A/N: Yay! Second chapter out less than 24 hours than the first one. I got my first review for this story from TeamCullenPotterJackson, so shout out to you! Thank you very much x Please review, favourite and follow Head to Head, it really means a lot to me and inspires me to write even more. Also, if you have any ideas for this story or anything you would like to happen, please write a review about it! I love sharing ideas and collaborating. Happy reading!
Hermione gaped at the blonde boy sitting in front of her. Draco Malfoy? she thought. How did he become Head boy? It was clear that Neville wasn't the only one that had changed over the holidays, his platinum-blonde hair, which was usually slicked back with gel hung loosely in front of his pale, pointed face. She did notice, with a slight hint of disgust, that he did look fairly attractive. Not that she cared, of course.
"Take a picture," he sneered, "It'll last longer." Hermione was taken aback. She would've expected at least some manners after the whole Voldemort-Death Eater ordeal, after all, hadn't everyone had enough of conflict? She regained her composure lost from his rude remark and fired back, "There's nothing worth taking a picture of!" She had expected him to reply sarcastically, or call her some foul term like he always had, however, he simply just rolled his eyes and turned back to face the window.
"Hermione Granger…" he drawled. "Brightest Witch of the Age comes up with a retort like that." Hermione seethed at his mocking tone.
"Draco Malfoy," she replied in a similar tone. "Former Death Eater, now Hogwarts Head Boy?" He turned to face her, shocked by her reply, and looked as if he had been slapped in the face. I might've hit a nerve, Hermione winced in her head.
Hesitantly, Hermione sat down across from him and placed Crookshank's carry-cage down on the seat. In their sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she had noticed that Draco looked ill, and as she sat across from him, she noticed that he still didn't look any better. He had dark eye bags under his grey eyes, his eyes were squinty as if he were to nod off at any moment, and his brows were furrowed. Her glare softened, Head boy and girl spent a lot of time with each other, and she was determined to make this year at Hogwarts her greatest.
"Are you alright, Draco?" she shuddered at her use of his first name, it felt very foreign to her. She cringed at her poor attempt of creating small talk. Are you alright? She repeated. Are you alright?! She really could do better and his reply proved her doubts right.
"I don't need your pity, Granger." He sounded as if he were trying to sound snarky, but instead, his remark was more of a sigh, and he continued to stare out of the window, "Especially coming from a mudbl-"
Hermione flinched visibly and tried to discretely pull her sleeve further down her wrist to cover her scar. Malfoy looked up, noticing her action and his bored smirk quickly turn to an expression of guilt.
"Sorry," he said quickly, barely audible. The apology felt foreign rolling out of his tongue, he hadn't apologised for doing anything since forever. Why am I even talking to Hermione Granger? He thought. One-third of the Golden Trio, girl-who-snogged-Weasley and Harry Potter's best friend. He gagged.
"What was that?" she said, surprised.
"So-rry," he said frustrated, exaggerating each syllable. The girl should get herself a pair of Extendable Ears. Hermione was taken aback. She never thought she was would live to hear Draco Malfoy apologise to anyone, let alone a Muggle-born.
"It's okay," she said quietly, but it wasn't. Having a name that someone had taunted and harassed her with for years forever left on her body would never be okay. It wasn't him who did it, it was his Bellatrix Lestrange, she thought sympathetically. His aunt, she countered to no one in particular, need I remind you, that he was there as well.
A loud tapping on the window interrupted her train of thought. Draco jumped up from his seat, startled, and pulled open the window to let in a large, brown tawny owl. It was carrying a white envelope, sealed with the crest of Saint Mungo's: Hospital of Magical Maladies and Injuries. He quickly ripped the letter out of the owl's grip, and the owl flew out of the carriage, giving him an offended 'hoot'.
Why is he receiving letters from Saint Mungo's? Hermione thought to herself, he isn't sick, is he? Although she did admit that he did look quite ill. His creamy pale complexion now looked more like a washed-out grey.
Draco tore open the letter, trying to keep his hands from shaking. He was sick of receiving worried glances from Hermione. He pulled out the parchment from the envelope and began to read the neat, loopy handwriting.
Dear Mr. Malfoy, (Draco tensed, being called 'Mr. Malfoy' reminded him of his filthy father)
I regret to inform you that Narcissa Malfoy's condition begins to worsen. Her mental health is quickly declining, and day-by-day her spirits dampen. Every single talk I've had with her, she's mentioned how she misses her husband, Lucius Malfoy, however, as you have stated earlier, he is unable to visit her.
I think we need to schedule a meeting to discuss Mrs. Malfoy's health, and it is imperative that it is in the near future.
Head Healer of the Mental Health Department at Saint Mungo's Hospital of Magical Maladies and Injuries
Draco slowly folded the letter in half, and placed it back into the envelope. Damn it, he thought frustrated, what am I going to do? His father, Lucius Malfoy, was sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban after his allegiance to Voldemort was discovered. However, Draco couldn't give a damn as his father had forced him into being a Death-Eater, which had been one of the worst experiences of his life, just to restore honour to the Malfoy name. The name that Lucius had tarnished in the first place with his cowardice to admit his allegiance to Voldemort. No way was he going to let Lucius see his mother again. Scumbag, Draco thought as he started out the window, gazing at the dark sky that he could've sworn was bright and sunny before. Time flies by when you're reading a letter about your mother's potential death, Draco thought sarcastically.
For the rest of the train ride, the Head girl and boy sat in silence. Draco appeared to be nodding off, while Hermione re-read Hogwarts: A History.
After a long train ride from King's Cross Station, they had finally arrived at Hogwarts. The train rides have never felt that long, she thought. Although Harry and Ron would always do something stupid, they would always make her laugh and the train rides would never feel long or boring. Hermione stood up out of her seat to admire the gorgeous moonlit castle, scaring her ginger cat who had been sleeping in her lap. She turned to Malfoy to notice that he hadn't even attempted to get out of his seat yet. So much for responsibility.
"Malfoy," she said, "Malfoy." He stayed still and stared out the window as students began to clamber out of the train. "Malfoy, we have to help Hagrid out with the first years." Frustrated at his lack of response, Hermione yelled, "Draco Lucius Malfoy! We have to help Hagrid with the first years!"
Malfoy snapped his head towards her, clearly shocked by her outburst. "Mmhmm…" he grunted sleepily his rigid posture relaxed back into the leather chair. He began to drag himself out of the carriage, following the brunette towards the first years. As Hermione stepped outside, she took a moment to readjust to the sudden lack of light, the carriage had been well-lit, while the only light she could find were a few lone lanterns scattered around the station.
"Hermione!" boomed Hagrid, startling her, "Where's Harry and Ron?" She sighed. It looked like they hadn't told Hagrid they weren't coming back this year, either that or they were extremely forgetful. Boys, Hermione thought.
"Hagrid!" cried Hermione as she flung herself into the giant's arms and he gave her a bone-crushing hug, "Harry and Ron aren't coming back this year…" she added sadly.
Hagrid nodded sadly, "I thought this place was like Harry's home, but I guess everything that has happened has proved that things always changed." Hagrid smiled, but Hermione could see he was quite sad, Harry was like the son he never had, and he too was close to Ron. This year really wasn't going to be the same.
"How about I come to visit you as soon as possible?" Hermione asked in an attempt to cheer the Care for Magical Creatures teacher up, but a pang of regret hit her as memories of trying to eat Hagrid's rock-hard cakes returned, "I'll be busy this year as Head girl."
"Wow, Hermione!" exclaimed Hagrid, his smile returned, "Head girl! You've grown up so fast, I remember the day when you came as a little, buck-toothed first-year." He said tearfully, "Oh!" he said, "that reminds me…"
"FIRS' YEARS!" Hagrid boomed, scaring Hermione, Draco and a small group of nervous-looking students who Hermione could only assume were first years. "FIRS' YEARS O'ER HERE!" Little by little, small groups and individual first years began to scurry over to Hagrid, scared to approach the giant teacher. Hermione loved Hagrid, but she did admit that he did look quite frightening if you hadn't spoke to him before.
"Okay," Hagrid began, a lot more quite after he noticed the first years pale faces, "We're gonna cross the lake with these boats o'er here. No, no… don't be scared, nothing's gonna grab yer!" [A/N: OMG IM SORRY THIS IS SUCH A BAD REPRESENTATION OF HIS ACCENT]
Hermione noticed a small girl with straight black hair standing alone, clearly nervous to enter a boat. "Hi," Hermione said softly, tapping the girl on her shoulder lightly, "Do you want a hand?" The girl looked up and nodded. "What's your name?"
"Iris," the girl said, "Iris Jung." She looked quite nervous and clutched a small, battered book in her hand, strongly reminding Hermione of herself. On the edge of lake between the train station and Hogwarts, Hermione held on the edge of a wooden boat to keep it steady as Iris climbed in, along with a few other first years. Then, the brunette leant forwards, dangerously over the edge, to push the little boat forwards.
"Granger!" Draco called, startling her, which definitely was not wise seeing she was close to falling in.
"Merlin, Malfoy! You almost made me-"
-and with a big splash she fell into the lake.
She felt herself sinking; she never really learnt to swim very well, especially not in dark, murky waters and the heavy robes didn't help as well.
"Malfoy!" she yelled, but it only came out as a group of bubbles floating to the surface.
Draco watched her fall into the ice-cold lake head-first. It really was quite funny and he let out a loud laugh, doubling over in tears. However, he looked up and saw a few frightened faces of the first-years as their little boats bobbed towards the school. The rest of them were far across the lake, along with the Care of Magical Creatures teacher.
"Oh bloody hell, Granger," he muttered after she didn't surface for a bit, and he remembered his Head boy responsibilities. "I really don't want to do this," and he dived in.
He saw her almost immediately; she hadn't gone very deep because she was flailing her arms and legs in a poor attempt to swim upwards. Although in her defence, it was working. Mildly. He swam downwards towards the sinking brunette and clasped her small hand. Slowly, he began to swim upwards. The weight of their school robes and a rucksack she had slung around herself, which was undoubtedly filled with books, certainly wasn't helping Draco. With an enormous amount of effort, he managed to grab hold on the edge of the pier and haul them both upwards.
"What was that, Granger?!" he yelled angrily when they had both surfaced and taken a few deep breaths.
"I fell," she said simply and he growled in frustration. You fell?! He thought angrily.
"Anyways," she continued. "It's only because you startled me in the first place!" Draco gaped at her, now she was trying to pin it on him?! No way.
"I startled you?!" Draco yelled.
"Yes," she replied nonchalantly.
"So it was my fault?!"
"Yes," she replied in a monotone voice.
"You're unbelievable, Granger!" Draco said, "I save your life just because you want to hold on to a few bloody books, and you try to blame it on me?! Unbelievable."
Hermione winced. Well, when he put it like that, it did make her sound bad. "Sorry," she mumbled sheepishly, like a child who had done something wrong, or taken a cookie from the jar.
Draco snorted at the absurdity of the situation. "Whatever," he said, "let's just get to school." The pair took the remaining boat and climbed in carefully.
They both didn't want a repeat of what happened, especially Hermione, she had enough embarrassment to last for the rest of the year.
As the boat bobbed slowly towards the school, Hermione couldn't help but notice how beautiful everything was around her. The moonlit lake was completely still except for the slight ripples their boat left in the water, the dark sky was dotted with stars and the castle across the lake looked magnificent as the first time she had seen it when she was eleven years old.
"It's so beautiful…" she said with a sigh, leaning back into the wooden boat. She had expected the Head boy to make a snide remark about how the school is just a 'pile of rocks' or how stars are just 'blobs of light'. However, instead, he quietly agreed with her.
"It really is, Granger," he said, catching her by surprise. She turned towards him, his pale face illuminated by the moonlight and his platinum blonde hair, resting above his shimmering grey eyes. She wondered, maybe in another life he would've been nice, and maybe in another life he wouldn't have bullied her, then she certainly would've been friends with him. Maybe she would've fallen in-
Hermione Granger! A voice in her head said, interrupting her thought. Was she really just thinking about Draco Malfoy's 'shimmering grey eyes'. She could only imagine her best friends' reactions if they would know what she was thinking just then, that would be mortifying.
A small bump in the boat indicated that they had reached the other side of the lake, and had finally arrived at the school. Hermione looked up to find a pale hand extending out towards her to offer her assistance out of the boat, and she smiled, maybe people do change, even Draco Malfoy.
However, she lifted her eyes further up and saw something that she hadn't seen since the end of the war, and wished she would never see again.
A snake coiled around a skull in black ink stood out against Draco's pale inner forearm.
The Dark Mark.