May 14, 1992, 11:45 AM, Great Hall
Draco stretched and rubbed the back of his neck with a wince. I should adjust my sleep posture before I sleep, next time.
It wasn’t the first time he’d had this problem, and, to be honest with himself, it probably wouldn’t be the last time, either. He shook his head. It wasn’t his posture that was the problem; it was the fact that he tended to flail around in bed while he slept.
He had not fallen out of his bed here— yet.
It had almost happened to him in his very first week at Hogwarts.
Oh, the mockery I would have endured, had that happened… Draco thought, stabbing his fork into the roast beef and cutting a small slice away before bringing it to his mouth.
Draco savored the bite for a few moments before swallowing, his ache all but forgotten in the wake of the pleasure that the food brought him. It was one of the few pleasures that were left to him, now.
Meeting with Clarke was a mistake. The thought popped into his mind, erasing his good mood. A bad one.
Draco frowned for a moment before another forkful of beef washed it away.
Was it a mistake, though?
He just wasn’t sure. Everything felt like it was in flux, these days. Nothing ever seemed to make sense. The young boy’s thoughts warred with each other on a daily basis, neither side seeming to gain any ground.
Just endless war. Draco thought, this time keeping himself from showing any emotion other than the pleasure from the food he was consuming.
Months ago, he would have sought the guidance and solace of his Godfather and Head of House, Severus Snape; but, Draco was no longer sure who to trust.
His turmoil alone would have sent his father, Lucius, into a rage; this, Draco knew, and so he did not mention it to the man. Draco’s letters had mostly consisted of his grades, how his friends were doing, and of how hard he was working at showing the Malfoy family in as good of a light as possible.
Of course, considering how I’ve been behaving myself these past few months… Draco thought, consumed by self-loathing for a moment before he shook the feeling away.
The things he had done, he realized, had no true justification; the unwarranted insults towards the others he had considered lesser than he, the mean-spirited pranks, the bullying…
No. Draco thought, scooping up some steamed, green peas and mashing them into a paste. I cannot trust Father, nor can I trust Professor Snape. I cannot even trust Mother, I think.
He knew that his mother was more laid-back in nature. Though she was quite capable of expressing herself, Narcissa Malfoy seemed to prefer letting her husband speak for her in public, to show others just how much she loved and trusted him.
His parents’ love for each other, Draco was realizing, was quite strange.
In Hogwarts, when others spoke of love, they spoke of passion. They told tales of adventure, romance, and thrills the likes of which he could scarcely begin to fathom.
At first, he had dismissed it all as nonsense. Neither one of his parents were adventurous or spontaneous in their dealings with each other. If anything, it always felt like an intricate struggle of power for him.
Draco was brought out of his thinking by his friend’s question.
“Could you pass the potatoes for me, Draco?” Vincent asked.
Draco nodded and did as he was asked.
Draco only responded with another nod, before going back to his food. He thought about his options some more. He could not risk telling his mother about this. She had been a Black before a Malfoy, and he knew that the Blacks were even more passionate about the purity of blood than his father’s family was.
He felt that he had only one person he could turn to.
Adam Clarke. The boy’s name came to Malfoy without prompting.
Despite starting his Second Year of schooling at a late stage, Adam had already ensured that he would pass his tests with flying colors.
The boy’s progress was maddening— At this rate, he will finish his Seventh Year of Hogwarts by the time I become a Fourth Year. Assuming he keeps to this learning speed.
It was possible that the boy would slow down as the coursework would ramp up in difficulty.
Then again… Draco thought, the memory of Clarke’s high level use of the Shield Charm making itself known. He will probably learn even faster, now that he’s become comfortable in his routine.
Despite meeting with him twice, Draco could never get a bead on the boy. Always several steps ahead. Always learning, always questioning everything. But he is a Mudblood.
How could he compliment Clarke? How could he become a traitor to his own people? It went against everything he had ever learned. Draco had spent almost two months at war with himself over this issue.
“Blood-traitor. It’s a term made to keep people like you in line.” Clarke had told him. “Smart people.”
Draco wasn’t stupid. He knew when he was being buttered up, but he felt that the Ravenclaw boy was being honest about it, at least. Adam truly believed that Draco was a smart person— that he was only misled by the society around him.
Adam had read him like an open book despite Draco’s best efforts at concealing his emotions.
And yet, he has not judged me. Draco thought. He has not condemned my thoughts, my views, my doubts…
Draco’s gaze flitted to his two oldest friends, who were too busy stuffing their faces to notice his quick look. Not for the first time, he wondered how they would react if he shared his thoughts with them.
What would they say to me? What would they do?
In his heart, Draco hoped that they would understand him and where he was coming from. Maybe he could open their eyes to the strings that control them from the shadows; maybe he could even—
And maybe the Weasleys will stop being dirt poor. Draco thought with an eye roll, stamping these feelings away. I can’t rely on ‘maybe’s.
No, Draco would have to take this path alone. He needed to speak to Clarke again. His gaze moved to the Ravenclaw table, where he found the subject of his thoughts. Clarke was leaning forward on the table, his eyes glued to a book.
Draco shook his head with a scoff. Even at lunch, the boy was studying. He did not know when to quit. Maybe he should approach him soon—
“Up for a game or two?” Vincent turned to Draco with a smile, interrupting the boy’s thoughts.
Though he sent his classmate an annoyed look, Malfoy felt his will falter at the sight. “All right. You have your cards?”
Vincent nodded and dug into his pack for a few moments before blinking. “I can’t find them.”
A few more seconds of fruitless searching passed before Gregory interjected. “I think you left them on your bed.”
Vincent snapped his fingers and pointed at Gregory twice. “That’s it. I knew I forgot something.”
“Let’s go, then.” Draco said, giving the two boys a genuine smile.
One more day. He thought as they moved to exit the Great Hall. One more day of having my friends with me.
Without even noticing he was doing it, he brushed past Potter, Granger and Weasley with an absent nod on his way out.
Harry Potter stood in place, staring at the back of his Slytherin rival in shock and amazement. What just happened?
“Did…” Ron said from beside him. “Did Malfoy just… Nod at us?”
“He did.” Hermione said, just as confused as he was.
Harry shook his head in sheer disbelief, but then his face adopted a frown of thought. Though he and the boy still had their fair share of encounters, Harry felt that there was something off.
It was like the boy’s heart was no longer in it. Sure, on the surface level, Draco continued to speak to them with a barbed tongue and an icy demeanor. He even seemed to be taking a certain enjoyment out of their exchanges, but Harry was quickly realizing that it was all stemming from somewhere else.
Was he amused at his ability to fool us all without effort? Harry thought. I suppose, if I had done the same, I would find it pretty funny, as well.
Harry remembered the old days, in which the smile on his face seemed to deprive the Dursleys out of any pleasure from the often cruel games and punishments they attempted to inflict upon him. To him, it had been a defense mechanism, a way to cope—
That’s it. He realized. He’s coping.
Before he could continue his line of thought, Hermione stepped before the two of them and continued to speak. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. If he wants to be civil, for once, I say we let him.”
Harry nodded. “Maybe he’s turning a new leaf?”
But Ron shook his head.
“He’s got to be planning something.” Ron said, suspicious of foul play. “He’s never nice to us, so I can’t help but think he’s got something big planned.”
Hermione opened her mouth, ready to tear into the boy, before closing it. “You could be right, Ron.”
“Let’s go.” Harry said and tore between the two on his way to the table. “I’m starving.”
His friends followed and took their usual seats at the Gryffindor table. Within moments, Ron was already stuffing his face. Harry stared at his best friend, noting that the process resembled Aunt Petunia’s prized vacuum cleaner.
Even after all this time, I’m still not used to it. He thought.
Shaking his head, Harry got himself a plateful and began to eat. As the meal passed, his thoughts returned to the boy he disliked even more than his cousin Dudley; Draco Malfoy.
Just what is he playing at?
Was this yet another ploy of his? Was he trying to get them all nice and relaxed before he struck next? Harry just didn’t know.
Maybe it’s just like Adam said. Harry thought, taking another bite of his shepherd’s pie.
Draco hadn’t been bothering any of them, as of late. If the two found themselves at odds, they would exchange the usual insults and barbs, but Harry was now beginning to realize that Draco was only going through the motions.
He thought about it some more and nodded to himself. There had been times in their various classes where Harry had thought that Draco was sending him glances. The few times he had caught them, the blonde boy had schooled his features before looking away.
This was new territory to Harry. Never in his life had a bully stopped his bullying out of nowhere.
It wasn’t an event that made any sense to the bespectacled boy. He almost couldn’t wrap his head around it.
Bullies don’t just stop! Harry felt his anger seeping into his mind and curdling his thoughts. It has to be a trick. It has to be. Ron is probably right about this.
“How can you learn what’s never been shown?” Adam had said these words to him, when Harry had confided in the boy with his concerns on the Malfoy scion, all those months ago. “If everyone around you told you your whole life that you were supposed to think in the same way they did, and rewarded you for doing so… How would you know not to think like that?”
Harry had not been able to give Adam an answer. In fact, he had stormed off in anger, for his Ravenclaw friend’s words had hit close to home. Far too close.
This logic could have applied to Dudley, and Harry refused to see the boy who’d antagonized him with relentless fervor over the years as nothing but another victim of his aunt and uncle’s upbringing.
But then, no one ever stopped and told him that what he was doing was wrong. Harry’s thoughts had rebelled against his own stubbornness and eventually won the war.
Besides, Adam was seldom wrong about things of this nature.
For things to change, they required a catalyst— a driving force to make it happen and keep it going until the change became permanent.
In fact, this logic even applied to himself. He had thought himself to be a worthless orphan, destined to suffer through the indignities of life under the not-so-loving care of his relatives until he turned eighteen.
And then Hagrid had burst into his life with the subtlety of a train, shattering through his worldview and opening his eyes to the wide world around him.
Harry nodded, swallowing the food down.
Yes, Adam had been right, indeed. The boy had a certain wisdom that belied his years, and Harry could never figure out how he had acquired it.
He knew that it couldn’t have been from the pages of a book.
Hermione was quite the well-read person, and she, by her own admission, was nowhere near Adam’s level of knowledge and wisdom. He seemed to have an answer for every single problem they found. It was beyond eerie, at times, how Adam was able to read them all.
But Adam wasn’t infallible. Harry could tell; he saw the signs in the boy’s behavior. There were times when the boy would restrain himself from doing or saying something. Other times, it was almost as if Adam was at war with himself.
The more Harry got to know Clarke, the stranger and more off he seemed. Harry did not mind, of course. The boy did not judge him by the scar on his forehead, or by the old castoffs that were dumped onto him by his relatives.
To Clarke, he was just plain-old Harry, and Harry appreciated that.
“What d’you reckon Malfoy is up to?” Ron said as he was munching on a chicken drumstick.
Right in front of him, Parvati grimaced, hiding it quickly. The Second Year beside her, on the other hand, wasn’t anywhere near as nice about it. “Oi, mate, you’re going to get your spit all over our food!”
Ron stopped what he was about to say and began to chew his food at a slower pace; his face flushed red with embarrassment.
Harry wanted to defend his friend, but he found that it was a good enough grievance to make. If it was one thing that his relatives had inadvertently taught him, it was to exercise proper table manners at all times.
You always need to make the best first impression, after all. He had heard Uncle Vernon say to Dudley, once. Of course, the lesson had gone through his cousin’s ear and out of the other, but Harry had retained it well enough.
It had been one of the sole few useful tidbits of wisdom that the Dursleys had left him with.
“I’m not sure.” Harry said, shrugging before leaning back in his chair.
“Maybe he didn’t notice it was us?” Hermione suggested, biting her lip. “He looked distracted.”
Ron looked at her askance. “You have an eye for the strangest things, Hermione.”
Hermione glared in response. “Someone has to. All you’re ever looking at is food, Ronald.”
Harry stared at the two for a few moments before he spoke. “You think he’s… changed?”
“What do you…” Hermione said, before her eyes widened. “Changed— like how Adam was saying?”
“Malfoy?” Ron’s voice rose before he stared at the others around him with a wary look. “Change? I don’t think so. His family has been itching for an excuse to go back to the Dark Side, if they can get away with it.”
Harry frowned. “What do you mean?”
Ron looked around before leaning closer towards Harry and Hermione. “My dad’s work— sometimes he invites people in his department over and they chat. I heard that Malfoy’s dad helped some of the people who were caught by my dad.”
“That doesn’t sound very bad.” Hermione said, and Harry found that he agreed. Helping someone out from a bad situation was a good thing, wasn’t it?
But Ron shook his head. “My dad’s the head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. He finds things like doorknobs charmed to badly burn whoever touches them— usually Muggles— and that’s one of the safer things he’s told us about.”
Hermione’s face had gone white with the revelation. “Burning… Muggles?”
Ron shrugged. “Some people are just born bad. And the Malfoys are the worst of the lot.”
Harry nodded, all of it making perfect sense to him now. “And nothing happens because his parents—”
“Loaded, they are.” Ron finished, shaking his head. “They could buy your Nimbus Two Thousand a hundred times over and still not notice the money they’d used.”
Hermione frowned and shook her head. “It doesn’t matter how much money they make. They shouldn’t be running free.”
“That’s what my parents say.” Ron said and gave her a helpless shrug, as if to say: ‘what can you do?’
As Hermione’s frown became more pronounced, Harry shifted in his seat. When Ron had first talked of the Malfoy family, Harry had just taken it with a grain of salt. At best, Draco was a pampered bully, just like Dudley had been before him.
But, burning people, and escaping justice? Maybe Malfoy’s father really did serve Voldemort. Harry thought.
Still, that did not answer his question concerning Draco’s recent behavior, and the more he thought about it, the more he realized that Draco’s unwillingness to engage him in fights lent even more credence to Adam’s theory.
Could he really be coming around?
Harry huffed. He was getting nowhere with this. He was better off just focusing on his food—
“Mr. Weasley?” Professor McGonagall’s voice came from behind the three. “Mr. Potter?”
Harry set his fork down and wiped his mouth quickly before turning to the teacher. “Professor McGonagall.”
The strained look on her face told him that something very bad had happened. “Come with me, the two of you.”
Harry felt a chill creep up his spine. Were the two of them in trouble? He ignored Hermione’s suspicious look with a helpless shrug.
“Professor?” Ron said, sounding a little intimidated. Harry wondered if the boy had done something and hadn’t told them. “Did something happen?”
The woman took pity on them as she graced them with a tight shake of the head. “Nothing the two of you are part of. Now, come along. You and a few others are needed at the Headmaster’s Office.”
Harry could only nod in response.
The Headmaster’s Office— what did Dumbledore want with them?