"Oi, he's looking at you. Again…" said Ginny to Hermione, winking at her.
Hermione rolled her eyes, and continued adding flobberworm mucus to her Wiggenweld Potion. Ginny enjoyed pointing out the stares of Draco Malfoy, and as usual, Hermione gave her no reply.
She hadn't noticed his stares until Ginny mentioned them in almost every class. It happened quite often, many times a day, over many weeks. Though he was noticeably different after the war, Hermione assumed that he was still offended by her blood status, and his stares were a silent expression of his disdain. Hermione had never courted his good opinion, and did not care to begin.
The potions classroom was humid, and Hermione pushed up her sleeves as she continued her work. From the corner of her eye, she saw Draco stiffen. She raised her eyes and found him staring, wide-eyed and motionless. He was not looking at her face or even her cauldron, but at her arm. Her arm, emblazoned with a scar. Mudblood.
She caught his eye and tried to read his expression. He looked…uncomfortable, to be sure. But what else? Sad? Disgusted? The moment stretched about between them, until he looked down hastily. Hermione watched his blond head, saw his pale hands resume their work.
"What was that about?" asked Ginny in a low voice. Hermione felt her face flushing, and began stirring her potion.
"No idea," she said, earnestly.
There were times he had forgotten why he'd agreed to return to Hogwarts. He'd completed most of his seventh year, though with abysmal marks. He hadn't sat his NEWTs – no one had, owing to the fact that a large portion of Hogwarts was blown up during the war. And he certainly didn't care about NEWTs any longer, or Quidditch, or house points or anything else for that matter. But truth be told, he came back to Hogwarts simply because he had nowhere else to go.
When he received the owl from McGonagall, Draco initially thought to decline, but what would he do with himself?
Their lives had been upended. Sure, the social engagements were still there. There were parties and balls, though their set was much smaller than before. Azkaban had become the home of some, and some had been killed during the battle. But everyone wore their finest robes, the great houses were still lavish, and elf wine and firewhisky flowed abundantly.
Conversation had been stilted. No longer were there toasts to the Dark Lord, or philosophical tirades about blood supremacy. Everything was superficial. Draco couldn't bear one more conversation about the latest fashion at Twilfitt and Tattings, or summer holiday excursions, or those marvelous little pastries Dorea Shafiq was serving. Occasionally people talked of France, of Bulgaria, where the pure-blood aristocracy was still in command. Many of them, including his parents, spoke wistfully of immigrating. He could not believe that they could still hold on to the same beliefs that had ruined their lives. He decided to return to Hogwarts, simply to escape.
Hogwarts felt alien to him now. He was no longer revered by his Slytherin underclassmen, and was ignored by the rest of the student body. But he noticed them. All of them, scurrying about, consumed in their academics, their friendships, their trivial love lives. How the business of academia went on after the events of the past year were a mystery to him.
And there was no greater mystery than Hermione Granger. War hero, do-gooder, thrust into fame as one of the Golden Trio. She had been much talked of in the Daily Prophet, and it was common knowledge that she had a Ministry position in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures waiting for her graduation.
Yet here she was, still an insufferable know it all, raising her hand at every opportunity, completely engrossed in her school work. How could she be, after all that had happened? How could she revert to schoolgirl Granger? Draco watched her often, certain that it was a façade. He had hoped that he would see the truth eventually, that she was as scarred as he was.
In Potions class, he saw how scarred she was. She pushed up her sleeves, and there was that lingering memento, courtesy of his Aunt Bellatrix. Mudblood. The scar was pink on her fair skin. It sickened him to see it. Sickened him to remember her screams. Sickened him to remember how he had stood there, and done nothing. He wanted to tell her that he had been wrong, that he should have intervened, that her blood status didn't make her deserving of that.
She looked at him just then, really looked at him for the first time all year. Her eyes were not unkind, merely curious, and for a brief moment, it felt good to be looked at, to be noticed. She knew he saw her scar, and wondered if she was thinking about his. His Dark Mark. Ashamed, he looked away.