Chapter 6 : Uncanny.
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A/N: Hello again! I had a pretty good number of reads for my last chapter, but no reviews. L I’m not one to get easily discouraged by that, because I do intend to continue writing this story, but it’s certainly hard to stay inspired and creative if I’ve got no encouragement from readers. So please read, and please review! J I respond to all reviews.
I have no idea how I’m going to do this, Draco thought to himself as the end of his shift came looming closer. He promised his friends he would talk to her after his shift so that he would have enough time to think over what he would say. Yet, 30 minutes had come and gone and he had nothing. Is there even an easy way to tell someone who has hated you for 7 years that she shouldn’t hate you anymore? And what if she doesn’t agree? Draco wasn’t one to panic, but he was certainly starting to get worried. He knew that he had no more time to think so he started heading down the train, looking for Hermione’s compartment. When he finally found it, he knocked quickly on the door and waited for Ginny, who was nearest, to slide it open. It’s too late to turn back now. Here goes nothing.
“Since when do you knock, Malfoy?” Ron scowled as soon as Draco stepped in. “You usually just come barging in here like you own the place.”
“My shift’s not for another twenty minutes,” Hermione pointed out. “If you’re here to ask me to cover the rest of your shift for you, there’s no way –”
“Merlin, would you lot relax? You should be glad I bothered to knock, and no, that’s not even close to why I’m here.”
“What are you doing here then? And who’s covering for you?” Hermione asked sharply.
“I asked one of the older Slytherin prefects. And I’m here –” Draco paused to brace himself. Just get on with it. “– because I need to have a word with you. Alone.”
There were a few seconds of silence as the words were slowly absorbed by the others.
“Have a word about what? Is this Head’s business?” Hermione asked.
“I’d rather we talk about it in private, in the Head’s compartment. In a way, it is Heads’ business.”
“Can’t it wait until after the feast? Or at least until we get to Hogwarts?”
Draco shook his head. “It’s important that we talk about it now.”
What could possibly be so important that it can’t wait? And why wasn’t I informed directly about this if it’s Head’s business? Hermione wondered to herself. Her curiosity eventually overruled her logic and she stood up to leave the compartment with Draco.
“Hermione, what are you doing?” Ron asked her with a slightly shocked look on his face.
“Ron, Malfoy wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important. This probably won’t take long, and if it does, I’ll drop by before starting my shift.”
“Don’t worry, Weasley,” Draco said in his signature drawl. “Even if I was remotely attracted to Granger, which I’m not, she doesn’t seem the type who would cheat on you.”
“You’re so obnoxious.” Hermione muttered. Ginny scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“That’s not what I’m worried about, you git!” Ron’s face was slowly turning more and more scarlet. “I’m worried that this is a trap; that you’ll curse her as soon as her back is turned and try to kill her!”
“As flattered as I am that you’re assuming I would be able to outsmart Granger into a duel and then beat her, I’m not actually stupid enough to try.” Draco rolled his eyes at Ron.
“Hermione, I’m not going to let you go anywhere with him, especially not alone!”
“Ron,” Ginny interjected “he’s got a point, you know. If it is a trap and it turns into a duel, he wouldn’t stand a chance against Hermione. There isn’t a spell that she doesn’t know how to do.” Hermione blushed at Ginny’s words, and it was Draco’s turn to scoff.
“I know you just want to protect me,” said Hermione, “but I can take care of myself. If he gets my wand, I could always hit him like I did back in our third year.”
Everyone – except Draco of course – laughed at the memory of 13-year old Hermione slapping Draco right across the face for talking rudely about Hagrid. Ron relaxed, positive now that Hermione would be able to protect herself.
“Just please don’t forget to drop by here before your shift, all right?” said Ron.
“What is it, Malfoy?” Hermione sat on one side of the compartment and waited for Draco to sit on the other. “What do you want to talk to me about?”
Point of no return, Draco thought to himself before opening his mouth to speak. “Look strictly speaking, this isn’t really Heads’ business. Not officially.”
“What?” Hermione’s eyes narrowed.
”I mean, it does concern us, as Heads, but it’s not signed and sealed by Dumbledore or anything like that. It…it’s more…personal, actually.” Draco stumbled over the last sentence.
“Personal?” asked Hermione in a surprised tone. “You want to talk to me about something personal?”
“Yes and I’d appreciate it if you just sit still and don’t interrupt.” Taking Hermione’s silence and curious stare as an agreement, Draco continued. “Er, I know you live with Muggles, so I’m not sure how updated you are about the wizarding world during the summer holidays. You might have already heard from your friends though, about a public announcement my mother and I made?”
“I get deliveries of the Daily Prophet every day and my parents are just as keen to read it as I am. My parents may be Muggles but they’re every bit as concerned about the wizarding world as they are about the Muggle world. We read the article about you and your mother. They thought it was very brave of both of you to do such a thing. They said it was very humble…admirable, even.”
“What do you think of it?”
“Me?” Hermione shrugged. “It was brave, yes. It couldn’t have been easy to own up to everything that you did wrong, especially to the whole wizarding community. You and your mother publicly promised to change your ways; that you would fully support equality amongst all wizards and witches regardless of blood status. It’s all very noble, but I won’t believe that until I see it. I might believe it of your mother, but not of you.”
“Why not? If my mother can do it, why wouldn’t I be able to?” Draco frowned. It never occurred to him that someone would believe only one of them and not the other. They did make the announcement together, didn’t they? Why wouldn’t anyone think he could do it too, if his mother could?
“Your mother saved Harry’s life. She could have told Voldemort the truth, and Harry would be dead. But she chose to lie. She risked her life to save Harry’s, and yours. In my eyes – and in Ron’s, and even in Harry’s – she’s already started to make up for what she’s done. But I know you, Malfoy. Supporting equality means getting rid of your high-and-mighty pureblood ego, and you can’t do that, because that’s what you live on. You’ve been calling me mudblood for 6 years; I’m surprised you even know what my real name is. Do you really think you’ll be able to change that? Old habits die hard, you know.”
“As a matter of fact, I do think that can change, Granger.” said Draco, emphasizing on her last name. “And apparently Dumbledore thinks so too, otherwise he wouldn’t have made me Head Boy. I’m not complaining; I’m glad that Dumbledore has given me a chance to show everyone at school that change really is possible. That’s sort of what I want to talk to you about.
I’ve thought a lot about why Dumbledore would choose me to be Head Boy. I know that traditionally, it should be me because I’m right behind you when it comes to our end-of-term marks. But I thought that because of what I’ve done, Dumbledore would choose Potter instead of me. I finally realized why when we heard his letter this morning, when he said we should be able to work together now that we know who we’re working with.”
Hermione’s brow furrowed. “I don’t understand. What does your being Head Boy have to do with your mother? And me?”
“I’m getting there.” Draco replied. “This is just my theory, but I’d bet my broomstick that I’m right. Dumbledore didn’t tell us right away who we’d be working with because one of us might insist on declining. By letting us find out for ourselves, he knew it would be too late to do anything except deal with it. In the Daily Prophet, Dumbledore himself said that he wholeheartedly supports equality and he would encourage it fully at Hogwarts, starting with promoting inter-house unity.”
Hermione continued to stare at Draco with a confused expression. She just couldn’t see the connection of the Malfoys’ public announcement and Draco’s being Head Boy, and least of all what she had to do with either of them.
“Don’t you get it?” Draco sighed loudly. “I thought you were supposed to be the smart one, Granger. Dumbledore wants unity and equality at Hogwarts, right? He wants all four Houses to get along despite the traditional competitions. Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor have always gotten along fairly well anyway, but if all three Houses manage to get along with Slytherin, that covers blood equality as well then, doesn’t it? All Slytherins are pureblood; half bloods and Mudbl – Muggle-borns, sorry – have always been sorted into the other three Houses. If the whole of Hogwarts succeeds with inter-house unity, we succeed with equality as well. Two birds, one stone.”
“Okay, I understand that.” Hermione nodded. “And I’m all for inter-house unity, of course, I always have been, even with Slytherins. But you’re still going to have to explain the connection between that and everything else.”
“You know what,” said Draco, a smirk starting to reach his lips, “I’ve been waiting for the time to come when I would have to explain something to you. I’m guessing that doesn’t happen very often; you’re probably the one that explains everything to anyone who bothers to listen.”
Hermione rolled her eyes at him. “Well don’t get used to it Malfoy, because this is probably the first and last time it’ll ever happen. Now wipe that look off your face and explain.”
Draco sniggered quietly to himself before composing himself. “Dumbledore wants us, specifically, to be Heads because he knows that eventually, we’re going to have to find a way to work together. He told us that earlier, in the letter, because he’s hoping we’ll figure out the way to do that right away.
You know that the Head Boy and Girl are looked up to by the whole student body and are relied upon by the teaching staff to help the students in whatever way that they can’t. The teachers aren’t good enough examples of unity or equality because it’s expected of them as teachers. But don’t you think that we would be the perfect role models for Dumbledore’s new advocacy? Who better to throw into work together as Heads than two people who are well-known for hating each other? Who better than a Gryffindor and a –”
“– Slytherin.” Hermione finished, her eyes wide as comprehension finally dawned on her. “That’s not all though, is it? On top of hating each other on principle, you’re a pureblood Slytherin; I’m a Muggle-born Gryffindor. We’re not just the top two students; we really are the perfect example.”
“You’ve finally caught on, then.” Draco smirked. “Both of us want this, and I desperately need it. I don’t care if you don’t believe me, but when I stood with Mother as she told everyone that we were going to change and make up for what we’ve done, I stood by every word she said as well. I’m sticking to it, and being Head Boy is my chance to prove it. I’m not backing down from this opportunity.”
“Well neither am I.” Hermione said. “I’ve wanted this since I was 11, for Merlin’s sake! I’m not about to let someone like you keep me from it, not after working so hard for it. I’m not backing down even if it means having to share a common room with you.”
Draco frowned. “I didn’t say you had to back down. Turning our backs on this isn’t the only solution. It’s not a solution, actually, Dumbledore made sure of that. We can’t say no anymore, even if we wanted to. There’s another way to deal with this, Granger.”
“What, you mean –”
“Working together without killing each other? Yes that’s exactly what I mean.” Draco said. “It’s not a very appealing solution but it’s the only one we’ve got.”
“You do know what you’re suggesting, right? You’re saying that we should get along with each other. Do you even know how to do that?”
Draco ignored the last comment. “We don’t have to get along, not really. I mean, we don’t have to be friends. I’m just saying that we don’t have to hate each other. We don’t have to try and get on each others nerves or hex each other every chance we get.” Draco looked away from Hermione. “You have to admit, it’s going to get tiring.”
Hermione was surprised into silence; she was having trouble fully comprehending what exactly Draco was saying. “So – so you’re saying that we should be…what? Civil?”
“You’re actually suggesting that we be civil with each other? I can hardly believe it. You’ve never even called me by my first name!”
“I reserve that right for friends.” Draco replied, rolling his eyes. “Look, I’m just saying, this is the best solution to our situation. If we’re going to be stuck with each other for the whole year, we might as well try to make it as painless and easy as possible. We can’t work together properly if we’re using all our time and effort into torturing each other. And I owe it to Dumbledore to do well with what he gave me.”
“Wow.” Hermione whispered. “I never thought I’d see the day when Draco Malfoy would admit that he wants to do something good. Maybe there’s hope for you yet.”
At the moment when Hermione said his first name, Draco felt an unexpected and unexplainable shock in his stomach. He had never heard her say his name before; it was always ‘Malfoy’ or ‘ferret’. Granted, she wasn’t actually calling him, but still, she had used his first name. He frowned. Why did he suddenly feel…lighter when he heard it? Draco shook his head to clear his thoughts. It’s probably just relief because it looks like she’s going to agree to be civil.
“So?” he asked, choosing again to ignore her last comment. “If you’ve got other suggestions, go ahead.”
Hermione shook her head. “I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but no, yours is the best plan we’ve got. I can be civil if you can. It won’t be easy but it’s worth a shot if it’ll make working together easier.” She paused before continuing. “Was this really your idea? It doesn’t sound like something you’d willingly come up with.”
“No,” it was Draco’s turn to shake his head, “my friends brought it up while you were on your last shift. You’re friends with Astoria Greengrass, right?” Hermione nodded. “Well she and her sister, Daphne, have always been very open-minded about blood status and they suggested it to me. There was no denying they were right though. It didn’t take them very long to convince me that I would be doing the right thing for me and my mother.”
“What about your other friends? Pansy Parkinson’s no friend of mine. She must have been pushing you in the opposite direction. She can’t be comfortable with us sharing a common room; she always seemed like an insanely jealous girlfriend.”
“First of all, she’s not my girlfriend, –” Hermione raised her eyebrows in surprise – “not anymore, and don’t even think about asking why. Second, Pansy’s trying to make some changes of her own. She’s actually not so bad once you get to know her. Theo’s father was a Death Eater, and now he’s with my father in Azkaban. Theo’s not proud of that and he and his family are on the same path as mine. And Blaise is the least blood biased after the Greengrass sisters. He was very supportive of this plan.” Draco rolled his eyes as he remembered his best friends’ sly comments on Hermione’s physique.
“Well, that’s certainly…surprising, and on so many different accounts. Astoria, I understand. We get along very well. But I thought your other friends would be completely against it. Especially Pansy. And Zabini was never outright horrid, but I’d never have expected him to be supportive.”
“You’d be surprised. Are you afraid Potter and the Weasley’s won’t be as supportive as my bunch?” Draco smirked.
Hermione started to speak, ready to defend her friends. And then she frowned as she realized that he was right. She just couldn’t see how Ron and Harry would be okay with her new agreement with Malfoy, especially given the way he had treated them. “How am I going to explain to them?” she muttered quietly to herself.
“Just tell them what I told you. If they’re your friends, they’ll understand that this solution is what’s best. If they’re your friends, they won’t want you to have a difficult time.”
“It’s not that easy. Ginny will be okay with it, she doesn’t hate you as much as Ron or Harry. She hates your father, but your mother saved Harry’s life. I know her; she’ll manage a little bit of courtesy. But after everything you’ve done to Ron and Harry? They’ll be furious that I’ve agreed.”
“Well then make them understand. I’m not usually one to ask for help, but I can’t do this alone. Neither of us can.”
“I suppose I haven’t got a choice but to tell them, anyway.” Hermione said. “I promised to pop back into the compartment before going on my shift so I might as well just get it over with. Do you think you could ask the Prefect who covered for you to take over for me for a little while too? I’m not sure how long it’ll take to explain.”
Hermione took a deep breath as she and Draco came to a stop outside her compartment. She reached for the door and muttered, “Wish me luck.”
“You don’t need luck,” Draco chuckled quietly, “because they’re your friends. Yeah, I expect Weasley will want to kill me, and Potter won’t be too pleased either but I’m sure they’ll still be your friends after you tell them that you’ve decided not to entirely hate me.”
“It’s not so much that I’ve decided not to hate, it’s more that I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. Especially after everything you just said to me.”
“Well then, good luck.” And then Draco did something even more unusual than anything he’d said and done so far: he held out his hand for Hermione to shake. “What?” he said when Hermione just stared at it. “I haven’t got some contagious thing on my hand. And an agreement is only final when you shake on it, right? This is me taking a step towards getting over my ‘pureblood ego’, as you put it.”
Slowly, and somewhat hesitantly, Hermione reached for his hand and there was a jolt that ran the length of her arm when their hands met. She shook his hand once and dropped it almost immediately. She frowned, rubbing her arm where it felt like an electrical current had run through her veins. She stared at his retreating back as her walked away toward his own compartment. Gathering her wits, she turned to face her friends’ questioning stares.
“What was that all about?” Ron demanded as soon as she had shut the door. “Since when do you and Malfoy shake hands?”
“Since today, Ron,” Hermione answered, “and I’ll explain, just all of you promise you won’t interrupt until I’m done.” They all nodded and murmured their variations of consent, and Hermione spent the next few minutes recounting her conversation with Malfoy. When she was done, there was a few seconds of silence before –
“You agreed?!” Ron exclaimed loudly. “Why in the name of Merlin would you agree?”
“Ron, you have to understand.” Hermione said in an almost pleading voice. “It’s bad enough that I’m forced to work with him. If I hadn’t agreed, this would be so much harder. Not just for him, for me too. Putting our differences and mutual enmity aside is going to make this job that much easier. It’s for my benefit as well as his.”
“Have you forgotten how miserable he made you?” Ron’s face was growing brighter and brighter red. “What about everything he said about me and my family? What about everything he did to Harry? Have you forgotten?”
“Of course I haven’t forgotten!” Hermione stood up, her face now slightly red as well and her eyes glistening with tears. “How could I forget? Do you think I liked being called a Mudblood? No! But it’s precisely because of that that I agreed, Ron! If there’s something I can do to avoid that for another year, then why not? And just because he made me miserable, doesn’t mean I would do the same to him. That’s not me, Ron. You should know that.”
No one had anything to say; no one knew what to say. Hermione was right, of course, she always was. They knew that Hermione never agreed to anything unless there was a point to it, and there was definitely a point to her agreement of civility with Malfoy. They were all just having a difficult time grasping the fact that it was someone they all hated so much. Eventually, Ginny spoke up.
“I understand, Hermione. Of course I would. You’re one of my best friends, and I would hate to see you struggling with him the whole year. You deserve to be Head Girl and if this is something that you have to do for yourself, then I’ll support you. His father may be despicable, but he may have some of the redeeming qualities his mother has.” Ginny stood up and gave her a hug, and Hermione sighed with relief that she was at least right about Ginny accepting it.
It took a while, but eventually Ron followed suit and kissed Hermione’s forehead before giving her a hug. “I’m sorry Hermione,” he said. “The shock and anger got to me before the reason did, as usual. Ginny’s right. This is your decision, and I love you, and I support whatever you decide.”
Hermione turned to Harry, who had not yet spoken since she told them what happened. He looked at Hermione with a blank expression and for a second, she felt more nervous than she had ever remembered feeling before. For it was Harry’s consent that mattered the most, even more than Ron’s, because it was Harry that had the most reason to despise the Malfoys. Hermione bit her lip, waiting anxiously for Harry to say something, anything. Except he didn’t. Instead, he nodded once and wrapped Hermione in a great bear hug, and she gave a huge sigh of relief.
“For a second I thought you were going to walk out.” Hermione said weakly.
“You’re my best friend too, Hermione.” Harry answered simply. “Oh but do me a favor, okay? Two favors, actually.”
Hermione nodded, ready to agree to whatever Harry said out of her relief that he wasn’t furious with her.
“If he does anything out of line – whether it’s to hit on you or jinx you – tell me and Ron right away. We’ll take care of him.” Harry said seriously while Ron nodded his agreement. “And please, please, don’t ask me to be part of your agreement. I respect your choice, and I support you, but I don’t want any part in it. At all.”
“I agree with Harry.” Ron said. “I love you but there’s no way I can be as good as you are to him. No way.”
Hermione nodded. “It’s enough for me that you both aren’t furious at me for agreeing to it. And I know I would be crazy to ask you to do the same.”
At this point, Ginny cleared her throat. “Hermione?” she started. “I wouldn’t mind, you know.”
“Wouldn’t mind what, Gin?” Hermione asked curiously.
“I wouldn’t mind being a part of your agreement.”
There were three distinct outbursts of “What?” at Ginny’s statement. Hermione’s was of happy disbelief; Ron’s was of anger (as usual); Harry’s was of pure shock.
“What are you talking about, Ginny?” Harry said as he recovered. “Are you sure you know what you’re saying?”
“A hundred percent sure.” Ginny replied. “Like I said, Malfoy may yet have some of the redeeming qualities his mother has. Unlikely though it seems, we wouldn’t know for sure unless we give it a shot, right? We all know Hermione wouldn’t have agreed to this if she didn’t believe that he was worth giving a chance; that he could be trusted to keep his part of the agreement. I trust Hermione’s judgment and if she’s willing, then so am I. If that’s okay with you, of course, Hermione. And him, I suppose.”
“Of course, Ginny.” Hermione replied, still slightly shocked. “It’s your choice to make.”
Ginny turned to her boyfriend and her brother. “You both know me very well. You know there’s no point in arguing or trying to convince me otherwise. If you can respect Hermione’s choice, I hope you can respect mine too. If you can’t, you might as well tell me now.”
Neither Harry nor Ron said a word, partly because they knew Ginny would go through with her choice no matter what they said, and partly because they knew that Ginny had a lot more sense in her than most people her age and they trusted that she knew what she was getting herself into.
“Great, thanks.” Ginny said brightly. “You wouldn’t mind asking him if it was okay, would you Hermione? I’m not sure he’d agree if it came directly from me. He might think I was messing with him.”
“No I don’t mind at all. Thanks Ginny,” Hermione said, “for trying. It’ll be a lot easier to have you on board with me. I understand your situation of course,” she added hastily to Ron and Harry, “and I’m still not asking you to try as well. I’m just really glad Ginny will.”
She hugged them all again in turn, and then walked to the door of the compartment. “I’ve still got more than half of my shift left to cover and I don’t want to give the Prefects the idea that I’m slacking off just because I can. I’ll be back as soon as my shift is up. Thanks so much for understanding me, all of you. It means a lot to me. Ginny, I’ll go talk to Malfoy about you later. I’ll see you guys in a bit.”
She walked out to take over the remaining time of her shift with a light heart, and feeling as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She no longer had to constantly worry about how she was going to survive the school year working with a Malfoy, and her friends were as supportive and understanding as ever. Bless Ginny, she thought to herself, for having such an adventurous open mind.
A/N: Well there you go folks! ;) It took me forever to write this because my Muse sort of disappeared on me for a while. I couldn’t figure out the right way for the Hermione-Draco dialogue to play out, and I wasn’t sure how to effectively narrate how Hermione told her friends. I hope this was good enough! :D
Leave me some love, readers! Everyone loves a review. ;) Thanks for reading! :)