Chapter 6 : Keeping Secrets
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“Given the threat posed by the resurrection of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and the lack of a clear replacement for the previous Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, the Ministry has seen fit to relax some of the restrictions on the spells we may teach at Hogwarts.
“Of course, we may not teach the Unforgivables, but there are other spells which could prove invaluable against the growing threat. The mind of one who suffers under the Imperius curse, for example, may be easily plied using... which spell?”
Draco knew the answer, but didn't deign to raise his hand, expecting at any moment to hear Granger excitedly cry out for attention. When she didn't, he turned around in his chair, and he wasn't the only one. Many of the students in the room, Gryffindor and Slytherin alike, looked towards her with disbelief. It was almost unheard of for her not to answer a question. Even Deacon looked moderately surprised, but composed himself quickly, straightening up and surveying the room. This pose, combined with his thin, black robes and pale face framed by lengthy grey hair, gave him the appearance of a dramatic vampire. Despite the many enquiring stares she was receiving, Granger remained still and silent, her head bowed and parchment conspicuously absent from her table.
“Legilimens is the spell, of course.” intoned Deacon eventually, when no answer seemed forthcoming. “A man who labours under the Imperius curse does not condition his mind; it is open for all enterprising individuals to observe.”
Draco glanced at Granger again, and saw that she had raised her head slightly; she was now looking warily in his direction. She was probably scared that he was going to tell someone about their previous encounter in the library, and thereby give weight to some of the rumours which were no doubt circulating following the aftermath of their bet. Draco held her deep, brown gaze for a couple of moments, then very deliberately looked away, curling his lip at Potter, who was sitting next to her, and who also happened to be looking his way.
“Now, you have all studied the theory, I trust, therefore you should each be able to perform a basic legilimens spell. Soon, you will all be paired up; every Slytherin with a Gryffindor; but let me make one thing very clear before we begin.” here, Professor Deacon paused, and his high cheekbones seemed to rise even higher.
“You will not be discovering each other's intimate secrets. You will each imagine a single object, and it will be the job of the other person to figure out what that is. Anyone attempting to delve further into a person's memory will be stopped, and will lose their house a hundred points. Am I understood?”
A low murmur of assent filled the room, and Deacon nodded, seemingly satisfied. He pulled out his wand, which was pale, as if made from ivory, and waved it in the air, strands of yellow fire flying from the tip and forming the names of the Gryffindors. After this was done, he flicked it elegantly through the air once more and green flames coalesced into the names of the Slytherins. Once all the names had been assembled, Deacon twirled his wand a final time and each green name flew to a yellow name.
Draco Malfoy and Ronald Weasley
Perfect, thought Draco bitterly, rising from his seat. The person with the biggest grudge against him. Thankfully, his training with Occlumency would-
And then the spell struck him in the back, and his eyes bulged wide.
Images raced through his head; images of figures in black hoods and masks doing unspeakable things; images of this year, the previous years, and many years before those. He'd been caught off-guard, hadn't had the time to prepare his defences...
The succession of images thundered through Draco's head, and he tried to scream but found himself voiceless. He saw his mother and father, without shadows beneath their eyes, scarcely recognisable as they laughed quietly with each other in the grounds of Malfoy Manor, the sun a bright flame above them setting the grass ablaze with light...
And then he was standing in the library, searching for a Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook, except the textbook was in the archives and not in the usual place, and wasn't there someone behind him...?
A wave of alarmed denial swept through Draco, and barriers rose as his Occlumency training finally and forcefully reasserted itself. The visions washed away, trickling mercifully into oblivion before anything was revealed. When Draco opened his eyes, relief coursing through his veins, it was to chaos.
“A HUNDRED POINTS FROM GRYFFINDOR,” bellowed Professor Deacon, his usually pale face flushed with utter fury. “AND THREE MONTHS OF DETENTION! HOW DARE YOU! GET OUT!”
Weasley left without a word, slamming the door behind him, his revenge for the incident in the Great Hall presumably complete. Disorientated, it took Draco a couple of moments to realise that he was lying on the floor. Chairs and tables were scattered everywhere, as if someone had been thrashing around. He felt dizzy, and dehydrated; he recognised the effects of the Legilimens spell from his Occlumency training with his aunt Bellatrix. Blinking away his haziness, he managed to focus on the anxious expression of Professor Deacon, who had knelt down worriedly to talk to him.
“Mister Malfoy? Mister Malfoy? Are you alright?”
Draco opened his mouth, stifled a cough, then nodded awkwardly.
“He shot it at you before anyone was even ready!” shrieked Pansy, who was standing nearby, looking fiercely indignant. “He only did it because Drakie called him a traitor, but they call Drakie that all the time!”
She pointed a trembling finger towards Potter and Granger, who were standing side-by-side, looking aghast. Upon being singled-out, however, Potter bristled.
“That's because he is a traitor! He betrayed Dumbledore, he betrayed Hogwarts! And now he walks around as if nothing has happened!”
“Don't say that!” yelled Granger, to everyone's surprise, but most of all Draco's. When she spoke again, her voice was high; she seemed a little flustered. “We don't know everything. He... he might have reformed, we aren't in a position to judge... I just think we should withhold our opinions for now.”
Pansy was positively gawping at Granger, and even the usually so composed Blaise, who had sauntered up to stand near Draco, looked surprised. Potter was also staring at her, but not with incredulity; in fact, he actually looked a little ashamed.
“Y-you're right, Hermione.” he muttered, avoiding Draco's stare. “I suppose... the benefit of the doubt. It's not easy, after Snape, but... I guess everyone deserves to be given another chance in these times.”
For a few moments, Draco's voice was stuck at the back of his throat. The entire classroom was silent as people exchanged significant glances. Professor Deacon's face was even paler than usual as he glanced nervously between Potter and Draco, who felt anger bubbling up in his chest.
“I don't need anything from you, Potter.” he snarled, getting furiously to his feet. “I don't need you to believe anything!” a rush of cold swept over him as he paused before his next few words, but he ignored it, anger pulsing through him. “And I definitely don't need anything from you, Granger, you mudblood!”
“That's quite enough!” exclaimed Professor Deacon, his eyes widening. “I won't have language like that in my classroom...”
“It's alright, Professor.” interjected Granger, a closed expression on her face. She wasn't looking at Draco. “I'm used to it. I've ignored it before, I can ignore it now.”
“Right, well, I see...” said Professor Deacon hastily, obviously nervous about talking about pureblood prejudice. “Ten points from Slytherin in any case, Mister Malfoy, I won't have you using that term in my presence.”
“Yes, Professor.” Draco said tightly, watching Granger; she had returned to her seat and lifted her bookbag over her shoulder. She hadn't looked at him once since he'd called her a mudblood.
“Class dismissed.” said Professor Deacon, shaking his head to himself as he left the room. He was followed closely by Granger and Potter. The rest of the class; many of them looking nervous; streamed out the door in their wake until only two Slytherins remained inside the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom.
“You going to tell me what's been going on, Draco?” said Blaise, quietly. It took a few moments for Draco to reply.
“Not yet, Blaise.” he said eventually, and even to his own ears his voice sounded hollow. He felt as if he'd lost something.
Change, Draco remembered; he hadn't wanted change. Unfortunately, however, change had happened anyway. Potter, Weasley and Granger no longer talked to him, regardless of how much he tried to goad them into doing so. A couple of weeks had passed since the incident in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Draco was becoming increasingly frustrated by their tactics. He had been lashing out recently, terrifying and tormenting already-terrified First Years by using spells and pranks and venting his considerable anger on the furniture in empty classrooms. He spent a lot of time with his head in his hands in those same classrooms, wondering why the continued silence of three people he was supposed to detest was infuriating him so much.
Granger, especially, had taken measures to put as much distance as possible between them. He barely saw her at all; she seemed to have taken to eating at unusual times, so she was never in the Great Hall, and in class she never once looked in his direction. After a while, he stopped glancing towards her, hoping for a scowl or a dark look, and instead took extensive notes of his own on topics which he either cared little about, or thought irrelevant. He distanced himself even from Blaise, whose concerned questions he found himself continuously deflecting. Before long, he was spending the majority of his time alone, thinking, occasionally taking walks through the long, quiet halls of Hogwarts to clear his mind. Presently, he was on one such walk.
Draco kicked the carpet below him with the heel of his shoe, listening to the soft padding sound of his shoes on the plush fabric. The Dark Lord would return soon; the Dark Mark had recently taken on a deeper shade, which meant he was almost ready to travel back to England. When he did, he would want to know what information Draco had gleaned from his final year at Hogwarts; specifically, anything and everything about Potter and his friends. Once the Dark Lord asked about them, Draco knew he would have to lie. Because of a stupid bet he'd made to try to torment Potter, Weasley and Granger, he would be forced to lie to the most powerful dark wizard of all time. While he brooded on this unfortunate fact, someone rounded the corner of the corridor ahead of him, her head buried in a notebook. Draco glanced up, and their eyes met for the first time in weeks.
As soon as she saw him, Granger's eyes widened and she quickly looked away. Lowering her head determinedly, she continued walking towards him. Draco slowed to a stop. She looked to be intending to walk right past him.
“Granger...” he said. She ignored him, so he tried again.
“Granger, listen...” Again, she ignored him, stepping quickly to the side as she made to pass him. A bubble of anger swelled inside Draco.
“GRANGER!” he bellowed, drawing his wand from his robes and pointing it at her heart. She froze in mid-step, eventually turning her head reluctantly towards him and fixing him with a cold stare.
“What is it, Malfoy?”
“I- I'm just... why are you ignoring me?” Draco hissed, unable to properly articulate the reason behind his frustration.
Granger didn't respond for a few moments. “Because there's no reason for us to speak.” she said finally, the cold look not leaving her eyes. “You've obviously chosen your path, and I've chosen mine. I will fight Voldemort, with Harry and Ron, because it's the right thing to do, for everyone. All you care about is yourself, Malfoy. You always have.”
“Are you calling me a coward, Granger?” Draco said, in a low voice, glaring at her. A small spark of worry lit in her eyes, but it was quickly extinguished.
“Yes.” she snapped. “Now let me go. You can go back to your Death Eater friends. I don't want your protection, Malfoy. Just go away and leave me alone!” she said the last sentence loudly and angrily, stepping forward and pushing his wand furiously aside. Draco let her go, but before she had moved more than a few steps some words spilt from his mouth; words he would have taken back, if he could.
“So why did you kiss me?” he called to her retreating back. She froze at the question, as quickly as she'd frozen when he'd held her at wand point. Slowly, she turned back around, an angry, embarrassed blush on her cheeks.
“I think you'll find it was you who kissed me. As for what madness made you do it, I don't know. All I know is I'd never kiss someone like you!”
“Someone like me?” Draco seethed, taking an involuntary step forward. “Well I'd never kiss someone like you, either, Granger!”
“Good!” she cried, almost yelling, stepping forward herself as she levelled an accusatory finger in Draco's direction. “I wouldn't want you to! You're just a bully and a... a coward, always hiding and running away from the things that really matter!”
“I am not a coward!” Draco bellowed, alight with rage. “You don't know, Granger! You don't know him! You don't know what he could do to me, to my family!”
“What is he going to do to me, Malfoy?” Granger shrieked. “To everyone here at Hogwarts? He would kill us all if he could, and you wouldn't lift a finger to stop him!”
“Damn it, Granger! You don't understand! You don't know!”
Granger drew herself up, trembling, and when she spoke again her voice was calm. “I don't know? I'll tell you what I do know: I know a lost cause when I see one, Malfoy.”
Draco stepped forward, all of the anger and passion and fear channelled into that one motion. “I am not a lost cause! And I won't let him kill you!” he bellowed, at her stunned face.
In the aftermath, they both stood, breathing heavily, eyeing one another with renewed confusion. In the silence, Granger's face became thoughtful, and then, bewilderingly, a small smile lifted the corners of her lips.
“Alright, Malfoy. I'm sorry I said that.” she said simply, that strange smile still in place. They stood facing each other for a while, and then Draco shifted awkwardly.
“Look...” he said hesitantly, avoiding her eyes. “I- I'm sorry too. For calling you a- a mudblood, I mean.”
Because he was averting his eyes from her face, he didn't notice her rapid approach until she had thrown her arms around his waist and pulled him into a bone-crushing hug.
“Ouch! What the hell, Granger?” he cried, staggering backwards. She laughed in his ear.
“Oh, relax, Malfoy! It's just a hug!”
“You're breaking my ribs,” he muttered darkly, “and your hair is in my face.”
His arms seemed to be working of their own accord, however, ignoring his own protestations and tentatively wrapping themselves around her, drawing her closer. Before long, Draco found himself at a loss for words, unable to think of anything except the gentle beating of her heart against his chest, and the faint, sweet smell of honey which lingered in her hair. He wasn't sure exactly what had happened, but he was pretty sure something else had changed.
A/N: Thanks for the reads and reviews :)
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