Hermione wasn't quite sure how she got from Gryffindor Tower to the dungeons. Before she knew it she was standing by a blank wall while Malfoy mutters the password. She was beginning to have doubts that this was a good idea. A muggle-born spending the weekend in the Slytherin dormitories suddenly sounds like lunacy.
"Am I going to be okay in there?" She asks Daphne.
"You'll be fine," Malfoy tells her.
"How do you know that?"
"I'm walking you in. Carrying your bag. Clearly you have my protection. That means something here. If anyone even mutters a derogatory comment in your direction. Tell me." Malfoy says looking a little tense. She nods strangely feeling comforted by Malfoy's protection. She knows she's entering a world with different rules than she's used to.
When she enters the room it's not what she expected. She'd heard about the colour and lavish decor. What she didn't expect was to see was a large group of first and second years sat on the floor on large cushions in their pyjamas. Pansy was stood holding a copy of Beedle the Bard taking requests for that nights story. She's stood stock still staring opened mouthed.
"Don't the Gryffindor's do story time?" Malfoy asks her curious. She shakes her head in reply.
"We told you. We look after our own. The little ones have been suffering bad from nightmares. This was Pansy's idea. She's always been good with the little ones, especially for someone who swears they don't want kids," Daphne tells her before going to join Pansy. She puts Crookshanks on the ground. He starts sniffing around pleased to have somewhere new to explore.
"Maybe Granger could do story time tonight?" Pansy calls over the crowd. They all turn to look at her.
"You're a muggle," one of the boys says suddenly.
"Muggle-born," Malfoy corrects him instantly, "she's just as much a witch as Pansy."
"I know that," the boy says red faced "I meant maybe she knows some muggle stories. I've never heard a muggle story before."
"You don't have to.." Malfoy starts before she waves him off moving to join the other two girls.
"Do any of you know any muggle stories?" Hermione asks them.
"No even the half bloods have been raised by their wizard parent more than the muggle-born," one of the girls says.
Hermione spent over an hour telling them the story of Cinderella. They had so many questions about the way muggles saw magic and where the story could have come from. Hermione had chosen this one as it did not portray magic negatively but that also brought up questions of why muggles feared magic. She dodged this by saying there are other stories most have magic as a bad thing the hero has to fight against.
"So the handsome prince rescues Cinderella from being poor and mistreated?" One girl asks.
"Yes," Hermione replies relieved for a simple question.
"Like the way Malfoy brought you here from Gryffindor?" The girl follows with a smirk. So much for a simple question. Malfoy takes over from her a slight tinge to his cheeks.
"That's enough now. Bed," They all get up and scamper away to the dormitories. Hermione glances at him noticing his slightly reddened cheeks. She bites her lip to keep from smiling at his discomfort.
"I'll be checking in ten minutes that the lights are out," he calls after them as the sound of giggling disappears down the corridor.
Malfoy sits down on the sofa beside her. It's a little awkward after the questions from the first year girl.
"Not what you were expecting was it?" Malfoy begins.
"All of them?"
"Mostly. There's a few with one parent left but most their parents are dead or in Azkaban. We're doing what we can. They might be the first generation to live at school all year, even the summer. There isn't really anywhere else for them to go."
"That's the price of war. On the losing side, those that pay the highest price are always the children." He sighs.
"Isn't anyone helping them?"
"Granger, no one cares about the kids of Death Eaters. All our political contacts are gone and there are so many worthy causes. Most of us are on watch lists so we can't set anything up. It's only just December, we've got months and months to try and sort something out. For now, we're just trying to do the best we can. Teach them better than our parents taught us," He says sounding tired "which brings us back to a question you asked earlier? If I was bothered by your blood?"
"It doesn't matter..."
"No I think this is a conversation we need to have. I repeated what I was taught. I loved my parents, idolised them even. My father was the centre of my universe. Of course he could never be wrong and he definitely wouldn't lie to me. At eleven that was the foundation of my world. I was special. Everyone would know I was special. My name, my blood, my power as a wizard all made me special. This was my entire belief system. Then I came here. While in this room I was special out there in the rest of the school, no one cared about my name or my blood. Father had told me we were better than those who came from muggle families, more powerful, smarter even. Then there was you. You've always been incredible. Which meant my father was wrong or he lied to me. It was easier to hate you than hate him."
"Now? Now I never want another war. I'm sick of blood, death and pain. There are better ways. I want to return the family name to glory. I want to do better than they did. I want power, fortune and... and I want to be liked."
Hermione stares at him as he stares at the ceiling deliberately not looking at her, she notices how red his ears are to the rest of his complexion.
"The boy you were," she starts "I could never like him. But the man you're becoming? Him I could like. He's someone I'd be honoured to be friends with."
He looks at her startled, before slowly grinning.
"It's been the strangest day," she says "this morning when I woke up I was in a dead end relationship with Ron. Now I'm sat in the Slytherin common room making friends with Draco Malfoy."
"We haven't even given you the tour yet," he says standing up offering her his hand. She takes it and he pulls her over the large murky green glass. Sitting her down on the bench in front of it he points out the glass.
"Is that the lake?" She asks. He nods and points again.
Hermione stares into the murky depths of the lake, wondering how she's supposed to see anything. She begins to see movement. Strange floating lights brighten the lake showing the creatures that live within. The giant squid comes into view lazily waving it's tentacles as it floats past.
"During the day there isn't much to see but at night those weird fish light up the lake. You can't see them from above though. Just down here."
"It's incredible. I've never seen anything like it."
"This is the only room in the school you can see this from. I know it's not mountains but we like the view."
Pansy arrives back. "Everyone is tucked in and the lights are out but you'd better do the rounds Draco. I'll show Granger where she's sleeping for the weekend." Pansy says.
Draco nods and heads off to check on the younger students. Leaving Pansy and Hermione alone. They stand awkwardly for a few moments, neither sure how to act with the other now they're alone.
"You're really great with the kids" Hermione tells her honestly, breaking the ice.
"You didn't think I got prefect on academic merit did you?" Pansy laughs, "I've been doing stuff like this since fourth year. I know I'm not a prefect anymore but the prefects help out with it. I'm hoping I've started a new tradition for Slytherin. Come on were this way." Pansy says to Hermione.
Hermione grabs her bag and follows the other girl into the darkened corridor wondering what surprises are still to come during her time in the dungeons.