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“There’s something different about him, I’m telling you” said Harry as he walked between Ron and Ginny. “He hasn’t insulted any of us in over two weeks.”


“Maybe he’s too busy spending all the money he’s inherited as the head of Malfoy estate” scoffed Ron. “Pardoned or not, he’s still a raging git. That will never change.”


Ginny walked in silence. She agreed with Harry, she too thought Draco was changing. Ginny almost fainted when Hermione told her about the cupcake. It was the most unlikely thing he could have ever done. It wasn’t even a civil gesture, it was kind. The more she thought about it though, the less surprised Ginny was. She actually always thought Draco and Hermione would have made a great couple, if you take away his family history. Physically, they’re both drop dead gorgeous. But it was more than that. There intelligence and wit just fit together. Ginny always knew it was a lost hope, but maybe, just maybe, there was a chance.


Ron’s nudge brought her back out of her thoughts…


“Earth to Ginny. Did you hear me?”


“Sorry, didn’t catch that. I was thinking about our next Quidditch match. What did you say?”


“I asked if Hermione had mentioned anything to you regarding how awful it must be living with Malfoy.”


“Uhh no, not particularly. Actually, she said it hasn’t been as bad as she thought it would be. Maybe Harry’s right, maybe he is changing.”


“Well I’m not buying it, you don’t just wake up one morning and decide you’re a completely different person.”


“But that’s not really the case with Malfoy,” said Harry. “You remember his hearing. He was never really a willing Death Eater. I mean, look at Snape. We couldn’t have been more wrong about him.”


Ron saw Harry’s point, but he still didn’t think it pertained to Malfoy. Ron hated him more than anyone else in the world, there wasn’t anything anyone could say to convince him that Malfoy wasn’t as bad as Ron always thought he was. And the sheer fact that Hermione had to be in the same room as him let alone share a bathroom and common room made Ron’s blood boil.

“Ahh, Miss Granger. Thank you for coming on the short notice” said Headmistress McGonagall.


“Not a problem, Headmistress. Has Mal..I mean Draco arrived yet?” McGonagall had already reprimanded Hermione and Draco numerous times on the importance of showing civility to the other students, starting with using each other’s first names.


Before the Headmistress could answer, Draco came through the door. “Sorry I’m late, Headmistress.”


“It’s quite alright, Mr. Malfoy. I apologize for asking you both to meet on such short notice but there has been a new decision made by the faculty that affects you both.”


Hermione and Draco looked at each other confused.


“As you know” began McGonagall again, “Halloween is just about a month away. Now we typically hold a feast,and we still will of course for the entirety of the school. But we've decided in lieu of the last year's events and the need for something, well, cheerful, we will host a Halloween Costume Ball for fifth years and older.  And the two heads, yourselves, will attend together, to promote house unity.”


“Together…” began Hermione.


“As in each other’s dates?” finished Draco.


“Yes” said Headmistress McGonagall, “as each other’s dates. I don’t expect that to be a problem with you both, will it? The faculty and I believe it will be a wonderful way to showcase the importance of forgiveness, and unity. A Slytherin and a Gryffindor, who fought on opposite sides of the war, it couldn’t be more perfect.”


The stern look on her face made it clear the answer to that should and would be no.


Hermione and Draco walked silently together back to their dormitory. Their relationship was becoming confusing, unpredictable, and plain weird. At times they were at each other’s throats, and others they were civil and even pleasant.  Now they had to attend the ball together as dates. Hermione didn’t know what to think, and Draco couldn’t believe what he was thinking.


Draco found himself, surprisingly, pretty ok with the situation. It was no secret his opinion of Hermione was changing. And he himself was noticing a change in himself. He felt less angry, less moody. He wanted to be better than he was. Could it be Hermione's influence on him? Or lack of his father’s influence for once? Not to mention, for once, Draco didn’t have to play the part his father expected of him. He could do whatever he wanted, speak to whomever, believe in whatever.


“So…” he began. “The Halloween Ball?”


“Yep” said Hermione. “We’ll most likely have to dance too. Bet you never thought you’d go anywhere with a mudblood.”


Draco cringed at her use of the word a bit. “Admittedly, no. But hey, you’ve got to adapt with change, right?”


Hermione stopped walking and looked at Draco. “Malfoy, what the hell is going on? You haven’t been your usual mean, insulting self all year.”


“And you haven’t been your usual know-it-all, bossy, obnoxious self either.”


“Well,” begin Hermione as she shifted the weight from one foot to another, “a lot’s happened. I’ve changed.”


Draco nodded, “And you’re the only one who can change? You were at my trial, I saw you in the seats. You know a lot of what I did wasn’t my choice. Haven’t you ever wondered what kind of person I’d be if I could make my own choices?”


Hermione began walking again. “Seems we’re both a bit of a mess right now.Speaking of your trial, I attended your father’s as well, but didn’t see you there.”


Draco looked away, uncomfortably. This wasn’t something he liked to talk about very much. “No, I didn’t go to his nor my mother’s.”


Hermione nodded as they continues walking towards their dormitory. “I don’t blame you. Sorry I brought it up.”


Shrugging, Draco put his hands in his pockets, but didn’t say anything else. Hermione kicked herself internally for even mentioning it. She couldn’t bare the thought of anyone bringing up her parents, it’s no surprise Draco didn’t enjoy it either. Once they reached their common room, Hermione took a seat on the sofa and took out her school books to review the day’s lessons. Draco planned on doing the same in his bedroom, but decided to stay in the common room as well and took a seat at the corner table.


After a few minutes, he decided to break the silence. “So for a Halloween ball, I'd guess dates should have matching costumes, right?”


Hermione looked over at him, unsure how to answer. “Uhh I guess so. That would make sense I suppose. ”


“Got any ideas? I've never dressed up for Halloween.”


Hermione chuckled a bit, “Really? Pansy never made you do a couple's costume?”


Draco made a face of disgust and shook his head, “I never would have allowed that. I only dated her because my father made me. She’s a chit.”


“Well, if you want to dress up as a pair, that’s fine. I honestly hadn’t given Halloween any thought,” she said before taking a pause. “It’s going to be interesting, to say the least, when people see us attending together. We’re already what half the school’s gossiping about.”


“What do you mean, gossiping?”


“They talk about me because everyone knows what happened this Summer, with, with my parents.”


Hermione’s break of eye contact didn’t go unnoticed by Draco. He immediately felt a pang of sorrow for her, but quickly tried to shake it off. 


“And they talk about you,” she continued, “because you’re not as...well how do I put much of an asshole as you used to be.”


Draco rolled his eyes, “Yea well don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly holding doors for people and throwing ‘good mornings’ to everyone I see. I just don’t feel the need to be so hated anymore.”


“It’s weird” said Hermione. “Sorry, but it’s just really weird.”


Getting frustrated, Draco stood and began pacing. “Yea well how do you think I feel?! For my entire life I was forced to be a certain way. Do certain things. Befriend certain people. Hell I even had to date fucking Pansy. Then there’s Potter, Potter the God-fucking-send. Everyone loves him, he’s admired, respected, and he doesn’t have anyone controlling him! I could have been liked and admired! But no, thanks to Lucius I was hated and feared.”


He went on, now moving closer to Hermione. “Then he goes and befriends you and Weasley. He’s got friends who would die for him. You both risked your lives constantly since we were what, 13?! And I had Crabbe and Goyle.”


“But Blaise..” but she was cut off.


“Yea, my one saving grace is Blaise. And he’s the only reason I’m here. He showed me this Summer I have hope to be my own man. Make my own mark without Lucius’ influence. And what do I get in return? I’m the talk of the school, everyone’s constantly staring at me, even Potter now looks at me with nothing but pity. And you, one of the people I wanted most to see I’ve changed, think it’s fucking ‘weird’”. As the words came out of his mouth, Draco realized what he said and grew red with embarrassment.


Hermione raised her eyebrows. “Me? Why the hell would you care what I think?”


He let out a sigh, and slumped on the sofa next to Hermione. “Because, you’re the smartest in our year. People listen to you, they look up to you. I figured if I got your stamp of approval, others would do the same.”


Folding her hands on her lap, Hermione turned to face Draco. “Well that was quite a speech.”


He didn’t respond, just looked at the fire in front of them. “Look, we’re both going through some issues, to say the least" she said.  "You’re trying to be your own man without your parents control. And I’m trying to figure out how to survive in a world where my parents don’t….exist.” Her voice cracked a bit, bringing Draco’s gaze to her. “Maybe what we each really need, is to help each other.”


Now it was Draco’s turn to raise his eyebrows. “Help each other? Really?”


Hermione nodded, “Yes. My friends are wonderful, and have been so supportive. But they can’t even come close to relating. Harry may not have parents, but he never knew them. His grief was different than mine. You’re the only one who might come close.”


Draco understood what Hermione was trying to get at now. “We may have had different feelings for our parents, but we each had them, and now we don’t.”


“Just knowing I’m not alone,” said Hermione, “that’s enough for me.”


Draco nodded in agreement. "Who would have thought, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy, not hating each other."


Hermione gave a soft laugh, "If you asked me a year ago if I'd ever have a civil conversation, let alone pleasant, I would have sent you to St. Mungo's."


"I was pretty awful to you, wasn't I?"


"Yes," said Hermione matter-of-factly, "you were. But I believe in second chances. And I don't hold grudges. At least, I try not to."


Hermione checked her watch again, sighing in frustration. She and Draco had agreed to work on their potions assignment together that afternoon, but he was late. Deciding to get a head start, Hermione spread her books out on the large coffee table in their common room and began to organize herself when she heard the portrait door swing open.


"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know I'm late. Had to take the long way back from practice to avoid Pansy, Blaise mentioned she was hoping to catch me on my way back."


Hermione's frustration disappeared when she saw Draco. They had been working on their newfound friendship for about a week now, and she found herself thoroughly enjoying the time she spent with him. It had its awkward moments of course, but they seemed to get along much better than either expected. 


Sitting beside her, Draco pulled out his books and began taking notes. 


"So have you given our costumes any more thought?" he asked as he scribbled across some parchment.


"Well," began Hermione, "I do have some ideas. But I doubt you'll like them."


"Why wouldn't I?" he asked with a furrow of his brow.


"Because you're an 18 year old former Death Eater. I doubt dressing up in a costume is high on your list of preferred activities."


"Former forced Death Eater, thank you very much. And I can still be fun you know."


Hermione scoffed, "Sure, you of all people, fun."


"Oy!" shouted Draco, throwing a quill at Hermione. "I'm not some boring old drag you know. Now tell me what your ideas are."


"Zeus and Hera?"


"I'm not wearing a toga..."


"Clown and Ring Leader?"


"Circus' are for muggles."


"Then how do you even know what a ring leader is?!"


Draco ignored her, "Next idea."


Hermione was losing confidence in her suggestions. Draco was much tougher to please than she thought. "Well, the only other one I thought of was a siren and pirate."


Draco thought about it, "That's not bad actually. Let me think about it as well and we can decide tomorrow."

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