We're too young to be this damaged.
Later that afternoon Hermione found herself out on the Quidditch pitch, watching two Slytherin boys teach the rest of them how to play Quidditch. Maybe it was because she was muggleborn, but Hermione never really understood the whole quidditch-hype. It was the magical equivalent of football, everyone followed it and everyone enjoyed playing it. Hermione hated brooms, the last time she was on a broom was when Crabbe and Goyle set the Room of Requirement on fire and she wasn't in a hurry to get back on one. It was a lovely day to be outside and to play Quidditch, the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly. It was such a nice day that Hermione simply had to go out and walk about the grounds. It had been an eventful first day of school, the first years enjoyed their first Charms lesson and as usual Hermione had to tell the older students all about the Wizarding War. It was a hot topic on the first day of school, especially for the older students who understood what the war meant, and who knew they were being taught by a war hero. It was the same for Neville and she guessed it would have been the same for Malfoy.
The latter was currently standing next to her, shouting words of encouragement out to the students. Hermione bumped into him on the way out of the castle. He gave her the same coy smirk he always did before inviting her down to the Quidditch pitch. Hermione was reluctant to accept his invitation, the previous night was still fresh in her mind. If she was going to figure out what kind of game he was playing she might as well play along for the time being. They wouldn't be alone on the Quidditch pitch, she didn't think that Malfoy would try anything in front of the students. On their way down he was unusually talkative, telling her about how he was going to restore Slytherin's reputation and how the students were going to help him do it. She was surprised that he cared so much, ten years in Azkaban certainly changed him for the better. He was still the old Malfoy, the arrogant, cocky pureblood that used to think he was better than everyone else, but now there was more to him. She was starting to see the caring and compassionate side of him. It suited him well.
Hermione watched as the Slytherin's rose up in the air on their brooms, some of them a little shaky. The started passing a quaffle between them and as soon as they were out of earshot Malfoy turned to her. She could hear him take a deep breath and he suddenly seemed anxious and uneasy. "I need your help, Granger."
Hermione was dumbstruck. Never in her life did she imagine those words coming out of Draco Malfoy's mouth. She opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out. You could have knocked her over with a feather. Malfoy rolled his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest. His unease was gone, replaced by irritation. Hermione couldn't help but notice how well built he was. They were both wearing ordinary muggle clothes and she realized that this was the first time she had seen him in something other than robes.
"Yes, my father is probably turning over in his grave as we speak. Me asking a muggleborn for help."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. He didn't call her a mudblood this time, but she knew that's what he meant. Even after all this time he still cared about blood status. Her temper flared and she shook her head. "You can shove it up your pureblood ass, Malfoy."
She turned on her heel, about to walk away from him. It was a mistake coming down her with him. Yes he had changed in some ways, but the bad blood between them was still there. It would always be there and there was nothing she could do about it. No matter how compassionate and caring he had become, he still cared about the wrong things. She felt a strong hand wrap around her arm, pulling her back toward its owner. Malfoy turned her back around to face him before letting her go.
"I apologize Granger, I didn't mean it like that."
Another first, Malfoy apologizing to her. This day certainly was full of surprises.
"I'm listening," Hermione said, taking a step back from him. Being so close to him did not do her resolve any favours. She had to stay strong and keep her head clear around him. He clouded her judgement one too many times and she was not going to let it happen again.
"We don't have enough students to make up a full Quidditch team, I talked to McGonagall earlier today and she said we could borrow a player from one of the other houses..."
Hermione's eyebrows shot up. "And you want to borrow a Gryffindor player?" Hermione was not about to ask one of her players to play for a rival house, especially Slytherin. There was even more bad blood between their houses than there was between them.
"Think about it Granger. It doesn't have to be a player on the team, I'm sure you have enough back-up players. It could be good for both our houses, it could be something that unites them."
Hermione was still skeptical. He had a point, a Gryffindor playing for Slytherin would show the other houses and magical community that the past was in the past and that they were ready to move on. On the other hand it could cause an even bigger rivalry between them, and turn Gryffindor on Gryffindor.
"I'll have to think about it. I will talk to the prefects and Quidditch captain, but I can't make any promises."
Malfoy nodded, the tiniest trace of a smile on his features before he turned back to the Quidditch pitch. If the situation didn't call for it he would never have asked something from her and she would never even considered it. There was more at stake now than just an old rivalry between them.
High above Hermione and Malfoy's heads the six Slytherin's were no longer passing the quaffle around. All of them were staring intently at their professors, watching them carefully.
"I didn't know they were friends," Abby said as she clutched her broom tightly. She was still getting the hang of being so high up with nothing but a broom between her legs.
"They aren't," Tehillah said. She was surprised when she saw that Professor Granger had accompanied Professor Malfoy down to the pitch to watch them practice. From what her parents had told her and from what she had read, they weren't exactly best friends. They were on opposite sides of the war, enemies from the moment she was born a muggle. Tehillah could see that Professor Malfoy was uncomfortable around Professor Granger and that they were clearly not fond of each other.
"Do you think she's the one he told us about? The loved one that he was protecting?" Abby asked, getting all dreamy eyed as she looked down at the professors, almost sliding off her broom.
"Don't hold your breath Abby, they loathe each other." Marcus said as he leaned back on his broom. He had been watching them carefully, their body language and the way they talked to each other. It was clear that she didn't like him and was easily offended by what he said, and it was clear he was uncomfortable talking to her.
"Or maybe that's what they want you to think. Don't you read Witch Weekly?" Mika asked. The small girl was really good at flying and she was fast too. She would make an excellent seeker, she just needed to train some more. "It was all over the papers this summer. He was seen leaving her apartment in the middle of the night..." Mika trailed off, waggling her eyebrows suggestively and Tehillah clicked her tongue in annoyance.
"It's just gossip," she said, but she too wondered what Professor Malfoy was doing at Professor Granger's place over the summer.
"Alright, enough of the gossip, let's get back to it." Marcus instructed as he tossed a quaffle, maybe a bit too hard, at Tehillah.
Later that evening Hermione sat in her office, reading over her lesson plans for the next day. She gave the sixth and seventh years a break today, but tomorrow she was going to have to assign homework. She would easy them into it, but she finally understood why teachers gave so much homework in every subject; it was because there was so much work to be done. She wanted to do a good job and she wanted all of her students to get their respective OWLs and NEWTS. After she was satisfied with her plans for the next day she put them back in the drawer. She was just about to close it when she saw something strange in her drawer. A black feather was laying on top of a pile of books in her drawer. She frowned, she was sure she gave out all of her feathers and she didn't keep them in this drawer.
Her blood ran cold. It looked exactly like the feather Malfoy had teased her with the night before. It was impossible, her office was locked the entire day. No one could get in that easily. What was his game? Why leave this here? Was it to taunt her, to rattle her? To make a point?
There was a sharp knock on her door and Hermione jumped, slamming the drawer shut. "Come in," she said shakily, taking a deep breath. The door opened and the two Gryffindor prefects, Jamie and Alice, and the Quidditch captain, Luca, came in. "Sit down, please." She gestured toward the chairs in front of her. She forgot that she asked them to see her before dinner. The feather in her drawer shook her up more than it should have.
"Is everything alright Professor?" Alice asked as she noticed the Professor was a little pale. Hermione nodded, clearing her throat.
"I'll cut to the chase since I know we're all eager to head down to dinner. As you all know Slytherin house hasn't had a Quidditch team in a few years and Professor Malfoy would like to get a team started again. Unfortunately Slytherin house does not have enough students to make up a team. Professor Malfoy has asked me to consider lending one of our Gryffindor players to them."
Their reaction was exactly what she expected it would be.
"Professor you can't take a player off our team and give it to them!" Luca said, shaking his head.
"You can't expect us to give our players to an enemy house professor!" Alice said. Alice was on the quidditch team with Luca so it was natural that she would be opposed to the idea.
"It doesn't have to be a player on the team, there are a lot of good players who didn't make the team." Hermione added.
"I think it could work," Jamie spoke up. Hermione looked at the green eyed boy. He looked exactly like one of the boys she saw earlier on the Quidditch pitch.
"You have a brother in Slytherin, don't you?" Hermione asked and Jamie nodded.
"Yes. Marcus is my brother. He's miserable in Slytherin and this morning was the first time I've actually seen him happy. I understand what Professor Malfoy is trying to do." Jamie turned to Alice and Luca, who still didn't look convinced. "He's trying to save Slytherin house and restore it's reputation."
"The rest of Gryffindor wouldn't agree to this professor," Alice said. "They would see whoever plays for Slytherin as a traitor. It would turn us against each other."
"That is why I am telling you this, so you can get the opinions of the rest of the house and report back to me. Professor Malfoy is trying to do the right thing and mend the bond between two houses. I think we should give him a chance," Hermione said and they nodded.
"I will talk to the team and see what they think," Luca nodded.
"And we will talk to the house, but we cannot guarantee anything Professor," Alice promised.
"That is all I ask of you, now head down to dinner." Hermione dismissed them before leaning back in her chair. She didn't expect them to be happy about it, but it was hard for Malfoy to ask for her help and she didn't want to let him down. She opened her drawer again, expecting to see the black feather right on top.
Only this time it wasn't there.
The black feather was gone.