Chapter 5 : Godspeed.
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Draco walked swiftly to the back of the train, to the carriage that he and his friends occupied every year. His first shift had been boring, though he hadn’t been expecting it to be particularly eventful. No one was up to causing any trouble just yet; all anyone wanted to do was catch up with the friends they hadn’t seen all summer…for now. He was sure that the rest of his shifts would be the farthest thing from boring. Probably the most interesting thing that happened during his first hour – apart from eavesdropping on Lavender, that is – was the reaction of Harry and Ron when he showed up in their compartment to talk to Hermione. Granted, he was so used to seeing them tense up and scowl at his presence, but what amused him was the instant shift from anger to shock when they heard him talk to Hermione in a way that was almost…civil. I can’t blame them for being surprised that I’m capable of courtesy. I’m not exactly famous for it. Even Ginny looked surprised, and usually she remained wholly indifferent. He snickered at the memory.
When he reached his friends’ compartment, he saw Blaise, Pansy and Astoria sitting on one side, whilst Theo, with his arm snaked around Daphne, sat on the other. “So? What’s it like to be working with Hermione Granger?” Blaise asked him with a smirk as soon as he sat down beside Astoria. “Is it hard to stop staring at her suddenly appealing body?”
“Not exactly, mate.” Draco answered with a laugh. “We were hardly in the same room for more than ten minutes.” He then went on to recount what Dumbledore said in his letter and explained what he’d been doing for the last hour, including what he’d heard from Lavender and his brief encounter with Hermione’s friends. “So I’ve been walking up and down the train – yes Blaise, alone – and the most fascinating part of it was the look on Potter and Weasel’s faces.”
“Such is the life of being Head Boy.” Pansy joked. “But what do you think it’ll be like, working and practically living with her for a whole year?”
“I’ve been trying not to think about having to share a dorm with her.” Draco grimaced as the thought popped into his head. “Working with her, I’m pretty sure I can handle. As much as I hate to admit it, she’s smart, responsible, and hard-working. If we’re talking about the actual work, it shouldn’t be too hard. But she’s still overbearing, stubborn, and an insufferable know-it-all. I don’t know how I’m going to survive sharing a common room with her.”
“I don’t know why you’re complaining, mate.” Blaise countered. “She’s bloody hot. Every time she starts being a know-it-all, I’d kiss her to make her shut up.” Everyone laughed as Pansy wittingly said, “Trust you to say something like that, Blaise. You’d use anything as an excuse to kiss a girl.”
“Except you, Pansy.” Blaise retorted, causing everyone except Pansy to snicker. “Seriously though, you lot. I honestly wouldn’t mind working with her because apart from the fact that she now has the body to match her exceptional brain, you all know that I’m probably one of the least blood-biased Slytherin. I’ve never been particularly picky about blood status, it just so happens that all my friends are purebloods.”
“Daphne and I have never been strictly blood-biased either.” Astoria threw in. “I am the only one who has actually talked to Hermione. And who even refers to her as Hermione, and not Granger. You know she’s actually really quite funny?”
“It’s true.” Daphne said, backing up her sister. “I haven’t talked to her personally, but I’ve overheard her talking to Astoria and I heard her talking to her friends once too. If it wouldn’t have been weird, I probably would have laughed along at the things she said.”
More silence; Daphne shrugged as Draco stared unbelievingly.
“Draco, don’t get angry at me for saying this, okay? I just think that you should hear it.” Astoria said timidly. Draco narrowed his eyes before nodding slowly for her to continue. “Um. Well. We all know that you and Hermione never got along and it’s most likely because you hate her best friends. Although you wouldn’t have been particularly nice to her regardless of who her friends were. Anyway I’ve just sort of got this feeling that maybe…well…maybe it didn’t have to be that way. Don’t get angry! I honestly just think that maybe it doesn’t still have to be that way now.”
“It’s not my fault that I was raised to hate mudbloods, Astoria! That’s been a pureblood way of life ever since! Or at least, a Malfoy way of life. I didn’t know anything else but to hate her for being a mudblood, the same way I thought it was natural for me to hate Potter and Weasel.”
“I’m not blaming you, Draco! That’s what you were taught to believe was right; you didn’t know any better. What I’m saying is, you know better now.”
“What exactly are you trying to tell me?”
Astoria took a deep breath. “The war is over; Lord Voldemort is dead. Everything is changing: Hogwarts, the Ministry, even the pureblood community. I’m trying to tell you that it’s not too late for you. Wait!” Astoria held up her hand as Draco started to interrupt. “Let me finish first. I know you’re thinking it’s not my place to say this, but I’m your friend, and I’m helping you. It’s not your relationship with us that needs to change, Draco. We’re your friends, your family. It’s your relationship with others.
I admire you and your mother for what you did. It takes a lot of courage to face the entire wizarding community and not only admit that you were wrong, not only apologize for it, but promise change. We’ve all been friends since we were kids, and if I’m sure of anything about a Malfoy, it’s that first of all, you stick together. Neither you nor your mother would have made that announcement if one of you didn’t really mean it. And second, Malfoy’s never make promises they can’t keep. So I know you want to change, and I know you will.”
The entire compartment sat in complete silence. The gears of the train moving beneath them sounded like thunder at the peak of a storm; laughter could be heard from the compartment next door.
“That was a bloody long speech, Astoria. Ouch!” Theo winced and rubbed the spot where his girlfriend Daphne had elbowed him, hard. “What? Why did you do that?” He whined quietly. “Because, Theo, what a way to spoil the moment of sinking in.” Daphne answered in a whisper, pointing discreetly to Draco, who was now frowning and staring at the floor with a look of intense concentration.
Draco sat that way for five minutes. Five minutes where everyone else tried as best as they could not to disturb him, for fear that he would snap out of it before realizing that Astoria was right. Because the longer they sat in silence, the more they absorbed what she said, and the more they realized that shewas right. Everything was changing, and the people should be changing along with it. No one would say it out loud, especially not to his face, but Astoriawas also right that things don’t need to be the same way now. They were all hoping that he would realize that on his own. And –
“I suppose you’re right, Astoria.” Draco said and finally looked up from the floor. Everyone exceptAstoria turned to look at him with mixed surprise and relief. Astoria had already been looking at him while he sat in thought, just waiting for him to agree with her. She smiled at him to encourage him to continue. “About everything. Mother and I did decide together to try and make up for, if not fix, whatever our family has done wrong. Now that Father is in Azkaban, there’s no one to stop us anymore. A huge part of that is change and that scared us, but we weren’t going to let that stop us either.
Things now don’t have to be the same as they were before the war. I don’t want it to be that way anymore; I want it to be different. I want to be different, only I’ve never had to adjust for anyone in my life. So I don’t say this often but in the spirit of change, I might as well say it: I need help from all of you because I don’t know what to do.”
There was so much vulnerability and helplessness in his voice that Pansy couldn’t help but reach across the compartment and hug him, without a word. When she pulled away, Astoria reached for his hand and gave it a slight squeeze. “I am so proud of you, Draco. I can only imagine how hard that was for you.”
“If I had a drink on me now, I’d raise my glass to you. Cheers to the spirit of change.” Blaise smiled at his best friend.
“I’ve got a suggestion, Draco.” Daphne said. “But I don’t know how agreeable you’ll be to it. It might be a bit too extreme for a first step, but I think it’s a good idea so hear me out first, okay?”
“What is it?”
“Hermione. Be her friend.”
Draco laughed. “You’re joking, right? I can’t be friends with someone when there’s been a mutual feeling of hate between us for almost 8 years now.”
“That’s only because neither of you ever tried.”Astoria answered. “I’m friends with both of you and I bet that if only you tried, you would get along just fine. I’d even say you might get along really well.”
“I doubt that.”
“You don’t know that for sure.” Daphne replied.
“You sisters are relentless. Stop ganging up on me.”
“Would it help if I agreed with them?” Pansy interjected. Draco sighed in defeat as Blaise and Theo nodded and murmured their agreement.
“Think about it, Draco.” Daphne continued. “Think about how much easier it’ll be to work with her if you two aren’t constantly trying to either avoid each other or jinx each other. Think about the good it’ll do for the Hogwarts student body to see you two getting along: a Slytherin and a Gryffindor, a Malfoy and a Granger, a pureblood and a muggle born. You’ve got to admit, it’s inspiring. If two people who’ve spent almost half their lives hating each other can be friends, then why can’t everyone else?”
“Now that you mention it, I think Dumbledore might’ve done that on purpose.” Theo said. “Making you and Granger heads, I mean. He probably knew that one way or another, you’d have to find a way to work things out between you. Remember what he told the Daily Prophet a few weeks ago? He said that what he wants most for Hogwarts now is inter-house unity. What better way to start that than to throw rivals together?”
“That might’ve been the smartest thing I’ve ever heard you say.” Pansy joked lightly. “I even think you might be right, and I don’t say that about you very often.”
“That’s funny coming from someone who got fewer Owls than I did.” Theo retorted.
“Don’t be mean, Theo.” Daphne said, hitting her boyfriend lightly on the arm. “You are right though. Dumbledore probably did that on purpose.”
“It doesn’t matter. I can’t just be friends with her, even if I wanted to. First of all, I don’t like her very much. Second, she doesn’t like me. And third, her friends don’t like me. She would never agree to it.” Draco reasoned.
“You’ll never know if you never try, right?” Astoriareasoned back. “You don’t even have to really be friends with her. At least try to be civil. You two don’t have to like each other, you just have to not kill each other.”
Draco sat in thought for a while. It didn’t take him as long to concede as it did when Astoria brought up his mother and change. That’s because he already knew that his friends were right; he didn’t need any more convincing.
“Okay. I’ll try. I obviously can’t do it alone so I’m guessing I’ll have to talk to her about it, ask her if she’s willing as well. I doubt it, but I guess it’s worth a shot if it means we can share a common room the whole year without jinxing each other every chance we get. It’s not going to be very easy but I’ve always loved a challenge.”
“So glad you’re listening to us for a change, Draco.” Daphne said. “She’s smart. I doubt she’ll agree right away but I’m sure she’ll see the logic behind it, just make sure you reason out correctly. The best thing is never easy but at least you know you’ve got our support!” Daphne grinned at him widely, and everyone joined in to encourage him.
Draco laughed at his friends, nervous because of what he knew he had to do next. He knew that deep down, for things to really be different he had to start with what was hardest. And for him, that was getting over his bias of mudbloods and ultimately, his bias of Hermione Granger.
A/N: So how did you guys like it? Did you like this vulnerable, not-so-arrogant side of Draco? I tried to keep a little of his cockiness but I also wanted to show that he was sincere in his wanting to change. Tell me what you think, okay? :) Leave me some love.
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