as soon as he could.

He opened it after he had rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, looking for the right page. He could see his arm out of the corner of his eye and he almost dropped the notebook on the table, catching the other student's attention. He glanced at him as he pulled down his sleeves, gritting his teeth. The other didn't seem to have noticed anything and again, the voice in Draco's head told him that he was too paranoid. He took the notebook again, a bit distracted now. So, he slowly turned the pages, his eyes staring at them. After a dozen of pages, he stopped, paying more attention to it. That was some nice handwritting. Really nice. Good curls and she seemed to be really efficient when it came to write down what Binns was saying. Also, it was tiny. Probably because if she was writing bigger, she wouldn't have space to write everything. Because yes, there was everything in this. Really efficient. Really hard-working girl she was, this stupid Granger.

It was a few seconds before he realized that he wasn't turning the pages anymore and he started again, finally getting to work.

Chapter Text

Pansy,

My time in this dreadful castle is better than I thought it would be, even if I'd rather be at home. The week went by fast and I hope it is the same for you. Having the common room almost all for myself is great, even if I'm starting to get bored. It would be funnier if you were here to make fun of Potter with me, since I'm stuck here with him, the Weasel and Miss Know-It-All.

 Are you having a good time with your family? You ought to tell me what you think of the Christmas gift I sent you. Lie if you don't like it but don't hurt my feelings, I'm sad enough being all alone.

And to answer your question, yes, my arm still hurts. Pretty badly if you need to know. In his last letter, Father told me that the bloody chicken is as good as dead. I can't wait to hear the official statement.

Have a nice Christmas,

Draco

P.S: Send me an answer as soon as you can or I'll end up dying of loneliness.

 

This was the last letter he had sent to Pansy, a week after the beginning of the holidays and before going to see Snape to take the last potion for this cycle. It was probably the nicest things he had said to her since the beginning of the year. Maybe with that, she would see that he was back to being himself with her but if not, knowing that he was very very lonely would help her to accept this disguised apology. He was exhausted and he knocked on Snape's door, which was rather unusual; he was often bursting in. The door opened in front of him and he walked in, his envelope with the letter in his hand.

"Right on time," he heard Snape's cold voice say. Draco raised his eyebrows for half a second, obviously annoyed to be there.

"Well, I wouldn't miss this, would I?" He said sarcastically as he approached his professor. This one gave him the cup and they heard someone approaching. Draco looked behind him but Snape wasn't hiding the cup he had in his hands.

"Never mind him," he said coolly as he handed Draco his cup. Lupin walked in and Draco rolled his eyes as he turned around, taking his smoky cup. He hadn't talked to Lupin since the day he had faced the Boggart, he actually conscientiously avoided to cross his path. He watched Snape as he filled another cup to give it to his other teacher before he drank his own. It was disgusting and he felt his stomach knotting as he swallowed. He then made a face as he gave Snape the cup back. "You shouldn't waste any more time."

"I know, I just need to post something," He said, briefly showing the envelope to Snape. Lupin came next to him to give the cup back too.

"Thank you, Severus," he said before he looked at Draco. This one turned right away to leave under Lupin and Snape's gaze. "Well, I should go too," he said, not expecting any answer from Snape. He walked towards the open door but stopped before he left the room, turning around. "Did you discuss the matter with him?" Lupin asked.

"I certainly tried," Snape answered coldly before he pursed his lips, making clear that Draco hadn't been inclined to have this conversation. Lupin barely nodded before he walked out, closing the door behind him.

 

When Draco came back near the castle after having sent his letters to Pansy and his parents, he found Snape waiting for him. They directly took off to walk towards the Whomping Willow. They stayed silent until they arrived in front of the huge tree.

"Well, Merry Christmas, sir," Draco said, the next day being the 25th. He only looked at Snape who was staring at him. Their eyes met and Draco gave him a weak smile before he walked towards the passage.

Draco would have loved to take his time to walk to the Shrieking Shack but he couldn't. He wanted to be sure he was there in time before his transformation. He just wanted to avoid Lupin, he really didn't want to talk to him. He didn't actually looked at him when he finally walked in the very damaged house. Lupin was sitting on the mattress and he got up at once when Draco arrived. The boy couldn't stand that his teacher had apparently been waiting for him.

"Draco-" Lupin began.

"Look, I don't know what gave you the impression that I want to be friend with you or talk to you or wathever," Draco said a bit aggressively as he turned around to finally face Lupin, "I really don't know. I've never tried to avoid someone so bad. So if you think that having me cornered in here will change anything, you're wrong!" Lupin sighed as Draco walked towards the corner he was now always going in since Lupin was in the school. It had made Lupin feel really awkward but Draco apparently didn't care about having the mattress to sleep. "Best Christmas ever..." Draco mumbled, annoyed.

"Is it the first time you're spending Christmas here?" Lupin asked as he sat down again. Draco knew that he wasn't asking if it was the first time he was spending it in the school. He was asking if he had ever transformed there on Christmas day. He got a glare from Draco and he simply smiled to him, determined to talk to him eventually. "I remember my first one here, it was in my second year. Pretty boring."

"Yeah, well-" Draco said as he looked away. "Whatever."

Lupin was still staring at him, seeing him shrug and cross his arms. It was a few long minutes before Draco talked again.

"Did your friends know?" He asked his professor. "Did you have friends?" He added quickly. Lupin smiled as he looked down.

"I had friends, yes, thank you," he said, thinking about Sirius, James and Peter. "Some of them were really smart, too. I didn't tell anyone, they just figured it out. I actually wonder how no one around you knows for you," he explained. Draco shrugged, thinking at how thick Crabbe and Goyle were. He didn't know if Pansy had ever wondered if he was a werewolf. "I thought they would abandon me. Who would be friend with a monster? Who would like... something like me, when I didn't even like myself? Still, they stayed, they supported me... I had some great times," Lupin said. "Anyway, we were separated eventually some time after the end of our school days. Still, I know how it is to feel like you have no one, I know how it feels to be afraid your secret might be discovered."

"I'm not afraid of that!" Draco suddenly said, frowning.

"Right," Lupin said, still staring at Draco. "You are a bit too sensitive, in my opinion."

"I didn't ask for your opinion," Draco said coldly, making Lupin sightly smile. It just annoyed Draco even more. What was he smiling about? Was it amusing him?

"I'm just saying, Draco, if you were a bit more-"

"I don't have to be anything else than what I am! Even if I was, it wouldn't change anything, would it?" He suddenly said, his temper and his voice rising. He was so much more susceptible when the cycle was approaching. Lupin had the same frustration and it was hard for him to be patient with Draco. Still, he was a bit taken aback and he stared at the young man in front of him.

"No, it wouldn't," he said quietly after a few seconds.

"Nothing can change what I am so I might as well act however I want to act, that's the only thing remaining in my control!" Draco said, taking a step towards Lupin but obviously keeping some distance between them. "Nothing will ever change what we are, no stupid potion, no stupid house to hide in, no friends telling us it’s fine, we will always be monsters!"

Lupin kept looking at him without saying anything. He knew that Draco had to get all of this out of his chest. He didn't mind being shouted at this way if it was helping him in any way. He had lived the same situation, he knew what it was like. He remembered talking with Lily about it, how understanding and kind she had been. Draco didn't seem to have anyone like that. He had close friends but no one was aware of what was going on and he wouldn't tell anyone. He wondered what would happen in Draco's head if anyone happened to find out the truth without him intending it.

"And don't you dare tell me you don't feel like that anymore, don't tell me that you're used to it or that you're not letting it take the upper hand, you're still afraid of yourself, I saw it, I saw your Boggart!" Draco kept on going. It looked like now that he had started to shout everything he had to say, he couldn't stop. Everything he had on his mind was coming out at once and that, he couldn't control either. Lupin met his eyes, a bit impatient but letting him talk. "You're afraid of what the moon does to you, so how could I not be afrai-" He didn't want to say that out loud. He really didn't want to. Instead, and after a second, he talked again. "Just- Stop lying to me! Do you think it's funny? You're saying that you want to help me but... you're just making the matter worse," he finally said before he sighed heavily, looking at Lupin. He felt a bit better.

"That's not what I want, trust me," Lupin said, still sounding weirdly calm. And again, it annoyed Draco.

"I don't care, I don't give a damn about what you want," Draco said, feeling his cheeks boiling and his hands shaking. He was so angry, he could hardly believe it himself. That was the price he had to pay for keeping everything inside, probably.

"Draco, you need to let me explain something. You caring or not is not a factor here, because it's not going to stop me. I lived, still live and will always live the life you're living. You know what I don't care about? I don't care about you making fun of me every single day because you're frustrated. I don't care about you avoiding me, glaring at me, I don't care about what you and Severus think of me. Because I know that I am doing the right thing. And because I know that you're smart and that you will come around eventually. I didn't want to hurt you on purpose during our last class as I am sure you know. I was... so sure that your Boggart would be the same as me, I just wanted you to realize that you can face it, like you can face your fate. Because it doesn't matter what you think of it, you will have to deal with it and I'd rather have you facing those difficulties now than end up learning one day that you... Gave up," Lupin said before he sighed. He was actually surprised that Draco was listening quietly. "You need to learn to accept it."

He heard Draco snort as he shook his head.

"Believe me," Lupin said, "I didn't know that your fear would present itself like that. And before you say anything," he said as Draco opened his mouth to say that he didn't want to talk about his Boggart, "I know what it meant. It wasn't ridiculous, on the contrary. And I don't think less of you because you couldn't act on your fear, I actually found this normal. The contrary would have been surprising."

"It's not! It's not normal that I can't do something even Longbottom can do, just leave me alone with that!" Draco yelled and Lupin stood up, walking towards Draco.

"Stop shouting at me," he articulated shortly, approaching Draco who took a step backwards. "Stop blaming me for everything, grow up!"

"I-"

"I will not talk to you about it ever again if that's what you want, but one day Draco, and I hope it will come soon enough, you will realize that you have an opportunity here," Lupin said and again, Draco opened his mouth but Lupin waved his hand to tell him to shut it. "The opportunity to talk to somebody who understands. Maybe you should seize it instead of acting like a prick."

There was a moment of silence, during which Draco and Lupin stared at each other. Draco didn't have any strength left in his legs and after a few seconds, he slowly let his body slide against the wall. Lupin took a deep breath as he heard Draco sobbing. He saw him hiding his face in his hands. Lupin crouched in front of him and put his hands on Draco's shoulders, feeling his body shaking.

"It's fine, let it go," he said more calmly. He didn't receive any answer and he knew that he wouldn't have any, Draco would probably hate himself for allowing himself to be "weak" in front of somebody. Lupin didn't really move until he sat next to Draco after a while, resting his back against the wall. His legs stretched in front of him and his hands joined, he looked at Draco who was still crying. He didn't exactly know for how long he had cried before he had slowly started to calm down. Lupin watched him wipe his tears with the sleeves of his shirt. He was looking in front of him, his chin shaking. Lupin could see how panicky he must have been. His cheeks were red, his eyes were still filled with tears, the hair on his forehead were wet and he was taking fast and short breaths. Again, Lupin put one hand on his shoulder, repeating himself. "It's fine. Just... Try to breathe properly," he said, not sure of the way he could interact with Draco without bothering him and make his temper rise again. But to Lupin's great surprise, Draco listened to him. The boy closed his eyes and let his head rest against the wall behind him as he tried to take deep breaths.

After a while, Draco stopped staring at the ceiling and turned his head a little to glance at Lupin who was still looking at him. This time, his smile didn't bother Draco, on the contrary, it made him feel safer. It felt like they were living their first transformation together all over again. Maybe he really had to grow up? Draco looked down as he tried to take another long breath. Lupin moved closer to him, his hands moving towards Draco's tie. He slightly loosened it.

"Here," he just said before he stood up. It kind of worked, Draco had the impression more air was filling his lungs and he unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. "Look, it should happen any minute now..."

"I know," Draco said, barely audible.

 

When Lupin woke up, the light was filling the room already. He blinked a few times before he slowly straightened up, noticing Draco in one corner of the room, already dressed but sitting like the night before, almost as if they hadn't turned. He didn't look at Lupin and this one quietly put his clothes back on, sometimes glancing at Draco. Once dressed, he approached the student who finally glanced at him.

"How are you?" Lupin asked and Draco gave him the smallest smile he could give anyone, not feeling so well. "Well... I don't have any chocolate this time," Lupin said and again, he saw Draco smile. This time, though, it was because of his amusement. Lupin was really tired, he just wanted to sleep forever. Still, he put his hands in his pockets and tilted his head. "What about we head to the hospital? Madam Pomfrey will give you something and you will rest," he said and after a few seconds, Draco nodded. Lupin hold out his hand and Draco took it. He got up with great difficulties and Lupin's grip wasn't really strong either. They both thought that they were a weird pair at that precise moment before they headed to the passage.

"Are you going to join the others for Christmas?" Lupin asked after a few minutes in the long passage. Draco firstly shrugged before he finally spoke for the first time.

"I don't think so, I'm good in the hospital," he said. He had had a rough evening and night already, he didn't need to share a meal with people he didn't like.

"Make sure you eat something, alright?" Lupin said, having noticed that Draco wasn't showing up at every feasts. Draco glanced at him and met his eyes, understanding his worries. He nodded, feeling awkward. He was distractedly playing with the tie he had in his hands and he looked at it for a while before he cleared his throat.

"I'm not skipping meals to avoid you," Draco muttered, still not looking at Lupin who chuckled, even though it was more of less confirming what he had thought about Draco's mood. "It's just, you know, I need to catch up with the lessons," he said a bit louder and Lupin didn't feel like sharing what he was thinking about this excuse. It was like Draco was saying it out loud to convince himself that it had nothing to do with him feeling depressed.

"As a matter of fact, I have been meaning to ask you if you could keep up properly this year? I know that you have more work than before," Lupin said, trying to start a proper conversation. Clearly, there was already way less tension between them, which pleased the teacher, but they were still very awkward with each other.

"I'm doing all right, I'm not that bad of a student," Draco said without an ounce of modesty.

"So I've heard, and so you've proven in my class," Lupin said. Draco, if you really didn't mind his behavior, was actually a very good student. Lupin had asked about him when he had learned that he was a werewolf and even Minerva McGonagall had told him that he was making progress faster than most of the other students. And also that he was already pretty talented when he came in the school. Having to admit those things seemed to slightly annoy her and Lupin had found that quite funny. She had explained that in his second year,  he had been able to conjure a snake during a duel, something students weren't learning before their sixth year, showing a high level in Transfiguration already. Lupin hadn't be surprised for two reasons. Firstly, Draco's parents were great wizards already, no matter the way they were using their powers. But Draco's wand was also a proof of his level. You wouldn't give a wand made of hawthorn to any wizard. "You must be really good to compete with Miss Granger the way you do," Lupin said before he chuckled once again. Draco bit his lower lip, still looking in front of him.

He wasn't usually modest, not at all, but this time, he didn't say anything to those words. They were, for his relief, arriving at the end of the passage anyway and it distracted them from the conversation. Lupin took care of the knot and they both got out of there. It was freezing outside, there was a lot of snow but neither of them liked to have too much layers on them when going down the tree. So, they walked in the snow, both with their hands in their pockets, Draco having simply put his tie around his neck without tying it. They were slow. Tired and cold, they just stayed silent until they reached the castle. No one was around, they probably weren't up yet. They started to climb the first set of stairs and apparently, Draco hadn't finished to surprise Lupin.

"So... about that bloody Boggart," he said quietly before he cleared his throat again, clearly embarrassed. "You... You told Professor Snape about it," Draco mumbled.

"Well," Lupin began, taken aback. "I knew you wouldn't talk to me about it, I just thought that maybe to him you would talk. Did it bother you?"

"Nah... He would have heard about it anyway. I mean, everyone did," Draco said, looking at his feet as they kept walking. For a second, Lupin wondered if he was talking about the teachers or the students, and he figured it was about both. "But do you, like... talk about me a lot?" Draco asked as he wrinkled his nose. Lupin smiled a little, looking in front of him.

"I think you are well aware that your Professor doesn't like me very much," he said and even without looking at him, he could have sworn Draco was smirking at that remark. "I told you, I was worried, I just wanted to make sure you had someone around that you could trust, since you don't trust me."

"I trust you," Draco said directly before he closed his mouth, apparently finding the portraits on the wall fascinating.

"You're just not fond of having me around you , is that it?" Lupin asked with a smile. 

Very fascinating, indeed.

They walked in the hospital wing to find Madam Pomfrey who gave Draco something to eat right away before pressing him to get into a bed. When she wanted Lupin to eat too, this one shook his head.

"I'm fine, thank you," he said politely, "I will eat in my office."

"You're not staying?" Draco asked, sounding quite rude next to his teacher. Lupin gave him a smile and tilted his head.

"I thought I could rest in my office instead," he told Draco. This one tried to act like it didn't matter, trying to give him his smile back but he only ended up grimacing.

"Come on, go to bed now!" Madam Pomfrey said impatiently. Draco glanced at her before he looked at Lupin again, who was already turning around. Draco took a step towards him.

"Merry Christmas, Professor," Draco said quite suddenly. Lupin turned his head to look at him and gave him a smile warmer than ever.

"Merry Christmas, Draco."

 

For lunch, Harry, Ron and Hermione were surprised to discover the Great Hall. There was so little left of them that they were going to eat at the same table as the teachers, in the middle of the room. They went to sit down and Hermione noticed directly that something was off. Draco and Lupin weren't there. Hermione knew why, obviously, but it was still really weird to think about the reason they weren't there. A few hours before, they had been both in another form, a very dangerous one, wandering who knew were. Probably in the Forest? She didn't know and it wasn't reassuring in any way. And now, where were they?

To Hermione's surprise, it wasn't Harry who brought up the subject of Lupin's whereabouts but Professor Trelawney. Hermione stared at her plate when she heard Dumbledore say that he was sick. She held a sigh when he said that it was unfortunate for it to happen on Christmas Day.

"So, is Malfoy sick too?" Harry asked. Hermione glanced at him only to catch a glimpse of Snape who was staring at her friend.

"Yes, Potter, he obviously is," Snape said rather coldly, instead of letting Dumbledore answer. "I didn't know you cared about your... classmate," he said. Of course, Harry didn't correct Snape, he wouldn't say that he didn't care at all in front of his other teachers. He was just really curious. All he knew was that Snape was apparently defensive when it came to Draco.

After Trelawney had talked about Lupin's dark future, Dumbledore asked Snape if he had made his potion again.

"Yes, Headmaster," he had answered, not looking very pleased. He looked at Harry again before he noticed Hermione's gaze on him. Their eyes met and Hermione quickly looked away, feeling her cheeks becoming warmer. She was probably turning pink as she could still feel Snape's stare on her.

 

When Draco woke up later that day because of his owl knocking on one window of the hospital with its beak, he stretched before he yawned loudly. He heard voices on the other side of the big room but he didn't really pay any particular attention to them. He sat up as he stretched his arms again, feeling slightly better but still looking ill. He glanced at the window, not really wanting to get up. He had no idea what time it was and he slowly lay down on the mattress again, hoping his owl would suddenly know how to open a window. He closed his eyes again, trying to ignore the noise and felt like it would be easy to fall asleep again, he was so tired. If only the noise on the window wasn't growing louder... He opened his eyes, startled. He hadn't fallen asleep but almost, and he had realized that the noise was different, which had made him "wake up". It wasn't his owl but footsteps. He turned his head to see Madam Pomfrey walking towards his bed with someone apparently following her. He frowned and he straightened up, resting on his elbows.

"Would you look at this, Mr. Malfoy, it looks like somebody wanted to see you for Christmas," Madam Pomfrey said as Draco recognized Hermione. He felt his stomach twitch when he looked at her face as his eyebrows shot up and his eyes opened widely. He was totally awake, now.

"What the-" He began to say because of the surprise but he didn't finish his sentence when he saw Madam Pomfrey's face. Hermione looked rather embarrassed herself and finally, Madam Pomfrey left the two of them alone. Still very surprised, he stared at Hermione. "What are you doing here?" He asked and Hermione gave him a weird smile. At least, Draco couldn't tell what expression that was, he had never seen it on her face.

"Well, Professor Dumbledore said you were here during lunch and since it was for Christmas... I thought I'd bring you some," Hermione said, showing the plate she had in her hands. Draco frowned when he saw the chipolatas and he looked at her again. "Dumbledore says they are excellent and I have to say, I agr-"

"I already told you, Granger, I don't need pity from you," Draco said shortly before he looked away. Hermione looked down at her plate as she pursed her lips and restrained a sigh before she glanced at Draco.

"It's not pity, get over yourself, Malfoy. I just thought it'd be nice," Hermione said coldly as Draco looked at her again, even more surprised. That's it, she had said it. Nice. She couldn't bring herself to say it back in the library when she had asked him if he wanted a parchment but this time, she did. And Merlin, was it weird.

Draco narrowed his eyes, not convinced.

"Right... Since when are you nice to me, Granger?" He asked, still cold. He glanced at the plate again. "And where are your boyfriends, do they know you're here?"

"Of course they don't," Hermione said quickly and she met Draco's eyes again, totally disregarding the "boyfriends" part.

"Of course, they don't," Draco repeated slowly with a little smile and sounding a bit sarcastic. Hermione tilted her head, looking at him like she was totally done. Then, she glanced at the window and put the plate on Draco's bedside table. His owl was still waiting to enter, knocking again on the window. Hermione walked towards it. "Maybe you shouldn't..." Draco began. Hermione didn't listen and went to open the window. The owl directly flew in, almost hitting her in the head with the package and it went directly next to Draco.

"It's even bigger when you're closer," Hermione said as she looked at the owl, walking towards the bed again.

"Yeah, well, don't approach him," Draco said, not paying attention to her anymore. He was busy trying to take the package but his owl was moving a lot. "Come on now, stop that," he mumbled and his owl seemed to listen.

"Why shouldn't I approach?" Hermione asked and Draco smirked as he put his package on his lap. He was busy opening it as he answered.

"He's trained," he said as he sniggered and Hermione rolled his eyes, more or less understanding that it was probably trained against Muggle-borns and Muggles. So, she walked towards the other side of the bed and glanced at the owl who was still waiting next to Draco. He had opened his mom's package and gave his owl something to eat before it finally flew out of the window. As Draco was looking through his package, Hermione sat almost at the end of the bed as she looked at Draco. "But you know, if you still want to touch it, you would give me a good laugh."

"Nice pajamas," she said in response with a little smile. You probably would never see Draco in pale blue clothes outside this place.

"Shut up," he said quickly, feeling his cheeks becoming warmer. He kept staring at his sweets and Hermione glanced at him, getting a glimpse of some Acid Pops and Assorted Sour Strips.

"Is this what you got for Christmas?" Hermione asked as she raised an eyebrow, trying to look at the package.

"You're kidding? Of course not," Draco said as he shook his head. He had always nice presents, but they were probably near his bed in his dormitory. He hadn't got any answer to his letters yet so his mother had probably sent it before they had arrived at his place, just because she wanted to send him something she'd be sure he would have directly, knowing he had turned the night before. "I just... Slept here so I haven't got the chance to see my gifts yet, but Mother always sends me sweets," Draco explained. Knowing that he was lying about the sleeping part, Hermione looked down at the box again, seeing a pack of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. Then, she looked around.

"Lupin's not here?" She asked. The other beds were empty and none seemed to have been used.

"What?" Draco asked directly, looking up at her and stopping the opening of a small packet of Fizzy Wizzy as he did so. Suddenly, he felt his heart beating really fast as he looked at Hermione, incredulous. Hermione looked at him again, noticing his expression. She felt her heart skipping a beat and her cheeks took another shade of pink.

"Dumbledore said he was here too," she quickly explained. Draco cleared his throat and looked at his packet again to avoid meeting Hermione's eyes. Merlin, was he obvious.

"He left before I woke up, then," he said as he shrugged. "Why do you care anyway?"

"Well, he also spent Christmas day here, I mean... I would have liked seeing him," she said.

"Yeah, alright," Draco said shortly. Weirdly enough, the thought that she came to see the both of them was bothering him. In his opinion, she was suddenly being way too nice with people she didn't talk to on a daily basis. "He's probably back in his office, you can go," he said, opening his packet again.

"But I came to see you, not him, I was just surprised not to find him here," Hermione said as she shrugged, still looking at the different packets Draco was taking out of the box as he was sucking the Fizzy Wizzy that was in his mouth. There were a few apple-flavored sweets in there. Green Apple Strips, Apple Rings, Sour Apple Bites and Sour Strawberry Apple Strips. Draco looked up at Hermione for a few seconds before he narrowed his eyes again. He glanced at the plate on the bedside table and ended up taking it as he broke his Fizzy Wizzy with his teeth.

"Alright, I believe you," he said after he had swallowed his candy, staring at the meat on the plate. He was looking suspicious.

"I told you, they don't know I'm here, they're not trying to poison you," Hermione said with a little smile.

"Well, even if they wanted to, I doubt they would be able to, they're disasters in Potions," Draco said as he raised an eyebrow, still examining the sausages. "But you, you're... Better than them."

"I'm not trying to kill you, Malfoy, do you think you're really worth the effort?" Hermione said coolly. Draco glared at her.

He was starving anyway. He knew that he could simply ask Madam Pomfrey for something to eat and he would have whatever he'd choose, however, the meat in front of his eyes was really tempting and he started to eat it after he had put his package next to his legs. Hermione slowly reached it with her fingers to pull it towards her, just to see what else was in it; Chocolate Frogs, Chocoballs, Jelly Buttons and some sweets with special effects like the Fizzing Whizzbees or the Pepper Imps. Again, she had that weird feeling that Malfoy was actually a real thirteen year old boy who might have fun eating those things with his friends like hers and that he was not just a mean jerk.

"What did you tell them you were doing, then?" He asked distractedly. Dumbledore was right, those chipolatas were excellent.

"Studying," Hermione said as she shrugged. Draco looked up at her.

"On Christmas Day? What if they don't believe you and go look for you in the library?"

"On Christmas Day?" Hermione asked with a cute little smile that made Draco's stomach twitch again. He ignored this unknown feeling and he listened to her. "Trust me, they wouldn't set a foot near that place today," she said and that made Draco smirk.

"Still, I don't get why you wanted to see me," he said, still eating.

"I told you, I thought it'd be nice for you to have some company for Christmas," she said.

"You don't get it, do you?" Draco asked like she was a child. "My real question is: since when are you nice to me, Granger?" She hadn't answered him before. But that's when Draco realized that it wasn't the first time, actually. Did she just wanted to be nice when she gave him her notebook? He had thought it was pity too. And when she had asked if he was sick in the beginning of the year, he had wondered if she was really worried. Was she? Hermione shrugged.

"I don't know. We talked a bit and I thought you were able to behave," Hermione said, actually not really capable to explain it herself. She just liked to see the best in people and with their conversations, she had hoped that maybe Draco would start to change his behavior.

"So you thought that we were... becoming friends or something? Because we had two civilized conversations?" He had said those two last words with a high-pitched voice to impersonate Hermione. "You're pretty naive, then. Probably because you're still a kid," Draco said dismissively.

"We're the same age, Malfoy," Hermione said, not impressed at all. "Actually, I'm older than you."

"Doesn't mean we don't see things differently," he said shortly. Hermione chuckled and shook her head as Draco glanced at her. "What's the matter?"

"You're... funny," she said as she looked at him putting the plate back on his bedside table.

"How is it that you laugh when I'm serious but don't when I'm actually joking?" He asked, looking a bit perplexed.

"Because what you think is funny is usually mean, if you hadn't your friends, you'd be the only one to laugh," Hermione explained, thinking about the moment she had seen him throw snowballs at a first year with Crabbe and Goyle, before they had fun pushing him around.

"Then what's funny now?" Draco asked.

"You acting all tough and mature," she said.

"Oh, so I am the joke, is that it?" He asked and now, Hermione was sure that she had hurt his feelings, which was even funnier. She kept smiling as she nodded. "Well, at least I, you see, I am not-"

"A Mudblood?" Hermione asked and Draco frowned when he saw that she was still amused, even though she hated having to use this word. "Come on now, you can do better than that. This one's getting old."

"Stop taunting me, I'm sick, I need to rest. Go away," he said with a pout of annoyance on his face as he took the package on his lap again.

"I thought you weren't sick?" Hermione said sarcastically.

What was her problem anyway? Why wouldn't she stop making fun of him? He was allowed to be mean with her because she was filthy and it was fun, but she couldn't speak to him like that. And it really wasn't funny. He was too tired to find anything to say to her remarks and he didn't want to make a fool of himself in front of her.

"Well, as you can see I'm in a hospital bed. Out, now," he said, pointing at the door at the end of the room. Hermione let out a heavy sigh.

"Well, Merry Christmas, jerk," she said as she stood up, satisfied with herself. Draco gave her the death stare, which only made her smile and she started to walk away.

"Granger," Draco called and she turned just in time to catch what Draco had thrown in her direction. She was sure that he had wanted to hit her head but she just looked at it without saying anything. "I hate those," he said, which wasn't true. And as Hermione examined the pack of Sour Apple Bites, she was sure that he actually liked them. "Merry Christmas."

Chapter Text

Draco was sitting under a tree in front of the lake. He had used a spell to make the snow melt where he was sitting and he was staring at the creatures on the opposite bank. He knew what they were and he knew that he wasn’t supposed to be able to see them but there he was, watching the Thestrals. There was someone there, near them. A short and blonde girl, from what he could tell from where he was. She was interacting with them, showing that he wasn’t the only one able to see them.

Surprising.

Also, she wasn’t one of the students staying at the castle for Christmas, which meant the others were probably back. To confirm what he was thinking, two hands suddenly tapped his well-covered shoulders and startled him. He turned his head so quickly that he felt his neck hurt as he discovered Pansy, who was smiling brightly at him.

“Surprise!” She said and Draco smiled back.

“Already here?” He asked as he moved aside to let some space for Pansy next to him. She sat, still looking at him.

“Well, yeah, don’t you know what time it is?” She asked and Draco shrugged before he looked at the sky. He hadn’t noticed that it was becoming dark. They were probably going to eat soon.

“How was the way back?” He asked and Pansy tilted her head before she started to tell him about the journey but also about some things about her holidays that she hadn’t told him in her letters. “And see, I told you I like it,” she said at the end of their conversation, showing the very beautiful and expensive necklace around her neck. Draco gave her a little smile as he looked at her.

“Well, I have to say… It does look better on you than I thought it would, I might even dare calling you pretty,” he sniggered.

“Thanks, idiot,” Pansy said as she rolled her eyes, pushing him on the side. He laughed a little and felt a bit better.

The end of the holidays hadn’t been bad but what he had said in his letter to Pansy before the cycle had become true; he had felt lonely. Not only because of the feeling he had had when Hermione had come to visit him in the hospital -a feeling of great pleasure and satisfaction that he would never accept or try to understand to begin with-, but also because of the conversation he had had with Lupin that same night. He never mentioned the Boggart again but they did talk a few times, once being interrupted by Snape’s arrival, who didn’t show his feelings about them casually talking together.

Draco looked at the Thestrals again as he talked about his holidays. He didn’t mention Hermione, of course, she wasn’t important enough for that. It’s not like they were friends or anything, they just had… civilized conversations. He still had her notebook though, even if he had finished his homework at the beginning of the holidays.

“Lupin’s not that bad, actually…” Draco said, knowing she woud be the only person to ever know he had said that. Pansy looked at him, surprised.

“Well, yeah, I know, but what happened for you to change your mind?” Pansy asked. She wouldn’t say that she liked Lupin, really, but she knew that he was a pretty good teacher compared to the other two they had and he was a pretty nice person. A shame he was so poor and probably not a pure-blood. He wasn’t a part of their world, so she wasn’t paying any particular attention to him. Draco shrugged.

“Well, I told you, I was alone all the time. I ran into him a few times, that’s all,” Draco said, not ready to say anything else just yet. He suddenly looked up when one of the Thestrals took off and Pansy followed his gaze, a bit surprised.

“Still looking at those, are you?” She asked quietly. Draco shrugged again, looking at the creature flying above the lake. When he had told her about those for the first time, Pansy wasn’t believing him. Why would he be able to see creatures that no one else could see? She didn’t doubt his words, though. Plus, he didn’t seem to know what they were either, but a letter from his father brought him the answers he needed. He had just told Draco the name of the creatures it probably was, given the situation, and Draco went to look them up at the library. As soon as he did, he understood right away why he could see them. Still, he never told Pansy whose death he had witnessed.

“We can go inside if you want to,” he said, looking at the ones near the young girl again.

“No, it’s fine, we can stay a little longer,” Pansy said and Draco looked at her.

“Thanks,” Draco muttered, still smiling. Pansy laughed quietly and pushed his face away with her hand, glad to see Draco acting normally with her again.

“Shut up, I said just a little longer,” she simply said. She never liked when Draco was staring at them for too long, she always thought it would make him depressed and melancholic. Plus, she couldn’t see them, it was like being with someone not in their right mind. She was sure that one time, she even saw him caressing one of them as she was walking towards him, but he had stopped as soon as he had noticed her.

But Draco wasn’t really depressed when he was around them. And right now, he was too busy thinking about what Lupin had told him. Maybe he should talk to her about some of the things he never did talk about. Of course, he wouldn’t tell her what he was, but he could make her understand that he trusted her enough for her to know his biggest secret. Maybe he could help her figure it out. If he wasn’t saying it out loud, he wouldn’t feel guilty about revealing it. It wouldn’t feel as true as it would be if he was directly saying it. He might be able to avoid some consequences. Because if she was suddenly afraid or rejecting him, he could back out of all of this by saying that she had misunderstood everything, that the attack never went that far. Like Lupin had been, he was afraid that his friends would leave him once knowing the truth. Once knowing he was a monster. But would Pansy leave him, or would she act like Lupin’s friends? She needed to know, at least, that he actually wanted her in the confidence, even if he wasn’t exactly ready to tell her everything. Maybe it would reassure her.

Or maybe Draco was trying to reassure himself.

That’s when Pansy noticed Luna near the creatures.

“Hey, the crazy girl’s there. She can see them too?” Pansy asked as she looked at Draco again. This one looked down for a second before he glanced at Pansy.

“You think she’s crazy?” He asked, and Pansy realized her mistake.

“Not because she sees them, come on, you know I don’t think you’re crazy!” She quickly said, putting a hand on Draco’s forearm. Draco glanced at it and Pansy removed her hand. “Does it still hurt? I’m sorry…”

“Nah, I’m fine,” he said shortly before he looked at Luna again, not seeing the point in pretending anymore. “What about her? You know her?” He asked. Pansy glanced at the girl but quickly looked at Draco again.

“Well, yeah,” she said hesitantly and more quietly. “But everyone thinks she’s crazy. I’ve never talked to her personally but I heard she’s really weird. They all call her Loony Lovegood, I think her name’s Luna,” Pansy explained prudently. “She’s a second year,” she added. Draco nodded before he looked at Pansy again, meeting her eyes.

“She can see them, so it means that she saw death,” he said. Beginning was easier than he thought it would. Maybe because Pansy was a good friend? “Did you ever think that maybe… that’s what she saw that… made her weird?” He asked. Pansy frowned during a second. Draco must knew that she wasn’t spending her free-time thinking about what had made Luna the way she was. There was something more to this question and when she saw Draco’s expression, she figured it out pretty quickly.

“You’re not weird, Draco,” Pansy said, tilting her head a bit and feeling bad for the one she considered to be her best friend. It was even worse when he looked down. She had guessed right. But he wasn’t like Loony, he was… normal. Just Draco. Draco Malfoy. He was better. “You’re not like her…” Again, he felt Pansy’s hand on his arm but he didn’t look at her. Instead, he looked at the water. “You witnessed some things… I don’t know what,” she said, because he had never told her anything about that story. “All I know, really, is that you’re not… weird, nor crazy. I wouldn’t be talking to you if you were acting the way she does,” Pansy said, trying to comfort him in some way.

It didn’t. She wasn’t normal so Pansy wouldn’t talk to her. He wasn’t normal. He was horrible. She wouldn’t talk to him ever again…

“Still, I know that… because of that, I’ve not been the best of friends lately, if not ever,” Draco said as he shrugged, not minding Pansy’s touch this time, even if he knew that her hand was right on the scars under his clothes and his coat.

“Stop talking nonsense,” Pansy said as she frowned.

“Why don’t you?” Draco asked directly. “Come on, I’m horrible.”

When they had started to hang out, Pansy had been sure he didn’t care a lot about her, she was giving him a lot of attention and she was just happy to have some of his. But the more she knew Draco, the more she thought that she wasn’t that important to him. However, he had changed during their second year. Pansy never knew if it was because of what was going on with the students being petrified, or if it was something else. Or at least, she had never been sure. The fact remained that he had opened up for real. He had talked to her about some things and they started to be closer. And now, they really were, their relationship was way different from the one they had before that moment.

“No, you’re not!” Pansy said. “You’re stupid, that’s way different,” she said matter-of-factly. She smiled as Draco snorted before he finally looked at her again.

“But I’ve been a jerk with you,” he said. He wasn’t one to have conversations like this but talking to Pansy was easy. Maybe because she was a girl and so, she could understand easily all that stuff. Or maybe because she was less thick than Crabbe and Goyle.

“You’re a jerk with a lot of people and you know that, right?” Pansy asked, not really expecting an answer. But she wasn’t expecting Draco to look down again. It was a well known fact that he was mean with most people and he was acting this way with great amusement. So, Pansy kept talking. “But you see, I didn’t mind that it was with me this time. I knew it meant that you had something on your mind. I just hoped that you would know that you can talk to me about… anything, really. That’s the only thing that disappointed me,” she explained. Draco looked away automatically. Disappointing people he cared about, the thing he was always trying to avoid. The others, he didn’t care. He pursed his lips.

“Yeah, well,” he started to say as he watched the Thestral above the lake approaching to land near the water. Draco stared at it for a few seconds and Pansy followed his gaze, not seeing the creature. She saw its hooves’ prints in the snow as it walked, though. It freaked her out but she didn’t show anything. Draco slowly stood up, able to clearly see the huge winged horse and its morbid appareance. He had never been disgusted by their fleshless apparence, by their bones totally visible, by their white eyes with no expression. He had just always been fascinated, really. He knew the herd pretty well, so he approached the creature without any fear. The Thestral had stopped and had turned its head towards Draco before taking a step towards him. Draco smiled a little as he slowly caressed its dragonish head. Pansy was watching him without saying a word and without leaving her spot on the ground. “What if I still have something on my mind? And that I’d… I’d like to talk to you about it? Maybe,” he said, not looking at Pansy. He kept staring at the creature, actually avoiding to look at his friend.

“Then you know that I’m here to listen,” Pansy said. Draco pursed his lips as he turned a bit his head, still not looking at Pansy but at the tree near her, his hand still touching the Thestral.

“I… I’m not…” Now, it was difficult. He shrugged. “There are so many things and I can’t really tell you any single one of them without…” There would be consequences. He would put them both in danger, probably. More himself than her, but still. He gritted his teeth as Pansy frowned. She finally stood up, crossing her arms as she took a few steps towards Draco, not exactly sure to know where the Thestral was. She didn’t really want to run into it by accident. She just glanced at Draco’s hand, not knowing if it was on its head or on its side, it seemed to be tall either way.

“I’m not going to tell anyone, you know,” she said. Draco chuckled. Would she be able to keep her mouth shut, when she would be scared to death? He couldn’t tell her. He stopped moving his hand as he pursed his lips once again, swallowing his saliva with great difficulty.

“You need to promise…” He mumbled as he was trying to make his brain work properly. Pansy wasn’t sure she had understood what Draco had said so she didn’t say anything as she narrowed her eyes, focusing. Draco took a minute to think before he finally looked at her, opening his mouth again. “Promise me that… Whatever I can tell you, whatever you will understand… Promise me that you will keep everything for you and that…” He couldn’t get out his last demand. He couldn’t make her promise not to leave him. He didn’t like having to share his feelings so he couldn’t make himself do that. He knew that, in a way, she would understand.

“I promise,” Pansy said quietly but seriously. She hadn’t said that as soon as Draco had finished asking her to. She had taken a minute to think it through. She had stayed silent, thinking about the way Draco was acting, thinking about the expression on his face. Thinking about their friendship. They were young, they only met each other two years prior but it didn’t matter, their bond was strong now. Maybe because Pansy knew about some things the others never knew. Maybe because she was going to know things the others would never know. Maybe because she couldn’t stand seeing Draco so depressed. Maybe because he was more important to her than his secrets, whatever they were. So, she promised. She promised and she approached Draco, looking at what had to be the Thestral. She slowly raised her hand to touch it, putting it really close to Draco’s, just to be sure she wasn’t putting her hand in its eye or something. When she felt it, her heart skipped a beat and she removed her hand, surprised.

Draco looked at her, unfathomable, and put his hand on her wrist to guide it on the Threstral’s head, which accepted the caresses from this unknown human.

“It’s complicated,” Draco began to say, still guiding Pansy’s moves on the Thestral. He was staring at her hand, making it go up and down on the fleshless creature. “Something happened,” he ended up saying a bit more confidently. “Some time ago… And being here, this year, it just… makes me think about it all the time. Every day, and it makes me be… so angry, all the time,” he said, trying to explain the way he was feeling as he frowned. It was hard for him to understand it, so telling it to someone else was even harder. Pansy hesitated, still looking at her hand too, before she asked her question.  

“That thing, that happened, is it… is it the reason you can see them?” She asked quietly. Draco made a face and he shrugged again as he glanced at Pansy.

“More or less,” he almost whispered before he stared at the Thestral again. Then, he stayed silent for a while. He let go of Pansy’s hand and put his own on the Thestral’s neck, softly patting it.

“Maybe you could begin by telling me when it happened?” Pansy asked quietly, trying to help him but not wanting to disturb anything that was happening and the sounds around them. It was so calm and she was afraid that Draco would not like her asking questions. But he just looked at her for what seemed to be a long minute before he answered.

“I was nine, almost ten,” he said. Pansy swallowed and this time, she was the one looking away. So, around three years ago, Draco had lived something that had obviously changed him. It wasn’t that long ago, and at the same time, she couldn’t stop thinking…

“That’s young,” she said out loud without really noticing. She still didn’t get what could make him think of it that much there, at Hogwarts, this year especially. Since the start of the school year, she had been able to tell that he was more anxious, more agressive and more lost in his thoughts than he had been the two years before. But the only real change this year was… Lupin.

Lupin, whom Draco hated at first sight. She still didn’t know what had happened during the first feast to make Draco be so aggressive towards her, she just knew that it had everything to do with Lupin. And now, Draco was apparently fine with him being around. She couldn’t understand him. Had he been there when Draco saw that person dying? Was it why he was hating him so bad? Because it was bringing all those memories in his head? Was that death also the reason Draco was disappearing sometimes? He was always sick, he looked always tired and his mood was always changing, following his health. She was so eager to know everything about Draco, but she had always forced herself to keep her questions for herself. She had never asked anything. She had never wanted Draco not to talk to her anymore. She knew he would have been mad at her, two years before, or even the last year, if she had asked anything about his health. She had witnessed some people in their class asking him if he was sick and after jinxing them, he was always so cold and disrupted that she never dared talk to him about it.

“Was it… Someone from your family?” She then asked, still with a very low voice. What if it was some kind of curse and that his family was suffering from it? Maybe it came from older generations and that that person died from it. And now, maybe Draco had the curse and that’s what was making him sick… Draco chuckled and she glanced at him. He shook his head before he took a deep breath, looking at the lake again. His sigh made him sound exhausted. Not because he was tired, even if he looked like he was, but because he was weary.

“No, he wasn’t. Not at all,” Draco said. Pansy looked at him, trying to ask more with her eyes. Draco met them and he gave her a small and sad smile. “I saw him… I saw someone being executed,” he articulated, the memories coming back in his head.

“But, Draco… How…?”  Was all Pansy could tell. She needed to realize what he had said first, because it was implying a few different things. Had he been executed in some creepy altercation Draco had witnessed or been a part of? Or had it been an official execution done by the Ministry? People were usually sentenced to Azkaban for life, which was somehow worse than death, so was that man totally human? She couldn’t think about what he could have been right now, she was too taken aback. She hadn’t noticed that she had stopped moving her hand on the Thestral because of her surprise. Draco had done the same as he was scrutinizing her face.

“My father had him executed,” he said quietly. Pansy’s eyebrows shot up for one second before she tried to regain a composed face to keep listening. “And he had his brother sentenced to Azkaban,” Draco added. So, clearly, the man he was talking about was indeed a part-human. Draco knew that he was walking on thin ice but he couldn’t stop now. “I’m not going to go in details and I don’t want you to ask any questions about it…” He said and Pansy slowly nodded. “Just… Father has a lot of ennemies, you know. And they thought that… to get back at him, they could… attack me,” he finally said, looking away as he tried not to sigh. “You just don’t mess with me this way, my father doesn’t let that happen,” Draco said as a little smirk was appearing on his face.

Proud, he was. His father had made them pay, even if it wasn’t changing what had happened. Even if Draco hadn’t wanted to witness the execution at the time, he had let his father take him there and he had watched as the Beast Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures handled the werewolf that had attacked him. He had witnessed the way werewolves were treated, even if the man had attacked him willingly and had deserved it. He had witnessed his parents arguing over his father’s decision to report the attack, to make the Ministry know what had happened, to let them know Draco’s condition to be able to have him killed and to show Draco the execution. He had witnessed his mother crying and shouting that he was going to ruin their son’s life when they both thought he was asleep. But he wasn’t. He had nightmares and every time he had them, he was running towards his parents to check that they were alright. That he hadn’t done anything to them. He was sweating, crying, but he had stopped dead in the hallway when he had heard them. He had watched them from behind a wall because the door at the end of the hallway was opened. He had seen his mother slapping his father, who had been drinking that night. His father had always been blaming himself for what had happened to Draco. He could remember seeing him look like a wreck during some time. Until he talked to him.

At some point after the attack, he had thought that his father was hating him for being a werewolf because he couldn’t even look at him for a while. Turned out it wasn’t the reason he was so distant with Draco. Because he had asked his mother, who was more affectionate than ever with him, showing that nothing had changed about the way she was feeling towards him. And she had explained that everything was going to be alright, that his father was just angry at himself for not being able to do anything for him. That his father thought he had let him down and that it was making him really sad, not to use the word depressed. That it was making him do things that she wasn’t approving of. But that everything, as always, would be alright. So, as his father walked in the living room where he was reading next to his mother, Draco had told him that everything was going to be alright, and his father’s lips had curled up, and everything had been fine again.  

“But… were you alright?” Pansy asked, getting Draco out of his own head and then remembering that she had accepted not to ask questions. Draco looked at her but smiled again, surprinsing her. She couldn’t really read the expression that was on his face.

“Not bloody quite,” he said. “But they got what they deserved.”

Then, they just stopped talking. The silence wasn’t really awkward, they just hadn’t anything else to say. Draco took a few steps back as he saw the Thestral moving, putting his hand on Pansy’s arm for her to move too. He watched the creature as it walked away before it took off once again. At the same time, they noticed that it was starting to snow again. Draco glanced at Pansy. He was glad to have told someone all of this, even if she didn’t know everything. Knowing he could talk to her freely was enough. And for her, what she knew was enough. It was explaining a lot of things already. Draco knew that it wouldn’t take too long for her to figure out the rest. She would probably know the next time he would disappear, two weeks later. And then, he would know if what she had said was true. He would know if he had made a bad decision by talking to her about all of this. He would know if she was going to keep her promise.

After a few seconds, as she was staring at the lake, Pansy talked again. “I missed you, I felt horrible for leaving you alone here.”

“But you’re here, now. Come on,” Draco said as he walked towards the spot where they were sitting some time before. He took his bag from the ground. “I’ve found a new passage in the castle that leads near the Gryffindor Tower. I’m sure we can go do something and make it look like it was some first year’s fault or something.”

Pansy laughed and like that, they walked towards the castle like nothing had happened. They separated the golden trio as they were all going to climb the stairs, Draco hitting Ron’s shoulder once again to walk between them. As Pansy walked past them too, she turned around to grin at them and when they both were far enough, Ron started to complain.

“Did she really have to come back?” He asked. Draco was annoying enough by himself already. And now, Pansy, Crabbe and Goyle were back. Great.

“Anyway,” Hermione said to change the subject. “Harry, did you talk to Professor Lupin about your classes again?”

“Yeah, we will start at eight o'clock on Thursday,” Harry said with a little smile. He was anxious but eager to start learning the Patronus Charm.  

                                                                              ○

The very next day, as they were starting their classes again and that the holidays were finally over, Draco knew that he had to find a way to give Hermione her notebook back.

So, he left the Great Hall before his friends as the first period would start soon. He had told Pansy that he had to go in a hurry because he had forgotten his book and that he didn’t want to be late. He had his book with him, he just wanted to be the first one there, even before the bell rang. He hurried until he reached the floor he was looking for and walked quickly towards the classroom, which was already open. He took his book from his bag and put the notebook above it before he kept both against his chest just in case someone would be in the class. Again, he was being paranoid, but he’d rather be careful than being seen giving something to Hermione. No one was in the classroom yet besides Professor McGonagall. He walked in, glancing at the Professor who followed him with her gaze as he walked between the seats. He slid the notebook on Hermione’s desk as he passed near it before he put his bag next to his seat and his book on his table as he sat down, looking for something in his bag.

He got the homework he had to give to his Transfiguration teacher and he acted like he was reading it one last time, knowing that McGonagall was still staring at him. Surely, she had noticed the notebook he had put on Hermione’s desk. She was always noticing everything. Draco was focused on staring really intensely at his parchment when he heard footsteps coming his way.

“Everything’s alright, Mr. Malfoy?” He heard McGonagall ask him and he looked up at her. They had never really liked each other, but Draco knew that she was not only very clever, but also -even if it was killing him to admit it- a pretty badass witch.

“Yeah, of course,” he just said, meeting her eyes before he looked down at his homework, rolling his parchment again. “Actually, here, my homework,” he said as he handed it to her. His professor took it and simply examined the roll before she looked at Draco again.

“I hope you didn’t take that from Miss Granger to do your homework,” she said, talking about the notebook. Draco was suddenly both surprised and red in the cheeks.

“N-No, it’s not-” he said before he cleared his throat, gaining his composure. “It’s not what you think,” he said like he had to justify himself. McGonagall kept staring at him and Draco could have sworn he had seen her lips curl up for an instant. “It’s History of Magic stuff,” he said. “She gave it to me!” He quickly added before he heard the bell ringing. He wanted to be burried alive right now. What was wrong with him, lately? First he was a bit clumsy around Granger, then he was accepting her help, he was having civilized conversations with her and his stomach couldn’t stop twitching when she had visited him in the hospital. He even gave her his precious sweets, he had wanted to slap himself so bad after she had left. He was becoming stupid, he had probably been around Potter and the Weasel for too long, just by being in the same classroom as them.  

Of course, deep down, he knew what it was all about. He liked acting like a fool not to admit anything.

Because there’s nothing. At all,” Draco thought angrily. The students suddenly filled the classroom and McGonagall walked away. Draco stretched his neck, looking at the students walking in. He caught a glimpse of Hermione and as she glanced at him and that their eyes met, he acted like he was looking for someone else until he saw Pansy coming in. He nodded in her direction and she came to sit down next to him. She started to talk casually to him and he tried to look as natural as he could, this annoying sensation back in his stomach already. Still, he couldn’t help but glance at Hermione, who had obviously noticed the notebook waiting for her on her usual desk. He saw her when she turned her head a bit, her long hair hiding half her face as he was sure that she was trying to catch a glimpse of him. Mentally, he insulted her, asking her not to be so obvious when she wasn’t at all. When no one would have ever guessed anything anyway.

Then, he wanted to hit his own face repeatedly against the desk when he saw her opening the notebook. Couldn’t she wait? She had to check if he hadn’t done anything to her precious notes, didn’t she? Of course she found the little piece of paper that was in it. He saw her body shaking slightly as she chuckled while reading it.

thanks

p.s: eat this note, if you please

It wasn’t funny. He didn’t want anyone to find that. Ugh, she was so annoying. Draco gritted his teeth as he looked at his book, feelings his cheeks warmer than ever.

It’s not because she’s pretty that she has every right, that Mudblood,” he thought. He hoped she would choke with the paper, then regretted this thought. “She’s not even that pretty.

Instead of eating it, not even thinking that Draco could be serious about this, Hermione put it in her pocket with a little smile on her face before she looked at McGonagall, who was about to capture the attention of the class but who was, for some reason, looking at her.

                                                                              ○

Thursday came by fast and soon, Harry found himself walking fast to Lupin’s office not to be late. So fast that he actually arrrived a few minutes before eight and he stopped in front of the door when he heard voices inside, not wanting to knock and interrupt Lupin if he was busy already. They had set an hour anyway, he would come out soon. Still, when he recognized the voice of Draco Malfoy, he couldn’t help but try to listen. He couldn’t just push his ear against the door, he really didn’t want to be noticed. So, he tried to catch glimpses of the conversation, approaching the door a bit.

“Did you ever talk to them about those?” Lupin asked Malfoy. Harry frowned and approached a bit more, wondering what his teacher was talking about.

And what he was talking about was Draco’s dreams. Indeed, Draco had gathered his courage and went to see Lupin to talk a bit about his Boggart. That had been difficult, but he really was trying to make some efforts, lately. First with Pansy, he had somehow apologized and they were back to normal, it was even better than before. He had even thanked Hermione for her notebook. Thanks Merlin, he didn’t have to do it directly, it was easier on paper. And he was trying to talk a bit more with Lupin, now that they had made some peace. Clearly, Draco thought he had to receive some sort of medail for his actions and behavior. For him, they were both exemplary.

So, that day, after the feast, he went directly to find his professor in his office. Lupin had told him that he had a meeting not long after but Draco had told him that he wouldn’t take too long anyway, that he just wanted to talk about what they all witnessed in his class before the holidays. Lupin had been surprised, but directly offered a seat to Draco before he handed him some chocolate. At that point, Draco had wondered if Lupin wasn’t spending all his free-time wandering around the castle handing chocolate to the students and he didn’t dare saying no. Maybe Lupin would be offended to see that someone could refuse chocolate. How could someone eating some much of that stuff could be so skinny anyway? Draco had closed his eyes for a few seconds. Perhaps he really had to shut his brain down sometimes, the more he was asking himself questions, the more they were stupid. What was wrong with him lately?

So many things.

He then explained the situation. Lupin told him that he wasn’t surprised to learn it was about his nightmares, but what Draco wanted to know was how to fight those. And how his dreams could become a fear like that, when he knew that it wasn’t real.  

“I didn’t… need to tell them, really,” Draco just said as he shrugged, looking at the creature they were studying during their classes, which was in a cage not far from Lupin’s desk. Like that, he didn’t have to meet his eyes and Lupin got everything without having to ask for more information. Being nine years old, he must have been so terrified that they just knew, that he directly told them, maybe even checked on them, fearing that he might have done something horrible to them.

“So tell me,” Lupin said, “Were you really able to know that it wasn’t real? Are you, now, capable of telling that it isn’t real when you wake up?” Draco looked down. Of course, he couldn’t. Even if he was waking up in his bed, in his pajamas and in his bedroom, he was waking up. Like after a cycle. He was feeling sick, he was sweating and his breath was short like he had just run for a very long distance. Like he had done a lot during the night. Of course, he couldn’t tell what was going on. He was always getting out of bed, trying not to fall as he was running towards his parents’ bedroom, horrible images in his head.

“I don’t know,” Draco said hesitantly and quietly, Harry didn’t catch what he was saying from behind the door. “Maybe… Probably.”

“You’re not crazy, Draco,” Lupin said, not very loud either. Draco pursed his lips, still not looking at him. “You’re human. I don’t believe you’re a monster. You may be a jerk,” he said with a smile when Draco looked up at him, looking a bit offended, “But you’re still human. And as long as you don’t forget it, it’s alright.”

They all needed to stop saying it was alright, or that it was going to be alright. Nothing was going accorded to plan since his attack.

They spoke even quiter, like they knew they might be heard at any moment. Or was it simply because Draco didn’t want to hear his own words?

“But… what if it’s what I’m going to be? Maybe my mind is trying to tell me that I should… Bring myself to leave them alone as long as I can… protect them,” he almost whispered.

“Look, I don’t know much about dreams. Maybe you should ask Professor Trelawney for that,” Draco sniggered when Lupin said this and his professor smiled again as he leaned against his desk, crossing his arms. “But if you really have to ask me for my opinion… I’ll tell you that your mind is telling you that whatever you might be afraid to do in the future, for now, you still care enough to have this as a fear. As your biggest fear, actually. I do not think you’re afraid of hurting your parents. Well, you must be, but not totally. You’re afraid of not being yourself anymore. What you fear is what you might become. Not what you are right now. Not what you might do, but who you might be. What being like this will bring in your life; nothing good, I’d say. Pain, darkness, loneliness. It will take everything away from you, including the ones you cherish the most, either because you will hurt them or because they will leave you,” he said. Draco wasn’t looking at him anymore, he was looking at his hands, hardly swallowing his spit and his jaw clenched so hard that it was actually hurting. “Why do you think I want you to talk to me? Why do you think I want you to know that you’re not alone?” Draco slowly looked at Lupin, meeting his eyes. “You’re afraid to lose yourself so much that you’re cutting yourself from everything. That’s what I want you to avoid. I want you to stop keeping everything inside, even if it means that you have to talk to me like I am nothing less than… Well, knowing you and your family, I’d say a Muggle-born,” Lupin said with some contempt. Draco looked away, suddenly uncomfortable as he did so. Again, he felt his cheeks becoming warmer as he tried to push her image away from his head. “I don’t care if you only show me disrespect. Our situation is very unfortunate, as much as it is a good opportunity. When I accepted this job, I did not think I would be here to be more than a teacher to the students. But you need to tell me right now if I’m a fool for believing in you like I do. If I’m insane for thinking you might change, not like you think you will, of course, in a good way. If you are able to tell me for sure that you can’t even bring yourself to contemplate the idea of being a better person, then I promise that I will leave you alone.”

 

Harry was so focused on capturing every word, which he didn’t quite do, that he didn’t hear the end of the conversation at all and he jumped backwards when he heard footsteps. He felt a heat wave in his body and he decided to act like he was only arriving. He took a few steps back before he walked again towards the door. Draco came out of the room so fast that they ended up colliding.

“Watch where you’re going, Potter!” Draco said vehemently as he frowned, straightening up and ready to push Harry. But Lupin was behind them.

“I’m sure Harry didn’t do this on purpose, Draco,” he said as he smiled at Harry. This one was still a bit taken aback and he looked at Draco as he was putting his cloak properly on his shoulders again. With that much of a close up, he had been able to notice Draco’s complexion. Pale, more than usual, with his eyes a bit red and dark rings under them. He had been able to understand that they were talking about some dreams and Harry wondered if Draco had one that night; he looked sleep-deprived. Then, Harry avoided him not to be hit on the shoulder like Ron and he looked at Draco’s back as he walked away. “Come in,” Lupin said calmly.

“What was he doing here?” Harry asked as he walked in.

“Nothing you really ought to know,” Lupin said, still smiling. “Besides, it is beyond what you are doing here. Let’s not waste any more time.”

Harry didn’t ask any more questions. He would just tell Ron and Hermione about this surprising meeting and the parts of the conversation he had heard. He had to focus right now, not think about Draco and Lupin’s behavior and relationship.

 

At the end of the lesson, and after a few failures when facing the Boggart, Harry and Lupin were discussing, Harry eating some chocolate.

“So, how are you feeling here?” Harry asked. “I mean, do you like your job?” Lupin considered him for a moment.

“I really do,” he said. “And being here reminds me of a lot of good times too,” he kept on going. It was painful to think about those times, now. Painful to walk in those same hallways, in that same classroom. To go to the Shrieking Shack, to go near the lake. But they had been good times.

“Good,” Harry said, actually relieved. “I was afraid you had a hard time with D- some students.”

“Don’t worry, one student is not going to make me miserable,” Lupin said as he chuckled, knowing what Harry was talking about.

“Er- I’m not-”

“Look, I know that he is not…” Lupin started to say before he sighed heavily. “We sorted everything out and it’s all right, now,” Lupin said. Harry frowned a bit.

“He’s just too spoiled at home and mean with everyone here,” Harry suddenly said as he stared at Lupin. He didn’t know why it had come out this way, it had happened like when Snape had brought Lupin the potion and that he suddenly talked about Snape’s liking for the Dark Arts. It was making him angry, somehow, so he was telling those things.

“It’s way more complicated than that, Harry,” Lupin said and, seeing Harry’s expression, he pursed his lips. “I can’t discuss this… It’s a private matter. But you don’t have to worry, even if it’s touching me.”

“I can’t believe that you made him come around, he’s a jerk,” Harry said as he frowned, taking an angry bite of chocolate. Lupin snorted as he joined his hands on his lap.

“No one does anything without a reason, Harry,” Lupin said as he looked at his student. Harry wasn’t convinced at all, not when it came to Malfoy.

Chapter Text

“A private matter, huh?” Ron asked as he sat in a comfortable armchair near the fire of the common room, ready to play a game of chess. It was weird; usually, Hermione was watching them play but she and Ron weren’t on speaking terms anymore. Not since Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers anyway. Harry could understand that he was angry, of course, but it was weird. It wasn’t even like he was seeing Hermione a lot in the common room. She was always working there in the beginning but lately, it wasn’t the case. Harry didn’t know if it was because it was easier for her to work in the library or if it was just because of Ron’s presence. Unfortunately, he was pretty sure it was because of the latter, even if Hermione liked her peace when working.

He would have liked to talk to Hermione about what had happened the day before too. She was saying that what was going on was obvious but she had always refused to tell them anything. He thought that maybe by talking to her, she would accept to reveal what she knew. Harry shrugged as he started to play with Ron.

He had a funny feeling since he had met Draco outside Lupin’s office. Not because of their meeting, but because of what he had heard. Relating to Malfoy was funny indeed. Harry had a lot of weird dreams too, worrying dreams. And from what he had heard, Draco was dreaming about hurting his parents, like his Boggart had shown. But how would he be able to do something like that? Why would he? He didn’t hear enough of the conversation to put all the pieces together. Still, knowing that his enemy might understand that part of him better than his friends was weird. Plus, he didn’t want to have anything in common with Malfoy, especially not that.

Harry glanced desperately at the table of the common room, like Hermione was suddenly going to appear.

“D'you reckon where Hermione is?” He asked Ron.

“How would I know?” Ron asked as he shrugged, clearly not minding the fact that she wasn’t there, still furious. “And why should I care?”

“I thought she might find this interesting,” Harry said prudently before Ron glared at him. He didn’t want to fight with Ron, not at all, so he was thinking twice about everything he was saying.

“What for? She knows what’s going on, doesn’t she? If she was that good of a friend, she would have told us. Instead, she’d rather keep secrets and let her monster eat other people’s animals,” and Harry let him go on with his mumbling as he tried to concentrate on the game. Ron had a point, though. Why wouldn’t Hermione tell them what she had discovered? That had always been senseless.

That’s only when the game was over that Harry decided to head off to the library. Hermione wasn’t angry at him, was she? She was upset because of Ron. She would talk to him if he was by himself.

He stopped dead when he arrived at the library on the fourth floor, seeing that Pansy, who was coming from the other end of the hallway, was actually going there as well. They had both stopped, actually, staring at each other for a few seconds before Pansy, a look full of disdain on her face, went in. She was quickly followed by Harry, hoping that Pansy wouldn’t start making fun of Hermione. Even without spending that much time with her lately, Harry had noticed that she was on the verge of tears all the time and Pansy would make her cry for sure before telling this to everyone, especially to Malfoy. So, Harry walked right behind her, making sure she wouldn’t be alone even for one second with Hermione.

When Pansy suddenly stopped, though, Harry almost ran into her but she didn’t move. When he was about to walk past her, she glared at him and he frowned, stopping. He was about to open his mouth to ask her what was her deal and what she was up to when she shushed him by putting a finger against her lips. Harry didn’t understand and wanted to protest but he surprisingly didn’t say anything when he saw Pansy pointing her ear with the same finger. They both heard a little giggle and they turned their head towards the shelf near them. What Harry hadn’t heard before was Draco’s voice. But Pansy had noticed, that why she had stopped.

“How long have you known Professor Snape anyway?” Hermione asked Draco. This one smiled as he tilted his head. He looked mildly amused and mildly satisfied. It was the same smile he was having when he was proud of himself, it was clearly his arrogant side showing but it was also really cute. Hermione gritted her teeth, trying not to smile back at him.

They were sitting in front of each other, which was new, it was the closest they had ever got while having one of their civilized conversation, if you didn’t count that time in the hospital. Even there, Hermione had kept her distances and had sat at the end of the bed.

Hermione was spending way more time in the library than she ever did, which was saying a lot, and Draco had found himself wandering in the huge place, looking at the books without looking at them. Glancing at the tables. A very odd behavior indeed, and he had told himself repeatedly that it was because even if he was usually going there to work, it was also a calm place where he could think properly. Wasn’t it the secret? He had been in the library the last time his mind had gone blank from his struggles. But in the end, he had noticed that it wasn’t all that helpful, that his thoughts weren’t going away like he wanted them to. So, he wasn’t sure about why he was still doing there exactly.

That was until Hermione had walked in, looking tired and like she had cried, her hair being bushier than ever. Then, he had taken a book and sat near, staring at the pages like he was reading, without ever going to another line. He had a lot to think about, not only was the next cycle approaching but it meant that he was worrying about Pansy knowing about him. Eventually. He was more at ease about being with Lupin, though.

Then, during the whole week, he had found himself sitting there with a book or his work because he had noticed that as soon as she was with him in the library, he wasn’t thinking about it. He wasn’t working much or reading much, but he wasn’t worried about Pansy or the next cycle. Instead, he was curious about what could have made her cry. He was curious to see if she would attempt to have another civilized conversation. He was curious about… her. He didn’t even feel like annoying her. And he had started to sit a bit closer, but always on the other side of the table. Funny. He didn’t find himself wandering in the aisles anymore when he had some free time. He was always coming in the library at the same time as her, telling his friends he would do his homeworks there and hoping they wouldn’t follow him or he would have to be annoying with Granger and she would probably cry. And he wouldn’t be able to sit at… their table.

Very funny indeed.

And that day, they had been talking again. They had only exchanged a few words during the week, they didn’t really have conversations but Hermione had noticed that he was there more often and she had asked him about it. He had stayed mysterious on that point, just showing her the book he had in his hands. Fortunately for him, she didn’t notice that he was apparently reading upside down. He only noticed when he looked at it again. And when he had glanced at her to see if she hadn’t seen anything, he could see that she was working again, so he had stayed silent.

But when he had seen her coming in that day, for this kind of meeting they had, probably more in his head than in hers, he had noticed that she had cried, once again. Were all fourteen year old girls crying like that all the time? Pansy wasn’t crying. What was wrong with her? He had made a face and had tried to start a conversation. Surprisingly, Hermione had answered and they had started to talk. Not much, but a little, Draco making some comments about her hair and her complexion at some point. It didn’t seem to please her very much, Draco couldn’t really say why since he had tried to be nicer than usual without really showing it, and she had started to work again. It’s only a few minutes after that he had decided to try again.

Draco didn’t know why but also, the fact that she had simply sat down on her usual seat without saying anything or going somewhere else was pleasing him. Because he was sure she had seen him there, because her reddened eyes had met his gray gaze.  And still, she had sat right in front of him.

“I’ve always known him, really,” Draco said as he shrugged like it was natural. Hermione frowned and Draco explained himself. “He’s an old friend of my father, from, like… a very long time.”

That was so weird. So, Draco had known Snape even when he was a young kid? Maybe a baby, even? Hard to imagine. Hermione couldn’t picture it. Firstly because imagining Draco being a really young kid with his parents was just too difficult to do, but because imagining him with Snape visiting his family was even weirder. She shivered when for a split second, the image of a young Draco speaking to Snape through dinner came in her head. Yeah, definitely too weird. She cleared her throat.

“Well, that explains a lot,” she said and again, Draco smiled mysteriously.

Behind the shelf, Pansy and Harry were really excelling in their team work for two people hating each other. They were trying to catch a glimpse of their respective friends without being seen or without actually pushing each other, even if they both had a hand on the other’s arm, ready to push the other away if they really needed to. Were they actually really talking to each other? Without insulting each other? And had Hermione really laughed at something Malfoy had said?

“Does it, now?” Draco asked, still amused as he was staring at Hermione’s face. She looked so depressed lately, he felt oddly satisfied for making her smile.

“Clearly,” Hermione said lower as she looked down at her parchment, Draco’s gaze on her making her cheeks warmer. It was explaining why Draco was Snape’s favorite student. Why Draco was allowing himself to talk to Snape the way he was doing, and Hermione thought that if Draco had been bitten long before his arrival at Hogwarts, Snape was probably the one that had been making the potion for him in order to make everything a bit less painful, to make him be able to control himself, somehow. It was basically clearing a lot of things about their relationship.

“Wait, are you serious?” Draco suddenly asked, sounding surprised as he leaned a bit forwards. With the tip of his fingers, he pulled Hermione’s book towards him as she looked at him.

“What?” She asked.

“Muggle Studies? Really?” He said, not believing it. He pushed the book away from him, looking at it like it had just insulted him. It reminded Harry too much of Hermione herself. “Why on earth would you take this class? You’re already unlucky enough to be one of them, are you mad?” And Hermione laughed quietly again, taking back her book to put it near her parchment.

“I’ll let you know that it’s a very interesting class,” she just said as she shrugged, apparently disregarding his remark on Muggles. Harry felt anger in his stomach. Draco looked skeptical as he narrowed his eyes.

“Don’t- You’re unbelievable,” he said, shaking his head, and Hermione looked down as she smiled. Draco took this time to look at her, his jaw clenched as he repressed his own smile. Harry didn’t like seeing this scene. It was making him sick. He barely felt Pansy’s fingers pulling his cloak when he walked past the shelf. “How are you even able to go to the class, isn’t it at the same time as-”

“Hermione,” Harry said rather coldly. Both Hermione and Draco looked at him, startled. Harry glanced at Draco as he frowned. It was clear that Malfoy was less relaxed already and a cold expression was back on his face to hide his surprise. It had only taken less than a second for him to become his normal self again. Harry looked at Hermione, not noticing that Draco’s gaze was also slowly drifting towards her, examining her face as she shyly smiled at Harry.

“What do you want?” She asked, clearly trying to sound natural. Had something happened between Granger and her friends? Was that the reason she had been crying? Was that why she was mostly alone if it wasn’t for the Weasel’s sister or Longbottom, lately, and not because of all of her work? Draco didn’t let anyone see the questions he had in his mind, he kept staring blankly at her. It was easier than he thought it would be.

“Talk to you, can we?” Harry asked almost prudently, this time, like he was afraid that Hermione would start shouting at him.

“Now?” Hermione asked. Harry glanced at Draco again to make him understand that he was annoying just by being there. Malfoy didn’t stare back before a moment. Instead, he kept looking at Hermione and it made Harry frown even more. That’s when Pansy came out too, walking next to Harry and smiling at Draco. This one reacted differently than when he had seen Harry. He wasn’t looking cold anymore, more surprised as he furtively glanced at Hermione, but not annoyed.

“Pansy,” he said quickly.

“Professor Snape’s looking for you,” she said, not glancing once at Hermione. “I told him I would come and tell you.”

Draco had told her that he was going to work in the library, which he was doing this time until he had started to talk with Granger. Still, he looked even more surprised.

“What?” He said a bit more quietly. He hadn’t done anything bad lately, on the contrary. That’s when he realized he had lost the track of the time. As soon as he understood that, he stood up, putting his belongings in his bag before he followed Pansy. But before he left and after having regained a composed face again, he smirked at Harry, this one narrowing his eyes. What was he playing at? Was he trying to hurt Hermione by acting more kindly now that she was on the verge of a mental breakdown? Harry was probably exaggerating a bit her friend’s state but still, he was sure Malfoy was up to something.

Once they were gone, Harry approached the table and sat next to Hermione.

“Now that he’s gone, we can talk, right?” He asked, staring at her. Hermione looked amused as she met Harry’s eyes.

“I was asking because I am working, not because he was here,” she said as she rolled her eyes. “This better be important,” she added. She definitely seemed to be in a better mood than she had been all week and Harry couldn’t help but wonder if it was because of Draco. Wasn’t it wrong? Still, he didn’t say anything. He forced the “you hadn’t any problem talking before I came in, apparently” to go back deep down his throat. He’d rather not annoy her if he wanted to tell her everything.

 

“I told him you were working but he insisted on seeing you,” Pansy said, still not mentioning what she had just witnessed but looking at Draco out of the corner of her eye.

“Yeah, I forgot that I was supposed to go see him,” Draco said, looking in front of him to be sure he wouldn’t meet Pansy’s eyes. It was the first night of the week he had to take his potion before the next transformation. He had been thinking about it all day long until he went in the library.

“How come you forgot?” Pansy asked, looking away when Draco finally glanced at her. She tried not to snigger, knowing perfectly well why he had forgotten all about his meeting. “I mean, it seems important, he said it couldn’t wait.”

“I know but I just… it got out of my mind, that’s all,” Draco said as they started to go down the stairs.

“Oh, I see,” Pansy said with an amused tone. “It slipped out of your mind,” she then said and Draco knew exactly this way of talking. He narrowed his eyes, stopping in his track. It made Pansy stop and she turned around to look at Draco. She tilted her head and her hands came together in her back as she smiled a little. “What?” She asked innocently.

“What are you implying?” Draco asked, his eyes still narrowed. He wasn’t sharing her smile, he knew this tone way too well.

“Oh, you know, there’s a lot of things slipping your mind when…” she started to say, not finishing her sentence. She turned round again and Draco followed her as she started to walk again.

“Wait, when what?” He asked quickly even if he didn’t want to sound to eager, catching up with her. “What’s that supposed to mean? I don’t follow.”

“You don’t, do you?” Pansy then said, definitely starting to have a great deal of fun. Draco knew that if he wasn’t extorting the information he wanted before they arrived in the dungeons, she would use his meeting with Snape as an excuse to leave him without anything.

“Come off it, now, it’s not funny,” he said as he frowned.

“It’s not, is it?” Pansy asked, slightly more coldly. Draco wondered if pushing her down the stairs would make her talk. Probably not. He smiled a little when he heard her laugh and the thought of torturing her to have what he wanted left his mind. Maybe she was just messing with him a little?

“Okay, fine, what do you want?” He asked, putting his hands in his pockets.

“Me? Nothing, the fun I have now is enough,” she said as they arrived in front of the stairs leading to the dungeons. “Go on, you’ll be late if you don’t.”

“We’re not done,” Draco said and Pansy nodded, not impressed. Her smile was still on her lips as they went down the last set of stairs. “Seriously, I’m telling you. You’re not going to get away with this.”

“And so are you”, she almost whispered more to herself than to Draco. “He’s waiting for you,” she simply told him, nodding in the direction of Snape’s office.

“And you’re not going anywhere,” Draco added as he walked away.

“You better hurry, then, it’s almost time for the feast and I’d like your fullest attention,” and with that, Pansy winked before she hurried towards the common room. Draco mumbled as he opened Snape’s door, not knocking, just walking in.

 

During this time, still determined to talk to her about what he had just seen, Harry had told Hermione everything he had heard the other day, as well as what Lupin had told him. Harry had explained that apparently, Malfoy was afraid of hurting his parents, or that it was at least what his Boggart was all about. That he had dreams about him doing that to them but that it was really weird, in Harry’s opinion, since his mother had looked like she had been torn apart, even if she was still standing. Harry didn’t mind Hermione’s grimace as he said that, thinking the image of the Boggart had just came back in her mind, when she was actually imagining Draco attacking them as a werewolf. Well, she couldn’t actually imagine it properly, because she didn’t know what he would look like in this form. Still, it was a really weird feeling. He told her that he hadn’t been able to hear the end of the conversation because they were talking way quieter than before. And then, he told her what Lupin had directly told him after he collided with Malfoy.

“Maybe he’s right, you know? Maybe that’s nothing you ought to know,” Hermione said, not looking at him. Harry frowned, starting to feel his forehead hurting by dint of doing this that day.

“You’re just saying that because… it’s obvious, or whatever,” Harry said as he sighed, crossing his arms on the table and resting his chin on them.

“Harry-”

“No, it’s fine,” he said shortly, glancing at her parchment. “I get it, you know what it is that they do or have or whatever, and you don’t want to tell your best friends. Instead, you even become his friend.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Is that what it’s all about?” She asked as she let out a heavy sigh. “We’re not friends, Harry, we were just talking!”

“And since when do you talk to him? No, with him? Since when do you laughwith him?” Harry asked as he straightened up again, looking at Hermione right in the eyes. He was waiting for an answer and apparently, this time, Hermione wasn’t trying to avoid his eyes. Still, she stayed silent during a few seconds, gritting her teeth like saying what she had in mind might be too difficult to tell. Or might have consequences. “So? I’m waiting,” Harry said impatiently.

“Since he is nicer with me than Ron is, and that’s saying a lot, Harry,” Hermione said as she stood up, brusquely closing her book. They both could hear the footsteps of Madam Pince coming their way and Hermione, not really wanting to be banned from the library, put her stuff back in her bag. Harry was decided to follow her, still feeling the effects of her words. They both left under Madam Pince’s cold gaze and once in the hallway, Harry put his hand on Hermione’s shoulder.

“Wait, Hermione, just-”

“Why don’t you just leave me alone?” She suddenly asked as she turned around, her eyes already filled with tears. That’s the last thing he wanted. He hated seeing Hermione so stressed and sad.

“Because you’re my friend, I’m just trying to understand,” Harry said quietly. It seemed to have some effect. Hermione blinked before she looked down, holding her book tight against her chest.

“I’m tired, Harry,” she said on the same tone. “I’m tired of fighting with you two, if you’re here to tell me who I can talk to or not, you can leave.”

“No, that’s not what I want,” Harry said, suddenly ashamed of himself. “But, you know, it’s just… It’s Malfoy, it’s… Weird, why would he talk to you?” He asked. Hermione looked up and again, Harry felt bad. “Not that there’s a reason… I just mean… Why would he talk to you? Out of all people, so suddenly…”

“It wasn’t… suddenly,” Hermione said, shaking her head a bit as she lowered it again. Harry wasn’t sure he was understanding. Or at least, he didn’t really want to.

“Like… You guys are… becoming friends or something?” Harry asked, narrowing his eyes a little. He hadn’t noticed a lot of changes in Malfoy’s behavior towards them, even if he seemed to be a bit less annoying than usual that year. Not because of Hermione, or because he was tired of making fun of them, but because he had… Well, other things to do, probably. “With Lupin. With Snape. With Pansy. Maybe with Hermione”, Harry thought, annoyed. Was it the reason she didn’t want to tell what was going on? Had Draco told everything to her? It seemed unlikely, even if they might be talking to each other.

“No, we’re not… friends, I already told you,” Hermione said as she shrugged, still not looking at Harry. This one had to let some time pass to think about it. It was so weird. He slowly walked towards a bench against a wall and he sat down as slowly, letting out a heavy sigh. Hermione looked at him before she walked towards her friend, putting her bag on the floor and sitting next to him. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have reacted like that,” she said, tired. Harry closed his eyes.

“Nah, don’t apologize, please, don’t… You’re right, I shouldn’t tell you who you can talk to and who you should avoid… But it’s-”

“Malfoy,” she said with a little and sad smirk. “I know what you think, Harry, but-”

“But you should have seen the way he looked at me when he left the library. What if it was one of his games? What if he just wanted to hurt you?” He asked Hermione, finally looking at her.

“What if he wanted to keep up appearances?” Hermione asked, still firmly believing that Draco’s intentions weren’t that bad this time. She was seeing him differently. Way differently. But she wouldn’t be able to explain it to Harry, not without telling him his secret, not without betraying a trust she and Draco never really defined or talked about. But she just couldn’t.

“I just don’t want you to… Think he can be… I don’t know, something else than a git,” Harry said.

“You know that I really like Ron and that I know he is really kind, but lately I don’t think you mind me thinking he is indeed a git. So why don’t you let me think what I want about Malfoy?” She asked Harry as she met her eyes.

“Why is it so important to you?” He said as he frowned a little, tired of this conversation, hoping they had never even stared it. That they didn’t need to have it because Hermione was still smart enough to know she shouldn’t talk to him.

“I don’t know, it just is,” Hermione said, looking in front of her again, still holding her book against her.

“Did he… tell you anything?” Harry asked, not able to resist his own curiosity. Hermione rolled her eyes as she looked at him again.

“Really? You’re going as far as thinking I’m in the confidence or something? He doesn’t know I know,” she said.

“He doesn’t know that you know…?” Harry said as he looked hopefully at his friend.

“I’m not going to tell you,” she said shortly and he gave up, looking away.

“Fine, I’ll figure it out myself, if it’s that obvious,” he mumbled. Hermione smiled a little. After a few seconds of silence, Harry cleared his throat. “So… Is he really nicer than Ron?”

“Well, kinda. Lately, I mean, not usually. It’s not difficult, you know,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said.

“If it’s any comfort to you, he’s not really good at having conversations with me. He told me I looked way uglier than usual because I cried and that I should learn how to use Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion,” Harry wasn’t sure what to say about that. He didn’t know if he’d rather think that he had tried to be sympathetic to her by saying that she wasn’t usually looking that bad, or if he’d rather think that he had just been the same old Malfoy. He preferred the latter, but he didn’t say anything.

“And it didn’t happen suddenly, you said? So…” he said, trying to show her that he was really trying to understand why she was talking to him normally after everything that had already happened with him.

“We just started talking, it just… kind of happened,” Hermione said quickly before she pursed her lips, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. “I promise you, Harry, I know what I’m doing.”

“I know,” Harry said quietly. “You’re smart, I guess you would know if it was something stupid to do,” he said, not really believing in his last words. Would she, really? Yes, she was smart. Smarter than anyone he had ever met, probably. But did that mean that she couldn’t be blinded by her own hopes? Harry knew how Hermione was always trying to see and bring out the best in people. But Malfoy was, like they had both said, Malfoy. He was still Draco Malfoy. He was still Lucius Malfoy’s son. He was still disgusted by Muggle-borns and those he was seeing as lesser people in general. Almost everyone. But Hermione must have been really lonely, during that year. Maybe it wasn’t helping. If it had got to the point she was trying to be friend with Draco Malfoy, Harry really needed to talk Ron into speaking to her again.

“Let’s not talk about this again,” Hermione said. “Like I said, it’s not like we were friends or anything, we just had some conversations, it was unimportant.”

For the first time, Harry wasn’t entirely convince by her matter-of-factly way of talking.

 

Draco sighed as he sat next to Pansy on the armchair, once back in the common room. He still had that disgusting taste in his mouth that was making him want to throw up. He didn’t even want to go to the Great Hall to eat, he was feeling too nauseous at that very moment.

“So, I’m here,” he said. Pansy smiled at him.

“Took you long enough.”

“Seriously?” Draco asked as he narrowed his eyes and Pansy’s smile became wider. He smirked as he shook his head, leaning casually as he stared at his friend. He had only disappeared for a few minutes. Snape had been unusually cold towards him and Draco didn’t elaborate on the matter just in case he would get scold. Draco wasn’t sure if Snape was angry at him for being late or because he was getting closer to Lupin. Maybe it had nothing to do with him at all, he didn’t know and didn’t ask. He had decided to wait and see, too impatient to know what Pansy had to say. It was a bit selfish but he didn’t care. “So?” He finally asked. Pansy shrugged.

“I don’t know if we should talk about it,” she said as she turned her head to look at him. Draco smiled a bit more as he met her eyes. But quickly, he stopped smiling as he straightened up a little, still looking at her.

“Wait, you’re serious here,” he said, not asking. Pansy wasn’t smiling anymore, just staring for a moment. Then, she glanced around. They weren’t totally alone and it was making her uneasy.

“It’s late, Draco, we should go to the Great Hall,” she simply said as she stood up, walking towards the exit of their common room. Draco frowned and stood up so suddenly that he made a first year sitting nearby look up. He glared at the young girl as he walked past her and she quickly looked away. He quickly caught up with Pansy, staying right behind her. Was it just because there were other people? Was she just messing with him? She couldn’t be, she sounded too serious. He didn’t notice at first because of the way she had made fun of him before he went in Snape’s office but clearly, something was bothering her about all of this.

“Wait,” he said as he gripped her wrist once they had reached the end of the stairs leading out of the dungeons. Pansy turned around, a bit surprised by the way he had grabbed her arm.

“Draco, let go,” she said as she frowned and he looked down at his own hand before he let go of her. Still a bit surprised, Pansy rubbed her wrist with her hand, looking at Draco. She looked hurt and Draco opened his mouth. No sound came out. “Look,” Pansy started to say. Draco immediately closed his mouth, listening attentively. Pansy was hesitating. If she was talking about it, maybe he would stop being oblivious. And if he was stopping being oblivious, he would act on all of this. Maybe… She didn’t know how he would react exactly. She liked to think that their superiority was more important to him than anything, but what she had witnessed in the library was making her doubt all of that. Still, he had been honest with her. More honest than he had ever been, actually. So, she could be honest with him too, there would be no harm in that. “I’m just worried that you’re getting too close to… the wrong sort,” she said as she met his eyes again. Draco frowned.

“That’s not it,” he said shortly. “And I’m not getting close to anything,” he added quickly. Pansy tilted her head, clearly not convinced. “That’s not what you meant up there.”

“That’s exactly what I meant, Draco, don’t you see?” She asked, a bit impatient. “You don’t, do you?” She said quietly as her friend narrowed his eyes.

“We’re still talking about Granger, right?” He muttered, not looking away once. Pansy did. She looked down at her wrist again. Draco was becoming irritable again, more abrupt. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said as he tried to meet her eyes again.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of things you don’t mean to do,” Pansy said before she sighed, finally facing him. “But apparently, there’s a lot of things that you can’t control either.” Draco gritted his teeth. She was way more right than she could ever imagine. Still, he didn’t say anything. “What are you doing? Why are you throwing everything away like that?”

“I’m not… I’m not throwing anything away, I just-”

“Decided that she was worth it?” Pansy interrupted him. “That she’s worth our attention? She’s not… She has never been…” She closed her mouth, pursed her lips and looked down again. Draco felt a bit dizzy.

“I know she’s not,” Draco suddenly said, looking offended. It made Pansy sadly smile.

“Why were you talking to her, then?” She asked. “Because… It’s funny, I can’t even be sarcastic right now. I’ve always noticed the way you were looking at her, how you can’t help but insult her after you stare at her for too long, the way you just-”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Draco said as his tone rose, looking even more offended. But Pansy could see that his cheeks had turned pink. He was always so pale that it was noticeable. She didn’t look away. Maybe Crabbe and Goyle were afraid of stepping out of line, but she wasn’t. If she had been like them, they wouldn’t be that close. It’s because she did step out of the freaking line in the first place that they were friends.

“With me? Listen to you laughing with her and smiling at her like she was some sort of- of- like she’s like us!” Draco took a deep breath, trying to stay calm. His jaw clenched, he stared at Pansy with an expression she had never seen on his face. Merlin, was he tired. He wanted to leave this place, to be back home far away from his problems.

“Like us, huh?” He asked bitterly. His tone was different too. Pansy narrowed her eyes as she frowned again.

“What are you playing at, Draco? You’re not… questioning our place, are you?” She asked quietly, her heart beating fast. Draco gritted his teeth even harder.

“Of course I’m not,” he said very coldly. He had never questioned the place of pure-blood wizards in the wizarding society, never. But he had questioned his own place there more than once. He had never talked about it with his parents, obviously, he had never asked if he was still worthy of their own name. But he couldn’t say that to Pansy. He couldn’t talk about it. If she knew about him, then, maybe he would. But it wasn’t time. He still had a week to think about all of this before she would have a chance to realize what was going on. “We talked. That’s all that happened. We talked,” he said as he slowly articulated the last word. “It doesn’t mean anything, especially not that, it’s disgusting.”

“You’re saying that all the time. Still, I can see it, don’t think I’m stupid. It sounds like you’re just trying to convince yourself lately,” Pansy said quite calmly, disregarding the way Draco was talking to her. “But you can’t truly hide everything from me. Not that.”

“And what do you see, then, if you’re so clear-sighted?” He asked. His sarcasm didn’t have much effect, for once.

“Where should I start, Draco?” Pansy asked with a little smile, as sarcastic as he had been. “Or maybe you should tell me when I need to stop? Let’s begin with the way you look at her, should we? The way you insult her after you notice that you stared at her for too long. Or maybe we should talk about you going to the library twice as much as before? Why are you going there for? To catch up on your work, really? Or is it just to be able to see a pretty girl that cannot possibly shut up in class? I bet you’re actually impressed by her, aren’t you? She’s so smart, Miss Know-It-All, isn’t she? Is this why you can’t stop complaining when she’s around? Because you can’t stand the fact that you’re falling for this filthy Mudblood? That you’re making mistakes? Because you know what they will all think, Draco, you must know it. If you affiliate yourself with such scum, you’ll end up a blood-traitor. Surely, you don’t want to be like the Weasleys, right? Or maybe that’s your goal? I mean, if you become friend with one of them, you might as well do it with everyone, next will be Potter, and then Longbottom because why the hell not? I bet-”

“SHUT UP!” Draco roared, actually startling Pansy and stopping her in her angry speech. He was red in the cheeks, his body temperature was high and his fists were clenched, his own nails hurting his hands. But Pansy wasn’t the only one being startled by him as he yelled. It was a moment before he glanced behind her, noticing Harry and Hermione. They were apparently going down the stairs, probably heading to the Great Hall. They surely hadn’t heard Pansy, or at least not everything, but a look at their faces was enough to show that were already there when Draco had yelled. His heart was about to explode in his chest. Pansy slowly turned around when she noticed Draco’s eyes to face the two newcomers. She stared at them for a second before she turned her head a bit, not actually able to see Draco.

“Either you wake up, or I’ll force you to,” she said calmly. “You can’t get any good out of the situation.”

After that, she just left. Draco’s eyes followed her back as she walked in the Great Hall. Then, he hardly swallowed his saliva before he turned his head again, meeting Hermione’s eyes without even wanting too. That’s when he felt like too much was happening at the moment. He stared at Hermione during a few seconds, slowly unclenching his fists but not his jaw. His gaze slowly drifted on Harry, but he only glanced at him before he walked slowly towards the big doors of the Great Hall. His eyes were on the Slytherins table but he couldn’t see Pansy. Or he had just missed her. The fact remained that he sat alone for a while, until she came by herself to sit in front of him. They didn’t talk, but she thought that he deserved to know that she was still there. Draco wondered if she was there in case he was suddenly “waking up”, or if she was just there for him in general.

He glanced at her and met her eyes. She was apparently staring at him, maybe thinking about the conversation too. Draco was feeling really bad. He wasn’t hungry, he was just really tired. They kept staring at each other for a few seconds. Pansy was thinking about the conversation and about the way Draco had reacted. She had expected him to be angry, she hadn’t expected him to yell at her this way. Yet, she hadn’t expected him to speak to her the way he had during the first feast of the year either. She knew it was a very stressfull year for him. She knew it and maybe she was the only one sure of this at the moment, but she was definitely still there for him in general. She couldn’t help it. She couldn’t abandon him. He was still Draco. Her Draco Malfoy. Her best friend. She just wanted to protect him. From Granger, from himself, what was the difference? He was just momentarily lost.

And Draco was thinking about the conversation too. But he was mainly thinking about what he had said. Because if Draco didn’t know that she would still be around if the situation was getting worse, he knew that she couldn’t be clear-sighted enough to know that when he had said that it was disgusting, for once, he wasn’t talking only about Granger. He was mainly talking about himself. A Mudblood and a werewolf. Pansy couldn’t never know how right she was by thinking it was wrong. So wrong.

He was too disgusting for someone like her…

Draco looked down at his emply plate, not able to look at his friend anymore. He had to be out of his mind to even think about things like that. He couldn’t think about Granger like there was something more between them than civilized conversations.

Still, when he looked up again and glanced at the rest of the Great Hall, he saw her. He saw her in a sea of people in which he hadn’t even made out Pansy when he was looking for her. She was looking at him. She was looking at him and his eyes started itching as his heart skipped a beat.

Chapter Text

"I'm pretty sure it was about you two," Harry told Hermione as he put some food on his plate.

"Have you ever seen him so angry? Even at you?" She asked, still stunned by what they had witnessed before they had walked in the Great Hall. Harry shrugged, to Hermione's disappointment.

"You heard Pansy as well as I did, Hermione," Harry said, glancing at his friend. "Clearly, he was angry at the thought of hanging out with people like us, I don't think he changed all that much," and he was in fact happy that his point had been proved. Draco's reaction clearly showed that he was the same and that he probably wasn't talking to Hermione because he was, in fact, interested in being some kind of friend to her. Hermione thought that Harry was rather insensitive for telling her something like that, especially since she had told him he wanted to keep up appearances half an hour before. Plus, neither of them had heard the beginning of what Pansy had been saying, but they had no idea about that. Hermione looked at the Slytherin table and was surprised, a few moments after, to meet Draco's eyes almost as soon as he looked up.

Hermione didn't mention Draco again that day, nor did Harry. He had enough and Hermione was concerned but not suicidal either. She didn't want Harry to strangle her. Or like Ron, maybe he would stop talking to her if it wasn't to say mean things. Harry actually went to spend some time with him when they got back in the common room and Hermione crossed path with Ginny on her way up to her dormitory. After Ginny had asked her if she was ok, because Hermione did look very pale, she went in the dorm with her.

"Harry saw me talking with Draco before the feast," Hermione told her friend as they sat on her bed. Ginny knew about those conversations between Hermione and Malfoy. She was the only one fully aware of what was going on between them, even if Hermione had never told her about Draco being a werewolf. Ginny had promised not to tell a soul about this and had kept her promise. Actually, she had been excited to hear about all of this, eager to know if Malfoy would be able to come around and change his behavior towards Harry, Ron and Hermione.

"Was he angry?" Ginny asked, stunned. The situation was bad. Hermione shrugged.

"Well, yeah... I mean, a bit, as you would expect him to be. But he was more surprised than anything, really," she explained. "I told him that it was nothing important and that it just happened. That it didn't mean anything. He's paranoid, he's saying that Draco's up to something."

"I mean, can you blame him?" Ginny asked quietly. Hermione snorted and shook her head a bit.

"Probably not, I know how it must have looked like, especially when he came in the room. You should have seen Draco," Hermione said as she looked down. Ginny couldn't help but smile a little. She had witnessed the evolution of their relationship, if even there was one. She had witnessed Hermione starting to use his first name when she was explaining things to her, how hopeful she was looking every time she was saying that he had been kind of nice again. "Which didn't help. Anyway, Harry's not really mad at me, he even asked some questions to understand why I was talking to him. I'm just afraid he's going to tell Ron."

"I'm sure he's not going to," Ginny said as she put her hand on Hermione's leg. Hermione glanced at her, not so sure about that. "If you think about it, it might even help you guys. Harry is probably not going to want you talking to Malfoy again, he'll try to make Ron talk to you to avoid that, I guess," she explained. It made sense but it didn't seem to give Hermione real comfort.

"I don't think he will need this for me not to talk to Draco again," she sighed. When she saw Ginny's expression, she muttered. "Pansy was there too..."

She then explained what had happened and what she and Harry had witnessed once in the stairs. Hermione had never told Ginny about the werewolf thing but she had noticed that he was even more annoying with Harry when the cycle was approaching. The more the days were passing and the more he seemed to be in a bad mood. Hermione was secretly hoping that it was the reason he had shouted at Pansy, and not just because of what she was saying. Pansy knowing was probably the worse thing that could have happened. Even if he was angry because of the cycle, it was probably a good reason for him to back out. He wouldn't hang around her again, and Pansy would probably not let him do so anyway.

If he wanted that, obviously. Maybe he was ok with not talking to her anymore.

"I'm sure he'll still talk to you," Ginny said, like she was reading her mind. Hermione glanced at her. "Just to make a point, he will."

Hermione snorted again and Ginny smiled. Hermione didn't think he would really have any reason to do it, on the contrary, but the more she was telling herself that he would indeed talk to her, the more she was feeling better.

 

"Malfoy? Really?" Ron shouted. Hermione glanced around and bit her lower lip. She met Ginny's eyes and this one looked sorry. They were back in the common room, late at night, sitting on the armchairs near the fire.  Hermione and Ginny had moved there to keep talking when Ron had burst in with Harry, getting out of their dorm.

"Well, I was wrong about that," Ginny said as she shrugged, glancing at her brother.

"What, you knew?" Ron asked as he looked at his sister. Hermione then glared at Harry.

"You couldn't help yourself, could you?" She asked. Apparently, Harry had told Ron about what was going on.

"I just wanted him to talk to you again and as you can see... He's talking to you!" Harry said, looking away when he saw Hermione's expression. Ginny was amused, though.

"Thats not the point!" Ron said, still way too loud.

"Can you stop yelling at me?" Hermione asked, calmly.

"But- But- Malfoy!" Ron repeated.

"Since when do you care?" Hermione asked as she stood up too, narrowing her eyes. Ron had taken a step back and clenched his jaw, glancing at Harry. She then turned around for her back to face Ron.

"I'm worried for you, that's all," he mumbled, making his sister smile again as she shook her head, glancing at Harry with a knowing look. This one seemed amused too as he sat down next to Ginny, who was still a bit nervous around him. Still, they were able to hang out more naturally, especially when it wasn't just the two of them. "What could have possibly crossed your mind for you to talk to him? That's... Insane!"

"I don't know if I prefer you when you're worried for me or when you're angry at me," Hermione said as she crossed her arms.

"I-I'm still angry at you," Ron said quickly. "But... It doesn't mean you should do this kind of stuff."

Hermione suddenly turned around, facing Ron again.

"What? You think I'm doing this just to have your attention?" She asked.

"I didn't say that," Ron said even more quickly. "But it's Malfoy so either way, I don't know what makes you speak to him, I mean-"

"You don't need a reason, I do whatever I want. And I don't do anything because you're angry at me, I'm a big girl," she said as she narrowed her eyes, not wanting to hear what Ron had to say about Draco.

"Why are you so defensive?" Ron asked, taking Hermione aback. She could feel her cheeks becoming warmer. She was hoping that they would all mistake the pink shade of her face with the reflection of the fire on her skin. Her heart was beating faster and she couldn't speak directly. Ginny was, this time, trying to hide her smile, sitting comfortably in her armchair. "I know you work a lot, and that you're tired, and that- that- you're like really stressed out, but going that far, that's a bit worrying, yes!"

"You didn't worry about me being so stressed before, you were just mad at me and Crookshanks!"

"Yeah because this thing coming from Hell ate Scabbers!" Ron said and Harry rolled his eyes.

"Guys, not with that again..." He mumbled, not actually wanting to be a part of the argument.

"Still, it doesn't mean I don't care about you anymore! I'm mad but it's more important for me to know that-" Ron began to say, not finishing but surprising everyone.

"What is more important?" Hermione asked quietly after a few seconds.

"I don't know," Ron mumbled, suddenly a bit ashamed as he shrugged. "That you're safe, y'know."

Hermione's eyebrows shot up, as well as Harry's and Ginny shook her head, tired of her brother's behavior.

And just like that, they started to talk again. It was still awkward and Ron was still very sad about Scabbers, even if he didn't like to admit it, but they were getting along pretty well again. With all that, Harry was sure that Hermione wouldn't talk to Draco ever again. Little did he know that it wasn't what Hermione had planned at all. And Draco wasn't trying to give the idea too much thoughts. They actually didn't talk during a long part of the week. They did interact once though, the day before the cycle.

 

Draco and Pansy were walking to go to their next lesson when Hermione came from the other end of the corridor, apparently in a hurry. She had two books in her hands and her bag was heavy on her shoulder. She was walking very fast when she tripped. She gasped before she felt two hands on her right arm, stopping her from falling down. She was startled, probably as much as Pansy, actually, because when she looked up, she saw Draco.

Draco Malfoy had caught her. Draco Malfoy who would actually push people to make them fall had stopped her from hurting herself. She blinked. Draco Malfoy had touched her without running away to wash his hands. Actually, he was still touching her. One of his hand was still on her shoulder, the other on her wrist. He blinked too. Apparently, he didn't even understand what he had really done. Hermione glanced at Pansy and directly straightened up as she cleared her throat. Hermione was pale and her eyes were a bit red, like she hadn't slept a lot. She was actually looking as bad as Draco.

That's probably what had surprised Pansy the most. Draco was, as often, looking extremely tired and sick and was a bit slow when it came to do simple tasks like walking. But still, he had been able to catch her fast enough for her not to fall. And was Granger blushing? Ugh, that was disgusting. She looked away as she heard Hermione mumbling a quick "good reflexes, thank you" before she hurried again to go to her class. Pansy then glanced at Draco, who hadn't said anything but who was looking at Hermione as she was walking away. She cleared her throat and Draco barely seemed to regain consciousness as he looked down, noticing a book. He quickly took it and raised his hand.

"Hey, Granger! You forgot-" he began to say, but she had already disappeared behind the corner of the hallway. "-your book."

"Well, guess you'll have to burn it," Pansy said with a little smirk as Draco kept looking at the corner like Hermione was suddenly going to reappear, like she was going to notice that one of her books was missing and that Draco, her savior, had it to give it back to her. After a moment, he turned around to face Pansy but was still not looking at her. Instead, he glanced at the book. It wasn't even for one of her classes, apparently, it was just something to distract her, a story.

"Nah, I'm going to give it back to her," he said. Pansy raised an eyebrow, not really impressed by this decision. That's when Draco met her eyes and smiled at her. She narrowed hers, annoyed.

"Oh, because you are serious?" She asked. Draco shrugged and started to walk again, passing Pansy who quickly followed him, starting to rant about how a bad idea it was. Draco didn't really listen. He still had a little smile on his lips, his fingers tight around one edge of the book. He wasn't afraid of her judgment anymore. He was too tired for that and had spent the last three days arguing with her about all of this. But soon, the next day, actually, she would know about him. About what he was. He would be glad if she had another reason than that to not talk to him. Sure, it would be sad, but he had thought a lot about this. He'd rather have her not talking to him because he was associating himself with a Muggle-born than because he was a monster. He'd rather have her not respect him anymore than have her being afraid of him.

But Pansy was still annoying him. Ignoring her and smiling was just a way for him to drive her mad but it didn't change the way he was feeling. Annoyed, angry. Tired.

 

But it didn't stop him. The very next day, he avoided crossing path with Hermione just to be sure she wouldn't ask for her book. Then, he went in the library at the end of the day, knowing she would most likely be working there.

He congratulated himself when he saw that he was right. Still, he didn't directly walk towards their table, because Hermione wasn't alone. She was with Weasel's sister. So he wandered not too far from the table, waiting to see if she would move but he didn't have much hope.

That's when Ginny noticed him. She had looked up from her work and her attention had been caught by Draco's white-blonde hair. So, she decided to act like she had to look for something after she had exchanged a glance with Hermione who was sitting in front of her, he back facing Draco. Of course, Hermione had told her about the incident that had occurred the day before, that's actually when she had noticed that her book was missing. And seeing Draco coming in with a book and failing at his attempt to look natural while staring at the shelves, Ginny had quickly put two and two together.

Draco directly noticed Ginny getting up and once she did, he walked slowly towards the table, staring at Hermione and hiding his hands behind his back. He stopped next to her and waited almost a minute for her to realize that he was there. She was apparently too focused on her work but when she saw him, she jumped a little on her chair because of her surprise.

"Next time, warn me!" She said, a hand on her chest. Draco raised an eyebrow.

"Sure, I'll just suddenly talk to tell you I'm here," he said, knowing it would have surprised her too. She narrowed her eyes as she looked at him again and he smirked. Hermione quickly looked at her work again.

"What do you want?" She asked, trying not to sound too interested. He didn't answer, he waited for her to look at him again, which allowed him to stare at her a little longer. "Malfoy?" She asked as she turned her head. When she did, he showed her the book he had been hiding behind his back for the last few minutes.

"You dropped something yesterday. You know, when I saved you," he said, proud of himself. Hermione raised an eyebrow as she stared at the book.

"Saved me, huh?" She said, amused, before she finally tried to take the book. Draco wouldn't let go of it.

"Well, yeah. You should be glad I actually brought it back to you. Pansy wanted me to burn it," he said.

"Well, thank you, then, that was very generous of you," Hermione said, meeting his eyes, and he finally let her take the book as he nodded quickly, like the approval of his actions was boosting his mood.

"No problem," he said as he waved his hand to say that it wasn't such a big deal after all. Hermione tried not to laugh at this behavior as he was trying to look laid back, joining his hands behind his back again.

"Is there anything else?" She asked. She knew that he probably had to go by now, it was getting late and he had to... Go somewhere else. She still didn't know if he was just going into the Forest but she couldn't understand what he was still doing there.

"What's it about?" He asked as he suddenly sat down next to her, resting his elbow on the table.

"What?"

"Your book," he clarified, resting his head against his hand. Hermione stared at him. Fine. Everything was... fine. Draco Malfoy was sitting right next to her, actually facing her, apparently really interested about what she had to say on a book. A book that he had brought back to her after he had prevented her to fall. Right. Was it because he was really tired again? Tired or not, she liked the view. He was actually pretty handsome.

"Um... It's just a story," she said, shrugging as she tried to stop the conversation. She really wanted to talk with him again, but he not only had to leave, but she had to find a way for him not to see her blush. She could feel that her face was really hot as he kept staring at her.

"Weird, you're not really talkative today," Draco said. It was true, she was usually the one starting to talk. "Is it because of Scarhead?"

"Well, I'll tell you what," she said, smiling at him, not really wanting to talk about Harry right now. Draco bit his lower lip from the inside of his mouth, feeling his stomach making a flip in his body. "I'll give it to you, and you'll bring it back to me when you'll be done with it. Then, you'll tell me what you thought of it," she said, handing him the book. Draco glanced at it, then at Hermione, then at the book again.

"Alright," he said as he took the book back, holding it between his two hands. "I have a lot of work so I might take some time to read it," he said, trying to sound like he wasn't eager to discuss it with Hermione.

"It's fine, you take your time, I have a lot of work too anyway," she said.

"So, it's fine if I really take my time, right?" He asked. She raised her eyebrows.

"Well, yeah."

"Because, you know, I'm a really busy man and- what?" he said when he heard Hermione snort.

"Nothing," she said quickly, smiling a little.

"Anyway. All I say is that I might not be done before the Easter holidays, I mean... It's a big book," he said. Hermione still couldn't get what he was getting at, why he was talking just to say this kind of things. "Not that I have a problem with big books, they are totally... What I usually read, I just mean..." He quickly added, apparently so lost in his speech that he hadn't noticed Hermione's smile. He then stood up quickly. "So you know, I might be done during the holidays and I might, you know, maybe- maybe I'll write to you to tell you what I thought of it."

There was a long pause during which Draco wanted to run away. But he kept staring at Hermione, always showing his confident self and she kept staring back. After what seemed like an eternity, she smiled again.

"Fine by me."

"Is it?" Draco quickly asked, regretting it a second later, realizing it might have sounded a bit childlish. Hermione stopped herself from laughing and nodded.

"You have no idea, I can't wait for your letter to arrive, I'm already counting the days," she said a bit sarcastically. Draco smirked, but this time it was just because he was amused, it wasn't derisive.

"Well, get in line," he said before he actually winked and he finally turned around, letting Hermione totally speechless. He quickly got out of the library, feeling really awkward.

He took a deep breath before he glanced on his side. He jumped backwards when he noticed Pansy.

"What the-!"

"You were talking to her, weren't you? I thought you were giving it back to her?" She asked as she noticed the book. Draco sighed heavily as he started to walk, Pansy quickly following him as she started to rant about how wrong it was again. He was feeling good a minute before, and now Pansy was ruinning this feeling. He thought about the conversation he just had again, before he saw himself wink again. Focused on this ridiculous image and hearing Pansy next to him, he ended up hitting his forehead with the book.

 

"Can you believe that? She's explaining that to me? Like I'm some kind of- of- of stupid kid?" Draco said as he was walking quickly in the passageway to go to the Shrieking Shack. Lupin was following, a bit behind. He had never seen Draco so overexcited during a cycle but now that they were alone, he couldn't stop talking. "Oh, at first of course, she didn't talk about it again, wouldn't want me to be mad at her now, would she?" He kept on going. "But as soon as she heard that I was going to the library, she had to follow and to repeat me all those things and now she cannot stop! It's been days! And I'm not even talking about the moment I got Granger's book, she was so mad!" He was talking fast and Lupin would find all of this very amusing if he wasn't so tired. He even wondered if Draco was always acting like that when he had something to tell his father.

He had been coming from the library when he went to take his potion, and he had seemed to be in a bad mood already. He even told Snape that he didn't need him to walk him there, that day, and that he would just go with Lupin instead. It had surprised both professors but neither had said anything. Lupin avoided looking at Snape as this one glared at him. He didn't really want to engage in this kind of fight with Severus, he didn't want to fight for Draco. He didn't have to prove that he was closer to him, and it was actually annoying him that Snape could think that he was trying to steal Draco from him. As soon as they had walked out of the castle, Lupin had tried to talk about it to Draco but he hadn't even listened to him. He was in such a bad mood, he had simply started to rant about Pansy.

Lupin knew how irritable Draco could become before a full moon, so he wondered if he wasn't exaggerating the whole thing. But since Pansy didn't know about all of that, it was also possible that she was really harassing him with the matter and really annoying him. Lupin couldn't know. He crossed his arms as he leaned against the wall once they both had emerged from the passageway and had climbed the stairs. He just listened to Draco who was still talking endlessly.

"In love, right, who does she think she is? She doesn't know how I feel, she doesn't know that I don't care and that- that I have nothing to tell her about it anyway! That's crazy! You talk to girls about one tiny thing in your life and they think they can start controlling it because they have your trust, so annoying, really!" He said, pacing up and down the room. "And the way she talks about it! You should see her, ugh, so irritating! "I see the way you're looking at her, I see what you do, I see everything, I am better than everyone because I'm Pansy Parkinson and I know what everyone think or do and-" shut up already!" He said after having stopped walking and talked with a more high-pitched voice, apparently imitating Pansy. He ended up kicking a broken chair, trying to let his frustration out.

"Now, now, Draco. Would she be like that if she didn't have any reason to be?" Lupin asked calmly, feeling a migraine coming. He was still staring at Draco who had started to walk again.

"I am not in love with Granger! What is wrong with you people?" Draco said angrily as he turned to face Lupin, frowning. This one smiled a little. How ironic the situation was, really.

"I didn't say you were," Lupin said, tilting his head. "But you might have acted in a way that made her think that."

He didn't know what Draco was feeling but he wasn't going to start to say that Pansy was right. If Lupin had to be honest, he'd rather have Draco being angry at her and not him.

"But I just talked to her!" Draco said, even if he knew that it was most unusual. Even if he knew the way he had talked to her. Even if he had tried to awkwardly flirt with her. He met Lupin's eyes and they stayed silent, staring at each other for a few seconds before Draco turned around. He walked towards the other end of the room and crossed his arms too. After a long minute, Lupin talked again.

"Again, I am not saying you do like her but... Why does it makes you so angry, especially if Pansy's wrong? What exactly would be wrong about her being right about your feelings?" Draco glanced at his professor as he narrowed his eyes. Lupin knew why. So, why was he asking?

"Please, you know exactly why it's wrong." Draco said a bit coldly.

"Ah, of course. But are you so clean yourself?" Lupin asked. This question took Draco by surprise and his heart skipped a beat. He gritted his teeth, staring at Lupin.

Lupin was an half-blood and altough some of his family members, such as his aunt, had a problem with half-blood wizards, Draco had none. In the beginning, his problem with Lupin, besides the fact that he was a werewolf, was the fact that he was poor and miserable. Now, he was fine with that too. The Malfoys never had any problem with marrying half-bloods if they really needed to, they weren't so much into inbreeding, unlike his mother's family. There were also half-bloods in Slytherin, so Draco was used to be around them. Still, Draco couldn't stop thinking about his own blood. He was still considered pure as long as he didn't have any Muggles as ancestors, he guessed, but he had changed the night he had been bitten, and he was always doubting his place in his own family.

"That's what I thought," Lupin said. "You don't even know what you are."

"I'm pure. I'm not like you. I'm not like- Granger. My ancestors-"

"It has nothing to do with your ancestors, at this point. The night you were bitten, your blood was contaminated. Magical ancestors or not, you're not the same as your father or as your mother."

"I'm still considered a pure-blood. It is enough."

"But it's killing you inside, isn't it?" Lupin said quietly. Draco clenched his jaw hard again, trying not to look down. "Knowing that it's not entirely true. That it's just the way strangers see you. How your own friends see you. And even if you doubt your own purity, you still claim that you are indeed pure. That your blood, mixed with the saliva of what you call a monster, which changed you, is still pure? I'm not trying to make you angry, Draco, and I am not trying to insult you in any way, I'm just trying to understand why you say that people who have not been bitten by anything are less pure than you are."

"It's not the same," Draco said in despair. "We're different. We're better. If you can't understand that, I don't want to talk to you about it."

"All I've got to say is that your blood is the same color as their blood. Same color, same consistency, it looks the same. It tastes the same. There's no difference."

"That's what you're telling yourself because-"

"Because I'm a half-blood. I couldn't care less."

"Well, I don't care about what you've got to say on the matter."

"That's because you're too stubborn to listen to anything. Think what you want, Draco," Lupin concluded. Of course, he didn't think Draco would change his mind. He didn't think he would listen to him, really. But he was hoping that it would make him think a little bit more, like he had been doing with the Boggart. At first, he had refused categorically to speak about it, then he had thought a bit more about the subject and he had come back to Lupin. Maybe the same would happen now. But for some reason, Lupin was also sure that Draco was even more sensitive about this new subject than he had been with the Boggart.

"I'm not filthy," Draco muttered, not looking at Lupin anymore.

"I never said your were."

"You implied it."

"And I never said you weren't worthy of your family anymore. I believe you actually are, or, knowing your mother's family, you would have been disowned already." He said, knowing how Sirius had been treated in the past. "I think you are really lucky, Draco," he added more quietly. Draco closed his eyes as his hands caressed his arms, which were still crossed.

"Talk about luck..."

 

The day after, really late, Draco left the hospital wing to go to his common room. Hermione hadn't come see him, this time, and Pansy hadn't either. Draco wondered if she had figured it out. He had slept all day long and was going to spend the night in his dorm to be able to follow his classes the next day. He knew that if he was waking up in the hospital, he wouldn't want to leave, he would sleep more instead. To avoid everyone, he had left really late, when most of the students had to be asleep. He walked towards the stoned wall and said the password, before he entered the common room, yawning.

He almost had an heart attack when he discovered Pansy, sitting on one of the couch. The fire was about to die but she didn't seem to care, she was looking at it like she was looking through it. Draco stopped in his track as he stared at her. She was a bit pale and seemed tired. She clenched her jaw and slowly, her look drifted towards Draco, but not on his face. She didn't say anything, so he took a few steps towards her.

"Pansy, what are you doing here?" He asked quietly.

"I couldn't sleep," she whispered as she looked away again. She seemed tense and Draco wondered if it was all his fault. If she had been waiting for him. If she hadn't been able to sleep because of what she had learnt. He didn't approach her more.

"Pans-"

"Don't."

His heart skipped a beat.

"I just-"

"I told you-" Pansy began, closing her eyes. Draco looked down, feeling like he was about to fall on his knees. "Don't."

"I'm sorry," he muttered, even if Pansy didn't want to hear him. She gritted her teeth even harder as her hands turned into fists on her legs. Draco noticed that her voice was trembling when she started to speak again.

"I was worrying sick... All this time... Wondering what you had, wondering... If you would die some day because of that," she said, not very loud. Still, Draco could hear every single word. The sounds coming from her mouth were the only things he could actually hear. He couldn't hear the fire dying, he couldn't hear the lake near the dungeons. He wasn't cold, his body was burning. "I even thought you were cursed for a while. Then you told me what happened and now, I find out that... You're a-"

She didn't finish her sentence. Draco looked up as she closed her eyes again and she made a face. Draco felt like his body was hurting all over as he saw her.

"I'm not- I..." He tried to say before he swallowed his spit with difficutly. "I'm not dangerous..." He whispered. Pansy smiled to contain her tears as she put a hand on her face. Draco narrowed his eyes. Was she shaking? She stood up and crossed her arms, facing the fire, not Draco. She still hadn't looked at him once. "Pansy, please, listen to me, I can- I can explain..."

"There's nothing to explain," she said, her voice a bit more steady. Draco didn't dare moving, he stood there, feeling a shiver going down his spine. "Look, I... I know it's probably not your fault," she said and Draco stupidly nodded. Good, so she was understanding. "But... It's..."

Oh, so she wasn't understanding. Draco swallowed again before he took another step towards her.

"How can you say that you're not... dangerous?" She asked. Draco bit his lower lip. "Don't lie to me, Draco, I am sick and tired of your lies."

"I'm not- I... I didn't lie to you, I couldn't tell you, it's different!" He said. Pansy turned her head a bit, but didn't face him.

"I asked you a question," she said a bit coldly.

"I... Snape, he's..." He took a deep breath. "He's making Wolfsbane Potion every month for me and... It helps and... I don't stay in the grounds when it happens, I'm far away, I can't h-" he stopped again. He took a second before, more quietly, he whispered, "Hurt you..." He couldn't face all of this, this was too big for him. He should have known. He should have known since the beginning that it was a really bad idea. He wanted to kill Lupin, making him have this kind of ideas in his head. Talking to a friend, what a joke. But in the end, Draco knew that it wasn't really Lupin's fault. He had never suggested that he should talk to someone about it, he had just explained how it had been for him. And if Draco hadn't really wanted one of the closest person he knew to know his secret, he wouldn't have told her.

He wouldn't have told her.

"Pansy, you promised me that you wouldn't-"

"I didn't know back then!" She said as she finally turned around. But as soon as she met Draco's eyes, she looked away again, making the situation even more painful for the both of them.

"So is this how it works? You didn't know so you can break your promise, so it makes it ok?" Draco asked quickly, suddenly pissed. Pansy looked down.

"You need to understand-"

"I do, Pansy, I do understand perfectly! What do you think, that I'm happy? That I'm pleased with the situation?"

"I didn't say that!"

"So what? You think that I've had fun hiding this from you? Why do you think I told you about it? I thought I could trust you, I thought you could know, I thought you wouldn't-"

Again, there was a long silence. They weren't looking at each other anymore.

"I need some time to think about it, it's- it's too... Soon."

"I'll remember that the next time you'll have to confide in someone, don't worry," Draco said as he turned around. He knew her biggest secret, and he had never told anyone about it. He had never made fun of her. He knew other things too, but he would never betray her. And at the same time, he knew that he couldn't really blame her.

"This is not the same Draco and you know it! I'm not a were-" Again, she couldn't say it.

"Why don't you say it, am I that horrible? You've known me for three years now, you know that I've never hurt a soul, you know that I wouldn't, you know that- I thought you knew... If I were to do bad things, I would have done them by now. I thought you were smarter than that. But no, you're just... Well, I don't know what I expected, really."

"Draco..."

"How foolish of me to think that maybe, just maybe," he said as he started to walk towards her again. "You might still be there for me. Now I bet you can't wait to tell everyone, I bet you can't wait to see me leave the only place I could come to be like everyone!" He was still walking towards her and, despite herself, Pansy took a step back.

"You know that I'm not going to tell anyone," Pansy almost muttered, finally meeting his eyes. "You know that I wouldn't. Never."

"No, I don't know, Pansy, because I thought I knew you, I thought I knew that you were always keeping your promises. Guess I was wrong, well, wouldn't be the first time, huh?" He finally stopped in front of her. "What do you think? Really, what do you think of me? That I'm disgusting? That I'm a monster? A terrifying beast? Well, you wanna know something, Pansy? I was terrified myself. I was nine, Pansy, I was fucking nine, do you think I planned it all? Do you think I- I- that I jumped in his filthy mouth? Do you think it didn't hurt like hell, do you think I wasn't afraid? That I didn't want to die?"

"Dr-"

"Because I wanted to die, I didn't want to live like that. But, again, stupidly enough, I also wanted to live, in a way, yeah, but as the heir I was supposed to be. We don't have everything we want, do we? Too bad my parents love me, isn't it? Too bad they saved me, isn't it?"

Pansy was on the verge of tears, and so was Draco. He clenched his jaw hard as he tried to hold them back.

"So, what do you think of me?" He asked again. Then, he saw a tear rolling down Pansy's cheek. She wasn't answering, she was at a loss for words. "I am sick of you people!" He added vehemently. It was the worst year he had spent in this stupid castle. He was sick of them blaming him, of them telling him what to do, he was just tired of everything.

"Stop, Draco, please..." She muttered. Draco looked down, not able to take any more deep breaths.

"Fine. I... I'll stop. I'll stay away from you. If that's what you want. I'll stay away and... You'll be safe, huh?" He said bitterly. He took his time to stare at Pansy's face, knowing it would probably be the last time he would see it this close. And sadly, he would remember her crying and shaking, her hand in front of her mouth to keep her sobs inside. Then, he turned around and walked towards the boy's side of the dorms. "You'll be safe, not around a psycho anymore," he muttered as he let Pansy alone, the fire finally out in the fireplace, the common room being lighted only by the moonlight.

He didn't see, he couldn't see how worried she was for him. And he didn't know how she didn't want anything to change. But she couldn't help it, how was she supposed to react? Maybe she could have been supportive. But could she be supportive of that? She just wanted some time to think about it. But everything was ruined. She should have stayed in her bed, even if she wasn't sleeping. She should have thought about it even more than she had during the day. And then she should have had a calm conversation with Draco. Instead, she had hurt him. Neither of them slept that night.

Chapter Text

The days went by very slowly for Draco, after that night. He mainly avoided Pansy, he didn’t want to talk to her. She tried two days after what had happened, thinking they could talk if they were both with a clear head, but every time she was as much as approaching Draco, this one was either leaving, either talking to Crabbe or Goyle without looking at her once. Pansy knew what he was thinking of them, he knew that he wouldn’t be so passionate about a conversation with them if it wasn’t for her annoying him just by being there. It was hurting her, she was hoping they could act like grown ups, that they could talk about their problems. But Draco was being selfish. He would say it himself. He was being selfish because he was too afraid to be hurt once more, so he didn’t want to listen to whatever she had to say; he’d rather save himself than try to repair the damages. He didn’t want to even contemplate talking with Pansy just after what had happened. So he was avoiding her, even if he had to stay with Crabbe and Goyle all the time. He was able to fake listening, letting his mind wander endlessly without them noticing anything.

A few days after what had happened with Pansy, he had written a long letter to his father, almost begging him to be there during the Easter holidays, now that he had made sure with his mother that he would indeed be able to go back home at that time. When he received his father’s answer, he was really happy to see that even if he still had to work, he would find as much time as possible to be home. Even if Draco knew that he would still be gone a lot, his father would come back as much as possible. If he was telling it to Draco, he would do it. He was a man of his words, his father. Not like some girl he was still hanging out with a few days ago. Draco made a face as he glanced at Crabbe and Goyle before he sighed. Pansy had just left the room to go to her dorm, so he interrupted Goyle.

“I’m out of here,” he simply said as he stood up to leave the common room. He didn’t need them. He didn’t need anyone, really. He would go see the Thestrals, that would be enough. Some fresh air and the company of creatures understanding him, that wouldn’t leave him. Perfect. He didn’t even notice Hermione who was hurrying towards the Great Hall but stopped when she saw him leaving the dungeons to go out. She had notice that he seemed to be in a weird mood lately.

They hadn’t talked since the moment she had given him the book but he seemed to be alone most of the time, when it wasn’t for Crabbe & Goyle. Hermione felt bad. Maybe it was her fault? After all, Draco had been really angry at Pansy the other day, when he had yelled at her. Then, it seemed to be going more or less fine between them but now they didn’t seem to be talking to each other anymore. What if Hermione had broken their friendship? But she wasn’t important enough in Draco’s life to be able to do that, was she?

“Come on, I’m hungry,” Ron said as he gripped her arm softly to pull her with Harry and him. Harry had noticed that Hermione was looking at Malfoy, who was pale, looking at the floor and hands in his pockets as he didn’t seem to go eat for lunch, once again.

 

“You’re not going to betray me, you, am I right? Of course I’m right…” He said as he patted the head of one of the creatures, another one approaching. He smiled a little at it, waiting for it to be close enough to caress it too. “I should have known.”

“I didn’t know you liked them too,” he heard a voice behind him call. Startled, he turned around suddenly, making both the Thestrals taking a few steps backwards. He blinked at the blonde girl who was walking towards them. Luna didn’t look at Draco as she walked towards the creatures, trying to take something in her bag. She then threw a piece of raw meat towards them, smiling a little. “You should give them food too, they like it more than caresses,” she said calmly. Draco didn’t move, he had just turned to be able to look at her. After a few seconds, he finally spoke.

“You’re… Luna, aren’t you?” He asked, narrowing his eyes a little.

“And you are Draco Malfoy,” she said as she distractedly started to caress the neck of the nearest Thestral.

“Yeah, I am,” Draco said quietly, taking a few steps towards her. He was still staring but he stopped when she turned her head. He tried to only look at the Thestral that was coming back towards him and he slowly put his hand on its face to caress it as it got really close. Luna kept staring at him for a while, still caressing the other creature. After a long minute, Draco glanced at her and met her grey eyes. “You cried.”

Taken aback, Draco stopped the movement of his hand on the Thestral’s face as he stared at her. She wasn’t asking, she was stating that he had cried.

“So what?” He said a bit aggressively, not even thinking about contradicting her.

“Is that why they seem to like you a lot?” She asked as she looked at the creatures again. “You seem to attract them,” she added. Draco didn’t know how to feel about that as he looked at the Thestral which was waiting for his caresses. It wasn’t really a compliment, they weren’t nice creatures. They weren’t beautiful, people thought they were a sign of bad luck and they could appear only to people having seen death and able to accept the concept. Not really the happiest creature in the world. Was it why he was, indeed, attracting them? Because he was a not so happy creature either, lately? “I didn’t know they would be so keen to meet creatures like you,” she then said more quietly, still staring at the Thestral she was touching. Draco looked at her again as he frowned.

“What do you mean?”

“A werewolf,” she simply said, turning her head to look at him again. He was at a loss for words.

“What?” He asked, the word escaping his mouth before he had some time to think. She was still looking at him, like she was curious.

“Aren’t you one?”

“What?” Draco repeated. Luna gave him a faint smile before she looked at the Thestral again, tilting her head. “Did Pansy tell you?” He asked more quietly, suddenly feeling uncomfortable and like he was about to suffocate.  

“Pansy? I don’t know any Pansy,” Luna said as she smiled again. Draco felt a wave of relief going through his body. She hadn’t told anyone. At least he hoped so. “Is she the reason you cried?”

“None of your business,” Draco said shortly, looking at the Thestral again.

“You are a bit rude,” Luna said. Draco looked down before he looked at her out of the corner of his eyes. “But it’s ok, we all have things to deal with.”

“Exactly,” he said even if it was useless. The Thestral Luna was caressing started to walk away to be near the trees and Luna came closer to Draco to be able to caress the neck of the other one. It made Draco feel even more uncomfortable.

“Who did you see die?” She asked naturally. Pansy was right, she was weird. He wouldn’t say crazy just yet, but weird.

“The man who turned me,” Draco said quietly and again, the words had escaped without him being able to do anything. It was easy to talk to her about that, she already knew that he was a werewolf and she didn’t seem to have any problem with that fact. Maybe that’s why suddenly, he felt the urge to talk to this girl. She would understand. She was seeing them. She knew his biggest secret. She was talking nicely to him. She was different from the others.

“Oh, I see,” Luna simply said. “How old were you?”

“Nine.”

“I was the same age,” she said with a little smile. It wasn’t a happy smile, but it wasn’t a sad one either. It was a bit fixed, but not cold. Luna looked at Draco before she said, “When my mother died.”

“Oh,” Draco said, surprised. He wasn’t expecting that. He cleared his throat and avoided meeting her eyes as he mumbled a quiet “sorry”, but he wasn’t really. Luna didn’t say anything but after a moment, she opened her bag and looked into it. Draco was expecting her to get another piece of meat out of it but instead, she took a green apple that she handed to Draco.

“You can have it,” she said. Draco frowned and narrowed his eyes again as he looked at the apple. How did she know he would like one of those? He looked at her again, with the same expression.

“It’s not because you know that you can- study me. I’m not some kind of- I’m not here to be domesticated,” he said coldly, thinking that Luna had actually been observing him for a while. It wouldn’t surprise him, she was also around the Thestrals a lot. But he wouldn’t let her treat him like some kind of animal.

“I didn’t see you in the Great Hall for lunch. I thought you’d be hungry,” she said, not offended at all. “It’s fine if you don’t want it.”

“Give me that,” Draco said as he quickly took the apple from her hand, biting it angrily. It made Luna smile a little. Draco didn’t know if she was amused by him, or if she was just happy that he had taken the apple.

There was only silence for a while. It was only broken by Draco eating the apple.

“You can’t tell anyone,” he said, not looking at Luna.

“Oh, I know, I won’t,” she said as he smiled at him. Draco glanced at her and shrugged.

“And I didn’t cry because of Pansy. I don’t care about her,” he lied.

“I still don’t know who Pansy is,” Luna said, taking another piece of meat for the creatures.

“Does it matter?”

“You are talking about-”

“But that doesn’t mean I care about her,” Draco said shortly.

“No, it doesn’t,” Luna said, still finding Draco quite rude but not being really offended by his behavior.

“Great. We agree on that,” he said. Luna stared at him until he looked at her. “What?”

“You’re a bit weird, aren’t you?” She said as  she smiled at him again, handing him a piece of meat.

                                                                              ○

“Yeah, my mother gave me a copy of this one. But it was in French,” Draco said to Hermione. She raised an eyebrow.

“In French?” She asked, tilting her head a bit.

“Are you deaf?” Draco asked with a little smirk on his lips.

“I didn’t know you could speak another language,” Hermione said as she put down her quill. They had been in the library for a while. It was Saturday and Draco was avoiding… Well, basically everyone. It was the beginning of March, more than a month had passed since the incident with Pansy, as well as another cycle, and Draco was still not talking to her. But he couldn’t pretend to be interested in what Crabbe and Goyle had to say any longer. Sure, he knew them since he was a kid, but it didn’t mean he could live with them twenty-four seven. He had his limit, and he had reached it. He hadn’t had many occasion to speak with Hermione since she had given him her book but he had found out that hanging out in the library was a good way to be alone. He had crossed path with Luna once, in there, and their eyes had met but he had hoped that she wouldn’t talk to him. Fortunately, she had only smiled at him.

They had stayed longer near the Thestrals, mostly in silence, sometimes exchanging a few words, Draco giving mostly short answers. He didn’t dislike her. But he couldn’t say he liked her. He just didn’t want to hang out with her, she wasn’t a friend. And he didn’t need people to talk about Draco Malfoy and Loony Lovegood hanging out. Good thing for him that she wasn’t a Slytherin and that she didn’t seem to have many friends. He had seen the Weasley girl with her once, but she seemed alone most of the time. Oddly, Draco felt like she was lucky, somehow, that she had as much time alone as she wanted to. Even if it was because people thought she was weird, at least they weren’t going to talk to her every other second, when Draco had to hide from his very own friends.

The good side of the situation was that Crabbe and Goyle wouldn’t go in the library by themselves. Draco was usually forcing them to come with him when they had to do some work together. And Pansy… Well, Draco didn’t exactly know. She hadn’t talked to him again, nor tried, but she was often looking at him. In class, since they were usually sitting next to each other, Draco was acting like she was invisible and keeping as much distance as possible between them. Not for him, but for her too. The last time he had approached her during their argument, she had walked backwards. He couldn’t help but think that she was maybe scared or uncomfortable around him. He was acting like she wasn’t existing. With someone else, he would go as far as walking straight into that person if they had to cross path, just to act like he wasn’t seeing them. But not with Pansy. It was still hurting, inside, and he couldn’t bring himself to be too mean. It wasn’t because they weren’t talking that Draco wasn’t suffering.

Or that she wasn’t suffering.

Draco had some time to think about it all, and could easily understand how difficult it could be for her too. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to have a conversation with her. Not right now. But he was scared that if he didn’t have it one day, it would end up being too late to ever talk again. Or was it already too late? She had already stopped trying to talk to him and he was kind of annoyed by that. Which was even more annoying for him. Why would he care if she didn’t want to talk to him? He didn’t want to talk to her.

Ok, he wanted to talk to her, so bad. He still liked her. But he couldn’t. Too much pride. It was her fault, not his. Too bad for her, he wouldn’t come begging for her attention.

So, he was mostly hiding in the library, in the smell of the books, wandering in the alleys and sometimes reading, sometimes working. He wasn’t always looking for Granger, he had always liked this place. It was reminding him a bit of the one he had at the Manor. They had this big library, with countless of books. He liked being there. He loved when his mother was reading him stories when he was younger, in his parents’ bed, cuddled up in her arms and next to his father who was just looking at them, listening to Draco’s reaction every time something was happening in the story. And sometimes, he was holding his wand to give them some lighting. Draco was feeling good, in the library. Better than he had felt lately anyway.

But that day, Granger was there. She wouldn’t annoy him, that was good. He got out of his alley and went to sit in front of her again. She actually did greet him with a little “hi”, a bit awkward.

And they talked. It was weird. More natural than before and at the same time, it was still… unnatural. But the words were coming more easily. She had asked if he had began to read the book she had given him and he had stated that he needed to finish the one he was already reading first. And they just started conversing about the one he was reading. Then about others. It was a simple conversation that he would have never imagined having with her, but there they were and it wasn’t so unpleasant.

Hermione was glad to talk to someone liking some of the things she loved more than anything. She didn’t care anymore if it was Malfoy. Because it wasn’t just Malfoy anymore. He hadn’t been just Malfoy since a while. She was talking with Draco Malfoy, with what seemed to be his true-self. What seemed to be a pretty clever boy, not that bad once you knew him, even if he was still teasing her sometimes. It didn’t matter if she had to be discreet because of Harry and Ron. It didn’t matter if she had to keep all of this secret because she was enjoying it. She was enjoying having those conversations and she was enjoying his presence. Maybe too much, even.

They had more in common than they ever thought they would, and they were both at a point where they could admit that they were ok with that. That they were glad to be talking to each other.

Hermione was at a point where she could admit that he was handsome, sometimes cute. That she liked the way he was talking or smiling, even if she had never seen an innocent smile yet. It was always some kind of smirk, but not a natural smile coming on his lips because he was just… Happy? Or having a good time, simply. But she didn’t care, she was at a point where she could admit that she liked his smirks. That she liked that glow in his eyes whenever he was amused by something. And at a point where she could admit it to Ginny, too.

She had shyly tried to talk about it to Ginny when she had come back to sit in front of her after Draco had left the library with her book. She had tried to talk about all those weird thoughts and twitches in her stomach when they were talking and that he was kind of laughing, or that he was smirking. Ginny had not been shy, she had understood right away why Hermione had difficulties to talk about it but made her understand that she wasn’t judging her. And she had even said that his behavior, when he had asked about the book and that he had sat down, was showing that he was genuinely trying to keep talking to her, that he seemed to use the book as a reason to talk to her that day. Hermione was feeling good since then. She was feeling good because like Ginny had said, it was ok. Everything was fine, she had the right to feel this kind of things for Draco, whatever Harry and Ron might think. Because their opinion didn’t matter, and they didn’t have to know. For now, it would be their secret, Ginny wouldn’t tell anyone.

And surely, Hermione would tell all about this conversation to Ginny once she would be back in the common room.

“Another? It’s not the only one. But clearly it’s the one I talk the best after English, for now,” Draco said as he tilted his head a bit. Hermione’s eyebrows shot up.

“You’re serious here?” She asked, even more impressed.

“What do you think I did before coming to Hogwarts or during the holidays?” Draco asked, looking a bit amused. Hermione shrugged.

“That you were going back in your lair to wait,” she said with a little smile. Draco raised an eyebrow.

“Well, you were wrong. I know it’s unusual for you but try to survive,” he said, giving her another one of his smirks.

“Shut up,” she said as she rolled her eyes.

Hermione had never hated Draco. She didn’t even totally dislike him. She had just found him really, extremely annoying. It had never been the same feelings Ron and Harry had for him. They hated the guy. Maybe they had good reasons, Draco was horrible with Harry and Ron had always been prejudiced when it came to the Malfoys. And Draco had always been prejudiced when it came to the Weasleys. But with Hermione, the only thing was that her parents were Muggles. And he wasn’t even mentioning that a lot, especially lately, he was acting way differently.

“I’ve never imagined you doing anything, really. Tell me more, what do you do?” She said, suddenly eager to know about his hobbies. It was true, imagining Draco doing something outside of the school was weird. It was like when she had tried to imagine him younger. And now, imagining him learning to speak another language…

Draco shrugged.

“I already studied a lot before I came here,” he just said. “Learned loads of different stuff. About a bit of everything, really, not only languages but manners, some history, how to fly,” he said, staying evasive, not mentioning the music or the dance for the balls he had to attend with his parents. It was really weird for Draco to have Hermione asking questions about him. Especially since she was looking particularly interested.

“Who taught you those things?” She asked. Draco stared at her for a few seconds. He wasn’t smiling but something on his face was making him look fascinated by Hermione. He was mainly wondering why she had this kind of interest in him. He avoided to narrow his eyes and he looked down at his hands when he answered.

“My mother, mainly,” he said. He wasn’t ashamed, on the contrary, but it was weird to talk about his mother to Granger. It wasn’t the first time he was mentioning her but here, he was making her discover more stuff and he was suddenly a bit intimidated. That was the weirdest part, because he could talk freely about those things with Pansy. He blinked, not wanting to think about her. He looked at Hermione again. “She was always at home with me, so she was teaching me a lot of stuff,” he said. “She’s really smart, you know,” he added quickly and quietly. Hermione smiled a little, but not too much. At least, she tried not to because she couldn’t show him what those words were making him look like. Proud, as always, but also like a son.

Not a git, not a rude little kid, not a rich boastful. Just a son proud of his parents, whatever their actions were.

“If you say so, it must be true. I mean, you didn’t turn out to be a complete idiot, I guess it comes from somewhere,” Hermione said with a little smile, actually knowing nothing about Draco’s mother. But she was taking his word for it. Draco couldn’t wait to be back home to see her, actually. Letters were good, but it wasn’t the same. Fortunately, it would soon be the Easter holidays.

“Of course it is,” he said. “Who taught you?” He asked, sounding more eager to know about her than he wanted. Hermione’s smile became a bit bigger.

“I went to school,” she said. Draco frowned a little. “Muggle school, I’m not surprised you don’t know about it.”

“What?” Draco said, frowning and looking like he wasn’t believing her. “Are you joking to make me look like a fool?” He asked, unsure if Hermione was serious or if she just wanted to make him believe things about Muggles. Hermione shook her head.

“Of course not. Before I received my Hogwarts letter, I was  living like the others, and Muggles go to school really young.”

“That’s… unusual,” he said, making Hermione chuckle. He narrowed his eyes, leaned on his seat and crossed his arms. “Freaks.”

Again, Hermione laughed a little as she shook her head.

“Is that why you love studying so much? Are all Muggles the same way?” Draco asked, suddenly curious once again, maybe too much. Luckily, his parents would never hear about this conversation. Hermione let out another but quiet laugh.

“Most Muggles hate school, actually. But I’ve always loved learning stuff,” she explained. Draco was about to say that he liked that too when he realized, once again, who he was talking to. He was ok with talking to her this way, but he was still not ready to show too much enthusiasm about their similarities. Still, he couldn’t make his curiosity go away. He looked away for a second.

“And what do you learn there?” A little smile came back on Hermione’s lips, surprising Draco. She seemed really amused. “Languages? How to play instruments?”

“That’s not the main subjects, it’s like here but Muggles learn their own things, like maths,” Hermione started to say, meeting Draco’s eyes. “You learn History, but the Muggles one, and-” she said before she frowned a little. “Wait, you also learned how to play music?” She asked. Draco gritted his teeth, taken aback.

“That’s not the subject here,” he quickly said.

“Come on, I’ve always loved music. What can you do?” She asked.

“Not a lot, it’s just…” He started to say, a bit embarrassed. He met Hermione’s eyes and felt suddenly good. “My mother taught me piano,” he then said more quietly. Hermione smiled again.

“Is she the one who taught you how to fly?” She asked, knowing that Draco wouldn’t go further on the music subject. He was looking really uncomfortable and she didn’t want him to suddenly leave or stop talking. He just shook his head but didn’t say anything. He was disturbed by this conversation in an unusual way that Hermione could perceive but not understand. With a grin, she kept going, “Ok, one last question for you, has Professor Snape taught you anything before you came here?” And this time, Draco nodded.

It was a few moments before he spoke again.

“You’re less boring than I thought you would be,” he said and when she looked at him, he shrugged and leaned a bit forwards to be able to see what she was working on. He did this not to allow her to see the expression on his face, but she was glad. Her cheeks were red and she started to write again, hoping it would be able to keep him looking. He didn’t seem to want to look up. His hands were joined together on the table and his eyes staring at her parchment. She didn’t notice that she had stopped writing, she was looking at him. She was looking at his face, staring, really. Staring at his grey eyes that she could barely see behind his white-blond hair, that he wasn’t styling like the year before anymore. She was staring at his pale face, at his features, and she met his eyes when he finally looked up. Again, they stayed silent.

That day was definitely really weird. Not only this was the best discussion they ever had, but they were having a moment. The kind of moment Hermione was hoping they would have. The kind of moment Draco was hoping they would have without ever admitting so. Madam Pince’s arrival broke it.

Draco straightened up when he heard her footsteps before he leaned a bit more casually on his seat as Hermione swallowed and looked down at her paper again. She glanced at Draco and felt her cheeks getting even more hot when she noticed that he was still staring at her.

“I’ve never been boring,” Hermione said quietly. Draco smirked and shrugged. “You just didn’t know me.”

“Yeah, well, I do now.”

                                                                              ○

The last night in the school before the Easter holidays, Draco couldn’t sleep. Well, he could. But not properly. His monthly transformation had happened two days prior, he had spent a night in the hospital, as always, and now he was back in his dorm. But, as often, his dreams wouldn’t leave him alone. He was stuck in this nightmare that was, as always, way too vivid. It was like he was living the pain of the transformation again, like he could hear the screams, like he could feel the bones break under his teeth, like he could taste the blood, like he was howling.

Suddenly, his eyes were wide open. His chest was moving fast, his shirt was soaked because of his sweat, his hair were wet too and he could feel the drops rolling down his temples. He was breathing fast as he stared at nothing. It was like he couldn’t move, like his body was refusing to obey him. He couldn’t recognize the place he was in, it was too dark. When he finally could straighten up, he tried to get out of his four-poster bed but he had to fight with the curtains to get out of there. Once out, it was like getting a sudden rush of fresh air in his lungs. A rush of fresh air that was burning his insides. Apparently, everyone was still asleep, he could even hear Crabbe’s snore.

Crabbe. He was at school.

He could feel his hands shaking uncontrollably and he stumbled because of his trunk as he tried to leave the room. The floor was cold but he didn’t put any socks on as he left his dormitory, walking quickly towards the common room. He had to sit, he had to think.

In school, I’m in school. I’m in school, so it’s fine. Everything’s fine,” he kept telling himself, not having any way of contacting his parents at the moment. The letter would take too long to arrive and he couldn’t use the fireplace, they were probably asleep. Yes, asleep. Not dead. Alive and well, just sleeping in their room. Draco felt sick. Once in front of the couch, he bent over and had to grope along the edge of it before he sat. The room was lighted by some candles but it’s like it wasn’t enough, like it was too dark, like the room was too small. Draco tried to take deep breaths but he couldn’t. He hid his face in his hands as his elbows were resting on his knees and he bit his lower lip as he kept his eyes closed.

 

In another dorm, that night, Pansy couldn’t sleep. She was anxious because of so many things that it was affecting the way she was sleeping, lately. Maybe it was written. Maybe that’s why she told herself that she had to get out of there for maybe a few minutes, just to think about her situation. Maybe that’s why that night, she left her bed and walked towards the common room.

On her way, she suddenly stopped, not sure of what she had heard. Maybe it was just because of the lake. She waited before she heard another sob and someone breathing fast. It was definitely coming from the end of the hallway. She frowned a little before she walked slowly towards the door that was ajar, a hand against the cold wall. She slowly pushed the door, not too much, just to be able to glance around. The candles were lighting the room enough for her to see Draco’s white-blond hair. He was sitting on one of the comfortable couch, his face hidden and his body shaking slightly as he seemed to be crying. Pansy didn’t think about it twice and walked quickly towards him.

“Draco, what is-” she started but she seemed to have startled him. He suddenly got up and walked away from her, blinking. She raised her hands a little. “It’s me, it’s fine, it’s just me,” she said quietly. Draco didn’t say anything but he avoided looking at her again. He even turned on his feet a little not to face her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” she almost whispered. Draco shook his head slightly. “Come on, come back here, sit, what’s going on?” She asked.

“Nothing,” Draco said directly with a strangled voice. He quickly raised his hand to reach his mouth, his fingers touching his lips. Pansy knew. She knew that he was trying not to sob, that he was just trying to look better than the image he was giving her at that moment. She could see his humid shirt against his chest, how the fingers playing with his lips were shaking, how messy his hair were.

“Draco, please, tell-“

"It’s nothing you could possibly understand,” he said with a broken voice, “Leave me alone.”

He was still shaking, he was very pale and his eyes were still filled with tears, he didn’t want her near him. He didn’t want her to talk to him, he didn’t need her. He didn’t need anyone. He just needed to see his parents.

It didn’t stop her, she approached him slowly, not wanting him to move back again.

“Draco, what is it? Tell me,” she repeated.

“No!” Draco said as he finally looked at her, surprising her. It had been a bit sudden, louder but not too loud either.

“Even if I can’t understand, I can listen,” she said desperately. She knew that it would help. Draco had already told her about some stuff that she couldn’t exactly understand, but he had always told her that having her listening was good enough. So why would it be different now? Maybe because he hated her? She looked down. He was probably loathing her, that was the reason. She glanced at him and took a step forwards.

“Don’t approach me, just go away,” Draco said more quietly.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said as she kept walking towards him. He didn’t move, he let her come but he turned his head to avoid meeting her eyes. “I’m not going to leave you alone, I don’t care if you hate me, I’m not leaving,” she said. She slowly put one hand on his left wrist. Draco became a bit tense and he glanced at her before he looked away again.

“Look at me, just look at me, tell me what’s wrong, I’m here for you.”

“No you’re not,” Draco said quickly. He had sounded like a child as he tried to stop another sob from coming out. He wasn’t quite successful and it made him look even more childish.

“Yes, I am. I’ll always be,” Pansy whispered seriously. Draco finally took a deep breath before he met her eyes. “You know I’ll always be. Even if I’m stupid, sometimes, it doesn’t mean I’ll leave you alone,” she said. “I promised you. And I’m not breaking my promises.”

“It’s too late,” Draco muttered. Pansy gave him a sad smile.

“Do you really think it is? Don’t you think that maybe, everyone has the right to have a second chance?” She asked. Draco blinked and slowly looked down. Pansy slowly moved her hand from his wrist to his hand to take it between her fingers. “I’ve been trying to talk to you, to tell you that I’m sorry. That I’m not… afraid. Or anything else. I just never had the chance to do it… I’ve been… Shocked, or whatever, of course I was. But… It’s not what matters. Because last year, you were like this already. Because two years ago, when we met, you were already who you are today. And by who you are, I mean…” she whispered. “I mean, you’re still the same stupid guy who hold my hand last year,” she said with a little smile as she glanced at his hand that she was still holding. Draco looked up at her again when she said that, feeling like crying again. “I have ups and downs too, but you’re still with me. And today, I’m still with you.”

“It’s not the same…” He whispered, a tear rolling on his cheek. Pansy quietly chuckled as she felt her eyes stinging and she slightly shook her head. She had never seen him so desperate, even if she had already seen him looking kind of depressed before. That’s when she truly realized how thinner he got during this year. How he seemed to look older than the rest of the students because he was bearing the marks of his monthly transformations.

“No, it’s not. I said it myself. Of course it’s not the same situation. It doesn’t mean it can’t have the same ending,” she said, trying to keep smiling and not cry. One of them had to be strong and this time, it was her turn. “What do you say about that?” She asked. There was a few seconds of silence before Draco nodded slowly. He sniffed and looked away again, embarrassed. “Come on.”

She turned around, still holding his hand, and she walked towards the couch. Draco used his other hand to dry his cheeks before he sniffed again and sat next to her. She didn’t let go of his hand, she even held it more tightly, the other one coming above to cover all of Draco’s hand.

“I think it’s time we talk, don’t you?” She asked. Again, Draco nodded, staring at his knees. She smiled a little. Surely, she was the only one able to see him in this condition. And no one would ever know. She had never said anything about him to anyone, and she knew way more stuff than his other friends, especially that year. “It’s fine, it’s totally fine, breathe,” she said. She saw him take another deep breath and she squeezed his hand a little to show him that he was doing good.

“It’s just- it’s… my parents,” he whispered before a sob blocked his throat. He didn’t want to let it out. Pansy didn’t say anything, she was listening carefully, knowing that she also had to let him talk, not just ask questions. “I have…” Draco looked at the fireplace in front of him, suddenly wishing there would be a fire there, he was starting to get a bit cold. “Nightmares,” he whispered. Pansy frowned a little and tilted her head, trying to see Draco’s expression. He wasn’t saying anything else and Pansy thought about it for a few seconds before she understood.

“Your… Is this… Your Boggart, it’s about that, isn’t it?” She asked carefully. Draco slowly nodded, still not looking at her. Pansy held a sigh, barely able to imagine what Draco was dreaming about. Draco closed his eyes as he took a deep breath again. She could remember what his mother had looked like. She could remember his father’s words. She pressed his hand. “But, Draco… You know you will never do that to them…” She said, not really knowing what she could say to make his pain go away. Draco slightly shrugged before he used his free hand to dry his cheeks again. Pansy looked at him as he did it before her eyes stopped on his forearm as he put his hand on his knee again. She frowned a little. It was still dark in the room, even with the candles, but she was sure she had seen scars on his arm. Her heart skipped a beat and she looked at Draco again, wondering if he had done that to himself, or if it came from his attack.

“I-I know… Kinda… I mean… We do everything to avoid…” He tried to explain, unsuccessful. But Pansy understood. “Still, I have those nightmares and it seems so… Real… It feels real… What if it’s bound to happen?” He asked, remembering his conversation with Lupin about that. Still, he was afraid it would happen one day. The more he was getting older, the stronger he was getting. He wasn’t only growing up in his human form, he had changed as a werewolf. And his strength had changed too. His aggressiveness had changed too.

“It’s been three years and you didn’t, you told me yourself… You’re not dangerous, because you’re careful… You’re not going to do anything to them…”

“But I already did,” Draco said, even more quietly than before. Pansy raised her eyebrows, taken aback. Had he hurt one of his parents? “I ruined everything, I’m… Filthy and I’m… I don’t even know what you’re doing there… You shouldn’t associate yourself with me… I don’t even know why they still-”

“Because they love you…” Pansy said, implying that it was also the reason she was still with him. “Very much, you’re… You’re too important for them to throw you out.”

“But I’m useless,” Draco said as he frowned a little, still staring at the fireplace in front of them. Pansy opened her mouth slightly but she had nothing to say at that moment, she had to think about the right words. She understood what he meant, of course. He wasn’t the pure-blood son he had been during nine, almost ten years anymore.

“They clearly don’t measure their love for you based on your utility, Draco,” she said. Draco turned his head to look at her, narrowing his eyes a little. “You’re their son. They love you more than anything in this world, they wouldn’t abandon you because you’ve changed.”

“Of course they would… You know it,” he said. Yes, Pansy knew the way it was working. In this kind of family, people were disowned as soon as they were crossing the line. She pursed her lips. That was the point. He was still there, and they were still very affectionate with Draco. It didn’t change anything.

“So tell me… Tell me why you’re still in the Manor? Why you’re still exchanging letters with your father? Why your mother is still sending you so many things and making sure you’re ok almost every single day? If they didn’t want you with them anymore, they could have easily shown you their feelings a long time ago. But they didn’t, did they?”

“Probably because they don’t have other children… I keep telling myself that if I marry some pure-blood girl, it might be ok but… No one is going to want to marry me. I’m disgusting and they wouldn’t associate themselves with me… What a shame it would be.”

Pansy couldn’t say anything, because she knew that he was right. He probably would never find someone matching the beliefs of his family to marry him. Unless it was arranged, but Pansy couldn’t see Draco stuck in an arranged marriage. Draco was a passionate boy. He couldn’t live this kind of life. He was curious, doing a lot of different stuff, and Pansy knew that deep down, he would want someone with who he would be able to share the things he liked, he would want a friend and not some girl he was forced to marry. He would need love.

“I mean, if they had had another children, I’m pretty sure they would have disowned me… But do they really have a choice, if they want the line to keep going? You know how I see my future?” He asked without planning on explaining it and without expecting an answer.

But Pansy thought about what he said. They didn’t have another child. They could have, they still could actually, but they weren’t having another one. She wondered if Draco was enough for them, if they were still satisfied with him. If his happiness was more important than the rest.

“What if… What if you, being the way you are,” she said, still not able to say that he was a werewolf, it was too weird, “What if it made them think about it? What if they-”

“They still believe in all that stuff, nothing has changed about that…” Draco whispered, knowing what Pansy was trying to tell. “At least, I don’t think so,” he said.

“Have you ever talked about it with them?” Draco closed his eyes as he shook his head. Of course not, he would never dare. He was too afraid. If he was talking to them about it, the problem would become too real. “Do you want this kind of future?” And again, he shook his head, not sure about what he wanted but knowing that it wasn’t an arranged marriage with some girl disgusted by him.

Maybe dying alone was a solution. Maybe ending the Malfoy line was the solution. It seemed like his fate was to be the family disappointment. He sighed and held Pansy’s hand more tightly too. They stayed silent for a moment before, smiling a little, Pansy talked again.

“So, Granger, huh?” She whispered. “Is it really a future you could imagine?” Draco slowly looked at her, thinking about Hermione. About Hermione smiling, about Hermione laughing because of him. For a second, he felt a warm wave going through his body, followed by a shiver going down his spine when that warm feeling left his body again. “She’s good looking,” Pansy said as she shrugged. Draco snorted as he turned his head again, shaking his head. He sighed heavily.

“I’m so fucked…” He whispered. Pansy looked at him again and, finally letting go of his hand, she elbowed him softly.

“Well, at least, you’re not a lesbian,” she said. Draco finally chuckled as he met her eyes. It was weird, like some of the heavy weight that had been resting on his shoulder for the past couple of months was lifted. “We’re both doomed.”

And like that, Draco leaned into a hug. They had never stayed so long without talking to each other. But Draco could understand the way she had reacted. And he was glad to see that she could see past the situation because their friendship was more important.

Maybe it was because they were young, maybe that later, realizing what it all meant, she would ditch him just to be sure she wouldn’t be seen as some kind of blood-traitor. Or maybe, maybe it was because they were both doomed. Maybe that’s why they had got closer the year before. Maybe that’s why she had listened to him, maybe that’s why he had listened to her and had held her hand as she was crying, realizing the way she was feeling. Maybe that’s why their friendship was stronger than this, because even if they were doomed, they would be together.

“Well, we’re not going to have a bright future. If your parents want to force you into a marriage, send me a letter. I’ll be forced to find a husband too,” Pansy said as she laughed quietly, still holding Draco. This one let his head rest on her shoulder as he moved one of the hand he had on her back. Automatically, like they had done the year before, they joined their pinky fingers without having to look at each other or to say anything.

Chapter Text

Pansy and Draco had stayed in the common room for the rest of the night to talk about more things and just to catch up for the time they had spent not talking to each other. He had explained more things to her about his condition, too. She needed to know, she needed to be informed and he needed to answer her questions. Even if they were tired, they were both feeling better and it's in a good mood that Draco had left the castle the next day. He had missed his home and definitely enjoyed his holidays there. But even once back at Hogwarts, after those holidays, something was stuck in his head. A few things, actually, but this one was probably one of the most important.

During the night spent with Pansy in the common room, he had admitted something out loud for the first time, even if he hadn't directly said it. He had admitted that he liked Hermione more than he should. And during the holidays, he had made his decision. He had had a conversation with his mother and had taken a decision about his fate. Kind of. Because it wasn't working this way. It wasn't so easy to get what he wanted in this case. Which was unusual, but exciting in a way. He never really had to fight for what he wanted, but he knew that it might be a bit different this time. But it was too late to back out, now.

He had written her a letter and he could remember really clearly the conversation he had had with his mother just before that, he could remember clearly what it meant.

It had almost been the end of the holidays when Draco had heard someone knocking on the bathroom door. He had glanced at it as he was putting his black shirt on.

 

"Yeah?"

"Are you done?" He heard his mother ask. As soon as he did, he smiled a little and hurried to button his black shirt, not liking to let his skin too visible. He walked towards the door as he was buttoning his sleeves too. His parents didn't know about the injury on his arm, they just thought he had been attacked by Buckbeak and he had ended up saying that it hadn't left a scar too visible to avoid them looking at his arm.

"Yes, you can come in," he told his mother once he had opened the door. Narcissa walked in the huge bathroom and approached her son, putting a hand on his cheek as she kissed the other.

"How did you sleep?" She asked and he gave her a little smile. It was actually pretty late. Draco hadn't slept well that night because of his dreams and instead of getting up early as always, he had stayed in his bed to try and get some more sleep, which he finally did. Then, he got up and proceeded in having a long bath to try and relax. He was having more nightmares than usual and knew why. He was too anxious, that year, everything that was going on at school was putting a lot of pressure on his shoulders, resulting in bad dreams and tiredness, as well as nervousness.

"Better," he simply said. His mother was starting to put his shirt's collar properly, looking at it, glad that he had been able to calm down.

"The Parkinsons are coming over this evening, would you like your friend Pansy to sleep over?" Narcissa asked as Draco was putting his shirt in his pants. He blinked, not looking at his mother for a second. A week before that day, he wouldn't have said yes. He would have been aggrieved by having Pansy around just for dinner. But that day, he smiled at his mother again.

"That'd be nice, yes," he said, looking at her again. He was still growing up, they were almost the same height already and soon, he would probably be taller.

"How is it going with her? She's a really nice girl," his mother said as she was finally able to meet his eyes. Draco chuckled and shook his head.

"I already told you, Mother, I don't fancy Pansy."

"Too bad you don't, she's a good girl," Narcissa said on a very matter-of-factly tone reminding Draco of Hermione. He quickly made her image go far away from his head as he avoided looking in his mother's eyes.

"But I do not see her like that, she's... You know, my friend. Furthermore, she doesn't fancy me either," he said, not really wanting to talk about it. They already had twice in the past.

"And... Are you interested in anyone?"

"Not really," Draco lied, trying to stay evasive. He knew his mother wouldn't use Legilimency on him but he was still very nervous.

"That's vague," his mother noted, tilting her head a bit.

"Yeah, well, I don't know. It's kind of weird. I don't want to talk about it. Girls are complicated anyway. When they don't cry, they're angry, it's too much pressure for now," he simply said as he tried to smile, walking past his mother to look at himself in the mirror and checking his outfit. "Don't you think I'm too young to find someone anyway?" He asked without really expecting an answer. Narcissa came next to him, crossing her arms. "Anyway, will Father be here tonight?" He quickly added to change the subject. Through the mirror, Narcissa looked at her son for a moment before she softly ran her fingers through his hair to replace them.

"Of course he will," she said, knowing that Draco was craving his presence like he was craving hers. "He will come home late but he will be there."

After a moment during which she kept looking at her son, Narcissa asked, "Would you like to go for a walk?" And after a second, Draco nodded.

 

They were walking outside the manor, Narcissa was holding her son's hand, the other one was around his arm. Draco had always enjoyed these walks, especially when he had a lot on his mind.

"Is it really important that I find someone so soon?" Draco finally asked, looking in front of him. As always, when a subject was bothering him, he was talking about it after giving it some thoughts.

"Not now, you have time for that. But you know, it's still important for you to be around good people already," Narcissa said, looking at her son. Draco pursed his lips. "Is there something bothering you?"

"No, well, not about that. I know how important it is. I know what I have to do. But... It feels like..." He ended up shrugging and his mother looked in front of her again.

"You know that you can tell me anything, don't you?" She asked. Draco looked at his mother, knowing that he could. And at the same time, he knew that he couldn't. Because even if she would listen to everything, she wouldn't approve of everything. And he didn't want to disappoint her. He didn't want to change the way she was looking at him. He didn't want her to stop giving him those rare but warm smiles she was only giving him or his father. He had already changed their lives once, he didn't want to do it again. He didn't want to ruin everything for good.

"It just sounds like... I can't be in a... You know, like it doesn't matter if I love my future wife," he finally sighed. Narcissa didn't laugh nor smiled but she had found those words kind of amusing.

"Of course we want you to be in a love marriage. All we want is for you to be happy," she said. "But you need to fall in love with someone decent."

"No, I know that, of course. I'm just saying, it's..." He couldn't find the words.

"A lot of pressure, isn't it?" Narcissa had asked, knowing the subject pretty well.

"Yeah..." Draco muttered, a bit surprised that she would understand that. He had always been stressed out about talking about that. How would his mother react? But she knew that those were questions he would ask one day. It was something he knew he had to do without knowing the reasons besides the purity of their line. And since he had never asked anything yet, she knew that he would do it one day. Draco was a bit different than the way she had been herself when younger. She had never questioned anything, why would she have? Even when her sister had betrayed her family, she hadn't questioned her punishment. It was just logical for it to happen this way.

But Draco was a curious boy, always had been, always asking questions about everything, always wanting to know reasons behind anything. When he was way younger, he had to ask why his mother wasn't working like his father. Why his father was working so much and why he wasn't home more often. Why he had to learn how to dance for the balls, why his father wasn't smiling much, why he had to eat his vegetables, why people were talking to him like he was a kid, where they had found all their books, how their parents had met. Why his mother loved his father. Why his father loved his mother. Why they loved him. "Did you... Ever thought you would end up in nothing more than... An arranged marriage, if it wasn't for Father?"

Narcissa smiled. It was a bit cold, as she was looking in front of her, thinking about some of the marriages of her family. If she hadn't met Lucius, if she hadn't fallen in love with him, she might have ended up marrying one of her cousins, after all, it wouldn't have mattered if she wanted to or not. But Lucius did appear in her life and caused an avalanche of new feelings. Of true feelings.

"I knew it would happen eventually if I didn't find anyone worthy of marrying me. But with your father pursuing me during most of our school days, I didn't really worry about it."

"Father was pursuing you? Didn't you want to be with him at the time?" Draco asked. One thing he knew for sure was that his parents loved each other. He knew that they had met at Hogwarts and it had always made sense to him that they had just fallen directly in love.

"Let's say that... I liked the attention, I didn't mind making him wait," she explained with a little but sardonic smile. Draco couldn't help but chuckle.

"And he never lost hope?" He asked with a smirk.

"Your father? You know him as well as I do, if he wants something-"

"He gets it," Draco finished her sentence and he chuckled again as his mother smiled at him.

"Exactly. You're like him, for that," she said, pleasing her son. He had a proud little smile on his lips as he tightened his grip on his mother's hand. "Actually, you're a lot more like him than you think," she added, glancing at her son who was already physically reminding her of Lucius when he was younger but with shorter hair. Draco turned his head to look at her and their eyes met. Clearly, his son was asking for more information on the matter. "Well, you sure have my brains, but you two are nonetheless alike. I'm sure you're also a hopeless romantic, just like him, really."

"Right..." Draco said, suddenly a bit skeptical.

"Don't you believe me?"

"Father, a hopeless romantic? It is indeed hard to believe, yes. Are we talking about the same person?" Draco asked, looking at his mother again.

"Please. I will have you know that when he was trying to court me, he did write me a seven pages letter to invite me to a ball," Narcissa said with a proud little smile that Draco had obviously inherited from her the same way he had inherited of her arrogance. But the writing thing, he had it from his father, apparently. Or had they just in common their passion for talking about stuff obsessing them? Draco was able to write endless letters when it came to talk about the Potter boy and what was going on in the castle, like his father was writing endless letters to conquer her heart.

"Are you serious?" Draco asked as he stopped walking.

"I couldn't be more," Narcissa said as she stopped too, facing her son. "And his handwriting is not what you can call big."

Again, Draco chuckled. He was feeling so good at home, he couldn't help but being amused by everything his mother was saying. "And... What did you say?"

"I simply wrote that I wouldn't say yes if he wasn't asking me directly, nothing more, nothing less."

"And did he?"

"He showed up at my door the very next day," Narcissa said as she started to walk again. Draco did too, still holding her hand and still not believing what he was hearing.

"He did not," he articulated, a little smile on his face as he was looking in front of him. It was hard to imagine his father acting this way.

"He did. He asked me out in front of your grandfather, saying that he only did it by letter by fear of having someone else asking me before him."

"So you accepted? I mean, he did what you asked."

"He would have thrown himself from the Astronomy Tower if I had asked him to, it was ridiculous. But coming all the way to ask this in front of my own father... What do you think?"

"That it was pretty brave?" Narcissa looked at him and Draco thought that she was looking strangely amused. At least, he was pretty sure he could see an ounce of amusement in her eyes.

"I didn't talk to him for two entire weeks. Never answered his letters, which he kept sending me, and once at school, I totally ignored him."

"But why?"

"To see if he was that dedicated, what do you think? He never stopped trying to get my attention. When another boy from a good family asked me to the ball in class, I said that I was already going with your father. He couldn't stop bragging after that but I have to say, it was kind of... cute."

"Kind of weird, more like," Draco said as he made a face, frowning a little. This time, Narcissa gave her son that one special smile, that was making him feel warm inside.

"Like I said, you're like him. When you will find the girl you love, you will do anything to have her, no matter what you actually have to do. We will see if it's weird when the time comes. But it is something you still have for now, time. Don't engage yourself in this kind of things too fast," she said, looking in front of her again. Draco glanced at her, not realizing what she wanted to tell him with those words. He couldn't tell that she wanted to keep him for herself a little longer.

"But... Do you think... That whatever I might do... Might not be enough?" Draco asked a bit more quietly, not looking at his mother. But she turned her head, also knowing that it would come up some day. "No one will ever want... You know. I'm not... You know."

"I do not, no," she simply said as she looked in front of her again. Draco blinked but didn't say anything else, feeling good and bad at the same time.

Back in his bedroom, Draco thought a lot about this conversation. He wouldn't do everything he could to have someone. On that, he wasn't like his father, he was sure of it. Or almost certain. If he was, wouldn't he have already acted on what he was beginning to feel for Granger?

No, Draco would wait for a sign telling him he had to do something. If no sign was coming, he wouldn't act on this.

He jumped a little with surprise when he heard his owl knocking against one of his windows with its beak. He pursed his lips. It wasn't a sign, right? It was just a coincidence that he was coming back when he was thinking about writing a letter to Hermione, right? Right.

His owl was coming back after having delivered a letter to Lupin. Draco had felt oddly good when his teacher had asked him to write to him during the holidays, just to let him know how he was doing. Draco had also used this opportunity to ask him about him and Snape. He was still curious about whatever had happened during their school years.

But in front of him, there was this blank piece of parchment and he still had his quill in his hand. He closed his eyes for a few seconds before he sighed and started to write. It didn't mean he was like his father, right? He had told Granger he would write to her when he would have read the book. Well, he was doing as he had said, that was it. Did it really matter if he had finished the book before the beginning of the holidays? Of course not, he just didn't have the chance to talk to her long enough before to discuss the book, that was it.

Or maybe it was because he was ready to take his chances. To try to get closer to her.

Maybe his owl coming back right at that time had been the sign he had been waiting for, hoping for. Knowing that she was staying at Hogwarts for the holidays, he just hoped her stupid friends wouldn't see this letter.

 

And now, back in the castle, a few things were frustrating him. But the Granger thing was the most infuriating for him. Not long ago, she had slapped him. Hard. Full of confidence before, he had felt ridiculous, humiliated in front of his friends. And hated by the girl he liked.

Well, Draco could admit that he had been rather insensitive, but he couldn't act properly when Granger was around.

The day he had written her the letter, he had told Pansy about it. She still didn't think it was really clever but she was kind of curious and had asked what he had told her. Draco had stayed very evasive and he just wondered if she would write back. Pansy, on the other hand, wondered if Granger wasn't just hoping he would write to her in order to make fun of him later with Potter and Weasley. Draco had never thought about that and discovered a new kind of anxiety. So, he had just said that Granger wasn't mean and that if he had to be honest, it sounded more like something Pansy and him would pull out.

Then, they had been talking. She had indeed answered to his letter and even back in the castle, they had discovered that it was way easier to talk to each other this way. Draco was using Hogwarts' owls, just in case anyone would recognize his own owl, and they didn't have to meet in the library to have five minutes to talk.

They were still doing that too, of course. Sometimes, between classes. It was weird, but Draco had tried not to wonder what Hermione was thinking about all of this. They were more comfortable around each other and he wanted to pat himself on the back every time he was making her smile or laugh. But now, things were a bit different, he was angry.

That brainless chicken had attacked him, he didn't care for its fate. It was nice that it got to die and that the oaf was sad, it was his fault anyway. All Draco needed now was for him to be sacked. Draco smirked at the thought of Buckbeak dead and crossed his arms, leaning against the wall next to the door of Snape's office.

How had she dared slap him? He was so angry that he had ranted about it to Pansy once alone with her and after he had made sure his friends wouldn't go and tell people about it. Actually, the more time was passing, the more he was talking about Granger to Pansy. He was sure that he was annoying her, actually, but she had never asked him to stop. Allowing him to talk about her wasn't really helping, since it made it impossible for him to stop thinking about her. Now that he was more or less accepting what he was feeling, it had been easier to accept his thoughts and the way he was acting when around Granger. Like a fool, basically. He couldn't help it. But now, his ego was hurt and he was mad at her.

One of the other things annoying him was the results of that year. Not only his grades had suffered because of his mood and the events, but his House surely wasn't about to win the House Cup and they had lost the Quittidtch final. After a long conversation with Flint regarding Draco's health at the time of the last match, Marcus had made several changes in the team. They had played in the most dirty way they ever had and still lost. Draco was very bitter about this and sometimes, he was catching himself thinking that it was his fault. If he had been in good shape, they wouldn't have had to play that way. And maybe, just maybe, he would have been able to catch that stupid Snitch. Well, at least, unlike the year before, Flint wasn't mad at Draco for not having seen the Snitch first, he knew how exhausted Draco had been during this match. The whole team was annoyed because they had lost, but at least no one had told anything to Draco, knowing that he was sick. He and Pansy were the only ones knowing that he was "sick".

But Draco wasn't kidding himself anyway. Potter was better at Quidditch. Of course he was. Potter was always better at everything, wasn't he? What a joke.

And there was also another thing driving him crazy but he wouldn't say anything to anyone.

Lupin. Why was he so distant lately? He hadn't even answered to his letter during the holidays. Draco had felt really bad and when he had gathered the courage to ask Lupin about it during one of the following cycles; his teacher had looked disrupted by the question and had mumbled an apology.

As if he was sorry.

Draco should have expected this. He was playing with him too, he just wanted him to get attached and then, he would make him suffer. No one was nice, in the end. And they were all wondering why he was so mean with everyone.

"Stupid people... Stupid school..." He mumbled as he started to pace the hallway again. Even Snape wasn't there. But it was important, he had to take his potion. He had to take his potion and go to the Shrieking Shack really soon.

Draco wasn't sure that Lupin's behavior was his fault, though. At least, that's what he was telling himself. He had wanted to talk to him about a few things but Lupin wasn't really talkative lately. He seemed really tired and one time, when Draco had gone to his office, his teacher had looked startled by his arrival and stopped looking at some sort of parchment he had in front of him. When Draco had tried to see what it was, he had discovered that it was blank. He hadn't understood and he hadn't asked anything, he was too annoyed for that and a bit too selfish to really try to discover what was wrong with Lupin.

Of course, he could have asked. He could have asked what was bothering Lupin. Weren't they... Friends? They had to be, at that point. They had got close during that year. So close that Draco could tell it was even bothering Snape. But since nothing was going the way Draco wanted, he had ended up talking more to Snape again. If change was the thing making him suffering, why would he keep the things changing his life around him? What if all he had to do was going back to the life he had before that year? Snape had seemed pleased to see that Draco had finally decided not to go mental again and had welcomed him back in his office and by his side.

So, Draco couldn't understand. Why would Snape let him down now? Draco clenched his jaw, walking towards the door. He hated when things weren't going the way he wanted them to. He put his hand on the doorknob and, surprisingly enough, it opened. Why would Snape leave his office but let it open? He was never letting it open and for once, Draco had knocked and called him so he was sure his professor wasn't in there.

Draco walked in, looked around and sighed. At least, he wasn't avoiding him; Snape really wasn't there. Draco knew what he had to do.

He walked towards one cauldron. A lot of smoke was getting out of it and Draco took a cup before he filled it with the Wolfsbane Potion. Where was Lupin? He had to take his potion too. As he started to drink it, Draco glanced at the clock. He almost choked on the potion as he saw the time. He quickly drank the rest of the disgusting liquid before he put the cup near the cauldron and he left the office in a hurry. What the hell was going on that day? He ran towards the stairs to get out of the dungeons but once upstairs, he had to stop.

"What are you doing here?" Percy called angrily as he saw Draco.

Nice, just what Draco needed. He was panting and he glanced at the big door. Should he make a run for it? Probably not. He didn't even have his wand with him. He usually had it with him all the time but not when he was going to turn. What if he was breaking it by accident or something? Percy walked fast towards Draco who took the most contemptuous look he could, given the situation.

"You're not supposed to run around the castle at this time of the day. Where are you going?" He asked. It was quite late, even if it wasn't the night yet. Still, the moon would show up soon, the sky would be dark even sooner. They just had to stay locked in their common room after the feasts lately, because of Sirius Black.

"None of your business, Weasley," Draco said very coldly. Percy didn't look impressed.

"Right, that's what we're going to see," he said. "Let's go see your Head of House, why don't we?"

"Maybe because he's not there," Draco said vehemently. He didn't mind taking it out on Peter or whatever his name was, even if he hadn't done anything to him, he was a Weasley anyway. Merlin, that's why he needed Snape with him, he couldn't wander around the castle alone, especially lately.

"We're still going to see if he's really not there. Just in case, you know," Percy said, not believing him at all. Draco clenched his teeth and his fists. If only he could punch him right in the face. He felt Percy's fingers gripping his shirt just above his elbow and he started to walk towards the stairs.

"I can walk by myself, I'm not a child, let go of me," Draco said angrily as he pulled his arm, but Percy wouldn't let go.

"So you can run away? Don't even try, Malfoy," Percy said. Draco chuckled. Fantastic. Everything was fantastic that evening. He was hoping it was just a big joke. He wanted to hit Percy. He wanted to laugh and to cry at the same time.

He also wanted to scream.

They arrived in front of Snape's office, which Draco had left open. He hadn't minded, at the time, he hadn't even thought about it. Now, he regretted it because Percy would go in and not just knock, which meant he would waste even more time there. Nervous, Draco was forced to follow him in the room. Weasley wouldn't let go of him and he glanced at him as Percy was looking around the office after having knocked uselessly on the opened door.

"Told you," Draco said. He would be smiling victoriously if he wasn't so nervous. Percy glared at him and turned around, still holding Draco. He had always thought the Weasley's were good for nothing but it was the first time he was really glad about this judgment. Draco would always consider Percy's lack of attention to detail at that very moment as one of his best qualities. He hadn't noticed the Wolfsbane Potion at all. He was probably too happy to have to bring Draco to his Head of House to pay attention to anything, really.

"Well then, we're just going to go see what Professor McGonagall has to say about this," Percy said, clearly trying not to grin.

"Don't worry, I'm not afraid of what McGonagall's going to say," Draco said, knowing it would annoy Percy. Actually, he was more worried about turning right in the middle of the castle. But he knew he wouldn't be in trouble for his little nocturnal walk. When it came to that, McGonagall was understanding. Too bad he couldn't tell it to Percy, too bad he couldn't just brag about it. Surely, Percy wouldn't feel so good if he knew what might happen if he kept pulling Draco around the castle.

"It's Professor McGonagall for you," Percy said coldly. Draco could hear the note of enjoyment in his voice regardless his coldness. Draco mimicked him silently before he rolled his eyes, tired of Percy.

And of course, they had to go to the third-floor. Of course, she wouldn't be closer, now, she had to be so far away from the front doors. It seemed like she was still in Class 34, one of the classes where Draco had been learning Transfiguration during his first year in this school. He was almost walking faster than Percy who was still holding his shirt tightly between his fingers. But again, Percy didn't seem to notice that. He was probably savoring the punishment Draco would have even before he had it. But Draco still wasn't worried about that.

Finally, they stopped in front of the classroom and Percy knocked. When they both heard "come in", Percy opened the door and walked in the room. McGonagall didn't look up from the essays she was apparently marking.

"Professor McGonagall, I am truly sorry for bothering you but I found this third-year student running around while I was finishing my round," he said. McGonagall looked up at once and as soon as she saw Draco, she stood up. Draco was looking as annoyed as ever. His jaw was clenched hard and he tried to pull his arm again. Percy just kept on going, "Knowing the danger we are all in these days, I thought it would only be proper to bring him to you, since Professor Snape is not in his office."

"Why isn't he there?" Their professor asked. Draco met her eyes and knew that she was asking him to answer, not Percy. But the Head Boy talked anyway.

"I don't know, Professor, and Malfoy refuses to tell me what he is doing wandering in the castle at this inappropriate time," he said, totally oblivious.

Draco would have laughed if the situation wasn't so dramatic.

"Um- You did well, Mr. Weasley," she said before she waved to tell him he could leave. "I will take care of this, you can go," she said.

"Are you sure, Professor? I can wait to walk him back to his common room," he said, not wanting to bother his professor with this kind of inconvenience. Draco thought that he was taking himself too seriously since he was a prefect and wondered who the hell genuinely thought he would make a good Head Boy. He really hated him. He was very nervous and kept staring at his teacher, hoping she would be able to make him leave.

"Mr. Weasley, if I say that I will take care of this," McGonagall began to say a bit more coldly, finally not looking at Draco anymore but slowly drifting her gaze towards Percy, "It means that I will take care of this."

"Sure, I'm sorry," Percy said as he finally let go of Draco. This one looked at Percy and couldn't help but smirk as the Head Boy had to leave. Once the door was closed, he lost his smile and looked at his teacher again.

"What on earth are you still doing in the castle?" She articulated, totally dumbfounded as she walked around her desk to face Draco.

"I would be long gone if this cretin hadn't seen me leaving," Draco said, probably a bit too aggressively. He couldn't help but be this way that day. He was exhausted, feeling sick and nervous. He was also angry because of Weasley. Seeing his teacher's look, he looked away as he clenched his jaw once again, feeling like he was about to throw up. "I was waiting for Professor Snape. He's... I don't know where he is," he just said.

"Did you take your potion?" His professor asked, genuinely concerned. Draco nodded.

"His door was opened, I went in and drank it," he shortly explained.

"Well then, I think it's time for you to go," she said as she put a hand on his shoulder, leading him towards the door. "Do you have any idea what time it is?" She asked. Draco had never heard her voice sound like this. He knew why she was nervous, or worried, or whatever she was. He might be turning in a few minutes, or in an hour, who knew? They couldn't see the moon from where they were, but it wouldn't be long before it would show.

"Of course, that's why I was "running around the castle" ", he said, imitating Percy. He only got a nasty stare from his teacher and he shook his head, getting out of the classroom with her. They started to walk down the stairs.

"Do you know where he is?" Draco asked, a bit concerned. McGonagall knew he was talking about Snape. "He never missed..." He mumbled, not finishing his sentence. Again, his teacher took her time to look at him, knowing what he truly meant by that. He had never left Draco alone for a cycle before, and clearly, her student was hurt but didn't want to show it to her.

"I don't know, but you did good by going in anyway," she said as they arrived on the first floor. Soon, he would be free.

"Professor Lupin-" Draco began. "I- He wasn't- I didn't see him either," he said. His teacher didn't stop walking fast but she glanced at him.

"What do you mean?"

"We usually take it at the same time, but he wasn't there, I don't know where they are, I don't think..." Draco stopped talking and walking. They had arrived in front of the big doors and he looked at his teacher. "I don't think he took his potion. He has to, it's... Do you know where he is?" Draco asked. McGonagall pursed her lips but shook her head.

"I do not," she said calmly. Draco looked down.

"Anyway, I..." He said before he looked outside. He didn't feel like thanking her. He shook his head and, noticing how dark it was already, he only glanced at her, briefly meeting her eyes before he walked out of the castle. His teacher stared at him as he was walking fast, his fists clenched.

Once he was sure she wasn't able to see him anymore, he started to run. He was so afraid, he still had to walk, or more like to run, all the way to the Shrieking Shack, he didn't want to turn in the passage. His heart was beating fast but he could see the Whomping Willow already. Luckily, it would be all over soon. His fear would go away, no one would be in any danger. Luckily, when he would emerge from the passage, he would find Lupin waiting for him. He would reassure him. Because if Draco had to be honest, he wasn't only afraid for himself.

Lupin probably hadn't taken his potion that night. Draco knew that the potion was helping a lot, even just for the pain they were having during the transformation. It was still extremely painful but it was way worse without the potion. Not that Draco knew how terrible it must been, he had always had Snape by his side to make it for him. Plus, Lupin would be out of control. The thought of turning around and run even faster to see if Lupin wasn't in his office crossed his mind but he pushed it away quickly. He wouldn't have the time. He would never have the time.

What if Lupin had been so exhausted that he had fallen asleep there? Draco could easily see that happening, he was tired himself, he didn't feel like running but the fear was making his body work. The adrenaline was keeping him even more awake than he usually was after a long and good night of sleep. 

If he had to be true to himself, he'd say he was worrying sick for Lupin.

He was surprised, once he reached the tree. He stopped running, panting, apparently surprising Snape too.

"Draco-!" His teacher let out. He was apparently about to enter in the passage. What was he doing? Draco felt the anger taking control of his body again.

"What are you doing here? Why are you going down there?" He asked, not able to keep his voice down.

"Calm down, Draco," Snape said as he faced his student.

"Calm down?" Draco repeated. "Calm down? I was waiting for you, I thought I wouldn't even be able to take the- I thought you wouldn't show up, that-  And you want me to calm down?" He said, indignant.

"Listen to me," Snape said in a rather strict tone, "You cannot go in there tonight."

Draco didn't know what to say. He did open his mouth but no sound came out. So he closed it. Opened it again, looked at the tree, and closed it again as he met his professor's eyes.

"Not tonight," Snape said calmly, seeing that the news had struck Draco enough for him not to lash out anymore.

"What am I supposed to do?" Draco asked quickly and desperately, not able to hide the note of panic in his voice.

"You need to go in the Forest, Draco, not in there."

"But Dum-"

"I'll tell him why I made you go there, I promise. But you need to go in the Forest and... And to run as far away as you can," Snape said. He sounded really calm, given the situation. Draco still didn't know why he couldn't go in the Shrieking Shack but with that demand, the thought of asking didn't even cross his mind.

"But..." Draco tried again. He still sounded desperate and he glanced at the tree before he met Snape's eyes again. "What if I get too far and don't find my way back tomorrow? What if something comes for me?" He had always been very uncomfortable when it came to the Forest. He knew a lot of different creatures were living there. In his human form, he might be attacked.

He was terrified.

Snape knew it and walked towards Draco.

"I'll come and find you first thing tomorrow, I promise you. You just find a safe place," Snape said. Draco gritted his teeth and glanced at the tree again. "Now, Draco. Run."

Draco looked away during a few seconds before, still gritting his teeth, he met Snape's eyes one more time, one last time. If he hadn't been so afraid, he would have been able to detect the little glow of torment in them. In the end, Draco walked past his professor before he started to run again, Snape staring at him.

Soon, Draco reached the trees of the Forest and found himself running between them. He was panting, it was even darker than before. The trees were getting bigger and the air smacking his face was getting cooler. He was pushing really thin branches out of his way, some of them hitting his face and other his hands as he was approaching a deeper part of the Forest. Still running, he loosened his tie before totally removing it, throwing it away. He didn't care. He didn't care about his clothes anymore. He didn't care about anything anymore. He almost ran straight into a tree because it was so dark.

To keep moving forwards, he hopped as he removed a first shoe and then his sock, before he did the same with the other foot, actually hurting the first one. But he couldn't care less, he began to run again, as he tried to unbutton his shirt, his shaking hands really not helping him. He didn't want to turn. He didn't want to turn there and most of all, he didn't want to turn alone. Not again. Not after all those months spent with Lupin. He didn't want to.

He didn't know for how long he had been running, he didn't know if he was far enough, he was feeling like he was running very slowly. Maybe it was because he was exhausted. He was feeling bad, a bit dizzy and his hands were shaking. He stopped, panting, and leaned against a tree as he tried to breath properly. His lungs were burning every time he was filling them with air and he coughed as he bent forwards, his hands on his knees. His sweat was rolling down his temples and his neck. He finally totally unbuttoned his shirt and removed it. He couldn't see the moon because of the huge trees around, it was really dark and he was totally lost. He tried to look around and he jumped a little with surprise when he heard a snap, like someone or something had stepped on a branch. He looked down, moving backwards. It was only himself. He couldn't even feel the pain in his foot, he couldn't feel anything, he was cold and afraid. What if something was lurking for him? He looked around as he thought that he had heard something. Was he really that far into the Forest? It didn't seem so. What if he had just turned at some point and came back near the castle without even noticing it?

He started to walk, hoping he was actually getting deeper in the forest. He was often resting his hands against the trees as he was looking around. He could make out the different shapes around him and that's when he noticed that the moonlight was somehow getting through the foliage. There were only a few rays of light coming through and lighting some spots on the ground, but the moon was definitely there. The moon was up and Draco suddenly felt even more bad.

He felt a soaring pain in his stomach. His vision became way better in the darkness as his pupils were dilating. He could see the trees' roots getting out of the ground, he could see the soil he had been walking on, he could see the moss covering some parts of the trees' bark. He could hear the sound of the wind getting through the leafs of the trees, when the fear had been making him deaf a minute before. He could hear himself scream as the pain became unbearable. He wasn't thinking about Lupin anymore. He wasn't thinking about Snape, about Granger, about where the castle was, about where he was. He wasn't thinking about anything anymore, he just needed to run and let all of his rage get out of him.

A shower of new smells reached his nose. Animals, creatures, soil, tree, fresh air, everything was going through his snout. Even the smell of a Hippogriff. Even the smell of humans, close enough for him to smell. Two humans were in the Forest.

His howl echoed in the Forest and he started to run through the trees again.

Chapter Text

Harry was still baffled by the Time-Turner's power when he and Hermione sat down in the Forest. From where they were, they could see the Whomping Willow clearly. They had seen Ron being dragged in by Sirius in his animal form and then, they had seen themselves going in. After that, Lupin came. Harry shivered, thinking about what was going to happen just after they would leave the Shrieking Shack. He mostly felt bad for his teacher.

Now, they had to wait. They had to wait for Snape to come in and wait to see themselves get out of the passage again. It would be long, but they had no choice. They could hear Buckbeak, not far from them, but no other sound for now.

After a while, they finally saw Snape's shape approaching the tree. He had noticed the cloak they had left outside of the passage and Harry slowly shook his head. That's what had made him able to sneak into the Shrieking Shack without being noticed.

Harry heard Hermione gasp and he looked at the scene again.

"What?" He whispered before he noticed Malfoy. What the hell was Draco doing there? He was running but stopped when he saw his teacher. Actually, Snape and Draco both looked as surprised as Hermione and Harry were.

"I should have thought about it, shoot!" Hermione whispered and Harry didn't understand.

"What do you m-"

"Shhh!" She said as she put her hand against Harry's mouth. Not capable of making another sound, he listened to the newcomers too. Hermione was a bit nervous. Harry would probably know about Draco's secret, now. And at the same time, she didn't care, she was too worried for him. During that faithful night, she had totally forgot about him, too much had happened. But Lupin had turned. She should have known. Draco had to go to the Shrieking Shack too, because that's where he was hiding too, wasn't he? Soon, her fears were confirmed as Snape and Draco seemed to be arguing, Draco had to go in the Forest.

"Calm down? Calm down? I was waiting for you, I thought I wouldn't even be able to take the- I thought you wouldn't show up, that-  And you want me to calm down?" Draco was almost shouting. Hermione knew everything he wanted to say. He thought that he wouldn't have been able to take the potion. After all, Lupin hadn't taken it. Hermione closed her eyes for a second, remembering her teacher's transformation. It had been horrible. And she had seen him in his werewolf form. Was Draco looking exactly like that? And was it that painful for him too? She opened her eyes again.

"You cannot go in there tonight." Snape told Draco. Finally, Hermione removed her hand from Harry's mouth. He was now too shocked to be able to say anything anyway, even to notice that his mouth was free again.

Draco was panicking, looking at the tree and at his teacher, not able to stay still. And that's when Snape told him he had to go in the Forest. Hermione bit her lower lip and Harry just blinked, still trying to process all those new information.

Hermione could see how afraid Draco was looking. Harry too, but he wasn't able to think about that. He was barely able to accept what it all meant. And at the same time, it just made so much sense. It was obvious.

Obvious. Hermione had known all this time. Harry looked at her. She was still looking intently at Draco and seemed extremely worried.

"I'll come and find you first thing tomorrow, I promise you. You just find a safe place. Now, Draco. Run."

Harry heard Snape but he was still looking at Hermione. He heard Draco's footsteps getting faster and a bit louder as he entered the Forest not so far away from them. Hermione was following him with her eyes until he disappeared between the trees and in the darkness. Then, Hermione saw Snape take the cloak and watched him walking in the passageway before she finally looked at Harry, who was still staring at her. He was still trying to think about all of this, about what it all meant. About what Draco's life must be like, why he was so close to Snape, about Draco and Lupin's relationship. About Draco's injury in the beginning of the year and how sick he was looking, how tired and kind of older he was looking.

About why, in the end, maybe Malfoy could bring himself to truly talk to Hermione. And why she really didn't want to tell on him or even discuss it with Draco himself. Harry could understand, it was too big for her to share this secret, even with her best friends.

The silence seemed to go on for hours, even though only a few minutes had passed. Hermione didn't say anything, she had to let Harry think about all of this. After a while, he seemed to be able to use his tongue again.

"So... Is that... I can't believe it..." He whispered.

"Trust me, I couldn't either, I found out because of Snape's class," Hermione whispered back, looking down for a second before she met Harry's eyes again. "Harry, you can't tell anyone," she said.

"I wasn't planning on doing it," he said as he looked at the trees behind them. Maybe they should leave sooner than they had originally planned, since he would turn there. Would he be able to smell them? Would he attack them if he could? He was suddenly feeling a bit insecure.

"You need to promise Harry, even if you're angry at him, even if he's really mean with you, don't get your revenge by revealing this, he's had a rough year already..." she said. Harry pursed his lips as he looked at Hermione for a few seconds. He wouldn't. It sounded tempting but at the same time, he knew that no matter how many opportunities he would have, he wouldn't say it.

"I promise," he said. Hermione gave him a shy smile and glanced at the tree again. "But wait, now that I think about it," he added. "That howl we heard, the one that drove Lupin away from us, remember?" Harry asked, thinking about the first night they had lived before going back in time. When Sirius and Lupin had faced each other in their other form, what had saved Sirius and Harry was that howl. Lupin hadn't been able to resist to go see the other wolf. Had it been Draco? It seemed plausible. Or maybe it wasn't just because it was the howl of any other wolf, but because it was Draco's. They had spent the whole year turning together, apparently, could werewolves become... friends? Harry shook his head a bit, it was too weird.

"It might be... Do you know what it means?" Hermione said. Harry frowned a little, tilting his head.

"That... They might have fought in the Forest? What if one of them is... hurt?" Harry said, not to say the word "dead". Hermione blinked.

"I was going to say that it meant Draco saved your life," she said quietly, now not able to get the image of a hurt or dead Draco out of her head. She didn't know if Lupin was bigger or stronger. Harry swallowed.

"Sorry..." he muttered. "But we didn't have the time to see if they were coming back to the castle, the night wasn't over," he whispered.

"I know... I guess... I guess we will see," Hermione said, trying with all her strength not to think about it anymore. But she couldn't, her heart was beating really fast now.

"Maybe it's not the case, you know," Harry said directly, knowing that Hermione was worried. She couldn't hide it and even if he hated Draco, he would hate to learn he was dead because of all of this. And he wanted even less for Lupin to get hurt or killed either. What if Draco was actually more dangerous? If they were lucky enough, it wouldn't be the case. "Remember what Dumbledore told us. That more than one innocent life could be saved, maybe he wasn't just talking about Buckbeak and Sirius," he said, trying to sound full of confidence. Hermione looked at him and gave him the same shy smile she had given him a few minutes before.

And they kept waiting in silence.

They both suddenly stood up as they saw themselves getting out of the Whomping Willow. They were still hiding as they watched what had been happening to them a couple of hours before. It was just a matter of minutes before Lupin's transformation. Harry saw himself hugging Sirius while Hermione couldn't stop but glance at the sky and at Lupin again and again, knowing that Draco was somewhere behind them, far away, waiting to turn. She couldn't stop thinking about how terrified he was looking. Was he so afraid for every full moon, or was it just because of this unusual night? She couldn't help but grab Harry's arm as she looked at Lupin again.

They were both focused on his transformation and unconsciously, they were also trying to see if they could hear Draco. They didn't know how far away he was. But hearing Lupin, they were almost certain that maybe he would scream loud enough for them to hear him too, not that the thought was reassuring in any way.

Then, it started. Sirius turned, tried to defend everyone and Harry saw his past self following them.

"Nothing's happening," he muttered.

"It will, Draco will... It will happen," Hermione said. But they couldn't hear anything. "He will save you," she muttered.

"He's not doing anything!" Harry said as he tried to move forwards. Hermione grabbed his arms and pulled him backwards before she came in front of him. Harry was shocked when he heard her howling like a wolf.

"What are you-"

"Shut up!" She said before she did it again. Lupin had stopped moving and was listening, his head turned in their direction. So, it hadn't been Draco after all.

"Thanks..." Harry whispered before he grabbed her hand. "Nice move, now he's coming!" He said. They both turned around and started to run as fast as they could. Harry couldn't help but think that Draco might have heard them too. They were stuck in the Forest with two werewolves chasing them. They weren't that lucky, in the end. But he had also thought that Hermione's idea was good at first so he couldn't really blame her. For now, they had to hide. They kept running, their lungs burning, before they stopped behind a tree, holding each other. Harry could feel how Hermione's body was shaking, she was terrified. They stayed in silence, trying to breathe quietly. They couldn't hear anything for now. But soon, they knew Lupin was there. Or was it Draco? They couldn't tell.

They moved a little to the side as they heard the werewolf approaching. They had no chance. Harry was shaking too. Had they sent themselves directly to their death by going back in time?

They stopped moving. The werewolf had stopped too, sniffing the air. Harry and Hermione's jaws were clenched hard as they glanced at it. It was on their left, not that far away. They didn't move but they were giving themselves false hopes. Of course it would see them. The werewolf slowly turned its head. Hermione and Harry stepped back. Harry was holding his friend as Lupin approached fast, ready to attack, to kill them.

They heard some noise, a growl and soon, Lupin was thrown on the side because of the creature that had jumped on him. Again, Harry and Hermione had moved backwards, almost falling. Another werewolf was attacking Lupin. But he was a bit different. His hair were way lighter. Apparently, their fur was the color of their natural hair. This werewolf was almost white. He was also smaller than Lupin. And he seemed to be very aggressive. But Lupin was too. They had rolled on the side because of Draco's weight when he had jumped on Lupin but Draco was already standing again and he couldn't help but turn towards Hermione and Harry.

They were hoping that he had taken his potion and that it meant he wouldn't attack them but Hermione knew better. Hermione knew that even with the potion, humans weren't safe at all. Everything was actually happening very fast and they barely had the time to register that Draco was coming for them before Lupin got up too.

It seemed like Draco had been distracting enough for Lupin. Draco had angered him. Harry and Hermione saw him stand up again and jump on Draco. It was his turn to attack, apparently. Hermione couldn't move, she was frozen on her spot but Harry knew what to do. It was their chance. Unfortunately, it meant that their fear might be true. Maybe one of them wouldn't make it through the night. What was sure was that they might be badly hurt. Harry grabbed Hermione by the arm and started to run. They could hear Draco and Lupin's growls behind them but they couldn't waste more time in the Forest or Sirius would end up caught and kissed by the Dementors. The last thing they heard was a more high-pitched sound coming from one of the werewolves.

They abandoned Draco and Lupin, knowing that they wouldn't be able to do anything anyway if it wasn't getting killed.

 

It had been a very long night and they weren't out of trouble just yet, not with Snape around. But at least, they had saved Sirius from his dreadful faith. They stayed in their bed all morning and left the hospital around noon. There was almost no student left in the castle. The exams were over and almost every students had left for a last visit of Hogsmeade.

Harry had hurried to go to Lupin's office, his heart beating fast. His teacher was there, reassuring him. He seemed to be fine. He gave Harry the map back as well as his cloak. But Harry's mood changed pretty fast when he learned that he had resigned because Snape had revealed his secret.

"But, you're not the only one-! Why should you leave?" Harry asked, dumbfounded. Lupin tilted his head, considering Harry for a while.

"It's not the same."

"Why? It's unfair, you can't leave."

"Yes, well, not a lot of things are fair in life, Harry, I supposed you knew that." Lupin said calmly, still emptying his drawers. "About that... Did you see Draco?" He asked, not looking at Harry anymore. Harry clenched his jaw and looked away for a few seconds before he glanced at his teacher again.

"No, I didn't. But you're here, so, I s'pose he's somewhere in the castle. Or at Hogsmeade with his friends."

Deep down, Harry knew he wasn’t believing that himself.

"I doubt it," Lupin said, looking down. Draco should be in the hospital wing so Lupin's fear were more or less confirmed. He was afraid Draco hadn't come back. He hadn't killed him, Lupin was sure of it, but Draco had run away at some point and he hadn't followed him, hurt too. His body was still hurting, Draco hadn't been soft at all with him, but he hadn't been with Draco either.

Draco would probably hate him after that. But Lupin wasn't angry at Draco. His body was already destroyed and if it hadn't been for this attack, he would have killed Harry and Hermione. "Can you do me a favor?" Lupin asked, hoping Draco wasn't still in the Forest.

"Yeah, sure."

"If you see him... Can you ask him to come and see me? I need to talk to him," Lupin said, finally looking at Harry. He didn't know what was this expression on Lupin's face but Harry didn't like it. It seemed to be a weird mix of sadness and exhaustion. Harry took a few seconds before he answered.

"Yeah, alright."

If Draco wasn't coming soon, Lupin would go in the Forest by himself.

 

"Are you ok, Hermione?" Ron asked as he looked at his friend. Hermione was quiet now that Harry was back.

"Lupin's back, but..." She said quietly. Harry understood, not Ron. They hadn't said anything about Draco, they didn't know how to talk about it, they didn't know if they should. Hermione thought it was best to keep that part secret for now, but Harry was dying to tell his best friend. Still, he had promised Hermione the night before, so he didn't know what to do.

"What's it about?" Ron asked, glancing at Harry. Not able to lie to Ron, he looked down. 

"We need to do something," Hermione said. Harry raised an eyebrow.

"Do we?"

"Harry!" Hermione said, "I know you're angry Lupin has to leave but don't take it out on him."

Ron, still next to them, crossed his arms. "Thanks guys, I don't feel pushed aside," he mumbled, rolling his eyes. Hermione glanced at him, looking sorry.

"We can't..." She said. Ron stared at her for a few seconds before he looked at Harry.

'"Even you?"

"I'm sorry," Harry said. He really was, all he wanted to do was to tell him the truth.

"Yeah, yeah, right," Ron said as he waved his hand. Hermione looked at Harry.

"Harry, please help me. Or I'll go alone," she said.

"No, you can't, why-" he stopped, letting out a heavy sigh. "Fine. But it's the only time I'll do something for him."

"So, can I come?" Ron asked.

"No," Harry and Hermione said, turning their heads at the same time.

"Just make sure Snape doesn't know where we're going," she said.

"Where are you going anyway?"

"In the Forbidden Forest," Hermione said, confident. Harry sighed again and Hermione pushed his arm. "You're so insensitive. If you think about it, he saved us," she said. It was hard for Harry but he had to admit it was true. "I'm sorry Ron but... With your leg, and there wouldn't be enough space under the cloak."

"I get it," Ron said, shaking a bit his head, frustrated. But he knew she was right.

"We can meet at the hospital. I don't know for how long we will be gone but..."

"I'll wait for you there," Ron said as they walked down the stairs. He glanced at the Great Hall. "But first..." He said, a little smile on his lips. Hermione shook her head and Harry smiled a little. When he turned his head, he saw Pansy in front of the stairs leading to the dungeons. He frowned and elbowed Hermione as Ron walked towards the Great Hall to go eat. Hermione stopped and stared at Pansy, who hadn't noticed them. She was looking worried.

"She's not at Hogsmeade..." Hermione whispered, knowing Pansy hadn't missed a single trip there. "She knows. She's waiting for him," she said.

"Wait, you can't be sure," Harry said as he stopped Hermione.

"But it makes sense. She must have found out, or he told her, maybe that's why they stopped talking, look at her," Hermione said. Pansy was staring at the big doors, like she was hoping Draco would walk in any second now. Harry pursed his lips and glanced at Hermione. "We need to let her know, don't you think?"

"She can know when we come back," Harry said. Hermione rolled her eyes, turned around and walked towards Pansy. Harry sighed and followed her anyway. Finally, Pansy noticed them as they were walking towards her. Hermione stopped in front of her.

"And what do you want?" Pansy asked, disdainfully.

"Have you seen Draco?" Hermione asked, not minding using his first name. Harry stared at her and Pansy looked a bit surprised.

"Why would you need to see him?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I just need to make sure he's there, I don't need to see him," Hermione said as she nodded towards the stairs. Pansy hesitated. Should she lie? Hermione probably didn't know about his secret, right? She wouldn't know where he was if she said no. After all, even Pansy didn't know. He had talked about the Shrieking Shack but was he still there? He was supposed to be in the hospital. Pansy was now always going there to spend some time with him after a moon ever since they started to talk again. But that morning, when she went in the hospital, she had seen the trio and had left right away. They seemed to be asleep but she didn't want to risk being seen there. She had looked around for Draco before leaving, though, and she hadn't seen him. So, she thought he either didn't go there because of them, or he had already left, again because of them. She had even checked his dorm but he wasn't sleeping there so she guessed he wasn't back yet and now she was waiting for him, a bit worried, she couldn't help it. It was later than usual.

Hermione and Pansy stared at each other for a few seconds as Harry was beginning to get impatient.

"Hermione," he said shortly, waiting to go.

"He's not there, is he?" Hermione asked Pansy. She didn't answer. "You know, don't you?"

"How did you-"

"I figured," Hermione whispered as she took a step towards Pansy, getting closer as two Hufflepuffs were leaving the Great Hall. "Pansy, if he's not there, he's... look," Hermione sighed, "Go take some clothes for him."

"What?" Pansy and Harry said at the same time. Hermione elbowed her friend.

"Look, we are on the same side here, we want to help him," Hermione said. "He needs help. Help from all of us. Go grab him some clothes and give them to us."

"I want to come, do you know where he is?" Pansy said quickly, too worried to let her hate towards Harry and Hermione drive her. "I want to help him," she said.

"Why don't you wait for him in the hospital? We will bring him back there," Hermione said, actually sympathetic even though she couldn't accept Pansy's demand. She couldn't let her come. There wouldn't be enough space under the cloak for all of them and it would only make them slower anyway.

"No, I- let me come with you, is he hurt?"

"We don't know but... he's in the Forest. You want to help him?" Hermione asked and Pansy nodded right away. "Give us his clothes and stay near the hospital. I promise you we only want to help him. When we will come back, we will directly go there." Hermione said. Pansy slightly shook her head.

"Fine," she said reluctantly. "But I'm only listening to you for Draco," she said before she walked away to go to the Slytherin's common room. Harry and Hermione waited, a bit anxious. She came back quicker than they thought she would. "That should do it," she said as she handed the clothes to Hermione.

"Thanks," Hermione said.

"Shut up and just leave, move!" Pansy said, annoyed, before she walked towards the stairs to go to the hospital wing. Harry and Hermione, finally alone, put the cloak on and left the castle to walk towards the Forest.

 

"Let's go there," Hermione said, pointing at the place they had been waiting at the night before. Everything had happened near that place, if they had to search for Draco, they would begin there. They found the spot where they had been hiding and they started to walk in the Forest, keeping the cloak on them. They found the place where they had tied Buckbeak before Lupin had come in the Forest. When they had run away, during Lupin's and Draco's fight, they had taken Buckbeak with them and the rest was history.

"I think we ran this way when Lupin came," Harry said, pointing in a direction where he could see some footsteps on the still humid ground. He was pretty sure they had been made by them and they could see them pretty clearly thanks to the light. They weren't deep in the Forest yet, the sun was still able to let its light go through the leaves. They followed the footsteps they could find on their way and ended up finding the place they were looking for. It had happened there.

There weren't any more of their footsteps, there. Instead, they could see traces of the fight between Lupin and Draco. Even some trees had some marks because of their claws. The dirt on the ground only let appear vague shapes, it was very messy and, for Hermione's great despair, there was some blood on the scene. She wasn't surprised, but still. She could see it on the leaves on the ground. Those not covered by dirt had drops of blood on them and she also discovered some spots on the floor that seemed darker than the rest because of the thick liquid. Hermione quickly removed the cloak and approached the stains on the ground.

"Hermione, come back under it!" Harry said as he approached her. They weren't supposed to be in the Forest, not only because it was forbidden but because of the many creatures living there. It was too dangerous. He quickly crouched next to Hermione, putting the cloak above her. Hermione's anxiety was only growing inside her stomach.

They stood up again and began to walk, following every single hint of Draco's passage they could find. Harry could feel how tense Hermione was and he wanted to reassure her.

"Lupin wouldn't have been so calm if he had... you know, I'm sure he's gonna be fine," he said. Hermione had thought so too but when Harry had told her everything Lupin had said and what he had asked, she had been worried. He didn't know where Draco was either. Maybe he had thought Snape was taking care of him. Or maybe... no, Lupin cared about Draco. He would have looked for him. Maybe he just thought he had come back in the castle by himself too.

"Wait, is that..." Harry said, looking at something on the ground.

"It's his tie!" Hermione said, recognizing the Slytherin tie. "Maybe he turned not that far from here."

They had the feeling they weren't going to find anything else when, after what seemed to be fifteen minutes of research, they found one of his shoe and a sock near it. Hermione wanted to call after him but it was way too dangerous. Still, at that point, it seemed like he really hadn't gone too far in the Forest before transforming, probably because he couldn't see anything at the time. They kept walking, Harry a bit worried that they wouldn't find their way out. But Hermione was not only worried, she was determined. She wanted to find him and she would, even if Harry had to leave her alone.

They didn't know how long they had been walking when Harry stopped Hermione. They had almost missed him.

"What?"

"He's there!" Harry said as he pointed at two legs they could see behind some tree which was lying on the ground.

After the fight, Draco had hidden there. Even in his other form, he had been confused, hurt and tired because of the fight and the potion. So, he had run away and had found this spot. He had lay behind the trunk and licked some of his wounds before he had fallen asleep, exhausted.

Again, Harry stopped Hermione when she was about to run towards Draco.

"Don't-!"

"What are you doing?" Hermione asked, impatient. Harry stared at her for a second before he took the clothes from her hands. Hermione went pink. "Hurry up," she whispered. Harry nodded and removed the cloak before he almost ran towards the spot where Draco was lying. But before going past the tree, he stopped and walked way slower. He was hoping he wouldn't find him dead. He was hoping that he wouldn't find him too badly injured either.

"Please be asleep, please be asleep, please be asleep... Please don't be dead..."

He was asleep. Harry walked carefully towards him and when he walked past the tree, he saw Draco's chest moving up and down. But he also saw blood. He saw cuts. He saw a bite. Harry's heart was beating very fast as he walked past Draco. He was on his left side, his face facing the tree, and Harry kneeled behind him. He put the clothes next to them and put a hand on Draco's shoulder, shaking the body carefully.

"Malfoy, come on, open your eyes," he whispered, like he didn't want to disturb him. He also didn't want to be heard by anything else that might be around. Again, he shook the body, a bit harder. "Come on, wake up."

Draco moved. He moved his head, grimaced and let out a little moan before he opened his eyes. There wasn't so much light, which made it easier for him to open them.

"Malfoy, come on," Harry whispered. It was a few seconds before Malfoy realized who had woken him up and who was talking to him. He wanted to move but his body was hurting all over.

"P-"

"It's fine, don't talk," Harry said, actually feeling a bit bad for Draco. "We're here to help you."

"We?" Draco asked with a broken voice as he looked around, still very confused. "Who- What... How did you...?"

"We'll talk later," Harry said, staying really calm not to stress Draco out even more. "You're hurt," he whispered, looking again at his body.

"No kidding," Draco mumbled, actually really embarrassed to be found like this. He just wanted to hide somewhere, to make him stop looking at his body. He didn't even mind being naked, he just didn't want him to look at his wounds. Draco slowly rolled on his back, looking at the leaves high above him and he tried to remember most of his night.

Snape had asked him to go in the Forest, he had turned and then he had smelled humans. He could remember that. But before he had been able to reach them, he had heard something. At first, he had recognized Lupin's howl. But then, there had been another one and he hadn't been able to resist. But when he had seen Lupin, he didn't know what got into him. Maybe it was because of the smell of the humans, maybe it was because he had been nervous and angry to have to be in the Forest, to feel like even Snape was abandoning him. He was just furious, that night. He had been destructive and had attacked.

He could remember the fight and he suddenly wanted to cry. He clenched his jaw as he tried to straighten a little. Harry directly put a hand on his back, where he wasn't hurt, and another one just under his elbow, trying to help him sit. But putting his hand on Draco's arm made Harry's fingers meet the old scars from his first encounter with Lupin. It made Draco remove his arm from Harry's grip a bit suddenly. Harry had felt the injury, he knew it wasn't because Draco didn't want his help.

"Sorry..." Harry muttered. He would have never imagined saying that to Draco before that day. Draco only grimaced and, glancing at his body again to see the damages, Harry noticed the bite. Not the fresh one on his shoulder. The old one, on his right side. The one that had changed him. There were some drops of dry blood on it but he could see it clearly. It wasn't the only thing there. It looked like he had scratched it, but in his human form. Harry wondered if the scars were staying even when werewolves weren't in their wolf form because it looked like those marks had been created by Draco's nails, not claws. They weren't that visible, actually, since it had been because of his fingers, but still, he had scratched the bite so much he had hurt himself and sadly, Harry knew it wasn't because it had been itchy. He was pretty sure it was because Draco couldn't bear having this scar on his skin, reminding him his condition every day.

One moment of panic, of weakness, one moment of self-loathing and he might have lost it. Yes, Harry hated Draco, but just imagining him doing this was making him feel bad for his enemy. He knew how much Lupin hated being this way, Draco was probably feeling the same. Was it why he was so mean with everyone? Harry swallowed and glanced at Draco's face, noticing that he was staring at him, not looking happy about what Harry was doing.

"Keep looking and I might just do the same to you," he said coldly. Harry blinked. He knew Draco would never do something like that, well, not consciously, and that it was just a defense mechanism, but still.

"Er- I've got some clothes for you, we're going to walk you back to the hospital, I'm going to help you," Harry said as he stood up. He glanced at Hermione, who was still waiting a few feet away, holding the cloak tight against her and biting her lip, clearly nervous. Harry, at first, showed her his thumb to make her know that it was ok. He directly saw Hermione's body being a bit more relaxed, when she had been so tense a second before. Then, he waved at her to ask her to turn around before, again, he helped Draco getting up.

"I can... get dressed by myself..." Draco muttered, not looking at Harry, even more embarrassed than before. Harry pursed his lips, took the clothes from the ground and put them on the trunk next to them.

"We'll wait for you over there, take your time," he said. Draco was hoping that by "we", Harry meant that Lupin was with him. He didn't dare look behind him, though. Deep down, he knew it wasn't him. If so, he would have come alone. Or he would have been the one helping him, not Potter. No, Lupin probably hated Draco at that point, he probably didn't want to see him right now. Draco felt bad, still not looking at Harry as he walked away. He just hoped it wasn't Weasley.

Then, he slowly dressed up, his injuries hurting him and he thought about the night again. He tried to remember who were the humans he had almost attacked. He could remember the smells, the shapes, but he couldn't put a face on them just yet. After his pants, he put on his shirt but didn't close it. It was already dirty because of the blood on his skin and he didn't want to be in something too tight, he didn't want to hurt himself more but he still wanted to have his chest and back covered.

Draco closed his eyes and sighed, not wanting to face Harry again. Still, he walked towards him. Looking at the ground, he walked past the tree, his injured feet hurting him. He looked up at Harry, who was whispering with... Draco's heart skipped a beat as some memories came back in his mind when he saw Hermione's face. She had turned her head as soon as he had started to walk towards them and she was staring at him. Draco's body became really tense as he took a step backwards, his hands reaching his shirt to hide his chest. He remembered. He had almost attacked them. His heart was beating so fast that he wondered how they could not hear it.

"Draco!" Hermione whispered as she took a few steps towards him. Again, Draco moved backwards and stopped her from touching him.

"Don't-" he said, meeting her eyes, a shaking hand raised in front of him. She couldn't approach more, he wouldn't let her. "Please, don't," he muttered, holding back tears.

"I-I'm glad you're... fine," Hermione said, knowing he wasn't really fine. He seemed to be badly injured but at least, he was standing. He was a mess, hiding his chest with this dirty shirt, his feet were dirty and injured too, his hair were as untidy as Harry's and he was pale, looking sick and exhausted. She was keeping some space between them, as he apparently wanted her to. She could understand. He probably had never wanted them to see him like that. Even just to know about him. For some reason, Draco slowly nodded at her words. He was still confused, sad, tired, hurt, and he just wanted it to be over.

It was the end of everything anyway. She knew. Potter knew. He could have killed them the night before. Potter would tell everyone, he would have him expelled, he would ruin his life. What were his parents going to say? They would regret having saved him and let him live in the manor with them in the first place. His heart was still beating so fast that it made his head spin. Hermione showed him what she had in her hands but it took a moment for him to understand what it was.

"Come with us under this, we're going back in the castle, Madam Pomfrey will take care of you."

Draco took a deep breath. He glanced at Harry before he met Hermione's eyes again. He didn't have a choice anyway.

 

The way back to the castle was not only very awkward, but uncomfortable as well. Draco had a lot of difficulties and ended up accepting to rest against Harry. He put an arm around his shoulders and Harry around Draco's sides, hoping he wouldn't hurt him as he helped him walk. Hermione was busy with the cloak, keeping it above them and making sure no one could see them. They were lucky that most of the students were at Hogsmeade.

Draco felt kind of relieved when he felt the cold floor of the castle on his bare feet once they were back. He would be able to rest soon. He wasn't complaining, it was already shameful enough to accept Potter's help, so he was staying silent. And oddly enough, his main preoccupation was for Hermione not to see his injuries and scars.

The feeling of relief didn't last long when they started to climb the stairs. Even with Harry's help, Draco was tired and hurt. Because of his feet, every step he was taking was hurting him. Soon, he was panting and thought he was about to cry when Harry asked if he would be able to continue. But he wasn't about to cry because of the pain this time, just because of the shame. He was so embarrassed. He whispered that he was ok and just kept walking with them. It's only once in the hallway leading to the hospital that Hermione removed the cloak, they were alone. Draco couldn't wait to find a bed. The cloak in one hand and the other coming on Draco's other side to help him too, they walked towards the hospital, soon seeing Ron waiting for them. If Draco had the strength, he would have rolled his eyes, seeing Weasley's face.

"What the hell happened to him?" He asked, his eyes wide open.

"Nothing concerning you," Draco said, hoarse. Hermione glanced at Draco and Harry shook his head, looking at Ron. He would know later, Draco didn't need them to talk about that now.

"Open the door," Harry said and Ron directly did it, walking in the room, followed by the unlikely trio.

"Draco!" Looking up, Draco discovered Pansy. She had been sitting on one of the beds, apparently waiting for him. She walked quickly towards him. "Draco, are you ok?"

She was looking very worried. Harry let go of Draco, who seemed to be able to stand still and Hermione ended up doing the same, glancing at Pansy. Draco, again, hid his body behind his shirt as he nodded.

"I'll survive," he said, walking slowly towards the bed Pansy had been sitting on. She directly helped him to walk, only looking at him. It didn't even cross her mind to thank Harry and Hermione, she was way too worried for that.

"What is going on here?" They heard a voice say behind them. "By Merlin, what happened to you?" Madam Pomfrey said as she quickly approached Draco, mainly seeing the blood on his shirt. Draco clenched his jaw as he looked up at the matron. Now that he was sitting, he thought he would at least have a few minutes to catch his breath, but his day was not over. "Come on, show me!"

"Yeah, alright, just..." he mumbled, annoyed. He just wanted to sleep, was it too much? He glanced around. "I want them out," he said, suddenly a bit cold. Ron grimaced, Harry only stared at him and he couldn't tell what Hermione's expression was because he didn't look at her. He glanced at Pansy, who was sitting next to him. "She can stay," he said, nodding towards her. Pansy gave him a shy smile, gently pressing his arm before she looked at the nurse. Madam Pomfrey sighed and turned around.

"Well, you heard him, out of here, go," she said quickly before she turned around again. "And you, remove that," she told Draco. He rolled his eyes and when he saw the others turning around to leave, he finally removed his shirt. Pansy put her hand in front of her mouth not to gasp and Madam Pomfrey approached more to take a look at the wounds. "What happened?"

"I-" Draco began. He glanced at the door. The others were leaving and he looked down. "I did that to myself," he said, not looking at anyone anymore. He gritted his teeth, carefully avoiding to look up, knowing Madam Pomfrey was probably not believing him. He had a scratch on his back and a bite on the shoulder, she would clearly know that he didn't do that by himself. But Draco also knew that she wouldn't ask more questions.

"He did it himself?" Ron asked after they had closed the door. They had left just after they had heard Draco say that. "What- I mean, he-"

"Lupin did that to him," Harry said as he crossed his arms.

"Harry!" Hermione said, hitting his arm.

"What, do you want me to lie? With what he saw?" Harry said before he turned to look at Ron again. "We've got some things to tell you."

 

They waited to be back in the common room and alone to tell Ron about Draco being a werewolf. Hermione explained how she had discovered it, way earlier that year and that it was how she had discovered it for Lupin too. Then, they talked about what had happened the night before. Ron really wanted to know how Draco had looked like. He had seen Lupin and had been really scared. Hermione didn't say anything, thinking about the events again. She had been terrified, she had told it to Harry. And she wasn't able to speak about it in details just yet. But Harry did describe Draco like he could.

"He looked like Lupin, really, expect for his size and his fur... It was... Weird," he just said, not really knowing what words he could use.

They kept talking about it for a while, Ron asking many questions and Harry told what had happened in the Forest before they had brought Draco in the hospital. He couldn't believe Lupin had actually done that to Draco, and that Draco had probably hurt their teacher too. That he had been there this whole time. That he had been a werewolf this whole time.

Then, Hermione spoke again, at last. She asked Ron to promise he wouldn't tell anything to anyone.

"Why should I promise that?" Ron asked. "He's gonna have to leave, that'll be great!" He said, smiling at Harry.

"Ron!" Hermione said as she stood up.  "You're so insensitive!"

"Oh, because Malfoy is sensitive?" Ron asked, stunned. "I don't remember him being that nice when he was calling you a- Why are you taking his side anyway?"

"I'm not taking his side," she said, frustrated. "I'm just saying-"

"That we should be nice with him after everything he did to us?"

"You can't tell anyone, do you even imagine what it will do not only to him, but to Lupin?" She asked as she looked at Harry.

"Lupin is leaving anyway... " Harry said, more quietly as he was thinking about it.

"That's my point!" Hermione exclaimed. "Lupin is leaving! What do you think he will do? Nothing! You know about the legislation, Hogwarts was his only chance and Snape ruined it! Draco will have nothing left, do you think about what could happen with his family?"

"I already can't believe he can stay with them as a-" Ron said, still not able to say that Draco was a werewolf. It was way too weird. "I guess they won't have a problem with that. They're ridiculously rich anyway, he doesn't have to work, what's he going to do later? Like you said, there's the legislation, the Ministry probably knows about him. He's not going to work."

"It's more than that and you know it, Ron. And I'm sure you're too good to live knowing you've ruined his life." Ron was actually already rethinking his decision. Because Hermione was right, and at the same time... It was so tempting.

"You're exaggerating, it's not going to-"

"Everyone will know. Everyone. Why do you think there's this kind of legislation against werewolves? People hate them. It's pure bigotry. His friends will know. Their family's friends will know. They're all about blood-purity, what do you think will happen? He doesn't deserve that."

"He doesn't deserve-? Of course he deserves it! And what about his friends? Parkinson knows and she doesn't seem too annoyed by it!"

"Harry!" Hermione pleaded, not knowing what to do anymore.

"To be fair, Draco deserves-" Harry began, quietly again. He wasn't sure telling everyone was a good idea either, but like Ron, he was tempted.

"You promised, Harry!" Hermione said. "You promised you wouldn't tell anyone! He doesn't have to pay because of his parents' actions, because you hate his father or because you two hate him, he doesn't have to pay when he didn't decide to be like this! Why are you guys acting like this? And I'm not talking just for you, he's stupid as well! Look at what all your stupid fights are creating, you're really thinking about doing this to someone? It's disgusting!" She was almost yelling at them, on the verge of tears. She couldn't believe it, they couldn't do something like that. Even if she wasn't feeling the way she was for him, she wouldn't be able to handle this decision calmly.

"Hermione, calm down now," Ron said as he got up to face her. "We're talking about Draco, not... Neville, I mean, it's not like-"

"What if we were talking about Neville?" Hermione interrupted him. "What if we were talking about, I don't know, Fred, or George, or Ginny? Would you like for them to be expelled and treated like nothing for the rest of their lives because of this? You shouldn't even consider this option, that's sick!"

"We won't, ok?" Ron said louder. "We won't tell anyone, fine! Calm down, now, geez."

Hermione couldn't believe it. She shook her head, sighed and walked quickly towards the stairs to go to her dorm.

"I'd better go see Lupin, he will want to know about Draco..." Harry said, very uncomfortable. Ron sighed too and decided to go with Harry. He knew Hermione was right, and Harry knew it too.

Chapter Text

Draco opened his eyes and heard quiet voices next to him. He blinked a few times and rolled on his other side, yawning. The voices stopped and he opened his eyes again. He saw legs. Someone was sitting on a chair next to him.

The room was filled with light and clearly, it wasn't his dormitory. He blinked a few times again and remembered that he was in the hospital. He looked up to discover Lupin who was watching him. And next to him was Pansy, sitting on another chair. She had a little smile on her face and was clearly less tense than she had been when he had fallen asleep.

"Draco, how are you feeling?" She asked. Draco could hear the relief in her voice. He slightly stretched and felt some pain in his body.

"I've been better..." he said as he sat up. He glanced at Lupin again, who was still staring at him and he looked away as quickly.

"Miss Parkinson, do you mind..." Lupin said before he finally looked at Pansy. She stood up and approached Draco's bed. She put a hand on his shoulder, pressed it and leaned to kiss his cheek.

"I'm so glad you're alright," she whispered before she turned around to leave the room quickly. Draco watched her leave, using her not to have to look at Lupin again. When the door was closed, his teacher approached his chair to be closer to the bed.

"She was really worried for you," he said quietly. Draco didn't look at him. "Actually, I've been worried too... Really worried," he confessed. Still, he couldn't make Draco turn his head. "And... Harry told me you were here... What happened and... I wanted to talk to you."

"I'm sorry," Lupin heard Draco say with a shaking voice. He frowned.

"Why would you be? I'm not the one in the hospital bed. Look at me," he said. Draco didn't, he swallowed and looked down instead. Lupin moved to sit on the bed, close to Draco. "Come on Draco, look at me," he repeated as he put one hand on his shoulder. "I'm not mad at you."

Draco didn't believe him. It was difficult to believe him, because he was mad at himself. So why wouldn't Lupin be mad at him? He had been so afraid, so hurt and so sad in a few hours, he didn't know what to think anymore. He had been ashamed too. Not only because Harry and Hermione had seen him, but also because of his actions. He felt Lupin pressing his shoulder.

"Did I... Did I hurt you?" Draco asked. He turned his head a little but still couldn't face his teacher.

"You did," Lupin said, not seeing the point in lying. "I never thought you would be so aggressive," he added. Draco gritted his teeth and clenched his fists on his blanket. "But I'm still in a better shape than you are. If someone really has to apologize, it's me."

"No, I-"

"You attacked me, saving two innocent lives by doing so."

"But I didn't plan that!" He said, finally looking at Lupin, meeting his eyes directly. Lupin could read his expression, he could see how damaged he was morally. "I wanted to- When I saw them, I- I was about to lose it, even with the potion, I... I told you it would happen one day, I told you that I was a monster, or that I would become one, I-"

"What are you talking about?" Lupin asked with a soft smile, interrupting Draco who had suddenly been talking really fast. "You didn't become the monster you thought you would be. That's not..." He sighed. It was complicated, he knew he wouldn't be able to reason with Draco like he would with someone else. "It wasn't supposed to happen. You didn't plan the attack either. It was my fault, I didn't... think about the cycle, I didn't take any precautions, I was too busy with... It was an accident, and no one was really hurt besides us. And I told you, I'm fine."

"But you were hurt," Draco said shortly. "And you can talk about accidents all you want," he added more quietly, "It shouldn't have happened but still, it did. Last night, it was just... Just... Faith. There's no accident, it's-"

"Is that what you really believe?" Lupin asked. Draco shrugged, realizing that Lupin still had his hand on his shoulder. He liked the contact, he only needed that to feel a bit safer.

"Does it matter now? It's the end anyway... Potter knows. Weasley knows and Granger knows..."

"Hermione knew way before last night," Lupin said calmly. Draco looked at him again and Lupin nodded. "It's been months. She knew for the both of us in the beginning of the year. And see, she never told a soul. It's not the end, Draco, did you ever think they might keep your secret?"

Draco couldn't believe it. She had known this whole time and had never said anything, not even to him? Why? And was that why she was so nice with him? Was it... pity? Or was she genuinely wanting to know him better, to spend time with him?

"I think you should have a conversation with her. But you don't have to worry. I also asked Harry and Ron not to tell anyone."

"As if they-"

"Draco, can you listen?" Lupin asked. Draco met his eyes and took a deep breath, feeling his back hurt as he did so. "I know it has been a really tough year for you. I'll never deny it, and it was partly my fault so I'm sorry," he said. Draco looked down, blinking as he held back the tears that were filling his eyes. Lupin kept going, talking a bit more quietly. "And this year... has been interesting for me. I hadn't lived anything like it for... Quite some time now. Remember when I told you I never thought I would be more than a teacher for the students here? This year I met three thirteen-years old, I... also got to see someone I hadn't seen in a long time and who grew up to be, like the other three, really brave. Some of the bravest people I have ever met. I consider myself lucky for that. Unfortunately, some of them might not understand all the courage you must have to gather to live the way you do. They might not be able to understand how difficult and painful it is. But this is not a reason for them to betray the trust of their friend or mine. They promised Hermione and they promised me. I would be very disappointed if I had to learn that they told anyone."

"You'd probably be one of the first to know," Draco said, his voice a bit shaky again. He swallowed, turning his head even more to be sure Lupin wasn't able to see his face. His teacher didn't mind because he didn't want Draco to see his expression either.

"I'm not sure about that," he said quietly. Draco frowned and felt the hand on his shoulder pressing it again. "I have to leave, Draco."

This was the icing on the cake that was Draco's life. He didn't show any reaction. He didn't look at Lupin, he kept looking at the other beds, at the walls, at nothing and everything but Lupin, not even breathing. But he let the tears roll down his face at last, as he gritted his teeth not to let any sound come out. He started to cry silently and Lupin didn't move, he didn't remove his hand from his shoulder even though he felt Draco's back shaking a little. He knew that he was crying, but he wasn't sure he should talk. Draco was always too unpredictable and Lupin didn't want him to be angry or embarrassed again.

But Draco was just tired, really. He couldn't gather any of the courage Lupin was talking about anymore. It was pointless. It had always been pointless, but he had always thought he had to act this way. And with Lupin, he had naively thought he had discovered why. But even that was falling apart. He moved his head a bit when he felt Lupin's fingers going on his neck. Draco closed his eyes, feeling new tears rolling down his face.

"I'm sorry. That's not what I want but... I have to," Lupin said.

"You don't have to, that's not true..." Draco said, feeling his chin shake and he slowly pulled his legs against his chest.

"You're right. I didn't have to resign but in a way..." Draco shook his head. "Someone told the students about... what I am. I can't stay here. Soon, letters will arrive, no one will want their kids to be taught by someone like us," he almost whispered.

"Dumbledore will make you stay," Draco mumbled, not really clearly. Lupin had a sad smile as he moved his fingers a bit on Draco's neck.

"But I won't let him," Lupin said.

"But why?" Draco said louder. This time, it sounded like he was pleading. He let Lupin hear that he was crying, but he still didn't look at him. Lupin looked down, feeling the same way  but he wouldn't show it. He didn't answer either. "Who told them?" Draco asked, a bit more quietly but still devastated.

"That's not the point, Draco. Look at me, we need to talk about something else," he said, trying to keep a steady voice.

"I don't care!" Draco said, louder again. He finally turned his head to look at Lupin, breaking his heart. "I don't care, you can't leave me! Who told them? Who would do that to you?"

Lupin didn't even know what to say, seeing Draco like this. He had removed his hand from his neck when Draco had turned his head and he looked down.

"It's not important," Lupin said. Draco narrowed his eyes before his vision became blurry again. He couldn't take it anymore. Then, a thought struck him.

"It was Snape, wasn't it?" He asked quietly, his voice breaking again. Lupin clenched his jaw as he looked up at Draco.

"You can't blame him. There are things you don't know, there's history, there's-"

"I don't care!" Draco said as he removed the blanket he still had on his legs. Lupin stood up as he saw that Draco was getting out of his bed. "I don't care," he repeated as he walked towards the end of the bed before he faced his teacher again. "I'll- I'll tell my father, he- I'll have him- He's gonna- I-"

Lupin walked towards Draco, shaking his head as he approached him.

"Would you calm down? I'm not angry at him and you shouldn't be, he-"

"But I am!" Draco cried before he felt Lupin's hands on his wrists. "Why would he- He knew it would hurt me too, why would he do that? Why would he... Why? Just because he didn't like you and your friends? That's not good enough! What are you going to do? You can't find another job, you will- What are you going to do?" He was talking fast, helpless, his thoughts being a mess in his head. He wasn't even totally aware of the pain in his body, because he was too sad and angry. Lupin pulled his arms a little to make him come closer. After that, he let go of his wrists and put his hands on both sides of Draco's head.

"Calm down," he repeated. Draco let out a sob as he closed his eyes.

"But I don't want you to leave..." He opened his eyes again, his tears still streaming down his face.

"I know," Lupin whispered.

"I don't want to be alone again..."

"I know."

Draco sobbed again and he slowly lowered his head as he grabbed Lupin's wrists.

"I don't want you to go... I don't want that... So you have to stay..."

Lupin closed his eyes for a second before he slowly moved his hands from Draco's face to finally pass his arms around Draco's body. He didn't hug him too hard, not wanting to hurt him because of his injuries but still, he hugged him and he felt Draco's fingers grip his clothes.

"Here you go... Let it out... Let it all out," he said as Draco hid his face against him, still crying and his body shaking. "It's fine... It's going to be. It doesn't mean we will never talk again," Lupin said, trying to reassure Draco like he could. "You can write any time you want. And even if you don't, I will, is that alright with you?" He asked with the same sad smile as before. Draco closed his eyes and sniffed before he nodded, still against Lupin, not ready to let go just yet. Lupin would give him the time he needed, since it might be the only moment like this they would have. Yes, they would write to each other, but Lupin wasn't sure they would see each other anymore. It would mainly depend on Draco, of course, but still, their situation wasn't easy.

After a few minutes, Lupin walked Draco back to his bed and they both sat on the edge. Like Lupin had said, he still had to talk to him about something.

"Now, I need you to promise me something too," he said quietly, looking at Draco.

"What is it?" Draco asked as he tried to dry his cheeks with his hands, tired. He had always been so proud, and now he was feeling miserable, allowing himself to show how weak he was. He didn't know why Lupin had this effect on him. With Lupin, he could just let his emotions go. Maybe because he could understand him more than anyone else.

"You need to focus on yourself a bit more," Lupin whispered. Draco frowned and looked at his teacher, meeting his eyes. "And by that, I mean... Focus on what's good for you. I didn't know you before but from what I've seen, you've changed quite a lot in one year. You grew up, you opened up, you discovered new things... Maybe it would be good if you kept those new things around, you know. It might help," Lupin said with a little smile. Draco looked down again, feeling his cheeks becoming warmer. He was so pale that Lupin noticed the shade they were taking and he stopped himself from smiling more. "I just need you to promise you will take care of yourself, do what makes you happy and... I'd say avoid getting in trouble but I think we can agree that it's not going to be easy."

For the first time that day, Draco chuckled. He sniffed again and looked at Lupin before he slowly nodded.

"Ok, I promise."

"Now, why don't you get some rest?" Lupin said as he glanced at the mattress. This time, Draco shook his head.

"If I do, you're going to leave me alone..." Lupin pursed his lips for a second.

"Draco, we talked about this..."

"And I just promised that I would keep what makes me happy around," Draco said, not looking at Lupin anymore but at the wall behind him. Lupin smiled.

"I can stay for a while," he said, nodding towards his chair.

"You're going to leave when I'll be asleep," Draco said, still not looking at Lupin. His teacher stood up and walked towards his chair without saying anything. He sat down and stared at Draco's back until he finally moved to lie down on the mattress, covering himself with the blanket.

Draco stared at the ceiling for a minute before he slowly rolled on his side, telling himself that it was just because his back was hurting. But he stared at Lupin for a while. Their eyes met and Lupin smiled to him.

"It was a horrible, horrible year," Draco said quietly. Lupin kept smiling as he tilted his head. "But it was the best..."

Draco closed his eyes as he thought he was about to cry again. He knew Lupin would be gone when he would wake up, that was why his teacher hadn't answered earlier, because he couldn't lie about that to Draco. He couldn't promise him he was going to stay that day if it wasn't the case, he couldn't give him false hopes about that.

So, if Draco had to keep one last image of Lupin in his head, it would be one of him smiling the way he did when he had said those last words. Not an image of a blurry teacher, but the image of a smiling friend.

 

Needless to say that the next morning was a bit tough for Draco. He was so tired that he had slept during the rest of the day and during the whole night before waking up really early in the morning. Like he had thought, Lupin had left. It didn't surprise him and he didn't cry, maybe because he wasn't so exhausted anymore. But he actually didn't really react either. He caught himself glancing at the chair next to the bed a few times but he was mainly trying not to think about it, especially when Madam Pomfrey came to check on his wounds. He just promised himself he would write to him as soon as he would get back home. That's all he could do, in a way, and thinking about it was making him feel better. It would be alright, they would still be talking.

The most difficult part would be the next cycles. Before, he could tell himself that he would only live two of them alone but now, he knew he would face all of them all by himself again and he didn't like that. But he had to live with that fact. He had to live with all of what had happened. And with his new scars. Not only the ones on his body, but also the new ones in his head.

Pansy came in the hospital during the afternoon, with a few things for him to eat. Madam Pomfrey was just putting new bands on him before she opened the curtains around the bed, discovering Draco's friend. She allowed her to stay and told her that he would be able to leave the next day. Then, she forced him to eat the food Pansy had brought and told him that his healing process was, indeed, going very well. He would keep those scars forever, of course, but she said that it wouldn't look too bad and it reassured Draco a little, even though he knew he wouldn't be able to look at them no matter what, let alone show his body to anyone. Pansy had seen, of course, but it was different.

He smiled at his best friend as she sat on the end of the bed. She wasn't wearing her uniform, she was wearing a pretty black dress. No one was wearing their uniforms anymore because everyone was enjoying the end of term. Draco couldn't wait to get out of the hospital.

"That's what I'm talking about," Draco said as he smirked when she put some sweets she had apparently been hiding on the bed, between the both of them. Pansy chuckled.

"Did you think I would come without nothing you really like?" She asked. "And... Professor Snape told me to give you this," she said as she handed him an envelope.

"Don't care," Draco said, not even looking at the envelope just before he started to eat a Chocolate Cauldron, looking at what else Pansy had brought. She tilted her head.

"It's your exams results," she said. Draco glanced at her, then at the envelope, and he finally took it with his free hand. Still, he waited to eat the rest of his Chocolate Cauldron before he opened the letter. Pansy was eager to know if he had passed his examinations, knowing that he hadn't been really focused on his studies that year. Draco read the letter silently before he handed it to Pansy, satisfied. He took a Green Apple Strip before he leaned on the pillow behind his back. The injury there was still hurting but it was bearable.

"I have to be honest, I didn't expect you to do... that well," she said.

"Oh, me neither, life's full of surprises apparently," he said and when she looked at him, he smiled again. She shook her head and folded the letter to put it back in the envelope.

He had passed, and he had succeeded in every classes but he definitely didn't get really outstanding results. Still, it was understandable and he wasn't really disappointed. His parents might make some comments on this, though. But it was alright, at least, he had passed. He wanted to focus on this kind of things, not on small details that might ruin his mood, like Snape. Still, he was so mad at him.

"I can't believe he came here and asked me how I was doing," Draco mumbled.

"Who?" Pansy asked, helping herself with some sweets.

"Snape," Draco said before he grimaced. Pansy didn't say anything at first, she just considered her friend.

"Well, I guess he's worried about your well-being, I mean... Aren't you two... close?" Pansy asked, not knowing which words to use. She knew that they were, of course, she knew that Draco had met Snape years ago. She knew he was the one making the potion for him ever since he had been bitten and that they had spent some alone time together. Still, now, she also knew the situation was complicated and she didn't know if it was even a good idea to talk about him.

"We are nothing anymore," Draco said, looking away. "Not since he made Lupin leave, I still can't believe this," he said as he took an angry bite of his Green Apple Strip. Pansy hadn't had the chance to talk with him about that whole thing. She had been there when Snape had told the students about Lupin and she had made sure no one was thinking about Draco then. "I can't believe Lupin's not even... angry, he was so calm, and I thought I was going mental when he asked me not to be angry either, as if," he kept on going, shaking his head. "Nutter..." he mumbled, thinking about Lupin. Pansy smiled a little.

"You miss him already, don't you?" She asked. Draco shrugged and looked at Pansy again. "Don't focus on all of this right now. In a few days, you'll be home, we will enjoy the summer and if you really want to, I can give you chocolate from time to time."

"Shut up," Draco said, making Pansy laugh. But she was right. Soon, they would be out of this castle. This year had been really long and he was glad it was over. But at the same time... He still needed to do something that would make him feel good. "Hey, can you do me a favor?"

"Depends," Pansy said with a little smile, clearly still amused. "What is it?"

"There's this book, in my trunk. A French book. Could you bring it to me?"

"Ok, Random, will that be all?" Pansy asked as she stood up.

"Take a piece of parchment with it. And a quill. Then, when I'll be done with it, bring it discreetly to Granger for me," Draco said, not looking at Pansy but at the sweets that were still on the bed.

"I'm sorry, what?" Pansy asked, a bit taken aback. Draco smiled innocently as he looked at her.

"Now, I'm not going to talk to her directly, what do you think others will think? Just... Give her the book when I tell you so, ok?"

"What do you need to talk to her for?" Pansy asked, curious. She knew Draco was more than serious about Granger since he had admitted his feelings out loud, but she didn't think he would still want to talk to her directly after what had happened.

"Well, she helped me, didn't she? I have to thank her, I mean... I don't know about your parents, but mine taught me manners," Draco said. Pansy tilted her head as she narrowed her eyes.

"Oh, so I guess I will have to give a book to Potter too?" She asked sarcastically.

"Ha, ha, ha, very funny. I'm a gentleman, not a hopeless case."

"Alright, then," Pansy finally said, a bit annoyed but not about to say no. "Will his Majesty need something else?"

"Please."

"That's better."

 

Hermione was in the library, hoping that Draco would show up. She still had his note in her hand, her fist clenched hard around it as she was staring at the book Pansy had slipped to her. She couldn't believe that Pansy was actually doing this for Draco and she even thought that it might be a trap, just for Pansy to humiliate her or something. To show her friends that Hermione wanted to see Draco and that she was falling for this kind of things. But, thinking about it, how would Pansy have known for the book? It was the one she and Draco had been talking about back in January, there was no chance he had told her about that. Unless, like Harry had thought when he had discovered the both of them talking, Draco had planned it all since the beginning just to mess with her.

But Hermione was sure it wasn't the case. She told Ginny about the note and, excited, her friend had told Hermione that she absolutely had to go, that it might be the last time they would be able to talk together that year. Somehow, Hermione had felt better, knowing that she wasn't crazy by wanting to go, and she left the common room with a little smile on her lips the next day. She was glad that Draco was able to leave the hospital and enjoy the rest of his days in the castle before having to go back home. She didn't tell Harry and Ron about that, afraid that they might annoy him. Even if they had told her they wouldn't tell Draco's secret, she couldn't help but fear they might taunt him with it.

In the library, Hermione was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice him. She almost jumped with surprise when she saw Draco standing next to her chair. She didn't know for how long he had been there, but she was happy to see him. Still, she didn't exactly show it. She gave him a shy smile and stood up uselessly before she sat down again. Draco bit his lower lip, trying not to smile, and it only made Hermione blush a little as she looked at the book that was still on the table, her heart beating faster.

"I'm not bothering you, am I?" Draco asked. Hermione didn't expect for his voice to sound like that. The last time she had heard him, he had been hoarse and not looking so handsome. Now, he was well dressed, clean, and maybe Hermione was imagining it but he was smelling good. Or maybe it was just because wasn't smelling like the blood he had had on him anymore. 

"No, not at all," she directly said, coming back to her senses as she looked at him, biting her lip from the inside of her mouth. Draco wanted to smile again, just seeing her with his own book, but he didn't.

"Good. I wanted to talk about... about what happened, is that ok?" Hermione had never seen him so polite. She nodded.

"Of course it is," she said a bit too quickly. She gave him another shy smile before she glanced at the seat next to her. Draco took it as an invitation and sat down.

After a few second of an awkward silence, he cleared his throat.

"I never had the chance to thank you properly for... what happened," he finally said, staring at his book not to meet her eyes, or just not to look at her again. Hermione raised her eyebrows, taken aback. She shook her head.

"It's fine, you don't have to, it's normal. I'm sure you-" She didn't know if he would have done the same for her. "I'm just glad you're fine. You're fine, right?" Draco glanced at her before he smiled awkwardly. It looked more like a grimace and Hermione almost laughed. He clearly wasn't used to show this side of himself, he was so awkward. But she was too. He then licked his lips before he cleared his throat again.

"Yeah, I... I'm doing better, see, already back on my feet," he said. Madam Pomfrey had been able to totally heal his feet, so that was something already. No trace of bruises from his night out were visible anymore there and he could stand properly. His other injuries were still hurting but he didn't want to complain. Not about that. Plus, Hermione seemed relieved to hear that he really was fine, and he liked seeing her face like that. "So, you... You knew about me, huh?" he asked.

"Yes, I did," she confessed, looking down for a second like she had been caught doing something bad. "It's... I wrote that essay for Professor Snape and I just... figured it out," she explained. Draco clenched his jaw and looked down for a second. He didn't really want to hear about Snape at that point, not for now, he was still too mad at him.

"That long, huh?" He said without expecting any answer. He glanced at her before he opened his mouth. Nothing came out. He looked away again, trying to find the right words and then he met her eyes. He couldn't help but think that she had seen his other form. Draco wasn't used to other people seeing him like this, not even his parents. Just thinking about them knowing what he looked like was disgusting him. He had had to accommodate for Lupin but it had been different, since he had to turn too, since he knew what it was like, since he knew how Draco must be feeling like. He didn't look at Hermione when he asked his next question. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was afraid," she said and, seeing him becoming a bit tense, she quickly explained what she had meant by that. "We weren't talking... like we do, at the time. I was afraid you would react badly if I had told you. I wasn't... afraid."

Draco nodded without purpose and thought really carefully about what to say.

"You were right. I mean, I wouldn't have been happy..." He said, frowning a little as he stared at the table.

"Are you mad at me?" Hermione asked.

"How could I be mad?" He asked, looking at her. "You... helped me, I don't know what I would have done if I had woken up there alone..." It was the first time he was really talking about it with someone. Even with Pansy, he had avoided talking too much about it, he had just explained what had happened without going into the details. But Hermione had seen him that night and even if it was truly terrifying for Draco, he knew that he could talk more easily with her thanks to that.

"Well, I don't know if you remember but... you helped me too, that night," she said, talking about what had happened with Lupin. Draco directly looked away. He didn't feel like he had saved them. He had attacked Lupin but he had been about to attack them too and he was sure Hermione knew that.

"You and Lupin keep telling that but... I didn't really save you or anything, it was just..." He began, a bit embarrassed.

"Luck?" Hermione asked to help him. With a little smirk, Draco leaned a bit on his seat.

"It you can even call it that," he said.

"I need to write the date somewhere. I can't believe this is the day Draco Malfoy refuses to be seen as a savior," Hermione said as she tilted her head, an amused smile or her lips. She was making it easier. Draco realized it now, it wasn't because she had seen him. It wasn't because she knew. She was just making it easier because it was easy to talk to her, to be around her.

"I just don't want you to see me as someone I'm not," he said. Even he noticed that he had been speaking lower. Hermione didn't show her reaction, if she had had one. At least, Draco wasn't able to see it. But at this instant, Hermione just wanted to tell him how she was feeling. She just wanted to take his hand, or to make him smile, or laugh, or whatever, she just wanted to keep him around that day. Or maybe for longer. She wanted to spend more time with him, even more than before, but she just wanted him to know that. To know that she liked having him around.

"You didn't mind letting me think you were a jerk until this year..." She said with the same little smile as before, still trying not to show anything. Draco smirked.

"It's no news that people make mistakes sometimes, even I do, can you imagine?" he said. This time, her smile became a bit larger and it pleased Draco. He wanted the same, after all. "So, you know, if you don't care about me being... Anyway, maybe, we could... Keep talking. Next year. Or even during the holidays, you know, I have an owl. But you knew that," he said, clearly a bit more uncomfortable. He cleared his throat as he glanced at her. "Because... You don't care, right?" He asked, just to be sure.

"Why would I?" Hermione asked after a second she had used to stare at Draco. "You didn't ask for this, did you?" She smiled when he looked at her. "Well, you're still the same. I've always known you this way, I just wasn't aware of the situation. You're not another person," she said. Draco clenched his jaw again as he felt his lips curling up. He didn't want to show too many emotions. He didn't want to show her how happy this was making him feel. He wasn't used to this, he didn't think she would react this way. That she wouldn't really care. That it wouldn't make any difference. "I mean, you're a bit different, obviously. You're nicer, this year. Nicer and..." She didn't finish her sentence, she just smiled at him. Draco met her eyes and couldn't help but smile back, not knowing what to say.

Hermione blinked. Here it was, the smile she had been waiting for. A genuine smile, just showing that he was ok, that he wasn't mocking anyone or thinking of himself as superior. It gave her the feeling that they were close, or at least closer. Close enough to share this kind of painless smile. It was a soft smile, showing that despite what he had lived, that despite his tired eyes, at that exact moment, he was feeling good.

"You helped with that too. I mean, you're really not that bad yourself," Draco said and Hermione chuckled. She laughed and his heart skipped a beat. She laughed and he felt a weird feeling in his stomach. She laughed and a heat wave went through his whole body, making his heart beat even faster. She laughed and he wanted to smile and tell her that she was really pretty. She laughed and when she smiled, he straightened up on his seat to have a better view.

"But you know who you are. You don't need me to tell you kind things to know it, right? So... since when did my opinion start to matter?" She asked and Draco swallowed, feeling his heart sinking when she smiled shyly again.

"Since you've started to matter," he let out quietly, surprising both himself and Hermione. She looked confused, like she didn't know what to say. He noticed her lips twitch like she was about to say something, but she looked down for a second before she met his eyes again, her cheeks being more pink than usual. Draco blinked and after another second, he leaned forwards.

The contact had been soft, despite being a bit clumsy. Not too long, nor too hard. It had been too spontaneous for Hermione to react, she actually only really realized what had happened when he broke the kiss, slowly moving his head backwards as he opened his eyes before he met hers. He seemed a bit confused too, like he hadn't wanted it to happen this way, without her being ready or anything. But he wasn't regretting it either. His heart was beating fast, ready to explode, and his body was burning as he tried to see what she was thinking in her eyes.

After a few seconds of an unbearable silence, Draco, still looking right into her eyes, talked.

"I meant that," he said calmly and quietly. "I really did."

Hermione wasn't doubting it. She was doubting the fact that she was awake, actually. Since she had realized her feelings for Draco, she had had only one dream about something like that, but they had just been holding hands. Then, Pansy had pushed her down the stairs and Harry and Ron had laughed. Not really a good dream, but she had caught herself thinking a lot about the holding hands part of it. As well as she had started to imagine what it would be like to really date Draco Malfoy. But never had she thought that one day, this opportunity would actually exist. She already felt like it was a miracle for him to talk to her, but having feelings for her too?

Draco didn't know what to do. At least, she hadn't totally rejected him. That was a good sign, right? He knew he had been horrible with her the year before, but he had changed a lot since then. Like Lupin had said, he had grown up. Maybe it was because he had realized that Hermione had always been a better person than anyone he knew or that he ever was. Because she was accepting, forgiving, kind and trustworthy. Also because even without knowing his secret, she had been able to see past his flaws. She was the one who had started to talk to him, even after all the mean things he had told her. He didn't mind hurting her at the time, because he was more selfish, because he was trying to prove himself that he was better, because he was lying to himself. But this year at Hogwarts had changed him. Maybe it was thanks to Lupin, because he had made him open his eyes about a lot of things, as well as he had made him talk more about his feelings. About those feelings he was always repressing. Maybe having someone to listen to the things he couldn't tell to anyone else, to understand him like no one had something to do with his change. Maybe it was thanks to Pansy, she was the first one to make him actually talk about his feelings for Hermione. It didn't matter if Lupin had noticed at some point, because Pansy knew first. Because she had always noticed everything. Maybe having her discover his secret had helped him. The fear and the anger he had felt during those moments had been hard to handle, but it had helped him when he had to face Potter and Granger in the Forest.

Maybe it was because he was like his father. Because he had realized that he wanted to be with Hermione, so he had to at least try.

Or maybe it was because of her smile, because it was making him forget about his problems, about his anxiety and his affliction. Because when she was smiling like she was doing at that very moment, his heart was beating very fast and his body was becoming warmer and he wanted to smile too because nothing mattered more than sharing her joy. Because it was making her wrinkle her nose a little, and her eyes were sparkling. And she didn't seem to care about anything.

And Draco wanted to stop caring about everything. He blinked when he felt her fingers on his hand and he looked down. He swallowed as he slowly interlaced his fingers with hers before he looked at her face again. When he did, he saw her approach and he closed his eyes as he felt her lips against his once again. But this time, she was kissing him. It was as innocent as the first one, but Draco was able to kiss back. They were timid, it was short and soft and they both liked it. And Draco liked seeing Hermione so shy as she looked at him again.

"I meant that too."

Chapter Text

"Are you alright Hermione? You didn't hear me when I called you," Ginny said as she walked in her friend's dorm. She had been in the common room when Hermione had arrived through the portrait hole, obviously lost in her own thoughts. She was smiling and when Ginny called her, she hadn't reacted. So, Ginny had left Ron and Harry who were playing chess to go and talk to her friend.

Startled, Hermione turned her face to look at Ginny. After a few seconds, she grinned and nodded, her cheeks going pink.

Of course she was alright. She had just spent the afternoon in the library with Draco, they had kissed for the first time and they had talked as Hermione was playing with the fingers she had been holding. Most of all, they had both felt better than they had in days. It was still hard to believe. All she knew was that Draco was sharing her feelings. Ginny might have been right for quite some time, since she had said that he was interested by her after Christmas. If only she had had the courage to talk to him before that... And at the same time, Hermione wasn't regretting anything. Because in January,  Draco may not have been ready for this kind of relationship, maybe it would have been too soon for him to accept that because of his family. Because at the time, he didn't know Hermione knew. A lot of things hadn't happened, actually. But that day, there were no more secrets. Draco could be himself.

Actually, there was one secret only, a new one. Their relationship. They didn't have to talk about it to know that they couldn't tell anyone for now. It was a bit annoying, but Hermione wouldn't betray Draco this way. And she wouldn't do that to herself either. It would be horrible with the other Gryffindors, or at least with Harry and Ron. They would hate her, ignore her... Ginny wasn't like that. Ginny was excited about what was going on between them, so maybe she could tell her? Hermione needed someone in the confidence. She needed to talk about Draco, she needed to share her feelings, to say how excited she was, how different he was with her. Plus, it would be hard to lie to Ginny and just tell her that she still wasn't acting on her feelings.

Because Ginny had been asking her how it was evolving, what was going on, how she was feeling... It was one of their main subject of conversation lately. Hermione wouldn't be able to look her in the eyes and tell her that nothing had happened before seeing Ginny's disappointed expression. She wouldn't be able to look her in the eyes and fake disappointment. For Harry and Ron, it was easier because they wouldn't be asking this kind of things, she didn't have to avoid the subject.

Hermione stood up and approached the door, looking outside at the stairs before she closed it.

"You need to promise me not to tell anyone anything, once again," she articulated before she turned around to face Ginny as she leaned against the door. Amused, Ginny used a finger to draw a cross on her chest before she raised her hand.

"I promise," she said and Hermione chuckled. Silly. She was acting silly but she was so happy. Every time she was thinking about it, a weird sensation was taking possession of her stomach. She walked towards her bed again, brushing her lower lip with the tip of her fingers. "Come on, what is it?" Ginny asked, now really eager to know. She approached Hermione who turned again to look at her friend. Their eyes met but it was a few seconds before Hermione talked. She whispered, actually, like it was weird to say it out loud.

"Draco kissed me."

"WHAT?" Ginny couldn't help but exclaim. Hermione laughed again as she nodded and Ginny put her hand on her mouth as she giggled. "Tell me everything!" She said after a moment, very excited now. She joined Hermione and they both sat on her bed. Hermione was really pleased by her reaction, but she wasn't expecting less from her. Ginny had never judged her for liking Draco, or even for takling to him, not once. It's not that Ginny didn't care if Draco was mean with her family, after all, he was a Malfoy. Her own father was fist fighting with Draco's father and she wasn't saying anything. It wasn't her business, she could defend herself when she needed to. And she was supporting Hermione because even if she couldn't really understand what she might see in Draco's heart at first, she had listened to her friend and what she had to say about it, about the way he was acting.

Ron hadn't been able to shut up. When Ginny came in the common room two days before, having learned about Lupin, he had to tell her about Draco. Maybe it was because he was angry, or maybe it was because he was just annoyed, but he hadn't been able to help it. Maybe it was just to tell one person he knew wouldn't go around to tell everyone, just because he needed to let it out, to be satisfied for a minute. Never did he try to tell anyone else than his sister yet, he was probably too afraid of Hermione, but Ginny had already overheard Ron and Harry whispering about it one of the next days.

But Ginny wasn't about to say anything to anyone. She liked Lupin, she knew that being a werewolf wasn't defining who you were. Lupin was really nice, he had listened to her during the year. It had been really hard for her to come back at school after what had happened during the year before. But she had started to work even harder to become better, and Lupin had helped her in his own way to make her feel good. She had learned a lot on herself and about magic in that one short year. She knew Draco wasn't a monster because he had something like that inside of him. She knew what it was like to be possessed by something you couldn't control, by something so strong and evil that it was frightening you. She could even understand why Draco seemed to be so bitter about a lot of things.

She was able to understand Hermione and why she was refusing to believe Draco was genuinely an awful person, even before she had learnt about him being a werewolf. Hermione was always seeing the best in people, even if they were working hard to hide that part of themselves. She had been a precious friend after what had happened with the diary. Hermione had listened to her, listened to things she didn't want to talk about with her parents or with her brothers. And when Hermione had needed someone to listen to her, she had then been there for her in return. They had grown closer during the year and Ginny had a weird feeling in her chest, knowing that she was the only one to know. Was it pride? Maybe. She was glad to say the least.

Hermione didn't tell Ginny what Draco had said exactly back in the library. She knew how hard it must have been for Draco to come and talk to her about the situation. She had never met someone with so much pride. And just thinking about it, about him coming to her to try and talk about it, about him hiding his shame and trying to look confident, which he didn't quite do, as he accepted to talk to her about something he was hiding and that was tormenting him... She felt special.

"I can't believe it..."

"Me neither, trust me," Hermione said. "He wants to see me tomorrow too... I mean, we just have a few days left so..." Hermione realized that they only had very little time left in the castle and felt a bit bad. She absolutely wanted to spend as much time as she could with him. "But the thing is... Harry and Ron will wonder where I am, I can't really use the library anymore, they will think it's weird," she was mostly afraid they would use the map to know where she was and see her with Draco.

"Where does he want you to see him, then?"

"The Clock Tower. He said he'd find a way to escape his friends," she added not without giggling again.

"I'll be your alibi," Ginny said at once.

"Really? You'd do that for me?"

"Of course. We will leave together, just to be sure, then you'll go by yourself," Ginny said.

They kept talking for a while before going down in the common room, giggling together. When the boys asked them what it was about, they didn't say anything and just laughed again, sitting in an armchair and whispering.

 

Draco and Hermione finally understood what "time flies" meant when they ended up heading to the carriages to go back to Hogsmeade for the ride home. The last days at Hogwarts had gone by so fast, they felt like they didn't have enough time together. They hadn't even been able to get away of their own awkwardness, even if it felt more natural to hold hands at that point. At least, they were able to talk a lot, since they had done it all year already. It seemed like they couldn't run out of subjects, they just had to tell a lot to each other, now that they were able to talk freely about anything. Draco didn't have to act like he was annoyed by her and Hermione didn't have to act like she didn't exactly care about him, it was making everything way easier. And they were going to write to each other during the summer, which was a comforting thought for the both of them. Hermione was afraid that by being separated for too long, Draco might get back to his old ways of treating her, that he was going to think he had made a mistake by going out with her. And Draco didn't know why he was afraid that Hermione might forget about him during the holidays. It was silly. Still, he knew that this fear was stuck in his head. Maybe it was simply because it was the first time he was going out with someone? He had never felt this way, it was thrilling but scary.

Also, he didn't know how Hermione was doing to be able to spend so much time alone, the trio was usually inseparable but apparently, she had her ways to get to the Clock Tower to spend most of her time with him. Also, they were glancing at each other a lot in the Great Hall during the feasts, they couldn't help it. They were trying to not be too obvious but they couldn't help themselves.

Draco did everything he could to be close to her before going in the Hogwarts Express, they were walking just behind the trio. Still, he didn't know if he wanted to mock Potter just to make them look because he wanted to see Hermione's face. He was still very uncomfortable about what had happened and was spending the time he wasn't with Hermione avoiding Harry and the Weasel. Even Pansy hadn't said anything to them. In a way, Draco was glad Goyle actually mocked them loud enough for them to hear, even if he was frustrated to hear him talk about Hermione. He gritted his teeth but ended up smirking when he met Harry's eyes. He had to keep up appearances anyway or his friends would know something was different, even if they were quite stupid.

Draco knew Harry had actually helped him in the Forest, but he was only grateful to Hermione, really. Plus, they had promised so they wouldn't say anything, right? So, he played Goyle's game and just mocked Harry before he glanced at Hermione who didn't look as annoyed as usual. After all, she hadn't asked Draco to be softer with Harry and Ron. Firstly, it would have been too obvious, secondly, Draco would have probably never accepted and thirdly... Well, she didn't mind because she knew Harry and Ron wouldn't change, they didn't have any reason too. She was actually afraid it would get worse. It wasn't her business as long as they weren't going too far.

They parted ways once the trio had found a compartment. Hermione had been careful to climb in the train after her friends and Draco before his. Their hands briefly met before she walked in her compartment, hidden between their bodies and Draco just went to find one for him and his friends, repressing a smile. It would be the last physical contact they would have before seeing each other again after two months apart. What a great start for a relationship. Draco insulted himself. He should have talked to her before... But he didn't think that she knew about him at the time, it wouldn't have been easy. It would have been horrible, he would have never dared, too afraid she would reject him once knowing the truth. He was too proud to risk it. In his mind, he hadn't really had a choice. At least, she knew everything, and he had spend three of the best days of that school year with her.

He took his cold expression again when he opened the door where two first years Hufflepuff students were already. When he and his friends had chased them, he sat down, relieved as he sighed, looking out the window. It was only a few minutes after, when Pansy who was sitting next to him pressed his arm to make him notice they were talking to him, that he paid attention to what Crabbe was saying.

 

After the long journey, he got off the train, accompanied by Pansy. He was laughing with her when, looking up, he saw his parents waiting for him. He smiled before he said goodbye to Pansy, hugging her before she went to join her own parents. Draco walked quickly towards his and Narcissa hugged him, as always. Draco himself and his parents weren't displaying a lot of their affection in public, it was always by simple gestures, but his mother was always hugging him whenever he was coming back for the summer. He hugged her back, closing his eyes for a second as he smelled her perfume. Even that he had missed. When they broke the hug, Draco looked at his father. Ha, he wanted to hug him too, but he wouldn't.

"This was waiting for you at home, it arrived yesterday," Narcissa said and Draco looked at her again as she showed him the envelope she had in her hand. His name was written on it and Draco smirked. He didn't know he had get so used to so many things Lupin was doing during the year, but he recognized his handwriting. Draco felt joy in his stomach and he took the letter before he noticed that his father's eyes were drifting behind him. Draco looked over his shoulder only to see Harry, Ron and Hermione getting off the train. Like she knew, Hermione turned her head only to meet Draco's eyes. She didn't smile, though, seeing his father just behind him. She went to take her trunk with her friends and Draco felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Let's go home," Lucius said and Draco smirked, glancing one last time at Hermione's back. He turned around and started to walk with his parents, his father's hand going from his shoulder to his back for a moment, his own way of greeting him home in the middle of the station.

"We don't have much time, Honey, I want you to get ready when we get back, Severus comes for dinner," Narcissa told her son as she put her gloves back on. Right. Draco had forgotten that Snape was always coming for dinner on the last day of school. It was a way of thanking him for the help he was providing the family. And at the same time, it was more out of habit. Draco knew he would come over a few other times during the holidays. To see his father, or just because, oddly enough, his mother seemed to fancy drinking tea with him. And as usual, Draco would have to be present every time. Usually, he wasn't annoyed at all by that, but he still didn't want to see Snape. Or talk to him, simply.

But when they got back, he did as his mother had asked and he got ready for the evening after he had read carefully Lupin's letter. Glad to read that he was doing fine, he got dressed before he took some more time to write back.

The letter had been short, Lupin had seemed more concerned to know how Draco was doing than anything else, he had just written a few lines. Draco didn't even know how to call him exactly. Not professor anymore, that was for sure. Still, he couldn't bring himself to call him Remus. He skipped this inconvenience and wrote that he was doing better. That his wounds were healing really well and pretty quickly, that it wasn't hurting so much anymore. Well, his arm was still hurting him, because of the bite on his shoulder, but the other injuries were less painful already. Draco also wrote that he was right, that it wouldn't be the end of the world and that he was quite ashamed to have been so childish, crying about all of that. He felt like he had to explain himself, because he was really ashamed. He had lost it without wanting it. Too much anger, too much sadness and so little sleep, it had just been really nerve-racking. But he was fine, now. Especially since Lupin had directly written to him.

In the end of his letter, he couldn't help but ask about Lupin's situation, if he would be able to find another job. Then, he only put "Lupin" on the envelope, and gave it to his owl. When it would come back, he would write to Hermione. She had told him that she didn't have an owl outside Hogwarts, so she couldn't directly write to him, he had to begin. He just hoped Lupin wasn't too far away. 

When he got downstairs, Snape was already there, talking with his mother and father, sitting on an armchair. He had to join them and he sat on the sofa near his mother, taking his own cup of tea and not even glancing at Snape. Lucius, who was sitting on another armchair, directly noticed that Draco seemed a bit tense but said nothing, he just glanced at him from time to time.

It wasn't the first time Draco was mad at Severus, even if the last time it had happened, Draco had been a kid. Still, Lucius could tell. Draco wasn't joining in the conversation, he wasn't looking at Severus, he was instead staring at his tea, not even at his parents. Draco had seemed to be in a really good mood when he had got off the train, he just seemed to feel better. Lucius could remember how Draco was acting during Easter and his son had worried him. He just thought that if he had to complain about something, he would have done so already. But seeing his behavior with Severus, Lucius wasn't so sure anymore. He narrowed his eyes as he glanced at Severus but he didn't do anything. He would have time to talk with Draco later.

He also saw Draco's eye twitching when Narcissa mentioned his low grades to Severus. Draco glanced at his father and was surprised to see him staring at him. He didn't seem angry about his grades at that moment, he could even detect an ounce of curiosity in his eyes.

"He had been a bit distracted this year, that is true," Snape said coolly before he sipped his tea. "But I am sure things will be different next year."

Draco couldn't help but wrinkle his nose as he stopped looking at his father.

"Only if he doesn't get too distracted by the tournament," Lucius said, putting his cup on the little table in front of the sofa. Draco turned his head to look at him again, showing for the first time some interest in the conversation.

"What tournament?" He couldn't help but ask. Lucius knew it would change Draco's mood immediately.

"The Triwizard Tournament, of course," he said in an offhand manner.

"Are you serious?" Draco asked, looking like he was about to get up. But he didn't, he just looked at his mother, his eyebrows raised before he looked at his father again. This one nodded, still looking very relaxed before he finally glanced at his son.

"Do I look like I am joking, Draco?" Still, Draco laughed a little. He had been right thinking the next year would be better than this one. "But, obviously, you will abstain yourself from talking about it to your friends before the end of the holidays," Lucius added and Draco nodded, still smiling.

"There's something more," Narcissa said as she looked at her son, sipping her tea. As Draco turned his head to look at his mother, he met Snape's eyes for a brief instant. This one had his lips curled up, but he wasn't displaying any kind of good mood. It was his usual cold smile and Draco looked away.

"What is it?" Draco asked, eager to know right away.

"Really, Cissa, right now? He's already so excited, he's not going to sleep tonight," Lucius said. Narcissa gave him a little smile and Draco frowned, looking at his father.

"Hey, I'm not a kid anymore, I can manage!" He said, actually sounding very childish. Lucius' lips curled up as he took his wand out of his cane, barely waving it. Something came at them to go in Lucius' hand. He handed it to Draco.

Draco took the tickets directly, almost spilling his tea.

"You got places for the World Cup?" He asked his father. And really great places too.

"You sound surprised," Lucius said as he leaned on his seat again. Draco chuckled and shook a bit his head. "Of course I got some, I understood you really wanted to go."

 

"So, what is it with you and Severus?" Lucius asked as he stopped at Draco's door, which was opened. Draco was almost ready to go have a great night of sleep and was already in his pajamas. Snape had left almost an hour before and he had gone in his room after having spent some time with his parents. He faced his father.

"What do you mean?" He asked before he walked towards his bedside table, removing his ring and putting it on the book he was currently reading. On it was already his ticket for the World Cup, he couldn't wait.

"I mean you being mad at him," Lucius said as he walked in his son's huge room.

"I'm not mad at him," Draco said, staring at the ring for a few seconds before he sat on his bed. Lucius considered him for a moment before he glanced at his right arm. Draco being in a black t-shirt, the scars on his forearm were visible and he could also see the bandage on his shoulder, showing that this injury was way more recent than the other one. Lucius looked down for a second. He had learnt to be "fine" with Draco's condition. At least, he had learnt to live with it, knowing it was most horrible for his son anyway. But knowing that he was hurting himself, that he was suffering every months, that he was struggling because of the situation... And that it was because of him, Lucius couldn't accept it, he had never been able to. It didn't matter if Draco had told him it would be fine from all of his ten years of age, because Lucius knew that he wasn't fine. And knowing that his son wasn't fine was the worst. Draco was the most precious thing he had in his life, with his wife. They were above everything.

When Narcissa had given birth to Draco, Lucius had cried. When he had held Draco for the first time in his arms, a bit clumsily but very carefully, he had promised himself he would make this little guy the most happiest boy on earth. When Draco had gripped his finger for the first time, his heart had exploded in his chest and when Draco had smiled at him for the first time, Lucius hadn't been able to know if he would be able to find something more reassuring in his life. And knowing that he had ruined his life...

He sat down next to his son.

"The last time you were mad at him, you were... Seven?" Lucius said, looking up for a second, trying to remember exactly when it was. A little smile slowly appeared on his face. "Yes. Almost eight, actually. You didn't want to stop pulling his robes," Lucius said, still a bit amused when he was thinking about Draco's face when Severus had told him to stop for the umpteenth time. But that had been the last one, because he had actually scared Draco. He knew how to do that, Severus. And even if it gave everyone a good laugh, Draco had been so mad at him that he had ignored him for the rest of the day, like he had done during the whole evening. But as a kid, he had also been pouting most of the time and glaring at him in a very non-intimidating way when Severus was mentioning him. Even if Draco had certainly grown up, he was still obvious when annoyed by someone. "Trust me, I remember how you were acting. I know when you're mad at him. So, what is it?"

"Why don't you ask the betrayer you call a friend?" Draco asked, annoyed again. He didn't look at his father, he even turned his head to stare at the wall behind his huge bed as he sighed heavily. Lucius narrowed his eyes and after a short second of hesitation, he raised his hand to place it on the back of Draco's neck. Draco took a deep breath and he tilted a bit his head, finally slowly turning it to glance at his father. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Alright," Lucius simply said. Draco raised his eyebrows as he met his father eyes. "But you will still have to deal with him this summer. And at school next year. And the year after. And-"

"I get it," Draco said quietly before he looked in front of him. He knew what his father wanted him to understand. Maybe he needed to face the problem, or at least talk about it, find a solution. But he couldn't tell his father about Lupin, could he? He knew he could trust his father, but the situation was... too special. If he was telling his father about what had happened, he knew how it would sound like. Like it was, really; Snape had so wanted to get rid of Lupin that he hadn't cared if the students were finding out for Draco at the same time. When he felt Lucius removing his hand from his neck, Draco directly muttered, "He's selfish..."

Lucius stared at him for a second before he looked away, thinking. He didn't touch Draco again, though.

"Aren't we all?"

They both stayed silent for a whole minute, Draco staring at the opened door and Lucius looking around the room without moving his head. Draco had always kept his room simple. Well, it was huge and clearly luxurious but you couldn't really tell what Draco's hobbies were by looking at it. He was very organized, he had learnt to be so when he was younger. On his desk were some books he had never wanted to add to the library. It was some he had bought himself, about his interests. About creatures, mainly. But they were forming a neat pile on the furniture, near his quill and three rolls of parchment.

"Why is there so many rules against us?" Draco finally asked, looking down. Lucius understood directly what his son had meant by "us". He also knew about the new legislation, of course, he was the one who had told Draco about it. He couldn't just say to Draco that it was because people thought they were all dangerous. Because Draco knew it already. Because Draco knew that they were dangerous when they didn't have the same treatment and environment as he had. And even with that kind of life, they were too unpredictable. The one that had attacked Draco was like him, sort of. Good family, he was locked for every cycle and had the potion. And still, he had been a real danger for Draco's life.

Lucius stared at his son for a few seconds before Draco looked at him too. "Why am I still here?"

Again, he felt Lucius' hand on his neck, but a bit higher. He felt his father's fingers in his hair and enjoyed the contact without showing it. It was making him feel safer, like every time his father was touching him. He knew he would always be there to protect him. He had had the same feeling with Lupin in the hospital, when Lupin had touched his neck to comfort him. Draco had had plenty of physical affection when he was younger, maybe that's why he was seeking physical contacts whenever he was afraid or distressed. He was used to his father or his mother keeping him in their arms when the night was too difficult, when he couldn't stop crying and that he couldn't stop shaking. Lupin had understood that, Draco was sure of it. That's why he had caressed his neck, that's why he had hugged him to make him calm down. Draco felt like an animal Lupin had been able to tame, but he didn't really care, because he knew Lupin was genuine.

"You know exactly why you are still here," Lucius said.

"Because you need an heir?" Draco muttered. Even though Lucius didn't break the physical contact between them, he looked at his son like he had been slightly offended. He narrowed his eyes.

"I will need to talk to your mother if she keeps thinking you've got her brains," he said quietly. Draco didn't really react, he just kept staring at his father for a few seconds.

"Then, why? I don't get it."

"What don't you get?" Lucius asked. He thought it was obvious. How could Draco doubt they loved him enough to disregard their beliefs when it came to him?

"You still believe in all of this, right? You still want me to marry a pureblood and..." Draco looked down for a second. He wasn't actually scared to talk about it, and at the same time... he was petrified. "Whatever we do, it will not change what I am. It's not the same, you know it, right? You know I'm not like you or like mom," he said. He wasn't saying "mom" a lot. Almost never, actually. He had stopped calling her "mommy" when he had started to grow up. When he was using this word, it was often when he was experiencing some kind of distress and Lucius knew that.

"What's your point?" Lucius asked, wanting his son to get the words out.

"It... It makes no sense..."

There was another moment of silence. Lucius used it to look at his son's face carefully. He had changed during one year. He was used to see his son really tired, but there was something more this time. The more Draco was growing up and the more he was asking questions about this kind of things, which Lucius and Narcissa could easily understand. But not easily answer. Like Draco had said, it didn't make any sense. They could disregard their beliefs for him, and at the same time, they couldn't get the idea of him marrying a pureblood out of their mind, because it was what was supposed to happen. And there was no doubt in Lucius' mind that Draco was doubting those beliefs. After all, why would he believe all of that, when that was one of the reason people like his parents were hating werewolves? Even simple wizards were very uncomfortable with them. His family wasn't supposed to accept him because of that.

Lucius could understand. But not really accept him marrying someone not worthy of the Malfoy's name. He also knew that it didn't make any sense because if they were still thinking that anyone who wasn't a pureblood was disgusting, deep down, they ought to think Draco was disgusting, even if they were saying that they loved him. Hence the fact that Draco thought he was just there because they didn't have any other kid.

"You don't believe in our blood anymore?" Lucius asked, rather calmly. Draco looked down for a second, trying to find the right words, before he met his father's eyes again.

"It's not really my blood anymore, is it?" he finally said with difficulty. His voice had sounded a bit strangled. Lucius didn't really look disappointed, he just sighed. He didn't look angry either. He had the same curious look as he had had earlier that evening and Draco didn't dare speak another word.  In the end, and after long seconds that seemed to last forever, Lucius simply nodded. He could see where his son was coming from. He wasn't expecting less from a boy like Draco.

He had always seen him stuck in his own head, his mind always working. He was always thinking about everything, worrying about things he shouldn't worry about. No, he wasn't expecting less from him. But he never thought they would have this conversation that soon.

He knew what Draco had meant with this simple sentence. That he wasn't pure like the rest of his family. That whatever they might do, even make him marry a pureblood, they knew that he wasn't pure. It would never make him pure again. Narcissa, Draco and him would always know that it was only some kind of masquerade. And no pureblood worthy of the name would actually consider marrying Draco, arranged marriage or not, because it would make them traitors. And then, the word would be out, they would all know. Lucius knew that if they had to be honest with themselves, they were already blood-traitors, in a way. They were just pretending. They wanted to keep their privileges and they wanted their son to have them, they wanted their son to have the life they had always had, the life he had always deserved to have. Lucius always knew that. Narcissa always knew that. They just avoided talking about it with Draco, even if they had talked about it with each other more than once.

Narcissa had also talked about what Draco had said during the Easter holidays. And now, he seemed to be thinking about that even more than before. And like her, Lucius had said that it wasn't like he had to marry someone right away. That he wasn't even dating anyone yet. That they could at least pretend a little longer. They kind of knew how it would turn out, in the end.

It was inevitable.

But they just wanted him to enjoy their position until he would really think about getting married. Before he would really fall in love.

Lucius was about to talk when he heard footsteps and he glanced towards the door before meeting his son's eyes again. Draco gave him a very shy smile, visibly embarrassed and Lucius felt the urge to tell him that he wasn't mad at him, but he didn't. He just let his hand rest on the back of his neck again, pressed it softly and looked at Narcissa as she walked in the room, removing her earrings.

"Are you boys alright?" She asked as she saw her husband and son. Again, Draco only smiled shyly, at her this time, and Lucius slowly nodded before he glanced at his son again.

"Of course we are," he said calmly before he stood up, Draco quickly looking at him.

"I see," Narcissa said as she walked towards her son. "I wanted to say good night."

Draco smiled at her, more genuinely this time, as she leaned to kiss his forehead. Draco couldn't help but softly grip her wrists as he closed his eyes. Narcissa felt Lucius' hand on her back and she straightened up again, smiling at her son.

"Good night," Draco said quietly before he glanced at his father.

 

"Draco! It's time to go!" He heard his mother call from the Manor. Even if she was far away, he heard her perfectly at this time of the month. He got out of his reverie, blinking before he looked behind him. It was time to go to the World Cup. He looked at the creature at his feet and gave him a few more caresses before he finally got up and hurried towards the Manor. He heard the steps of the Curp behind him and he stopped running. He turned around as he chuckled and he kept walking backwards as he looked at the dog-like creature which was jumping happily behind him.

"You cannot come there, mate, Mother is not going to appreciate. Go," he said, waving his hand to tell it to go away. The Curp seemed to understand and it stopped, raising its ears like it was listening carefully. "Go on," Draco said as he waved again. The Curp didn't go away but it didn't follow Draco either. He had started to run towards his house again and walked only when he arrived near the opened French window. He walked in with the same little smile he had had on his face most of the time during that summer, which was kind of a change.

His mother had noticed as soon as he had got off the Hogwarts Express with Pansy before reaching Lucius and her. He just looked like he was feeling good, not like he had looked during the Easter holidays. Still, she had noticed he wasn't using one of his arm much and she wondered if something else, something bad, had happened. When she had asked if he had hurt himself, he had mumbled something about Quidditch but she wondered if that was it. Draco was really uncomfortable when it came to talk about his transformations but she also knew that he was a danger not only for the others, but for himself too during those nights. But Draco knew that if he wanted to talk to her, he could. He had done it in the past and he would do it if he had too. With this thought, Narcissa had left her boy alone with his secrets, knowing that growing up, he probably needed some privacy. And she didn't want him to stop smiling by talking about things that might annoy him, so she just didn't.

"What were you doing? You know we have to go," Narcissa said as she put her cloak on, not on a reproachful tone though. Draco smirked as he approached.

"Nothing, just walking, breathing the fresh air," he said, walking past his mother to go towards the big front doors. She was following him, the sound her high heels made at every steps resonating in the hallway. She narrowed her eyes for less than a second.

"Were you with that Crup again?" She asked and Draco smiled a bit more.

"It's not my fault if he keeps coming back," he said innocently. Narcissa let out a really small sigh. It wasn't annoyance, more like despair mixed with amusement. She knew what Draco had in mind and she knew that if he wasn't asking directly, it was because playing his little game was entertaining him.

"It wouldn't come back if you hadn't fed it all summer," she said. Draco shrugged.

"Or maybe he just likes the manor, you know. Why can't we take him in? I'll look after him."

And here he was. Narcissa shook her head. What was she going to do with this boy?

"Let me remind you that you are away during the year. I am going to have to look after it," she said, not really annoyed, as she stopped near her son. They just had to wait for Lucius and they could Apparate nearby the campsite.

Draco had had this conversation with his mother three times already during that summer, even if until there, he had never actually expressed his wish of adopting the creature. She wasn't one to say no to her son, never. Lucius and her had always spoiled Draco, had always said yes to everything and she knew this time wouldn't be different. Still, she thought it might be a bit useless to get him the Crup. He couldn't take it at school so he wouldn't really be able to take care of it. Still, she had almost proposed to take it in herself when she had seen the glow in Draco's eyes when he had come back in the Manor talking about this adorable puppy he had seen outside. Then, he got out pretty quickly to go give it something to eat, hoping it was still there. He had been in a good mood for the rest of the day, even after it left. Draco liked magical creatures.

No, Draco loved magical creatures. She hadn't been surprised when she learned he had chosen Care of Magical Creatures for his third year, along with another class. Hence, she hadn't been surprised to see him check out the window if he wasn't seeing something move outside. She hadn't been surprised to hear an excited "Look! It came back!" the second time the little Crup had been in the huge garden. And since it came back again, and that Draco was feeding it every time to make sure it would want to come back, her son had started to drop hints of how nice it would be to have it in their home. Lucius had grimaced and ignored him not to enter in the conversation at first, focusing on staring at his newspaper and leaving Narcissa to deal with Draco all by herself. She had put her cup of tea on the table and tried to talk Draco out of it. He acted like he hadn't asked anything before he left the room in a hurry, a quill in his hand and some parchments in the other. As soon as he had left, Narcissa had looked at her husband like she was about to reprimand him but she didn't. She saw the amusement in his eyes and she couldn't. Those boys were going to drive her mad. She had shaken her head and Lucius had told her that Draco might get over it after a week or two and that if he wasn't getting over it, he would see what he could do to get a license. Then, he had pressed her hand before drinking his own tea. Again, they would say yes. They would always say yes.

Draco deserved the world.

"Well, I only see the peacocks during the holidays and I don't see anyone complaining," Draco said as he shrugged again before he crossed his arms. Narcissa considered him for a moment before she pinched the bridge of her nose. The Malfoys men and their animals were really something.

"Yes, well... They are your father," she said and Draco couldn't help but snort. "Besides, those are just animals. You're asking me to take care of a Beast. You need a license."

"I'm just saying. It's really young and alone. It's not supposed to walk around alone, it's supposed to have a family," Draco said, trying to look as innocent as he was trying to sound. His mother didn't fall for it and sighed. "Father can get the license easily."

"Draco, please," Narcissa said and Draco smiled. She took a deep breath. She hated having to say no to Draco, that's why she was never refusing anything. His face looked too good when she was saying yes.

The glow in his eyes was too beautiful when she was accepting whatever he was asking for. It was reminding her of those moments they were spending together when he was younger. Sure, they were still doing things together, and Draco was still very affectionate, but he didn't need anyone to push the swing anymore. He actually wasn't using the swing anymore. But she had always loved going on those walks with him, watching him run around and laugh before seeing him coming back to take her hand and make her walk a bit faster, looking at her with those brilliant grey eyes he had. They didn't have that same glow since he had been attacked, but during those moments, she could swear nothing around them was existing. She was meeting his eyes and she could only hear his laugh, his voice, she could only feel the both of them. And she was feeling more proud than ever, because she knew her little boy was as happy as Lucius and her wanted him to be.

She looked behind Draco as she saw Lucius arriving, the man she loved as much as she loved Draco. She met her son's eyes again and slightly smiled.

"Look, I already talked with your father about the license, actually," she said. And seeing Draco's expression, she hurried to add, "But only-! Only if you do better at school than last year. Do I need to remind you about your grades?" Draco grimaced, even if they both knew it wasn't really a condition, he had won anyway.

"No, you don't," he said as he hid his hands in his pockets, a bit annoyed as he looked away.

Finally, she had been able to stop the conversation. Plus, even if she had upset Draco with this remark, she soon saw him smile at her again.

"Let's go now," she said when Lucius had reached them. She felt his hand on her back and she looked at him. Then, she felt Draco's tight grip on her arm and they all Disapparated. He was so excited. The only thing that was annoying him that year was that he would probably not play Quidditch during school. And at the same time, it wasn't so bad, he still hadn't figured out how he would change in front of his teammates.

 

Now, he just needed to wait for Hermione. In the miniature palace they were using as a tent, Draco was thinking about it all, laying on the bed he would use. He absolutely needed to see her, it had been too long. They had been writing to each other all summer long, of course, but they hadn't been able to see each other. They knew it would happen but they were both bitter about it. Officially, they had been going out for two months, now, but had only spent three days together. It was infuriating for Draco. But he kept thinking that it was alright, because that very day, the 25th of August, was their two months anniversary, and this time they would be able to see each other. At least, he hoped so.

They hadn't been able to talk during a few days already. Hermione had said that she was invited to the Quidditch World Cup by the Weasleys and since she would go there at least the day before, they shouldn't send each other letters anymore during the last week before school or Ron might recognize Draco's owl. He had been really bothered by the fact that she was going to spend the rest of the summer there. Not that he was jealous or anything, it was just some kind of disgust when he was thinking about this family, he couldn't help it. Fine, maybe he was also a bit jealous that they got to spend time with her when he couldn't, but he could live with it, he guessed. And at the same time, knowing that made him happy because he knew he would at least see her at the World Cup, maybe even be able to talk to her, if he was lucky enough.

So, he had answered to her letter for the last time, including a long and white feather in the envelope. He hadn't explained why in the letter, she would understand the meaning later, once at the World Cup. As soon as Hermione had received the letter, and even if she couldn't understand why he had sent this feather, she had found herself taking it with her at the Weasleys. She had packed everything for Hogwarts and had put the feather in her bag, carefully not to damage it, before leaving her place.

Once Harry, the Weasleys and her had arrived at the World cup, though, she understood. She understood because she was staring at all those tents and she noticed it. She noticed the little palace, she noticed the white peacocks in front of it. She understood that it was the Malfoys' tent. Her heart was beating fast, knowing that he might be only a few feet away from her, inside that tent.

When they got out of their own tent, later, Hermione couldn't help but glance to see if she wasn't seeing Draco anywhere. That's only after walking around for some time with Ginny that she saw him coming out of his tent. He seemed taller than the year before and Hermione stopped, catching Ginny's attention. When she looked at Draco too, the redhead grinned and took her friend by the arm.

"Come on, it's fine, act natural, wait for him to see you," she said, shaking her head as they walked not too far from his tent. Draco had stopped outside, apparently looking around. He spotted the girls after a few seconds. Apparently, Ginny was talking with Hermione but she wasn't paying too much attention, she couldn't help but glance at Draco. Their eyes met and Draco really wanted to walk towards them and kiss Hermione. Instead, after they had stupidly looked at each other for a moment, Draco walked away. He walked towards the woods, hands in his pockets. He walked away from everyone and hoped Hermione would follow. That's only after a few minutes that Ginny let Hermione go, not wanting her to be too obvious. The others knew that they were visiting the campsite together, so they wouldn't wonder where Hermione was as long as they didn't find Ginny, but Hermione still had to be very careful.

 

"Draco?" Hermione called quietly as she walked between the trees. He didn't answer. She looked around and kept walking, crossing her arms. "Draco?" She called again, barely louder. She walked past the tree Draco was hiding behind and the boy walked around it, ending up behind Hermione.

"You called?" He asked with a little smile. He almost fell when Hermione turned around and threw herself in his arms. He laughed, hugging her back, closing his eyes and resting his head against hers.

It took them longer than they thought to finally break apart. But Draco directly hold her hands, smiling at her. It was so weird, they were still so awkward. Hermione, beaming, grinned at her boyfriend.

"I missed you," she let out quietly and Draco tried to stop himself from grinning before he leaned to kiss her softly, holding her hands tighter.

"I missed you too," he whispered after breaking the kiss, looking at her again. She was so pretty, he could stare at her all day long. "And... Well, happy anniversary, by the way," he said. Was it stupid? Did he have to wish this kind of anniversary? He didn't even know, but the date had been stuck in his head for a long time. And when he heard Hermione giggling, he couldn't help but smile.

"It's so unfair we didn't get to spend any time together this summer..." She said. Draco tilted his head.

"I think it was to prepare you for what will come next," Draco said, freeing one of her hand as he sat on the ground, resting his back against the tree. Hermione immediately joined him, still holding his other hand.

"What do you mean?" She asked, frowning a little.

"You have an entire school year of Draco Malfoy waiting for you, starting in five days, I mean..."

"You're right, I need to be prepared," Hermione laughed before she shook her head.

"Right you are," Draco said with a smirk before Hermione leaned to kiss him briefly again. She really had missed him. He looked tired, she knew the cycle would happen three days after but she was glad he was able to watch the final. She was happy that he was there and that they were able to spend some time together, even if it was for only a few minutes, probably not more.

 

And she was right, they didn't stay there for too long, but long enough to talk a bit more, to exchange some kisses and hold hands as Hermione blushed in front of Draco's silliness. They ended up by kissing each other goodbye, knowing it was probably the only occasion they had had to talk. Later, the match would begin and they would all leave early the next day.

Hermione left the woods first, finding Ginny not long after and joining the others in front of the tent. And after a few minutes, Draco left the woods too, walking towards the campsite with his hands deep in his pockets again. He walked towards the tents, noticing the little group talking not so far away. Ron noticed him and gave him a nasty glare. Harry saw him too but didn't show any annoyance, nor any sympathy. Then, Hermione, Ginny, Fred and George looked at him too. Ron glanced at the woods, then at Draco again, meeting his eyes. Draco smirked and, looking as arrogant as ever, he walked towards his tent under the group's gaze.

That's when Hermione noticed a woman who was apparently about to enter the tent but whose attention was caught by Draco. When he arrived, she put her hand on his back and let him go in first before she walked in. She had recognized her. She had never seen her before, but she had the same arrogant look Draco had been wearing a second before. If Draco was looking a lot like his father, he certainly got his attitude from his mother. He had mentioned her in two of his letters during the summer, and from what Hermione could tell, he was respecting her as much as he was respecting his father. He clearly adored his parents as much as they adored him and she felt weird, knowing that he was hiding their relationship from them because they probably wouldn't approve.

Chapter Text

"- And here’s Lucius!”

Harry, Ron and Hermione couldn't help but look at Lucius Malfoy when the Minister said his name. Apparently, he was sitting behind Ron's father. Three seats were still empty and Lucius was with Draco and his wife. The more Draco was growing up, the more he was reminding Harry and Ron of his father. They couldn't help but think that Draco's mother was good-looking, even though seeing the expression on her face, they could tell she didn't seem pleased to be around all those people.

"Ah, Fudge," Lucius said, shaking hands with the Minister and asking how he was doing. Then, he turned to look at his son and his wife. "You remember my wife, Narcissa. And my son Draco, of course."

"Oh yes, obviously. Long time no see," Fudge said as he looked at Narcissa. The trio noticed that neither Draco nor Narcissa seemed pleased by the Minister's words, or just by the idea of talking with him, and Hermione even saw the twitch of Draco's eye. They weren't pleased at all but weren't showing it too much. For those not knowing them well enough, it just looked like their usual arrogant appearance. The last time Draco and Narcissa had actually been in the same room as him, Draco had just turned ten and Fudge had become the Minister of Magic a few months before. He had been trying to look very confident, at the time, even if he wasn't really. He had been present for the execution of the werewolf after Draco's attack. That's how they had met. During that day, Fudge had been distant, didn't really look at Draco and had also been quite indelicate concerning him, not finding the right words at all.

Draco could remember it. He could remember Fudge laughing awkwardly and his "You are the young Draco, right? Lucius' son... Well, it's... nice to meet you, yes, very nice indeed to meet a brave young boy like you," Fudge had told him, not meeting his eyes once. Draco had been exhausted that day , it hadn't been long after his very first transformation and he was holding his mother's hand. They were standing next to his father and he had been really embarrassed as the Minister kept talking, trying to tell him that he had taken care of everything, that Draco didn't have to worry and again, that he was glad to meet Lucius Malfoy's son "despite the tragic situation". In the end, the more he had been talking and the more he had made Draco uncomfortable. So much that Draco had felt his mother's grip on his hand becoming tighter the more Fudge was talking and he had looked at his father, not reassured at all. Lucius had seen it and, keeping a strained smile on his face, he had made Fudge understand that he'd better stop talking.

The trio saw that Draco looked like he was about to hold out his hand to shake Fudge's but he didn't, seeing that the Minister barely looked at him before he bowed to his mother, greeting her with a smile and a few words. Then, he introduced them to the Bulgarian Minister of Magic, clearly talking to the couple and not Draco. This one didn't show anything. He stared at the two Ministers but by looking closely, Harry and Hermione noticed that his jaw muscles were working as if he was chewing.

Then, the trio listened as Lucius mocked Ron's father while Fudge wasn't listening and who actually bragged about Lucius' very generous contribution to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, telling them that the Malfoys were there as his guests. Draco smirked as he looked at Arthur. His father hadn't told him that he had had the tickets this way, and he felt some pride in him, especially seeing Arthur's strained smile. Draco, at that point, told himself that it didn't matter if Fudge himself was barely acknowledging his presence because he didn't like werewolves, because in front of people like the Weasleys, he was still seen as superior. As long as the Weasel was keeping his filthy mouth shut at home, he didn't have to worry about them.

During this time, Lucius had been looking up and down the row, noticing the rest of the Weasleys as well as Hermione and Harry. She met his grey eyes and she blushed but kept staring back. Draco had noticed, his eyes were on Hermione too. Again, his jaw was clenched but he wasn't showing anything about his feelings. For Harry and Ron, he was looking at her like his father was looking at her, and they felt bad for their friend. Because they knew why Lucius was smiling the way he was smiling. They knew why they were looking at her with that much disdain. After everything Hermione had done for Draco that year, they couldn't believe he would still look at her like she was some kind of scum. Harry suddenly wanted to ask what was wrong with Draco, since he had talked to her all year, just to make him have problems with his father, but he didn't, he kept his anger for himself, shot a look at Ron and they knew that they wouldn't let him get away with this behavior during the year if he was mean with Hermione. But she didn't mind Draco's look, she knew he had to keep up appearences, especially in front of his parents.

Then, and still with the same contempt, Draco looked at Ron and Harry before he went to sit between his parents.

Hermione didn't listen to Ron as he called them "slimy gits", she was still looking at Draco. His father was talking to him and he was nodding. After a moment, Draco leaned to talk to his mother, close to his ear before he looked at her and she saw her pressing one of his hand that was on his lap. Again, Hermione thought about how much Draco was probably loving his parents and once again, seeing him slightly smile at his mother, she felt bad for making him lie to them.

And at the same time, as she glanced at Lucius, she couldn't help but be proud.

After that, they all faced the field again, ready to watch the match.

 

In the end, the night didn't turn out as it was supposed to be, and Draco had the chance to talk to Hermione once more. Unfortunately, not in the best conditions. He was watching the show, leaning against a tree, hands deep in his pockets, safe in the woods. He was wondering the purpose of it. Sure, he could understand the Death Eaters motivations, but he didn't know if he was supposed to enjoy all of this. Maybe he would have had a lot of fun if he hadn't been a werewolf, if he hadn't been dating a Muggle-born, if he had just been different. Or maybe he would have found it funny if it had happen the summer before, not this one. Because he had changed too much during the last school year, and he was asking himself way more questions about all of this, now.

That's when he heard Ron fall not far away. Then, he heard Hermione and some light appeared. She was using the Lumos Charm to be able to see what they were doing.

He couldn't help but smirk when he saw Ron on the ground. Then, automatically, he looked at Hermione. Now that he was thinking about it, she wasn't safe at all, there. Did they know what it was all about? Did they know they were Death Eaters? Did she know? That was what mattered, that she knew. He didn't care about Harry and Ron, not in the slightest. Angry, Ron said he had tripped over a tree root and Draco, seeing the opportunity, couldn't stop himself. He had to tell her, no matter how. Even if he had to hurt her because she was with her friends, he had to make her understand. She would understand.

She was smart. She would know he wasn't thinking what he would be telling her. Surely, she would understand, she would forgive him.

"Well, with feet that size, hard not to," Draco told Ron, making the trio suddenly turn to face him. He was still leaning against the tree. He just had to act natural, like he had been acting with them during the last years at school. It would be fine. He was looking very relaxed, although he was also looking exhausted.

"Fuck you, Malfoy," Ron said, even more angry. Amused, Draco's grey eyes drifted on Ron. With Hermione's light, they seemed to be glittering.

"Language, Weasley," he said. "Hadn’t you better be hurrying along, now? You wouldn’t like her spotted, would you?" He finally said as he only nodded in Hermione's direction, trying not to look at her. He was still looking at Ron, just to see his reaction. He had to say, even if he had to fake what he would be saying about Hermione, driving Weasley nuts was still a great deal of fun. A loud noise came from the camp site, as well as a green light. Ron, Harry and Hermione hadn't been able to hide their surprise as they looked in the direction of the tents, but Draco didn't move, still relaxed. Hermione was the first one looking at him again.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" She asked, trying to sound a bit angry. But she had already understood that he was trying to say something to her.

"Granger, they’re after Muggles," he said, finally looking at her and meeting her eyes. "D’you want to be showing off your knickers in midair? Because if you do, hang around... they’re moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh."

She got it. He had sounded so mean but she knew that he didn't mean to. Not really. She didn't say anything, and Draco didn't react immediately when Harry said that Hermione was a witch anyway. Then, he finally glanced at Harry.

"Have it your own way, Potter. If you think they can’t spot a Mudblood, stay where you are," he said lazily before he looked at Hermione again, looking amused. He wasn't.

"You watch your mouth!" Ron shouted, really hating when Draco was using that word.

"Don't mind him, Ron," Hermione said as she stopped Ron from going closer. Draco smirked as he stared at Ron, amused to see him so angry. He really hadn't had a clue, this guy. Again, they heard a bang, it was even louder than before and it was followed by screams. It made Draco sneer.

"Scare easily, don't they? I guess your daddy told you to hide, didn't he?" Draco asked Ron, eager to see if he would try to escape Hermione's grip. "What's he up to? Trying to rescue the Muggles?"

"Where're your parents?" Harry asked, his own temper beginning to rise too. It was enough, he was disgusted by Draco's behavior, especially knowing everything that had happened during the last year. "Out there wearing masks, are they?"

Draco didn't lose his smile one second. Hermione was staring at him, actually a bit worried. She knew he wouldn't change his behavior with Harry and Ron, even though he had kept quiet at the end of the year. It had probably been because of his embarrassment, but the temptation to make fun of them that day had been too strong for him, apparently.

"Well... If they were, I wouldn't be likely to tell you, would I, Potter?" He said calmly, with the same smirk as before. Harry gritted his teeth as he frowned, clenching his fists.

"Come on, guys, let's go find the others," Hermione said, not very loudly. She didn't like how it was turning out, the situation around them was already stressful enough.

"Keep that big bushy head down, Granger," Draco sneered as he looked one last time at Hermione. Now that he had had his fun with Ron and Harry, and that he had warned Hermione at the same time, he wanted to see her go away, in a safer place. Again, they heard a bang and Hermione pulled Ron a little, wanting to leave, but it was too late.

"And you, Malfoy, why don't you keep your bleached blond head down?" He shouted. "After all, I don't think those guys are very fond of werewolves, are they?" Again with the eye twitch. Draco didn't look relaxed at all anymore, he suddenly looked furious. Hermione had already seen him angry at her friends, but not this way. Even Harry realized that he had never seen this expression on his face. "If they already don't like Muggles and Muggle-borns, I can easily imagine what they think of you. Are you hiding here right now? Afraid even mommy and daddy would attack you?"

Hermione noticed what Draco was about to do and she suddenly pulled Ron away as Draco started to walk towards him.

"Don't you dare, Weasley, don't you dare speak to me this way!" He said aggressively. Hermione walked in front of Ron and raised her hands, almost dropping her wand.

"Stop that!" Hermione shouted and she had to put her hands on Draco's shoulders to stop him from coming closer. She actually had to use some strength, because Draco didn't seem to be about to stop.

"Got something else to say, Weasley? Want to give me another reason to hit you as many times as you have freckles on your ugly face?" He asked savagely. Even Harry approached, not wanting Hermione to deal with him when he was so angry. What if he was hitting her instead, in his surge of anger? He came next to her, putting a hand on his arm and he looked at Ron, just to be sure he wasn't approaching. Then, he tried to pull Hermione to make her move but she wouldn't. She knew Draco wouldn't do anything to her, but he probably wouldn't mind punching Harry. The last thing they needed right now was for them to fist fight in the middle of the woods. Then, Harry and Hermione heard Ron's voice behind them again.

"I mean, they've already got to deal with you at home, I can imagine them using this opportunity to-"

"Ron! Enough!" Hermione shouted as she turned around, hitting his arm. Then, she directly turned again to face Draco, who was now being stopped by Harry. His jaw was clenched and his hands were shaking as he turned them into fists. "That's enough!" Hermione repeated loudly. Draco didn't look at her at first, he kept staring at Ron who had taken a few steps backwards after Hermione's intervention. It was easier for Harry to keep Draco away, but it took him a moment before he stopped trying to walk past him. After a few long seconds, Draco glanced at Harry, who didn't even look angry anymore, just a bit worried. They heard voices not far from them and Draco looked at Hermione.

"We're leaving," Harry said, examining Draco's face. Ron frowned and Harry looked at Hermione who nodded. She was still staring at Draco. They stayed silent for a few seconds, looking at each other and Draco narrowed his eyes a little before he glared at Ron again.

"Better be careful..." He muttered, breathing heavily. He still sounded angry and there was no doubt that it sounded like he was threatening Ron. But Hermione had to stop herself from promising she would be careful, knowing what he had meant. Draco looked at Harry and grimaced before he removed his arms from his grip, a bit suddenly. "And you don't touch me," he said aggressively before he took a few steps backwards, slowly, before he looked at Ron again. He could feel his heart beating really hard in his chest. He still wanted to hit him, but he wouldn't.

 

Draco opened his eyes, startled. He blinked, seeing the landscape pass quickly before his eyes and he sat properly again as he felt the need to stretch. His head was hurting and he looked around before he heard his best friend's voice, who was sitting next to him.

"Alright, Draco?" Pansy asked before she smiled at him when he met her eyes. He nodded before he yawned as he turned his head to look outside again.

"When did we...?" He asked. He didn't remember being awake when the train had left the the platform.

"Around an hour ago, I think," Pansy said before she took her pocket watch from the pocket of her black shorts. She was very well dressed, as always, with black tights and her black city shorts. Her white blouse was tucked in them and her expensive black shoes were shining thanks to the light the sun was giving the students in the compartment. He also could see the necklace he had given her the year before around her neck, above her black tie. She was barely ever going out without the necklace. The pendant being made of onyx,  was matching most of her clothes. He knew it was her favorite stone, he had someone made that necklace just for her. With a 18 karat gold chain, very thin that had been strung through the onyx bead twice to create a wrapped effect.

49 Galleons, 1 Sickle and 2 Knuts for this necklace. He was glad to see that Pansy really liked it. When he wanted to give something to someone, Draco was usually very thoughtful. He actually had something for Hermione, knowing her birthday was going to be really soon. Twenty days later, actually. It had been easier to find something for Pansy because she liked to dress well, she liked to have some jewels, but never too much. She wasn't wearing any earring, she didn't have rings either. It was usually necklaces and bracelets. Hermione wasn't really interested in all of that stuff, and it was hard because Draco had still a lot to learn about her, but he hoped she would like it either way.

But in case he wanted to buy her clothes one day, he was experienced now, thanks to Pansy. She had forced him to go around to buy clothes with her during the summer, more than once actually, and because of that, now, he was noticing what people were wearing, when he was only being careful to what he was wearing before.

"You fell asleep just before we left, actually," she added. Draco glanced at Crabbe and Goyle, who weren't really interested in their conversation.

Draco had spent the day before sleeping. The full moon had happened two days before his departure from the Manor, so he slept the next one and was now stuck in this train. Of course, he had fallen asleep, he wasn't even surprised and if he didn't find something to distract himself, he would probably sleep again.

"Now that you're awake, though, what did you want to talk to us about?" She asked as she put her watch in her pocket again, leaning on her seat and crossing her arms as she looked at Crabbe and Goyle, who were now looking at them.

"Oh, yeah, it's about what's going to happen at Hogwarts this year," he said, smirking as he crossed his legs, sitting comfortably. He started to play with the ring on his finger, slowly making it turn on it as he spoke lazily. "Father gave me some information two months ago. Obviously, I couldn't tell you, it's classified, I wasn't supposed to know. But... Well, Father tells me everything anyway," he said as he looked up at Crabbe and Goyle, who now seemed really interested. Pansy was smirking too. "But since we're all going to know tonight... Hogwart's holding the Triwizard Tournament, this year," he said after a few seconds, just amused to make them wait a little longer.

"What?" Pansy asked. "Are you serious? But didn't they cancel the tournament in-"

"Seventeen ninety-two, yeah," Draco said, waving his hand at her. "Looks like they decided to resurrect it. I guess we will have the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students with us this year," he kept on going, looking outside. "It's going to be a big thing."

They kept talking about it for a while, as well as they spoke of the other schools. The door of their compartment was opened and in the next one, Hermione had just heard him talking about Durmstrang, when he said his Father actually wanted to make him go there, at first, to learn the Dark Arts but that his Mother didn't want him to go so far away. She didn't know if it was the only reason he didn't go there, in the end, or if him turning into a werewolf had also made his Father change his plans. Harry and Ron started to talk about how sad it was that his mother loved him too much and also started to imagine pushing him from a glacier while Hermione was actually glad that he was at Hogwarts. Obviously, she didn't say anything and was glad to see Neville, Seamus and Dean walk in the compartment. Draco had also seen them, when they had walked past his, and he heard the trio's voices as the boys joined Harry, Ron and Hermione.

"Boys, why don't you go get us some food?" Draco said as he turned his head to look at Crabbe and Goyle. Despite being bossed around like that, their hunger drove Crabbe and Goyle out of the compartment really fast. Pansy directly stood up and went to sit on the seats in front of Draco, taking all the space as she also put her feet on them. Draco did the same on his side. He actually wanted to be alone with Pansy for a while, and he started to play with his ring again as he stared at the now closed door. "There's something else I wanted to talk to you about."

Having all her attention, he started to tell her about what had happened at the World Cup. She already knew about the attack, of course, he didn't want to talk about that but about his fight with Ron.

"Of course, this moron couldn't take it and had to open his mouth," Draco said as he shook his head after he had told her most of what had happened. But not the interesting part yet.

"Did you expect him to take the hint about you helping her?" Pansy asked as she pursed her lips. Malfoy sneered as he looked at Pansy. "So, what's the problem? You always argue with them."

Then, Draco told her the exact words Ron had used against him. He didn't even vilified him, he couldn't, it was annoying him too much.

"Of course, I couldn't hex him, not that I didn't want to make that prat vomit slugs again. And Granger wouldn't let me approach. I'm telling you, I just wanted to..." Draco said before he clenched his jaw, thinking about it again. He shook his head slowly as he stopped playing with his ring. He looked at Pansy again. She was staring at him, gritting her teeth too.

"Come on," she said as she stood up. Draco raised his eyebrows. "Why don't we go have some fun? I'll hex him for you if he tries to say anything in front of his stupid friends again," she said as she smirked. Draco, suddenly excited, took the hand she was holding out to help him get up before they got off their compartment.

They walked quietly towards the next compartment, listening. Seamus and Dean had left their door open and they could hear them talk about the World Cup. Just thinking about it was making Draco angry already. He was delighted to have the opportunity to "have some fun" as Pansy had put it. He heard that Neville hadn't had the chance to come to the Cup and then, he heard Ron speak. He smirked as he walked past Pansy. She followed him, the same mean expression on her face.

“We were in the Top Box-”

“For the first and last time in your life, Weasley,” Draco said, interrupting him. They all looked at the newcomer, Hermione looking up from The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4. They also noticed Pansy.

Draco leaned against one side of the doorway, hands deep in his pockets while Pansy leaned against the other side, crossing her arms and her legs. They both tilted their heads and they both sneered.

“Don’t remember asking you to join us, Malfoy."

It was Harry, but Draco didn't even look at him, he didn't even listen to him. He was only mad at Ron. Even Potter hadn't really tried to argue at the World Cup, he had actually tried to stop the fight. So, Draco kept staring at Ron, his eyes sparkling with mischief. Pansy narrowed her eyes and pointed at Pigwidgeon's cage.

"What is that?" She asked, already laughing inside. Draco's gaze drifted on the sleeve of Ron's dress robes and he understood right away. Quickly, before Ron had the time to react, Draco moved and pulled the sleeve, showing the robes to Pansy. He couldn't be more excited, now.

"Would you look at this!" He said as Pansy laughed joyfully, a hand in front of her mouth as she looked at Ron.

"Oh, Weasley," she said. "You weren't thinking of wearing these, were you?"

"Come on, Pansy, don't be too harsh. I mean, they were very fashionable in about eighteen ninety."

Again, they laughed and Ron, red in the face, stood up and gripped his robes, taking them back.

"Eat dung, Malfoy!"

Again, Draco and Pansy laughed, it was derisive and Pansy brought a finger to her eye, removing a tear of laughter that was threatening to roll down her cheek before she bit her lip, staring at Ron. Hermione clenched her jaw, looking at the duo. As soon as the argument with Draco had been over at the World Cup, she knew he wouldn't let go. She knew Ron wouldn't get away with it that easily, and she was actually surprised that they didn't see Draco barge in the compartment sooner.

Pansy and him were terrible, especially when they were acting together and Hermione could see that despite looking terribly tired because of the last cycle, Draco was so excited by all of this that he seemed to be perfectly fine. It was hard to watch because he wasn't like that at all with her. But every time Harry and Ron were around, he was acting obnoxiously. And despite her hopes, she knew that this year was going to be far worse when it came to those three, or those four if Pansy was helping him. She wasn't surprised that she was there, they were inseparable. And there was no doubt that Draco had told her about his argument with Ron. So there was no doubt that even her would take every opportunity to treat Harry and Ron horribly.

She couldn't blame Draco for being angry at Ron, of course, like she couldn't really blame Ron for being mean with Draco, he had provoked her friend. But she was still mad at Ron for telling such things to Draco, even if she hadn't talked about it with him yet. But even if she totally understood why Draco was so mean with Ron that day, it was really hard to watch him humiliate him in front of his friends this way. She still hadn't said anything, her face half-hidden behind her book as she was watching the scene. She stared at Draco as he spoke again.

"So... going to enter, Weasley? Going to try and bring a bit of glory to the family name?" He asked. "There’s money involved as well, you know... you’d be able to afford some decent robes if you won..."

"What are you talking about?" Ron asked angrily as he sat down again.

"Are you going to enter?" Malfoy repeated and Hermione sighed.

"Either explain what you’re talking about or go away," she said. Draco finally looked at her, as well as Pansy. She was still smiling nastily, crossing her arms again, and Draco met Hermione's eyes. He couldn't stop like that, just because she had asked. Pansy knew about his feelings, but he wasn't going to listen to her in front of Harry and Ron, they had no clue. Normally, he wouldn't stop. And he had to act naturally, didn't he? Instead of looking annoyed by Hermione, he seemed even more gleeful.

He was actually jubilating as his red eyes went on Ron again.

"Don’t tell me you don’t know?" He asked as he grinned again. “You’ve got a father and brother at the Ministry and you don’t even know? My God, my father told me about it ages ago," he said more lazily as he rolled his eyes, his voice now drawling. "Heard it from Cornelius Fudge, you see. But then, Father’s always associated with the top people at the Ministry. Maybe your father’s too junior to know about it, Weasley... Yes... They probably don’t talk about important stuff in front of him..."

Pansy definitely had had a really good idea by going there to make fun of him. What a wonderful day it was. Draco sneered and looked at Pansy before he nodded in the direction of the aisle and they both turned around to leave, still smiling.

Ron heard them burst into laughter when, after getting up, he had slammed the compartment door hard enough to shatter the glass.

"Stupid. Slimy. Gits." Ron mumbled, his jaw clenched so hard he was barely getting the words out of his mouth. Hermione sighed after she had repaired the glass, shaking her head.

"What were you expecting, Ron, seriously?" She asked as she sat down once again, taking her books in her hands.

"Nothing much, knowing this jerk," he said as he grimaced. Hermione glanced at him, frowning.

Hermione would have loved to use the opportunity to talk about what had happened during the World Cup since she hadn't had a chance yet, but with Neville, Seamus and Dean there, she couldn't say a word. Like at the Weasleys, there was always someone not knowing about the secret, and even if they had spent some time alone, it was too risky, they were too many there. So, she had kept quiet but definitely thought about it a lot. She had to tell Ron to stop saying stuff like this. Either it would turn badly for Draco if Ron was talking like that in public, either it would turn badly for Ron because Draco wouldn't be held back, next time, and would probably hex him or beat him up.

But Ron mood didn't change during the journey, Draco and Pansy had clearly ruined his day. So, when the three boys left the compartment, she put her book next to her and looked at Ron, who was apparently determined to look outside.

"Would you stop being angry? Don't tell me you didn't know he would act like that after what you've said to him?" She asked. Harry glanced at Hermione, not really wanting them to argue again.

"Come on, he got it coming!" Ron snapped as he looked at his friend. Hermione pursed her lips a second before she spoke, trying to keep calm.

"He doesn't deserve any sympathy from you, Ron, far be it from me to think something like that. But you have to admit, he didn't deserve to hear what you said. Even for you, it was low, and I've already heard you say some things you should be ashamed of in the past."

"Come off it, Hermione," Ron said coldly. "He just got a taste of what he's doing to you, what was so wrong about it? He's always calling you a- There's no difference!" He said, not able to use the word Draco was saying so freely, he hated it. Harry was becoming very uncomfortable, knowing that there was, indeed, a difference.

"And so you retaliate by speaking like that to him? By speaking like that about what he is? Ron, the difference is that his family is bigoted, you weren't raised like that!" Hermione said, persistent. "I'm used to hear him say that word and I don't care anymore, I can defend myself anyway! But you can't tell him this kind of things, not about that, and not three days before a full moon. How exactly did you expect him to react?"

"I don't keep a close watch on the moon calendar, I didn't know, why do you?" Ron asked defensively. Hermione didn't say anything, but felt her cheeks becoming warmer. "And at least now he knows what it is to be treated like he treats you! He's not even grateful for last year! Look, I'm telling you, he needs to hear things like that more often!"

"No, he doesn't..." Hermione said quietly. She was the only one knowing he really just wanted to help her at the World Cup. She hadn't been surprised to see Draco getting carried away and ending up making fun of Ron and Harry the way he had, but still. And even if he deserved for them to be mean with him in return, Ron couldn't tell him this kind of things. Hermione didn't care about being a Muggle-born, she was above his words, she knew he didn't mean them that night and she knew that she didn't have to be ashamed of her parentage. She was proud. And she didn't care about what anyone could say about that. But a werewolf?

It was torturing him every single day. And even though dealing with all of this by being obnoxious with other people wasn't the best way he could handle the situation, Hermione knew that he didn't need to hear those words. Not when he was tormented, coming from a family like his, with beliefs like his parents had. Not when he was suffering from painful transformations every months, not when he had to hide, not when there were laws against people like him, not when the Minister himself wouldn't even look at him or touch him. Not when he had been attacked as a kid and turned into this creature, not when he hated himself for being this way. Hermione never hated herself for having Muggles as parents, she knew there was nothing wrong with that. But Draco...

After they had helped him go to the hospital, at the end of the school year, she had asked Harry about the injuries, because he had been the only one really seeing them in the Forest, he had hid his body from Hermione, he had made them leave the hospital, he had been ashamed. Hermione had been so worried, she had to ask if it was really bad. And Harry had told her about his scars. The new ones as well as the ones he already had. He had told her about the first bite, about what it looked like. Hermione didn't need Harry's theory on that to come to the same conclusion as him. He had scratched it because he hated it, like he had tried to remove it with his own nails. He hated the way he was and he couldn't handle having that on his skin. He had scratched it so hard he had hurt himself. And now he had so much more scars...

And his Boggart... His father's words and his mother's injury... Ron had gone too far with all those words. But she didn't explain all of that, she didn't need for Ron to fully understand the way Draco was feeling. Ron was too prejudiced to open his eyes and think about that by himself, he hated Draco too much, and he had his reasons. Good reasons.

She couldn't put Draco in this position, she couldn't tell Ron what was going on in his head, how he was feeling. She wouldn't give Ron other weapons to attack him if they were arguing.

"Harry, come on," Ron said, looking at his best friend. And actually, Harry didn't know what to say, because he was thinking about Lupin. It was making him very uneasy. He hated Draco, but he couldn't insult him for that. Because Lupin had explained how horrible it was and because he had seen Draco's body, he had seen how he hated himself. He could kind of understand why he was mean with everyone, why he absolutely wanted to be seen like his parents, as superior, because of the way werewolves were treated. He couldn't totally agree with Ron, even if he couldn't entirely disagree with him either.

"Well... I'm not going to say he didn't deserve to be hurt. Trust me, he deserves to have his ego totally destroyed sometimes," Harry said, glancing at Hermione who narrowed her eyes. "But," he kept on going, looking at Ron this time, "I wouldn't recommend you to speak about that again in order to hurt his feelings, Ron..." He said, not really wanting to argue with his best friend. Ron looked at him, baffled. "I mean... You wouldn't say those words to Lupin, right? Think about that the next time you really want to say something like that to Malfoy," he said rather quietly.

"Thank you, Harry," Hermione almost whispered before she looked at Ron.

"But it's not the same! Lupin, he's- he's nice and-"

"Their personality is not the same, Ron, but they are both-" she started to say before she spoke more quietly, just in case they could be heard, even if the door was closed. "werewolves... You know how hard it is for Lupin, he explained everything in the Shrieking Shack. I can't even believe you would say and mean words like those to someone sharing the same torment and pain as Lupin. We don't know how it goes when Malfoy's at home, why would you say his own parents would-"

"Ok, I get it, Hermione!" Ron said, feeling ashamed, now, as he turned his head to look outside again. Hermione sighed.

"I'm just saying..." she said and Ron slightly shook his head. "Next time, I might not be there to stop you two from fighting. Or I'm not going to want to," she concluded before she stood up to leave the compartment and go try to find Ginny. She still couldn't believe it. She was so mad at Ron.

And she absolutely wanted to talk to Draco but she couldn't even do that as long as they were on the train. She was also angry at him, of course, why did he had to make fun of Ron and mock his family in front of everyone again? It would have been great if he had used what had happened during the last year to make some peace with Harry and Ron, but they were all too stubborn.

"And just so you know, he is grateful," she said as she turned around once she had opened the door. "He came to me and thanked me in June, after he was able to leave the hospital, you know, after he fought with Lupin, saving Harry and me incidentally. I didn't tell you," she said as she also glanced at Harry, "Because you were both mad when you discovered I talked to him during the year." She was still very resentful about that. She stared at Ron again, who was still not looking at her. But Harry was, he could understand her anger, even though she was looking really calm and that her voice was steady. She wondered if they had noticed that he actually hadn't said anything to her or Harry when he was in the compartment, because he was only mad at Ron. Before, he would have just made fun of everyone. "So you can think what you want, Ronald, but he was mature enough to swallow his stupid pride and thank me. You should try it sometimes."

Then, she left, closing the door behind her and walking fast in the aisle, glancing in the compartments to see if she wasn't finding Ginny. In their own compartment, Harry and Ron stayed silent for a few minutes before Harry, looking at his own fingers, spoke. He was almost whispering.

"You don't think..." Harry could remember that Hermione and Draco had been talking during the last year, actually. That they were laughing together when he had seen them in the library. And now, knowing that he had even thanked her... He wasn't annoyed because Malfoy hadn't thanked him, he wouldn't even dream of it, he was annoyed because of the realization he had just had. Glancing at Ron who was still looking out the window, his arms crossed, he kept talking quietly. "That Malfoy just wanted to warn her during the World Cup?" Harry saw Ron's hands change into fist and he looked in front of him, never hearing any answer.

Chapter Text

Draco sat next to Pansy in the Great Hall, totally soaked because of the storm outside. He sighed as he ran his fingers through his wet hair, looking at his clothes. At least, now, they were inside, and they would eat soon. They just had to wait for the Sorting Ceremony. When he looked at the staff table, he noticed that McGonagall was already outside of the room, probably waiting for the first years who had to cross the lake. And he couldn't help but glance at the seat Lupin had been using during the last year. It was empty and he vaguely wondered who would replace him, but most of all, he was craving his reassuring presence.

He had nothing to worry about, that year, not really, but seeing his friend up there would have been nice. They had exchanged letters during the summer, they had talked a lot and he knew they still would during the year, but having him by his side would have been... Better, probably. He didn't know. He had had a nice summer, but the first cycle spent at home had reminded him how much he needed the man by his side. It was suddenly weird to be alone during the full moon. Which was weird, since he had spent the first three years without anyone there with him. But one year with Lupin and things had changed. But he knew he couldn't do anything about it anyway. He pursed his lips and his gaze drifted right next to the seat, on Snape's face. He met his eyes, because his teacher was already looking at him. Draco's expression suddenly became cold and he turned to look at the empty plates on the table.

He still hadn't followed his father's advice and he didn't know if he would. He had seen Snape during the summer, but he would have preferred seeing Lupin instead. He couldn't even take the potion anymore... During a split second of pure madness, Draco had had the idea of not taking his potion either, but he didn't follow it, knowing better. So, he had seen Snape every evening during a week, totally ignoring him, drinking his potion and leaving Snape alone with his parents. Very rude of him, he knew, he didn't need his mother to tell him this, but he didn't mind. Snape was eating with them during the entire week he had to take the potion and Draco had been making himself as discreet as possible, eating and taking his potion before locking himself in his room. At the same time, he was mentally thanking his father for not talking to him about it anymore and act like nothing was going on.

He blinked when the students clapped. The Hat had finished its song and he joined the others, clapping with them as he glanced at Pansy who smiled at him. Then, the Sorting Ceremony began.

The first first year joining the Slytherin House was a boy called Malcolm Baddock. On the stool, he looked a bit worried but the table cheered as he was sorted and he seemed a bit more confident already. Draco clapped, smiling at the boy as he came to join the table, sitting near him. As the noise was slowly dying out, a few students noticed that Fred and George Weasley were hissing the boy. Draco narrowed his eyes and leaned behind the prefect who was sitting next to him before he gave Malcolm a little tap on the back, still cheering. The boy smiled at Draco, like he had needed this, and they looked at the rest of the ceremony.

During the feast, the only thing who caught his attention for a while was Hermione. She was talking with the Gryffindor ghost and seemed angry. Of course, he had no idea she was talking about the house-elves working in the castle and he just saw her pushing her plate away, looking very offended. He then glanced at Ron. During the Sorting, he had seemed, to Draco's delight, to still be in a pretty bad mood but food seemed to have some effect on him, as he was now smiling. Fool.

When Dumbledore stood up again, Draco elbowed Pansy and they smirked. He glanced at Crabbe and Goyle, who were smiling stupidly at him. They knew what was coming. He would probably talk about the tournament. But first, he reminded that they were allowed to go to Hogsmeade as long as they were at least in their third year and Draco couldn't help but think about a visit of Hogsmeade with Hermione. It sounded really, extremely tempting, but he also knew it wouldn't be possible. They wouldn't be able to find a place where they could be just the both of them and even if they could, the possibility of escaping their friends for that was very unlikely.

Then, he couldn't help but glance at Potter when Dumbledore announced they wouldn't play Quidditch that year. Draco knew already, so he wasn't too disturbed by the announcement. Seeing the shock on Harry's face was just what he needed that day after what had happened in the train. He was having such a good day, he hoped it would continue during the year.

Just as Dumbledore was about to finally tell them about the tournament, a loud sound filled the Great Hall. The storm was worse than ever and the fake sky above their head was full of lightning. The doors opened and a dark shape entered. Now, the room was only filled with silence from the students and the teachers and the sound of the rain against the windows. The man walked between the tables, a loud clunk being made by one of his legs every other step. He stopped next to Dumbledore, talking to him, and again, a lighting filled the room with light, showing the man's face. Draco couldn't help but grimace. Oh, he knew who this man was. Alastor Moody, Mad-Eye. He was intimidating. Draco was disturbed by this damaged face and this eye moving freely in its socket. Then, he finally moved again. Draco wrinkled his nose as he saw him sitting on the very particular chair Lupin had been using the year before. And he felt even more bad when Dumbledore announced that he was the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. No one clapped, actually, besides Dumbledore and Hagrid. Draco was staring at his plate, resting his head on his hands, not really happy about the man.

He only looked up when he heard Fred and George shout "You're joking!" at Dumbledore, noticing that the Headmaster was talking about the tournament. Dumbledore gave them the last information they needed to know, saying the other schools would come in October and that the champions would be chosen for Halloween. Then, they could leave the Great Hall.

As he walked through the big doors with Pansy, Crabbe and Goyle, Draco noticed Hermione. She and her friends were still near the stairs, discussing the tournament with the Weasley twins. He looked at her, hoping she would notice him and when she turned her head, he couldn't help but mouth "library tomorrow". He tried to see if she had understood, or at least seen what he had wanted to say and, thinking he had seen her nod, he focused on his friends again, like nothing had happened. They walked down the stairs leading to the dungeons.

"Mr. Malfoy," he heard a cold and familiar voice call him. He stopped, and so did his friends, and he glanced at Snape, who was in his office's doorway. He was tempted to ignore the man, but he knew he couldn't disrespect him this way in front of everyone. "In my office."

Draco sighed and rolled his eyes as Snape disappeared in. He shook his head.

"I see you later," he muttered to Pansy before he walked towards the office, disappearing inside too. Crabbe and Goyle stared at Pansy, like they were waiting to know what to do and she rolled her eyes too before she walked towards the wall leading to the common room. "What do you want?" Draco asked, coldly and rudely. Snape didn't react, he just stared at him for a few seconds.

"I think it is time for us to have a conversation." 

"I don't share this opinion," Draco said but as he was about to turn around, Snape snapped his fingers, closing the door. Draco clenched his jaw as he glared at his professor.

"Please, I insist." Draco gave him a very strained smile that was looking more like a grimace before he looked away when he saw Snape's lips curling up and he walked towards the desk. "Your father is concerned... that our disagreement is going to cause problems."

"It worked during the summer, didn't it? So you can tell him it's fine."

"Watch your tone, Draco," Snape said, barely moving his lips. "I am neither Crabbe or Goyle, even less Potter. Maybe they can tolerate your condescension but I do not."

"What do you want me to say? That I understand how bad you must feel, and that I don't care anymore? Well, it's too bad because I sure as hell am not going to shake your hand and laugh with you at the end of this conversation."

"How about that you understand why I did what I did?" Snape asked.

"But I don't. I can't. All I know is that you did that to feel better, you didn't care about Lupin's situation, you didn't care about me!" Draco said, speaking a bit louder. Snape narrowed his eyes for a second, examining Draco. "Don't look at me like that!" Draco said as he looked away. Slowly, Snape walked past his desk to get closer to Draco, who was still not looking at him. "I don't have to explain anything to you. But you..." Draco said through gritted teeth as he forced himself to meet Snape's eyes again. "Why did you do that? Why did you tell everyone? And if you tell me it's because you didn't like him or... Because of his stupid friends... It's not going to be good enough."

"I wasn't going to look into-"

"Yes, you were about to look into my mind!"

"I wasn't."

"And what do I know, after all? I feel like you're just... Like you were just lying this whole time. As soon as something's an inconvenience for you, you're the only one that matters."

"That is not true," Snape said. He was still cold but he was also still looking at Draco with the same expression as before. Draco had been sure he was about to use Legilimency to look into his mind but now, he didn't know. "And me not caring about you is not true either."

"But you-"

"Silence!" Snape snapped, even though he wasn't speaking much louder. It was cold enough for Draco to shut up anyway. "I do not appreciate being called a betrayer, Draco. I might give little care about what's happening to your new friend," he said as he couldn't help but grimace at the thought, "But do not tell me I don't care about you. I wouldn't be there today and I wouldn't make you your potion if I didn't."

"It doesn't change anything... You're doing it for my parents, not for me."

"And what do you know?" Snape asked. Draco frowned, narrowing his eyes. "You don't know anything about that. Like you don't know anything about my past with Remus. Did he tell you? Did your good friend care enough to tell you what happened?"

"I didn't... He would have told me. I was... too mad  about what you had done to listen."

Snape slightly shook his head, not convinced.

"He told me there was history between you, I didn't care."

"So why do you, now?"

Draco clenched his jaw again. Snape was missing the point. But he wouldn't say anything, not as long as he didn't know about them. Snape turned around and walked behind his desk again.

"Do you know who were his friends at Hogwarts?" He asked. Draco didn't answer. Snape lips curled up. That was surely going to please him.

"Peter Pettigrew," he began. Draco narrowed his eyes. He knew who he was, of course, what had happened. Destroyed, apparently. "Your mother's cousin, Sirius Black," Snape continued. Draco frowned. "And James Potter."

This time, Draco turned his face. Snape kept smiling coldly.

"Inseparable. And they were so funny. Really funny. So funny that it seemed they were entitled to do whatever they wanted. Strut, gloat, prank people. How do you think I felt when Sirius Black sent me under the Whomping Willow during a full moon?"

Draco looked at him again.

"Hilarious, wasn't it?" Snape muttered. "Your great friend would have killed me, if it wasn't for this insolent..." He didn't finish his sentence, staring at Draco. "This is the kind of humor Remus and his friends had, every day."

"I'm sure he wasn't aware of what Sirius did!" Draco said defensively.

"I myself doubt he was, of course," Snape said, waving his hand. "It didn't stop him, the other days... I'm sure you would have been good friends with them, actually. You were so alike." Draco wanted to tell him to shut up, but he didn't. His hands turned into fists. "Why would I be nice with him now, tell me? He deserved to leave this place."

"He did not..." Draco muttered. "He can't do anything anymore right now, and you know it... I talked to you about it. But you didn't care. You'd rather have him die of hunger than having him around."

"And that is between Remus and I, not between you and me."

"By doing what you did, you put me in danger. I'm sure my father would have been really happy to learn I had to leave the school because of you. Because you couldn't keep your mouth shut."

"They don't know, do they?"

"Well, that's a relief!" Draco said louder as he looked at Snape again with an amused face. It was fake, of course. He wasn't amused at all. "Then, all is forgiven! Because they don't know. So why would I be worried anymore? That was stupid of me, you're right. I should have listened to him, then? I shouldn't be angry at you, Lupin was right, is that it?" Snape narrowed his eyes. "Too bad I still am, isn't it?"

"This is not what's bothering you, is it?"

"You wouldn't know, would you? You don't realize. You think it's just about... You and him."

Draco shook his head and turned around, ready to leave.

"Draco."

"You promised!" Draco shouted as he turned around once more. "You promised..." He said quieter. "You said... You would come and get me first thing in the morning."

Since Snape didn't seem to be about to say anything, Draco kept staring at him for a few seconds. He didn't have much hope, but he still asked something he had been wondering all summer long.

"Did you at least look for me? Did you... At least stepped out of the castle, wondering where I was? If I was hurt?" Again, no answer for a while. As Draco was about to open his mouth again, he heard Snape's cold voice, but it didn't seem like he could get the words, like he could understand them.

"I didn't."

Draco blinked as he turned his head, looking at the shelves.

"You didn't..." Draco repeated. He kept moving his lips for a few seconds but Snape couldn't hear what he was whispering. He was apparently talking to himself, and Snape wondered if he wasn't hearing him repeating "he didn't" a few times.

"I was with the Minister and the Headmaster. I couldn't leave. Sirius B-"

"You didn't," Draco said coldly as he glanced at Snape again. "You promised. But you didn't. That's all I needed to hear."

 

As he walked in the common room again, he noticed that it was empty. He frowned. He hadn't taken that much time in Snape's office and still, everyone seemed to be in their dorms. Maybe it was because he had wasted most of that time on the way between the office and the common room. But he thought he had only leaned against that wall during five minutes, just to empty his mind for a while... He sighed and walked towards his dorm. He quietly opened the door, closing it behind him. He could hear Crabbe's snore and he glanced at his friend's bed. The curtains were closed, as were Goyle's. His weren't, though, and he looked at the two other beds. The other two guys had their curtains closed too but he could see some light behind Theo's. Blaise was probably asleep, though.

He was never talking to those two, and he knew they weren't talking to each other either. They seemed to be the lonely type. But he also knew that Blaise didn't consider the others worthy of his attention and Theo... Well, Theo was a bit too accepting for most of the Slytherin's students, but he didn't seem to mind spending his time alone. That's also why Draco hadn't really been talking to him since he had met him, because he didn't want to have the same image as Theo. Now, he was wondering what it would be like. It seemed like the students had got bored of annoying him for that.

If Theo wanted to go out with a Muggle-born girl from Gryffindor, he wouldn't mind walking around the castle holding her hand, he wouldn't mind talking to her in front of people, he wouldn't mind kissing her in public, it wouldn't matter what the other Slytherins might do to him... But Draco... He didn't have the courage. He wasn't like that. No yet. He needed time.

As he sat on his bed, he glanced at Theo's bed again. Yeah, they were different.

"What are you grinning for?" Pansy asked Draco as she glanced at him. They had just received their timetables from McGonagall and they were discovering their classes. Draco couldn't help but feel better. The conversation he had had with Snape had left his mind as he had discovered he would have Study of Ancient Runes with Hermione, that year, unlike the last one.

"Nothing," he said to Pansy, still staring at the timetable. His friend raised an eyebrow and glanced at his timetable.

"Ugh, did you see, we have it with the Gryffindors," she said.

"What?" He asked quickly, looking at her.

"Care of Magical Creatures." She frowned a little as she met his eyes.

"Oh, yeah... Well, maybe this year we will actually have the oaf sacked," he said as he glanced at Hagrid at the staff table and Pansy sniggered. As she looked at Hagrid, Draco couldn't help but glance at Hermione from across the Hall. She seemed to be eating again, looking at her timetable. Had she seen? He waited a few seconds and then, he saw her smile before she looked up, meeting his eyes.

They were both distracted as the owls came in the Great Hall. Draco's owl landed on his shoulder, giving him his usual supply of sweets and cakes. Smiling, he opened his package. That day would probably be good.

 

Having Herbology at first, the Gryffindors were pretty quick to reach Hagrid's hut. But the Slytherins were still inside and they had to wait for them. Hagrid didn't waste any time and started to tell them which creatures they were going to study. Blast-Ended Skrewts. The Slytherins had made their way unnoticed by the rest of the group and Draco heard Hagrid saying they would raise those weird creatures. Draco narrowed his eyes as he saw what Hagrid was showing in the box. He liked magical creatures but those things were looking horrible and disgusting, he wasn't sure he even wanted to touch them. He wrinkled his nose before looking at Hagrid.

"Why woud we want to raise them?" He asked coldly, capturing the attention of the entire class. Crabbe and Goyle were chuckling behind him and Pansy just looked a bit disgusted at the sight of the creatures, which Harry quite understood. Not receiving any answer, Draco tried not to sigh as he continued. "I mean, what do they do? What is the point of them?" He didn't like having to do things that were useless. And actually, Harry and Ron couldn't help but exchange a glance, not really happy to be agreeing with him. Hagrid, with the excuse of "that's for the next lesson, Malfoy" never answered him and Draco rolled his eyes as he sighed a bit dramatically, making Pansy smile a little, amused. They stayed behind as the students were starting to take their skrewts. They were observing, wanting to know what they were walking into before actually walking into it.

Hearing the different exclamations from the other students, Draco couldn't help but add sarcastically: "Well, I can certainly see why we're trying to keep them alive. Who wouldn't want pets that can burn, sting and bite all at once?"

Hermione, not exactly amused by his behavior, interrupted his friends who were laughing.

"It's not because they're not very pretty that they're not useful," she said a bit coldly. She hated when Draco was making fun of Hagrid and she was sure he knew it. He should remember clearly the slap she had given him the year before for the same reason. He frowned a little as he looked at her. He didn't really mind, though, he knew that it wasn't because they were together that she would suddenly approve of his behavior, but he was still a bit taken aback. "Dragon blood's amazingly magical, but you wouldn't want them as a pet, would you?" She asked. Malfoy only grimaced at her and she shook her head, turning around. He tried not to smirk, actually more amused than anything else, as his eyes went from the back of her head to her feet before coming back on her head. He liked her. He really, really liked her.

Besides, Hermione was actually agreeing with him, she just wanted him to stop attacking Hagrid, as she told Harry and Ron later. She was expecting those creatures to turn into not so friendly and very big beasts and said that they actually should kill them before being attacked.

 

At lunch, Draco started to eat pretty quickly, as well as Hermione. They both surprised their respective friends and Hermione got up as soon as she was done, ready to go to the library.

Ron was astounded, since it was only their first day of school.

"See you at dinner!" Hermione said after she had shrugged, leaving the Great Hall in a hurry. Draco didn't follow right away. He took a bit more time to finish his lunch, to be sure he wasn't raising any suspicion.

"Where are you going, now?" Pansy asked, already a bit disturbed by the way he had been eating. Clearly, he was feeling better than the year before, when he was either not eating, either eating really slowly, not showing a lot of interest in his food. He had become thinner because of that, but he had seemed to regain some normal weight during the holidays. He also seemed to be feeling better morally. But that... It was now a bit weird.

"Library," he only said as he took his bag from the floor. Was he mental?

"Draco, what the hell?" Pansy asked, raising an eyebrow. She knew he fancied books but... She narrowed her eyes and glanced at the Gryffindor table. "Draco! No!" She said as she looked at him again. He smiled, winked, and he turned around. Pansy rolled her eyes, shaking her head.

He almost ran in the stairs to go to the fourth floor. Panting as he arrived in front of the library door, he took a few seconds to be sure he was well dressed and not looking like he had just run a marathon. He felt himself touching his own hair to make sure they were looking good and he walked in the library. It was empty, he only glanced at Madam Pince and nodded to her to greet her. She didn't return the gesture, she just stared at him as he disappeared behind some bookcases. And there she was, at the same table as usual. He couldn't help but smile as he approached. She only noticed him when he leaned next to her and before she could say anything, she felt his soft lips against her cheek. She smiled as she blushed a little, looking at him.

"Hi there..." He said, happy to finally be able to spend some time with her. No one was in the library, since, like Hermione's friends had noted, it was the first day and they were all having lunch. They had just planned on seeing each other, but Hermione actually seemed to be pretty busy. She leaned to give him a peck on the lips and he forgot that he was about to ask her what she was doing as he looked at her, smiling a little. "Not angry at me?" He asked. She smirked as she looked at her work again.

"I don't know, Draco, I'll be every time you'll be mean to Hagrid," she said.

"I wasn't that mean," He said as he rolled his eyes, still a bit amused.

"At least respect him, he's your teacher and he is really nice," she said, shaking her head. "You didn't choose that subject for nothing, did you? Why don't you just follow the lesson without annoying him?" Draco pouted, still looking at her. She seemed to be much more concerned by what she was doing than she was by him.

"I chose it before knowing he would be the teacher... Should have broken my leg instead," he mumbled and he finally got Hermione to stare at him, so he smiled a little again. "Come on, I'm only joking."

"It's not really funny," Hermione said even though she was smiling a little.

"You don't know what's funny, then," Draco said as he finally took another glance at what she was doing. She was apparently very busy designing something. She had a roll of parchment with some words crossed out and some abbreviations. "What are you up to anyway?" He asked, blinking as he thought he could read "Stop the Outrageous Abuse of Our Fellow Magical Creatures and Campaign for a Change in Their Legal Status", but that idea had been crossed out too, apparently, as well as its abbreviation next to it, "S.O.A.O.F.M.C.C.C.T.L.S." Draco narrowed his eyes. Hermione turned her head to look at her boyfriend, looking sorry.

"I don't think you'd understand," she said. Draco raised his eyebrows.

"How nice," he said.

"No- I didn't mean that, you idiot," she said as she shook her head. Draco chuckled as he tilted his head. "It's just... I know you have... In your house..." she started to say, not sure she should talk about it. But now, Draco was more than curious, he frowned a little as he glanced at the parchment again.

"We have?"

"House-elves, Draco!" Hermione finally said, outraged. Draco wasn't expecting that. "Let me tell you, this is disgusting, because I know how you former house-elf was treated!" She said as she narrowed her eyes.

"So what? Of course we have an house-elf, you don't expect us to waste time cooking or cleaning an entire Manor now, do you?" He asked. Clearly, it was the wrong question. "I mean, we have more important things to do and they're there for that," Draco said, not sure he had got the point. Hermione narrowed her eyes even more. She knew how to throw shades.

"Well, I'm simply saying, it's not fair. They help you and you punish them! Dobby was constantly beating himself up!" Draco, still not sure to comprehend, frowned even more.

"He's an house-elf, he doesn't care," he said as he shrugged. Hermione looked utterly shocked and Draco bit his lip before he gave her a smile. "Come on... It's not so bad. They live to serve people. I'm telling you, they don't mind. Dobby was simply a nutter, elves don't really want freedom," he said. He actually had been pretty annoyed when they had lost Dobby, even though he wasn't the best elf, they always had to punish him. He wasn't always doing what he was asked to do properly because of his stupid desire of freedom. Draco had suggested his parents to exchange him for a normal house-elf when he was younger because it stopped being funny after a while, he even had to learn how to punish himself because he was making too many mistakes for them to bother anymore. Well, sure, Draco might have pushed one or two glasses and vases -or maybe ten- from their furniture to blame him after when he was eight, but even that stopped being funny after a while.

"They have feelings! I'm just not ok with it! It's like the ones working here! Poor elves, forced to cook all the time for hundreds of students..."

"Ah, now, those are efficient!" Draco said with a smile that he lost when he saw Hermione's expression.

"But do they get paid? Do they have vacations or sick leaves? No! It's totally unfair!" Hermione said.

"I don't think they want to get paid. You know that, right?"

"That's what you guys are all saying but I'm not so sure about it!" Hermione said, still totally baffled by Draco's words.

"See, if everyone tells you..." Draco said.

"Oh, you are agreeing with Harry and Ron, now?" Hermione asked. Draco narrowed his eyes. 

"Don't trap me like that," he said and Hermione gave him a little smile before she shook her head.

"Even Nearly Headless-Nick says stuff like that, you guys are so insensitive."

Draco blinked.

"Wait... Is that why you seemed so angry at the feast yesterday?" Hermione looked at him again. "You stopped eating." Hermione felt her cheeks becoming warmer again, she hadn't even noticed he had been looking at her during the feast. She felt a warm feeling in her body.

"Well, yeah. I didn't want to eat food made by slaves."

"But you ate today," Draco added, trying not to smile, amused by her behavior.

"Oh, shut up," Hermione said as she grimaced and Draco chuckled. He got a bit closer, passing an arm around her waist as he kissed her cheek once again.

"Come on, don't be mad at me," he said playfully. She had never expected him to have so much physical contacts with her. Every time they were together, he was either holding her hand, or playing with her fingers, or had to be close. She had wondered if it was just because they were together, or if it was just a need he had with people he was close with, because he was often standing close to Pansy. Or was Pansy standing close to him? And he always seemed so cold that he was always surprising her when he was acting like that. And she couldn't help but blush again.

"I'm not mad at you... I just think you're a jerk, it's different," she said and he chuckled again. She smiled and turned her head to look at him. "Also... I wanted to talk to you... About Ron." Draco rolled his eyes but didn't remove his arm from where it was, he just looked away. "Are you ok?"

He blinked again before he looked at her. He had been sure she was about to scold him because of what had happened in the train.

"What do you mean?"

"Because of what he told you..." She said, almost in a whisper. Draco almost looked down but didn't totally, because he didn't want to show to Hermione that yes, he was still thinking about it and he was still hurt. But Hermione had seen his expression change a little.

"I thought you were going to tell me to stop bothering him, because of what I did in the train," he said, trying to change the subject onto that, to make it more subtle.

"Well, that'd be nice, because from where I stand right now, it looks like you two are just going to be at each other's throat until one of you actually kill the other," Hermione said and Draco slightly smirked as he looked down for a moment, this time. "But I told him that he shouldn't have been surprised you did that... And that he had no right to tell you stuff like that," she said.

"Why would you do that?" Draco asked as he looked at her again. Then, he sighed. He didn't want for his affliction to be the source of any problem she could have with her friends. She didn't have to get in trouble to defend him. Especially with those two, it was just probably very weird.

"Because that's what I was thinking, that's what I still think, he has no right to talk about this and about what your parents might think of you this way," she said. Draco narrowed his eyes as he looked at her again.

"I don't get you," he said. Hermione raised an eyebrow. "I-" he began but stopped, looking away again as he searched after the right words. Hermione waited patiently, knowing that he wasn't the best with those. Maybe that's why it was easier for him to touch people. Because he could use the words well when it came to really hurt someone, but he was a bit less talented with them when it came down to express his own feelings. "I did that to you..."

"Yes, but it doesn't affect me the way it affects you. Because I know that whatever you might say, I'm great," Hermione said and she was glad to hear him chuckle.

"I know I'm great too," Draco said as he shrugged, still not looking at her though.

"I don't doubt you know what you're worth. But you seem to forget it a lot when it comes to that."

Again, Draco shrugged.

"No, I don't," he said, still quietly. Hermione pursed her lips. Yes, he did. He hated his condition, of course it had been horrible for him to hear those words.

"You know that he was just angry, right? Because you were mean with me."

"Yeah but I didn't mean to," he said, finally turning his head to face her as he frowned a little.

"And I know that, but he doesn't. Because he's used to hear you say this kind of things to me. It came out... naturally, he didn't get what you were doing," Hermione said. Draco stayed silent for a few seconds, apparently trying to find something in her eyes. But he couldn't see any hatred. He didn't understand. Because she was right, they were all used to hear him say that to her. And for what? For a blood-status he didn't even really have himself? How could she be so kind with him? It seemed a little absurd, now that he came to think of it. How could she forgive him this way? "Like I told you, it doesn't affect me," she said like she had read his mind.

"Was he really just angry?" Draco asked. Hermione thought about what Ron had said in the train and she shrugged.

"Well... He meant to hurt you. He really, really wanted to hurt you because... Well, he wanted to defend me. And I think that deep down, he just knew what would hurt you the most. I don't think he even thought it would make that big of an impact, he just wanted you to stop and knew where to hit. And yeah, I think it's just because he was angry. I never heard him disrespect... werewolves... I mean, he's not like that," she said. Draco had looked away as soon as he had heard the word "werewolves", too uncomfortable about that. He sighed and gave her a strained smile.

"So what, do I need to stop making him angry or he might say stuff like that to me again?" Draco asked. Hermione shook her head.

"I think I made my point with him, I'm not sure he will do it again..."

"He also promised not to tell anything about it and yet, he was screaming that at me in the woods, I mean-"

"He's not going to tell anything to anyone, Draco. If he does, I'll stab him myself anyway."

Again, Draco chuckled and Hermione smiled.

"Do you want to talk about it?" She then asked. She had been curious to know what he was thinking about what Ron had said. She wanted him to be able to confide in her. She was sure he had told Pansy what had happened but she wondered if he had told her how he was feeling because of that. He looked down and sighed.

"I don't know, I- I'm not... I don't like talking about all of this," he muttered. Hermione nodded.

"I get it," she directly said before she pursed her lips. "But you know... If you need to talk..."

"Yeah, I know," he said quickly as he nodded a little, looking at her again. She smiled and he just looked at her, knowing that he could trust her.

"You were a bit hard on him on the train, though," she then added as she tilted her head and Draco snorted.

"It was Pansy's idea, actually, but I have to say, I had fun."

"I bet you had fun, jerk," she said as she shook her head, taking her quill again. "Are you still angry at him or was that enough?"

"I'll see. It will depend if he can behave," he said, amused.

"More like if you can behave, I'd say."

Smiling, Draco removed his arm from around her. She didn't mind as she saw him put his head on his arms on the table and he looked at her quill moving on her parchment. She wondered if he was still tired from the last cycle. Probably, it was still visible on his face and he was blinking a bit slowly.

"I can wake you up for our next class," she said, staring at her parchment. S.P.E.W. should do it. They had Study or Ancient Runes together before Hermione would have to head to her Arithmancy class, her favorite subject.

"I'm not tired," Draco said, still staring at her quill. Oh, he was tired. Sleeping all day after a full moon wasn't usually helping, he just couldn't help but sleep, but it wasn't enough. It was never enough. Since he didn't sleep much in the train and that he just had the night to get some more energy after their long day, he was still tired. But he wouldn't admit it. Hermione smiled as she glanced at him and she didn't contradict him, she just stayed silent in case he would actually fall asleep. Which he did.

At some point, and as she thought she was hearing voices at the entrance of the library, she leaned to put the hood of his cloak on his head, just to be sure that no one would see his face or his hair, which would be enough to identify him. She only woke him up when she heard the bell ring. Two Ravenclaws walked behind her and as soon as they were far enough, she put a hand on Draco's arm, shaking him slightly.

"Draco, come on, it's time to go..." She whispered as he opened his eyes, blinking a few times. At first, Hermione was blurry but then, he could make out her face and he straightened up.

"I'm not tired," he repeated. Hermione gave him a little smile, amused, and she removed the hood that was still on his head before she stood up, putting her belongings in her bag.

"Alright, Sleeping Beauty, it's still time to go to class," she said. Draco frowned a little and stood up, taking his bag, mistaking Hermione's words for a compliment. "Just..." She added as she turned around.

"I know. I'll wait for you to be gone to get out," he said with a weak smile. Hermione nodded, almost left but finally turned around again. She took a few quick steps towards Draco and timidly kissed him before finally leaving.

They saw each other ten minutes later, when Draco entered the classroom of Ancient Runes but they couldn't interact. And they were separated again after that, when they both left for their last class of the day. It's only when Draco got out of this one with Pansy that she handed him the Daily Prophet.

"There's something here that should interest you. I would have given you this earlier but you were too... distracted," she said and Draco gave her a strained smile, which she gave him back, before he took the newspaper as they went down the stairs to go to the Great Hall for dinner.

"This is too good," Draco said as he sneered. When he looked at Pansy again, he saw that she had the same smile on her face and they both looked around. "Weasley!" Draco called, some students looking at him. He raised the hand he was using to hold the newspaper, waving it as Ron, Harry and Hermione turned to look at him. "You're dad's in the paper!"

After that, everything happened pretty fast. Draco read the article out loud for everyone to hear, mocking Ron as he noticed that they didn't even get Arthur's name right. Then, after making fun of his parents and his house, Ron had to be stopped by Harry and Hermione again. Next thing he knew, Potter was insulting his mother. Draco felt some anger, and some embarrassment as well. No one could talk about his mother this way. He took his wand but missed Harry before feeling weird. He heard a man shouting before finding himself on the ground.

He couldn't move properly. It seemed like he couldn't get up either, and everyone was looking down at him. As he saw Moody approaching, he just knew that he had to run. That's how he realized that it was wrong, that he wasn't himself anymore. But even before he was able to reach the dungeons, he left the floor, before meeting it again. Violently. He couldn't help but squeal with pain as he felt himself fly once again. And he kept on going, and Draco knew he was going higher every time. And people were looking, and his body was hurting. What was wrong with this guy? A complete nutter. He wanted to leave but he couldn't, he couldn't escape what Mad-Eye was doing to him. He flew once again into the air. He could hear him talk, but he wasn't listening, it was hurting too much.

Draco hit the stone floor once again, squealed once again and heard another voice as he flew in the air, once again. He thought he could recognize McGonagall, but he wasn't even sure as he hit the floor again.

And then, he was himself, on the floor, his eyes filled with water because of the pain. His face was red and his hair were a mess as he stood up with difficulty, wincing. He was barely listening to what McGonagall and Moody were talking about. His body was hurting all over and he put his cloak properly as he staggered. Pansy made a movement to catch him just in case he was falling but he didn't need her help, he managed to stay on his feet. He muttered something, glaring at Moody. He thought that a good sharp shock should do it, then? A good sharp shock? What the hell was wrong with him? Draco blinked, still a bit dizzy as he heard that Moody would talk to Snape. Draco wanted to laugh but he didn't, he couldn't.

"My father will hear about this, you nutter..." He mumbled as he took another heavy breath. Moody, not impressed, approached and grabbed Draco's upper arm to go to the dungeons.

He barely listened to Moody as he "talked" with Snape. It even took him a few seconds to notice that the man, more like the monster, had left the room and he found himself in front of Snape, who was staring at him. Draco didn't know if he was actually waiting for him to leave, or if he was waiting for him to talk.

"Do you hear me?" Snape asked. Draco blinked, the buzzing finally leaving his ear as he focused on what was happening again.

"Y-yeah..." he mumbled.

"Sit down," Snape said coolly.

"I'm fine. I think I'm going to... Go and... Lay down for a while..."

"Draco. Sit down," Snape said yet again as he approached his student. Draco looked at him before he walked slowly towards a chair, finally sitting down. He felt better already.

He felt two cold hands on both side of his face and he met Snape's eyes. He didn't look away. His teacher was looking worried and Draco knew he was just checking on him to see if he had any injury and if he was responding properly.

"You know... I'm going to survive," Draco said as he smiled a little. Snape didn't really looked amused. But they both knew that he wasn't probably hurt that much, more stunned than anything really. Werewolves were resistant, even more than wizards.

Still, they kept staring at each other for a while before Snape finally let go of him.

Chapter Text

"It was foolish of you," Snape said, apparently putting back small bottles in their respective shelves.

"Yes, well, he insulted my mother."

"You should control your temper."

"He should control his damn mouth. Next time I won't miss him."

Snape couldn't help but let out a little sigh as he glanced at Draco, who was still sitting on a chair.

"Should I believe that you didn't provoke him?"

"Are you defending him, now?" Draco asked, narrowing his eyes. "I wasn't even talking to him," he couldn't help but add before he shook his head. He was right, wasn't he? He was talking to Weasley, not Potter. And still, it wasn't an excuse to turn him into a ferret and make him bounce against the floor again and again. Of course, Draco was understanding perfectly why Snape was reacting this way, who would want to hear Moody talk to them the way he had talked to him? Yet, Draco couldn't admit he had been wrong in his doings. He shook his head, muttering. Snape could hear some words. "... defends him... of course... shouldn't be surprised by that... doesn't help me after all... he didn't..."

Snape knew he was still speaking loud enough for him to hear, because Draco was still mad at him. But now, he was starting to get annoyed. He had always helped Draco. The boy was probably not able to remember the half of it, but he had always helped him, he had always been there for him.

"That is enough, Draco."

They both looked at each other but in a different way. Draco had been surprised by his tone. It had been really cold, but different than it usually was. And Snape's gaze was as cold as his voice had been. Draco almost felt like it was going right through him as they stared at each other. Sometimes, Snape had the impression Draco had never grown up.

 

He could still remember the day Lucius and Narcissa had told him about her pregnancy. How thrilled they were, how much they were loving this kid already. He could vaguely remember hearing something about being a godfather to this child, but it wasn't really clear in his head anymore because too much had happened since then. He had a tendency to forget the good memories.

Those were old memories anyway. Good, but distant. He had been there when Draco had walked for the first time. He could remember his father holding his hands as he was walking awkwardly towards his mother. Then, he had stopped, trying to let go of his father who had stayed behind him, ready to catch him all along as he was making his first steps to reach Narcissa. Seeing Lucius and Narcissa, it had looked like this kid was extraordinary, because he had walked, using those little things that were his legs.

He hadn't been there for his first words, he had been at Hogwarts. But he could remember the first time Draco had said his name. Well, he could remember the first time he had actually murdered his name because he wasn't all that good at articulating yet. But he had felt really weird and after muttering a "close enough", he had taken the little boy in his arms, and that boy had laughed and repeated what sounded like his name, grabbing his hair with one hand, his nose with the other. What a monster.

He could remember the times during the holidays when he had to play the baby-sitter because Lucius wanted nights out with his wife. Draco was certainly trying to drive him mad, running around the entire Manor, using their house-elf to help him hide. Snape still remembered the day he had caught Draco just in time when he had been about to fall down the stairs because he was running without looking in front of him. Draco hadn't cried but he had looked very frightened. But thanks to that, he had stopped running around and when Lucius and Narcissa came back, they had found Snape sitting on an armchair near the fire. He had been staring at the wall in front of him with a book on the pedestal table next to it. The candle was dying out while Draco was shamelessly laying on him, fast asleep.

And he could also remember the letter. He had been at Hogwarts when Lucius' letter had arrived. Years after those holidays, years after Draco's birth. He was older, taller... Nine already. Almost ten. They were still seeing each other but it was different. Draco was still curious, but he had also grown up to be more reserved than he had ever been with him. It wasn't the same little boy laughing and jumping everywhere. He was acting more like his father, following his example and wanting to follow in Lucius way too big footsteps. And Snape had tried to keep some kind of distance between Draco and himself. Maybe that was why Draco was acting so differently with him, because he couldn't remember how close they had been at some point, because he had been too young at the time, and now too old to remember everything. And at the same time, maybe that was the reason he was so angry about that promise. Maybe that he did remember, and maybe that's why it had hurt him so badly.

Snape never really knew why he had acted like that with Draco, why he had felt the need of distancing himself. Maybe it had been because he didn't want to disappoint him, who knew. Still, he would never forget the letter. It was the first and only time Lucius had written this way. And Snape would know, he had met him during his very first year at Hogwarts. Since then, they had exchanged plenty of letters. But in this one, his handwriting had been a mess, no doubt he had been shaking while writing.

And Snape still had the letter. He had caught himself reading it from time to time and some words, some sentences were stuck in his head. He could almost hear Lucius say them out loud.

"Something terrible happened", "It is all my fault, Severus", "I need your help, Severus", "please", "I am asking you as your close friend", "You are his godfather, Severus, please, help him", "He needs you", "He is afraid", "He is in pain", "please", "we need you", "we are afraid", "I shouldn't have brought him with me", "Narcissa can't stop crying", "He's suffering", "She's crying, she cannot stop crying, I can hear her from here", "He's suffering", "so much blood", "screaming", "wound", "please"... "I am begging you."

There was still some stains on the parchment. He was sure Lucius hadn't wait too long before writing to him. His hands were probably still covered with his son's blood. The owl had arrived during the morning. He could remember. He had been in his classroom, speaking, when it had started to knock on the window. Most unusual. It had interrupted him and he knew something was wrong. He knew it because the letters were usually brought directly in his office. He knew it because when he waved his wand to open the window, he had seen the dirty parchment. It was dry but more red than it was now. Now, it had turned a shade of brown, like an old coffee stain, contrasting a little with the old parchment. At the time, it had been dark, but definitely red. He had read the letter directly before leaving his classroom, barely able to ask his class not to do anything while he was gone.

Then, he had been in Dumbledore's office. He had given him the letter, he had asked to leave, even just for a few days. He had said something about his godson, he couldn't remember what, but Dumbledore wasn't looking like he was listening. He was, of course, but he seemed to be focusing his attention on the letter. Then, Dumbledore had looked at him and had given him an appreciative smile.

"It looks like Lucius Malfoy requires your presence right away, Severus. Take as much time as they need, and..." Then, he had seen Dumbledore turning and walking towards his desk. When he had come back in front of him, Albus gave him back the letter, as well as another paper. Snape never read it, the Headmaster just told him to give it to Lucius and Narcissa. And then, he had gestured towards his fireplace, allowing Severus to use it to go to Malfoy Manor.

It had been really dark. The first thing he saw were the empty armchairs in front of the fire. Then, he saw a cup of tea broken on the floor, the carpet soaked with the drink. A book, that Narcissa had dropped with the cup, was on the floor too. It wasn't the same book anymore, now. The tea had soaked the pages. Those same pages that were now folded. One corner of the book was damaged because of the fall, even with the carpet under it. Those were some of the details showing that Narcissa had been interrupted to hear something horrible. 

They still had that book, somewhere in the Manor. He had seen it, one day. Not in the library, but above the fireplace. He had wondered if Narcissa had thought about burning it, at some point, without ever doing it.

There was no sound, nothing. No light, no one. He had looked around as he had walked out of the fireplace. He had heard his own steps on the wooden floor before the unpleasant sound had disappeared when he had walked on the carpet. It had felt like he shouldn't have been there, like he was interrupting something that wasn't even happening. That's when he had noticed the elf. He was almost hiding behind a wall, looking at the newcomer. His large ears had been low on his head and he had taken a few quick steps towards Severus. He had been bowing when his high-pitched voice had reached Snape's ears.

"My Master wishes to see you, sir... Dobby has been waiting for your arrival, sir... P-Please, follow Dobby, sir..."

And again, with quick and uncoordinated steps, the elf ran out of sight. Severus didn't need him, he knew where he had to go. But he couldn't hurry like the creature. He couldn't disturb the calm of the Manor, even if he didn't see it as something peaceful. It was a worrying silence. The weight of the events were crushing the Manor, giving off an oppressive vibe.

He climbed the stairs, feeling like an intruder. Once he had reached the next floor, he looked on his right. It was dark but he could tell that all the doors were closed. He then looked on his left. Again, no light, doors closed. He had walked in that direction, until he had arrived at the corner of the hallway. When he had looked on his right, he had been able to see it. The last door, at the very end of the hallway, was slightly open, letting a very thin ray of light, which was slightly moving, come out. The little elf, who had been staring at Snape with his big and shining green eyes, was in front of this door and as Severus started to approach, he moved quickly to pull it open. Snape had walked slowly towards the door, almost afraid at the thought of discovering the scene behind it.

When he walked in, he simply discovered the Malfoys.

One candle was burning near the door, lighting only a small part of the huge bedroom. It was enough, Snape could see the shapes. He could see Narcissa and Draco on the huge bed. They were huddled together. Severus couldn't tell if the young boy was asleep or unconscious, because from where he was standing, he just seemed to be peaceful in his mother's arms. Even Narcissa seemed to be. Her face was half-hidden behind her son's. Her fingers were caressing his messy but soft hair as she kissed his temple for the thousandth time before whispering soft words he wasn't able to hear. Her other hand was holding one of her son's. And next to the bed, close to them and actually down on his knees, was Lucius. He had his son's other hand between his.

The only way Severus had to discover the truth behind that scene was to approach even more, which he did. He did not only discover the truth, but the horror behind it. He could see the stains on the blanket. He could see the blood and the wound on Draco's tummy, contrasting with his white face. He could see the tears deforming Narcissa's beautiful features, the blood on the parents' hands, their terror and their tears. Even Lucius hadn't been able to contain himself. He had tried to stay strong for his wife, he had tried to take care of everything, but he couldn't, he didn't have any control on the situation. And his son was there, unconscious, breathing weakly, his body burning because of his fever.

It had seemed like Severus wasn't even in the room. Narcissa wasn't looking at anything in particular, she was just whispering to her son, and Lucius was staring at them, feeling too guilty to even dare making a sound. But he felt Snape's hand on his shoulder. He looked up, his red eyes meeting his friend's and he mouthed something but no sound came out. Might have been his name, Severus never knew. Wand in hand, he slowly raised it to point it at the bed at first.

"Tergeo," he said under his breath. Slowly, the blood on the blanket disappeared. He then pointed it on Lucius' hands before he used the charm again. He did the same with Narcissa's hands and finally, he took care of cleaning Draco properly. Soon, all the blood had been removed, even that thin line that had been on Draco's head. Snape hadn't been able to know if it had been a splash or if it had come from another injury on his head, at the time. Apparently, they had taken care of every other cut he might have had on his body. The only thing still visible on his tummy was the wound, still covered by the mixture that had been applied on it. But it was too late anyway.

Snape had sat on the bed, reaching Draco's head with his hand. Narcissa stopped caressing her child and let Snape run his fingers through his hair.

"Did he wake up?" He asked, still very quietly. Narcissa only swallowed, not even looking at him.

"No..." Snape heard Lucius say. The man was hoarse, and staring at his son again. Draco was burning with fever.

Severus turned his head. Like he had thought, Dobby was still at the door, mostly hiding behind it.

"Go get a Calming Draught," he whispered. With a little bow, Dobby left his spot to go and find the potion. He didn't even use Apparition, like even he didn't want to disturb the silence. "Narcissa."

She still didn't look at him.

"Let go of him," Severus said, staring at the woman. She simply shook her head before she looked at her son. She closed her eyes for a few seconds. "Let go," he repeated.

"My son..." Narcissa whispered and she clenched her jaw, feeling that her chin was about to shake again.

"I know," Severus said, still looking at her. "I don't want you to leave him alone. I just want you to let him rest."

He could remember the way she had blinked before meeting his eyes. He had been able to see the fear in hers. She didn't want to let go of him, not if it was the last time she was holding him. They all heard the quick footsteps behind the two men, but they didn't look at Dobby. He simply stopped near Lucius and stretched his arm. In his hand, he had a little bottle containing the Draught Severus had wanted.

"Narcissa, I'll take care of him," Snape repeated. During this time, Lucius, looking at Dobby's hand, took the potion. He was slow and it was probably the first time he wasn't too abrupt with the elf, as he didn't even glance at him. Then, Dobby stepped back, observing from afar. Observing Narcissa slowly letting go of her son, moving him slowly to let his head rest on a comfortable pillow. She couldn't help but slowly caress his cheek before leaning to kiss his forehead. For the first time in hours, Draco moved. He didn't open his eyes, but he opened his mouth a little as he slightly arched his back. Severus had to put a hand on Narcissa's wrist to stop her from taking him in her arms again. "Wait."

"Can you help him?" He heard Lucius ask in a whisper. Snape kept looking at Draco, letting go of Narcissa's wrist as the boy moaned, his body still very tense.

"Not much," he said as he moved a bit on the bed before he took the potion from Lucius' shaking hands. "At least, he is not unconscious anymore. But..." Both the parents quickly looked at him. Snape took his time, still examining Draco's face. "This must have been... traumatic. To say the least. I need to give him this when he will wake up for the first time, just to make sure he will calm down," he explained, glancing at the bottle as he opened it. Then, after he had put the cork on the bedside table, he saw himself put his hand on Draco's left cheek to turn his head towards him, watching out for his awakening. With this new angle, he was able to notice the bruise on his forehead, near one of his eye, where what he had taken for a splash of blood had been before. Poor boy. Traumatic wasn't even describing what he had lived. "With his fever, when he'll wake up... I don't think he will realize what is going on," he said, glancing at Lucius, then at Narcissa. Lucius had understood. It meant that there was a chance Draco would believe he was still there. Where the attack had taken place. Narcissa, if she had understood, didn't show anything. "Still, we are not going to do anything about his fever... It's his own way of fighting what happened. So, we will let his body fight, I'll calm him down. Don't do anything."

And they waited, tense. Even Severus was, but he wasn't showing any of it. He couldn't, not when his best friends were a mess next to him. He could hear Narcissa crying again, even if she was trying to be as quiet as possible. After what seemed to be an hour, but was no more than a quarter of an hour, Draco moved again, letting out a little sound. Then, he opened his eyes. And when he opened them, he started to cry automatically, loudly, and he struggled when he felt Snape's hands on him. When his godfather put his hands on his face to open his mouth, he even grabbed his forearm, trying to remove at least one of his hands from his face. But he couldn't let him do that. Draco didn't have enough strength anyway. He thought that the boy was trying to call for his father, then his mother, but his voice sounded strangled because of his sobs. Under Lucius and Narcissa's eyes, Snape started to empty the bottle in Draco's mouth. They knew they had to let their friend do what he needed to do, but it was horrible to watch. They just wanted to hold him in their arms, tell him it would be fine... They just wanted him to be fine.

Draco coughed and Severus put his own hand on the boy's mouth to stop him from spitting the potion out of his mouth. He needed to force him to swallow it, liking it or not. It took a few more minutes for the boy to calm down, to stop shaking and moving, and to stop crying as he let go of Snape's wrist. Severus slowly removed his hand from his mouth and couldn't help but put the other on his cheek. He wasn't usually showing any form of tenderness like this, but he couldn't help it, as he looked at the little boy who was sweating, whose face was covered with his tears, with his hair messy on his head and his shining eyes staring at the ceiling. He needed to feel a familiar touch, something soft, to be able to stay calm. He probably had no idea of what was going on, and he would probably have forgotten all about it the next time he would wake up. Because Severus knew that soon, he would fall asleep again, too tired because of what had just happened, and weakened by his injuries. And indeed, next thing they knew, Draco had closed his eyes and Severus removed his hand from his face before looking at Narcissa.

"He'll be fine... Keep an eye on him," he whispered before he stood up, drawing her an armchair with his wand. Narcissa leaned again to kiss her son a few times, her hand caressing his cheek softly before she stood up. Lucius got to his feet at once, holding her as she walked towards the armchair to sit on it. Severus saw that even if Lucius was feeling guilty, even if he was saying it was his fault, Narcissa didn't seem to care at that point. She held his hand for a few seconds and closed her eyes when he kissed her temple. She then grabbed his top to keep him near her a little longer. Severus saw Lucius' fingers going in her hair as he kissed her forehead again, before he pressed their lips together. He couldn't hear what he whispered to her after that, but he saw him straightening up and looking at his son. "Take your time," Severus added before walking out, knowing that he should probably let Lucius a few minutes with them before talking to him.

So, he had gone in Lucius' office, waving his wand to light the candles before he had sat down near the desk. Lucius only walked in the room after at least ten other minutes, closing the door behind him, trying to make no noise. He stood in front of the door for a few more seconds before he finally let go of the handle. He walked towards the desk and Severus could tell Lucius was trying to look composed even though he wasn't looking at his friend. He was actually looking everywhere but at Snape. His face was very pale, his eyes were red and a bit swollen. He noticed the glass of firewhiskey on the desk and he glanced at Severus without meeting his eyes.

"I thought you might need this," Snape said as he kept staring at his friend. "Why don't you tell me what happened?" It wasn't really a question and Lucius knew it. So, he took the glass and drank what was in it pretty quickly. He stayed quiet for another minute, only letting out a sigh as he put the glass back on the desk.

"I couldn't do anything... I thought he was going to die... He called me and I was... powerless."

"What did you want to do exactly?" Severus asked and finally, Lucius met his eyes. Snape was sounding pretty calm, given what had just happened in the room. Lucius shook his head before he looked at his glass, which had been filled again, and he took it in his shaky hand. "I do believe you did everything you could. You even had the mixture for his wound and he is going to surv-"

"But I wasn't there to protect him!" Lucius snapped, smashing the glass against the desk. Silence filled the room again. It was only broken by the drops of alcohol falling from the edge of the desk against the wooden floor. "I failed..." Lucius let out, already more quietly, glancing at his wet hand.

"Come off it," Severus said a bit more coldly. "How would you have known? You couldn't have possibly planned it."

"No, but... They could... And it's all my fault."

And finally, Lucius explained the events to his friend, as well as his theory.

"So, what are you going to do?" Snape asked, actually agreeing with him. He also thought that those brothers had planned the whole thing.

"What can I do?" Lucius asked, shaking his head. "I want them dead. But I can't do it myself. And if I tell the Ministry... Draco's future will be... He's doomed, Severus. Whatever I do, he is..."

"Have you already met Cornelius Fudge?" Lucius couldn't help but let out a little laugh. There was no emotion in that sound, but Snape understood that yes, he had met the man.

"Of course I've met him..." He mumbled. "I'm pretty sure I can make him do it. But he will have to register Draco, he will... Draco... No one can know..." Lucius sighed as he shook his head again, approaching the fireplace. Severus considered him for a moment.

"And what will you do with your family? With Narcissa's family?" He asked. "Will they know? What will you do with Draco?"

"What do you mean, what will I do with Draco?" Lucius asked as he turned around, facing Severus who finally stood up.

"You know exactly what I mean, Lucius. Are you going to get rid of him, like they got rid of Andro-"

"Don't say that name here," Lucius said shortly as he grimaced, looking away. He wasn't asking for him, but it was a rule in the house. No one was speaking of Andromeda. Not because Narcissa hated her for the betrayal but because she hated thinking about this loss. Lucius could still remember how much she had cried. Narcissa was the only Black sister left at Hogwarts, at the time. She had talked about it with Lucius, he was actually the only person to whom she had said so much about her sister, about her memories with her. When he had learnt that Andromeda had given birth to Nymphadora, Narcissa was alone at school, because he had graduated already. But they had talked about it in a few letters. Once Narcissa had left Hogwarts, she never talked about her sister again. It was too hard for her, and she was torn between her love for her sister and her beliefs. Yes, Lucius had known what Severus had meant by those words as soon as he had heard his first question. "Getting rid of him" was inconceivable. He would never do something like that.

Not to his son, not to his flesh and blood, not to his treasure. He couldn't help but chuckle as he thought about Draco. His smile was everything, his voice was everything, the feel of his heart beating against him when Lucius was hugging him was everything. Draco was his world, his wife and his son were his world. His father, Abraxas, couldn't know. And Narcissa's parents, Druella and Cygnus, couldn't either. Never. The consequences would be too horrible for Draco.

Lucius looked at Snape again.

"Don't ever imply I might do something like that to my son ever again, Severus. I'm warning you," he said, still hoarse. He met his friend's eyes and they stared at each other for almost a minute before Lucius turned again. "It's out of the question. We ought to hide his... condition, for his own good. If the family doesn't know, it'll be fine. We will just-"

"Pretend," Snape said, walking towards Lucius. "Lie to yourself. Think about him, Lucius, think about what it will do to him."

"What do you think I'm doing?" Lucius asked coldly, looking at Severus again when he stopped next to him. "All I want is for him to have the life he deserves to have! He didn't ask for this... He didn't go and got attacked because he wanted to."

"He will grow up hiding this. Leaving with this secret. He will hate himself, he will stay alone. He will hear his grandparents say things that will make him believe-"

"You think I don't know? You think I didn't think about all of this in his bedroom, waiting for a sign saying that he would survive? What other options do I have, here, but lie?"

"It'll drive him mad, Lucius."

"It. Will. Not." It had been slow, but very cold. And Snape knew that Lucius was saying that more to himself than to him. He knew that it wouldn't be a very healthy environment for this kid, but he also knew that it was the best he would ever have.

And they stayed silent again before Severus slipped a hand under his cloak.

"Here," he said, handing the letter to his friend.

"What is it?" Lucius asked, glancing at the paper before taking it. Snape could see that he was still shaking. He had never seen Lucius like that.

"Dumbledore gave it to me before letting me leave. He told me to give it to you and Narcissa."

Lucius narrowed his eyes but he opened the letter anyway, reading it quickly before he sighed.

"What is it?" Snape asked, actually curious as he looked at the paper. Lucius walked past him, letting the parchment on his desk, near the alcohol. Neither of them had repaired the glass or cleaned the mess. Lucius didn't see the point of doing it, and Severus, again, felt like it would break something about what was going on. Like it wouldn't be right.

"He's offering... A place for Draco. At Hogwarts. Despite him being a... He said he is welcome there," Lucius sighed, shaking his head a little. He had almost forgotten that his son had to go to school the next year.

"Wasn't it planned already?" Severus asked. He knew that for a while, Lucius had thought about sending Draco to Durmstrang but that Narcissa didn't want him to be so far away. Even if he had given up on the idea, now, he was sure he would never be able to go there anyway. He was sure actually no school would accept him.

"Yes. But he might have refused, after last night..."

"He's not like that," Severus said, shaking his head too. "Trust me when I'm saying this..." He only heard Lucius sigh again. "At least, I'll be there to look after him," he added and he saw Lucius turning around.

"I need you..." He began to say before he cleared his throat. "Please, Severus, make the Wolfsbane Potion for him... He's suffering enough already, I don't want him-"

"You don't even have to ask, Lucius," Snape said, meeting Lucius' eyes. "Of course I'll do it. Don't worry."

 

"I may have made a mistake because of personal grief, Draco, but I never intended to wrong you, or to make you feel like I didn't care about you," Snape told his student. Draco gritted his teeth, glaring at him.

"They know," he said. Severus narrowed his eyes. "They know," Draco repeated more coldly. "About me."

"Who?"

"Take a guess," he said as he stood up. "Potter, Weasley and Granger, what do you think," he said, narrowing his eyes, reminding Snape of Draco's father.

He wasn't surprised, though. Not about Hermione. She had figured it out for Lupin, and the only thing that let some hope in him was that Draco had never told him she knew. He had hoped that maybe, she hadn't thought about him. But she had. Did the other two figured it out the night in the Shrieking Shack?

"How do you think I found my way back to the castle? I didn't. They came to find me, because... They knew you hadn't... I almost killed them..." he whispered, not even looking at Snape anymore. His gaze was fixed on something invisible, as he was remembering. "Potter and Granger," he kept on going, still speaking quietly. "Because you sent me in the Forest... And the next morning, they both came to find me... And Potter saw... He saw my injuries, he saw my body... I didn't need that, not after having spent the night fighting with Lupin!" He looked at Snape again as he said the last sentence louder. "You think I did all of this to myself? It's because I was in the Forest that night! Because you sent me there! And then, I learn that Lupin's leaving? Because of you? And that Granger knew because of you? And that's why I've been exposed? That's why Potter had some- why he- he felt pity for me? And that he came to help me? He wanted to help me get dressed! Get dressed! I didn't need that! I didn't need the humiliation, I didn't need the injuries, I don't need Weasley to tell me my parents hate me, I don't need him to remind me I shouldn't be with them, and I didn't need-" He was almost screaming. But he stopped himself. He didn't finish. He didn't have the heart to say he hadn't needed the betrayal, because Snape knew what he was thinking. The professor closed his eyes for a second, before fixing them on Draco again.

"Sit down," he said calmly. Draco didn't move, he only stared at him. "Draco, sit down."

"What for?" He asked aggressively.

"Fine, stand there," Snape said as he walked towards his desk again, sitting behind it. "Did you tell your parents about all of this?"

"What are you, mental?" Draco asked, only to see Snape's glare. But he didn't care, this time.

"Why don't you talk to me about it, then?" He asked. Draco narrowed his eyes again. He knew that Draco needed to talk. Narcissa had told him about the many letters he had been sending during the summer. That it was way more than before, and she had asked him if something might have happened, if he liked a girl or if he had made new friends. Snape had muttered something about a new friend, yes, but no girls. He didn't know about this part of Draco's life. So, he was pretty sure he had been talking to Lupin during the summer. But now, he was almost certain they hadn't discussed all of this. They were bonding differently, it was special. He was sure he wasn't talking with him about that fight in the Forest, or about the pity Potter had felt for him. Draco was too proud, it was already odd that he had told him. But again, he had been angry and Snape had felt like the words had come out of his throat before he could do anything about it. He was pretty sure Draco had kept everything for himself during the summer, torturing himself during months.

That, with all the thoughts he already had stuck in his brain. About himself, about his friends, about all those secrets. About everything he was hiding to them and to the rest of his family. With what Ron had told him, with the humiliation of being seen by Harry. About his body, his scars. Surely, it was a stressful life and surely, he didn't know who he could talk about all of this. As far as Snape knew, his friends didn't know, and he doubted he would suddenly go talk to the trio about all of this. And since he hadn't said anything to his parents or Remus... He probably just needed to vent a little.

All those years, he hadn't been able to. He had always kept everything for himself, letting his rage go during the full moons. That's why he was often aggressive with people, why he was mean. He was feeling like it was unfair. He was angry with the world.

But Snape had always been there to listen, he had told him this many times. He didn't know if Draco had kept everything for himself because he was fearing he would tell his parents all about his confessions, but that wasn't Snape intention. He had promised Lucius he would be there for Draco, and he would. He knew that Draco was probably feeling bad for his own parents. That's something he had always thought about, because of the way they had to lie to everyone for him. Because of those strong beliefs they were disregarding for him. Because he was probably feeling like he didn't belong there. But Severus was an outsider. He didn't have to tell anyone about Draco's thoughts.

He knew it. He had told Lucius. He had warned him.

He had told him it would drive Draco mad. And he was witnessing Draco tormenting himself with all of this, without being able to do anything about it but listen to a boy who didn't want to talk.

Chapter Text

"There's no way I'm wearing that," Draco said, shaking his head. Hermione frowned, still holding the badge in her hand.

A few days had passed and they had joined each other in the Clock Tower, since the library was starting to be packed with students. Draco had been sitting against a wall, waiting for Hermione. After what had happened with Moody, she had made sure that he was fine, before reprimanding him for what he had done with that article in the paper, saying something about karma. He had mumbled something about his mom and they had decided not to talk about it anymore. Hermione knew how much he loved and respected his mother, and that's why he had been so angry when Harry had talked about her. But if he couldn't say anything about her, it meant that Draco shouldn't say anything about Ron's mom either. This time, she could blame Draco, even though she knew he was still mad at Ron for his harsh words. But she didn't want to argue with him and she didn't want to take care of that fight between Ron and him. She was hoping that at least, it meant they would stop, now.

During those days, Draco had received a few comments about that ferret thing and it was infuriating for him. At least, he was hoping Hermione wouldn't tease him with that, because even Pansy was finding that quite amusing, even if she had been worried at first. But apparently, since he was doing fine, it was alright to laugh about it.

And now, he had just got out of his first lesson with Moody. He really didn't like that man. He was a nutter. It seemed like he didn't like Draco either, and Draco was fine with that. He knew the three Unforgivable Curses already, even though he had never seen them directly. It had been a very weird lesson, even though a lot of students had seemed to be excited by it. It had been more intense than anything Lupin had ever shown them, really.

Still, he had liked seeing Moody muttering and giving him a nasty look when Draco had mentioned the Imperius Curse. That's how his father had got away with his Death Eater activities, and that's probably why his teacher had been annoyed, as an ex-Auror. Draco had looked pleased with himself, delighted to be able to smile innocently at the man as he was explaining the class about the curse. Still, he had been sitting near the door, in the back of the room, not wanting to be too close to him, while everyone had been eager to see the man up close.

He had set this little meeting with Hermione the day before and had rushed towards the tower after he had eaten his dinner as fast as he could. Pansy had rolled her eyes and asked him if he didn't want to go in the common room for a while instead, but he had refused. She didn't know they were dating, Draco still hadn't gathered the courage to tell her about it and he was feeling bad about lying to her. But what could he do, really? She was already annoyed to see him meeting her secretly so often "to have boring conversations", as she was saying. But he would tell her when the time would come, when he would be ready. He was just hoping she wouldn't be too mad at him.

Once Hermione had been able to leave the Great Hall too, some time later, she had come in the tower, holding this box in which Draco had discovered a lot of badges as she kneeled next to him. So, he had put the letter he had been writing next to him before asking what it was about.

"It's only two Sickles, you're not going to tell me it's a problem for you?" Hermione asked as she pouted. Draco tried not to smile but it was harder than he thought it would be.

"Of course not," he said, and Hermione seemed to regain some hope. "That is not the problem I have with it."

"Draco, please," she asked as she handed him the badge again.

"You know my views on this, right? You know about Dobby, you know I don't mind," he said. "And you know I don't mind you doing that either, but you're not going to have me join your club."

"But it's important to me..." She muttered, looking down. Ah, now she was breaking his heart. He vaguely wondered if she wasn't saying that to try and get him to accept. "If you don't take the badge, at least sign the paper..." He sighed before he shook his head. He didn't like that look on her face. He narrowed his eyes.

"Don't take that tone... I know what you're trying to do," he said and she gave him a little smile. "I'm having a really bad influence on you," he added, amused.

"Come on, sign the paper," she said, more determined.

"Never."

"Even Ron and Harry did it!"

"But didn't they say-"

"Yes, and they signed anyway! They support me in my decision, why don't you?"

"B-Because it's- it's- house-elves don't... Come on, don't make me explain it to you again," Draco said before he sighed. Hermione, who had been on her knees next to him until then, sighed too and sat next to him. "And what if someone discovers my name on that list? Did you think about it?"

Hermione shrugged as she stared at her little box. Draco closed his eyes for a few seconds before he slid a hand in his pocket. Then, he took the box from her hands.

"Give me that," he mumbled. Hermione smiled directly as she saw him opening it. He took one of the badges, replacing it with the Sickles, and he handed her the box again. "I'm taking it but don't expect me to wear it or to sign that damn paper!"

"Oh, Draco, thank you!" Hermione said, beaming, as she leaned to kiss his cheek before she put her arms around him. That was a nice reward, Draco became more relaxed already. He mumbled that it was just because she had worked a lot on making those badges before he turned his head to kiss her softly and they looked at each other for a few seconds. Even though they were now used to the fact that they were dating and that they were way more comfortable with each other, sometimes, it was still hard to believe it and they were finding themselves staring at each other, wondering if it was true or all a dream. "So, tell me," Hermione said, breaking the silence. "How was your first class with Professor Moody?"

"Um- Not so bad. The guy's mental, but I knew that already," he said as he shrugged and Hermione chuckled.

"I bet you knew that," she said, still smiling as she took the badge from his hands. He closed his eyes for a second but she didn't joke about the ferret thing and then, he looked down, seeing her putting the badge on his uniform.

"I told you-"

"Just for now. At least, you'll wear it once," she muttered and he looked at her fingers until she was done. "What were you doing anyway?" She then asked, looking at her badge for a few seconds before looking at Draco. This one cleared his throat, looking down at his letter before he took the parchment in his hands again.

"Um- Writing a letter..." He muttered. "To Lupin," he added. He hadn't been sure he wanted to share this information with her. She knew they were still talking, of course, but he wasn't sure he wanted to hear her ask what it was about. Like Snape, she wanted to know what was going on in his life. More precisely, how he was feeling about all of this. And it was really hard to talk about it, because he was still too insecure. It didn't matter if he had always known Snape, it was still really hard. And it didn't matter that he was dating Hermione, because it was still really hard. He was fine with confiding in them or his parents, or Pansy, when he needed to. But not about the whole werewolf situation. That's something he hated way too much to be able to talk about it easily. But all Hermione did was smile at him.

"That's nice, do you know how he is doing? It's been a while since the last time I talked to him," she said. He knew what she was trying to do. In the library, he had told her that he didn't like to talk about it, so she was letting it go, to show him that she wasn't pressuring him. Maybe that's why he decided that he should talk to her. At least a little.

"Well... He doesn't have a job, so, you know. He could be doing better," he said as he turned the letter in his hands. He glanced at Hermione, hesitating. "He refused my help for that... But you know, I get it," he said. Hermione met his eyes and he smiled at her, even though it did look strained. "I wouldn't want help either. Not when it comes to that."

She understood. They were both too sensitive when it came to their werewolf situation. Lupin had been able to survive until then, and he would continue by himself. And Draco was the same way. He had fought during four years already, and he would continue. Hermione knew that maybe, having some help would be good for him too, but she also knew that he was too proud, and that he was also too afraid. That it was a fight he thought he had to win by himself. But in his situation, there wasn't anything to win. Nor to loose, really. It would always be the same. All he could do was trying to stay sane, not let the madness inside him devour him.

"And even though I know that, I couldn't help but propose my help, you know. Because... I don't know, he..."

"Doesn't deserve this," she added to complete his sentence, seeing that he didn't seem to find the words. He looked at her again.

"No, he doesn't," he said quietly before he took a deep breath and sighed. Then, he handed her the letter he had been writing, surprising her. She tried to hide this surprise and she glanced at the parchment, reading it. A part of it made her frown. It looked like he had had some difficulties with that part, facing the same problem as a few seconds before. He couldn't find the right words. It looked a bit weird, not like the letters he had been sending her before the summer. Like he had had the urge to talk about this, an impulse, but that he had never thought about what he would say exactly, about the way he should do it. She saw that there were some words crossed out but she had no way to read them.

 

I followed yours, Pansy's, Granger's and my father's advice and I talked to him. I wouldn't say I chose to do it but at least, we talked, didn't we? He told me about something that happened between him and you and your friends. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Sirius Black's sense of humour is really peculiar. I didn't find him really funny.

Of course, I told him you probably had nothing to do with it and I was right, wasn't I? You wouldn't stoop that low, would you? I'm sure you wouldn't. I still don't know what I should do. We talked about a lot of things, afterwards, but it still feels weird. I get why he wants to fix the situation, but why did he had to destroy change it in the first place? For something that happened so long ago, and that you probably surely didn't plan. It didn't give him the right to throw my trust in him away and take it back when he wanted. I'm still confused, but I wanted to let you know.

 

She stopped reading when she saw that he was talking about him not being in the castle. She had caught sight of Moody's name and she knew that he was missing Lupin. She wanted to leave him some kind of privacy and she gave the letter back to him, touched he had trusted her into letting her read this. She wanted to talk with him, but she knew she had to do it step by step. Rushing into the main subject would only make Draco back away.

"You know Sirius Black?" She asked as he took the letter between his thin fingers again and he shrugged.

"If you say it like that, yeah. I mean, everyone knows him," he said, still looking at the parchment. Hermione tilted her head, putting a hand on Draco's. She looked at it, starting to play with his fingers as she listened carefully. "At home, he's just a face on some old family pictures. We never talk about him," he said, surprising Hermione.

"You're... related to him?" She asked. He nodded as he shrugged.

"He's my mother's cousin. He's the son of my grand-father's sister. I guess that makes me... His cousin, once removed, yeah. I've never met him, though, he was disowned long ago and by the time of his arrest, I was one."

"You mother was a Black, then?" Hermione asked, looking in front of her. She didn't know any of it.

"Yeah. But he... betrayed the family, you know," Draco said before taking another deep breath, looking up at the ceiling. Hermione looked at him again, eager to know a bit more about it, knowing he had escaped this kind of fate thanks to his parents. "I saw him on a few pictures when I was ten. They were in a box in my parents' bedroom. I don't think I was supposed to look into that. Loads of family pictures from way before I was born. It was my mother's family. I know why she had put them there and not with the others, there was Sirius, as well as my mother's sister on them."

Hermione wanted to ask who was her sister, but she didn't say anything. It was the first time she was really learning about his family, the first time he was really opened about that subject. He was often mentioning his parents, but not the rest of them. She couldn't stop listening, even if she had a lot of questions. She was going to learn a bit more about the way they were disowned, maybe. She would understand even better Draco's situation. She had always wondered if any other member of his family knew about him being a werewolf, but she was almost certain that it was only his parents. Growing up in this environment must have been really hard.

"My mother wasn't very pleased when she saw me looking at the pictures, but she wasn't angry. She just took them away, saying that I shouldn't touch that. When I asked who they were, both, she said that it wasn't something I needed to know, because I would never have anything to do with them," he explained. He stayed silent for a minute, thinking that she probably didn't want to tell him why they weren't a part of the family anymore. At the time, he had already been bitten, and making him hear that wasn't in his mother's plans. "So I asked my father."

"Did he tell you about them?" Hermione asked when a few other seconds passed. Draco chuckled.

"You should have seen him. He really didn't know if he should talk to me about it. But yeah, in the end, a few days later, he told me," he said. He wondered if he had waited because he had talked to his mother about it first. "He came in the library and told me that he was going to tell me everything. He had the box with him and he showed me Sirius. Told me he was in Azkaban for murdering thirteen people, twelves being Muggles. Godfather of the great Scarhead," he added. Hermione looked at him, pursing her lips, and he gave her a little smile. She was glad to see that he looked amused, that he was fine with talking about it. "And he told me that he had been disowned. So I asked why, knowing the answer, deep down. He didn't have the same beliefs as the family at all. He was fine with Muggles and Muggle-borns," he said. It was the first time she was hearing him say "Muggle-born" and not "Mudblood" in her presence, and it made her feel good, seeing the efforts he was making to get out of his bad habits. He sighed. "Plus, he was a Gryffindor, can you imagine?" He asked as he made a face, both serious and joking as he looked at Hermione, who shook her head. She knew that he was only teasing her, but that at the same time, it must have been a shock for a family full of Slytherins. "He was proud to claim that he was different from us... Well, from them, really, I am not really an example."

"Draco..."

"He bragged about it and he got what he apparently deserved," he said, not wanting to talk about himself. Hermione got it, and she looked at his fingers again.

"And... For you're mother's sister... Was it the same?" She asked quietly. Draco glanced at her, staring at his girlfriend for a few seconds.

"Kind of. I actually never knew her either. My mother... She has two sisters. One's in Azkaban with her husband," he said shortly. He hadn't really known his aunt Bellatrix, he just knew that she was mental and that she had been arrested as a Death Eater after the first war, so he barely knew her, he could barely remember her. He had a few pictures with her from when he was a baby, or some from when his mother was younger, but that was it. "The other... Andromeda. That's her name," he added uselessly. "She married a Muggle-born."

Again, there was a long silence during which Hermione looked down, while Draco stared at an invisible point in front of him. Then, he looked down too.

"I asked my father if my mother hated them," he said a bit more quietly. At first, when he had been a bit older, he had wondered if his father had just answered in a way that wouldn't hurt him. If he had lied because he didn't want Draco to feel bad about himself. But now he knew that he had been honest. "She doesn't. At least, not her sister. She was never really close with Sirius, because of his behavior, she was closer to his brother, but... she was with her sister. Really close. My father said that... He thinks she was more hurt because she had chosen this guy over her family. That she abandoned them for him, that she abandoned her. I don't know. I never asked my mother anything about them again. I don't want to hurt her. And, you know... When this kind of things happen, you don't talk about it. It's like they never existed. My grand-parents... It's like they had only raised two daughters. But since my mother and her sister had proper marriages, they were fine with them."

"And what about your father's side of the family?" Hermione asked quietly.

"Well, they're not going to be a problem for me," Draco said as he sighed. "His mother died when I was five, so she was pretty pleased with me. His father, however, was still around when I was... He was way more strict than my parents ever were when it came to lesser people, and it's saying something. It would have been my father instead of me... Well, I wouldn't be here today, because he wouldn't have mind... I don't know, letting him die there? So, obviously, you see why we had to keep it a secret." He said as he looked down once again and he felt Hermione's grip becoming more tight on his hand. "Anyway, he died two years ago," he explained. "Dragon pox. Never knew the truth about me. My mother's father died not long before that, same year. So I still have my maternal grand-mother, but I don't see her very often."

Draco moved a little, taking back his hand to be able to move his arm. He passed it around Hermione, who had been looking down for a while.

"What is it?" He asked. She shook her head and gave him a smile.

"Nothing," she said quickly. He frowned a little.

"My parents aren't going to disown me because of you," he said. Hermione looked down again.

"How would you know? If they learn about us... I don't want to be the reason-"

"You're not going to be the reason of anything," he said. "You want to know why? Well, firstly, I'm a freaking... I'm not pure anymore. And they didn't throw me out when I was bitten, did they? They know I'm not worthy of the name anymore, that the line is ruined, and I'm still there. They don't even try to have another child. And secondly... Well, they don't know about you, do they?" Draco asked with a little laugh. Hermione didn't find it funny. It was painful. Not for her, her heart was aching but it was for Draco.

"How can you joke about it? It's horrible..." She muttered. "You don't deserve that."

"I don't know if I'm agreeing with that," Draco said, looking very serious. Hermione frowned. It was crazy to see how family beliefs could make their point of view be totally different. Draco kept saying he wasn't worthy of his name, that he had ruined everything. He was blaming himself and was extremely ashamed, hating himself. And Hermione was just finding that unfair, because it was simply horrible. And for the first time in her life, she felt a very tiny ounce of gratitude for Lucius and Narcissa. Well, she didn't know his mother anyway, she had never thought anything bad about her, but about his father... Still, knowing they were trying to offer him the best life possible and that they had disregarded their beliefs for him... They weren't totally like the rest of their families, were they? "What I do know is that there's a reason we keep the secret." And as he said that, a little smile became visible on his face. "It's not because my parents are ashamed of me, it's not because they don't love me... It's to protect me. From the rest of my family, from... The rest of the community..." He lost his smile again. "Look at Lupin. Can't even find a job. They don't want this for me."

"But how do you feel about that?" She finally asked. Draco looked at her for a few seconds before he looked in front of him again.

"I used to think like Weasley does."

"Draco..."

"No, I did. Hearing my grandparents, having heard my parents the years before I was bitten... I used to think I was a burden. That they were just acting like they were caring about me, because I was their son and because they didn't have any other heir. That they just needed me there but that if they could, that if they had the opportunity... maybe they would get rid of me."

"What happened, then?" Hermione asked, almost whispering. Draco chuckled as he shook his head.

"I grew up. I mean, some of us have to."

She blinked as she met his eyes again. He only gave her a little smile and as always, she got it. She was bright, he knew it. He knew that she could understand the way he was thinking, approving or not.

"So, I'm acting too. I try to find some good sides in the situation. I mean, I have privileges, I have everything... They still love me, they still take care of me... I have friends. And see, Pansy's great about it, even if it didn't go smoothly at first," he said. He had never talked about that with Hermione either, and she had never asked anything about his relationship with Pansy. But she knew that, like she had thought, the reason they hadn't been talking for a while the year before was because she had discovered his secret. "I have to say, it's pretty funny to be around all those guys, talking about blood-purity. They don't even know who they are talking to, they don't even know what they are talking to... Crabbe and Goyle wouldn't be able to discover it even if they were trying with all their will, so they don't know they're blood-traitors. They're all fools. It's... Entertaining."

Hermione wasn't so sure about that and she kept staring at him.

"Don't look at me like that, I have to find ways of distracting myself. It's a lot of pressure, I might as well get something out of it."

"You're terrible," she muttered as she shook her head and he chuckled.

"If I have to be honest... Lupin helped with that too. It was nice having him around..." He said more quietly and Hermione smiled at him.

"I know," she said as she put her hand on his cheek, meeting his eyes. "What about Snape? You talked to him..." She said after a few seconds. Draco gave her a more strained smile as she removed her hand from his cheek and he shrugged.

"Yeah, we talked. But it doesn't really change anything. It's... complicated. Because I know he was always there to help me when I needed him before. He still is. But... It's complicated," he repeated, shaking a bit his head.

"At least, you had a conversation... Maybe the situation doesn't need to be fixed by one of you. Maybe it will fix itself with time." Draco smiled sadly again, looking in front of him.

"Yeah... They say time heals everything..." He sighed.

"Unless you don't want it to be fixed?" Hermione asked shyly. Draco had been so reluctant to do something about the situation that she had wondered if he wasn't better off like that, actually. He shrugged.

"It's more..."

"Complicated than that?" She asked with an understanding smile. Draco nodded.

"The thing is... Even if I want to let time fix this... I can't. I have to see him so many times, for so many different things. When it's not for the potion, it's for the classes. And when it's not for school, it's at home."

"Because your parents invite him?" Hermione asked. Draco nodded.

"Yeah. I'm lucky, I guess, I don't need a baby-sitter anymore. A few years ago, I would have been spending even more time with him," Draco said as he rolled his eyes.

"I'm sorry, what?" Hermione asked, her eyes opened a bit more widely. Draco looked at her. "He used to babysit you?"

"Well, yeah... I told you I've always known him. Already as a baby. He was at home more often then, but... Things change, I guess. I don't know what happened. The fact remains that as my godfather, my parents were always trusting him to take care of me when they weren't there."

Hermione didn't say anything and it took some time for him to realize that it wasn't because she didn't have anything to say about it, but because she was even more shocked than before.

"What? What is it?"

"He's your godfather?" She asked. Draco stared at her for a few seconds before he talked.

"Well, yeah."

"Don't say "well, yeah" like that," she said as she frowned. "I wasn't supposed to guess that, you never told me!"

"Because it's not a big deal," Draco said as he laughed a little because of her reaction.

"For you it isn't! Ugh, is that why you're his favorite? That's so unfair," she exclaimed. Draco laughed again.

"Come on, now, I'm his favorite because I'm me, not because he's my godfather."

"Don't brag," Hermione said, raising a finger as a warning sign. Draco only smiled at bit more.

"You're just jealous because for once, you're not the favorite," he said, amused. Hermione wrinkled her nose and Draco tilted his head. "If it's any consolation, I'm sure you were Lockhart's favorite."

"Shut up," she muttered, her cheeks turning pink.

"Here, don't be sad," he said, still teasing her as he took a box that was next to him, handing it to Hermione. It was the package his mother had sent him at the beginning of the week. "Come on, take one, don't be shy," he said.

"Stop talking. Ferrets don't talk."

 

"They're going to wonder where I am," Hermione said after another half hour had passed, ready to stand up. "Plus, it's getting late, soon we will get into trouble and I still have homework to do, we should go."

"It's Friday, you have the week-end to do them," Draco said and, seeing that she was moving, he grabbed her hand. "Wait, no, don't go," Draco said. Hermione smiled softly.

"We'll be able to do that again, don't worry," she said. Draco shrugged.

"Yeah but when? If you come here too often for so long, they will know something's not right," Draco said and he was right. Hermione was always afraid her friends would want to look after her and maybe use the map to find her. She was trusting Ginny, who was helping her, but still. "Just... Five more minutes. That's all I'm asking for," he said and Hermione couldn't say no.

"Alright, just five," she finally said, knowing they would probably take at least ten more minutes and actually pleased to see him act like that. Draco smiled.

"Besides, I've got something for you."

"What?" For what reason would he give her something? She frowned as she saw him take his bag to look inside it.

"I'm not going to be present for your birthday," he said, knowing there was more or less two weeks left before the d-day. But it would be on the day of the full moon and he wouldn't be able to see her. "And since, like I said, we can't predict when we will be able to see each other, really... I thought I'd give you your gift now. If that's alright with you," he said.

"Draco, you didn't have to buy me a gift," she said, slowly shaking her head. This boy was unbelievable. He waved his hand.

"Nonsense." Then, he took something out of his bag. It wasn't big at all, like a little box. "Here," he said, handing it to her. "Happy birthday. In advance."

"Draco..." She whispered again before she took the gift. The wrapping was dark green and it made her smile a little as she started to open it. She glanced at Draco, who seemed to be really eager to discover her reaction.

Finally removing the wrapping, she discovered a little wooden box. On the upper part were a few forms. The wood had been carved and there was a quarter moon, two music notes and two stars. On the side was a thin metal bar that she could turn. She bit her lip. It was a music box, definitely. She looked at Draco and opened her mouth.

"Wait, make it- turn it," he said as he got on his knees, putting his fingers on the bar to turn it. He smiled at Hermione as the music filled the space. She frowned.

"I know this..." She muttered, trying to remember the name of that song. Draco waited, anxious. Then, it seemed to struck her. "Moonlight Sonata..." She whispered and Draco nodded. Very meaningful. She didn't know what to say, this was so precious. She looked at the box again and closed her eyes, listening to the music. Draco only stared at her for a moment before she looked at him again. "Draco... I love it," she said. He gave her a smile, delighted.

"You told me you've always loved music, so... I thought... It's hand-made," he said, focusing on the box again to hide the fact that he was very excited about all of this. "Well, I didn't make it, I wouldn't know how... But I'm sure no house-elf made it so, I guess it's fine for you to have it," he said jokingly. Hermione chuckled and approached, passing her arms around Draco again as she hid her face against his neck, taking a deep breath as she grinned. She felt his arms around her and soon enough, she also felt his lips against her head. Again, she wondered if she wasn't imagining everything, because she would have never believed something like this would happen before. She straightened up and met his eyes.

"But how do you know Beethoven?" She asked. Draco didn't know anything about Muggles, from what she could tell. He raised an eyebrow.

"I didn't learn how to play piano thanks to the Weird Sisters," he said.

"Yeah but... I don't believe your mother would teach you Muggle music," Hermione said.

"Muggle?' Draco asked, looking a bit disturbed. He grimaced. "He wasn't a Muggle," he said, looking amused. Hermione's eyebrows shot up and he chuckled. "And here I was, thinking you knew everything. And... Here, take this too," he said as he slid a hand in his cloak, only to take a small picture. He handed it to Hermione. She couldn't help but laugh as she saw the little boy on it.

Draco, well dressed, his hair styled like it used to be before, was in front of a piano. He seemed to be way younger, and a woman was next to him, watching him play. She recognized his mother. She wasn't looking at his fingers, she was looking at him, smiling, as the boy apparently started to sing.

"When I told you I played piano, you seemed... Anyway, I looked through the photos we have at the Manor and I found this one. I thought maybe you'd like to have it. Mother has other pictures like this one, she probably won't even notice it's missing. At least I hope so," he added as he saw Hermione's expression. She laughed again and looked at that arrogant but laughing boy in the picture. "I was eight, see. That's the piano we have at the Manor. So, anyway... Happy birthday."

 

Early the next morning, Draco got up and took the letter he had finished writing the night before. He wanted to send it before going to the Great Hall to eat. He left the dormitory, not waking anyone, walked in the empty common room, left the dungeons and hurried towards the West Tower. He stopped when he reached the Owlery, walking in. Most of the owls were still asleep. His own owl was there, but he would need to use another too. He would use his for the letter he had written for his parents, but since he really wanted to send Lupin his answer, he had to use one from the castle as well.

So, he approached his own owl, carefully because of the dirty floor, using the back of his forefinger to caress it just above its beak. He didn't like this place at all, he didn't like the smell and it was too dirty for him, but he had no choice.

"Come on, now," he said impatiently and finally, his owl opened its eyes. "Come on, it's for the Manor," he said as he carefully attached the letter to one of the owl's legs. "Off you go."

He watched as his owl took off, flying through one of the window. They had no glass and the fresh air was coming in the tower. As he turned to go find another owl, he saw someone enter.

Harry stopped at the entrance of the Owlery, his letter for Sirius in his hand. They both stared at each other for almost a minute before Harry moved to walk towards Hedwig. Draco shook his head, seeing that an owl near them was awake. He hesitated but decided that if he was doing it quickly, he would get out of there even faster. He couldn't help but snort when he noticed that Potter's owl seemed to be mad at him. Harry glanced at Draco and he tried to stop, shaking his head as he attached his letter to the other owl. He heard Harry whisper something to Hedwig, like he was trying to make a deal, clearly not wanting to be heard by Draco. In the end, he was able to make his owl listen and Hedwig took off a few seconds before Draco's owl did the same.

Draco had no idea Harry was sending a letter to Sirius, and Harry had no idea Draco was sending a letter to Lupin. They both left the Owlery and found themselves in the stairs together, Draco walking behind Harry, his hands in his pockets. He used this time to stare at him, thinking about their last encounter, and enjoying the fact that Potter had no idea that he was dating one of his best friends. Perhaps he should have stopped looking at some point, because Harry turned his head, like he had felt his eyes on him. Draco only gave him an unpleasant smile and Harry stopped in the middle of the stairs, turning around.

"Look-"

"Don't want to hear it," Draco said directly. The last time they had talked, Draco had ended up being a ferret. "You never know who's stalking you, ready to attack students to protect you," he said as he walked past Harry. Then, feeling Potter's hand on his shoulder, he turned around, pushing his arm. "I already told you, don't touch me!"

"I'm not doing anything wrong, what is it with you?" Harry asked, frowning. "I just want to talk to you!"

Of course, he had no idea what it was like for Draco. Every time Harry was putting a hand on him, and fortunately it wasn't happening often, he was remembering his touch back in the Forest. When he had seen his scars, when he had stared at his scars, when he had touched one of them. It was horrible for Draco, and he didn't want to feel his hands on him ever again.

"You can talk and keep your hands to yourself," Draco said, glaring at Harry who still wasn't getting it.

"But you won't listen."

"Because you rarely got anything interesting to say, Potter."

"Can you stop?" Harry asked, tired, as he looked away, shaking his head. Draco sighed and looked away too, putting his hands deep in his pockets again.

"What do you want? I don't have time to waste so be quick."

"Hermione told us," Harry said, looking at him again. He wasn't expecting Draco to look so quickly at him again, looking really taken aback.

"W-What?" He asked, feeling his heart beating fast in his chest as he turned his hands into fists in his pockets. He felt his nails against his skin but he wasn't able to relax.

"About what you did, at the end of the year," Harry said, raising an eyebrow. Draco opened his mouth for a second, not finding any words, before he closed it again. "You thanked her," he added. Draco cleared his throat, visibly relieved about something but Harry didn't know what. All he knew, thanks to that, was that they were probably still talking. And that they might have shared some other things. Harry found that annoying, but he couldn't stop Hermione from talking to him when she wasn't with them.

"So? You're here because you want to be thanked too? Want a bit more of gratitude, because what you have daily isn't enough?"

"Why are you acting like that? You don't even know what I want to say," Harry said. He knew that it probably wasn't easy for Draco to talk about what had happened, and that he had too much pride to thank Harry. He had seen how embarrassed he had looked in the Forest. But still, he hadn't done anything wrong. "I wanted to talk to you about Ron," he said. Draco narrowed his eyes. So not only he had to talk with Potter, but he had to talk about the Weasel? Nice.

"What for?" He still said, curious.

"He didn't think what he told you, back at the World Cup," Harry muttered. He saw Draco raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah, right. And I'm supposed to believe you because...?"

"Because it's the truth. I was angry too. I thought that after what happened... You would act differently. But apparently, you're not capable of that," Harry said. Draco rolled his eyes. "Still, I didn't say anything. Ron... His temper... When he's angry, he says stuff and... He doesn't always mean it."

"Are you trying to apologize for him? Does he know you're doing this? I bet he doesn't. I bet he's not sorry at all, is he?"

"The point is," Harry said, tired of his behavior, "He's not like you. He doesn't usually disrespect people because of their blood. He thought that you were in no position to say anything to Hermione, given the circumstances..."

"Circumstances that have nothing to do with any of you," Draco said coldly as he narrowed his eyes a little. "I say whatever I want to whoever I want, and if he's not happy, he can... What were his words... Yeah, he can eat dung for all I care."

"You need to understand-"

"I don't have to understand anything," Draco articulated. Harry didn't think he had ever heard him be this cold with him before. Draco approached, climbing a few steps and he stopped in front of him. Since he was a bit taller than Harry, they were face to face, even if Draco was a step lower. "But you need to shut up about all of this. You need to stop talking about what happened and he needs to stop talking about stuff he doesn't know anything about."

"Wai-"

"I don't want to talk about that night. Ever again. So either you stop right now, either I hex you."

There were a few seconds of silence and Draco nodded appreciatively before he turned around, starting to walk down the stairs again.

"Did you act like this in the woods to warn Hermione?" Harry asked. Since Draco had been on the defensive, he still hadn't been able to ask what he really wanted to discuss. Draco had stopped and he turned a bit his head. He took a few seconds, thinking, before opening his mouth.

"What if I did?" He asked more quietly. That's what Harry had thought. Those words, coming from Draco, were clearly a "yes", even if he wasn't capable of saying it directly.

"When I saw you in the library last year..." Harry began, walking down a step. "I didn't understand. I was upset, because you're a git." Draco turned around again, looking at Harry who kept walking towards him. "I thought you were... messing with her. To make her suffer. I wouldn't have been surprised. And then I learned about you, I saw you, I-" He stopped, trying to find the right words, not exactly wanting Draco to be upset again. "And I thought that maybe that was the reason you were able to talk to her, in the end."

"I didn't know that she knew," Draco mumbled. He didn't know why. Maybe that, in a way, he wanted to give him a hint, show him that he had talked to her thinking that she didn't know. That he hadn't just done it because they were in "the same situation". That he was genuinely interested by her.

"I know. I mean... She told me. She was very clear about that, no one can talk about it, it needs to stay secret and I get it," Harry said. Draco, feeling that he was about to smile, lowered his head for a second before looking at Harry again. "And then, at the World Cup, hearing you talk like that... After everything. I didn't understand. Ron didn't either. But I think I get it now, because I remembered that you two were talking and... laughing together. I don't know if you guys are able to say that you're friends or anything, now, but... I know why you acted like that in the woods." Draco looked away.

"Do you want a medal?" He mumbled.

"I wanted to thank you."

Draco met his eyes and they stared at each other for a few seconds. Then, Draco looked away again. He didn't leave, he actually didn't move at all, he just avoided looking at Harry, thinking about everything that had happened.

"I don't need you to thank me for what happened. If I have to be honest... If it hadn't been for Hermione who insisted and Lupin who was worrying sick, I don't think I would have looked for you. As a matter of fact, I know I wouldn't have. Because I still don't like you, I don't feel any kind of sympathy for you. But... I think it just proves you've changed... Just a little bit, since you're clearly not capable of assuming your actions when it comes to her. I don't know if you're ashamed of it, ashamed of talking to her but that you're still doing it, probably hurting her in the process. But... You deserve to know that I get it. And that Ron was stupid for saying stuff like that to you. He didn't mean it, he would never mean something like that, and neither would I."

Again, they looked at each other, with some difficulty for Draco who kept looking away every other second. But he couldn't help but glance at him. And Harry was looking at him from head to toe, trying to decide if he had said enough. Probably. At least Draco knew what he was thinking. And like that, they parted ways. Draco turned around, silent, the look on his face obviously showing that Harry's words had had some kind of impact on him, and he left him alone. And Harry didn't move, not until the sound of Draco's footsteps had faded away. Then, he left the West Tower too and walked went back to his common room to wait for the others to get up.

Chapter Text

It was the end of October and Draco had to say, the last two months had gone by pretty smoothly after what had happened with Moody and the conversation he had had with Potter. Mainly, he was trying to stay away from Weasley and him, he really wasn't in the mood to make fun of them. He wanted this year to be better than the last one and to do that, he wanted to focus on his school work to make his parents proud, on Hermione, with who he really didn't want to argue because of her stupid friends, and on Pansy. Maybe even on Snape. Like he had promised to Lupin, he would keep what was making him happy around him, and just avoid the rest.

Speaking of Lupin, he finally had to return to the Shrieking Shack back in September, like he had said the day he had given Hermione her birthday gift. They had quickly seen each other the day before because she really wanted to see him to know how he was holding up. He had been exhausted so instead of going inside the Clock Tower, they had met near the dungeons, in a desert hallway, long after the feast because most students were in their common room at the time. She didn't want Draco to climb all the way to the fourth floor to go to the library or up the Tower, so they hadn't been very careful. They had talked a little, laughed between kisses, held each other for the first time directly in the corridors. And then they had heard footsteps and they had to let some distance between them, breaking their kiss just before Luna arrived in the hallway. They were ready to act like they were arguing if they had to, really. They were ready to pretend, but Draco didn't say anything. He stared at Luna, looking a bit surprised. Hermione didn't know why Draco seemed to be uncomfortable, suddenly, and thought it was just because they had almost been caught.

"Hi, Draco," Luna said with a little smile as she stopped in her track. She looked at Hermione before she met Draco's eyes again. "How was your summer?" Draco cleared his throat.

"Good. It was good," he said, not asking about hers. Hermione kept looking at the girl, noticing her weird necklace. She also noticed her wand that she was keeping behind her left ear. She was holding a magazine close to her chest but she couldn't tell which one it was. Luna moved a strand of her dirty blonde hair behind her right ear as she kept staring at Draco.

"Mine was too. Me and Dad went to look for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks," she said, still smiling softly.

"C-Crumple- Did you manage to find any?" Draco asked as he hid his hands deep in his pockets, glancing at Hermione. He knew he probably just had to pretend to know what it was if he wanted her to leave at some point. Hermione had joined her hands behind her back, still embarrassed, leaning against the wall. She shared Draco's look and he gave her a strained and discreet smile, like he was apologizing.

"No," Luna sighed. "But we will eventually," she then said before she glanced at Hermione. It looked like she understood something, perhaps that she was interrupting something, and she looked at Draco again. "You should get some rest, you look tired," she said to him before she started to walk again, going past them.

Hermione and Draco stayed silent until she had left, and even a few seconds after, still feeling a bit unsettled.

"Who is she?" Hermione asked quietly. She didn't recall having ever met this girl. She was sure she wasn't a fourth year and she looked at Draco who shrugged as he approached her again.

"I've talked to her once last year, that's it. Her name's Luna Lovegood, she's a third year," he explained.

"She seems... nice," Hermione said, not knowing what to say about her.

"A bit weird, isn't she? But not so bad, I guess." Weird was the only word he thought was fitting her perfectly. "Everyone says she's crazy. They call her Loony Lovegood," he said and he looked at the end of the hallway again. "I already saw some of them laugh at her..."

Hermione kept looking at Draco for a few seconds before she looked at her hands as she played with the edges of his cloak.

"Did you ever make fun of her too?" Draco frowned a little, amused, as he looked at Hermione.

"What's this question? Why would I do that?" Hermione tilted her head with an expression clearly screaming "please".

"I saw you throwing snowballs at a first year with Crabbe and Goyle last year, just for the fun of it, so you tell me," she said and Draco smirked.

"That's when I was young and stupid."

"But you're a new man, now, aren't you? You wouldn't do that again, is that what you're saying?" She asked playfully and Draco tried not to laugh. He would do that again if he wanted to, it was funny.

"Who knows, I'm full of surprises," Draco replied and Hermione chuckled, shaking her head. "Besides, I wouldn't throw snowballs at her. Like I said, she's a nice girl, not mean with me..." He said more quietly. Hermione doubted Draco needed this kind of reason to bully other students. She was not ok with that but she had to accept the fact that she wouldn't be able to change this side of his personality like that. He was already making a lot of efforts, she thought, and it was enough for now. She didn't want him to become another person just because they were dating, even though there were things she wasn't agreeing with.

"Why would she be, besides the obvious reasons?" Draco smirked and poked his girlfriend in the ribs. She giggled as she got a bit closer and he passed his arms around her waist.

"She knows about me," he said and Hermione stopped laughing, raising her eyebrows. "Don't look at me like that, I didn't tell her!" Hermione smiled a little.

"I didn't say you did but... How do you know?"

"She told me. Very casually," Draco said, looking at the wall behind Hermione, lost in his head as he thought about the conversation they had had together near the Thestrals. "But she doesn't mind at all, so..."

"She won't tell anyone, right?" Hermione asked, passing her arms behind Draco's neck and he shook his head to answer.

"But, you know... I'm not sure she's got anyone to tell it to," he said.

 

And then, the next day, he had left the castle to go to the Shrieking Shack after having spent most of the day in the common room. He had gone to Snape's office for the potion, like he had done all week, and as he handed him the cup back, he had muttered a demand.

"Would you mind walking with me?"

He hadn't been able to stop himself and before he knew it, he was walking outside of the castle with his professor. They didn't really talk but they looked at each other before Draco entered the passage. They were both about to say something but it seemed like they had changed their mind and Draco went in, not looking behind him. He had walked in the long passage, tired. It seemed like it would never end, like he would never arrive at the house.

With Lupin, almost every cycle, it had seemed to be so much shorter. And finally, he went in. It had been really weird. Everything was the same, and at the same time, so different. He had sat on the mattress Lupin used to sleep on and he had looked around. He could make out some footprints that seemed to belong to a dog, some blood too. Lupin hadn't told him exactly what had happened the night they had fought, but he knew it was from that time. He also spotted a wrapper from one of Lupin's many chocolate bars. It was probably the worst thing.

Being back there, he could deal with it. But that wrapper was simply a proof that Lupin had been there with him for a while. That they had shared this place, shared things he wouldn't share with anyone else. And at the same time, he felt like he had shared way more about himself than Lupin had ever done. Maybe because he had been too focused on himself to care at the time, or maybe because of what Snape had told him, maybe because Lupin had explained that it was true, in his last letter. That Draco was right, but that it was true.

And he had felt like he had been missing on so many things, on so many conversations they could have had. Real conversation, not simple letters. And there, in the Shrieking Shack, he suddenly craved his presence. Way more than he had when Moody had made his entrance in the castle, way more than he had during the summer, way more than he had the day after Lupin had left. Because he had had the time to get used to his absence, he had had the time to get used to the feeling that had grown inside of him because of his absence. And realizing that he would probably always feel like that was worse than realizing he was alone in the hospital because his friend had left him.

But he didn't talk about it to Pansy, to Snape or to Hermione. He came back in class two days later, after having slept in the hospital most of the time and he had acted like everything was fine. And when Hermione had checked on him, he had told her that he was feeling fine. He had acted like the new injuries on his skin weren't existing and he had smiled at her. Because she didn't deserve to be worried all the time because of him, and he probably didn't deserve so much attention. He thought that she was better off worrying for her classes instead, because they had way more work than the year before.

And there he was again, at the end of October, waking up in that place, on the old mattress. He felt like staying there for a while. He didn't want to walk in the castle, hoping no one would cross his path. He didn't really want to go to the hospital wing to sleep during hours, to waste his time there because he was exhausted. He didn't want that smelly mixture on the wound he had on his chest and he didn't want to think about the night he would spend in the common room to catch up on his work. But he stood up anyway and he got dressed before he left the Shrieking Shack.

He emerged from the passage way later. The light coming from the sun made him close his eyes. He was used to the darkness of the passage and he blinked a few times before looking around. No one there. He slowly got out, wincing as he felt the cut on his chest burning him. But it wasn't as bad as the ones he had got in the Forest before the summer. He looked up at the castle. He just needed to walk a little bit more and he would be able to rest...

As he got closer, he could make out the front steps and, sitting on them, someone. He narrowed his eyes before he checked that his shirt was totally buttoned. He had his tie in his hands as well as his sweater and he didn't know if he should put it on. But the blood on his skin was dry and his shirt wasn't dirty, so he let it go as he recognized the blonde girl. He sighed.

She seemed to be busy with some small rocks. Draco raised an eyebrow and she looked up as he approached. She tilted her head.

"Good morning, Draco," she said. He nodded, not exactly in the mood to talk. "Long night?" And he shrugged as he glanced at her hands once in front of her. She was painting with a thin paintbrush. Some water was next to her in a small bowl, as well as her colors. "Why don't you sit down?" She asked, still staring at him. He met her eyes and cleared his throat before he glanced at the castle.

"What are you doing here this early?" He asked, still looking at the open doors.

"I'm painting," she simply said, stating the obvious, as she focused on her rocks again. Draco glanced at them. They were next to her, some were totally clean and some had different colors on them, but he couldn't tell what were the drawings just yet. So, he approached a bit more and felt like sitting was actually a good idea, his head was spinning because of the tiredness. He took one of the rocks she had painted and looked at it for a few seconds, recognizing a unicorn.

"It's... well done," he simply said as he placed the rock on the step again before she looked at the one she was actually painting. It was a dark sky with stars and, apparently, she was doing the moon.

"Thank you, that's very nice of you to say," she said and Draco smiled a little. She had paint all over her hands and she looked at what she was doing for a while. "You can try, if you want," she added as she took one of the clean rock and handed it to him.

"I'm not... really..." He said hesitantly, looking at the rock.

"It's alright, you don't have to. But here, keep it," she said and again, he smiled a little as he took the rock.

"You're everywhere I go, aren't you?" He then said.

"Maybe it's you," she said conversationally, "Maybe you are everywhere I go. But it's fine, I don't mind." Draco almost let out a "a chance you aren't, then" but he wondered if she would get the sarcasm. Instead, he chuckled and looked at his rock before he glanced at the colors next to him.

"Maybe it's me, yeah..."

And that was it for a moment. He didn't know what to tell her, because he wasn't sure he wanted to talk to her.

"Dad likes when I paint. He lets me paint everywhere in the house," she explained. "How is your house?"

Draco looked down at the rocks for a moment and wondered if there were as many colors as there was on those stones in her house. She was living in another world but had proven that she could understand him in a few different ways. Maybe that's why he was so uncomfortable when she was around.

"Big... Comfortable and big," he simply said after a few seconds of reflexion. There was a lot of windows, so there was a lot of light but at the same time, it often seemed like a dark place. Maybe because of the decoration. But Draco liked that.

"So there must be plenty of space to paint," Luna said dreamily and Draco smirked as he glanced at her. Then, he moved one of his hand, dipping his pinky finger in the black paint before he took care of his rock. "You should paint what you like. Our home always makes Dad and me smile."

"I can't paint on the walls of the Manor," he said, smiling a little at the thought. But he had done it already. But it hadn't been paint, and it wasn't visible for anyone but himself. Well, also for his parents, obviously, but they weren't talking about it. Still, one day, when he had gone down there, he had seen some drawings that had been added on the wall by someone else, near his own stupid little drawings. He had recognized his mother's drawings of the stars, the constellations, but he didn't know if she was the one who had put them there. The next day, when he had come in the dinning room, his father had looked curiously at him and he understood, and he had been touched. No, they never talked about it, they didn't need to, but it had made Draco feel good and he was sure his father knew that. "I can't really paint anyway, I don't have the talent."

"You can do whatever you want if it pleases you," she said and Draco looked at her before rinsing his finger in the water, turning his rock over. He wiped his finger on his trousers before taking a second paintbrush that was next to Luna and he chose another color. "As long as it makes you feel good, why shouldn't you be choosing what to do? Mom always told me it was important to do what I like, whatever people might think."

Draco stopped what he was doing, turning his head to look at Luna. He examined her face for almost a minute. She didn't mind, she didn't even show that she had noticed and she kept painting.

It was easy for her to say. They weren't coming from the same environment and were clearly not leading the same kind of life. But he thought about how nice it would be if people knew everything. If he was free to do whatever he wanted because he would have nothing to lose anymore and he wouldn't be caring about what people might think anymore. He probably wouldn't be able to do too much, though, since the other students would probably want him out of the school and he wouldn't be able to go everywhere he wanted to. Few people were accepting werewolves around. But he wouldn't have to care about hiding his relationship, because he wouldn't mind what the other Slytherins might think, say or do to him. He wouldn't care about the influence Potter and Weasley might have on Hermione. Because he was often thinking about it, and he was often telling himself that they might try to pressure her to make her dump him or something. But he couldn't face this kind of things just yet.

They had been dating for four months but he didn't feel like he was ready. It wasn't because, like Potter had said, he was ashamed of his actions. And at the time, Scarhead was only speaking about them talking together. If he knew the truth...

No, Draco wasn't ashamed of dating Hermione. If anything, he had to be proud. She was incredibly smart, pretty, nice, understanding, supportive, curious, passionate... She was making him feel better about himself and had stolen his heart with a few "civilized conversation" and a few smiles. He could talk about her qualities for hours. And he could say that he wasn't ashamed, at least in his head. But he was too cowardly to tell anyone. And even that, Hermione understood.

"You're nice, Luna," Draco said and the girl finally looked at him, giving him a smile. It was a bit different than the ones she had already given him and he knew that she was somehow touched. Maybe because she didn't have any friends. Maybe because she wasn't used to hear that.

"And you're nicer than the first time we talked," she said. Draco chuckled and nodded before he focused on his rock again. They didn't talk anymore, they stayed silent and painted. Draco only spoke again once he was done with his rock.

"I really should go get some rest. You're right, I'm tired," he said, referring to the moment she had spoken to him in front of Hermione, a month before.

"Yes, you do look terrible," she said without even looking at him, still painting. Again, he wanted to laugh but he only smiled weakly before he handed her the rock.

"Here, take it back," he said. She took the time to rinse her paintbrush and put it next to her before she looked at the stone. "You can keep it. It's for you."

She took it between her colored fingers and examined what Draco had painted. He had done the opposite of her. A bright blue sky with no clouds and a shining sun.

"It's really nice of you," she said, smiling at him before she handed him her own rock. "And I think this is for you." He looked at the night sky she had painted, stared at the moon for a second before he accepted the gift and he stood up. "We should do this more often," she added, still looking at the rock he had given him. He didn't answer, he simply climbed the steps to go in the castle. During this time, Luna turned the rock over to discover what he had done with the black paint. Only two dots and a curved line, like the rock had eyes and was smiling at her.

 

Draco opened his eyes, taking a long breath as he blinked. He could hear someone talking next to him, not minding how loud, like they wanted to wake him up on purpose. He moved a little under the covers and when he tried to pull them to cover his head, he realized that they were stuck. He frowned and slowly turned his body, realizing than Pansy was almost laying on his mattress, right next to him.

She had taken a pillow from another bed and had settled herself there, apparently talking alone.

"What the hell?" Draco mumbled as he straightened a little, feeling the cut on his chest stinging a little.

"Morning, Sunshine," Pansy said as she smiled at him. Draco frowned and turned his head, looking at the windows. It didn't seem to be the morning at all. "I know, it's the evening... Professor Snape told me to come and get you," she said.

"Come and get me?" This was too much information for his still asleep brain.

"The other schools are arriving today, don't you remember? Big event and stuff... We spent the entire month preparing for it... Surprising," she said as she met his eyes and he narrowed them, not liking the way she was teasing him. She knew he had to take his time to clear his mind when waking up. And it was coming back to him. The evening before, he had told Snape that he wanted to be there for the feast when he went in his office to take the potion. Even if he was tired, he really wanted to be there and, a bit reluctantly, Snape had agreed. They already had to miss half the Double Potions class they had at the end of the day and apparently, Snape had let Pansy skip the whole class to come and make sure Draco would be there.

"So, let me get this straight... You came here and started talking alone in order to wake me up?" He asked as he sat properly.

"Well, I tried to wake you up but you wouldn't open your eyes," she said, her eyes slowly going down on his chest. He had his pajamas on but she could see the bands under his shirt. "I thought that I might as well talk to somebody who's listening... Even Madam Pomfrey stopped trying to make me shut up..." She explained, speaking a bit lower. Embarrassed, Draco put his pillow behind his back before leaning against it.

"I guess that makes sense..." He said, staring at Pansy, barely aware of what she had told him. She stopped looking at his chest and met his eyes again.

"I'm sorry..." She almost whispered. "Does it hurt really bad?" He shrugged.

"I've had worse, you know it."

She pursed her lips and they kept looking at each other for a few seconds before she decided it was enough. She turned her head, taking something on the bedside table.

"Here," she said as she handed him chocolate. He couldn't help but chuckle. She had done the same the month before. As well as during the summer. She had come at the Manor a few times, it had become a habit since their second year, and she had brought him chocolate every time, just like she had said she would before the holidays.

He took the chocolate, removed a part of the wrapper and cut it in half, sharing with his friend. "So, when did you tell dear Severus that I knew?" She asked, trying to change the subject.

"Last night," Draco said before taking a bite of his chocolate. "I told him I wanted to be there for the feast, and not be stuck here... Can you imagine? He knows I've been waiting for this for months, since Father told me about the tournament. Didn't really want to let me out but I know how to make him agree," Draco said as he smirked. "So, anyway, I told him that maybe he could send you here, since he's giving Potions right now. Told him you knew, told him it was alright. Is there a problem with that?"

"Nah, not at all," Pansy said as she shrugged. "I was just curious. Does it mean you two are... Talking again?" Draco grimaced. Pansy had expected that. It was a rather sensitive subject.

"Kind of," Draco said as he shrugged again, clearly not wanting to talk about it too much. "We sorted a few things out, but I'm still mad. So he has to deal with it."

"Alright, one last question," Pansy said and Draco sighed, looking at her as he bit in his chocolate again. "What the hell is this?"

He laughed again as he saw that she was taking the rock he had put on the bedside table.

"Don't touch that, it's a gift and it's mine," he said as he took it from her hands.

"From who? You don't have friends who would make you gifts like that," she said as she frowned a little. Draco raised an eyebrow.

"That's... Delicate, thank you," he said and Pansy chuckled.

"You know that's not what I mean. But... I don't see Crabbe or Goyle giving you this and you being so protective of it." Draco laughed quietly at the thought and he shook his head.

"I'm not telling," he said.

"Secret admirer, maybe? Don't tell me it's Granger?" Pansy said as she grimaced. Draco rolled his eyes.

"No, it's not Granger, Panse, why would she give me something like that? No, it's... kind of a new friend," he said.

"A new friend? And I don't know about this new friend?" Pansy asked, not liking being put aside. Draco was always telling her basically everything about everyone and the stuff that was happening in his life, even more since she knew his biggest secret.

"I said "kind of a new friend", I didn't say we were best pals, Panse. Don't worry, you're still number one in my heart. Don't get jealous over a rock," he said jokingly before he got up. He was still tired but definitely ready to see the other schools coming.

 

"Harry Potter."

They all looked at the boy. The Great Hall was silent, even if it had been filled by the cheers of the students a few seconds before.

Of course, he had to ruin it. He couldn't help it, could he? Pansy exchanged a disgusted look with Draco. They had had a really good time since the arrival of the other schools. The evening before, Durmstrang even sat with them and they both had the occasion to talk with Krum and some other students. Draco was very excited about it, after having seen him during the World Cup. And that day, as they were celebrating Halloween and discovering the name of the champions, Potter had to be chosen too. Obviously.

"He's a cheat," Pansy whispered as she shook her head and Draco kept staring at Potter. Next to him were Ron and Hermione, who were looking as taken aback as the rest of the school and Draco wondered if it was genuine. Surely, Potter would have talked about it to his best friends if he had planned on participating. A moment later, Hermione was pushing him to make him leave the table, Dumbledore calling him again. The celebrations didn't last as long as they should have, that night.

And during the next few days, Draco really tried hard not to make fun of him but he couldn't help it. He had to make some remarks, just to annoy him. He had noticed that he wasn't talking to Ron anymore and unfortunately, he was spending most of his time with Hermione because of that. Which meant Draco couldn't see her much anymore. Frustrated, he was taking it out on Harry. It was easy, natural, everyone was used to it. But he had to say, it was even funnier because everyone was sharing his opinion.

 

"Even Ron is ignoring him..." Hermione sighed after a few minutes already spent with Draco in the Clock Tower. "I can't believe it, he didn't ask for this."

"And still, he was chosen for the tournament. Seems like he really doesn't have any luck, does he?" Draco said sarcastically as he kept his eyes fixed on what he was doing. Hermione frowned a little.

"Come on, Draco. I know you think you are really funny when you mock him but don't tell me you truly believe he did this behind our backs?" Draco shrugged. "How could he possibly have done that? Dumbledore created the age line, he wouldn't have been able to put his name in the Goblet of Fire!"

"I don't know, maybe he found a way around it. He's apparently such a great wizard," he said, morose.

"I doubt it, frankly, even Fred and George couldn't."

"They tried with a stupid Aging Potion, of course it didn't work. You said yourself that it was stupid," Draco said as he rolled his eyes.

"What is it with you today?" Hermione asked. His mood was reminding her of the one he often had when a cycle was approaching but the thing was; the next full moon wasn't approaching yet. And she knew it wasn't just "today", he had been in a bad mood for quite some time now. And he wouldn't let her see what he was doing, she just knew he had bought a lot of badges and that he was working on them. He shrugged.

"There's nothing with me, it's just annoying, it's all."

"Is that all that there is, really?" Hermione asked, narrowing her eyes. He glanced at her and shrugged again.

"Yeah." This time, she raised an eyebrow.

"I can leave if I'm bothering you," she said shortly. Draco closed his eyes as he sighed before he leaned against the wall, shaking his head as he looked at the badge between his fingers.

"Nah, don't leave. I don't want you to. It's just... It's nothing... It's stupid."

"Why would it be?"

"Because you're going to make fun of me."

"Come on, I'm not going to make fun of you, why would I?" Hermione asked with a little smile. She was already reassured a little, in a way. It meant that she wasn't bothering him.

"It's... I can barely spend time with you because of all of this!" He finally let out, still staring at his badge as he felt his cheeks becoming a bit warmer. "It's unfair. Just because he doesn't have any friends... It doesn't mean he can keep you for himself..." He said, this time looking away. Hermione smiled a little and tried not to laugh. She didn't want to make fun of him, that wasn't the reason she was amused. "And when you're not with him, and that you're in the library, I can't even come and see you because we're never alone! When there's no other students, there's Krum and his fans. What's he doing there anyway? Doesn't seem like he reads a lot, that bloke... Even Potter's hanging out there with you now, because he doesn't want to be alone..." Draco mumbled. Hermione's smile became a bit bigger and it annoyed Draco when he glanced at her. "Don't-! It's not funny, I told you!"

"I don't think it’s funny, Draco!" Hermione said as she finally let out a little laugh. He frowned as he met her eyes, not convinced. Hermione smiled at him as she put her hand on his wrist. "I think it’s sweet, actually."

"There's nothing sweet about it, really," Draco said as he grimaced, looking away again. He couldn't even figure out exactly why he was so angry about all of this. He knew what jealousy was, of course, but he wasn't jealous of Potter, he was just really annoyed because he couldn't spend time with her. And in the end, maybe he was just angry at himself.

It was his fault if they were keeping their relationship secret. If he could bring himself to show everyone what he was feeling, it wouldn't have to be this way. But he wanted to put the blame on everything but himself. On Potter, because the only friend he got left was Hermione, on Viktor because he had all those students following him around and they were in the library every time Hermione was there. But he would never claim that it was because he was too cowardly.

"It's ridiculous."

"It's not, trust me... I've been wanting to spend more time with you too. It's difficult, I know, there's a lot going on..."

"Why don't you do your homework here with me?" He asked, looking at her again as he straightened up a little. "You're not forced to spend your time in the library, you could do it here. You told me that those girls were annoying anyway, because they make noise and they really are ridiculous. Come here instead... Come on," Draco said and Hermione couldn't help but slowly run her fingers trough his hair, near his ear, before moving her hand down on his cheek. Draco pouted and crossed his arms as he turned his head to make her stop. "I guess that's a no, then."

"Don't be like that... It will change, but I can't spend my time here... I'm trying to help Harry figure out what the first task will be and he needs to be prepared. It's dangerous, people died in this tournament."

"Yeah, well, if you want my opinion, he's not going to last more than ten minutes. And so my father thinks. Actually, he thinks he's not going to last five. Can't wait to see that happen," he mumbled.

"Draco..."

"I bet he's liking the attention... He's already in the paper," he kept on going, taking the newspaper that was next to him without even looking at it, letting it fall in front of Hermione.

"Stop that," Hermione said reproachfully. "I told you, he didn't ask for it." Draco rolled his eyes, still not looking at her. Hermione sighed. "I want to spend more time with you too, Draco, but... You know how it is. If you want it to stay secret, we will have to manage," she muttered. Draco looked down. Even if he was trying not to think about it, he knew that it was also a lot of pressure on Hermione's shoulders. She was lying to her friends, they were acting like nothing was going on, taking their friends for fools, and they were hiding. They couldn't even talk to each other in public, not look at each other or smile at each other.

"I hope they will get over it soon," he said quietly.

"You only say that for yourself, not because you care about their friendship," Hermione noted with a sad smile.

"Why would I care about them when I only care about you?" Draco let out without thinking, staring at the badge he was still making turn between his fingers. Hermione blinked and opened her mouth but he kept on going. "I don't need you to tell me I'm selfish," Draco said and Hermione pursed her lips. "I know I am," he added as he shrugged. Like his father had said, they were all selfish, in a way. "But I want that for us, not only for me, in the end. What is so wrong about that?"

He frowned, trying himself to find the right answer to this question in his head. Hermione didn't say anything but after a few seconds of silence, he felt her hand on his and he couldn't help but interlace their fingers, even if he was annoyed. They both pressed their hands to reassure each other and finally, Draco looked at her.

"I'm sorry... I'm just tired, I'm..." He said before he looked down. "You know I'm not ready for that yet. And I shouldn't complain because it's my fault..."

"It's fine, I guess, I'm used to hear people complaining. When it's not you, it's Harry and when it's not him, it's Ron." Draco grimaced, not liking the comparison. But she was right, they were all giving her a hard time. They stayed silent for a few seconds as Draco looked down again. He didn't really have the right to complain to her about that and he knew it, but he couldn't help it. "It's just... Harder than we thought it would be. But look at us... I know, you might say it's only been four months... And at the same time, yeah, it's been four months. And we're still here, and it's sad we're not able to see each other somewhere else but... We're still here, together."

Their eyes met again and Hermione gave him a sad smile. Draco didn't really react, he just looked at her for a moment before turning his head again.

"I'm sorry..." He repeated and Hermione smiled, sitting closer to him. She leaned against him, letting her head rest against his shoulder.

"It's alright. I understand, you know. I feel the same way..." She said more quietly. "I only have friendships at stake, if I think about it, but... Those are precious and I don't want to lose them. Even if you have more to lose... I understand." Draco sighed.

"Did you really need to choose me? Over all the students? Look at you now, hiding, lying to your friends, going out with the guy they hate... Must be so much pressure. I hide it to keep... privileges..." He almost whispered. Even if she hadn't said it, he wanted to say that she was right, that he was selfish. He didn't want to risk losing his friends, he didn't want to risk having almost his whole House hating him, he didn't want to be treated like Theodore was treated, like she had been treated in the past... by him.

He didn't feel like it was right. He felt like he was hurting her more than anything. Like Potter had said. Even if the cause of the problem wasn't shame, but cowardice, in the end, he was hurting her in the process. He wanted to apologize again but before he could, he heard her whisper.

"You really are an idiot," she said before she raised her head, looking at him. Draco turned his head and met her eyes, narrowing his own a little. "I didn't choose you. It doesn't work that way or... I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have chosen me." He felt her grip on his hand becoming a bit tighter but he didn't react, he kept staring. "It just happened. And... I'm glad it did, I'm glad it's still happening and I don't want it to stop... So what if we need to work hard to make it work? Isn't it worth it? I think it is."

Chapter Text

Draco kept telling himself that figuring out what was the first task would mean Hermione would be able to spend more time with him again, but he was all wrong. Once Potter and her had discovered what it was -and that Hermione refused again and again to tell him what it would be-, they spent most of their free time working on... Well, whatever Potter had to learn to get past it. Regardless, he had been somehow touched when she took some time off, two days before the first task to come and see him. He had to turn the next day and again, she didn't want to leave him alone before that. It seemed like it was enough to wipe off all his frustration about her absence. Because she was working hard and still finding time for what was important, to help her friend and to be there to support him. He felt like he had never met someone so selfless and he knew that maybe, he had to work on that part of himself. Maybe he should stop being annoyed by the situation and that he should try to understand and accept that she had to be there for Potter.

But that very thought made him shiver and he focused on his homework again.

Did it really matter if, when they were able to see each other, Hermione had to be mad because of the badges he had created against Harry? Did it really matter if she had threatened to make him eat one of them if he was pulling something like that again? Did it really matter if lately, she was always talking about the tournament, about how worried she was for Potter, about how much he needed all the help he could get?

Sure, they had some things to work out sometimes. Hermione wasn't always approving of his behavior, especially when it was consisting in being mean with other and often younger students, or with her friends, and it was creating a few discussions annoying the both of them but they were managing. It didn't exactly matter, because like she had said, their relationship was worth it. So, he was working hard not to let her see that he was annoyed to hear about Harry. The worst moment had been when he had tried not to laugh too hard when she had told him Potter couldn't get the Summoning Charm right and that he had spent the whole day and night before the task trying to be able to perform it.  The very thought of Potter struggling for so long to master the charm was very amusing, even if Hermione kept saying that he had been working hard and that Draco shouldn't laugh just because he had been able to learn it in class, way before Harry.

But before all those revelations, the task had taken place. And Draco really didn't want to miss it, at the time. He had to turn the night before, so it meant that he hadn't slept all that much. Again, Pansy had come in the hospital to wake him up like he had asked, because he knew that Snape would have refused to do anything about it. Draco knew that his teacher was right and that it was important for him to rest but he didn't care. So, on November twenty-fourth, he joined his friends, trying to hide how exhausted he was. Even Pansy thought it wasn't a good idea but had Draco cared? No, he didn't at all, even less when he discovered they were about to have to get past dragons. The excitation had given him some energy back and he had been able to enjoy the whole thing.

But the aftermath was the hardest part. He didn't have the possibility to rest enough after that. They had too much work and he could only blame himself, he had wanted to see the task too much. This werewolf thing was not going to spoil his fun, not this year. But it was probably going to annoy him, like all the other years.

They were in Transfiguration and he was fighting the urge to sleep. He let out another yawn, getting a glare from Professor McGonagall and he looked away as he leaned a bit on his seat, blinking slowly. Pansy glanced at him, muttering.

"You shouldn't have come see the task, look at you now."

"No way I would have missed that," he said on the same tone, closing his eyes for a few seconds. "Bummer Potter didn't get too badly injured, though," he added and Pansy smirked as she shook her head. At the same time, he could understand his friend. She had spent the week trying to keep him awake most of the time in class, letting him sleep only in History of Magic. It wasn't the first time she had to do this, but it wasn't usually for so long, just for a couple of days following the cycles. That's why he always needed to rest in the hospital the very next day of the full moon but he had been too stubborn to do that. She looked at him again and wondered if he was asleep.

"Draco," she whispered. She glanced at McGonagall and put a hand on his arm, shaking him a little. "Come on, Draco."

"Potter! Weasley! Will you pay attention?" McGonagall suddenly said a bit louder, sounding irritated. Draco jumped a little on his seat, startled as he opened his eyes again. Like the rest of the class, he looked behind him. In the back of the room were Harry and Ron, fighting with fake wands made by the Weasley twins like they had swords between their hands. Ridiculous. And so thought McGonagall, apparently. Draco and Pansy couldn't help but smirk as they looked at their teacher again, and she told the class she had something to announce. As a part of the tournament, the Yule Ball was coming. Eight o'clock on Christmas Day, until midnight. As she kept giving them some warnings about their behavior during the ball, Draco fought the urge to look at Hermione. He couldn't think about asking her to go with him, he couldn't allow himself to imagine them dancing together. Because he knew he couldn't invite her. The bell rang and he stood up with Pansy, swinging his bag on his shoulder.

 

"Thinking about inviting... Someone to the ball, Draco?" Pansy asked, meeting his eyes. He narrowed them as he perfectly understood what she had meant.

"Don't be silly," he said as he looked at his plate again. The Great Hall was full of students and he didn't feel comfortable about talking about the situation there. He glanced around him, no one was paying attention anyway. Well, Theodore, who was sitting next to Pansy, had glanced at them when he had heard the question but that was it. Then, Draco looked at Crabbe and Goyle and he raised an eyebrow a bit disdainfully. They wouldn't find a date for that special night, clearly, and he didn't want to end up like them and with them all night long. He sighed as he looked at Pansy again. Maybe he could ask her, if he really didn't want to be alone... He glanced at the Gryffindor table, trying to find Hermione. She seemed to be in a better mood since the task. Probably because she was a bit less nervous and because her friends were speaking to each other again. Being around her during that time had been delightful and he couldn't think about talking about the ball with her, he didn't want to ruin anything.

 

And he soon found out that she was avoiding the subject as much as he was. Two days later, as they were in the Clock Tower, exchanging kisses, they heard some noise outside, just at the entrance of the Tower. The voices were echoing in the high place and they stopped kissing, distinctly hearing a student asking another one to the ball. After that, they had been a bit awkward. They avoided each other's eyes as they let go of each other, Hermione fiddling with the strap of her bag as Draco kept staring at the wall in front of him. They didn't talk about it but the moment had been ruined and they just started to talk about the tournament, Draco laughing a bit nervously before he took Hermione's fingers between his own again.

They stayed like that for a week, determined not to talk about it unless they were forced to. What exactly happened.

It was beginning to be a bit late and almost every student had left the library. Almost every one of them except Hermione, Draco and Krum. Hermione, who had been doing her homework, and Draco, who had to catch up on his own, had spent their Saturday afternoon there. They weren't sitting near each other, even though they were at the same table, because they couldn't at the time they had arrived there. The library had been full of students when Draco had walked in and he had spotted Hermione at their usual table. He sat where he could, a few seats away from her and on the other side of the table. And Krum had just stayed there during the afternoon, sitting at the table behind Draco, facing Hermione, with his usual pile of books next to him. The other serious students and his little fanclub had finally left and they were alone. After a few minutes of silence only broken by the quills on the parchments, Krum stood up. Draco felt great, thinking he was going to be able to have some alone time with Hermione but, surprising them both, the young man stopped near the table, in front of Hermione.

She looked up at him, apparently a bit taken aback, and Draco did the same, staring from his seat. Krum was on his left and Draco didn't even notice the drop of ink leaving his quill to make his parchment dirty.

"Hello," Krum said with his deep voice. Draco wrinkled his nose as he saw that Hermione was too surprised to answer back. "Can I sit?"

"Of course," Hermione said quickly, looking flustered. Draco frowned a little, still staring as Krum sat right in front of Hermione.

"I am Viktor," the guy added uselessly.

"Yeah, I know," Hermione said quietly as she nodded. "I'm Hermione... Congratulations for passing the first task." Krum sort of shrugged as he kept looking at the girl in front of him.

"I... I haff been coming here vor some time but I couldn't vind the courage to come and talk to you," he said and Hermione looked away, her cheeks clearly becoming pink. Draco narrowed his eyes as he gritted his teeth. That was the first time he was really feeling jealousy and he didn't like it. He could feel his heart beating hard in his chest, his cheeks becoming warmer and there was a really weird and unpleasant feeling in his stomach. He didn't really feel good. But he wasn't looking at Krum anymore, he was only staring at Hermione. Also, he was a bit skeptical about that courage thing. He could face a dragon and participate at the Quidditch World Cup but he wasn't able to gather some courage to talk to a girl? Well, she wasn't any girl but... It was only in Draco's opinion, Krum didn't even know her. He wondered if it wasn't just something he was saying to flirt with her and he felt his fingers tightening around his quill. "I vanted to know if you vanted to come to the ball vith me?"

It seemed like this demand was echoing again and again in Draco's head, as the unpleasant feeling kept growing in him. He had almost dropped his quill when Krum had spoken and Hermione had gaped at the Champion, apparently trying to find what she could say. Draco's heart was beating even faster than before as he glanced at Krum again.

It was odd. Krum didn't seem to care. He was coming from a school full of purebloods, they were learning the dark arts... but he didn't seem to mind one second inviting Hermione to the ball. Was it because he didn't know for her parentage or because he couldn't care less?

Even if he had said that he didn't have the courage to talk to her before, asking something like that seemed easy for him. Maybe because he could get any girl he wanted? Maybe because he was sure she was going to say yes? Was she going to say yes?

Draco glanced at her again. She totally had the right to accept and go dance with him. 

After all, he hadn't invited Hermione. He had thought about it a lot but never did. Because it would mean going public. It would mean his friends might abandon him. It would mean everything would change. It would mean she could have problems with her own friends too. He had thought that maybe, he could go with Pansy, because Hermione was pretty, she would find someone to go with and pretend. Or she would... go alone.

In both case, the thought was making Draco angry. Firstly because he didn't want her to go with anyone else but him. And secondly because who would be stupid enough not to invite her anyway?

Apparently, not everyone, since Viktor Krum himself was doing it. She was going to go to the ball with Viktor Krum.

After that, she would forget all about him. She would prefer Krum. Famous Quidditch player, rather good looking bloke, not caring about what the others might think of their relationship.

A human.

A guy who wouldn't have to change every full moon, who wouldn't be a danger for her. Who wouldn't be a danger for himself or others. Who wouldn't have a body full of scars. Who wouldn't fall asleep when spending time with her. Who wouldn't be annoying most of the time before a cycle. Who wouldn't be jealous because he'd know she wouldn't leave him for someone better, because he was better himself. Who would be normal and who she would deserve.

He felt anger rise in him. Against himself and against Krum.

He didn't want to see her clutch on his arm, dance with him, have such a good time with another guy that she would forget about him during an entire evening. He didn't want her to realize that he was better. That she deserved better. Because as selfish as it was, Draco didn't want her to see that he had nothing great to offer. To see that he wasn't someone she should be dating, to see that he wasn't good for her. To realize that she did deserve much, much better. And he couldn't stop himself.

"She's already going with someone," he heard himself say out loud, probably a bit more coldly than he wanted to. And before he could realize what he had done, Hermione and Krum had both turned their heads to look at him. He swallowed as he carefully avoided to meet Hermione's eyes and he looked at Krum instead, who raised his eyebrows.

"Oh, I didn't know you two were... A thing," Krum simply said, clearly surprised too. He had never seen them together in the castle or... at all. Draco finally glanced at Hermione who was just looking totally dumbfounded. She couldn't figure why he would say something like that, so suddenly, without having talked to her about it. Was he suddenly ready? They hadn't talked about the ball, she had figured he would never take her there. She hadn't thought of going with anyone, really, she didn't even think someone would ask her. She had come to terms with the fact that they wouldn't be able to go together, but was Draco thinking that the fact they were dating meant they had to go together? It was impossible, she had clearly seen the way he was acting every time he was hearing about the ball... They would have talked about it...

"Well, we are." He had met Hermione's eyes as he said that. He was still very nervous, he could feel his hands shake a little and he put his quill down before crossing his arms to hide his anxiety. Then, he glanced at Krum again. The guy didn't want to create any problem. The only few times he had spoken with Draco were during the feasts, since he was sitting at his table, and he had been very nice with him. Here, he was cold and seemed really bothered by his presence.

"I really didn't know," Krum said as he stood up again. Draco seemed to finally become aware of the way he had been talking and he straightened a little on his seat, staring at Krum.

"It's nothing, really," Hermione said quickly. "Thank you for inviting me, I'm really... Thank you," she repeated as she gave Viktor a really shy smile. Draco glanced at her, then at Viktor again and he nodded stupidly at Krum, not knowing what to do. He hadn't wanted to be so unpleasant but he hadn't been able to help it. He felt even more bad when Krum said he was hoping they would have a great time and he went to get his books before leaving. Draco kept staring at the bookshelf he had disappeared behind for a few seconds before he turned his head, only to find Hermione staring at him. He didn't say anything, he looked more embarrassed than anything, really.

"What the hell is going on?" She let out, trying to keep whispering not to have Madam Pince throwing them out. "What was that?" Draco shrugged and it didn't seem to please Hermione. He frowned.

"What, were you planning on saying yes?" He asked a bit aggressively, even if he was still whispering. Hermione frowned too but the thing was, she was scary. He gave her a little smile but she kept staring at him. He looked away as he stopped smiling, only to see that his quill had let even more ink on his homework. "Oh, man..."

"Draco, look at me!" Hermione whispered as she got up. He only glanced at her, taking his quill between his fingers. "You can't do that just because you're- you're- jealous!"

"I'm not jealous!" Draco said directly, frowning again. Hermione raised an eyebrow and Draco looked at his parchment again, even more embarrassed.

"What if I had said yes?" Hermione asked. She pursed her lips when she saw that Draco was still determined to stare at his homework. "We didn't exactly said we would go together, did we? Because if we were going there together, we would be seen, I'm pretty sure you realize that, right?" She kept on going, seeing that she wasn't going to have any answer from her boyfriend. He ended up slightly shrugging and she sighed. "You didn't even ask me to go, you just did that because you didn't want me to go with him... You're not going to take me there, are you?"

Again, he stayed silent. He wanted to. He wanted to invite her so bad. After a moment, Hermione walked around the table to come closer, sitting on the chair next to his as she sighed. When she opened her mouth again, Draco finally talked.

"What if I want to be seen with you?" He asked very quietly, Hermione had barely heard him. He was still not looking at her, he was fiddling the quill he had between his fingers as he bit his lip. He then cleared his throat. "What if... What if I've wanted to invite you since... McGonagall talked about the ball?" Finally, he glanced at her. "What if I want to spend the night dancing with you?" He muttered before looking away again. Hermione tried to stop herself from smiling as she tilted her head, feeling her cheeks becoming warmer and her heart skipping a beat. She would never totally understand the way his brain was working, would she? "I'm not jealous," he added, trying to convince himself more than convincing her, "I'm just... You're supposed to go with me, not with some- some Champion or whatever..."

"I wasn't going to say yes, Draco," Hermione whispered. Draco couldn't help but turn his head, surprised. Hermione shook her head as she smiled. "I didn't feel like it... It wouldn't have been right, I mean..." She tried to explain as she looked at his hands. She slowly removed the quill he was holding, putting it on the table, before she held one of his hand between hers.

"So... So, you're not mad?" Draco asked as he finally met her eyes.

"Of course I'm not mad, but... I don't feel like you thought this through, did you?" She said with an amused smile. He looked down again, scratching his chin with his free hand as he straightened up.

"Not really... I just... I thought you were going to go with him and... Just... Picturing you with him..." He couldn't tell her the way he had felt, he couldn't tell her he was afraid she would prefer Krum because of what he was. He couldn't. "It just made me mad," he whispered.

"But what you did... You know that if we don't go together, now, he might ask why... Do you realize that?" She asked. She knew that Draco wasn't feeling exactly ready to make their relationship official, and she didn't know if she was either, if she had to be honest.

"What I did was reckless, I can agree with that, but... It doesn't mean that... I-" He stopped himself as he closed his eyes, trying to find his words. It was harder than he thought. He finally cleared his throat again, turning his body on his chair to totally face his girlfriend. "Would you go to the ball with me, Hermione?"

She blinked. Hearing him say her name was so weird. It was making him sound even more serious than he already was. Even if they had been going out for five months, he was still calling her Granger, he always had, it was... natural.

"I'm ready," he said. "At least, I think I am. I'm sure I want to be. And I know that I will never be able to convince myself that I am if I don't make decisions, if I don't force myself to do something about it. I just want to be with you, just you... I don't need those hypocrites around me if they don't like it... You're more important than that. Come to the ball with me, please."

She slowly smiled as she put one hand on his cheek, slowly moving her thumb against it. She wanted to engrave this moment in her memory forever. He looked so honest and kind at that moment, also a bit vulnerable, afraid she would say no. And she thought that he should know better, that he should know she would never refuse.

"Of course I'll go to the ball with you..." She whispered back, still smiling. She saw the relief on his face, and the relaxation of his body as she said those words. She also felt his grip on her hand becoming more tight as he smiled enough for her to see his teeth. "I can't wait, actually." She leaned to kiss him and he moved his free hand on the back of her neck as he kissed her back, his heart beating really fast. He could feel his body shake a little. He was happy, but also really afraid. In less than a month, on the exact day of their six months anniversary, he would reveal his relationship to almost all the school and the very next day, all the school would know. Needless to say that it was scary, knowing what could come out of it. But he had been honest, he didn't need the others from his House to accept his relationship. He was just hoping that Pansy wouldn't mind, she was the only one that mattered.

 

And actually, he thought that his fear might be something he could work on. What if he was telling Pansy? She was more than aware of his massive crush on Hermione, it's not like she would actually be surprised, right? Right. Right...

During the week-end, they were both working in the Great Hall. Pansy was doing her homework when Draco crossed his arms on the table, resting his head on them.

"Still tired?" Pansy asked without looking at him.

"More bored than anything, really," he said as he stared at her quill. There was almost no one at the table and if they were to speak quietly, no one would hear them. It was the first time since he had invited Hermione that he could finally be more or less alone with her, since Crabbe and Goyle were usually following him around. And Pansy's girl friends seemed to be more interested in... Girl stuff, Draco didn't really know or care. Daphne had stayed next to her for a while but as soon as she was done with her work, she had left the Great Hall too. Draco took his time to glance around the room, seeing that a few students from each houses were either sitting together, either at their respective tables.

"You should use this time either to sleep or finish your work. Then you could rest," Pansy started to say, still looking at her work. Draco finally turned his head towards her, still on his arms.

"Why don't we talk instead?"

"Because I'm working, genius," Pansy muttered before she leaned a bit, checking something in her book. She seemed to be focused and Draco almost felt bad for disturbing her. Almost.

"So, Pansy, you remember that little, but like... very tiny crush I have on Granger?" He asked and Pansy raised an eyebrow, still writing.

"Oh, yes. Yes, I remember your obsession. Hard to forget." Draco frowned as he looked away, muttering something Pansy couldn't hear. "Be careful..." She muttered, knowing that it was against her, hearing him or not. Draco gave her a smile, even thought she still hadn't even glanced at him.

"Anyway," he said, clearing his throat as he glanced around again. He talked a bit more quietly. "Um... Something happened..." He directly glanced at her quill as she stopped writing. She raised her head for a few seconds, looking in front of her. Then, she turned her head to look at Draco, putting her quill on the table. Again, he smiled as she crossed her legs and joined her hands on the table.

"And what do you mean by something?" She asked with an innocent smile. Draco gave it back to her.

"You're not going to freak out, right?" Pansy took a deep breath before she shook her head. "Alright, because I'm really serious, here," he then said. Pansy narrowed her eyes for a second as they stared at each other and she nodded.

"Alright. Tell me."

"Ok, so... This is not what happened but you should know this first... Because it's a part of what happened and if you don't know that, you'll be lost, and you know, I've been feeling really bad about not telling you but at the same time, you can't really blame me because you're a pretty scary lady and-"

"Draco."

"Well, you know... I'm like... I've been, like, going out with her," he said, whispering the end of his sentence as he straightened up on the bench, looking worried. Pansy didn't say anything, she kept staring at him for a moment before finally speaking. Her voice was steady and she was still talking quietly, not showing any sign of anger or disappointment. It wasn't really reassuring Draco, but still.

"When did that begin?" She asked. Draco cleared his throat as he looked down.

"Almost six months ago..." He finally said, looking like a child who was being scold.

"Six months," Pansy repeated, nodding a little as she looked away. Draco glanced at her.

"Well, not yet... Almost..." Draco said before Pansy glared at him. He looked down again. He had done it. He had told her. He felt like his heart was about to explode and he was feeling definitely too hot in his clothes but at least, he had told her. Now, he was waiting for his sentence.

"Can I know why you didn't tell me about it?" He heard Pansy ask and he glanced at her. He frowned when he saw the expression on her face. She seemed to be a bit hurt. He directly put a hand on her arm.

"Wait, Pansy, I didn't mean... I wanted to tell you... So bad, trust me." She shook her head as she looked away, definitely hurt.

"I thought we were telling each other everything. You've been talking about her for a year and you didn't even tell me that. I can't believe it," she whispered.

"I thought you would be mad at me... I wanted you to... I didn't want to argue with you, last time we did... It was too hard," Draco let out as he looked at the table, ashamed. It was a moment before Pansy spoke again, not looking at him either.

"I can't say I'm pleased with the situation. But I'm not mad at you, you stupid... idiot. It's not like I didn't see it coming," she muttered. When Draco glanced at her again, she looked like she was thinking about all of this, a bit lost. Draco pressed her forearm.

"Does it bother you?" He asked. Pansy shrugged. "Look at me, come on, don't be like that..." Again, it took a moment before Pansy looked at him and met his eyes. He gave her a weird smile, clearly embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I really meant to tell you... I just..."

"No, you didn't," she said as she shook her head.

"Pansy-"

"Every time you were leaving to go to the library... Or I don't know where but... Where she was... You two were... And you let me think you guys were just talking, just... friends or something. If you really wanted to tell me, you would have. I must have made a complete fool of myself all this time," she said as she closed her eyes.

"No- It's not like that!" Draco said, trying to get Pansy to look at him again. "I didn't... Mean for you to feel this way, I just- I didn't know if I could tell you... I was afraid..."

"Oh, because after everything, you thought this might shock me in any way?" Pansy asked, frowning. She was right. He should have known. She had accepted so much already. He suddenly felt really bad. She only deserved honesty from him but he had kept lying. "You're unbelievable," she added and Draco looked down. She knew he was a bit messed up, it wasn't big news, but she would have never thought he would have such trust issues. Especially with her. And at the same time, it was explaining a lot of his reactions. The way he had been acting with Lupin during the last year, sometimes appreciating the time spent with him, and then saying that he was probably just pretending. The way he had been hurt every time he was paying a bit less attention to him. The way he had been acting out to the point Hermione had slapped him. Why he was so hurt by Snape, because of that night. It made perfect sense. And at the same time, it was still hurting to see that he was still so afraid of her reaction.

She got it, of course. When she had learnt about him being a werewolf, she had also been able to see how afraid he had been as soon as they had started to talk about it. She had been really shocked, hurt, and she didn't know what to think at the time, but he hadn't let her say anything, really. He had told her a bunch of different things before leaving her alone, crying, because he couldn't face the rejection, even if she really wanted to discuss it with him.

He had never handled rejection very well, this guy, and she could understand why. Even when it came to Potter, he had never been able to accept the way he had rejected his friendship in their first year. They had had a long conversation about it in their second year, and they started to be really close after that.

Rejection was probably the thing he hated the most, given his situation. He was always afraid to be rejected, growing up the way he did, hiding his condition. Even if people didn't know, he was probably feeling like being rejected meant they knew something was wrong with him, that he shouldn't be there, that he was what was wrong. So he was acting out, and he was mean and he wasn't letting a lot of people get too close.

"It's fine," she said quietly, looking at him. Draco seemed surprised. She tried to give him a smile. It wasn't fine, not really. Well, it wasn't such a bad situation either. Draco was somehow free to date whoever he wanted to date, since he wasn't... pure. He was a part-human, did he really have to care about that anymore? But the thing was, she knew the others, those not knowing he was a lycanthrope, wouldn't understand, and they might create problems. What if they were starting to bully him for that? Draco didn't need that, really. That's probably why he had been keeping the relation secret for so long. Oh, well, she would be there for him, whatever might happened.

"Fine?" Draco whispered.

"Well, you know," she said, shrugging. Draco knew, yes. It wasn't exactly fine, but not bad either. He nodded. "Draco, please, you need to understand that-"

"That it's something important, that a lot of people will not accept it and that I need to be sure I thought it through. I know, I get it."

"No, Draco," Pansy said, tilting her head as she examined his face. "You need to understand that you can talk to me about anything."

There was a few seconds of silence before Pansy looked away, clearing her throat.

"She makes me happy, Pansy. She makes me feel... better." Pansy looked at him again, considering him for a moment.

"Better?" She asked, scanning his expression. Draco smiled as he looked away, lost in his thought. He looked silly and she wanted to smile too.

"Yeah... Kind of like you do when you give me chocolate, or when you insult me because I'm annoying... She makes me laugh and she makes me smile... And I don't want it to change because people don't like it or don't understand... I want to share all of this with you. I wanted for so long but I didn't have the courage because... I'm not able to think about you not talking to me again, not like last year, I wouldn't be able to stand it."

"I wouldn't either," Pansy said as she gave him a small and sad smile. Draco looked at her for a second before he finally let go of her arm to put his hand on hers for a second. They didn't have to talk more to understand what it meant.

"So... Now, um... What happened is that... You know, the ball..." Draco said quietly. Pansy guessed what he was about to say. Either he had invited her, either he really, really wanted to. She wasn't surprised, they had been dating for six months already. She wondered when it had begun exactly. Did it happen when Draco had met Granger after his stay in the hospital? When he had asked her to give the book to Hermione, with the note in it?  "We were in the library the other day and... Viktor Krum came up to her... to invite her," he started to explain, looking away again. Pansy's eyebrows shot up.

"Excuse me?" Draco frowned a little as he glanced at her.

"Don't be like that... She's pretty and... smart and nice... Of course guys like her," he muttered. Pansy grimaced, it was always weird to hear Draco talk about Granger. Especially now that she knew they were together. But she wasn't expecting that to happen. She wondered if she had accepted Krum's invitation, since they were keeping their relationship secret and she put a hand on Draco's shoulder.

"I'm sorry... But at least, hey, your secret if safe."

"But I stopped him," Draco let out, meeting Pansy's eyes. "She wouldn't have accepted anyway," he added, looking a bit offended.

"Of course she wouldn't have..." Pansy said, patting Draco's shoulder. Draco frowned, still looking very annoyed and Pansy pressed his shoulder. "When you say... you stopped him?"

"I said she was already going with someone... Even though I hadn't invited her," he said.

"Are you kidding me?" Pansy asked quietly, looking around. "Draco, you can't let- you can't do that just because you're jealous! Now, what? You-"

"I'm not jealous!" Draco whispered angrily.

"Keep telling yourself that!" Pansy said on the same tone before she shook her head, looking at the other students. "So what? Does it mean...?"

"Yeah. After that, I told her I wanted to go with her. Panse, that day..."

"The famous six months, huh?" She asked as she looked at Draco again and he nodded. "So you're telling me you're suddenly ready to go public, to show everyone that you're going out with her... You suddenly grew some balls and thought it was a good idea, is that it?" Pansy asked and Draco leaned a bit closer.

"Don't you get it?" He asked quietly and Pansy frowned. "Do you remember when you asked me if she was worth all of this last year? Our attention? My attention? When you were about to kill me?" Pansy stopped herself from smirking, hearing the last sentence, and she didn't say anything. "She is. She's worth everything."

"Dra-"

"I'm in love with her," he whispered, feeling his heart beat very fast and knowing that his pale cheeks were probably taking another shade. Pansy blinked. "You can't change that... They can't change that..."

Pansy took a deep breath before she nodded. They both turned their head when they heard someone clear their throat near them.

"Excuse me, am I bothering you?" Theodore asked, looking rather nervous. They didn't react right away, they actually didn't move at all, they stared at him for a few seconds. He was standing in front of them, across the table, and he gave them a shy smile.

"Not at all, Theo. What is it?" Pansy asked before smiling to him. Draco glanced at her. He knew that she had known Theodore since they were kids, he remembered her talking about their mothers being long-time friends. Maybe he would have been close with Theo if his father hadn't died in the first war. He was a Death Eater and he knew Draco's father, but after the war, it seemed like his mother had changed their way of living. Hence, Draco's father had stopped inviting them at the Manor, so he had never met Theodore before coming to Hogwarts.

He knew that the Parkinsons were still on good terms with them, though, regardless of their change. But as Draco also knew, in the end, the three of them were outsiders. Theodore was open about it, Pansy and Draco weren't. No one knew for Draco, no one knew for Pansy, and they were fine with things being the way they were for now. And that's why Pansy wasn't really hanging out with Theodore at school. They were sometimes talking, but it was never lasting very long. And sometimes, she had him over at her place during the holidays when he was coming for dinner with his mother. Or she was going at his place, when their mothers were having tea together. So Draco guessed they were friends, somehow.

Theodore didn't seem to mind not being able to hang out with her at school, he was fine with being alone, apparently. He seemed like a nice guy, but Draco had been too busy paying attention to his own reputation to care, at the time, so they had never been close or anything. Theo was very discreet anyway, kept to himself a lot. Lonely type, this bloke. They had been sharing the same dorm for four years now but Draco was mainly talking to Crabbe and Goyle there, not the two other boys.

"Um... I was wondering. You know, there's the Yule Ball during the holidays and, I thought that maybe..." Theo started to say, stopping when he finally met Pansy's eyes, clearly intimidated. Draco raised his eyebrows, more than eager to see how this would go. He wasn't looking at Pansy anymore, he was just staring at Theo, still sitting very close to his best friend. Theo glanced at him, actually a bit embarrassed before he looked at Pansy again. "I thought I'd invite you..." He finally said with a shy smile. "Unless of course-! I mean, you guys-" He added, looking at Draco.

"Oh, no!" Draco directly said as he sat properly again, laughing probably a bit too loudly for Pansy's liking. She slowly turned her head to look at him, while he was still chuckling, and she stared until he met her eyes, stopping immediately.

"How delicate, Draco," she said coldly, narrowing her eyes for a second. Draco opened his mouth but he couldn't say anything to her. He then looked at Theo again as he smiled a bit.

"I mean, we're not going together, it's not like that."

"Oh, great, so... Pansy?" Theo asked, looking definitely more hopeful. Draco didn't know if Pansy was actually planning on going to the ball. She liked this kind of nights, he knew it, he had actually accompanied her once to one where they were both going with their families, when they were both younger. But no one had asked Pansy yet and Draco didn't know if she would accept. Knowing she had no interest in boys, maybe she wouldn't give him false hopes, so he was waiting for a no, thinking she would probably go by herself, or with some friends, since Draco wasn't available anymore.

"I'd love to, Theo," she said with a cute smile. Theo nodded, grinning.

"Nice, um, great, cool. I'm..." He glanced at Draco then at Pansy again, looked at what she was doing and he nodded again before leaving. Pansy shook her head slowly, still smiling a little before she looked at what she had been writing again. Draco was staring at her, a bit surprised.

"Didn't know he was your type," he said playfully. Pansy glanced at him.

"It's not like that," she said. "You of all people should know it."

"It's not like that for you but... I don't know, he seemed really nervous. You're going to give this guy false hopes," he said as he leaned against the table, resting his head on his hand.

"I will not. I can go with a friend, can't I?" Draco shrugged and glanced at Theo who was apparently leaving the Great Hall.

"Well, yeah, but what if he wants to be more than a friend?"

"Look, I've known him for a very long time, we're just friends," she said as she wrote again, "He's nice, polite, funny... I don't see the harm. Plus, since you're going to ruin everything by going with Granger there, I might as well enjoy the night since hanging out with you will make me despicable too."

"Are you trying to get back at me because I laughed?" Draco asked as he narrowed his eyes. She simply smiled before she shrugged.

Chapter Text

"Don't laugh..." Ginny said gloomily as Harry and Ron laughed. Apparently, the thought of someone accepting to go to the ball with Neville was really funny, and that was why Hermione had apparently made up the fact that she had already been asked. Speaking of Hermione, she was coming in the common room right at that moment, after the dinner she had actually eaten with Neville because her best friends weren't there.

"Why weren't you two at dinner?" She asked, walking towards them. Harry and Ron were still laughing, not really paying attention. At least, they weren't until Ginny, annoyed, told Hermione that they had been turned down by Fleur and Cho. Now, they were the ones who were annoyed. Hermione smiled a little.

"I guess all the good-looking ones are taken," Hermione said, amused. They thought they were so clever, didn't they? Well, justice had been served. Ron didn't listen to what else she had to say, he looked like something had struck him.

"Wait, Neville's right," he said as he stood up. "You are a girl."

"Well spotted," she said coldly.

"Why don't you come with one of us, then?" Ron asked, suddenly excited by the perspective. Of course, he should have thought about it before! It was as easy as that! Hermione would go with him and Ginny would go with Harry! He was smiling brightly at Hermione who just raised an eyebrow.

"I can't come with you," Hermione said, irritated.

"Don't be like that, we really need partners!" Ron said, annoyed that she was taking so long to say yes. Was she going to lie to him too?

"I can't," Hermione repeated, exchanging a look with Ginny who smiled at her encouragingly. "I'm already going with someone."

"No you're not," Ron said, beginning to be really impatient. "You just made that up because you didn't want to go with Neville," he said, frowning.

"Did I, now?" Hermione said, even more coldly than before. She narrowed her eyes. "It's not because you didn't notice I'm a girl until now that no one else has!" She snapped, surprising Ron a bit. He stared at her for a moment before he rolled his eyes.

"Come on, we know you're a girl," he said. "Will you come, now?"

"No, I'm going with somebody else!" She almost shouted before walking past Ron to go in her dorm, angry. Ginny stared at her brother and shook her head as he turned.

"Why is she lying like that? She can just say she doesn't want to go with us, if she really wants to go alone," he sighed, annoyed, sitting down again.

"She's not lying," Ginny said, still staring at her brother.

"You know who she's going with?" He asked eagerly, smiling at his sister.

"Yes, I do," she said calmly. "And it's none of your business." Ron rolled his eyes again, clearly not convinced and sure she was in the joke. After having to refuse to go to the ball with Harry because she had already said yes to Neville, Ginny stormed off to join Hermione, tired of Ron's behavior. And she was also sad that she had missed her chance to spend the evening with Harry. It would have been the perfect evening, they would have danced together and maybe he would have realized something, maybe it would have hit him like the fact that Hermione was a girl had hit Ron that night. She shook her head and knocked on the door of the dorm before opening it.

"Hermione, can I come in?" She asked as she spotted Hermione who was lying on her bed. She didn't seem to feel quite well. "Are you alright?" She asked, walking in and closing the door behind her.

"Yes..." Hermione sighed as she sat down. Ginny joined her, sitting next to her friend. "It's just... I'm really nervous. It's so stressful... And they're behaving like- like..." She sighed again, shaking her head.

"It's going to be fine. You're going to have a great night," Ginny said, confident. Hermione smiled sadly at her.

"I don't know about that," she said. Ginny tilted her head.

"Did something happen with Draco?" She asked very quietly. They were alone in the room but she knew that Lavender and Parvati were keen to listen to conversations, especially when it was allowing them to gossip afterwards. Hermione shook her head.

"No, everything's fine... Really, it's so great," she said and even if she was feeling bad, she couldn't help but smile. Which made Ginny smile. She glanced at Hermione's bedside table, spotting the music box. Hermione was, indeed, having a really great time with Draco, even if she had already told Ginny how hard it was to live this in secret. "But... Still, your brother and Harry... They will hate me like they hate him," she whispered.

"Of course they won't," Ginny said and she met Hermione's eyes. "Obviously, they're going to be angry, they're not going to like it. But if they really are your friends, they will have to deal with it."

"It's not that simple," Hermione said before she sighed again. "Look at Harry and Ron, they've stopped talking to each other during two months because of the tournament... They're never going to speak to me again after learning I'm dating the guy they hate the most in this school..." Ginny got it, of course, but she couldn't tell her that she was right, that they would be mad at her and probably stop talking to her at least for a while. Because Hermione needed to be confident. She couldn't back out, change her mind about the ball because she was afraid. She had to go with Draco, she had to let people know. She had already told Ginny about how much she wanted to be able to spend time with him without having to hide, without having to make Ginny lie to her brother and Harry.

"Did you ever thought about talking to them about it before the ball?" She asked. Hermione shook her head.

"No, absolutely not!" She said. The very thought was scaring her too much. Plus, she was angry, now. "Especially not after they way Ron just acted. He doesn't need to know, he'll see that I wasn't lying. That will teach him a lesson!"

"Exactly, it will!" Ginny said, smiling again, glad to see that she was still determined to go with Draco.

"What will teach a lesson to who?" Lavender asked as she walked in with Parvati. They hadn't been listening, but they had arrived in front of the door when Hermione had said that. A chance they didn't stop in their track, because Ginny was about to say how excited she was to finally see them together.

 

"Can't wait to see what you'll look like at the ball, Weasley!" Malfoy called from the other side of the hallway as he was approaching with Pansy. The holidays had began and not a lot of students had left the castle to go back home. They were all too excited by the upcoming ball. "And what your partner will look like. Not as bad as you, I guess."

Pansy looked at the two boys from head to foot.

"Draco, for that, they need a partner. Let's just see if they've got one, then we'll laugh," she said and they sneered, walking past them. They both turned, still walking though.

"I know, maybe you guys could go together? You'd make a lovely couple of losers," Draco added and they laughed again before disappearing in the crowd. Ron was muttering about who was a loser and Harry elbowed him.

"Relax, we have partners, it'll be fine," he said, now that he was sure Padma had accepted to accompany Ron to the ball.

"I would have liked to see him go alone," Ron mumbled, shaking his head. "Hope he'll be too busy showing off for Parkinson to come talk to us," he added. Harry made a face, thinking about the upcoming night. He didn't need to add that to the list of his worries.

"At least you're not the one who will have to dance first with the other Champions... He's never going to let me forget that."

 

Not only did Christmas Day arrived way faster than Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco had expected it to, but Draco woke up to find an enormous pile of gifts near his bed. It's with a certain delight that he opened them to find some stuff he had asked for during the year as well as more gifts. There was also a roll of parchment and when he opened it, he discovered the license his family needed if Draco wanted to take the Crup home.

"Awesome!" He let out as he put it aside, looking at a curious gift. The wrapping was a bit different, he wasn't used to that. He removed it only to discover a book from which a note fell out. It was from Hermione. He smiled, thinking that at that point, she had probably received the book he had bought her too.

"Enjoying your presents?" Pansy asked as she leaned in the doorway. Draco quickly turned his head, looking at her. He then smiled as he nodded. Then, put a finger on his lips as he nodded towards Theo's bed and Pansy walked in, closing the door behind her.

"But I have to say..." Draco whispered as Pansy approached to sit next to him. "I might make you eat the one you gave me," he said as he put his new book under the license.

"Come on, you should learn about them, it's important," Pansy said as she smirked, looking at the book she had bought him.

"I don't need to know anything about ferrets," Draco said shortly. Pansy knew that he was amused, though.

"Maybe I should read it to learn how to domesticate you, then," she said. "Maybe you'll be able to behave properly if I do."

"You-" Draco began before gritting his teeth, narrowing his eyes as he looked at Pansy who was grinning. "You be careful..."

"I'm so afraid, now," Pansy said before she glanced at Theo's bed. "You should be the one sleeping, not that bloody idiot. You sure you'll be alright for the ball?" She asked as she stared at Malfoy's pale face. The cycle was two days later and he wasn't looking too good. He shrugged.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. I just need to stay inside today, rest a little, you know..." He said. "It's fine if you go, though," he quickly added. He had spent Christmas Day with Pansy ever since they had met and he liked that, but he wouldn't force her to stay around if he was sleeping. At least, unlike the year before, he didn't have to turn that night. What a horrible day it had been. Worst Christmas ever. He shivered as he thought about it again, and looked down as he remembered Pansy's disappointment when he had told McGonagall that he was staying in the castle for the holidays, meaning they wouldn't see each other for Christmas that year.

"I'm not going anywhere," Pansy said as she frowned. "After today, I'm probably going to have to share you, so I'm only leaving you in your dreams," she muttered as she looked down at her hands. Draco smiled a little.

"Don't be like that... I'll still let you follow me around," he said. Pansy, trying not to laugh by biting her lip, hit Draco's shoulder, making him laugh quietly. Pansy shared his laughter, still putting a finger on her lips to tell him to stay quiet.

"Would you look at that," Draco whispered after a moment, taking something from his bedside table. "Lupin sent me loads of chocolate. I can't believe him," Draco said as he shook his head, laughing. "I had to hide it from Crabbe and Goyle. He said it helps when stressed. I think he just uses the ball as an excuse to give me some, but still. That's nice," he explained, staring at the bar he had in his hand. He removed the wrapper and broke a piece of it to give it to Pansy.

"He knows about what's going to happen?" She asked and Draco simply nodded as he bit in his chocolate.

"What's going to happen?" Asked a sleepy Theodore as he sat up on his bed, rubbing his eyes. Draco frowned a little.

"Mind your own business, Nott," he said a bit shortly. Pansy frowned and gave him a gentle tap on the knee. Draco shrugged, annoyed. Theodore, who had just woken up, seemed too sleepy to react and they wondered if he had even listened to Draco.

"You really do need to rest if you're going to be in this mood tonight," Pansy said as she shook her head.

"Nonsense," Draco said as he stood up, "I'm hungry, come, let's go eat."

"Why don't you join us, Theo?" Pansy asked. Draco glanced at her and she frowned.

"Alright, yeah, let me get dressed," Theo asked, actually looking very surprised. Pansy nodded and smiled at him before she grabbed Draco's arm to make him follow her. He didn't let go of his chocolate but glanced at the gifts still on his bed, pouting as he let Pansy guide him outside the dorm. She closed the door again and turned to face her best friend.

"Stop acting like that, he's really nice, you just don't know him."

"I don't care, it's our day," Draco mumbled. "Plus, he looks mean, whatever he accepts and however he lives like." Pansy wanted to laugh, knowing how ironic this was coming from Draco's mouth, but she didn't. She pointed a finger at him.

"Stop acting like that, Draco, you'll be nice to him. We might be your only friends after tonight. You'll see that he's worth it."

"I'm not acting like anything," Draco mumbled as he narrowed his eyes, crossing his arms. Pansy raised an eyebrow, even less impressed than before.

"Yes, you do. You're acting like a baby," she said and Draco narrowed his eyes even more, so much that they were almost closed.

"He's fine with being alone!" He whispered, nodding at the door.

"Doesn't mean he doesn't like company," Pansy said on the same tone. She knew why Draco was acting like that. He was way too possessive and he didn't like the idea of sharing this day with anyone else but her. Even in their second year, Draco had asked his parents if they could invite her family over for Christmas. "You say he looks like he's mean, but has he ever been with you?" Pansy asked. Draco sneered.

"I don't need him to be mean with me. I've never wanted to hang out with him. You know why they don't like him. D'you think I would have spent my time trying to befriend him? I have a reputation-"

"That you're about to lose! Might as well start now," Pansy added, hands on her hips. Draco frowned but said nothing. "You'll thank me when you're not going to be all alone after tonight. And who knows, maybe you'll actually find you have some things in common."

"I frankly doubt it," Draco said, looking away. Pansy shook her head. "And what's he like anyway?" Pansy crossed her arms as she opened her mouth and the door opened. They both looked at Theo. Pansy smiled at him.

"Did you at least took the time to open your presents?" She asked before shooting a glance at Draco when Theodore started to talk. The three of them went down the stairs to leave their common room and go to the Great Hall. Draco noticed that a few Slytherins were glancing at them as they made their way out.

 

Draco barely had the chance to exchange a look with Hermione during breakfast. The tables were full of students, unlike the last year when almost no one was there, and she was busy with her friends. He, however, was busy only listening to Pansy and Theodore's conversation. They stayed in the Great Hall for quite some time, even if the other students were starting to leave and soon, almost a few of them were still there. Then, Draco, still a bit annoyed, said that he wanted to go back to bed, glancing at Pansy. Again, she invited Theo to stay with them and they went back in the dorm. Draco lay on his bed and hid under his covers, frowning as he crossed his arms. But in the end, he was too tired to care too much and he fell asleep without noticing it.

When he opened his eyes, feeling someone slightly shaking his body, he almost jumped out of his bed, seeing Theodore close to him.

"I-I'm sorry! Pansy went to get ready for the ball half an hour ago and- and she told me to wake you up, she said you have to see Professor Snape, is that right?" he said, looking a bit nervous. Draco frowned, removing his covers.

"Yeah, yeah, it's right," he mumbled.

"You slept all day long, are you alright?" Theo asked. Draco was still looking very tired for someone who had gone to bed early and who had slept for so long that day but he nodded.

"I'm perfectly fine," Draco said as he stood up, checking the clock of the common room. "She already left to get ready? But it's not that late," he mumbled.

"Well, you know, girls," Theodore said as he walked towards his own bed again.

"And what would you know," Draco mumbled so low that there was no way Theodore had heard him. He thought about it for a second before he crouched in front of his trunk, opening it to get his clothes for that night out. "So, Pansy, huh?" He said, capturing Theodore's attention again.

"Ah, yeah," Theodore said with a little smile. "I have to say, I thought she'd say no. I'm pretty lucky she said yes, though, she's really nice with me," he added. Draco nodded and opened his mouth only to hear Theo continue. "I was nervous but I thought that if I wasn't asking at that exact moment, I might as well never do it. You didn't make it easy, I mean, I thought you guys would go together and since you were there, it was intimidating-"

"Yeah, I told you, it's not like that," Draco said quickly, interrupting him. He thought that this guy was talking too much, he didn't really like that. Or he was looking for an excuse to not like him, Draco didn't even know anymore at that point. Theo stayed silent for a few seconds, looking at him.

"Who are you going with anyway?" He suddenly asked. Draco really didn't want to talk to him and he thought it was clear. He wasn't trying to behave and talk to him properly. Still, Theodore was trying to discuss. Draco was never searching for new friends, he hated that more than anything. It was too much worries, he didn't need to have more people he needed to lie to. Maybe that's why he was so reluctant with Nott. What if Pansy was right? What if he was actually nice or whatever she was thinking of him? What if he was starting to like the guy? He didn't want to be bothered, he didn't want to have to hide everything to another person.

"You'll see when we'll go," Draco said coolly.

 

"I thought you'd never come," Snape said, not looking up from his papers as Draco closed the door behind him. He was already ready for the ball, like most of the students.

"I had to get ready," he just said, feeling extremely nervous. He was wide awake now, there was no way he could keep his eyes closed more than two seconds. He couldn't stay still either and he had just left the room because he didn't want to talk with Theodore anymore. "Big night," he mumbled. Snape glanced at him before he put his quill on his desk, getting up. He walked towards Draco and the cauldron with the Wolfsbane Potion. He opened one of his cabinets to take a cup before he stepped next to his student.

"Is it, for you?" Snape asked, not looking at Draco. But the boy glanced at his godfather and he cleared his throat.

"Yeah, it is." Snape finally looked curiously at him. It was the first conversation they had this way since Snape had confronted Draco. He was often cold with him and his teacher had thought it was changing when Draco had asked him to walk to the Whomping Willow with him but it didn't really change anything. Draco was still very reluctant to talk about his private life with Snape. He couldn't help but still feel very bad about what had happened. Snape had hurt him and Draco wasn't the kind of boy who was forgiving easily, his teacher knew that. So, he didn't know if he should ask Draco why it was important. He knew what kind of things Draco could say back, just to hurt him. And he didn't know if he had the patience. Not with Karkaroff following him around the way he was, he was tired and not in the mood to put up with another fit of anger from Draco. "You'll see..." Draco muttered, feeling Snape's eyes on him. And after taking his potion, he went back to his dorm to join Pansy and Theo, ready to go, they were just waiting for him.

 

Even if at first, Harry was annoyed to have to go down in the Entrance Hall a bit early, wanting to stay in the common room, his mood changed a bit when he noticed the Slytherins. Ron was asking for the third time where Hermione was, sure she was probably alone and crying in her dorm, when Harry nodded towards them.

"I have no clue but look who's here," he told his best friend. Ron turned his head towards the entrance of the dungeons. He couldn't help but smile when he saw who had just emerged. Draco, Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy and Theo. Apparently, Crabbe and Goyle, who were standing a bit aside and glancing at Theodore, and to the surprise of no one, hadn't found anyone to go to the ball with. They noticed that Pansy and Theo were going together, since she was clutching his arm. So, Ron and Harry were delighted to see Draco alone, hands in his pockets as he was staying near Pansy and Theo.

"How ironic," Ron said with a big smile on his face. If something could make him happy that night, it was definitely seeing this.

"I was sure he would go with Parkinson," Harry said and Ron chuckled.

"Yeah, well, maybe even she realized he wasn't worth the effort." They both laughed and kept talking about it for a moment, thinking about how they would never let Malfoy forget that night he'd spend alone when even they had partners.

Then, they heard Padma and Parvati whispering and saw them pointing at something.

"She's so beautiful," was something they heard and they turned their heads to discover who the twins were talking about. Up the stairs, a shy but indeed very beautiful Hermione was arriving, capturing a few people's attention. She was going down the steps carefully, a shy smile on her lips as she noticed not only her friends but, a few feet behind, Draco with his own friends.

Draco finally turned his head in the direction of the stairs when he heard Pansy's girl friends muttering and saw one of them pointing at someone. He had been really focused on not looking in this direction for a while, he was too nervous. His heart was pounding hard in his chest and Pansy could see how strained his smile had been when she had tried to make him feel a bit better a minute before. Theo, who still had no clue about what was going on with Draco that day, had just understood that it was an important night.

Once out of the dungeons, Draco hadn't joined Theo and Pansy's conversation, even less Crabbe and Goyle's, he had just looked like he was listening to them. But Pansy knew better. She knew that in his pockets, his fists were clenched to the point his hands were probably hurting. She knew that he wasn't really looking at them either and that he was deep in his thoughts. And she had pressed his forearm and smiled at him when he had finally looked at her, trying to make him know that it would be alright.

But now, the expression he had on his face... She had never seen it but she understood. She understood what Draco had been trying to make her understand, she understood what he was trying to explain when it came to his feelings for Hermione. When he had turned his head, when he had seen her, there was no more strained smile on his face, just a totally new expression. His body had relaxed not only because he was too taken aback to let the nervousness overwhelm him anymore, but also because he was at ease with her, calm when she was around, and captivated by her. Pansy was pretty sure that if she was pushing him just a little, he would fall on the floor.

And she was quite right. Draco wasn't even feeling his legs anymore because of his anxiety and the weird feeling which was taking more and more space in his stomach. He also knew how to breathe, he was pretty sure he could remember how to do it, but it seemed like his body didn't want to obey and he stayed still for a moment, trying to process what was going on.

God, she was beautiful. He had never seen her in this kind of dress, with this kind of haircut and this kind of beauty. He had seen a lot of people in this kind of clothes. He had seen his mother getting ready for this kind of night and he had always thought she was the most beautiful among the other women. He had seen a lot of young girl there in this kind of dress but it seemed like Hermione was the one who could pull those off the best. Maybe he was only thinking that because he was in love, but he didn't feel like even Fleur Delacour could compete with his girlfriend.

He felt a pressure on his arm but he didn't look at Pansy, who was still gaping at Hermione. He knew why she was doing that, it was time for him to react and do something, but it took him two more seconds to finally move. A lot of people were staring at Hermione, including her friends. That was it, this was the moment they would all know. And damn, was he ready.

He removed his hands from his pockets and, letting out the really small amount of air left in his lungs, he stepped forwards, surprising the Slytherins around him, including Crabbe, Goyle and Theodore. Some students thought that he was just going to insult her, obviously, what else could he be doing? And others were staring curiously, daring to imagine something else. At that point, he didn't even notice that he had walked past Harry and Ron already. He only had eyes for Hermione. Again, she smiled very shyly at him, maybe even more than before.

Ginny was up the stairs with Neville. They had left the Gryffindor Tower with a very nervous but excited and gorgeous Hermione and they had stopped to let her go down the stairs alone, not to ruin anything. Ginny would have never expected being able to see this kind of expression on Draco's face and was definitely glad to have waited up there. Still, she couldn't help but stop staring at him for a second, just to look at Ron and Harry. Seeing them stare at Draco's back was priceless. They were looking lost, trying to understand why the hell he was approaching Hermione who was stopping almost at the end of the stairs, facing him and smiling.

As his heart got totally carried away because of the overflow of emotions going through his body and his head, he held out his hand. They both heard a few gasps behind, whispers, a Ravenclaw so shocked she had let out a "No way!" easily heard by the rest of the students there. Some girls were trying not to giggle excitedly as Hermione slowly put her hand on Draco's. And finally, he smiled at her. It was shy, a very small smile reflecting his anxiety, but he was smiling. She felt his fingers tighten a little around her palm as she slowly went down the two last steps and he finally turned.

The amusement Ron and Harry had felt a minute before had totally left them as fast as it had appeared. They couldn't believe it. Actually, they didn't even know how to react. Lavender had made her way between the students, leaving Seamus behind, to whisper with Padma and Parvati but they weren't even hearing the girls next to them. They were watching the scene with a weird mix of surprise, anger, disgust and incoherence. Ginny wished she had a camera with her because she wanted to remember their faces forever. She was just hoping Hermione wouldn't look at them and just focus on her night. She saw Draco getting a bit closer to Hermione, leaning a bit to whisper something to her. No one heard what he told her, no one knew how beautiful he thought she was, no one was able to hear his words because he didn't want them to. It was between Hermione and him.

And finally, they moved, Hermione clutching Draco's arm, feeling like letting go of him would make her fall on the floor too because of how nervous she was. But they seemed calm and confident as they made their way between the students to walk towards the Great Hall. Even McGonagall, who was coming to call Harry for the first dance, blinked and turned her head as she noticed Draco and Hermione walking past her.

 

"I can't even look in their direction... What are they doing?" Hermione asked quietly.

Harry and the other Champions had danced after dinner, which Ron and Harry had spent glancing at Hermione and Draco. They were sitting at one of the hundred tables replacing the four there usually was in the Great Hall and even if they indeed looked nervous, they were talking together and smiling. Theodore and Pansy were sitting there too, which only annoyed the boys more. They still couldn't believe it and exactly process what was going on. So, were they going out? And was she now friend with those Slytherins? How could she do that to them? After everything Draco, Pansy, Crabbe and Goyle had done to them... They were angry but Harry had soon to focus again. He was around important people and right after, he had to dance.

After the Champions had started, a lot of students actually joined them to dance on the slow song. Draco had dragged Hermione with him and as soon as they began, she could tell he was used to do this. He had probably learned this kind of dance when he was younger, he seemed to be in his element. It was like he was fitting perfectly in this kind of scenery. He was dancing very smoothly, steering, and Hermione was following easily. But she was a bit worried about her friends. So, some time later, as they were still dancing, she had whispered this question in his ear, as they were close to each other. Draco had tried to spot them for almost a minute before finally seeing them sitting at a table, looking depressed and angry. Ron was actually staring at them and Draco was pretty sure that if he had the possibility of killing with his eyes, he would have already been reduced to pieces. As he answered Hermione, he couldn't help but smile smugly at Weasley.

"Nothing, really... I think they're having the worst night of their lives," he said with a little smile as he looked at Hermione again. He was having a really good time, even more now that he was seeing how annoyed they were. And it seemed like their partners weren't pleased either because of them. 

"Oh no, do you think it's only because of me?" Hermione asked as the song ended. Another one began, already much faster and Draco laughed a little as he took her hands. Of course, he knew there were still glances and whispers from some people, but he decided not to care that night. He had to enjoy it, not let it ruin it. And Hermione should be doing the same. They would care the next day, when they would be able to hold hands, when they would be able to spend time together more freely.

"Partially, I'd say," he answered, actually looking amused. Hermione shook her head, not being able to contain her smile. She was having a good time too and she knew that she shouldn't pay too much attention to them that night either. It was hard, but she knew it was for the best.

They stayed on the dance floor for a long time, the songs were switching and they somehow ended up dancing close again, on a slow one. They didn't know how much time they had spent there, some students had already left the Hall, but it was still early.

Draco felt her getting a bit more closer and he took a deep breath, the air being filled with her perfume. Then, he turned his head and kissed her head, closing his eyes for a second, well aware that Harry and Ron were still looking in their direction. Ron grimaced, turning his head for a few seconds before glancing at them again. Harry didn't really react, he kept staring, still shocked and not knowing what to say or do as his partner was being invited to dance by a boy from Beauxbatons.

"I'm proud of you, Granger," Draco whispered in her ear, quietly and very seriously. She slowly moved her head to look at him for a few seconds. He couldn't read the expression on her face but after a moment, she gave him a little smile.

"You should be proud of yourself," she said. "I can't even imagine what... What's going to happen tomorrow..."

"So let's enjoy tonight, why don't we?"

 

"Thank you for talking to her the way you did," Draco said to Pansy, a bottle of butterbeer in his hand. Ginny had asked them if it was ok for her to borrow Hermione for a few minutes and Draco had accepted a bit reluctantly but at the same time, it gave him the opportunity to sit down with his friend for a moment. He had joined Pansy and Theo at the table. They had been dancing a lot too and were laughing together when he joined them. Draco had been surprised to see the way Pansy had acted during dinner, especially since he hadn't made any effort with Theo himself. He knew that she was ok with his relationship, but he wasn't expecting her to be in any way nice with Hermione. Still, they had sat together to eat and Theo had been really nice with her. It wasn't a surprise, really, they already knew he was a blood-traitor. But Pansy had tried being nicer than she had ever been with Hermione. They had never had a normal conversation before, and he knew that Hermione had never really appreciated her, but she also didn't know anything at the time. Now, the situation was different, because she knew that he needed Pansy around, that they were really close and that she was accepting him for who he was.

Pansy smiled at Draco after taking a sip of her own drink.

"Well, I figured it would only annoy Potter and Weasley more," she said coolly.

"Right," Draco said as he tilted his head, scanning Pansy's face. He knew it wasn't the real reason but he wouldn't say anything not to embarrass his best friend. "Still, thanks."

"She's really nice. And smart," Theo said. Draco glanced at him and after considering him for a moment, he nodded, giving him a little smile.

"Yeah, I know..."

"I understand better why you were so stressed. But it's great!" Theo added, trying to reassure Draco a bit. He knew that everything would change for him now, he was well aware of Draco's reputation. And a few people had come to ask Pansy what it was all about, not minding bothering them while they were dancing. Most of the Slytherins weren't even looking at him when doing it, some of them were just really curious. And some students were actually excited about it.

"You're saying that because you're already an outcast," Draco said a bit more quietly. Pansy gave him a reproachful look but Draco kept staring at Theo. This one didn't change his expression, he didn't look hurt, he just met Draco's eyes for a few seconds before leaning on his seat.

"And proud of it."

Draco didn't answer, he looked around for a moment, noticing Hermione walking towards Harry and Ron's table. He felt anxious again but he looked at Pansy when she spoke.

"Even Zabini came to ask about it," she said, knowing they were sharing their dorm. Draco rolled his eyes as he took a sip of his drink.

"Wouldn't be surprised to learn he wants to leave the dorm," Draco said and Theo snorted.

"Two of us in there, I'm surprised he hasn't jumped in the Hogwarts Express to go back home yet," he said and Draco chuckled, making Pansy smile. She put a hand on his knee.

"Stick with Theo, he doesn't mind. It's going to be fine," she said and Draco glanced at her, giving her a little smile. After a second and another look at Theo, he nodded.

"Alright, if you really don't mind."

 

Hermione stopped in front of Harry and Ron's table and opened her mouth, not finding the words. She closed it, looked behind her as she joined her hands and she looked at them again.

"So... Are you guys having fun?" She asked timidly, looking away directly.

"Not really," Harry said after considering her. Ron didn't say anything. Harry looked at the dance floor again and Hermione glanced to see what he was looking at. She saw Cho and Cedric dancing together and she gave him a shy smile when he looked at her again.

"At least one of us is," he said as he looked away again. Hermione looked at her hands for a second, biting her lip. She didn't have to feel sorry for having fun with her boyfriend, she shouldn't be so shy. She knew she didn't have to act this way but she was feeling somewhat guilty. She opened her mouth again but Ron stood up suddenly.

"I'm leaving, I think I'm going to be sick if I stay here any longer," he said coldly. Hermione frowned.

"Ron, wait, I wanted to talk to you," she said. Harry glanced at her before looking at Ron. He wanted to hear her out but he was as angry at Ron, actually. He just didn't have the same way of showing it.

"Because you've got something to tell us, now?" Ron asked. "After... this? You actually want to share your feelings with us? How nice, Hermione, I think everything's alright again now," he said angrily before he started to walk towards the exit, followed by Hermione and Harry.

"Ron, what- No, wait!" She said and he turned around.

"I don't have to do anything, I only listen to my friends! Harry, come, we're leaving." Harry looked down and started to follow him.

"To your friends? You're never listening! To anyone," Hermione said, indignant. "That's exactly why I didn't want to tell you anything, because I knew how you'd both react!"

"We react like that because it's Malfoy! It's- It's- It's disgusting! It's our enemy, you're not supposed to-"

"He wasn't mine, Ron! And he shouldn't be yours anymore, you are all just too childish to admit it!" She said as Ron and Harry started to walk towards the Entrance Hall again, followed by Hermione. After walking through the doors, Harry stopped and turned around.

"For how long has this been going on?" He asked, clearly more calmly than Ron. He didn't know why he was. Maybe because, even if he had been shocked and really annoyed, he knew they were still talking to each other, he knew that Hermione was appreciating Draco's company. Maybe because he knew that in a way, Draco was caring for her or he wouldn't have bothered warning her in the woods.  But were they already going out at that time? Or had it started because Draco had asked her to go to the ball with him? He was hardly believing that she had been hiding a relationship from them for so long. But Ron had arrived to the same conclusion as him when they talked about it, watching them dance. Maybe he was the reason she was spending less time with them, maybe he was the reason she was smiling more, maybe it was why she was defending him against Ron's words. How could she have fallen for him? It was absurd, beyond understanding. Hermione looked down again before glancing at Harry.

"Six months today," she said quietly. Harry gritted his teeth, looking away as Ron snorted, shaking his head.

"Unbelievable. You're really... I don't even have words, that's crazy! Harry, tell me we're dreaming!"

"Don't act like that just because you can't understand something!" Hermione said, angry. "You don't know what happened, you don't care about what happened, you just care about your stupid little fights!"

"I know enough!"

"You don't know him! At all! You think you do, you both always think you've got everything figured out but you don't!" She let out.

"I don't need to know him better, I don't want to, he's not worth the effort! He's pathetic! I'm sure he's only doing that for his parents or some other reason like that!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Hermione said, taking a step backwards. "They don't know anything, don't be so stupid, Ron!"

"What do you know? They know he's no use to the li-" Fortunately, he stopped himself. Some students were around, and some were staring. He had almost said that Draco wasn't any use for the pure line they had anymore, but he couldn't. He had promised to keep the secret. And even if he was full of anger and that he only wanted to scream this secret in the entire castle, he wasn't about to do it. It created a weird moment of hesitation before he kept on going. "They're not going to lose anything by making him do that! It's just because you're friend with Harry! What if they just want him to get close to him to learn things about him?" He asked. Harry frowned a little, glancing at Ron. It sounded a bit absurd but he knew why he was saying that. Because of what had happened at the World Cup, because of the whole Death Eater thing. After all, they were sure Harry was in the tournament because someone was trying to kill him, and they knew Karkaroff was friend with Lucius Malfoy. But Harry also knew that Ron was furious and that he was probably talking without thinking, as usual. "Don't come cry to me when he'll dump you, Hermione, I'm not going to be there for you!"

"I don't need you to be there for me, I've never needed it," Hermione said, angry again. "I can deal with things by myself, and I know what I'm doing!"

"No you don't!" Ron said as took a step towards her. "If you did, you wouldn't be going out with this git!" Harry could see the tears going down Hermione's cheeks, at that point, and he pulled Ron's sleeve a little.

"Come," he said, glancing at Hermione. He was sharing his anger, he was feeling betrayed too, but he couldn't stand there and just watch Hermione cry when he knew that Draco had been her friend for quite some time now. But he didn't want to say anything either, because he didn't feel like it would be right. They had the right to feel angry because she had never told them the truth. During six months, she had hidden this from them. So he didn't feel like he wanted to talk about it that night, like she was deserving to have a long and hopefully more calm conversation with her about the situation. He hated Draco, he couldn't just accept this and talk about it like it was nothing. He didn't want to make the effort, he was already feeling too bad that night without that. He just wanted some peace.

"He never talks to me about Harry!" Hermione said. "Never! I'm the one who annoyed him with the tournament and who kept talking about how worry I was! He doesn't care at all about him, he never asks about anything concerning him! He- He cares about me and the fact that you don't believe that is not going to change anything because it's the truth!"

"Keep telling yourself that! He's done enough for me to know he's just a manipulative bastard!"

"Ron!"

"Just- Wait! You'll see! And we're not gonna be there when it'll happen! Right, Harry?" Ron asked, crossing his arms. Harry didn't answer, he just looked at Hermione who was wiping her cheeks, looking down. He felt slightly bad but he turned around to walk quickly out of the castle, followed by Ron. "And don't follow us, go back to him, he's going to wonder where you are!"

Hermione let them leave, disappear in the darkness and she slowly walked towards the stairs, climbing some of the steps before sitting on them, still crying.

 

Ron was right about one thing, after some time, Draco really started to wonder where Hermione was. He stood up, telling Pansy and Theo that he was going to look after her and he walked towards Ginny and Neville, who were dancing. The Great Hall was even more empty, at that point. The teachers were still there as well as some students on the dance floor and at the table but it was the end of the night for everyone. As soon as Neville saw him, he stopped dancing, taking a step backwards from habit. Ginny glanced at Draco, understanding what was happening.

"What is it?" She asked him, quite surprised to see him without Hermione. Draco didn't give any attention to Neville who was staring at him, he looked at Ginny.

"Have you seen Hermione?" He asked. After all, the last time he had been with her was before she had left with Ginny. He hadn't seen her when she had left the Great Hall with Harry and Ron but he thought that she would come back to her friend or to him at some point.

"Um- No, she told me she was going to talk with Harry and Ron and I haven't seen her since then, I thought she was with you," she said quietly. Draco frowned a little, looking around. He didn't say anything else, he just walked away towards the big doors under Ginny, Neville, Pansy and Theo's gaze. He stopped when he reached the doors, looking around, ignoring the few other students present there. His eyes fell on Hermione after a second. She was still sitting on the stairs, crying, her face hidden behind her hands.

He felt helpless. He wasn't sure about what he had to do, he just knew he wanted to be there for her, knowing what to say or not. So, he walked slowly towards the steps and climbed them, stopping when he reached her. She removed her hands from her face and wiped her cheeks. He could see that they were trembling and he sat down next to her as she tried to give him a smile.

"It's fine, I just... I'm alright," she quickly said. Draco didn't answer right away. Jaw clenched, he slightly narrowed his eyes as he stared at her. Her cheeks were wet and red and her eyes were still all sparkling because of her tears. He didn't like seeing her like that.

"Why are you lying?" He asked quietly. Hermione looked down and shook her head a little. She then smiled at him again.

"Because... It's not a big deal," she said. Draco looked away for a moment. He couldn't accept that. Who did they think they were, making her cry like that. And she was still saying she was alright?

"Don't say that," he said as he looked at her again. "Never say that, not to me. It's always a big deal if you're sad. Whatever the reason..."

"But we knew it was coming, I was prepared..."

"Nah, you weren't," he whispered. He met her eyes and he gave her a little smile. He raised his hand, carefully placing a strand of her hair behind her ear. He wanted to tell her that she was beautiful again because every time he was looking at her, he was feeling like he was falling for her all over again. But those tears were in the way. She wasn't fine, she wouldn't be fine whatever he might say. "Tell me what happened," he asked quietly. She laughed without any joy, looking away.

"They think... That you're manipulating me... That you're not honest... I told them it wasn't true but they just-"

"They don't want to hear it, do they?" Draco asked, trying not to sigh. He wasn't exactly surprised. "But you, you know it's not true. That they're... fools." Hermione met his eyes again. Hers were still filled with tears but despite feeling a wave of anger in his body, Draco didn't move, he just looked at her. "You know that I'm honest. If they don't see it... You can't help it and I sure as hell can't."

Hermione slightly smiled with that last sentence as she looked down again.

"Ron said we weren't friends anymore..." She added with a bitter smile before she looked at her boyfriend again. Draco didn't react immediately. After a moment, he touched his cheek, wiping a new tear with his thumb.

"I can punch him in the face for you, if you want," he said quietly. Hermione tilted her head with the same little and sad smile.

"Thank you but... I am fully capable of hitting people in the face myself," she said on the same tone.

"Oh, I know that," Draco said with a little smile. Hermione chuckled, understanding the reference to the slap she had given him the year before. Draco's smile got bigger when he heard her and he removed his hand from her face before standing up. Then, he held out his hand. "Come on. It's not supposed to be about them, tonight... It's about you." Hermione looked up at him, her chin shaking a little as she smiled and she took his hand, getting up without saying anything. "Would you like to dance?" He asked quietly. She nodded as she smiled shyly. She didn't exactly feel like it, and at the same time, she wanted to. She wanted to be in his arms and feel loved.

"I'd love that," she said, still feeling very hurt. But she knew that it would go away for at least a moment if she was focusing on Draco. It was already like a reward to see him smile the way he did then. They walked back in the Great Hall. A lot of people had already left and Hermione was pleased with that. It would be calm and they would enjoy each other company. There wasn't a lot of them dancing and a few were just sitting. A small part of the room was already dark and Professor Flitwick was using Charms to clean that space from the tables.

Pansy was still at the table with Theo and another girl that Hermione didn't know. They laughed and Pansy turned her head, catching Hermione's eyes. She looked at her for a few seconds before glancing at Draco. She gave her a little smile, just slightly strained because it was still very weird, and she got back to her conversation.

Ginny and Neville were still dancing, as well as Hagrid and Madam Maxime and Fred with Angelina. Ginny noticed Hermione and she gave her an encouraging smile before looking down at Hermione and Draco's hand. He was holding Hermione's hand like it was nothing, he didn't seem nervous at all anymore, just fine with being in the middle of the Great Hall like that. Since Ginny was dancing, though, Neville ended up by being the one facing Hermione at some point. He just gave her an awkward smile and Hermione was hit by the fact that even he might be annoyed by this relationship. Draco had been a real pain in the ass for Neville, always bullying him. So, the smile she gave him back was awkward too and she stopped looking at him, facing Draco. She let him guide her into the dance, feeling good in his arms.

Long after they started, she allowed herself to get closer. He was taller so she could lean against him and he moved his arms around Hermione's waist as she passed her own arms behind his neck. She rested her head against his shoulder, looking at Flitwick making the tables move. As they were turning on their spot, she saw Pansy again, she saw the staff table with McGonagall who was apparently looking at them, she saw the other rare couple still dancing and she ended up turning her head only to see Draco's neck.

Draco wasn't looking at anything in particular, still not believing everything that had happened. Not only that evening, but since the end of their third year. It had been one hell of a ride, and he was hoping it wouldn't stop. Hermione closed her eyes, against him, in his smell and his warm arms, and it seemed like she was feeling better already.

She opened her eyes only when he heard him talk quietly near her ear.

"Despite everything... Did you have a good time, tonight?" He asked, quite nervous about this. He had had a lot of fun and had loved being able to dance with her and just talk with her in front of everyone. He was hoping that her friends hadn't totally ruined her night, or that he somehow didn't annoy her in any way. Hermione slightly smiled and he could feel that she was holding him a bit harder.

"Of course I had a great time... The best, really." Draco smiled and he closed his eyes for a second before he turned his head, kissing hers.

"Good..." He whispered.

Again, they danced in silence for a few minutes.

"Aren't you tired?" Hermione then asked. Draco wondered if she was asking because she wanted to go to sleep but didn't want to say it. Then, even before he was able to say anything, and as she straightened up to look at him, he got it.

"Don't worry about that... It's almost over anyway, I'll have time to rest after..." He said. He was tired, yes, and he was looking tired, but he didn't want to go to sleep just yet. Not when he still had fifteen minutes to share with Hermione. Midnight would arrive soon and they would be forced to go back to their common rooms. He could stay up a little longer.

Hermione smiled and he felt her fingers slowly moving on the back of his neck. She seemed to be hesitating, like she couldn't get the words out. "Everything's alright?" He asked. Hermione only nodded. She looked a bit anxious and Draco tilted his head. "You can tell me if there's something bothering you," he said quietly. She shook her head.

"It's not bothering me... At all," she said.

"What is it?"

She bit her lips from the inside of her mouth as she looked down for a moment. She only met his eyes again a few seconds after and she smiled nervously.

"It's just... What you did tonight... What happened... You're..." Draco snorted and she wrinkled her nose. "Don't laugh, let me just..."

"I'm not laughing, I'm listening," he said with an amused smile.

"Idiot..." She whispered, her eyes fixed on his lips for a moment. Draco used that time to scan her face once more, trying to read her expression. He saw her cheeks turning slightly more pink as she spoke again. "I'm so nervous about what's going to come... What we will have to do... What happened... I didn't even think we would go this far, telling everyone, showing everyone... And I'm scared because... I take this very seriously, and I love being with you, and I knew it wouldn't be easy but I didn't think it would be so scary and I'm just afraid... I'm just afraid of what's coming because I don't want to lose you, because I love you..."

Her last words had been almost inaudible, but he had heard them. He felt like he had just missed a set of stairs, his heart had skipped a beat, his stomach had made a weird flip in his tummy and he had blinked, looking at Hermione. He didn't know if he was red in the face, but he knew that he was feeling really hot. As soon as she had said those words, she had looked away, biting her lip, nervous. Draco took a few seconds to find a way to speak again.

"Look at me," he whispered and he waited to meet Hermione's eyes again. "I'm glad you feel this way," he began, "Because... I've been in the same state of mind for a long time. I've been very afraid... Very anxious at the idea of people knowing, about the obstacles it would create... But you know what? After everything we have already faced, I don't feel like those obstacles are insurmountable. As long as we're together..." He shrugged and Hermione shyly smiled, her eyes filled with water again. "I know it's hard... I've been complaining a lot, for a lot of things... I'm probably a pain in the ass but what can I say, that's what I do best. I don't want you to cry because of us again... I know I have a lot of things I need to work on to be able to say that... I deserve you, but I'm ready to do what it takes... I love you and I feel bad because... You could have much more with someone else, not the same kind of problems..."

"I don't care about those," Hermione whispered back. Draco slightly smiled and leaned to kiss her softly, her grip around him becoming a bit more tight.

Chapter Text

Hermione and Draco, laughing, left the Great Hall with quick little steps. Hermione was in front of him, holding Draco's hand, and she turned around once in the Entrance Hall. Draco stopped in front of her, pulling her a bit towards him before interlacing their fingers.

"Well, Miss Granger, I believe it is time for us to go our separate ways," he said playfully and Hermione chuckled, resting her free hand on his chest.

"We ought to see each other tomorrow, Mr. Malfoy," she said and Draco smirked, tilting his head.

"Wouldn't miss that," he said more quietly and seriously. "I see you before breakfast?" He asked and Hermione nodded. Draco leaned to kiss her softly as he put his free hand on her waist and she reached his cheek with hers.

"Mr. Malfoy, Miss Granger. It's past curfew," they heard a cold voice say and they broke the kiss, glancing at Snape. He seemed to be in a bad mood and they both wondered if it had something to do with them. After all, Snape knew that it probably wasn't wise for Draco to date a Muggle-born, and maybe not knowing it might have irritated him. They also didn't know about Karkaroff, who was the real reason for his mood. Since he didn't seem to be about to leave, Draco took a deep breath before he looked at Hermione again.

"I see you tomorrow," he said quietly and she gave him a shy smile before she watched him walk quickly towards the entrance of the dungeons. As soon as he had walked past Snape, their teacher followed him and ended up giving him a little tap on the back of his head as they started to go down the stairs. Hermione shook her head before she turned around. She stopped directly.

Harry was sitting on the stairs, looking at her. He was looking disturbed, probably because of what he had just witnessed. She only gave him a cold look and proceeded to walk straight past him. Harry got up and followed her quickly.

"Hermione, can you listen to me?" He asked, not talking too loud.

"I don't want to, Harry," she said. He could still see that she had cried, it was obvious.

"I know you don't but-"

"Then why are you still here?" Hermione asked as she turned around, making Harry stop abruptly. Two portraits next to them asked if they we're done, wanting to go back to sleep, and Hermione rolled her eyes before she started to walk again.

"Because we're friends!" Harry said, his heart beating fast in his chest. He didn't want to live what had happened with Ron all over again. He was angry, but he wouldn't let something happen. When they had gone in their dorm, long after their "discussion" with Hermione, Ron was still really pissed. He couldn't stop talking about it. Harry even thought that maybe he could try to calm him down but it hadn't worked.

 

He had stopped Ron as he was throwing his ugly robes next to his bed, making him turn around.

“Listen, Ron, I know you're pissed but-”

“Pissed? I'm not just pissed, Harry, she betrayed us! It's Malfoy, Harry, Malfoy! Don't you get it? It's horrible, it's- Disgusting!”

Harry had looked around. Dean and Seamus had been on Dean's bed, apparently talking when they had burst in and they had been staring at them.

“Come on, it's probably... It's-”

“What, you're on her side for that? You can't, you know Malfoy, you know he's bad!” Then, Ron had sat on his bed, running his fingers through his hair before he had shaken his head. “Trust me, I'd like to go back there and punch him in the face but I wouldn't want him to believe that by doing that, I want to go out with him!”

 

"Not according to Ron," Hermione said shortly, still climbing the stairs. Soon, they were in front of the Fat Lady and she quietly said the password, on the verge of tears again.

"But you know Ron, of course he reacted like that, he's-" He didn't finish, looking at Hermione in despair. He turned his head, saying the password louder and finally, not without complaining about it, the Fat Lady opened the passage for them. They both climbed in the portrait hole and walked in their common room.

"Leave me alone, Harry, you two have done enough to ruin my evening. I don't want it to be totally spoiled."

"Ron said things that I didn't say," Harry said firmly. "He might not see you as a friend anymore, it doesn't mean that I don't!" Harry said.

"Please, don't tell me that you don't agree with him, don't lie to me, I saw the way you looked at me!"

"Because it's- I wasn't expecting you to go there with him, what do you think? It's... Malfoy! He's horrible, I'm worried! But still, you and I know more stuff about him than Ron does."

"What are you talking about?" Hermione asked, crossing her arms.

"I know that... You became friends, or whatever..." Harry said a bit more quietly. Hermione frowned. "I know that after what happened with Ron last year, you guys kept talking to each other... And like you said, he even came to thank you for what happened. That's when... It started, didn't it? Six months ago..." Hermione looked away, feeling her cheeks becoming warmer. She placed a strand of her hair behind her ear.

"Yes. We talked and- and he kissed me," she said, still not looking at Harry. This one looked away too as he heard that. It was definitely too weird. "And I'm happy he did!" She added, staring at her friend again. "Because I know I wouldn't have dared, even though I wanted to." Harry swallowed, glancing at her and meeting her eyes. "But keep talking, please," Hermione said a bit coldly, clearly eager to know how on earth his point of view could be different from Ron's.

"I know that... At the World Cup, he acted the way he did to warn you. I thought he did it because he just cared about you as... a friend. Now I know that it was more than that. I still can't believe it, Hermione, is sounds so crazy. And you guys..." He grimaced. "Kissed and it's just..."

"Is that all you had to say?"

"And I know he's not... Totally what he seems to be." Harry looked down, trying to find his words. At least, Hermione was giving him the chance to say what he had to say, he had to do it well. "I know it's difficult for him, because of what he is. Around all the Slytherins, around... I don't know, his family friends, I guess?" He said, glancing at Hermione who nodded curtly to tell him that he was right but had to continue. "I know it's probably a lot of pressure, and from what we saw with Lupin, that night... It's not easy." He finally looked up to face Hermione, clenching his fists. He had defeated a dragon, he could speak to her. But as soon as he saw the way she was looking at him, he wanted to leave the room. Still, he swallowed. "I know about his dreams, about his Boggart..." He took a deep breath. "I know that he's been nice with you even before he... kissed you. I know he's probably honest. Maybe that's why it's so hard... Maybe I'd actually prefer if Ron was right..."

"You'd rather have him hurt me?" Hermione asked. Harry looked down. "Just because you want to be right? Just because-"

"It's selfish, I know!" Harry said. "But... We hate him, we... Don't understand. He's so mean with everyone. I know he has reasons to be resentful but it's no excuse."

"He's working on that..."

"You know you can't totally change him, how could you? He is who he is..."

"What if I don't care? What if it's not what matters? He knows I don't agree with what he does most of the time and he's really trying hard to make things right. But you don't see that because he's not like that in front of you!"

"And you're fine with him acting like that to keep up appearances?"

"Why do you think we went to the ball together, Harry? We weren't supposed to! Again, it happened! We wanted people to know! Are you really thinking that it was entirely my idea? He asked me to go, he wanted people to know, and I wanted too. Because I'm tired of hiding and yes, I'm tired of his behavior! We thought it would be easier if people knew, however they might react."

Harry looked down.

"He wanted to?" He asked as he grimaced again. Difficult to imagine, he had thought Hermione had actually asked him.

"He... He kept saying he wasn't ready to let people know but... Krum asked me to the ball and-"

"Krum?" Harry asked, looking at her again. She sighed.

"Yes, Harry. Viktor Krum asked me to the ball. Seems like Draco's not the only one who can tell me apart from the boys," she said as she crossed her arms again, raising an eyebrow. Harry looked down once again.

"Sorry, I didn't mea-"

"It doesn't matter. He... He got jealous, I guess," Hermione said as she looked away, trying not to smile. But Harry could see it. She shook her head. "And he asked me, he said that if he wasn't taking his chance tonight, then he would probably keep telling himself that he wasn't ready. And I know he would have done that. I wasn't really ready either because I knew what it meant... How do you think they will treat him? And I knew how you guys would treat me..."

"I'm not-"

"I've never seen Draco so... In a few hours, I've never seen him smile so much... You said it, he's having a really hard time. Do you realize what he has gone through? Since he's nine, he has to lie to everyone, to his friends, to the rest of his family... He feels so bad, even around his parents. Why do you think I was so upset with Ron after the World Cup? He had no right to say things like that, not when Draco is already... And he has no right to tell me who I can date! Nor do you. Not just because you two hate him anyway. It's not like he was acting the same way he does with you when he's with me. I care about Draco and he cares about me. It just happened, Harry! You like Cho but have you ever really talked to her? And still, you're miserable because you couldn't go to the ball with her!"

"I'm not miserable!"

"That's not my point, Harry! The thing is, you can't control your feelings and I can't control mine. I love him and if that's too hard to understand, then I certainly don't want to talk about it with you!"

She was about to turn around to leave when she heard Harry. He had whispered, like it was hard for him to ask. Not because he was totally against the idea, but because it was just really difficult to believe it.

"You love him?" Hermione took a deep breath before she looked at her friend again.

"Yes, Harry, I do. And he... he loves me too. He told me so tonight..." She said as she looked at her hands, playing with her own fingers. Her heart was beating fast. "I know him better than you two do, and I know that he's honest when he's with me. Probably more honest than he is in front of the others from his house and certainly more honest that he's with Ron and you..."

Harry took his time to look at Hermione for a while. He couldn't help but somehow feel happy for her. He didn't like Draco but he couldn't deny that the expression on Hermione's face was making him want to smile. God, he knew Draco was genuine with her. He totally knew it. He pursed his lips, looking away for a while. That's when he noticed Ron. He was on the stairs, a hand against the wall, staring at them. They hadn't heard him come down, probably because he had changed and was barefoot.

"Ron-!" He let out, surprised. Hermione turned around, letting her mouth fall open. What was he doing there? When had he arrived? She wondered if he had heard the entire conversation.

"You said you were going to change... I thought you were taking a long time, so I checked and then... Well, I thought I'd look for you," Ron said. He glanced at Hermione, not really able to read her expression. He had heard what she had just said and he was shaken. So, she really was in love with Malfoy, huh? Hermione sighed when Ron turned around to go back in his dorm. She walked slowly towards the armchairs and sat, hiding her face behind her hands. She wanted to go to her dorm, to get out of this dress and to have a good night of sleep. And then, she just wanted to be in Draco's arms again. Harry walked towards her, sitting down next to her.

"Don't cry, Hermione..." He said as he put his hand on her shoulder.

"I'm not crying!" Hermione snapped, looking up. Harry removed his hand at once, looking away. Ok, she was about to. She took a deep breath before she felt Harry's arm around her.

"I can talk to Ron... If you want..." He whispered. Hermione looked at him for a second before she shook her head.

"I know you don't want to. And I don't want you guys to fight again just because of Draco and I... If Ron doesn't want to be my friend anymore-"

"Of course he wants to be your friend... He was just angry when he said that."

"I'm tired of him saying all those things when he's angry, I don't have to deal with his mood swings... It's not my problem if he can't accept the fact that someone he doesn't like makes me happy... Why would you try to talk to him?" Hermione asked, tired.

"Maybe... Because I saw him," Harry said. Hermione frowned, not sure she was understanding. Harry met her eyes and only looked at her for a moment before he looked away. "In the Forest, when we went to look for him after... I saw... I know he's not... He hates being the way he is, doesn't he?" Harry asked quietly, looking at his friend again. Hermione smiled sadly. Harry knew how much pride Draco had, he had often wondered how one body could contain so much of it without exploding, actually. And still, that day, Draco had been humiliated, miserable, clearly on the verge of tears, disgusted by himself... And still, he had let Harry help him walk, he had tried to show that he was strong enough to go on even if he had almost fallen on the floor more than once when they were going up the stairs. He knew how hard it must have been for Draco, he knew how humiliating it must have been, how desperate he must have been, how hurt and how sad... Even if Harry kept telling himself that he hated Draco, that day, he had felt a lot of sympathy for him. And when he was thinking about it, he was still feeling the same. Ron hadn't seen, Ron didn't know. He didn't know about his scars, about his bite, about the way he had stepped back when Hermione had approached him. He didn't know they had kept talking to each other, he didn't want to accept he had only wanted to warn her during the World Cup. "I think I... Realized some time ago that he wasn't... The way he wants people to see him. And I know why he acts this way..."

Because he was insecure, because he had been lying all his life and because he needed to lie to himself, because he would be alone without those lies, or at least he would have been if it wasn't for Pansy, now. Because he didn't want to be seen the way he was seeing himself. Not worthy, miserable... disgusting.

"I'm not saying I fully... understand how you could start to feel this way for him. And I'm not sure you do either, like you said... It happened. I'm not saying I'm all for it. Because I still think he's a git." Hermione chuckled, shaking her head a bit before resting it on Harry's shoulder. "But he makes you happy, right? And he's honest and he really does... feel this way, doesn't he?"

"Yes, he does..."

"So... I guess... I'll just have to deal with it. But please, Hermione, please... Don't make me hang out with him and his friends, I'm don't think I'm quite ready for that just yet. Tonight was already too much to take on..." Again, Hermione chuckled and she raised her head, looking at her friend. She knew Harry had a good heart, and she knew that even if sometimes he could be selfish, like everyone, and that he could make bad decisions, in the end, he was often thinking about his friends before himself. She took his hand and pressed it slightly.

"Thank you, Harry..." She whispered. He only glanced at her and gave her an awkward smile.

"I'm not saying I'll make Ron... change. And I don't want him to be mad at me so... I'll try to do my best. Just... Try to not make it harder," he said quietly. Hermione understood and she wouldn't. It's not like having people knowing about them meant they would start snogging in the middle of the Great Hall. "Maybe... I don't know the extent of Malfoy's efforts but... If he could try not to-"

"He's not going to do anything, Harry. He has a lot to deal with already," Hermione said calmly. Harry narrowed his eyes, glancing at Hermione again.

"Right... What do you think they will do to him?" He asked, thinking about the other Slytherins. Hermione turned her head, looking at the fire as she thought about it.

"I know a lot of them will probably... At least totally ignore him. Maybe... I don't know, Harry, I just know it's not going to be easy. But I'm sure they're not all bad." Harry looked at her, curious. "Maybe you and Ron should open your eyes, sometimes. Look, I met Theodore tonight, you know, the boy who was with Parkinson?" Harry nodded and remembered seeing them talking at the table during the ball. "He's really sweet. He's not like the others... He seemed to be very supportive, actually. And keep in mind that I had never talked to him before."

Harry understood what she meant and he felt bad again. He looked down for a moment.

"I'll keep it in mind."

 

In another part of the castle, Draco was in the common room with Pansy and Theo. He had been surprised that Snape hadn't scold him.

When they had left the Entrance Hall, he had been sure he would say something about his relationship, about how bad it was or ask if his parents knew but he just didn't. Draco had looked at him and Snape had understood that he was waiting for him to say something about it. All his godfather had said was "I have more serious concerns for now. You should just go get some rest, you look terrible."

And Draco wasn't against the idea of going in his bed. So, he had hurried towards the common room, surprised to find Theo and Pansy there. Pansy had wanted to wait for Draco and Theo had proposed to wait with her not to leave her alone. He had used the opportunity to ask a bit about Draco and Hermione, to know when they had started going out, how on earth Hermione had him date a Muggle-born but Pansy hadn't elaborated on that question. She had simply said that they had started to talk properly during their third year and that soon, Granger had become one of Draco's favorite subject when spending time with her. Theo was about to ask another question when Draco had walked in the room.

"What are you guys still doing here?" He asked, smiling at them. Pansy grimaced. All this silliness was disgusting.

"Stop looking that happy, it's making me nauseated," she said and Draco chuckled, shaking his head. "We were waiting for you," she said. Draco hesitated. He really wanted to sleep, he actually needed to sleep. But... He also wanted to spend some time with Pansy. He glanced at the door.

So, he told them that he would change before joining them, like they had done.

But the thing was, when he walked in the dorm, he wasn't alone. There was Crabbe, Goyle as well as Blaise. Crabbe was asleep already, but Goyle and Blaise were awake. Blaise was apparently reading on his bed while Goyle was eating Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. They both looked up at him and they just stared. Draco blinked. Blaise had that disgusted expression on his face, the same he often had when Theo was moving in his comfort zone, and Goyle was just staring. Draco couldn't tell if he was thinking the same as Blaise, all he knew was that he looked dumb, as usual. Draco's heart was beating fast and he felt bad, not knowing how to act. It had begun, he was being judged. He was being seen as a blood traitor.

Even if Crabbe and Goyle were extremely stupid, they probably knew better than to stay with him, not that he exactly minded. And Blaise... Well, he was already ignoring Theo. Luckily, he would just ignore him too and just look at him this way. He could live with that, he thought. Pansy had been right, he had to stick with Theo. He knew how to act around them, maybe it would be easier...He wouldn't be alone with them in the dorm, it wouldn't be that bad. He sighed and turned around, closing the door behind him.

He would wait. He couldn't change in front of them and he didn't want to try and stay in the bathroom just in case one of them would walk in. Instead, he went in the common room again, removing his robes to stay in his suit, clearly annoyed. He also loosened his tie as he let himself fall on the sofa.

"Weren't you going to change?" Pansy asked. She was next to him and Theo was on an armchair in front of them. The fire was making him feel really good, it was always cold in their common room. He shrugged.

"Um... Yeah, no, I'll do it later," he said as he glanced at Pansy. She just nodded and gave him a shy smile. She had understood that there was probably at least one of the boys of his dorm still awake, but she didn't know if they had told him anything or if he just didn't want to try and change with them around.

"You'll see, you'll get used to it," Theo said as he leaned on his seat. Draco looked at his fingers, trying to avoid looking at Theo.

"Yeah, I'm not worried about that," he said, trying to sound convincing, like he was relaxed. He glanced at Pansy again. "You'll be ok?"

"Draco, please," Pansy let out as she rolled her eyes. "I've been ready for something like this since..." He knew since when. Since the night they had started to talk to each other again, the night he had had this horrible nightmare, the night he had been able to say he had feelings for Granger. "I've had time to prepare myself, I'm ready to be a loser," she said and the boys chuckled.

"We're not losers, come on," Theo said as he straightened up a bit again. "At least, we know we're not. It's not our fault if they don't know it."

"I'm worried for Granger, though," Draco whispered.

"She has Weasley's sister, doesn't she?" Pansy asked. Draco straightened up too as he rolled up his sleeves, starting to feel a bit hot because of the fire. Theo raised his eyebrows as he discovered Draco's forearms. Draco had become very careful when it came to that. He had stopped letting his arms visible since his first encounter with Lupin. And it became even worse after the fight he had had with him at the end of the year. It was the first time Pansy had seen him do this since then. And she knew it was because he was more relaxed, that day. Because he had a lot of other things on his mind and that for once, he wasn't obsessed with the fact that he was a werewolf. And it was nice. It was really nice to see him being comfortable enough to forget about his scars.

It's not like Pansy had never seen them. But Theo hadn't. He didn't know about anything and she had seen him looking. He was staring, actually. Draco hadn't noticed, though, he was looking at the fire.

"Yeah, I guess she does, but still... But you know what I mean. Potter and Weasel... I might be happy to not have them around me but she's not going to be so glad about it. She already argued with them, they made her cry..." He said, looking down. He still hadn't realized anything and Pansy was staring at Theo, hoping he would look up at her. He actually opened his mouth and Pansy turned to look at Draco, interrupting the boy.

"So, what do you want us to do? I can make them mad, I can hang out with Granger just to annoy them. I'm not saying I'll like that, but I could, you know... Have some fun," Pansy said with a smirk. Draco snorted and leaned on his seat again, finding a comfortable position.

"I'm all for it but I don't think she's going to be," Draco said. Pansy looked at Theo again and this time, she was able to meet his eyes. She frowned, glanced at Draco's arms and looked at him again before shaking her head curtly. Theo understood the message. He couldn't ask about it. Draco scratched his head, grimacing. "I'll talk to her about it anyway. To know how it's going, to know what she wants to do about it, you know... We never know what she will want to do."

 

"What?" 

"I'm telling you," Hermione said, holding Draco's hand in the Entrance Hall. They had met like they had said, before breakfast. Draco had almost fallen asleep again but remembering his meeting with Hermione had been enough to make him totally wake up. What he wasn't expecting were the two Hufflepuffs talking to him as he got out of the dungeons. He had been a bit startled and, still tired, he had probably been a bit cold, he couldn't even remember. They were third years, asking if what the students were saying about Hermione and him was true. He had looked at them from head to toe before asking them to go away as he had glanced around, embarrassed. But they hadn't wanted to leave without their answer. Hermione arriving had been enough for them, apparently, and they had finally left Draco in front of a surprised Hermione. He had mumbled something about them being creepy and then she had kissed his cheek and held his hand, happy to be able to display this kind of thing in public. They weren't really all for showing too much affection in front of everyone, they liked to keep things private, but for their first day as an official couple in the school, they weren't going to stop themselves. Then, Draco had asked how it was going for Hermione and, although he hadn't been surprised to learn the girls of her dorm had stayed awake and asked an enormous amount of questions, he had been surprised to learn about Harry. "We had a... calm conversation about it. I was still very upset but he really didn't want to argue, and he asked things, and he gave me his opinion-"

"Which is?" Draco asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Not the same as Ron," Hermione said, glancing at the Great Hall. She hadn't seen them that morning and she didn't know if they were still in their dorm or if they were already having breakfast. She had come in the Entrance Hall with Ginny, though, who had told her she would keep her a seat next to her. "I think it's still really hard to accept for him, I'm sure you understand." Draco nodded, tilting his head. "But still, he said that he could... somehow understand? I don't think he does, but he knows that you're not going to murder me in my sleep, you know."

Draco chuckled and his grip on her hand became a bit more tight.

"That's probably a reassuring thought, yeah," he said, shaking his head a bit.

"I don't think he will still hang out with me, though..." Hermione said as she looked down. "I don't think he will take the risk for now... He said he would try and talk to Ron but... He doesn't want to fight with him, I can understand..."

"You understand too many things," Draco said as he put two fingers under her chin to make her look up. "You need to stop being so... understanding."

"So what do you want me to do?" Hermione asked, frowning a little.

"Stop thinking so much," Draco said as he smiled a little. "When they will realize they miss you, or that they can't do anything without you, they'll come around."

"How nice, Draco," Hermione said, knowing that he was only teasing her. Draco smirked and tilted his head.

"I know. Besides, if they make it hard for you, you can still retaliate. Pansy would be delighted to help. She'll get bored, not having as many friends as before..."

Hermione shook her head.

"I'm not going to act this way, Draco. If I have to talk to your friends, it'll be because I want to talk to them and that they want to talk to me."

"You're too good, Granger."

"I have morals, Malfoy," Hermione whispered and Draco chuckled.

 

"Hey, let me help you with that!"

Hermione looked up as Theo kneeled in front of her to help her.

"Don't worry, really, I've got it," she said as she recognized him. They were leaving Arithmancy when two Slytherin girls had elbowed Hermione when walking past her. They had made Hermione drop the two books she had in her hands and, at the same time, made her bag fall from her arm. "Very witty," had been all Hermione had told them before crouching to put her belongings back in her bag.

"Nah, wait..." Theo said as he helped her, rolling one of her parchment again before handing it to her. Then, he took the two books she had had in her hands and stood up. "Here you go."

"Thank you," she said quietly, smiling and ready to have her books back.

"Do you need help to carry those somewhere?" He asked. She didn't need any help to carry them and he knew it, but he had been wanting to talk to her. After all, he knew that a lot of the students from his house were giving her a hard time. Even some Gryffindors were ignoring her. "Don't worry, I'm not going to trap you or anything," he added, seeing that she was hesitating. After all, she had just talked to him during the ball. She knew he wasn't a bad guy, but they had never talked since then and Hermione had only ever seen him with Pansy and Draco. So she was a bit surprised. "I don't care about you and Draco... And by that, I mean that I think it's cool, actually." He then nodded in the direction of the door she was heading for and Hermione smiled, nodding before they started to walk.

"Do you, really?" She couldn't help but ask, glancing at Theo.

"Yeah, I mean... You know, even before I knew about you two, I noticed..." He said. Hermione frowned a bit and stared at him for a few seconds. "Like... He's different. I think you're great, he's different in the sense that... He's more... Happy?" Theo said, apparently focusing on finding the right words. Hermione raised her eyebrows.

"I don't want to be rude but... How would you know?" She asked quietly, not wanting to hurt his feelings. She knew Draco had never spent time with him before the ball, he had told her so himself when she had asked about Theo. He had talked about his beliefs and that was why most of the Slytherins were avoiding him and why he had been avoiding him during their three first years at Hogwarts. Hermione had been revolted to learn that he had had to share his dorm with four of them during three years without being able to befriend them. Draco had shrugged and Hermione had been annoyed by his lack of sensitivity. Draco had just laughed and said that Theo didn't think it was a big deal, that he was ok with being alone anyway and that now, it was different.

Hermione had noticed that he was mostly alone. But she was also curious, as well as being really touched by those words. Was she really making Draco happier?

"Yeah, I know, we're not... Well, we weren't talking to each other at all before. First time I actually really talked to him was when I invited Pansy to the ball. But he didn't really talk to me. I mean, he just said he wasn't going with her. Because I asked, because I thought, because they are close- I mean, I'm sorry, I didn't know about you back then, it was my mistake."

"Don't... apologize," Hermione said, a bit taken aback. Theo wasn't really looking at her while talking, and he seemed to be the kind of boy who was talking a lot despite being alone most of the time. And he seemed to always be really trying to find the right words, not wanting to offense anyone. He seemed a bit different from most of the Slytherins Hermione had met, he seemed to be more kind.

"But, um, we've been in the same dorm for four years now, you see," he kept on going after this awkward moment for Hermione. "He's... I don't think he's the kind of guy who goes around and talk to everyone to have a lot of friends, you know, so I never really minded," he said, still looking in front of him, looking a bit lost in his thoughts. "Anyway, even without talking... I mean, we've been living in the same room for years, so after a while you notice things. Especially last year, I have to say. He was really different. Loads of nightmares, by that I mean he had them more often than usual, he was looking really tired and nervous, snapping even at his friends... Now he's fine, really," he said. Hermione blinked, still looking at him. For someone who hadn't been talking to Draco for years, he sure was able to tell a lot about him. "See, you don't have to talk to people to know stuff about them. You can observe. Or, if it's the night, you can hear," Theo added like he had read her mind. He then shook his head before he glanced at her.

Hermione knew that if Draco was aware that Theo knew about his nightmares, he would either die of shame or kill him. Probably the latter. He had mentioned them to Hermione no more than twice in the extent of almost seven months, and once was because she had asked about it herself. He really hated to talk about that and he had been very careful to make her understand that he wouldn't tell anything more about it.

Hermione knew why Draco wasn't, like Theo had said, "going around to talk to people to have a lot of friends". With his condition, he'd rather stick with his closest friends. She had actually wondered how Pansy and him had become so close because she knew that he had met Crabbe and Goyle before coming to Hogwarts, probably when he was a young child.

At the same time, she felt bad. She knew that Theo didn't have a lot of friends, if he had some at all besides Pansy and Draco. Were they actually friends? She didn't even know, but clearly, their relationship had made Theo and Draco hang out more together. It was a good thing because Theo was really nice. But clearly, if he didn't mind walking around with a Muggle-born in the castle, she could understand why some students were reluctant to be his friend.

Hermione stopped. They had arrived near the Gryffindor Tower and she smiled at Theo.

"Well, thank you for your help, Theo," she said before he handed her her books.

"It's no problem, really."

"I'll see you around, then?" She said to make him understand that she was fine with him talking to her. Theo only smiled before he turned around to leave.

 

Harry walked in the library quietly, looking around to try and see if Hermione was there. He wasn't exactly surprised when he saw that Draco was there, as well as Ginny. Apparently, they were working on their homework in silence. Seeing Hermione and Malfoy sitting next to each other like that was a bit weird. Harry swallowed, took a deep breath and decided to walk towards them. Draco was the first one looking up and, after meeting Harry's eyes, he glanced at Hermione. She finally noticed Harry too and straightened up a little, making Ginny look.

"Hermione, can I talk to you?" Harry whispered, not wanting to disturb the other students working in the library. Hermione nodded, glancing at the seat in front of her. Harry glanced at Draco again. They stared at each other for a moment before Draco looked at his parchment again. He knew how he had to act, he knew Hermione was missing her friends. He wasn't going to say anything to Harry, but he was carefully listening, not writing anymore. He knew that Harry and Hermione were sometimes talking briefly when Ron wasn't around, but that it was still difficult. Draco didn't like that. If Potter wanted to be her friend, he could do so in front of Weasley.

"What is it?" Hermione asked, putting her quill on the table and looking at Harry.

"I figured out the clue for the second task yesterday and-"

"You told me you had done so already weeks ago!" Hermione let out, frowning. Harry waved his hand.

"Whatever, Hermione, now I know for sure..." He said, looking away. Draco glanced at him again, curious. "It'll happen in the lake, I'll have to retrieve something inside it," he started to explain. He then told her about the song and by doing so, that something would be taken from him, something really important for him. But he had no clue what it was. "Do you think the merpeople are there as an obstacle?" He then asked. If someone could know something about them, it was probably Hermione. But he was surprised when he heard Draco taking part in the conversation. He had started to write on his parchment again but apparently, he had also been listening to the conversation.

"They're not exactly mean," he said distractedly. Hermione and Harry both looked at him and after a moment, when he noticed, he looked up. "Don't look at me like that, I wouldn't be against the idea of them drowning you."

Hermione pursed her lips and shook her head. Harry bit his lip from the inside of his mouth, actually amused. Or almost amused. He would never admit Draco had been amusing.

"How could you know?" He asked.

"We see them sometimes in the common room."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"The lake, Harry," Hermione said, looking at her friend again. "It's against the dungeons." She could remember Draco talking about it. It was the reason it was so cold in their common room.

"Oh, right," Harry said, remembering how the common room was looking. Draco raised an eyebrow, staring at Harry for a second. This one avoided meeting his eyes. He had no idea Ron and Harry had used Polyjuice Potion in their second year to talk to him about the heir of Slytherin. "But still... You can't know how they act just because you see them, can you?" Harry asked as he glanced at Hermione. Draco considered him for a moment before he leaned on his seat, tilting his head.

"You know, Potter, it's not because you had someone doing most of you homework for you until now that it means other people can't pick up a book."

"Draco, please..." Hermione said, glancing at Harry.

"Unless you upset them, they shouldn't attack you. If it weren't for Vampires and Hags, they'd be classified as Beings, not Beasts. They refused that status  because they didn't want to be compared to them. They're not animals," Draco kept on going. Harry looked down at the table for a second, understanding what might have upset Draco even if he hadn't meant to offend him in any way, this time.

"Draco," Hermione whispered again, this time looking at her boyfriend.

"It's fine, Hermione," Harry said and Draco raised an eyebrow again, still staring at him. "If you say so, I'll believe you," he added. Draco considered him for a second before he looked at his parchment again. "I still have a problem, though," Harry said as he looked at Hermione. "How am I supposed to breathe under water during an hour?"

Hermione definitely stopped working on her homework to try and help Harry find a solution.

"I talked about Aqua-Lung to Ron. We thought that I could Summon one from the nearest Muggle town," he said.

"What is it?" Ginny asked, looking at Harry with an expression clearly showing she had no clue what was an Aqua-Lung. Harry started to briefly explain what it was while Hermione was thinking about it and Draco couldn't help but let out a little laugh. Harry noticed that he had stopped working too, his quill was on the table, his books were closed and his parchment was rolled.

"What's so funny?" Harry asked, narrowing his eyes a little. Draco shook his head.

"It just sounds really foolish. It's just an example of why Muggles are so-" he stopped himself, crossing his arms. "Anyway. I don't think it's a solution," he said, glancing at Hermione before looking away. Harry had been a bit surprised. He was really trying to do better, wasn't he?

"I think Draco's right," Hermione said. "Not only because it would take you way too long to get ready and find out how it works but because you would be breaking the International Code of Wizarding Secrecy. You can't Summon something from a Muggle town and expect people not to notice. The best, really, would be for you to know how to do human Transfiguration... But we don't learn about it before our sixth year, I think, you would probably be in danger just by trying..."

"Maybe Moody could do it for me, I'd just have to attack someone in front of him," Harry said and Ginny put her hand on her mouth not to laugh. Draco shot a nasty look at Harry who tilted his head. He was only joking but the expression on Draco's face was priceless.

"He wouldn't let you choose what you'd be turned into, though," Hermione said, still very serious. "You probably need to learn some sort of charm instead..." Harry sighed.

"I'm going to start looking for something, then," he said before he stood up. He glanced at Draco and Hermione again. "Can I do it here?" He then asked. Hermione smiled at him and nodded. Draco didn't do anything. As soon as Harry walked away to go find some books, he looked behind him. He saw Draco leaning to get closer to Hermione and, a hand on her back, he whispered something in her ear. Hermione smiled and clearly tried not to giggle before she looked at Draco. They were so close, talking to each other... Harry felt a shiver going down his spine and he shook his head. He had to find a solution for the second task. He was already glad he had been able to show Hermione that he really was trying to be fine with the situation, even if it was taking him some time.

It was the second week of February already and things had changed. Now, the students were used to see Draco and Hermione hanging out together when they weren't with their friends. Hermione was mainly spending her time with Ginny and Draco was usually hanging out with Pansy and Theo. Harry had already seen Hermione talking with Theo a few times and that was the weirdest thing, because even he was used to see her with Draco, now. This relationship wasn't the main subject of conversation in Hogwarts anymore even though some students were still talking about it, were still looking at them, sometimes curious, sometimes excited, sometimes disgusted. It depended on who was looking.

Ron was still not talking at all to Hermione, avoiding her as much as possible and Harry was staying with him, even if he was sometimes exchanging a few words with his other friends. Sometimes at breakfast, when Ron wasn't there yet, he was asking her how she was doing, they were talking about the tournament or about how Harry was doing. But that was about it and it was weird. Harry was missing his friend and he knew that Ron was missing her too. She had become an important part of their lives. Still, Harry could understand Ron's point of view and he was sure that somehow, Hermione was understanding too. But Harry knew that she was doing the right thing by leaving him alone. At least, now, he wasn't leaving the room they were all in whenever Hermione and Draco were spending time together. He wasn't staring at them anymore but he was still getting angry, sometimes, and it was making him say nasty things. But Harry guessed he was slowly getting used to the idea. It had been almost two months since the ball, he had had time to accept the situation, even if he still couldn't deal with it properly. He was just hoping it would change for the best. That maybe Ron would be able to change his behavior towards Hermione and try the way he was trying.

Chapter Text

"Have you seen Harry?" Hermione asked Draco as she hurried towards him. She had been looking for Harry all morning, not knowing he was fast asleep in the library. "The task will begin soon," she said, worried.

"Why would I know where he is when even you don't?" Draco asked as he frowned, opening his eyes to look at Hermione. He was lying on a bench in an almost empty corridor, Pansy sitting next to his head with Theo. Hermione had come in a hurry for the third time.

"I don't understand, I don't even know if he found a way to do the task!" She exclaimed. Pansy and Theo were looking at them, they had no clue what the task was about. Draco had had his fun, telling them he knew exactly what it was, but not wanting to reveal the secret to them. He had let Hermione help Potter as much as she could, he had even tried to find something one day in the library when Hermione had been harassing him to give her some help instead of making out. But that day, he wasn't very excited about the task. He was too sleepy, exhausted by the cycle that was approaching. He wasn't in such a good mood, Hermione had woken him up two times already and his head was hurting. His senses were heightened and he would have given anything to be somewhere else. In the hospital, in a comfortable bed, or in the Shrieking Shack, even. Did it matter if it was cold there? He just wanted to be in a silent place. He straightened up on the  bench as he let out a loud yawn and Hermione sat between Draco and Pansy, passing her hands on her face.

"Stop worrying so much, he's going to fail, so what?" Draco asked. Hermione frowned as she looked at him and, behind her, Draco noticed Pansy shaking her head to tell him to shut up. He looked at Hermione and gave her a little smile. "I mean... He's going to be fine..." Again, he tried to smile and Hermione shook her head.

"We've got to head to the lake, it's too late... I can't even find Ron," she said as she stood up.

"I thought he was avoiding you?" Pansy asked.

Hermione and her weren't talking a lot, it was still very awkward between them. But it was happening, sometimes. Hermione had to say, Theo was more pleasant with her. She could understand Pansy, in a way. She had noticed that her girl friends weren't staying with her anymore, that they were talking behind her back. Draco had noticed too, he had told Hermione. He had told how Pansy had snapped at him once when he had mentioned them. And still, apparently, Pansy was making some efforts to be... something else than mean with Hermione. They had had a few small talks but that was about it.

"He does," Hermione mumbled as the others stood up too and Draco grabbed her hand, starting to walk without really listening. "But I thought that he would be with Harry. The thing is, I asked Ginny and she doesn't have a clue where either of them are."

"Maybe they've worked something out, maybe that's why they're nowhere to be found," Theo said, hands in his pockets.

"Maybe..." Hermione said, still not reassured. She glanced at Draco, who seemed to be very grumpy that day.

"They're probably there already, stop worrying," she heard him say and she just tightened her grip on his hand, not saying anything else.

 

Potter hadn't turned up yet, great. Everyone was talking about it, whispering, wondering if he had been too afraid to show up. Hermione was sitting in front of Draco, next to Ginny, and he was more or less certain that they were talking about it too. If only the people around would shut up, he would be able to focus on what the two girls were saying.

"Come on, get that expression off your face, Draco," Pansy said as she elbowed him. His gaze slowly drifted towards her. "You should have stayed in your bed if it was to be so moody."

"Didn't want to miss Potter drowning," he said as he shrugged. "And he's not even there for his own death... Quite annoying, really..." He said as he slipped his hands in his pockets. In one of them, his fingers grabbed the piece of parchment he had folded and he gritted his teeth. Something was off.

A few days before the task, he had read a letter from his father saying that things were about to change, that something was going to happen, that it was burning again. Draco didn't like the sound of it. He hated it. He wasn't just in a bad mood because of the cycle, it was actually mainly because of this letter. He felt the urge of reading it again but knew better and he just waited for the task to begin.

Potter showed up just before the beginning of the task, panting and alone. The Weasel wasn't with him and he wasn't with the other students either... Was it weird? Draco didn't know because he didn't really care.

Harry had just removed his shoes and his socks when he started to walk in the lake. Draco grimaced. The water was probably extremely cold. Then, Harry just stopped. What the hell was he doing? Draco glanced at Pansy and exchanged a little smile with her without being able to help it. Maybe he really hadn't found a way to complete the task, maybe he didn't know what to do. Actually, a big part of the crowd was laughing. When Draco looked at Hermione, she just looked very worried for him. Next thing they all knew, Harry was under the water and didn't seem to come back at the surface. They had no clue how he had done it.

This task was a bit less exciting for the crowd, they couldn't see anything what was going on. They only saw Cedric coming out of the water with Cho Chang after quite some time and after Fleur had failed. And then, it was Krum's turn with his own hostage. Draco tapped Hermione's shoulder to get her attention. She was still looking worried. Draco leaned, still looking at the lake.

"So what, is Weasley down there?"

"I think so..." She said as she crossed her arms, staring at Draco's face. He wasn't looking at her but at the water, he was looking annoyed and she didn't exactly know why. She figured it was just because of the cycle. "I'm mainly worried for Harry, I don't think Ron is in any danger."

The time limit was passed when Harry got out of the water with not only Ron, but also a little girl. And just after, at least twenty merpeople showed up around them and accompanied them as Harry, Ron and the girl swam slowly to get out of the lake. Soon, Hermione was hurrying towards her friend to make sure he was ok and Draco waited for her with Pansy and Theo. Ginny didn't come back with Hermione, not that Draco exactly cared. He had talked to her a few times but their relationship was the same as Hermione and Pansy's.

 

That evening, he left the common room to go to Snape's office in order to take his potion. He approached the cauldron as Snape filled the cup before he gave it to Draco. The student drank the disgusting potion, glancing at his godfather. Snape was staring but not saying anything. Actually, he wasn't talking a lot with Draco lately. Draco had figured that Snape knew he had to be careful because of everything that had happened, that Draco didn't exactly want to talk a lot with him.

Sometimes, when Draco was feeling helpless, he was feeling the urge to run to Snape's office to talk to him, talk about the way he was feeling, share things with him. And then, he was always remembering the burn of this betrayal and he was keeping everything for himself again. And Snape could understand. So, he was letting Draco come back to him the way he was the more comfortable with; slowly. Because that day in his office, after Draco had been turned into a ferret, the boy had talked a lot for the first time since their argument. And then, nothing. He had decided to back out again. He had always been quite indecisive.

And because Snape knew it, he wasn't talking to Draco about his relationship with Hermione, it didn't matter how curious he was. He couldn't make Draco upset again. That's why he was surprised when Draco opened his mouth.

"Why aren't you telling me anything about Granger? Is it because you don't want to upset me again?" He asked quietly as he handed Snape the cup back. After all, it had been two months since the ball. His teacher didn't stop to look at him, not even when he took the cup between his hands. He decided to be upfront.

"Would it upset you if I was talking about it?"

"No." There was a moment of silence before Draco walked away from Snape. He sat in front of the desk before he stared at the seat on the other side of it. Then, he glanced at his godfather. Their eyes met during a few seconds before Snape finally moved to sit in front of Draco. "Do you think it's a mistake?"

"And you, do you think it is?" Snape asked, still not answering Draco's question. Before saying anything, he wanted Draco's opinion on the subject.

"No. Of course I don't. It's been a long time since I... I've felt this good. Since I've not been afraid of being... myself with somebody else. How could it be a mistake?" Draco asked, not looking at Snape anymore. It was hard to talk to him again, to open up. So hard. He didn't want to be hurt again. Not as much as he had been the year before. He wouldn't be able to handle the pain once more. But was he still feeling the same way for his godfather?

After all, hadn't Snape's mistake changed the way he was seeing their relationship? Was Snape still so important to him?

Yes, he was. That was killing Draco. He had been extremely hurt and if the feeling wasn't going away, it was because he was still too attached. He couldn't change that, even if he wanted to.

Snape stared at Draco. He had noticed some changes in Draco's attitude, of course. Even more since he had chosen to show everyone who he was dating. Snape could understand. He could understand how easy it was, how tricky it was, to fall for someone like Hermione, for a Muggle-born. But he would have never imagined a Malfoy falling for someone like her. Even Draco, even as a werewolf, it wasn't something he could have thought about before. Especially with Hermione Granger.

Snape looked away and Draco leaned on his seat, noticing something in his godfather's expression. He couldn't tell what it was, he had never seen that. Still, after a moment, Snape got out of his reverie.

"I don't believe..." He began before he finally met Draco's eyes again. "Letting people know was wise. Despite Minerva's faith in your relationship and your change of behavior, I don't believe all your classmates are thinking the way she does either." Draco frowned.

"I don't care about them. I don't need them to be fine with what I do." Snape considered Draco for a moment.

"Still, keeping all of this secret would have made everything much more simple."

"Since when life's simple? When has mine ever been?" Draco asked directly, like he had been ready to hear something like that.

"Your relationship and your affliction are two different things, Draco."

"Not so much, when you think about it." They were both bringing him hate. If he had revealed he was a werewolf, it would have been even worse than his relationship with Hermione. At least, now, he knew who his real friends were, even if it hadn't been such a surprise. And he was able to stay in the school, it wasn't like he was hated by everyone. A few students were even surprised but pleased by this change. Because it was showing that everyone could make mistakes, that everyone could realize how bad their behavior had been. And that some other people could forgive. Of course, they had no idea about his condition, but it was making it better, in a way. They were really thinking that even a Malfoy had been able to change. He liked to think it was giving hope to some people. As weird as it was, he liked to think that. To think that he hadn't totally screwed up everything in his life.

After another minute of pure silence, Snape looked at his desk as he opened one of the drawers, taking something from it. He let the burnt notebook fall on the desk, right between him and Draco.

"Do not tell me your life is better since the ball." Draco tried not to look away but he had to clench his jaw and take a deep breath before being able to answer.

"It's not as bad as it would have been if they knew the whole truth about me."

"It's not because a situation is better than another that it is good for you," Snape said calmly. He wasn't reproaching anything to Draco, he wasn't saying anything about his relationship. He was only worried for him. Theodore had brought this notebook to Snape himself and had asked if it was possible for Snape to not tell he had been the one bringing it into the office. He was afraid it would upset Draco and Snape was pretty sure it would. He could see that Draco had tried to repair the damages without much success. He wouldn't be able to.

"You know what would have made the situation better? Still having Lupin here. But we all have to make decisions, right?" Draco said rather calmly, with an ironic smile, before he glanced at the notebook, clenching his jaw again. "Why don't you just, for once, let it go? Why not be happy for me? Because Granger's sure making me happy. I don't believe you ever did."

Draco knew where to aim in order to hurt. He knew it way too well. Snape turned his head, looking away. Draco looked down. That had been harsh but at least, he had told him something hurting him. Something that would hurt him for just a short minute. While the wound created by Lupin's departure was still burning like Hell for Draco.

"You wanted my opinion, Draco. I didn't say you should put an end to this relationship. I didn't say she was or would make you unhappy. I just said that your actions have consequences."

"I can take it. It's nothing compared to what happened in the past. It's nothing compared to the way she makes me feel. It makes everything easy. It makes everything worth it. It makes me forget... everything."

Snape looked at Draco again. His student was looking in his direction but was clearly deep in his own thoughts, thinking about Hermione turning to face him, smiling. About her laughing at his silly jokes.

"She makes me feel human," He finally whispered, now really looking at Snape again. "I know it probably sounds stupid. I know. You don't need to tell me. But... It's been quite some time since I've felt this way."

Finally, after another moment of silence, Draco stood up, a bit embarrassed by what he had just said. He took the notebook from the desk, looking at it for a moment. He finally turned around and walked towards the door. Right before he opened it, he heard Snape again.

"I do not think it is stupid."

Draco didn't look at him again, he opened the door and walked out of the office, holding the notebook tightly between his fingers.

 

The next day, Hermione thought about talking to Draco more seriously. The main reason was what had happened during the potion lesson the same day. Karkaroff had burst in the classroom and Harry had heard a very interesting conversation between him and Snape at the end of the lesson. The others hadn't noticed, Hermione was at Pansy's table and Ron had to sit with someone else while Harry was right in front of Snape's desk and the two men had waited for the students to leave before talking. Harry had found a way to stay in the classroom, hidden and of course, he had told his friends right away about the conversation, even though he had to do it separately. He had tried to talk to both of them at the same time but they hadn't wanted to.

For a split second, Harry had thought Ron had been about to say yes, he even looked like he was about to smile when he thought about talking to Hermione. But he said no. He was too stubborn, of course. Even though he had seen Hermione and Draco together, even though he knew that it was real, that they seemed to be happy. They were always smiling around each other, close when talking, holding hands, laughing together.

Except lately, Draco seemed to be a bit gloomy. Harry thought it was because of the cycle, like Hermione had thought in the beginning. After all, she was still spending her time with him, they were clearly not arguing. But he just seemed in a worse mood than usual. And Hermione wasn't sure about the reason of this anymore.

She had seen him with this letter, she knew he was taking it everywhere with him, she had seen him read it more than once. There was something more than the moon. And Hermione couldn't help but think that it might be connected to what was going on with Snape and Karkaroff.

"Can I talk to you?" Hermione asked. She had been waiting from Draco to come out of the dungeons, sitting on the stairs. He hadn't shown up at lunch and she hadn't understood. Draco blinked. She sounded serious, she wasn't smiling at him. Why would she? He hadn't been smiling either lately. He had been a pain in the ass, actually. But still, she took his hand and he relaxed a little as he nodded. He followed her outside of the castle and they just walked for a moment. Draco had his free hand in his pocket, the other still holding Hermione's.

"Are you going to dump me?" He asked after a long minute of silence and hesitation.

"What?" Hermione asked as she stopped abruptly, almost laughing.

"Nothing," Draco said quietly, embarrassed, and he looked away.

"I'm not, Draco, why would I do that?" Draco shrugged, still looking away.

"Because I've been an ass, lately."

"So?" Hermione asked, not denying. Draco shrugged again, carefully avoiding her eyes. "Draco!" Hermione laughed, putting her free hand on his arm. "You don't break up with someone because they're in a bad mood! If it was working like that, I think I would have left you some time ago." Draco frowned a little, looking down before finally meeting her eyes.

"So we're good?"

"We're good, I promise," she said, her grip on his arm tightening a little. Draco took a deep breath before he gave her a little smile. It had been quite some time since the last time she had seen even the shadow of a smile on his face. It made her grin. "It happens. And that's what I want to talk to you about. If something's wrong, you can tell me, but you knew that already, right? I just don't want you to keep it to yourself if it makes you feel bad. And if it makes you act this way with me and your friends afterwards." Draco looked away again.

"Pansy told you..."

"Yes, she did. She's worried about you and so am I." After all, Draco was rarely snapping at Pansy just because she was sitting next to him. He was too anxious, he couldn't control his emotions anymore.

"I can't..." He almost whispered.

"You don't want to talk about it, it's different," Hermione said, tilting her head and smiling a little to show him that it was fine, that she wasn't upset or anything. She was annoyed, but not angry. He briefly met her eyes before turning his head, looking at the castle.

"I kind of want to... I just know better."

"Are you sure?" Hermione asked. Draco shrugged again. That was helping. "Look. I'm going to be honest, alright? I know what it's about." Draco quickly looked at her again, frowning a little. "I thought about it and I came to the conclusion that... It's about your father, isn't it?"

Draco clenched his jaw but this time, he kept staring right at her. Hermione took a deep breath before she let her fingers go down Draco's arm. She softly gripped his wrist and got his hand out of his pocket. His fingers were clenched around a piece of parchment and by the look of it, it seemed like he had been doing this a lot. The parchment was damaged, a bit ripped and folded. Draco didn't open his fist, he just kept looking at Hermione.

"What did he tell you, Draco? To make you act this way, something must have happened..."

"Something will. Probably."

They stayed silent for a moment, still staring at each other.

"Draco, I need to know... Is it about You-Know-Who?" She asked quietly. Draco gritted his teeth and buried his hand in his pocket again, looking away. She had come to this conclusion knowing that Karkaroff and Snape were close to Lucius Malfoy. And Lucius was a Death Eater. And after all, they were sure that if Harry was a part of the Tournament, it was probably because someone wanted to kill him. They were sure You-Know-Who was trying to come back again.

"I don't know, alright? He's just saying something's not right!" He snapped. Hermione let go of his other hand and Draco glanced at her. He closed his eyes for a second, taking a deep breath. "Look, I'm sorry, I just... It's... I didn't mean to snap at you, I-I really don't know. He doesn't know either and I don't believe he's exactly trying to find out."

Hermione frowned a little.

"What do you mean?"

"We're doing good, Hermione, don't you see? We're doing so good since he's gone," Draco said, meeting her eyes again. "If he had to... come back..." He said lower, visibly disturbed by the thought. "You don't even imagine what would happen..."

"But Draco, talk to me about it!" Hermione said. "I need to know, Harry has the right to know if-"

"What I'm saying here is not concerning Potter because I don't know what's going on, you need to believe me!" Draco said. They looked at each other for a second before Hermione whispered.

"I believe you, I really do... But I'm worried for you..." Draco took a deep breath and looked around.

"Tomorrow... I... I have to go to the Shrieking Shack..."

"I know."

"Come with me."

"What?" Hermione asked, surprised.

"No-! No, I mean... Before. Way before. With Potter if you must, he's probably going to want to hear this... The Weasel is more than welcome to stay here. Use that bloody cloak you guys had last year, no one will see you. You can use it, right?" Hermione was still taken aback, she didn't know what to say. She opened her mouth for a moment before closing it. She took a deep breath.

"I-I guess, yeah. Are you sure about this?"

"I think... I don't know. But... It's important, you're right. And no one can hear us, no one. So..."

"When exactly are you going there?" Hermione asked more quietly. Draco looked away, visibly disturbed.

"I have to take my Potion and... Snape will walk me there. He'll do it after the last class, I believe. I'll stay in my dorm during the day."

"Alright. We'll come after the last class, then. If we want to get back in time for the feast, it's better. Or they will notice we're not there..."

Draco was still looking at everything but Hermione and they heard the bell ring.

"We need to go, come," she said as she took his hand again, giving him a reassuring smile. As she was starting to walk, Draco pulled her towards him again, surprising her a little.

"You'll be careful, alright? If you think... It'll be too late, you do not come. Promise me you won't take any risk." He said as he finally met her eyes. She stared at him for a few seconds, still taken aback, before she finally talked quietly.

"I promise, Draco. Don't worry, it's going to be fine."

 

So, the next day, at the end of the very last class, Hermione was waiting for Harry in the common room. She was a bit surprised when she saw him come from the dorms with Ron. She stood up from the armchair, glancing at the redhead. She shook her head. They couldn't just talk about it in front of everyone. She quickly walked towards the portrait hole and waited for them to be in the hallway.

"Hermione, I asked him to come with us," Harry said directly. Ron hid his hands deep in his pockets as he glanced at Hermione too.

"I didn't ask him to come. He has nothing to do with this," she said, staring now at Harry. Ron felt even more embarrassed, hearing them talk like he wasn't even there. "Believe it or not, Draco is not going to want him there."

"Hermione, I'm the one who asked to come," Ron said as he took a step forwards. Hermione turned suddenly and Ron stopped, looking away.

"You're not coming," she said coldly before looking at Harry. "And if you insist for him to come, you don't either. I'll go alone."

"I'm sorry, Hermione," Ron said more quietly.

"Sorry, I didn't catch that," she said, crossing her arms, still looking at Harry. "So. Harry?"

"I have the cloak, Hermione, how do you want to go there by yourself without being seen?" Harry asked. He had thought about the whole thing, hadn't he? As soon as she had told him about the meeting, he had planned it, she was sure of it. She narrowed her eyes.

Oh, Harry knew she could do whatever she wanted to him and leave alone with the cloak. But he also knew her friend. He knew she wouldn't. At least, he was hoping she wouldn't.

"I don't need him to be upset. And even less if he's getting angry at me," Hermione added, still staring at Harry.

"I'll leave if he doesn't want me there," Ron said quietly. Finally, Hermione turned to face him.

"Then why would you come at all? Sounds a bit useless, doesn't it?"

"Hermione," Harry said. "He has the right to know what's going on, it's always been like this!" He said.

"You can tell him everything after, then! He doesn't need to come."

"Hermione, we're losing time," Harry said, showing her the cloak. She clenched her jaw.

"It's fine, I'll stay here," Ron said as he crossed his arms, visibly embarrassed. Hermione didn't know why she somehow felt bad for him. He didn't deserve for her to feel this way. She just narrowed her eyes when he glanced at her again and he turned his head, looking at the portraits on the wall.

"No, you're not going to stay here," Harry said. He smiled at Hermione. "Come on, and I'll let you come with us at Hogsmeade to talk to Snuffles next week. Like that, I'm not going to have to tell you everything later either," he said. Hermione glared at him. Yes, he had planned everything. She shook her head.

"Fine. He's coming. I don't have any more time to waste arguing about this." She crossed her arms, looking at Ron again. "If he throws you out the window, I'm not going to care. I might even help him," she added before she turned around, starting to walk quickly down the stairs. Harry and Ron exchanged a look. Harry ended up smiling and they both quickly joined Hermione. They all stayed silent, though. It was actually very awkward. They put the cloak above them in a deserted hallway and once in the Entrance Hall, they saw Snape walking towards the dungeons.

"He's going to give him his Potion, I think," Hermione said, more to Harry than to Ron and not sure if Draco had already left the dungeons to go to the Shrieking Shack. She was pretty certain he hadn't, though. Snape was coming from the Great Hall, not from outside, and she knew he was walking Draco to the tree. They would probably be there a few minutes before him.

They left the castle and walked towards the Whomping Willow, checking that no one was around before Hermione removed the cloak from herself, taking care of the knot. She was careful to put the long stick where it had been placed before or Snape would probably notice it had been moved. Then, one after the other, every time checking they were not visible, they went in the passage. They started to walk in silence, Hermione in front of the boys, still mad at them.

"It seems even smaller than last year," Ron said, looking around him. It was dark and they were very careful not to trip.

"Probably because last time we had to carry you," Harry said with a little laugh. He was in a good mood. Not only because they were maybe to have more information on the whole situation but because his friends might start talking to each other again. Well, obviously, it wasn't going to happen so easily, Hermione was way too angry at Ron. But after a short talk with his best friend to know if he wanted to come in the Shrieking Shack with them, he had been able to make Ron say what he was thinking. Of course he was missing Hermione. It wasn't surprising Harry.

"Probably because you both grew up during the holidays," Hermione said shortly, still walking ahead. Harry and Ron stopped talking, looking at her. Ron was feeling bad again and wondered if it was too late to turn around. Probably. He would run into Draco if he was doing that. And he wouldn't have the cloak. There was no going back.

They finally walked in the Shrieking Shack after quite some time. If the size of the passage had seemed smaller for Ron, the time they took to walk all the way to the house had seemed to be way longer. The fact that Hermione was so cold with them was probably making the time slower for both the boys. They climbed the stairs to walk in the room they had all been in the year before. It hadn't changed much. A few things were either more damaged, or just not at the same place as before. It was weird. Hermione looked around. It was cold, too. She glanced at the broken glass of the window and pursed her lips. She didn't like to imagine that Draco was staying there during the cycles.

She had stopped near the door of the room and Harry and Ron walked in, looking around too. Ron approached the mattress, looking at what was next to it. A chocolate bar wrapper, a little rock with some colors on it, from what he could tell it was a night sky with a moon, there were letters, some Knuts and Sickles, a S.P.E.W badge, a Potter Stinks badge, a damaged shirt with some stains on it... He looked at the dirty mattress itself and saw the old cover on it, some traces of blood, not only there but on the floor too. And he knew that some of it was his own, actually. When he looked up again, he saw Hermione's eyes on him. He took a step towards her.

"Hermione, listen, I-"

"I'm not sure I want to hear it, Ron," she said.

"But I want to apologize," he said more quietly. He wasn't planning on saying anything bad, this time.

"I know, and that's the problem." Ron and Harry exchanged a glance again as Hermione finally walked in the room, crossing her arms again. "You can't just say all those things to me and say sorry months after. What do you think I'm going to do, give you a hug?" She asked, looking away. Ron did too. He couldn't understand. After everything Draco had told her, she had started to go out with him. Couldn't she understand that he could regret his actions as well?

He knew she was probably understanding. She knew how he was acting.

"I've wanted to talk to you again for so long, I just..."

"Can't face that you were wrong? That I was right?"

"You're always right," she heard Harry say from his side of the room. Hermione shook her head in disbelief and rolled her eyes, staring at Ron again.

"How was I supposed to react, Hermione?" Ron asked. Hermione had known that he was going to react like that, of course. She had known way before it had happened. And she had told herself that it was fine, because she knew. But it had never been fine. It had still hurt her very badly.

"All I know is that he still hasn't dumped me. That he still doesn't talk to me about Harry. That in fact, he even said Harry could come tonight to talk about the situation because he knows how important it is. That every thing you said was wrong because you don't know anything about what's going on."

"You're right, I don't. I don't know anything. But I want to. I realized that I want to. That I miss sharing things with you, and that I miss having you sharing things with us... I tried to talk to Ginny about it but she sent me away," Ron explained.

"Because she knows better. She knows I wouldn't want you to use her to talk to me. If you're not capable of facing the situation yourself, then your apology isn't worth anything."

"That's why I'm here today!" Ron said, taking a step towards her. "Because I wanted to apologize directly, because you deserve me to tell you I'm sorry by myself..."

"I deserve much more than that, Ron," Hermione said. And before either of them had time to open their mouths again, they heard the wooden floor creak in the doorway.

"Am I interrupting something?" Draco asked shortly, staring at Ron. This one clenched his jaw and his fists but didn't say anything. He was aware of how red his cheeks were, of how frustrated he was probably looking because he was interrupted. But he didn't say anything. He had to try to keep his mouth shut. Harry approached his friend, facing Draco too. Hermione had still her arms crossed and Draco approached her, still standing behind her. "I don't remember asking you to come, Weasley," he added, still staring at him.

"He can leave if you want him to," Hermione said, still coldly, not about to let Ron walk all over her.

"Do we really have the time to talk about all of this?" Harry asked, glancing at Draco. He didn't really want to make Ron wait for them in the passage, even if he knew his best friend would do it if he had to. And he also knew that they didn't have so much time in their hands. They all heard Draco sigh and he finally slowly looked at Harry.

The boys noticed his red eyes, his pale face, his tired expression. He seemed to be exhausted. His tie was loosened, the two first buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned and he was just looking like he needed to sit down. He walked next to Hermione, hiding one of his hands in his pocket as he put the other on her arm. She finally turned to face him and the boys saw her approach Draco a bit more, putting one of her hands on his arm as she whispered something. Draco only nodded before he slightly turned his head to look at them again. He didn't exactly want to talk to them. They would just witness it. If they were trying to talk, he knew he was allowed to make them leave.

He got the letter out of his pocket, handing it to Hermione as he stared at her. She glanced at it, took the parchment between the tip of her fingers before meeting his eyes. They stared at each other for a few seconds before Draco finally let go of the his father's letter.

When Hermione looked at the letter again, she discovered Lucius' cursive handwriting that was definitely contrasting with the damaged paper. She read it quickly, seeing that Lucius was talking about something burning, changing, that something was probably going to happen. That things were going to change. That it was very serious.

She then glanced at Draco.

"It's his arm, isn't it...?" She asked quietly. Draco, who had been staring at her the whole time, considered her for a few seconds, frowning a little.

"How do you know what it is?" He asked almost in a whisper. She slightly shook her head.

"I don't really know what it is... I just know that there's something on their arms, well I'm sure of it now... It's all the Death Eaters, isn't it?"

"Why don't you just tell me how come you know about this?" Draco asked, narrowing his eyes a little. Hermione pursed her lips. If Snape was indeed connected to the Death Eaters, like Ron and Harry couldn't stop saying, and that Karkaroff was turning to him for help... If he was showing him his arm, saying that it was clearer than ever and that Draco's father had the same thing...

She quickly explained what had happened with Snape and Karkaroff, the conversation Harry had heard the day before, the fact that Karkaroff had shown his arm to Snape.

"Why didn't you tell me before?" He asked. Harry and Ron weren't even sure it had been a good idea to tell him about the conversation. What if he was talking about it with Snape? They were trusting Hermione for this conversation, of course, because she knew him way better than they would ever know him. But still.

"You weren't exactly looking like you wanted to talk to anyone," Hermione said. Draco let his gaze drift next to Hermione as he thought about it.

"So you'd rather discuss my godfather with Potter and Weasley..." They both blinked, realizing what Draco had just said. His godfather? Snape was his godfather? They glanced at each other and Ron hid his hands deep in his pockets again, uncomfortable, while Harry was thinking about it. He wondered what kind of childhood Draco had. Had he been around Death Eaters all his life? And what was Snape like with him? After all, they all knew he was his favorite student. They could understand why, now. It wasn't just because of the potion.

"Draco, don't act like that, don't try to change the subject." He was looking quite depressed. Hermione pursed her lips. "I've actually been defending Snape. Dumbledore trusts him, so I don't know why I would accuse him of anything. But Karkaroff... It's the same as your father, so, what is it?" She asked more firmly, wanting an answer. Draco moved as if he was going to walk away but he didn't. He didn't look at Hermione either.

"He... The Death Eaters... They've got a Mark on their left arm, alright?" Draco said, not knowing if telling them this was a good idea. "It's the Dark Mark, it's his mark." Hermione turned her head, looking away for a moment. She swallowed and glanced at Draco again, who was still staring at the wall. "I don't know much about it. I just know what it looks like. I mean... What it looks like on their arm... It's... I don't remember how it was when I was one, but I've grown up, and from what I can say, it's just a faint mark now that he's gone."

"So if it's changing, it means..." Hermione whispered.

"I don't know, alright?" Draco repeated like he wanted to make sure Hermione was understanding that very point. It was like they were alone in the room. Harry and Ron were totally silent, away from them, just listening, not wanting to upset him, to make him stop talking just by opening their mouth. He couldn't even hear them breathe. "I don't. I- I have no idea what it means and I'm not sure I want to know either... But my father... He- I think he knows, deep down, but I'm not sure he wants to believe it." Hermione frowned a little.

"But Draco... I'm sorry, I really don't want to talk about what I don't know but... at the World Cup, your father... I mean, he's still loyal to him, isn't he? So why wouldn't he want-" Draco chuckled before he muttered.

"Yeah, maybe you shouldn't talk about what you don't know..." Hermione looked away again for a moment, her eyes stopping on Ron and Harry. They were looking concerned. Maybe because of what Draco had just said, because of the way he had said those words. But Hermione didn't care. She only glanced at Draco again when she felt his eyes on her. "Yeah, he had... Well, he had his fun at the World Cup. He was with his... friends. And they drank. And they thought... I don't know. I don't- Look." He sighed as he looked up for a second before meeting her eyes again, licking his dry lips. "When You-Know-Who disappeared, my father did everything he could to protect my mother and I."

"He lied to escape being sentenced to Azkaban," Hermione said, not looking away once this time.

"What do you think would have happened, Hermione? We were... I was one. I was one and my mother would have been all alone. My aunt was being sentenced for sure, half of my family friends were going to be sentenced, we were surrounded by people like them... What do you think people would have done to my mother, wife of a Death Eater?"

With that, Hermione had received an answer she had wanted to have for a while. Despite sharing the same beliefs as her husband, Narcissa wasn't a Death Eater.

"He didn't... He chose to lie, yes. And he chose to collaborate with Aurors, to... He started working with the Ministry, making huge donations, he... He wanted to be with us, he wanted to raise me, he wanted to protect us. And we wanted him with us. It's not like he hadn't been punished at all after that, look at the son he's got."

"Draco, it's not the sa-"

"People were angry, Hermione!" Draco said louder as he turned around and walked away, surprising her. He wanted to let his anger out, he was so frustrated.

So frustrated from keeping everything inside, so angry because he had this rage growing inside of him as the moon was approaching. He wanted to throw stuff across the room, to punch the wall, he wanted to let it out. But he didn't want to argue with her and he didn't want to scare her. So, he just clenched his fists, hard. Hermione had never seen him like that and for once, she didn't understand what he had meant. He stopped near the mattress, all eyes on him. He closed his eyes, swallowing his spit.

"I've never told you how it happened, you don't know anything about our situation..." He said more quietly. "I don't..."

God, he hated having to talk about it, he had never told anyone all of this. It was scary. He didn't want her to reject him because his father was a Death Eater. He didn't want her to finally have enough. And he didn't exactly want to talk about it in front of Potter and Weasley, even if he was forgetting they were there every other second. He turned around again, only looking at Hermione.

"It was planned," he whispered. He wondered if she had heard him for a second. But seeing her expression, and their expression, they had heard him alright. He wasn't much louder when he spoke again. "They attacked me, they planned the whole thing... Because they were... Because my father had worked with..." Hermione slowly lifted her hand to put it on her mouth. "Even eight years later, they still wanted to get back at him so... Did it matter if I was innocent? People changed during the war, during his time... It's not because you're not on the bad guys's side that you're inherently good. It changed them, they just wanted people to pay, no matter how."

Hermione knew what he meant. She could understand. She just had to think about Crouch and what he had done during his time. How he had allowed Aurors to kill and everything else he had done.

"There was this guy," Draco began, turning around as he walked in the room again, approaching one window, the broken one. He could feel the fresh air getting through the broken glass. He didn't want to look at Hermione while saying this, he didn't want to see the expression on her face as she would imagine the scene, he didn't want them to see the expression on his face. "His brother was a werewolf so... I don't know the details, I never asked for them, I just know because... They've been punished but... We were at their place... My father had to meet one of them. And..."

"You don't have to tell us..." Hermione said quietly, knowing how hard it must be for Draco not only to tell what had happened but also just to think about it. And it wasn't like he was just alone with her either. But he shook his head curtly as he turned. She had to know. She would know one day anyway. He met her eyes and took another deep breath.

"He made my father go in his office to talk... I don't know, probably about Ministry stuff... And the moon was up, I could see it... I could see it so clearly outside. And he came in the room... I was waiting for my father... I was waiting to go home and play piano with my mother..." He slightly and sadly smiled for a second. "We were always playing at the end of the day, you know... And he came in. And he almost killed me," he just said, feeling his hands shaking, his heart beating fast and his eyes stinging. "They got back at him because of his affiliation with You-Know-Who... So, tell me... What do you think they would have done to my mother if he had been in jail? We'd both be dead for all I know." He stopped for a moment and his expression became colder, his tone became more firm. "But he showed them. He had them... They were punished. They killed the... The Ministry, they killed the... They sent the guy in Azkaban..." He looked away for a second, right between Hermione and her friends, frowning a little as he slightly narrowed his eyes. His lips moved without making any sound and then, he let out the end, still staring at the wall. "They killed the werewolf in front of me," he finished in a whisper. 

He looked down as he passed a hand on his face, trying to catch his breath, trying to find the right words. He looked at Hermione again.

"My father has always been so sure You-Know-Who was dead. And now this? All the signs? He doesn't believe it's a coincidence but... He's hoping it's not true. He was so sure we would never have problems again... We were still... An important part of the community. We still are. We have a great life most of the time, we have the best situation we could have dreamed of! He did something really stupid during the World Cup, yeah, probably. But he didn't conjure You-Know-Who's mark. He would never have. We don't know who did, he didn't understand. He would never... He left as soon as he saw it, like the others. It wasn't one of them. Trust me when I'm telling you this. They would have never gone that far."

"They don't have morals, Draco..."

"They have rules. Think what you want but they know what they do. And it wasn't their doing." He was rather cold and Hermione didn't like seeing this expression on his face. It was definitely too hard for him. She took a step towards him, speaking quietly.

"Don't protect those people..."

"I'm not! I'm telling the truth! It wasn't them! Talk about loyalty all you want, they're not loyal! Not enough! My father's not been loyal since he heard about his fall! If he had been so loyal, he would have looked after him, he would have- tried to find a way to... Bring him back! Or he would have accepted his sentence! But he's only loyal to his family, to what really matters! Everyone knows what happened with Quirrell in the school, he knows about it, I told him about it myself! He didn't try to do anything after that, he didn't try to find him, to bring him back, trust me, we're fine with him out of the picture! If he comes back... If he... We're as good as dead, I'm sure. At least... I am." He turned around again, looking outside. "Or... Or we're bound to join him... Or he'll kill us... I don't want to think about it, I don't want to believe it'll happen... I don't want to..."

It was a bit hard to take it all in. The trio didn't even know how to react exactly. But Hermione was keeping her cool as she approached Draco a bit more.

"I'm sure we can help. I'm sure Dumbledore can help them and-"

"No! I can't betray them!"

"You're not going to betray them, Draco! If You-Know-Who's really trying to come back... If you want them to be safe..."

"You can't hide from him," Draco said as he himself approached Hermione, stopping in front of her. "If he comes back and that we try... We're as good as dead. No, you're not going to tell anyone about this, you understand me?"

And finally, Harry took a step forwards. He and Ron had been silent until then, but they could see how panicky Draco was at that point, that with his fatigue, he looked like he was about to have a nervous breakdown. And they didn't have much time left before having to leave.

"Malfoy, please, listen." Draco kept staring at Hermione, clenching his jaw. "If Voldemort comes back," they all flinched as Harry said his name, "And that you're doing nothing against him... You'll be fighting with him. Do you want to fight by his side?" He asked before he swallowed when Draco glared at him.

"It's not so easy, Potter, I can't do as I want, I can't-"

"One day, you'll have to choose," Harry interrupted him. Draco looked a bit surprised but it lasted only for a moment. "Either you will have to fight with us, with Hermione and us, or you'll have to fight with him, against us, with the Death Eaters." 

Draco kept staring at him for a moment before he slowly turned his head to look at Hermione, letting those words out being more than difficult when she was standing right in front of him.

"Whatever happens, Potter, I'll always choose my parents."

They all stared at him for a moment before he felt Hermione's fingers on his hand.

"I know it's scary, Draco, that He is scary. That you're afraid for your family... But it's ok to be afraid. Helping us does not mean that you're betraying your parents if you're doing it to save them."

"I'm not afraid!" Draco said directly, getting his hand back, looking offended and gritting his teeth. He finally looked away. "I can't abandon them." He said already more quietly.

"Does You-Know-Who know what you are?" Ron suddenly asked, not even realizing that it was rude. They all looked at him, surprised.

"One word, Weasley, and you-"

"Probably not, since he was... gone," Ron said the last word more quietly, glancing at Harry. He looked at Draco again. "But if he comes back... He'll know, won't he? And he'll kill you. He'll kill you and kill your parents if he learns that you're not pure. That you're a part-human. That they kept you around despite that fact." Draco swallowed as he looked down.

"Ron..."

"I'm sorry, Hermione, but it's the truth and you know it. If he stays with them, he's going to be killed. If he fights with us... He has better chances to save them if he fights with us."

"What are you thinking about?" Harry asked, curious. During this time, Draco glanced at Ron, narrowing his eyes a little. Why was he saying this anyway? It's not like he really wanted him by their side, did he? Was he doing this just because of Hermione?

"They'd be safe if you were with us. I-" Ron stopped himself, not believing that he was actually thinking and saying this stuff. Maybe it was mainly because he wanted to show Hermione that he had been honest when he had apologized. That he was willing to do something about the situation, even if it would be hard, even if it would take time, even if he didn't want to hang out with Draco Malfoy. "If you help us discover what's going on, if you help us against... Anyway, if you help us, he might think that's because your parents disowned you after... He might think they wanted to stay pure, to avoid what you might bring them. So he will spare them, and you'll be safe with us."

Draco looked away again and Hermione pursed her lips. Harry glanced at Draco to see his reaction.

"Ron-"

"I know! I know what you're thinking," he said as he looked at Hermione. "But it's the truth. No matter how I say this, it's how it works, isn't it?" He asked as he looked at Draco again. "That's why you guys think it's fine to abandon your own family, isn't it?" Draco didn't say anything, he kept staring at the wooden wall, feeling a bit dizzy. Ron knew he was harsh, but it was the only way he had to make them realize what he wanted to say. "But if he believes they did the right thing by throwing you out, they'll be safe, won't they? And you... You'll be safe too. You'll be with us, you'll be with Dumbledore."

"I don't think it's that easy," Hermione said quietly, glancing at Draco.

"No, it's not." Draco had been cold as he looked at Ron again. Actually, a part of him wanted to believe in this plan. But he knew that it would never be that easy. "What if he uses Legilimency? What if he sees that it never happened? What if he learns they're lying and kill them for that?" He asked. Harry had raised an eyebrow, not knowing what Legilimency was. But Ron seemed to know.

"Right..." He just said. "I thought that..." He looked away, shaking his head a bit as he crossed his arms. Draco sighed.

"He's just trying to help," Hermione said, carefully touching Draco's arm. He looked at his girlfriend for a few seconds. She gave him a little and strained smile and he looked down.

"I know," he let out and Ron looked at Draco again, a bit surprised. He didn't sound cold anymore. He knew why Draco was so aggressive with him, of course. He probably deserved it. But there had been something like desperation in his voice at that moment. Ron narrowed his eyes and he saw Draco glancing at him. "There's a chance it'd work. But I'd rather not play with probabilities. That's not how I work. And it's not like I've already been very lucky, huh?" There was no response and Draco turned around again, getting away from Hermione's grip as he walked towards the wall, his arms crossed. "You should leave, now."

"Draco, will you think about all of this? It's important..." Hermione said, not trying to approach him anymore. She knew how he was because of the moon, and she had actually never interacted with him during the very day of the full moon. And the conversation had made it worse, in a way. Seeing the way he had been talking, even to her, she knew he was unpredictable.

"Look," Draco said shortly as he turned a bit his head. "I allowed you to come here tonight because I accepted to talk to you about all of this. Not because I wanted to make this kind of decisions. What if nothing happens anyway? Maybe we're all just too... paranoid."

He knew they weren't. Still, Harry and Ron didn't say anything else. Hermione opened her mouth but Draco heard her and he didn't want to talk about it anymore. He was tired and they really had to leave.

"Just- Go. Now. It's getting late."

A few seconds after this, he felt Hermione's fingers on his hand again, pressing it softly before he felt her lips on his cheek. She could feel how hard his jaw was clenched. Draco turned his head to look at her and they just stared for a few seconds.

"I'm sorry," she whispered and she gave him another little smile. "I'll come and see you tomorrow in the hospital, can I?"

"Of course you can," Draco whispered back after a moment, looking down. He knew the way he was acting, he knew how cold he was, but he couldn't help it. He wasn't feeling good at all and this discussion had made the matter worse. He leaned just a bit, pressing softly his lips against Hermione's before he turned his head, not looking at her anymore. He felt the pressure on his hand becoming tighter and finally, Hermione left with her friends.

Draco took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes with his left hand before he pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course, he was afraid.

 

"We're not leaving you alone, I promise... We're staying right here. We're staying right here with you." Lucius was holding his son's hands through the bars closing the cellar. Draco was on the verge of tears, afraid. He didn't want them to leave. It was so terrifying. He looked behind him. He was never going down there, he wasn't courageous enough. He never really liked the cellar, mainly because it looked like a prison.

But it was very huge and when he had come downstairs in his father's arms, he had seen the big mattress in one corner of the room. There were pillows, a big and thick blanket, and his favorite stuffed dragon. Every time he had a nightmare, even before his attack, he was sleeping in his parents' bed with this dragon, between his parents.

Narcissa hadn't been able to stay too far away from him, she couldn't stop kissing him, running her fingers through his hair and looking at her little boy. Snape had stayed in the stairs, not wanting to disturb what was going on, just staring from afar. Then, the tree of them had come back at the entrance of the cellar and Lucius had put his son on his feet again. That's when Draco decided that he didn't want to let go. He had grabbed his father's arms and pulled them, not wanting to be on his own.

Maybe it would only happen if they were making it happen; if they were locking him there. Maybe... if he was staying in his father's arms, maybe he would be safe? He had asked his father to hold him again and his father had done so, of course. He had taken his son in his arms again, kissed his cheek and explained once again how it was going to happen. Narcissa was holding Draco's hands, smiling to him, trying to reassure him as well and trying not to cry.

Lucius had explained for the third time that he had to stay there but that it didn't mean they were going anywhere. They didn't want to leave him alone. But they didn't want him to suffer either.

During the week, they had watched Draco drink the Potion for the first time and he had actually thrown up. He really didn't like the taste of it. Snape himself had said that it was apparently disgusting but that they couldn't do anything to change it or it wouldn't have any effect. It was important for him to drink it this way and they both found him really brave when he had accepted to drink it again, tears rolling down his cheeks. Then, and like the rest of the week, he had slept in his parents bed with them holding him. The last three days, he hadn't even left the bed once, too tired. They had spent all their time with him, they had even been able to make him laugh a little despite him being really moody.

But at that moment, it was too much pressure, he couldn't take it anymore and it was even worse when Lucius had to close the gate. He and Narcissa were crouching in front of their son, on the other side of the bars, and they were each holding one of his hands. They heard a sob escaping his mouth and he lowered his head as his body shook a little. When he looked at his father again, they could see the tears slowly going down his face.

"I'm sorry for being afraid..." He said before he sobbed again. Lucius frowned a little and let go of his hand to put his own on Draco's waist, pulling him a bit closer to the bars. Draco used the opportunity to use his hand to wipe his cheek before he rubbed his eye with his fist, sobbing again.

"Draco, why would you say such a thing?" Lucius asked softly, his hand still on his son's waist. Narcissa used her free hand to take both Draco's, removing his hand from his face. She let go of it for a second to dry his cheek like he had wanted to do before holding it again. His hand was wet with his tears and she held it tight. Draco swallowed and looked at his mother.

"Vincent's father told him that... those who are afraid are weak. I don't want to be weak... I want to be strong..." He mumbled, his voice sounding a bit strangled. He looked at his father again. "I want to be like you..." Narcissa glanced at her husband.

"But, Draco... You shouldn't listen to Crabbe, and even less think this way. You are strong, look at you," she said as she smiled. Her son was way stronger than he thought he was. So much stronger than they all thought he was a month before.

"You are so much stronger than I will ever be..." Lucius then almost whispered, staring at his son. Draco looked down and clenched his jaw, not believing his father. He felt that another sob was about to get out of his throat but he tried to stop it, not really succeeding. He coughed.

"B-But... Have you ever been afraid of something?" He asked shyly, glancing at his father again. This one smiled softly to his son, his fingers slowly moving on his side.

"Loads of times." Draco shook his head.

"You don't need to lie to make me feel better..." He said weakly and he looked at his mother's hands that were still holding his.

"I'm not lying, Draco. I would never lie to you. Saying I've never been afraid would be a lie." Draco clenched his jaw again and looked up, his eyes stopping on Snape. He stared at him for a few seconds. His godfather wasn't showing anything, he had the same cold expression he always had on his face.

"What were you afraid of?" He then asked, turning his head to look at his father again.

"I used to be afraid of a lot of things when I was your age... Lot of stupid things, too. But you know what I've been most afraid of in my life?" He asked. Draco slightly shook his head, meeting his father's eyes. Lucius softly smiled again as he moved his hand from Draco's waist. "Of loosing you," he finally let out in a whisper, his fingers softly and slowly tapping Draco's bare chest before resting against it, feeling his son's heart beating in his chest. "In my life, I have never been as afraid as I was when..." His fingers slowly went down on Draco's body, reaching the bite as he looked at it before meeting his son's eyes again. "It's ok to be afraid."

 

An acute pain in his stomach made Draco get out of his memories and he soon fell on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, moaning because of the sensations taking over his body.

Chapter Text

"Where are you going?" Harry asked distractedly when he saw Hermione getting up from her armchair. She had been reading in the common room, often glancing at the clock, and Harry and Ron had decided to play chess near her.

Ron and Hermione weren't really talking again just yet. Or when they were, Ron was way more polite than he had ever been with her, they were being very formal with each other and at least,  they weren't talking about the argument anymore. For Harry, it was reassuring. It was giving him some hope about their friendship. He was sure that by the end of the week, they would even have a conversation by themselves, not just because they were both talking with him.

Hermione closed her book, putting it near her friend.

"To the hospital wing," she said quietly. "I told Draco I would go see him."

"Tell him we say hi," Ron said, still staring at his game. Harry and Hermione both glanced at him as they raised their eyebrows. Ron finally looked up and he shrugged, feeling his cheeks getting a bit warmer. "What?"

Hermione shook her head and turned around to leave. Ron frowned a little and looked at Harry.

"I wasn't being mean, I wasn't mocking him for being in the hospital," Ron said. Harry snorted and looked at the game again.

"I know. She probably knows too but maybe..."

"Maybe what?"

"It sounds fake," Harry said as he glanced at the portrait hole. "I mean, I know you want her to be friendly with you again but if you show concern for Malfoy..."

"I just thought that after yesterday... I mean, what we learned, not only about..." Ron glanced around, speaking even more quietly. "His parents, but about him..."

"What, are you really concerned?" Harry asked, actually a bit surprised. Ron rolled his eyes.

"Nah, I mean, yeah, not really... It's just, you know..." No, Harry didn't know. He kept staring at his friend. "Don't look at me like that! But after what I told him, and after knowing how it happened, and... You know, with the information he gave us yesterday... I know I did wrong, that's all. And I want Hermione to know that I know."

"Yeah, don't grow too attached to Malfoy though," Harry said with a little smile and Ron narrowed his eyes.

"Shut up, Harry," he said, annoyed. He wasn't exactly caring for Draco, but it was true. He had gone too far with his words, not only about his condition but about his relationship with Hermione. He had hurt the both of them a lot that year, but it was just hard for him to realize that Draco wasn't a bad guy. Well, not totally. He could still be a total jerk with other students, but he was truly caring for Hermione and her well-being. And he was suffering a lot, Ron knew that. And the fact that he was now also bullied by his housemates was making the matter even worse. He didn't need for Ron and Harry to be mean with him when even after everything, he was giving him the kind of information he had given them the day before.

Even Pansy was nice with Hermione, or at least she wasn't mean with her. So why shouldn't they try to be... Fine with the situation? Ron had barely slept that night, thinking about all of that.

"Anyway, have you thought about what Hermione asked?" Harry looked up and considered his best friend for a second. Hermione had talked to him the evening before, not long after the feast. She had asked if it was possible for Draco to come with them to see Sirius the next week-end. It had taken Harry aback. He wasn't sure why he would have to come. She told him that he didn't know about the meeting yet but that if Harry was willing to let him come, she would tell him and ask if he wanted to come and that he wouldn't tell anyone anyway. Harry had no idea that Draco and Sirius were related in any way, he didn't know why it was important for Hermione but she seemed to really want Draco to join them. He had just told her he would think about it and he had watched her go to her dorm before joining Ron to talk to him about it.

Harry shrugged.

"I still don't know. I mean... I get that he gave us precious information and that... And that's what we will also have with... Sirius," he had whispered his name, looking around too. "But... She can tell him later what she knows, I mean... It seemed really important to have him there, I don't know why." Ron just nodded.

He didn't want to interfere. If he was telling Hermione that he was sharing Harry's opinion, he was afraid she would be totally mad at him again.

"Hey, what's Legilimency?" Harry suddenly asked, looking at Ron again right after he had won the game. His friend looked at him and it took him a second to remember why Harry could be asking this question. Again, it was because of the conversation they had had with Draco, with the plan Ron had proposed.

"It's a complicated branch of magic. When you can use it, you can see in another person's mind," Ron started to explain the best way he could. Harry frowned a little.

"You can read anyone's mind?" He asked as Ron came to sit next to him.

"A lot of people say it allows the user of the spell to read minds because it's easier to understand when you say that but... It's a bit more subtle than that. You can't read one's mind, really... You can look into it, find what you want to find... And it doesn't work on everyone, depends if you can block the Legilimens. But it's something really hard to learn," Ron said. "Anyway, they say You-Know-Who's the most accomplished Legilimens you can find... There's no way you can hide something from him, really. If he doesn't believe you, he can easily find out the truth," he added so that Harry could understand why they had realized Ron's plan was a bit foolish.

"Hermione knows you just wanted to help. Malfoy does too, I'm sure he's... You know." He couldn't say "grateful", he was pretty sure Draco wasn't feeling this way, but he knew that Ron had really tried to find something that would help him.

"Legilimency just didn't come into my mind when I thought about it. I still think he'd be safer if he was protected by Dumbledore."

"You heard him as well as I did, Ron," Harry said as he looked at the fire. "Whatever happens, he will always choose his parents..."

They stayed silent for a minute, both staring at the fireplace, Hermione's book between them.

"I just hope Hermione will be able to talk some sense into him, you know. He can find a way to help us without feeling like betraying his parents."

"You seem to really want him to fight with us, are you sick?" Harry asked, smiling a little but still not looking at his best friend. Ron shrugged.

"Nah... But imagine You-Know-Who's face if he discovers that even the Malfoys are on our side..."

They both chuckled a little. It was weird, indeed. Would Draco's parents ever change? Would they fight with them, one day? They would probably be forced to fight with Voldemort... Harry glanced at Ron.

"I think I'll let him come with us, next week. Maybe we could... Help him choose, you know."

Ron only nodded to give his approval and they both stood up. Harry grabbed Hermione's book and they both left the common room.

 

"You never told me why Sirius Black's humor is not really amusing for you..." Hermione said. Draco and her were both laying on the bed, on their backs, their fingers interlaced between their bodies. And they were both staring at the white ceiling of the hospital, talking quietly. Draco blinked and just held Hermione's hand tighter for a moment, thinking about it.

"It's... It concerns Lupin..." Draco said quietly. Should he tell her? After all, she would understand that if Snape had actually faced Lupin, he wouldn't be there now. He would have been killed. Because Lupin was extremely dangerous. Like he was himself... Should he make Hermione realize that? In a way, he just didn't want to admit that she was already aware of how dangerous he could be. He hated that she knew, he hated being a danger for her.

And as he was thinking about it, a thought struck him. Snape would be dead. A lot of things would have been different for him if it had been the case. Who would have been his godfather? Rodolphus, who was now in prison? Or one of his parent's other friends? Who would be making him his Potion? He would have been so alone at Hogwarts. He wouldn't have had him to check on him, to look after him... It was weird, thinking about it, about everything they had shared. He was missing him so much. And he hated himself for that, because he thought that it was making him weak. To be so attached to somebody who had hurt him so bad... What other word than "weak" did he have to describe this? He sighed loudly.

"It was during their school days... It was the full moon and... I don't know if it was all Sirius' doing, but I do know Lupin had no idea about what was going on... Anyway, he sent Snape under the Whomping Willow, you know..." He heard Hermione gasp and she straightened up a little. "I don't know how he lured him there, I just know he told him about the passage... Don't worry, he wasn't hurt, he didn't even see Lupin... He was stopped in time, just before going in..."

"By Sirius?" Hermione asked as she sat, looking at Draco. This one glanced at her and he kind of shrugged, still lying down.

"I don't know... He didn't say. But I asked Lupin if it was true because... How could I trust Snape with anything, lately?"

"I'm sure he regrets what he did to you, Draco," Hermione said. She didn't exactly like their Potions teacher at all but she hated seeing Draco being so depressed because of him.

"I don't care, he did what he did. We can't change that," Draco said as he looked away. "Anyway... Lupin told me that it was true. That... When he learned about it... He was feeling betrayed, he was so angry... He didn't talk to Sirius for the longest time and the only times it was happening, they were fighting. I think it broke something, you know... Between them. Trust, maybe. I don't know, he just told me that some things were never the same after that," Draco said more quietly. Lupin knew how it was to feel betrayed by his closest friends too. About this secret too. Sirius would have let his friend become a murderer just because he didn't like Snape... He wasn't a Black for nothing, was he? And still, he had forgiven Sirius, he had told Draco so. And Draco knew that it was because Lupin wanted Draco to forgive Snape.

Draco lifted their hands, pulling Hermione's to keep it against his tummy as his free hand started to play with the sleeve of her sweater, still looking at the ceiling.

"Not funny, huh?"

"No, not funny at all," Hermione said quietly before she slowly moved to lie down again.

They heard the doors being opened and footsteps coming their way. Hermione sat down again before suddenly getting up, getting her hand back and making Draco frown.

"Harry, Ron, what are you doing here?" She asked. Draco turned his head, glancing at the two boys. He saw their eyes on him and he glanced at the ceiling for a few seconds before he lifted his tired body to sit on the mattress.

"I told you I would think about... What you asked, yesterday," Harry said. Draco raised an eyebrow as he glanced at his girlfriend. "I think that..." Harry looked at Draco again, meeting his eyes. "He trusted us yesterday. Not only with what he told us, but... He let us go down there," Harry started to explain before he approached Hermione. "We talked about it with Ron and we think we can trust him too with this." Hermione's face brightened as she turned to face Draco.

"What is this about?" Draco asked, glancing at the two boys before looking at his girlfriend. He moved to sit on the edge of the mattress, his bare feet meeting the cold floor of the hospital. Hermione sat down right next to him as she looked at her friends.

"You know... Next week, there's the trip at Hogsmeade," she said. Draco and her had never had the chance to go there together. Even if now, their relationship was public in the school, Hogsmeade wasn't just full of students. And a lot of people would recognize the Malfoy boy holding hands with a Muggle-born. He was too afraid someone would go and just talk about it to his parents. His father had already mentioned rumors in one of his letters, and Draco had gathered all his courage to tell him that it was just that, rumors. He couldn't just tell him what was going on between Hermione and him. If he was ready to face the other students, he clearly wasn't ready to face his parents. But now that he had clearly lied, it was even worse. "We're going to meet someone there. Someone who will be able to answer some of our questions. We need to talk to him but no one can know. Ever."

"Why?" Draco asked as he frowned a little, meeting Hermione's eyes. "Who is it? Is it dangerous?" He asked, glancing at Harry and Ron before looking at his girlfriend again, automatically putting his hand on her forearm. Harry and Ron both looked away, a bit surprised to see him act this way, and Hermione smiled.

"Even if it was dangerous... We've faced worse. But no. It's not exactly dangerous for us but for him... He's... On the run. People are looking for him, if anyone knew we know where he is, that we're talking to him..."

Draco slowly removed his hand from her arm before he stood up, staring at Hermione for a few seconds.

"On the run, huh? Is that why you're talking to me about him?" He asked. His tone had changed a bit and Hermione glanced at her friends.

"You talked about him?" Harry asked. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Not like that, Harry," she said. Of course, Draco had figured out who it was. She stood up too. "It's not why I talked to you about him, Draco. I just wanted to know what had happened with Snape. I thought about it again because we're going to see him, yes, but I really wanted to know," she said. Draco took a deep breath as he looked away and it was her turn to put her hand on his arm. "Stop freaking out, Harry, it has nothing to do with him being out of Azkaban or where he is. Draco... He's his cousin," she said. Harry blinked and Ron gaped at Draco. Hermione looked at her boyfriend and smiled a little. "Once removed," she added before she glanced at Harry again. Draco finally looked at the boys, looking annoyed.

"My mother was a Black before marrying my father," he said shortly. He didn't seemed very pleased with the idea of being related to Sirius. He looked at Hermione again. "And you just spend your time talking to a murderer who has escaped Azkaban? Why? Because he's his godfather?" He asked, nodding in Harry's direction. Hermione pulled his arm a little.

"Come on, stop acting like that. Of course not, you know I wouldn't. He's innocent," she said more quietly. Draco frowned. "I'll explain the situation to you when we will have more time," she said. They had all the time they wanted, actually. But she didn't exactly want to talk about it with Harry around. She didn't want to talk about the way Peter had betrayed his parents, got them killed, got his godfather imprisoned for his crimes...

"Peter Pettigrew's alive," Harry let out, staring at Draco. And seeing how quickly Draco looked at him, Harry understood that he indeed knew who he was. "He's the one who betrayed my parents. He's the one who killed those Muggles..."

"Of course he's not, he... Exploded, he's dead," Draco said as he grimaced a little.

"He just cut his finger, he's an unregistered Animagus... He cut his finger, killed the Muggles and changed into an animal to escape Sirius who knew the whole truth," Harry said more quietly, looking down. Draco couldn't believe it. He looked at Hermione again like he was checking if it was true, like he would only believe it if she was the one saying it.

"He was Scabbers all this time," Ron added finally and Harry turned his head to look at him, as well as the others.

"Scabbers?" Draco asked as he frowned again. What was a Scabber?

"My rat." It took a moment for Draco to remember Ron's animal.

"That old disgusting thing that bit Goyle?" Draco asked as he grimaced again. Hermione bit her lip like she was trying not to laugh. Ron shrugged, looking away. "Are you being serious right now? All three of you?" He asked, turning again to face Hermione. She nodded.

"Sirius wasn't looking for Harry, last year, he was looking for Ron's rat. That night, when you had to go in the Forest," she said and Draco looked away automatically, "Sirius and Lupin confronted him in the Shrieking Shack. We were there because... Well, Sirius was aiming for the rat but got Ron instead so he just took him with him."

"What do you mean, he was aiming for the rat?" Draco asked, frowning again. Hermione figured that with everything he already knew, they could tell him that too.

"He's an Animagus too. A big black dog. He got Ron's leg and dragged him under the Whomping Willow," she said. Draco looked at Ron again, trying to keep his mouth close. That explained his injury at the end of the year as well as their presence in the Forest. Hermione took a deep breath. "Anyway. Pettigrew escaped. So, no one could prove that Sirius is innocent, that's why he's still on the run. But Harry and him send each other letters from time to time. We never really know where he is exactly."

"Alright," Draco said quietly before taking a step back, sitting on his bed again. "Ok, alright. Give me a minute," he just said, looking in front of him. It was a lot of new information. "So. You're going to see him while you'll be at Hogsmeade next week-end, is that it?" He then asked. Hermione nodded and Harry approached the bed. He put Hermione's book that he still had in  his hands on the mattress before he crossed his arms.

"Yes. He came so close to talk to me about something, even though I don't want him here. That's incredibly dangerous but we figured that we're not going to make him leave now that he's here."

"What does he want to talk to you about?" Draco asked, now eager to know even more stuff. He looked up at Harry who seemed to be a bit uneasy as he exchanged a look with his friends.

"Well, we don't know exactly," he sighed before he met Draco's eyes again. They were already talking quietly just in case Madam Pomfrey would hear them but he started to whisper. "Your father, Karkaroff and Snape are not the only one knowing that something is going on... I have those dreams," he started to explain, "I don't know what it means exactly but my scar... Hurts." Draco narrowed his eyes a little, glancing at Harry's forehead and seeing the scar behind his untidy hair. "It used to hurt during our first year, when Quirrell was around."

"So when You-Know-Who's around..." Draco said quietly. Harry nodded, noting that Draco was quick on the uptake.

"That's why we wanted to know what was going on so bad, yesterday. That I asked Ron to come too, even if I knew you wouldn't like it. Because we've always faced him together. It's not going to change." This time, it was Draco's turn to nod as he glanced at Hermione, who slightly smiled to him. "If we're saying all of this to you, it's because we trust you. Because we both know you treat Hermione right, that even if you're incredibly annoying, you're not that bad." Draco slightly smirked as he looked down; interlacing his fingers on his lap. "I told Sirius about my dreams and the tournament and he really wants to meet. So... Will you come with us? He probably knows more than we do on the situation, with the information you can give, he will eventually be able to tell us even more stuff. We thought we'd ask him about it."

"But you already know everything I know. Why should I come? You could just repeat what I told you," Draco said as he frowned a little, looking at Harry again.

"Because... You're a part of the team now," Hermione said quietly. Ron and Harry glanced at her. They were still a bit uneasy about that but it was true, somehow. He had started to help during the evening before, and he was his boyfriend. As long as they were dating, they wouldn't be able to go around and do what they had to do without him not knowing. Even if it was hard to admit for them, Draco was smart, he would figure it out. And with his parents working for Voldemort, he would know at some point anyway. Seeing how he had reacted with Hermione when he had thought it could be dangerous for her, he wouldn't stay in his dorm without doing anything to protect her, especially knowing that she was around the boy Voldemort wanted dead.

Draco knew how good Hermione was, how better she was. She was more than smart and very capable when it came to duel, but he couldn't help it. He was worried. He didn't want to learn she had been attacked or that she had hurt herself while doing something reckless... Or worse, he didn't want to learn that she had been killed. He couldn't help but be worried, even if he knew that Potter and Weasley were more likely to die first if they were starting to be in trouble.

"You deserve to know what's going on too. We're not the only one concerned by all of this. Your parents and you... It would be unfair for us to hide this from you. You should come. But you can say no if you really don't want to be more involved," Hermione added, still staring at her boyfriend.

There was a minute of silence during which the trio waited for Draco to think. He looked down, staring at his hands for a moment before he took a deep breath, looking at his girlfriend.

"Ok. I'm in."

 

They had made their arrangements and Draco left the castle around noon on Saturday the next week, accompanied by Pansy and Theo. The weather was good that day, they hadn't kept their cloaks on for long and they started to visit a few shops, buying different things. Theo and Pansy knew that Draco had to leave at some point. He hadn't told them what it was about, he had just said that he would spend some time with Hermione. Pansy had asked if it wasn't unwise, knowing that people might recognize him but Draco seemed pretty confident.

So, at half past one, he made his way to the place they had to meet at, leaving Pansy and Theo behind. Theodore watched his new friend leaving the shop to walk away and he turned towards Pansy, smiling a little. She was staring at one of the many shelves, wondering what other sweets she could get when she noticed her friend. She glanced at him.

"Get that expression off your face, Nott," she said and Theo chuckled. She knew what he had in mind. It had been like that since the ball. Pansy sighed as Theo leaned against the shelf.

"Come on, just tell me. I just want to know, I'm not going to do anything with this information," he just said. Pansy raised an eyebrow, looking focused on the sweets. She wasn't, actually.

"I don't know how many times I have to tell you this, Theodore, but I'm not going to tell you what happened to him. You want to know? You ask him," she said shortly before she turned towards him. "You want him to be mad at you, to be mean to you, to be annoyed whenever you walk into the room he's in? You ask him." After those words, she turned around and walked towards the cashier to pay for her sweets. Theodore knew better and didn't say anything else as long as they were in the shop. But once outside, he talked again.

"But you do know what happened, right? What did that to him, right? So why can't I know?" This guy was way too curious. Pansy looked at him again and when he smiled, she just narrowed her eyes.

"Since when dogs are allowed to walk around without a leash, Parkinson? Better keep an eye on him, shouldn't you? Even he might notice that he shouldn't hang out with you." They both turned their heads to look at the Slytherin girls walking past them. Theo looked a bit uneasy but Pansy just looked jaded. And to think that she had been friend with those girls.

"And where's your leash, Greengrass, forgot it in the dorm? Or did Zabini took it off because he's tired of having you following him around?" She said shortly. Daphne looked slightly offended but kept her disdainful look on her face before Pansy walked away with Theodore, noticing the look on Tracey Davis' face. She looked sorry but Pansy didn't care, she just smiled at Daphne as she walked away, clutching Theo's arm.

"You shouldn't have to hear that. And you shouldn't pay attention to her," Theo said after almost a minute of pure silence. He was feeling very uncomfortable. It wasn't the first time this kind of thing was happening. He was used to ignore those remarks, but Pansy wasn't. She had always something to say in return, she wasn't letting anyone push her around. She shrugged.

"It's fine, Theo. I share their dorms, I can't let them think they're making me miserable."

"Are they, though?" Theo asked, glancing at Pansy. She kept looking in front of her and she shrugged again.

"Not really. You know... It's hard because I used to be with them most of the time. I was making fun of people with them, it wasn't the other way around. I'm just disappointed to see how easily they turned their backs on me. But they should know better, we've been friends during almost four years. They usually leave me alone when it's only us. They just like to show off in front of other people." Theo stopped looking at Pansy, still feeling very uncomfortable. He was feeling a bit sorry for her, even though he knew that it wasn't just because he was with her that day. Most of the time, they were attacking her because of Draco. But still, he knew that he wasn't making the matter better by hanging out with the both of them.

"You're su-"

"I've already told you that I'm fine, Theo, can we please stop talking about this?" Pansy asked, a bit tired of this conversation. She gave Theo a look saying it all and he just smiled, nodding.

"Then, maybe we could-"

"Not talk about that either? Certainly," Pansy interrupted him with a little smile. Theo looked amused before he looked in front of him again.

"Alright, I just think it's unfair. I'm his friend too, I should at least know some of the stuff that's going on. But you two have a lot of secrets, I know it." He knew it because when they were together, they were always whispering, sometimes looking around while talking, they had their habits. That place they were often meeting at near the lake. Sometimes, they could understand each other just with a look. Or they were using some specific words to mention something they didn't want Theo to understand.

"Of course we have secrets. We've been friends for a few years, now. You can't expect him to share every details of his life with you after two months. You know him a bit better now, you should know that he doesn't... Work that way." Theo shrugged, looking a bit annoyed but not upset.

"Yeah, I know... But it's annoying. There are times when I just feel..."

"You belong in the group, Theo. We're not a duo anymore, we're a trio," Pansy said as she stopped, staring at Theo. He stopped too and met her eyes for a second before he looked down. It was new for him. Feeling like he was belonging. He looked at Pansy again and he gave her a very awkward smile before he nodded. He felt her hand on his arm and he couldn't help but glance at it. "I know he's cold... I know it feels like he doesn't like you, sometimes. He is just... Not good at letting people in. At all. He wasn't talking to me all that much when we met, that's just because I went a bit too far with my curiosity... But I was just very lucky, Theo; it wasn't about what you saw on his arms. This is different. This... He isn't going to like at all. Just... Promise me you won't ask Draco anything." Theodore met her eyes again and stayed silent for a few seconds.

Then, he smiled again. It was less awkward, he seemed to be a bit more relaxed. He nodded and offered his arm to Pansy again.

"I promise."

"You'll see. There will be one day... You'll know it. You'll know he'll finally be totally accepting you," Pansy said before she smiled a little and grabbed his arm again. Then, they started to walk towards the Three Broomsticks.

 

Draco had walked for a while, going up the High Street and towards the edge of the village. He arrived right after the trio, he had been able to see them from afar. Hands in his pockets, he approached Harry, Ron and Hermione. That place was almost totally deserted if it wasn't for a few students.

"Draco, here you are," Hermione said, happy to see him. Draco gave her a smile and Hermione put her hand on his chest before craning her neck to give him a soft kiss that made Ron and Harry look away. Then, Draco directly held her hand and glanced at the boys.

"So, where are we supposed to go?" He asked and Ron looked behind him as Harry nodded in that same direction.

"We follow this way for now," he said.

They kept walking for a while, until they turned and discovered Sirius in his dog form, two Daily Prophets in his mouth. He seemed to sniff Harry's bag and before getting very excited. Draco glanced at Hermione who just whispered "food" and they followed the dog towards the place he was hiding in. At that point, Draco didn't know if Sirius had noticed his presence, he seemed too eager to eat for that.

Draco hadn't thought that meeting Sirius would mean he would have to climb a part of the mountain. If he had known, he wouldn't have put those new expensive shoes on that morning. During half an hour, they had to follow the dog under the sun to be able to reach a fissure in the rock in which Sirius had disappeared. They were panting when they hardly squeezed into it and soon, they found themselves in a cave. There wasn't too much light but they directly noticed Buckbeak. Draco grimaced and didn't move while Harry, Ron and Hermione bowed. He felt Hermione pulling his arm a little and he rolled his eyes before he bowed, not as low as the others had. Then, Hermione approached the hippogriff to stroke his neck. Draco glanced around, quickly noticing that Sirius was in his human form.

He looked dirty and thin and Draco noticed the gray robes he had probably been wearing in Azkaban. Still, Draco tried to not show his disgust and he noticed that Sirius' eyes were on him too. Still, the man didn't say anything at first, he threw the Daily Prophets away and he walked towards Harry to get his food, thanking his godson.

Draco was still staring as Sirius was explaining that he was living off rats, smiling at Harry. Then, Harry seemed to be about to say something when Sirius looked at Draco again. "What is the Malfoy boy doing here?" He asked. He was actually looking curious, even if he wasn't showing any sympathy to Draco.

"He's... with us," Harry said as he glanced at Draco who just seemed to feel more uncomfortable by the second. Hermione approached him and looked at Sirius as she softly grabbed Draco's wrist, letting her hand go down to interlace their fingers. Draco turned his head to look at her, wondering if all of this was such a good idea. He then glanced at Sirius again, who was still staring, apparently looking at Hermione.

Sirius shook his head a little but kept eating.

"I didn't know it went that far," he said. Draco raised an eyebrow.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked his godfather, glancing at the couple again.

Sirius stood up, a chicken leg in his hand as he walked towards Draco and Hermione. He met Draco's eyes. "Remus told me about you." Draco blinked.

"What did he say?" Draco asked more quietly than he thought he would be. Sirius seemed to scan Draco's face for a moment. Could he see his anxiety? His desire to leave the cave?

"Not much," Sirius said quite shortly, examining Draco from head to toe. "I know enough. I know you're a werewolf, for instance," he said before he walked away. Hermione had felt Draco's grip on her hand becoming a bit tighter and she glanced at her boyfriend, worried. Sirius turned around again, taking a bite of his chicken, still staring at Draco. "I can't tell you how surprised I was when I heard that my cousin and her husband had kept you in their home."

"As much as I was surprised to learn you're innocent. I guess we're both full of surprises," Draco said quickly, like he hadn't wanted to let Sirius talk about his parents anymore. Sirius was about to open his mouth when Harry decided that it was better to end that conversation. He knew that Draco could react pretty quickly when things were said about his parents, or when it came to his condition. He didn't exactly want his godfather and his best friend's boyfriend to fight over family issues. They didn't have any time for that. And if they didn't want any problems with Draco, the best solution was to interrupt them.

“What are you doing here, Sirius?” Harry asked, staring at his godfather. Of course, he was glad to have his godfather around, to be able to see him. But it was incredibly dangerous.

Sirius started to explain the he was getting worried about the situation, that he was reading the news every time he had a chance to. That he was only walking around as a dog. During this time, Ron had taken the Daily Prophets from the floor to read them while Harry was still looking at his godfather, asking what he would do if he was seen. He was really afraid that Sirius might be caught.

"You three... You four and Dumbledore are the only ones around here who know I'm an Animagus," Sirius said, looking really relaxed about this situation. Ron gave the two papers to Harry and Hermione pulled Draco a bit to make him come closer with her. He didn't really want to, he was fine with staying in a corner of the cave to listen. They approached Buckbeak but Draco let go of Hermione's hand to let her pet the creature alone. He didn't feel like going too close and he wasn't sure the animal wanted him to approach more.

"They're making it sound like Crouch's dying but... I saw him up here, so he can't be that ill," Harry said as he kept reading the Daily Prophet he had in his hands.

"My brother Percy's his personal assistant and he's saying that Crouch's suffering from overwork," Ron said.

"Well, he did look sick the last time I saw him up close," Harry said, his eyes still fixed on the newspaper in his hands. "It was the night my name came out of the goblet."

“Getting his comeuppance for sacking Winky, isn’t he?” Hermione suddenly said, looking stern. "I'm sure he's regretting it, now. He must feels the difference now that she's not there to look after him." Draco heard the tutting sound coming from Ron as he rolled his eyes.

"She's obsessed with house-elves," he said quietly to Sirius, looking darkly at Hermione. But Sirius didn't have the reaction Ron was hoping for.

“Crouch sacked his house-elf?” He asked, looking quite curious.

"During the World Cup," Harry said before starting to tell Sirius about the Dark Mark appearance that night. He told him about his wand being in Winky's hand when she had been found. He told him about Crouch's anger and Sirius seemed to be thinking fast, walking up and down the cave, another chicken leg in his hand.

“Let me get this straight. You first saw the elf in the Top Box. She was saving Crouch a seat, right?” Sirius asked. Draco heard the trio say "right" at the same time and again, he kind of wondered what he was doing there.

“But Crouch didn’t turn up for the match?”

"He said he had been too busy to come," Harry said. Again, Sirius seemed to be thinking and at last, he asked Harry if he had checked his pockets for his wand when he had left the Top Box. They ended up concluding that whoever had stolen Harry's wand had done it while they were in the Top Box. Hermione kept saying that Winky hadn't stolen the wand and Sirius asked who else was sitting there. Harry started to tell him about Fudge and the other ministers that were there before he stopped, glancing at Draco.

"The Malfoys..." He said a bit more quietly. Draco didn't look away, he stared at Harry, meeting his eyes before he heard Ron's voice, which totally distracted him.

“You're sure your father didn't-” Ron started to ask.

 "Yes. I am sure my father didn't steal Potter's wand. Are you being serious here?" Draco asked a bit aggressively without being able to stop himself. Hermione gave a reproachful look at Ron but Sirius asked if there wasn't anyone else that could be a suspect. He didn't want to let the tension become more present.

Draco kept glaring at Ron as this one started to focus on Sirius and Harry again, visibly embarrassed. Draco crossed his arms and felt Hermione's hand on his arm. He glanced at her, meeting her eyes for a second. He knew he shouldn't be too angry. After all, his father was actually a good suspect for them, there would be no reason for them to believe he was innocent, not after everything... But Draco knew he hadn't done it, he had seen his father after the events.