Disclaimer: JKR owns anything that is obviously hers. I own the rest.
Characters: Blaise Zabini, Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Pansy Parkinson, Ron Weasley, Theodore Nott
Genres: Drama, Friendship, Hogwarts Years, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Alternate Universe, Profanity, Sexual Themes, Unrelieved Sexual Tension
Overall Rating: R
Summary: Hermione is a stuck-up know-it-all; Draco is a sadistic prat; Theo has a scary way of knowing everything; Harry is too busy with his girlfriend and his hero status to pay much attention; Ginny really isn't very interested in anyone beyond Harry but unfortunately does pay attention; Pansy wants what's hers; Ron doesn't know how to get what's his; and Blaise definitely has both his hands in the cookie jar. Or maybe that's not how it is at all...
Extra Note: It is set in the 7th year at Hogwarts with some minor changes having been made to the end of their 6th year as well. It's amazing how differently everything can turn out if just a few things change...
Length: This chapter: 2395 words.
After class, Hermione had wrapped up as fast as she could in order to catch Draco before he got too far, but still she had to speed out of the class room and dodge a few perplexed classmates before she could catch up with him. She had the sneaking suspicion that he was deliberately ignoring her.
“Malfoy, I need to talk to you!” she said, as she finally caught up.
He barely shot her a glance. “Can’t. I’ve got class.”
“This’ll only take a minute.”
She looked at him imploringly and after a few seconds he finally rolled his eyes and motioned to a door. She went in to the currently empty classroom and he followed, not closing the door behind him. There was no reason to. She would say she was sorry, he would accept, and then he would go to class while she cheerily went and strangled Nott.
“What is it, then?” he asked, taking up a stance with his legs slightly apart and his arms crossed over his chest.
“About the other night…” she hesitantly began.
He made a disgusted sound. “This is what you’re wasting my time with?” He dismissed her and turned to leave.
“Wait!” she said, the urgency in her voice making him stop and half-turn to give her a puzzled look. “I’m… I’m sorry, ok? I mean, for being… For not trying to be nice. I’m sorry.” But you shouldn’t have walked out! She had to literally bite her tongue not to add that last part. It would do no good to continue throwing blame around.
He made a derisive sound and turned to leave again.
Hermione gaped. “This is how you accept an apology? That’s beyond rude. Even for a Slytherin. Even for you!”
He had taken a few steps and was now within reach of the door. At her words, he grabbed it and slammed it shut before turning back with a furious expression on his face. To say that Hermione was bewildered would be an understatement. She was also a little bit apprehensive. She unconsciously checked for her wand.
“You call that an apology?” he growled. “You didn’t mean a word of it! Theo asked you to do it. No, knowing you, Theo had to force you to do it.” His hands were clenched and he looked as if he was having trouble restraining himself from physically attacking her. “You didn’t even bother to try and put yourself in my position long enough to think up an apology I could believe in.”
To hell with not throwing blame around. “You left me to finish rounds on my own! What if something evil had been lurking in the dark? You left me to fend for myself!”
“I thought I was the evil lurking in the dark,” he scathingly retorted. “So I did you a favor, didn’t I? I removed myself from your pristine presence.”
“Why the hell am I supposed to be sorry, when you so obviously are not?”
“Because I tried, Granger. You didn’t. You never tried.”
“What do you call this, then!?” she gestured wildly, indicating the two of them.
“I call it avoiding whatever Theo threatened you with. Well, you can run along now and tell him that you didn’t do a very good job of it and that I, of course, didn’t believe you meant it.”
Hermione made a rude sound. “So you’re trying to make me buy that he didn’t force you to be nice to me, too?”
Draco glared at her. “He didn’t. He only asked me not to make any death threats, which, believe me, is becoming harder every day.”
Hermione frowned, as much at his statement as at an itch that was spreading between her shoulder blades. Not again. She thought she’d taken care of this. “Death threats?” she absent-mindedly asked.
“Yes, you really are extremely killable and WHY are you squirming like that?”
She had been squirming. Her frown deepened with annoyance. “Ron covered me in scales,” she muttered. “McGonagall said they’re gone, but I think she missed some on my back and now they’re itching…”
Draco blinked and stared at her incredulously, suddenly realizing the absurdity of it all. Before she could look up at him, though, he wrinkled his nose in disdain. “That is gross. A scaly back. Add that to your list of charms.” He began to leave again, needing to get away.
“Wait!” Hermione sighed irritably. She really was tired of asking him to wait. From the glance he shot her way, it seemed he was just as tired of being asked. “I really am sorry.” She wearily held his gaze while trying to ignore her itch, which was, truth be told, not that easy. Damn Ron and his ineptitude some days.
Draco hesitated and then he gave one curt nod before he left.
Draco knew that it was a bad idea to accept Hermione’s half-cocked apology. He just knew it. Before he knew it, she’d be back to vilifying him, and he’d have to considerably reconsider his own stance on Unforgiveable Curses. But, he did it for Theo, anyway. And he did it to keep his position. He decided that he deserved a bloody medal for all his efforts. After all, it was more than he should be expected to do to get along with a Mudblood.
For some reason that Draco couldn’t quite comprehend, Theo seemed quite devoted to getting them to just marginally get along. It wouldn’t work, though. It would never work. Draco was Hermione’s least favorite person in school and Hermione was Draco’s, well, third least favorite person. Her idiot friends ranged first and second respectively. The best Nott could hope for was that they learned not to aim to kill each other on sight.
Scaly back, indeed. Draco had had to make an effort not to laugh at her disgruntled expression as she had made the confession. He didn’t know how she would have taken the laugh, but he had been too annoyed to risk that she mistook his derisiveness for genuine good humor. It might have helped the actual matter at hand if she had, but damn it, he had his limits, too! He couldn’t be expected to just accept her insincere apologies, could he?
Besides… wrinkling his nose and calling her gross had been strangely satisfying.
He reached his common room and threw his bag down on a couch before sitting down next to it. He didn’t have class. Of course he didn’t. He’d lied to her to get rid of her. He was still angry and he had known that he couldn’t trust himself not to do or say anything that he might regret – in the sense that she’d get him booted from his position. He was actually fairly proud of how he’d refrained from doing her bodily harm.
“Hey.” Blaise arrived, nodded his greeting at Draco, and then plunked down in a chair next to him.
Draco was unable to do anything but scowl in return.
“You look cheery,” Blaise observed. “This isn’t still about the Mudblood, is it?”
Draco’s scowl deepened.
Blaise sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. Draco felt a little bit guilty. Blaise had listened to him rant and rave a lot about this, and now he had to endure more of Draco’s moodiness. It was all that damn Granger’s fault.
“She apologized,” he ground out.
Blaise looked confused. “Who did?”
“Granger!” Draco hissed.
Blaise took a few seconds to digest this. “Isn’t that a good thing?”
Draco shook his head. “Theo made her.”
“Does it matter why she did it?” Blaise asked.
“She didn’t bloody mean a word of it. It was a mockery. It made me want to—“ Draco clamped his mouth shut before he said something he wasn’t supposed to, but he couldn’t keep his hands from tightening into fists and making a slight wringing motion.
Blaise grinned. “Why do you care, anyway?”
Draco glowered at his friend. “Because Theo is a master manipulator and he keeps dropping hints about how smart it would be to get along with her. I don’t see what I could really gain, but I owe him for this position.”
“So you accept her apology. Isn’t that getting along? Does it really matter if she meant it?”
Draco growled low in his throat and Blaise raised an eyebrow.
“No,” Draco finally bit out. “It’s not getting along. It’s me trying to behave and her saying whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and then just offering a token apology when Theo threatens her with something or other.”
“I threatened to report her to Dumbledore,” an unmistakable cool voice was saying and Draco looked up to see that Theo had entered unnoticed. “And I take it that Granger was not being very convincing and you didn’t accept the apology.”
Belatedly Draco remembered that he had accepted the apology. Sort of. Having Theo badger Granger about it wouldn’t serve any purpose at this point. “No, I accepted it,” he gruffly said.
Blaise’s mouth fell open in a display of surprise. “What’s all this, then?” he sputtered.
Draco shrugged. “She tried again and I figured that not getting her in trouble with Theo would make me the better person,” he said with a pointed glance at Theo.
“Indeed,” the other boy said, sitting down. “Interesting, how I seem to have become the one who has to manage the two of you.”
“You could stop?” Draco asked hopefully.
“No. You wouldn’t stop until you had her in tears or she abandoned her position. Possibly both.” Theo gave Draco a hard stare.
Draco almost pouted. “I don’t get why you’re always defending her,” he mumbled. “I didn’t think you liked Mudbloods.”
“It doesn’t matter if I like her,” Theo said. “Sometimes you have to set aside your differences to work together. And I, unlike you, try to understand the people around me. Granger may be a bit much”—at this Draco snorted—“but I imagine that being so socially awkward, her books are her refuge. Not to mention that she’s best friends with Potter and she probably feels she needs something to set her apart from others in order to justify that position.”
Draco snorted again. “Yeah, because that Weasley is so special. What’s his talent? Chewing with his mouth closed? No, wait. He didn’t even master that.”
Theo gave Draco a withering look. “Weasley is a boy. He can connect with Potter on a level that Granger cannot, being a girl. If she had had the romantic interest of Potter, then less might have been enough, but she doesn’t, and, to my knowledge, she doesn’t have any interest in him, either. Then there’s Quidditch, which both boys love, where she dutifully goes to the games but doesn’t particularly care about the outcome, and I have it on good authority that she hates to fly and indeed only passed flying by writing an essay about it.”
Draco stared at Theo. “You scare me!” he stated. “Why the hell would anybody know all that, let alone care?”
“So,” Theo continued, ignoring Draco’s questions, “she’s opted to be the brains of the operation. The smartest girl in school, one of the best friends of The Boy Who Lived. But I imagine she still feels left out at times and instead of expressing her loneliness, she seeks comfort in her books. This, of course, doesn’t help her social skills much.”
Draco had a slight gagging feeling. He didn’t want to hear this. He didn’t want to know this.
Theo smirked sardonically. “There is much more to her than that, of course. There’d be much more to anyone. Want to hear about it or are you done pouting?”
Fighting an urge to nod his assent, Draco pursed his lips. He liked Theo, sort of. But he didn’t like the way he was openly trying to beat him into submission. “You forgot the part where she has a scaly back. Add that to her virtues,” he informed him, smirking slightly himself.
Blaise choked on air and his eyes bulged. “You saw her back?” he gasped.
Draco blanched. This wasn’t exactly what he’d thought to achieve. “Of course not! I… She… We had Transfiguration and…”
Blaise was hard pressed to contain his mirth and Draco groaned, his panic disappearing as he realized that he had fallen for one of Blaise’s taunts, making himself look like a ninny. Blaise took that as a cue to burst out laughing. Sometimes Draco really regretted having befriended the boy. Things were much simpler when he used to call Crabbe and Goyle his friends. They certainly never outwitted him.
Theo was grinning, too. Draco groaned again. He’d really risen to the bait and shot himself in the foot, making winning this argument virtually impossible. He covered his face with his hands and leaned back, making a valiant effort to ignore his friends. If he knew Blaise, he’d be hearing about this for weeks.
“Well,” Theo finally said, clearing his throat slightly. “I didn’t find it pertinent. But, since we are discussing it, I suspect that her scaly back would be a fine match to your webbed hands and… feet? And how’s the rash that Bulstrode gave you before she even managed turning you part amphibian?”
Draco removed his hands from his face and stared at Theo. “How do you know this stuff?” He’d thought he’d gotten rid of his amphibian traits before anyone noticed and the rash was on his stomach, so he knew that nobody had seen that. McGonagall had told him to visit Madam Pomfrey if it wasn’t gone by morning.
Theo smirked. “I have my sources.”
“It happened less than an hour ago!”
“They are fast sources.”
“You wouldn’t happen to be a Legilimens, would you?” Draco asked, scowling.
“That would be rather intrusive of me, wouldn’t it?” Theo asked.
That was, of course, no answer at all. Draco scowled some more and Theo smiled politely in return. He would never tell. Blaise was grinning again and Draco decided to throw his punches where they might actually hit something other than air.
“So, Blaise,” he said in his silkiest voice. “You’ve been sneaking in late these past few days. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Tracey has, too…”
This time Blaise was scowling and Draco was grinning.