Brushing back a long curly chestnut lock, Hermione glanced out to the foliage zipping past to the rhythmic metallic chugging of Hogwarts Express zooming towards the school she called home for six years. Now that the war was over and Hogwarts rebuilt, she wanted to complete her seventh year even though she did so without the rest of ‘The Golden Trio.’ Sighing, she debated whether or not to leave the sanctuary of her solitary train compartment to calm the rather boisterous bunch of first and second years in the next one. With the rebuilding of Hogwarts for a year, an abundant new crop of students enrolled while horrific memories of a war torn time drove many of the remaining senior students away. However, for Hermione education came first.
Rolling her eyes, she decided to pursue her duty as unofficial Head Girl and quiet the rambunctious students once more. Crookshanks, her orange half Kneazle long hair cat rested his head on her leg. “Sorry to disturb your slumber.” Earlier she had calmed the crowd but the leader of the unruly bunch must have decided that the rules didn’t pertain to him. Just as she closed her book, a wave of silence rolled through the adjoining train car towards her slowly deafening the cacophony of screaming and other childhood antics. Through the disintegrating paper planes, butterflies and birds which the students had launched prior, an ominous figure in a tailored slate grey Italian suit sauntered through glaring at each of the offending pieces of parchment. Icy grey eyes shot daggers at the young students while a malevolent sneer challenged them to talk back. Even though the newbies never personally met this stranger, because of his unmistakable silver hair, they recognized Draco Malfoy, reluctant Death Eater, someone she hadn’t seen in about a year but she clearly remembered that last day that she saw him.
After the defeat of Voldemort, a sea of plum clad Wizamgamot wizards and witches sat in judgment in a torch lit circular room for the Malfoy family trial. Due to the volume of trails, special dispensation had been granted allowing the Malfoys to stand trial together if they chose to and they did. In a show of family unity, all wore hunter green robes with lapel pins of their family crest. To ensure fairness to the Malfoys, Hermione attended their trial sitting on the bench with them on the opposite side of the Wizamgamot. First Draco took the seat in the center of the court alone while his parents sat on a bench in the audience with Hermione. One of the youngest judges, a witch named Carling Rukin, looked at him with sympathetic brown eyes. “You’re accused of treason, use of the Cruciatus Curse and supporting Voldemort. How do you plead?”
“Guilty but under extenuating circumstances,” he stated softly. Draco stared at vacantly but with great sorrow. All hope seemed lost with him.
“What do you have to say for yourself?”
“In doing those crimes, I ensured my family’s safety. Around the age of fifteen I began to realize that the prejudices I learned were unfounded. As to the support of Voldemort, I knew he was a heartless megalomaniac bent on destruction who would turn on his own followers at the drop of a wand. No, I did not support him because I don’t subscribe to his beliefs and I am too intelligent to put my faith in someone like that… but I had no choice.”
“In light of the favorable written testimony given by Mr. Potter detailing your family’s involvement with Voldemort, their help in the events leading up to his defeat and the fact that you were forcefully recruited as a minor, all charges are dismissed.”
A faint smile came to Draco’s lips before the court granted a quick recess. Afterwards, lesser charges were levied against Narcissa and were dropped as well. During that recess, Draco hugged his mother tightly. For the entire time, Draco refused to look at his father. Instead, he focused solely on the blond witch in front of him whose beauty became marred with a look of worry. “Draco, what is it?”
Now, he glared at his father before focusing once more on her. “You know what it is. I wish you would take my advice.”
“I won’t. One day you will understand.” Narcissa cupped his cheek.
“You’re right. It’s your choice.” Then he kissed his mother’s cheek. “Goodbye mother,” he said solemnly.
“Don’t you care about what happens to your father?” she pleaded.
“No, I don’t.”
Then Draco approached Hermione who meandered nearby so she wouldn’t interrupt their family moment. “Thank you for clemency. One day you will be repaid.”
Hermione shook her head. “That’s not necessary. Besides, it was Harry’s testimony.”
“At your behest, I’m sure.” Draco’s strong gentle fingers lightly touched her temple, tracing her face down to her cheek. That little caress made her heart race. “You have a tender soul, very tender. If only things were different.” For the first time, Draco smiled at her with a heartfelt grin before he left. “I wish you happiness. Goodbye Granger.”
Regret and confusion showed in Lucius grey eyes as he watched his son leave. However, pride kept him from calling out to him.
Apparently, no one knew where Draco went not even his family. Through the Ministry, Harry learned of the Lucius’ investigation into his disappearance. Shortly after the trial ended, Draco boarded The Orient Express according to Harry who only found out because the Ministry traced the funds which paid for the ticket and several witnesses saw the silver haired young wizard board it. In the wizard world, the wondrous train ran along magical tracks through Europe to Russia and lastly the Orient, promising its passengers luxury, vice and mystery. However, no one knew the details of the tours because the experiences of the travelers could only be shared with fellow passengers past or present.
During his tour of the orient, nearly a year ago, Draco departed the train in Laos according to fellow passengers, never to be seen or heard from again despite an extensive in person search which included interviews with the locals. All of it seemed odd since a search for Malfoy should have been easy, especially in Laos due to Draco’s very unique appearance. Some even thought that he might be dead since no monies had been withdrawn from his bank during that time until one week ago in Laos.
As Draco entered her train car, Hermione braced herself for possibly an unpleasant encounter but as presumably Head Boy, he was entitled to be in this train car. “Granger,” he acknowledged. Hesitantly glancing up, she saw indifference without hostility in those familiar grey eyes. Though he retained the Malfoy hauteur of breeding, he looked at her with an air of equality and respect. Without his sneer, she decided that his full lips and high pale cheekbones created a most handsome appearance, even more attractive than a year ago. Like lightning, his hand shot out making her retreat against her seat. “Jumpy, are we?”
Nervously, she glanced down to see that he merely offered her his hand. “Malfoy,” she stammered. “Why are you being nice?”
“Why not? Besides, I thought we made nice after the trial.”
“It wasn’t just relief and some sort of thanks.” Again she looked at the manicured strong almost piano player hand offered before shaking it.
“No Granger, I meant what I said.” Taking the seat catty-corner to her, he leaned back and propped his feet next to her. “Besides, offering my hand in friendship to a mud…muggle born is part of my twelve step program of Death Eaters Anonymous.”
Even though she knew Malfoy played some sort of game, she went along appreciating any sort of company. Though she could sit with some of her classmates in the other cars, they too were overrun with underclassmen. “What are your other steps?”
For a second he seemed shocked at the humor volleyed back at him. With the ball in his court, he thought a moment because he hesitated to reveal his true intentions. “Shag one,” he calmly replied. As expected, his quarry gasped in shock. “Sorry to dash your hopes but you’re out of luck since I already have, this morning actually.”
“You’re revolting.” Hermione clenched her book in front of her almost to form a barrier between her and the ferret. “You shouldn’t make those sorts of remarks anyhow, not only are they rude but….”
“Inappropriate since you’re engaged to Weasel,” he drawled glancing at her finger for an engagement ring.
“Ronald Weasley and I are seeing each other but we’re not engaged. We’re taking it slowly.” In truth, they both had quite a bit of healing to do and Hermione wanted a slow progression while she sorted things out. Looking towards Draco, he had changed; no longer were his eyes pained and hollow or his visage gaunt. Actually, he seemed to have grown to over the six foot mark with a slightly bulkier build but still lean. Moreover, he gained a panther like grace in his movements, not that he ever seemed awkward in his own skin. “Are we still enemies?”
Momentarily, Draco glanced to the passing scenery lost in thought. From the honey smell that filled the air, the candy trolley had passed through next door. Shortly thereafter, the new students got a sugar high resulting in a new din of and more jittery movements of the occupants next door. The escalating noise from the next compartment brought Draco back to the present. “Time to put on the mean face and scare the delinquents,” he said.
In the blink of an eye, Draco leapt to the door and burst through the compartment. The bellowing of a booming voice silenced the startled screaming. “If I come back here one more time, I will throw each and every last one of you from the train!”
The biggest of the little boys stepped forward, slightly shaking. His head tilted up showing slight waves in his black hair. “But the train won’t stop for any reason until we reach Hogwarts,” he countered trying to inflect confidence into his snide tone.
Swiftly, Draco bowed up over the boy who slowly raised his green eyes to the fury above. Draco met his gaze with sardonic twisted amusement. “I know. That makes it much more fun…for me.”
“Wait until my father hears about this; he works in the Ministry. You’ll be expelled.”
A sneer followed maniacal laughter. “Wait until MY father hears about that, he’ll have your father fired.” Meekly, the boy took sat back down while Draco gave the evil eye to the other occupants who followed suit and settled down.
Seeing the spectacle before her of novice prat trying to battle professional prat, Hermione laid down in her seat. Back in their train car, Draco observed the mass of brown curls covering the face and back of the shuddering heap in front of him. “Granger,” he said. Her shaking seemed more pronounced.
Leaning down, he heard uncontrolled laughing. “Oh Malfoy, I haven’t laughed so hard in ages.”
“Well, I guess my next step in DEA is complete, making a mud…muggle born laugh.” Draco looked at the dancing chocolate eyes in front of him and her flushed cheeks. For a moment, he found them appealing.
“Thank you Malfoy,” she replied with a slight smile. Hermione watched Draco regain his calm exterior as he sat down. “I’m a little nervous about returning. I’m afraid I’ll freak in The Great Hall or just about anywhere. Even weirder, I’m wondering about why I’m talking to you so freely.” Once she said that, Hermione thought about some of the muggle tragedies she witnessed. Neighbors would ban together or at least speak to one another, putting aside their differences just to have a familiar face to commiserate with.
“For the same reason I’m talking to you, possibly.”
While Draco scribbled some notes in his notebook, Hermione resumed reading for a few pages. “You never answered my question. Are we enemies?”
“For my part no because I’ve learned from my mistakes,” he replied. “You should relax while you still can. With the shortage of senior students, no doubt we’ll be overrun with restless junior natives.” He nodded towards the adjoining train car.
“In a way it’s almost a relief.” Hermione resumed her reading while Draco scribbled more notes. When Crookshanks hopped next to Draco who in turn petted him, Hermione knew he had changed because her pet had great instincts.
Hours later, the train screeched to a halt. All the students now wore their robes after a sound barking by Draco. Half the students boarded the tiny skiffs that swiftly drifted towards the castle while the other half boarded the carriages lead by Threstrals which most every student could now see since they had seen more than enough death. Closing her eyes, the cold dampness of the air weighed heavily upon Hermione as flashes of dead appeared before her. A strong hand clamped around her wrist. “Granger!” Opening her eyes, Hermione saw concern flicker in Draco’s grey eyes. “Maybe you should go home.”
“Not on your life Malfoy!” Slapping his hand away, Hermione boarded the carriage with Malfoy following suit.
As they entered the Great Hall, side by side, horrific memories flooded over Hermione while the searing heat of the Fiendfyre scorched her skin. Inhaling deeply, she suppressed those memories. Glancing next to her, Draco’s visage reflected his typical indifference. “Am I the only one affected by this,” she mumbled.
“No you’re not. Just put on a brave face for now and deal with it later,” he whispered.
“Like you,” she whispered back.
“Yes like me,” he answered. Shrugging his shoulders, he ushered her inside where they parted ways going to their respective houses.
Curious about the returning Slytherins, Hermione glanced over to see pug-faced Pansy Parkinson, not that she could see her face, just her shoulder length straight black hair from behind as she immediately latched on to Draco. Across from Draco sat Blaise Zambini, the quiet dark Slytherin with slightly unusual but pretty eyes. Theodore Nott sat askew from them with his brown hair falling over a book he read ignoring his surroundings. Not far away, the lovely blond Greengrass sisters giggled flirtatiously towards Draco, making Pansy scoot closer to him. Swallowing hard, Hermione noticed the thuggish Gregory Goyle looking sad sitting at the end of the table as if trying not to be noticed by Draco.
At the Ravenclaw table, Tobias Whitfield seemed to lead a large group in an involved conversation. Michael Corner spoke with Cho Chang. Kevin Entwhistle spoke quietly to Anthony Goldstein. Every now and then Hermione saw both dark haired wizards lift their heads to look slyly towards the Slytherin table. Near them Isabel McDougal twirled her red hair looking towards Blaise. Lovely Lisa Turpin kept looking towards Neville of all things.
Hermione recognized some of the faces in Hufflepuff from their Quidditch team: Lyre Nevin, the captain with hazel eyes and wavy auburn hair who chatted with a few witches, Poppy Bancho, the seeker, a lithe girl with long braided red hair and Ridley Chedsey, whose raven locks grew very long since she last saw him. The rest of the team apparently didn’t return.
At her own table, Hermione looked up to the gentle brown eyes of Neville Longbottom who sat next to her with Ginny Weasley across from her. Now the vivacious redhead caught a glance from Seamus Finnegan who had lost his childhood freckles. Dean Thomas chatted quietly nearby. Parvati Patil leaned back talking to her twin sister Padma in Ravenclaw who sat next to Luna Lovegood whose blond hair and pale skin contrasted the twins. Physically everyone had aged only one year but their eyes reflected a decade of experience except the younger ones who were evacuated before the battle. As Hermione looked around, she glanced back towards Draco who caught her gaze and arched his eyebrow. It seemed that he observed everyone as well. Embarrassed, she glanced down and focused on her shepherd’s pie.
Instead she listened to the auburn haired brown eyed Tattersall twins, Daralis and Demelza, also known as the gossip witches who had already begun their trade. “Did you hear that he threw a first year off the train for talking too loud?”
“I’m not surprised. After all, he is a Death Eater. I’m shocked they let him return.”
“Well, he was acquitted and he has money. That’s why. Did you know they call him the Slytherin Sex God?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that one already. He and Blaise are bi for each other.”
“Really, Oh My God!”
Hermione smiled to herself. Well, Draco didn’t throw anyone off the train and he is an acquitted former Death Eater with money. The Slytherin Sex God nickname started in his fourth year and the rumor with Blaise started around that time as well but as of yet remained unconfirmed.
After the first years were sorted, Headmistress McGonagall stood in her typical robes and pointed hat covering much more grey hair and a few more wrinkles which she gained over the past couple of years. Before the crowd of students who anxiously awaited their feast, she recited some of the basic school rules. “Each year we appoint a Head Boy and Head Girl to maintain order and give punishments where needed. This year we are pleased to announce that Hermione Granger has taken the position of Head Girl.” Amidst clapping of the entire student body with the notable exception of the Slytherins, the accompanying badge appeared on Hermione’s robes. “We are equally pleased to announce the appointment of Draco Malfoy to the position of Head Boy.” Amidst the clapping of the Slytherins and several grumbles from the other houses, a similar badge appeared on Draco’s robes.
At all the tables, the second years and beyond chatted in subdued tones while the true first years and the year older first years who couldn’t start because of the school’s closure talked boisterously.
After dinner, Hermione and Draco ascended the long winding stone staircase to the heads’ tower. The portrait of a lovely medieval maiden aboard a small wooden boat on a lake awaited them. “Please choose your password for the semester.”
An all too familiar sneer crossed Draco’s face. “Know-it-all,” he replied.
Hermione tried to elbow him in the chest since he stood one step below her but somehow he managed to parry her elbow. “Ferret,” she stated.
“Know-it-all ferret,” the lady replied.
“This is going to be a long year,” Hermione mumbled.
“That’s for damn sure,” Draco muttered. “You know I was just joking. You need to lighten up.”
As they entered the tower, Hermione gasped while Draco remained unimpressed. Bas relief garland and ornate medieval designs adorned the vaulted ceiling above. A white carved marbled fireplace provided warmth with a plush cream color semi-circular couch surrounding it. Gold velvet curtains encased arched stained glass windows that reached the ceiling while bookshelves covered the walls next to them. In the far corner of the room, a cherry wood baby grand piano played the Hogwarts theme song. Through a small archway in the very back, Hermione caught a glimpse of a small old time kitchen with a breakfast nook that had a small circular wooden table. A grand arch in the corner opposite to the piano concealed a turnpike staircase.
Ascending the stairs to the second floor each opened one of the arched heavy wooden bedroom doors. A cream color canopied bed with a peach bed cover and curtains to match, several wardrobes, a dresser and an odd muggle contraption with steps greeted Draco. Similar dark cherry wood furnishings and a deep green silk covered king bed greeted Hermione. “Wrong room,” they said simultaneously. However Crookshanks decided he liked silk sheets and made himself comfortable on them.
Nervously, Hermione glanced up to Draco who smirked at the sight. “As long as he doesn’t make a mess,” he commented.
While she unpacked, Hermione glance around her room while she listened to Draco bang about in the adjoining bathroom. Like the rest of Hogwarts, her room had arched stained glass windows, antique carpet and a bas relief wood framed ceiling. All of it made her feel like a princess. Once Draco finished in the bathroom, she entered through the arched doorway connected to her room. In the warm lantern lit stone room, Hermione found a small vanity next to her door. At the double sinks, she unpacked all her herbal scented toiletries next to the sink closest to her room. Curious, she investigated the second sink and saw Draco’s metro sexual collection of toiletries. Stifling a giggle, she saw that he used the men’s line of Burt’s Bees products while she herself used the women’s line. The spicy soap which blended patchouli, orange and other spices delighted Hermione. No wonder he’s the Slytherin Sex God, looks and smells great. Across from the sinks, behind a gauzy white curtain, in a round enclave she found a huge round porcelain tub. I definitely feel like a princess. At Draco’s end of the bathroom, behind another gauzy white curtain she found a roman shower. If Draco and I can get along, this will be a fantastic year and now to make that happen.
Hermione joined Draco downstairs who sipped some tea and maybe lit a fruit scented candle somewhere from the scent that wafted through the air. Lazily lying on the couch, his lean pale form dominated the entire living area. Well, at least he enhances the décor. “Malfoy, so we don’t step on each other’s toes, I think we should set a few house rules.”
“Agreed, but first you need to drop the mum tone.” Draco snapped his fingers and a quill started taking notes on a piece of parchment sitting on the coffee table. “Would you like some blueberry tea?”
Momentarily, Hermione felt taken aback but then she realized the offer of tea seemed friendly enough along with Draco’s affable attitude as reflected in his smiling grey eyes and general tone of voice so she didn’t take umbrage with that remark. “Thank you,” she replied as Draco sat up and poured. “I don’t know about your true feelings about blood heritage. However, I would appreciate it if you made no snide comments about it.”
“I’ve learned the error of my ways.” Draco snapped his fingers and the quill scribbled. “No rude blood heritage comments.”
“Thank you,” she replied. Hermione fidgeted for a moment. “You have a certain reputation …..and I would appreciate it if you refrained from…..inappropriate ….behaviors.” Hoping he caught her meaning, Hermione enjoyed the blueberry tea.
“A lot of my behaviors are inappropriate so you need to elaborate.” Tapping his fingers, Draco waited. “Out with it already,” he added.
Mustering her courage, she debated on whether or not he might be offended. In the end, she didn’t care. “Everyone calls you the Slytherin Sex God. I would appreciate it if you didn’t parade a bunch of slags through here and give out our password.” Oh no, here it comes.
Holding back, Draco sat his tea down before side splitting laughter rocked him. “Just for the record, I’ve only been with four witches who weren’t true girlfriends but I was with them long term for certain reasons.” More laughter followed.
“Because they were shag buddies,” Hermione added.
“Your vulgar tone offends me.” Wiping jovial tears from his eyes, he calmed down. “I prefer to call them Amis Pour Volonté. I guess sometimes I forgot to use a silencing spell and gained that reputation over the years. I agree with you. All relations are to be kept in our own rooms.” The quill noted that for rule two. “If I saw you and Weasel, I’d be scarred for life.”
“Likewise for you and Zambini,” she muttered at which Draco cocked his head and smirked. Though miffed, Hermione moved on with her requests. “Neither one of us will give out the password.”
“To anyone including your two buddies,” he added.
The quill noted that one as well. “Silencing spells are to be used when needed out of courtesy for any sort of activity.” With a nod from him, the quill noted that one as well. “I guess that’s it.”
“Not so fast there Granger, I have few of my own rules.” Draco relished her startled expression. I guess she’s used to her whipped oafs. “If you invite any of your friends in here, especially the rest of the trio, they will NOT, under any circumstance utter disparaging remarks about me while I am here. No one disrespects me in my own home, so to speak.”
“As long as the same is expected of your friends saying things about me,” she stammered.
“Of course,” he replied. The quill scribbled that rule. “I know you’ll be offended by this and I really don’t care because it’s the truth. You and Weasel constantly bicker about the stupidest of things which is so damn annoying. It’s the one thing I actually pitied Potter for having to deal with. Under no circumstances, will I listen to one tiny fraction of that nor will I be driven from here in order not to listen to it. If you two bicker, I reserve the right to bottle your voices.”
“How dare you! Couples fight!”
“Yes they do and a good screaming match once in awhile keeps the passion alive. That continuous bickering is idiotic, annoying and something old crones do while they knit. Now agree to it.” Draco pointed to the parchment.
“No, I won’t.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you and Weasel can’t for the two or three hours that he visits, every once in awhile, talk like adults?” Draco unfurled from sitting to his full height. “Is that what you’re saying?”
“I’m saying couples fight but you wouldn’t know that since you’ve ever had were shag buddies. It’s not like you know anything.” Quickly, Hermione stood to match his stance, standing toe to toe with the top of her head at his shoulders. This isn’t intimidating him at all. Damn Malfoy ogre!
“Every now and then my parents get into arguments before they disappear to their room. That’s how I know. Now, I know for a fact that you can debate a point intelligently. Do you have to dumb yourself down to Weasel’s level by bickering because he can’t discuss something as cleverly as you can?” When she tried to slap him, he grabbed her wrist. “If you don’t agree to that rule, that’s exactly what you’re saying.”
Reluctantly, Hermione nodded so the quill scribbled before stomping her way upstairs. “By the way Granger,” Draco called. “I consider a slap foreplay. Next time, you’re going to follow through.”
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