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History Repeated



It was still dark when he opened his eyes.

She was lying partly on top of him, her hand caressing his chest. She was deeply asleep.

He couldn't quite remember at first how she had ended up there, but gradually his memory started working. He had asked her. And better yet, she had obliged. There had been no mockery in her actions, just pure kindness.

The girl was completely infuriating. She was too perfect for her own good, and she trusted people far too easily. How could she be so God damn trusting?

He might have taken advantage of her. He probably couldn't have done that in his current state, but it didn't take away the threat of it, did it? Did she trust every other Slytherin half-Death Eater, or did she only let her judgment be clouded with him? He would have to scold her for being such an idiotic child.

But right now, he just wanted to drown in the feel of her arms around him.

She was so exquisite; every bit of her was somehow so very different from other girls he had ever met. She was headstrong and armed with an amazing wit and more courage than an army of Aurors. Hermione Jean Granger, a Muggle-born witch, was his bane and his doom. He was a blood-traitor now. He could never return home, not after what his father had witnessed in that corridor just a few nights ago. It was not Lucius Malfoy's dream to see his only son holding hands with a dirty creature like a Mudblood, and a friend of Harry Potter's at that.

The thought of his father made his heart feel like a hollow wound. It meant he couldn't see his mother ever again either. He had lost everything in that short moment, when Lucius had tried to kill them. If Potter hadn't interfered, if he hadn't been the damn hero that he was, his own head would now be hanging on the wall of his father's study. He didn't even want to think about all the possible fates that could have waited for Hermione.

Draco shifted a little so he could see her face, peaceful and still as she slept. Was she really worth all the trouble?

He sighed, lying heavily against the pillows, trying to escape the reality as best as he could. This was not good. She was so close to him now, so very close. Her heart beat was like his. Her blood was the same. Her skin, her hair, her dreams, her thoughts… His father had lied. All his life he had listened to those lies. They were real people, Muggles. If you stabbed them with a knife, they bled. If you kissed their cheek, they blushed.

And he had known. It was something he had carried inside him, hidden. His secret. Part of him had always known that Muggles were just the same, people with hearts to love and hate with equal passion.

The memories threatened to wash over him, the ones he had pushed back, locked somewhere deep inside his being. He was still holding them back, but the wall was crumbling, letting through parts of those unwanted shadows of his past. They filled him with fear and agony, but also with longing. He wanted to feel whole, something he had never experienced. There were so many broken pieces in the puzzle that formed the person called Draco Malfoy. It amazed him that he was still able to function almost normally, even though he had been brain fucked so thoroughly by everyone who should have loved him - including himself.

Love, what was it anyway? Could he ever love? Could he ever love her? It made his throat tighten, the thought of loving someone, trusting someone enough to let his guard down. Love. He had never experienced it. Yes, his mother had loved him, probably still did if she was sane enough to remember him, but it was that expecting kind of love. Be this and I will love you. Do that and I will be proud of you. It was not unselfish.

Could anyone love him unselfishly? Could he?

"You awake?" came a muffled sound close to his right ear.

It startled him, her soft voice and the way it made him feel. It was unbelievable how good it felt to wake up with someone. But he wasn't ready to face her now, not like this, not after everything. He needed time to think, time alone.

He tried to steady his breathing as though he was still asleep. He willed his muscles to relax while he listened to any sounds she might make. Please, go back to sleep.

"You're faking."

Draco smiled at the tone of her voice, which held a playful tune, but still managed to make her sound quite drowsy. Why did she have to be everything that he liked?

"Do you ever miss a thing?" he asked, deliberately drawling the words, buying time. She would never go to sleep now. She would pester him with questions and stir up those strange and uncontrollable emotions within him. She was so troublesome.

Hermione propped herself up against her elbow, looking into his eyes, and answered, mirth written all over her pompous face. "Hardly. They don't call me a genius for nothing, you know."

It was so easy to be like this with her. She was so genuine, not at all like the Slytherin girls, always trying to gain something from him. She said what she meant; she acted upon her true feelings, never betraying the person listening to her.

Without meaning to change anything between them, he brushed a single, wayward eyelash off her cheek - but it wrecked everything. They had dwelled in such a friendly atmosphere, but now she withdrew from him, scared of the possibilities of that simple touch. He could see it in her eyes, the shifting of protective walls, even though she didn't move an inch.

Shit.

He wanted to fix it, make it all right, to somehow take it back. He didn't want her to look at him like that, like she was desperate to escape and only thinking of ways to do just that. He wanted that comfortable companionship to return. And for the first time in his life, he did something just to make the other person feel better.

He closed his eyes and relaxed, letting his left hand - the one that had caressed her cheek just mere seconds ago - fall down on the soft mattress by his side, hoping that the gesture was both reassuring and promising. Then he said very quietly, "D'you ever get that feeling, when you just want to stop time and stay in that one place forever?" It was meant to be a meaningless question, meant to make her feel safe again, but somehow it turned out to be something deeper. He groaned inwardly.

To his surprise he felt her lie down next to him, head coming to rest against his shoulder. When had they passed that awkward phase of not quite knowing how to be close to one another? He had no idea.

She sighed and he could almost sense the smile, lingering in the corners of her mouth. "Hmm..." she started. "I often feel like that when I'm alone, reading." She paused, slightly insulted by the snort he couldn't quite suppress. "Don't laugh at me. I know what you're thinking, but it's not like that. It's not. It's just that when I'm reading and the whole castle is bristling with energy, magical and spiritual, and there's no need to be anything... There's just me, the words and everything falling into its rightful place - it's perfect."

She fiddled with the edge of the blanket. "Do you think it's stupid?" she whispered.

"Merlin, no." The answer was too quick, revealing too much of his real emotions, but he couldn't help it, not with this girl. "I mean," he explained further, "it's the best kind of loneliness - feeling content within yourself." He had never felt like that. He had always needed other people to tell him that he was worthy, and even then, he had felt worthless. Deep down, he had always felt worthless.

She snuggled closer and murmured quietly, "Do you mind if I go back to sleep? I fought a huge poisonous snake, you know." Now he could actually feel her smile.

He didn't say anything, and after a minute or two, her breathing slowed down and he could feel her body relaxing against his own. She really did trust him. She believed that he would never hurt her. And he desperately wanted that to be true. He wanted to know for sure that he would never lift his hand against her ever again. But how could he be sure? Voldemort had put some kind of a monster inside him. His father had taught him to hate. His friends were all Death Eater wannabes who thought Dark Magic was something cool and made you only powerful. Was there anything good in his life? Had he ever done anything that might even remotely be called pure?

The only thing that he could remember was tainted with terrible consequences.

He tried to swallow the pain down his throat, but it was impossible. The memories really were starting to haunt him now, even though he had done every possible thing to destroy them. How could one remember a memory that was destroyed with a Pensieve?

He was certain it was her fault. She had found the little boy within him. She had talked with him; they had shared an experience. She was so nosy.

Aggravated, he hit his head against the pillow twice. Why did he have to feel so much? If he was more like his father, he wouldn't be in this situation at all. He would now be joining the ranks of Death Eaters, proud and deserving. The Dark Lord would have welcomed him... he wouldn't have turned him into a weapon.

Merlin!

He remembered. The summer. The Soul Ripper was a test, but he had failed it. He had fought it. He didn't want to be a slave, not to those people, not to the Dark Lord, not to anyone. He had fought the beast out of him. It had hurt so much. It had eaten away his memories, his dreams and thoughts. It had all of him inside it. And he, Draco Malfoy, had destroyed it, one of the Dark Lord's little pets. When it wasn't inside him, it was just a small bug, and he had stepped on it. Somehow, he had been freed from the chains and had stood up. And they had stared at him, shocked and raged. Even his father.

But Voldemort had stopped their attack, had stepped in between his servants and the one who had defied him. And he had said, "Promising, most promising." Then, all had gone black.

He was a weapon? Could it be true? Would his father have allowed it?

His hold on Hermione tightened as the thoughts and memories mingled and rushed through him, making him shake. Would he destroy them all? What would make him go off? What was going to happen to him afterwards? Could anyone save him? Save the others?

He was breathing hard now, the shock making his body heavy and his skin tingling. Was he going to kill everyone? Even Hermione? Please, no.

His mind was scattering, every fibre of his being screaming silently. He had to get away. He had to leave Hogwarts. He had to escape the inevitable fate. Now!

Draco moved his arm carefully from under Hermione's sleeping body and tucked her in almost gently, feeling overwhelmed by the need to keep her safe. Please, don't get hurt, he caught himself thinking as he stepped away from the bed, shocked. He really did care for her, more than he ever knew.

Then he was already running, fleeing, his fears driving him to go faster. He had no plan, no idea where to go or what to do. All he could think about was, Leave. Leave. Leave.

He didn't even get out of the castle before someone was at his heel, chasing him, trying to keep him there with everyone else - there where he could hurt people. He struggled to keep the scream of frustration inside. They didn't understand. He wasn't strong enough to fight it.

"Draco, stop!" It was Professor Snape of all people. He was a Death Eater; of course he wanted to keep him there. And part of him wanted Snape to catch him. Let them use me. But the part that was stronger kept running, kept the distance.

"Petrificus Totalus!"

His legs went rigid and he fell down a set of stairs. Merlin, he hated magic! The bastard could have at least waited until he was on solid ground.

Footsteps echoed in the stairway, and then he felt someone pick him up. He wasn't even scared. Snape could erase his memory, could still make him a usable tool, but he didn't care anymore. He was through with them all!

"So, you remember," Snape stated instead of hexing him or stealing his memory. Dumbfound, Draco looked at his one time favourite professor in the eyes, seeing only concern and something even deeper. Was it regret? Severus Snape had been worried about him? What was going on? He knew that the man was a Death Eater for sure. His father had told him so. Dumbledore was a fool to trust him.

Draco couldn't move, but his eyes were blazing. How dare they do this to him?

"Finite Incantatem," Professor Snape muttered, releasing him when the effects of the spell vanished.

Draco stood, facing the man he had once almost worshipped. "Stay the hell away from me!" he screamed, leaning over with his hands on his knees, breathing unsteadily. "Stay... away... from... me." He could see black spots in his vision and knew that he was losing consciousness. He couldn't. He had to get away. He had to run.

"Draco-" Snape started, but the boy cut him off.

"Shut up. I don't want to hear anything from you. You were there!" He paused to take a shuddering breath. "You were there. You saw it and did nothing. Just like my father. You did nothing." He collapsed on his knees, desperation taking hold of his heart and mind. "You did nothing to stop it."

Snape kneeled and grabbed his shoulders. "I couldn't. The war needs me more..."

"More than me, you mean. I'm expendable, aren't I? Worthless," he hissed through his teeth. They had betrayed him, the ones he had looked up to his whole life. They took his loyalty, took his appreciation, and spat on it. They made him a prisoner inside his own body.

And now he was a slave after all, a puppet of his Master.

"No! I let you down, but I didn't know they were going to start the initiation so soon. I didn't know that Lucius would put you through it before you were of age. I didn't know. I'm so sorry." He hugged the boy without any awkwardness, knowing that there was nothing he could do, but try to make Draco realise that he was cared for. He had to convince the boy that they were doing everything they could to keep him safe now.

"Fuck off!" Draco pushed the older man away, hitting him hard, first on the jaw and then anywhere he could land a blow. "You knew! You fucking knew! Fuck you!"

Snape did nothing to stop him. He took all his anger, letting Draco exhaust himself thoroughly, and when the boy finally passed out, there wasn't a part of his body that wasn't aching. It hadn't been a wise thing to let the blows hit through, but sometimes he wasn't a very wise man. It had felt like the right thing to do.

He lifted the unconscious boy from the ground and started walking towards the Hospital Wing. He hoped that Hermione hadn't woken up. She had to be strong enough to handle tomorrow, both of the children had to.

"What happened?" Professor Dumbledore asked as he appeared from the shadows of a nearby pillar to walk beside him. He looked at the boy with concern. "Did he remember?"

"Yes, unfortunately," Snape answered wearily. "It's too soon. And he shouldn't have been alone."

Dumbledore squeezed the professor's shoulder for a moment. "I'm sorry. I should have thought of this. It was obvious the coma had something to do with these memories. I was just too relieved to see them both alive to realise the significance of these events."

"We all were," Snape said regretfully, and then after a short pause asked, "Where's Amadeus?"

Dumbledore glanced at him, surprised to see that there was no resentment on his face. Finally he said, "With Hermione. He has protected these children from both the outside world and themselves. Without him, Draco might have escaped and ran to his doom. He was the only one thinking at least a little bit coherently." He sighed deeply before continuing. "This week has been exhausting for all of us. The attack has made us weak, and it's only a matter of time before they'll try it again. This time I wish us to be ready."

Professor Snape chuckled softly. "Don't be so modest. You had an eye on them, too. I saw Fawkes."

The sound made Dumbledore smile. Yes, he couldn't fool an old friend. "Don't tell him," he quietly uttered.

"Don't worry, I won't. He can have his special moment. I'm too old for pissing contests anyway."

Still smiling, Dumbledore added, "But he isn't. Remember that."

They walked the rest of the way in a comfortable silence, both thinking of ways to make everything easier for the two Head students. It would be a dreadful ordeal for all of them.

Once they reached Madam Pomfrey's realm, they were relieved to find Hermione still asleep and Amadeus' powerful figure watching over her.

Snape laid Draco on the bed next to Hermione and then questioned, rather puzzled, "Didn't we leave her on this bed the last time?"

"Yes, I think we did." Dumbledore couldn't quite hide the mirth in his voice and the Potions Master looked at him with indignation, snarling. "You know I don't approve any of this."

"I'm quite certain that you don't," the Headmaster said matter-of-factly. "But I don't think you have any say in this matter."

For a second, it looked as though Professor Snape was going to press the matter further, demanding answers and solutions that dwelled nowhere near the idea of uniting the Houses of Slytherin and Gryffindor. He felt like growling, but then decided that he truly was too old for acting like a seventeen-year-old Slytherin. He should leave that to Draco Malfoy.

He took a minute to compose himself and then said, "What shall we do now? Leave them here and wait till this happens again, or take turns in keeping watch beside their beds?"

Amadeus looked at him from head to toe and scoffed scathingly. "You should go to bed. You look like a raged manticore just mangled you."

Oh dear, Dumbledore thought and then, before the furious Potions Master could lash back at his fellow professor, he announced, "Fawkes will stay here and keep both of them calm till the morning. We should all go to sleep - except of course Poppy. We have a long day tomorrow. Don't you agree, gentlemen?" He didn't leave any room for arguing, and soon they were out of the Hospital Wing and on their way to their individual sleeping quarters. The children would be safe, for the night anyway.

And the morning finally arrived, lifting the veil of darkness, caressing their faces with warmth and light.

The rays felt sweet on her skin, making her smile before she opened her eyes. She was alive, and so was Draco. They were both going to be all right.

"About time," a boy's voice sneered. It was distinctively Draco's, and even though it held such a scornful tone, she could only laugh when she heard it.

"You." She turned to face him, sitting up. "You are one lucky Slytherin. Not every Gryffindor girl would run after you to the end of the world and back. You owe me." She jumped off the bed and came to sit on his, snatching food from his tray.

"Hey!" He tried to stop her from stealing his food, but only ended up with butter in his hair. "Hey!" Now he sounded even more offended.

"Are you always this articulate in the morning?" she asked, smiling, and then went to sit on the window sill behind Draco's bed, munching on a piece of bread. "Oh, you can see the Forbidden Forest from here. It looks less dangerous from this distance and height. I wonder..." She leaned her forehead against the glass, feeling the coldness of November.

"Are you always this hyperactive in the morning," he muttered under his breath.

"What'd you say?" Hermione asked absentmindedly, breathing on the glass and writing something Draco couldn't see. He was pretty sure he didn't mean to be watching her either.

"Nothing."

She sighed dramatically and then turned to look at him, saying, "Dumbledore is planning something. He's using us."

She looked sombre, the earlier lightness washed away from her eyes and frame. Somehow, she was always about honesty. She followed her own truth, always real, always ready to face what ever came in front of her, whether it was huge snakes or insane little boys like him. She was peculiar.

He sighed in return. "I know."

Startled, she exhaled, locking her eyes with his. "I didn't mean it in a bad way."

"I know."

"Stop saying that. I know you know, you bloody insightful git. Harry was right. You see too much with your piercing grey eyes," she exclaimed, sounding quite exasperated.

Draco smiled. "I hope he didn't say I have 'piercing grey eyes'. I'm going to be very afraid if one of your friends decides to fall for my dashing good looks."

Hermione looked at him with utter bemusement and then she laughed, unable to maintain any kind of respectable face. The mental image of Harry fawning over Malfoy made her double over and laugh even harder. She had no doubt Harry would hex her for even thinking of such things.

"What? You think I'm not attractive enough?" He was still smiling. "You think I haven't received questionable suggestions from boys and girls alike? Well, you are wrong, my dear."

"Oh, I believe you. I believe anything about you, Draco Bellator Malfoy." She sounded almost challenging as she leaned forward, eager to see his reaction.

Draco stared at her for a long while before inquiring very quietly, "You still remember that name?" He blushed, hiding his face in his hands. "I hate that name," he muttered. He couldn't remember when he had felt more embarrassed. He never shared his second name with anyone. It was the stupidest name ever, and he cursed the damned Malfoy ancestor from whom he had inherited the all too feminine name.

She giggled. The bloody Gryffindor was actually laughing at him.

He could feel her presence move closer to him, sit on his bed, touch his forearm and pull his hand off his face. She said quietly, still smiling, "It's a good name. You do know the meaning of it, don't you?"

"Draco? Actually it means both snake and dragon. I guess it's a good name for me." He took hold of the tray on his lap so he had something to do with his hands. For some odd reason, Hermione had no sense of private space any longer. She sat down close to him just as easily as she hugged Ron or Harry. It was a bit alarming.

Her smile grew wider as she explained, "No, Bellator. It means warrior. Your name means Dragon Warrior. I think it suits you. You have so many battles behind and ahead of you. It's a good name, a strong name. And I'm sure you'll live up to it."

The compliment was so sudden and so honestly given that he had no means to accept it. He would stumble with words if he tried to speak. She had a talent for making him feel completely vulnerable, and unfortunately, he had no shields against her. He was truly lucky that she was a good person, otherwise he would have witnessed some spectacular shredding of his passionate little soul during these past few months - on a bit of a different level than now anyway.

Leaning against the pillows nonchalantly, he stated, "Well, of course. I'm a Pureblood wizard from an ancient family. I'm supposed to have a strong name." He softened his words with a glint in his eyes. He hoped she would let the matter drop and move on to easier, less dangerous subjects.

Hermione took the hint, studying his hands instead of his face, and noticed something rather interesting. "You have quite a few rings. Why?" To his great surprise she took his right hand in hers and pulled at one of the rings on his forefinger. "Can I hold it?" She lifted her pleading eyes to his. "Please?"

He nodded, letting her pull the ring off his finger.

"It's gorgeous - and incredibly heavy. Where did you get it?" She looked at it from every direction, lifting it to the light of the sun, putting it against the white sheet of his blanket and just holding it with care on her palm. "Beautiful." The ring had a red stone in a smooth crown, and its medieval look gave it a certain grace. The gold had suffered from the years, but still, it was priceless. It was probably the most expensive object she had ever held in her hand.

Draco sighed. "Mother gave it to me when I learned to fly. I had to carry it on a chain around my neck until I turned thirteen, since it was too big. Now it fits almost perfectly."

"It's not magical? I thought it would fit itself on anyone's finger..." She looked at him with questioning eyes. She had never owned a magical ring and didn't quite know about them either, just the things she had heard from her roommates. She should find a book about magical rings. It always made her feel uneasy when she didn't know something about the Wizarding world. It made her feel left out.

"No, but this is," he said, pulling off a simple smooth ring from his left hand's thumb. He gave it to her. "Try it on."

She did that, grinning widely, when the ring circled her own thumb perfectly. "Look." She showed her hand to him, feeling giddy and childish and wanting to share the joy of experiencing something new.

He took her hand to his and pulled it alongside his own. "And look at the size difference. Isn't that just amazing?"

It was - him holding her hand, the ring on her finger - it all made her feel rather dizzy, and suddenly she felt the urge to hug him, tell him that he was precious, loved. She wanted him to know even for this once, even if he rejected her.

"Draco, I..."

Suddenly, the hospital doors swung open and her two best friends came rushing in, screaming. "Hermione, you're alive!"

It was such a shock to her that she would have fallen of the bed if Draco hadn't held her hand firmly. They'd caught her like this, him holding her, them sharing a quiet moment, her almost confessing that she did care for him. Oh bugger.

She pulled her hand away from Draco's and tried to sit a bit further away from him, noticing the amused look on his face. It almost said to her, "Is this the way you want it, little girl?"

The boys stopped abruptly, taking in the scene in front of them.

Harry was the first to speak, but all he could manage was a choked, "Er..." and then he fell silent, too, the awkward quietness expanding all around them.

Draco smirked, feeling absolutely at ease. He didn't care if the whole lot of them squirmed under his piercing eyes. Let them feel uncomfortable, it was only fair and for the betterment of the wizarding kind and all things pure and pretty. He was positive that Fate was starting to love him at last.

Absentmindedly, he scratched the thumb that was missing a magical ring.

Ron cleared his throat and said uncertainly, "Are we... should you..." and then he growled with more determination. "What the hell is going on? Why were you holding hands? The separation process is over, isn't it? What... gah! How?"

"Always the one with words," Draco muttered, but still audibly enough for everyone to hear.

"Malfoy," Harry said warningly, stepping slightly in between Ron and the bed Hermione and Draco shared.

"Potter," Draco exclaimed mockingly, challenging the other boy to a verbal - or a bit less verbal - dispute.

"Stop it!"

Hermione had had enough. The boys were impossible, all three of them. They had absolutely no manners, and their ability to understand matters was on the level of an amoeba.

She stood, took the few steps separating her and the two boys, and then she hugged them both, grateful for every passing second with them, regardless of how stupid they were. "I'm okay. Everything's okay." She breathed, suddenly moved to tears. "I'm okay."

It took only a second for the boys to respond and then they were hugging her back, making her feel precious and safe. The war had made them more willing to show their affection, even in public. It was impossible to know their last breath, the last hastily uttered word, and it was vital to make every moment count.

To Draco, it was all quite new, and to his amazement, he found himself staring at them, fascinated. There was something else behind that feeling, too, but he didn't want to search it any further. It was disturbing enough that she made him almost wish that he had friends like that.

"I'm... I'm sorry," Ron finally said, leaning his forehead against Hermione's. "I blame the hair, but mother keeps insisting it's just me."

Hermione smiled, ruffling his hair affectionately. "I think it's a bit of both." Then she sobered, stepping away from them and closer to Draco, as though making it clear that they weren't alone, and that the blond boy deserved to be a part of their conversation, too. "I think we should talk," she said with a serious tone.

She glanced at Draco briefly, asking, "Can I tell them?"

Surprised, he shrugged, but then nodded in agreement. He hadn't expected her to take his feelings into consideration. He had automatically assumed that she told them everything, no matter how private some things were. Somehow that one question changed things between them. It made them... not quite friends, but something close to that.

He smothered a grin.

Hermione explained what she had done for Draco. She spoke quickly, revealing the clear facts, making everything very simple and easy to grasp. She was born to be a teacher.

As an afterthought she added, "Amadeus has a reason to be here, and it's not just to teach us wandless magic. I think he's here because of Draco."

"What?" All three boys looked at her like she had just lost her mind.

She sat on the bed next to Draco, and the boys stepped a bit closer, their earlier animosity forgotten. "You can't be serious. He's not... well... he's not that important," Ron said, clearly uncertain of how to act nicely in the presence of the obnoxious ferret.

"Why thank you, Weasley. May I just remind you that I happen to be the Head Boy and a Pureblood at that."

"Oh, do shut up." Hermione didn't even turn to look at him. "Actually I think he is. Voldemort did something to Draco this summer, and I think Dumbledore is planning to use it against him. I think Amadeus is the key for that."

Out of pure habit, Ron and Draco winced at the name of You-Know-Who, and when they noticed this, they both looked away, staring at their feet. Bloody Purebloodedness, Draco thought angrily. He didn't want to have anything in common with the redhead.

"Actually..." Harry started, "I'm pretty sure he's here because of me." He looked like he wanted to sink through the floor. There was nothing he hated more than all the attention he was always getting; no matter how forcibly he tried to avoid it. Now he asked for it himself and that made it all the more worse. "Er... he's teaching me privately."

Draco couldn't stop himself. "Of course he is," he mocked, making it sound like the lessons were about something entirely different than Defense Against the Dark Arts.

The trio ignored him fiercely.

"I know," Hermione confessed. "Dumbledore told me when we talked about Amadeus. At first I was worried about him. You know how many ill seeds we've had among our teachers, and I was sure he was one of them. He has that nasty stare and the hair and the make-up aren't doing him any good either... never mind... but it's just that so many things have happened that can't be coincidences. Why is Draco Head Boy? There is no good reason for that."

"Hey, bloody hell, woman. I'm sitting here," the Head Boy growled, demanding attention and understanding. "Don't talk about me like that in front of people who can't even spell their names."

She gave him a stern look and then went on. "And the Peace Treaty; Professor Snape bound us with a strong ancient magic without knowing for sure that we could break it. We could have killed each other. That must have been a desperate move. All of this leads to one thing; they want to keep Draco close to me."

When she noticed their doubting looks, she added, "What about the pairing magic? Why would a spell connect two people who hate each other? Isn't that highly dangerous? It's not logical at all, and mostly magic is all about logic."

Draco watched her, the curve of her mouth, her messy hair, the way she had folded her hands in her lap, and then he noticed the ring in her thumb, shining, claiming. Could she be serious? "Why?" he found himself asking.

"Because I'm very stable and because I'm a Muggle-born witch."

That didn't make any sense. He declared that, and to his amazement, Ron and Harry agreed.

Hermione shook her head, aggravated. "Don't you see? The time we've spent together has changed us. You don't hate me anymore." She said the words directly to Draco, staring into his eyes. "You can't hate me because of all the things I've done for you. Dumbledore knew I would not back down. He knew I wouldn't let you suffer alone."

Draco had difficulties breathing. Her words struck so deep, and he knew she was right. "Why a Mud... Muggle-born, then?" He wasn't sure why he wanted to know, or if he could even take the answer, but he had to ask.

"The war is all about us," she finally answered, her voice kind and soft. "It's all about bigotry. Your kind hates my kind because you think we're lesser than you. We're worthless beings in the eyes of Voldemort. Muggles and Muggle-borns deserve the death sentence he has inflicted upon us. That's his propaganda. But Dumbledore... well, he decided to interfere. He, Professor Snape and Amadeus have gone to great lengths to make us both see the idiocy of this prejudice between us."

"But he's a Death Eater," Draco said weakly, unsure of what to think about all of this. It made sense to him now, and he just couldn't believe how easily manipulated his Slytherin mind had been. He should be ashamed.

Hermione looked puzzled and then asked, "Snape or Amadeus?"

Draco glanced at her quickly. "Both, I guess."

Harry snorted and Draco turned his angry gaze at him. "What?"

"Well, Amadeus is many things, but he's not a Death Eater. He hates Voldemort with every living cell in him. He is rather colourful with his descriptions of the Lord of Darkness." Harry smirked, a wicked glint in his eyes. "He is a criminal, though, and he's here only because Dumbledore asked him to come."

"What?" Hermione sounded like her world had just crumbled at her feet. "Why would Dumbledore let a criminal teach us? It's... unethical."

Harry put a hand on her shoulder, silencing her effectively. "He's one of the old magicians, Hermione. Voldemort is trying to get his hands on the others, but they're not willing to participate in our war. They're not interested in our petty disputes. But Amadeus has a dept to pay; that's the only reason he's here. He is loyal, though - he has no other choice."

Hermione blinked a few times, trying to comprehend what she had just heard. "But he's not old," was the only thing she managed to say.

Harry smiled. "He doesn't have to be. He inherits knowledge. But it's a long story and I'm sure they'll explain it later. I just wanted to make a point that he definitely isn't a Death Eater. I don't think I've ever met anyone who hates Voldemort as much as he does. It's rather scary from time to time."

Draco coughed. "So let me make this clear, not only is one of our teachers a Death Eater, but we also have a known criminal in the staff? Oh joy, why didn’t father send me to Durmstrang?"

"He's not a Death Eater," Hermione said plainly. "He's a spy."

"How can you be so sure, you overly trusting Muggle witch?" Draco questioned, grinning slightly. "How can you know things like that? What if he's only pretending to be a spy for us - you. What if he's selling us - you. Bugger..." He stopped himself before he could sink any deeper into the ugly world of choosing sides.

She smiled widely as she spoke. "I know because he saved me once. He wouldn't have done that if he was evil." The certainty in her was absolute and it sang through her voice.

Draco shot her a nasty glare. "Well, he didn't save me."

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, confused.

Ron and Harry looked at him, too, as though expecting an answer. Why did he always have to open his big mouth?

"Nothing. It's nothing," he snarled, unable to hide the anger within him.

She leaned closer, looking into his eyes, concerned. "What is it? What happened?"

He pushed the tray off his lap, almost dropping it on the floor, and stood, facing them from the other side of the bed. "Just get off my case. You're not my friend. Fuck off, will you? Is that so difficult to understand?" He was shaking again.

Snape had saved her; not him, but her. The bastard had had a choice. He could have stopped it. He could have chosen him. What an idiot he had been, thinking that these people might actually care about him. They were just as selfish as everyone else.

He backed away from them, his movements rigid and full of anger. They only wanted to use him, abuse him. They only wanted to get what they needed and dispose of him. He was worthless to them, just as he had always believed.

Harry touched Hermione's hand, needing her to look at him. She lifted her eyes to his briefly and noticed the question in his eyes. She shook her head, telling him silently that she didn’t know what was wrong.

Then without hesitation, she pushed both Ron and Harry to sit on her bed - she didn't need them to startle the already panicking Slytherin - and took the first tentative step towards him.

He hissed at her, no words, just pure anger. What had happened? What had made him so completely out of control?

She took another step closer and begged, "Draco, please."

The boy didn't say or do anything, but everything in his body language told her that he was ready to leap. He would try to hurt her. If he managed to do that, her best friends would most certainly come in between them. She didn't want that. It would only get them all hurt.

Hermione thought about her options and realised that she had no idea what to do. She didn't know how to calm him down, because she didn't know what was wrong. Something she had said had done this to him. How could she undo it?

She let him be for awhile, hoping that at least his breathing would slow down a bit. He looked like he was about to faint out of sheer loss of breath. But time did him no good, and she decided to act.

She sat down on the floor very slowly, showing him that she was not a threat. Yawning widely behind her hand, she moved slightly to get her feet under herself, and then she said very slowly and calmly, "I'm never going to hurt you." She kept her eyes directed in her hands. "You're too precious to me. I'm just going to sit here and wait for you to come sit with me. I'll wait for you. I don't know what is going on. I don't know why this is happening, but I want to listen to you explaining everything."

She continued to speak to him softly. She talked about meaningless things, but every now and then she mentioned how much she cared for him and that she would like to talk with him.

Gradually, he moved closer to her, his breathing slowing and his actions normalizing. He sat down, not next to her, but close enough for them to have a decent conversation together. "I'm sorry," he whispered after she had been silent long enough. "I... there's still so many things off-balance in me. And I'm not good at this. Talking. Anything. Could you just let it pass?" He tried to talk quietly enough so the boys, sitting a bit further away wouldn't hear him. He was already too embarrassed about the fact that he had acted crazily in front of them. "Could you?"

It was unbelievable how much like a child Draco was, and how much he needed only encouragement. It was as though he had never been loved. Or maybe people had loved him, but he was just one of those poor souls who needed more than they ever got. She smiled inwardly, looking into his pleading grey eyes, and nodded. "Let's not talk about this now."

She stood, offering her hand to him and he took it, a small grateful smile tugging the corners of his mouth. Together they walked back to where Ron and Harry were waiting. The boys looked at them, curious expressions on their faces. The scene had been too revealing for both of them, and they felt like they had intruded something very private.

Again the awkward silence thundered across the room.

"Um..." Ron tried to break it, but his efforts weren't good enough. He shuffled his feet and locked his hands behind his back. Merlin, it was difficult to be in the same room with someone who didn't act like a normal human being. How did Hermione deal with the Slytherin?

Harry was the next to speak. "We should probably go soon. Dumbledore is waiting." When he noticed the baffled looks around him, he asked, "Didn't we tell you? We're supposed to see the professors now. They've been expecting us all morning."

For a few seconds, Hermione looked at him with utter disbelief. The nerve of him. Harry was the saviour of the Wizarding world, and he was still so unreliable. How was that even possible? "Harry, why didn't you tell us sooner?" she scolded him, gathering the most essential possessions she had there, and then started walking towards the twin doors. "Come, quickly. They are waiting."


***


A/N: Merry Christmas, all. ^_^ I'm happy to say that this story is going along nicely and it will be done after few more chapters... either two or three. I hope you liked this chapter. I had a lot of fun writing it. *hugs to all of you*

Dear Vickie helped me with grammar/spelling/loving. ^_^




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