I was confused beyond belief. Why was Draco Malfoy being nice? Why was he acting like a human being?
"I think he's up to something, Headmistress," I said. We were both sitting in McGonagall's office, with all the headmasters sleeping around us. Except Dumbledore, who was watching the conversation and making me feel nervous. McGonagall raised an eyebrow at me.
"You don't suppose he really wants to be change and gain a new reputation?" she asked,
"But it's so weird. We were actually being playful and joking around the other day!" I said. Merlin, I heard myself and wanted to die. "And what the hell are Ron and Harry going to think?"
"They're going to think that it's completely preposterous, possibly try and come down here, and take care of Malfoy themselves," McGonagall said, with a hint of a smile.
"Exactly! Because it's just completely unbelievable. And Ginny and Neville have both noticed and keep trying to talk to me but I'm just completely avoiding them. He's organizing Halloween as we speak!"
"Well, if it's really bothering you so much, I will look into it, maybe talk to him to try and see if there's any motive behind him other than the apparently unbelievable possibility that he wants to be accepted into society again." I looked down at my hands, feeling slightly embarrassed. But I didn't object. Experience was telling me not to object. It needed to be looked into. It's not like Draco Malfoy ever had a nice bone in his body before this.
"Thank you," I said, standing up to leave.
"Hermione," McGonagall said just as I reached the door. I turned to look at her. "Just—remember that there is no one in this world without a bad side. And on the other side of that statement—there is no one in this world without a good side."
I nodded and left the room, but didn't leave the staircase. Instead I sat down next to the door, and leaned my head against the back wall. I had no idea what was going on.
"You're doing the right thing Minerva. I couldn't have done it any better," I heard the familiar voice of the late Dumbledore saying to McGonagall. I sighed, stood up, and walked slowly away and back to my room.
But before I could get there, I was stopped by a very irritated looking Ginny.
"Tell me what's going on," she demanded. "Are you imperioused or something?"
"No, Ginny," I said, with exasperation. "Come on, let's go to the Req room and talk?"
"Alright, now can you explain?" Ginny asked when we both sat down on the red futon that appeared in the Room of Requirement. I took a moment to admire the room's effectiveness. I wanted a place to talk to my friend and the room responded with an astounding array of tools. There was just a sofa, a box of tissues, a soft rug, and a few candles burning. There were also a few books, including How to Get Your Thoughts Out Without Magic and Dealing with Best Friends: the Witchy Way.
"Well… he's being nice," I said. "And that's about it."
"Oh and that's about it?" she said, mockingly. "I thought you were smart!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked, frowning. "It's not like I'm his girlfriend."
"Oh god," Ginny said, making a face. "Don't ever even say shit like that."
"Merlin, Hermione, stop seeing the good in people all the time. Some people just don't have it! And fuck—there's obviously something he's doing. He's up to something and I'm going to give that little shit a piece of my mind!" she said, turning red and angry.
"Ginny, now just wait one second—"
"I mean, can't you remember all the fuck load of hell he's given you? Me? Harry? Ron?"
"I know but—"
"I mean he tried to make everyone's life a living hell. He was a DEATH EATER!" she exclaimed. "Who had a mission to kill DUMBLEDORE!"
"I KNOW!" I said, standing up, angry myself. "And if you just fucking let me talk—" She raised her eyebrows in shock but shut her mouth.
"People aren't always black and white, Ginny, and I thought you'd understand that!" I said. "People do wrong things, but it doesn't mean they're bad people. Just confused. He—just—I have to give him a chance," I said. "It would be horrid of me not to."
"Well good luck," she said, glaring at me. "While you're off being chummy with the piece of shit ferret, I'm going to find out what's really going on. And I'll have a nice bleedin' time telling you I told you so."
"Ginny, please," I said, "don't be angry with me."
"I am angry with you! Your naivety is just—driving me nuts! And you think I'm bad? Just wait how Ron and Harry deal with this."
"Don't—," I said suddenly. "Don't tell them."
"What?" she asked, completely taken aback. "And why not?"
"Because—I don't want them coming down here in an angry panic and doing something they'll regret. Or getting hurt."
She let out a very angry and disbelieving laugh. "You think they'd lose in a fight with Malfoy? Oh Merlin, he's brainwashed you or something."
"No!" I objected, "I don't want anyone to get hurt," I said.
She watched me, frowning, and sat down next to me, grabbing for my hand. "That's what I'm scared of," she said quietly, "that you're going to get hurt. People hurt people Hermione. Especially when you try giving them something like chances. Because he's Draco Malfoy. This isn't some movie. You're not going to make him better. He'll disappoint you."
"That's the risk I've got to take," I said.
"Why? What is it worth?"
"Giving someone a clean slate."
She was quiet. "Okay, Hermione. But I'm still looking into this whole mess. I won't drag Harry or Ron into it though, if you don't want me to."
"Thanks," I said.
"And I don't agree with you at all. I hope you know that."
"I know, I know," I said, with a bit of a smile.
Finally, I climbed back into my own dormitory, ready to sleep. Instead, there was a knock on the window and I opened it up to find Pig sitting on the sill, chirping happily. Smiling I grabbed the tiny bird and untied the scroll on its leg. Pig had calmed down very, very much. He had become somewhat bearable. Even though he still got a little bit crazy when he was offered toast, he was no longer always flying around and not sitting still.
I miss the bullocks out of you.
I grinned. How very Ron-like.
I'm working and all now, but really I have no idea what I'm doing. And blimey, there are tests and essays during training. Wish you were here.
I rolled my eyes. How typical. He wanted me there to proofread his essays.
There's this girl though, in training, from America. Name's Hazel. She's almost as brilliant as you and is helping me get through mostly.
I felt a pang of jealousy. But it wasn't a big deal, I supposed. It was just because I missed him.
I really do miss you though. I'm counting down till Christmas, and that's such a bleedin' long time away. I think I'm going to nip down there soon though. It's far and a bit expensive, but Ginny has her first game coming up anyway, and Harry wants to go see that, so I'll come down there with him.
I love you, 'Mione. Write me if the git Malfoy is bothering you—talking to you—looking at you—saying snide comments—anything. I'll kick that son of a bitch, Death Eater's arse any day, happily.
I almost laughed aloud, but refrained. Instead I read further down, where Harry's messy (not as messy as Ron's) writing was.
Ron's going slightly crazy without you. So am I… these essays are ridiculous, honest. I miss Hogwarts so much, you won't even believe. The Ministry is so dull right now. I wish you were around.
Missing you terribly, but will see you soon—
P.S. Ron's last statement applies with me as well.
I tucked the letter into my book and walked into the common area. There were books lying open on the table and Malfoy was on the couch, sleeping. I watched him, feeling slightly bad about wanting to hide this—situation—from Ron and Harry. But what was I supposed to do? They'd be completely unreasonable.
Malfoy looked—harmless sleeping. His blonde hair wasn't its usual sleek self. Instead it was slightly messy and he had an almost grungy look about him. He was tired. His hand was tucked into the warm part of his neck and his mouth was slightly open. He almost looked like a little kid. I took the blanket from the other sofa and put it over him gently, avoiding touching him or anything. He'd probably get cold or something if I didn't do that.
"Thanks for the blanket," he muttered, making me jump. His eyes were still closed, "Makes me think of mum." He sighed and then became quiet again. I went to bed disturbed. It was strange to have a view of someone that was so strong, you never even stopped to think about why or when or how or where, and then suddenly, something forces you to think about it. And then your decision making just seemingly goes to shit.
"Miss Granger?" Flitwick called on me, because as usual, my hand was in the air when no one else's was. I couldn't help it… Anyway, I responded almost flawlessly—I just forgot to mention the part about the famous Goblin trying to perform the charm and hexing his own sister's nose off by accident. Not that that part was very relevant or anything. "And," Flitwick said as soon as I finished my last word. "Ten points to Gryffindor!"
The rest of the morning went as such. It was only at lunchtime, when Ginny beckoned me to the seat next to her when everything became weird. I felt a tap on my shoulder to see Malfoy standing behind me.
"You want to eat together?" he asked. He couldn't keep completely shocking me this way. It wasn't right. I glanced toward the Slytherin table where Parkinson and Zabini were sitting, glaring at the two of us.
"What about your friends?" I asked, looking over at them.
"Yeah, don't they look friendly?" he asked, glancing at them along with me.
"Right. Well… I just don't think it's the best idea, yet—" I said, feeling bad. "I—"
"No!" he said suddenly, "you're completely right. I'll just go then," he said. I walked over to the Gryffindor table, with my heart in my stomach. I felt terrible.
"Tell me he didn't ask to eat with us," Ginny whispered immediately. She needn't have though. Neither Neville nor Dean were paying any attention to us and didn't even notice what happened.
"What just happened?" Neville asked, as soon as I sat down.
"Um—nothing," I mumbled. Ginny let out a harrumph of disapproval but I said nothing else.
"Is he harassing you or something?" Neville asked, looking angry.
"No," I said, "not at all. Just drop it—all of you," I said, noticing that pretty much every Gryffindor was glaring.
"I'm going to find out what he's up to," Ginny said later, while we sat in the Gryffindor common room (which I had missed) practicing transfiguration.
"Ginny, please, I'm telling you. He's just—lonely, I think. And now that there's no war to fight or side to be on, I think he just wants to be on the side where he's accepted."
"He's a twat," Ginny said, "I don't care what you say. I know I'm right."
"And that's a surprise," I said sarcastically. She transfigured my toad into a porcupine, which pricked me, in retaliation.
"Will you come to Hogsmeade with us next Friday?" she asked. "We miss you."
"Who's us?" I asked, transfiguring my toad into a cat flawlessly. The cat only had time to purr once before I transfigured it back into a toad.
"Neville, Dean, and I," she said.
"Dean's going?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at her. "Sure that's a good idea?"
"What?" she asked, looking innocent. "I mean it's not like I can't be friends with him. Harry won't mind."
"Won't he?" I asked, remembering how jealous Harry was throughout his entire sixth year.
"Well… what he doesn't know won't hurt him," she said. I glared at her. "Well it's not like I'm doing anything wrong!"
"Right," I said, looking away from her, with a sinking feeling in my gut.
"I wouldn't hurt Harry," she said, "why would I do that?"
"Yeah I guess so," I said, feeling slightly better. "Anyway, I've got to get back and continue planning."
"Have fun with your new friend," she said, sounding bitter. "And you didn't give me a Hogsmeade answer."
"Sure," I said. "I'll see you tomorrow Gin."
"Sleep tight, Hermione—don't let the Malfoy bite—" she said cheekily.