A/N: Anything you recognize belongs to JK Rowling.
As soon as we entered the Great Hall and went our separate ways, both of us wearing carefully constructed indifferent faces. I strolled over to the Slytherin table, seating myself next to Blaise, facing the three other tables. I watched Hermione sit down with Potter and Weasley, and barely contained a look of distaste.
“Draco,” Blaise acknowledged me. “Have a rough first night with Granger?”
Damn, I forgot how good he is at reading people. Bugger. “You could say that,” I drawled, picking a green apple off a platter of them nearby. I checked my mental shields to make sure they were still up; I didn’t want Blaise’s prying mind to see things he didn’t need to know about yet.
Taking a bite of my apple, I risked a glance over at her again and caught her looking at me. I raised my eyebrow as if to say, “Really?” and she rolled her eyes at me before turning to respond to something Ginny said. I turned my attention back to Blaise to find him scrutinizing me.
“What is it, Blaise? I haven’t got all day to sit here and wait for you to speak, I’ve got important things to do today,” I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose.
“Like Granger?” he said smartly, earning him a punch. “Ow, that bloody hurt!”
“Then don’t insult me. I’d never go for that.” I said coolly. I scooped a large portion of eggs onto my plate, along with some bacon and toast. “Now can I please eat in peace or are you going to be replacing Crabbe as idiot number one?” I laid the sarcasm on thickly.
“All right, fine. Eat, for Merlin’s sake,” Blaise surrendered, getting food of his own. Pansy and Millicent joined us soon after that, and I let myself get pulled in to the girls’ mindless chatter about the latest Witch Weekly and how they were sad that Benedict Cumbersnatch was getting married.
Soon enough, students began filtering out of the hall, finished with breakfast, going outside to enjoy the good fall weather. I caught Granger’s eye again and nodded almost imperceptibly towards the doors, nonverbally telling her to hurry up. I watched as she quickly finished drinking her juice and said her goodbyes before standing up from the Gryffindor table and walking out of the Great Hall. I waited precisely one minute and forty-nine seconds before excusing myself from Pansy and Millicent’s suffocating presence.
I met her outside by the marble staircase going to the first floor. “Granger,” I greeted her.
“Malfoy,” she replied, equally as cordial. “McGonagall wants us to show some of the first year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws around the castle and grounds so they aren’t lost on the first day of classes before we meet with her. Their Prefects should be coming down with them momentarily.”
I nodded in understanding, adjusting my position so my Head Boy badge gleamed in the daylight streaming in from the open front doors. I was reluctant to admit it, but I was very humbled that Dumbledore thought highly enough of me to make me Head Boy, even after I’d attempted to kill him multiple times. Also, it distanced me from my father. Even though he’d managed to stay out of Azkaban after the war—thanks to Potter—I still refused to accept his actions as his way of showing he cared for mother and I. He’s done far too many cruel things to muggles, muggleborns, anyone against the Dark Lord, and his family to deserve what he’s gotten. Subconsciously I itched my left forearm, hating the mark there, darkness branded into my skin forever.
Granger nudged me with her hand on my arm, shaking me out of my reverie. We watched as the Prefects led the awestruck first years down the stairs to us. “Play nice, Malfoy,” she muttered to me under her breath. “Obviously,” I drawled back, assuming what I hoped was a friendly facial expression.
“Hello everyone! I’m your Head Girl, Hermione Granger, and this is your Head Boy, Draco Malfoy. Thanks, Justin, Hannah, Padma, and Terry. We’re going to start with a tour of the grounds,” Granger began, starting to walk outside. Hoping I could just follow her and not say a word, we shepherded the twenty students outside towards the greenhouses. “Here is where you’ll have all of your Herbology classes with Professor Sprout and occasionally with a student trainee, Mr. Longbottom. Sometimes you’ll be working in the vegetable patches for Herbology as well, which are just behind the greenhouses. Keep up, everyone!” Granger voiced louder, noticing a few stragglers falling behind.
“Granger, slow your pace down a little bit. They can’t keep up with your manic stride,” I advised. She slowed her walking down greatly, and everyone caught up. “Sorry about that, everyone! Now, who can see that big willow tree in the distance?”
Heads turned and hands flew up. “Good! That is the Whomping Willow. I suggest not going near that tree, or its branches will smash you. Trust me, this is coming from experience dealing with that blasted tree!” she smiled, noticing the fear the first years all had plastered on their faces. “Behind that tree, over the hill lives the Care of Magical Creatures professor and Gamekeeper, Hagrid. He’s a very friendly half-giant and really cares for the students here. You’ll take his class in third year.”
We began the long trek around the castle to go to the Quidditch Pitch. I realized I should probably do at least some of the talking, and since Granger didn’t know a thing about Quidditch, I spoke up. “How many of you want to play Quidditch for your House teams next year?” I asked, genuinely happy that at least half the group raised their hands.
“Excellent! Quidditch is a great way to release your anger, stress, and frustration on people, and win some House pride. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Quidditch, there are two teams of seven players each. Firstly, there are three Chasers who throw the Quaffle, a big red ball, into the opposing team’s goalposts. Then there are two Beaters who protect the Chasers and Seeker from Bludgers, nasty black balls that fly around by themselves, with short wooden bats. We’ve got the Keeper next, and he’s the one who blocks the goals. Lastly is the Seeker, which is the position I played, who looks for the Snitch, a tiny, winged golden ball that ends the match and scores one hundred and fifty points when caught. All of this is done about one hundred feet in the air on broomsticks. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?” I couldn’t help my enthusiasm; I hadn’t been able to talk about things like Quidditch in over two years.
As I looked at all of the eleven year olds, so bright and full of light, a shadow of doubt crossed over me. Was I really doing the right thing by being here at Hogwarts? I couldn’t tell, and it made me afraid. If I made one wrong move, I was done for. But as my eyes swept over the crowed, I vowed that I would show everyone I had changed, that I could be compassionate, and that I got over my blood prejudices.
We stood on the hill overlooking the Quidditch Pitch, Granger and I behind the group. I knew she was remembering watching it burn down during the Battle of Hogwarts, flames so bright they were seared onto your retinas for days and weeks after.
“Can we go down to the lake?” a small Hufflepuff boy asked excitedly.
I exchanged looks with Granger before answering, “I suppose. Just don’t bother the giant squid!” I called after them as they tore off across the grounds, screaming and squealing with glee. “After you, Granger,” I motioned mockingly.
She laughed, a bubbly, bright sound, and gallantly began strutting down the hill. Chuckling to myself, I followed in her wake, feeling much better than I had in the past two years of my life. The two of us reached the first years at the edge of the lake, all of them peering into its opaque depths to try catching a glimpse of the evasive resident giant squid.
“Come on you lot, time to go back to the castle!” Granger announced to whines of disappointment. “Do you want to get lost on Monday or not?” they immediately quit whining and meekly followed us like ducklings back to the main doors.
Once everyone was inside, we took the first years to the first floor, where the classes Defence Against the Dark Arts and History of Magic would be taking place. Next, we trekked up to the third floor where they would have Charms. Rather than make them go all the way up the Astronomy tower, we stood at the bottom of it and explained it to them there. Since we were up on the seventh floor, we showed them where the Transfiguration classroom was and the quickest way to get there as it was miles from the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Lastly, we took them to the dungeons to show which Potions classroom would be theirs.
A few questions were asked, like if the portraits knew where everything was and if they could help. “Yes, all of the portraits can tell you where to go if you do get lost, but just make sure you don’t wake sleeping ones—they’ll send you in the wrong direction then!” Hermione advised. Eventually, we met back up with the four Prefects they had come down with, and they went on their way back to the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff common rooms.
“Well, I suppose it’s time we go see Professor McGonagall then,” Hermione said, looking at her wristwatch.
I grudgingly agreed, and we began a slow walk towards the Headmistress’s office on the seventh floor. We walked in somewhat uncomfortable silence, but I wasn’t about to be the one to break it. As we waited for one of the moving staircases to come to us, the silence became unbearable.
“What was all that about this morning, Malfoy?” Hermione broke the silence, clearly wanting to talk about it. “Why were you acting so interested in my personal life?”
Oh bloody hell, here we go. “I don’t want to talk about feelings right now, Granger, let alone with you,” I spat.
The witch actually looked hurt at that, and I immediately regretted being so harsh. “Granger, here’s how it is. I know you want to believe that I’ve changed and that I’m a better person, but I’m not always. Sometimes I’m a selfish prick and a complete arsehole, and you’re going to have to get over that if we’re going to make this whole living situation work. If I’m offensive to you, sorry, I just don’t know you well enough as a person. Don’t take it personally,” I explained in a softer tone. “Are we clear?” I asked. She nodded and I fell into a moody silence.
We climbed the stairs monotonously, our bodies having enough muscle memory to know which stairs were faulty and which would take us up further. I stepped over the trick step on one of the staircases with ease while she had to do a little jump to account for her short legs. That was when I realized just how much taller than her I was. I only stood a little over six feet, but she must have been something like five feet four inches because her head just barely came up to my shoulders.
Finally we reached the seventh floor, home to the entrance of Gryffindor tower, but there was not a soul in sight. I glanced through a window as we passed by it, and saw a majority of the students had taken to the grounds, throwing Quaffles and various balls around, basking in the warm afternoon sun. We turned down the corridor containing McGonagall’s office, my heavier footsteps echoing off the stone walls.
“Thanks for the advice about Ron,” she burst out suddenly. “Granted, it would have been much more useful a year or two ago, but thank you anyway.” A light blush tinted her cheeks at this admission of her previous feelings, but I simply nodded my head once to save her more embarrassment. We fell into an even more uncomfortable silence than before, the echoes of my shoes the only sounds in the corridor.
“So, whatever happened between you and Pansy?” she asked curiously. “I thought you two were going to get married, from the look of things.”
I looked at her and evenly replied, “We grew apart. Things changed, our views differed too much. She became interested in other people, so I let her go—simple as that. Our parents would have loved the match, but neither of us really wanted to get married because it wouldn’t have been a happy one for either of us. So we told our parents and have remained good friends ever since. She’s actually a really nice person once you get to know her, Granger; don’t be so dismissive of her.”
The grimace was wiped right off her face when I scolded her, and I felt a smirk tug at the corners of my lips. Always the rule-follower, Granger. We reached the stone gargoyle protecting the entrance to the office a minute later.
“Colin Creevey,” Hermione said quietly. The gargoyle bowed his head, allowing us through onto the moving spiral steps leading up to the door. “Just because we’ve had a weird morning, that doesn’t give you an excuse to sass and be rude to Professor McGonagall, all right?”
“Yes, fine, Granger. Whatever you say,” I said, bored already for what I was sure was simply a procedural meeting. I opened the door for her and followed her inside and shut it quietly. Taking the comfier chair in front of McGonagall’s desk, I slouched in it, prepared to just sit and listen for the whole time.
Oh, how I was wrong.
A/N: How'd you like the tours for the first years? I know that JK makes it so the first day of classes is always the day after the welcome feast, but I decided to take a bit of liberty and give them a weekend to get settled in first! Let me know what you think of Draco's advice down below! :)