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Chapter 6

Harry and Ron arrived at Transfiguration to find that Professor McGonagall had prepared a surprise theory test. All the desks had been separated and arranged in rows, so no one could see anyone else's work. Hermione had arrived before them and was fussing excitedly, but the rest of the class looked rather glum.

They took seats next to each other, and Harry looked dolefully at the blank parchment on his desk. Today had looked like it was going to be a good day, but now he wasn't so sure. He had his mind made up for him a moment later when Professor McGonagall addressed the class.

'As you know I do not usually set surprise tests, but I have been unexpectedly called upon to invigilate a seventh year mock exam. I think it would be as well to use the time assessing how much you have absorbed so far on the Theory of Dematerialization. I will leave you in the capable hands of Professor Snape, who has kindly offered to supervise.'

'Oh, it just gets better and better,' muttered Ron. Harry made a face in agreement.

At that moment the door opened and Malfoy swept in. He looked no healthier but he seemed to bear a fierce sort of determination. He met no-one's eyes as he walked to an empty seat behind Harry and sat down without a word.

Snape made no comment about Malfoy's timekeeping, instead glaring at Harry and Ron as he explained that the classroom was equipped with cheating-detector spells.

'Unless you want alarms and flashing lights giving you away I suggest you keep your eyes on your own parchment and don't attempt to use an enchanted quill. You have an hour and a half. Begin now.'

Harry looked down as words began to form on his parchment.

'With reference to Magical Energy Units, explain, with diagrams, how you would determine the wand movement required to dematerialise an ice cube'.

He sighed with relief. Thanks to his extra tuition from Hermione, he usually had no difficulty with applied Arithmancy in Transfiguration problems.

He began to write. Gradually it all came back to him and he began to feel more confident. He scribbled faster, struggling to get every thought down before it disappeared out of his head.

'...(x-y) + (zp)2 = s, where s is the speed of wand movement, x is the length of wand...'

Disaster struck. In his enthusiasm Harry pressed too hard and snapped the point off his quill. He managed to hold it over the ink bottle in time to prevent ink gushing out all over his test paper, but he realised with a sinking feeling that he didn't have a spare quill. All his spares were in his bag, and Snape had made everyone banish their bags to the side of the room so that they couldn't sneak a look at their books. There was nothing for it, he'd have to ask Snape if he could get another one. Hermione had already put up her hand twice to ask for more paper, so maybe he'd be reasonable. Harry stuck his hand up.

Snape didn't look up from the book he was reading. Harry cleared his throat loudly, but Snape seemed determined to ignore him.

Harry was just about to risk speaking up when he felt something running up the back of his neck and he nearly leapt out of his seat. He frantically brushed at the back of his neck and his hair, expecting a beetle or spider to drop to the floor.

As he looked down he caught sight of Malfoy at the desk behind him, watching him with amusement. Harry was just about to retort with a rude gesture when Malfoy reached out and tickled his arm with the end of an elegant swan feather quill. He then held out the quill for Harry to take.

Harry was stunned. He shot a suspicious look at Malfoy, who looked back with a smile. A smile?!! Not a smirk, or a sneer, or even a mischievous grin, but a warm, slightly shy smile.

Harry took the quill tentatively, then glanced back at Malfoy, one eyebrow raised quizzically. Malfoy simply winked, then bent his head to his work.

Harry turned back to his own desk and stared straight ahead for a moment in bewilderment. He fully expected the quill to explode in his face or set off the anti-cheating spells when he started to use it, but it didn't.

At the end of the class, after Snape had collected the tests and everyone had retrieved their bags, Harry turned to Malfoy to offer him back his quill. He was strangely nervous about performing this simple task. He found himself staring into a pair of gunmetal grey eyes, and felt his stomach flip over.

'Umm...thanks.' He stuttered, unused to speaking to Malfoy in a civil tone.

'Keep it,' replied Malfoy pleasantly, before swinging his bag over his shoulder and leaving the room. He ignored Crabbe and Goyle as they hurried after him.

Harry watched him leave, feeling inexplicably agitated.

At lunch Ron and Hermione were as mystified as Harry was by the phenomenon of Malfoy being helpful.

Ron was not at all inclined to believe that he had just been in a benevolent mood. 'The quill must be cursed, Harry. At the very least, you probably wrote your whole test in vanishing ink.'

'Well let's see, shall we?' said Hermione. Harry handed her the quill and she performed every revealing spell she knew, but couldn't find anything wrong with it. 'I don't know Ron, it seems to be OK,' she said.

Ron looked positively disappointed. 'It can't be. Harry, you know him. He never does anything just to be nice. There has to be a catch.'

Harry picked at his shepherd's pie absently. 'I would agree, Ron, but you didn't see him. The look on his face wasn't...I mean it was almost like...' he paused, mashing his potatoes into his gravy.

'Almost like what?' probed Hermione gently.

Harry glanced over to the Slytherin table, where Malfoy was sitting quietly, ignoring the raucous banter between Pansy and Blaise, who were seated on either side of him.

'A peace offering' he muttered, frowning at his dinner.

There was silence between them for a moment. Then Ron snorted. 'Yeah right, Harry. And this Christmas Snape is going to dress up as Santa and supply mulled wine in all his classes.'

Draco went to bed early, unable to tolerate the rowdy antics of his housemates, when his head was full of noise already. Jumbled memories from his childhood reared up in his head. Snatches of a conversation he had overheard between his father and a 'business associate' played over and over like a scratched record.

'...Muggle Protection Act makes a mockery of every tradition, every principle!' then a few minutes later '...idiot Weasley is a menace to society...' then '...should have disposed of the lot of them when we had the chance!'. Draco had thought Lucius was talking about the stash of illegally cursed jewellery in the basement. Now he wasn't so sure.

Memories of his father's 'business trips' jumped to the front of his mind. One such trip had taken place at the end of his fourth year - his mother had mentioned it when he returned home for the summer. It would have been around the time of the final task in the Triwizard Tournament...around the time of the alleged abduction and attempted murder of Harry Potter, supposedly by the newly resurrected Lord Voldemort.

The Ministry didn't confirm Voldemort's return until a year later, and if Lucius had known, he never enlightened his son. But Draco was now quite sure that he had known, only too well.

Draco's long-suppressed memories of his father suddenly gave way to an image from his first day as a student of magic. On the Hogwarts Express, striding excitedly along the carriages, looking for the one person he had been anxious to meet all his life.

Confident that as the highest-born student in the school he was the most deserving of Potter's friendship, he had boldly offered his hand, only to have it rejected in favour of a common Weasley. That had hurt him more than he let on. He acted furious. Correction, he was furious, but deep down he felt something else, something he had never felt before.

That something was doubt. Doubt in the superiority of his own pure blood. If what his father said was true, and his position as heir to one of the most prestigious wizarding estates made him special, then why did the great Harry Potter not want to know him?

Nobody had ever refused him anything before, and he had stared uncomprehending for a moment into those cool green eyes before turning and leaving without a word.

Evidently high birth meant nothing to Harry Potter. And if Draco was honest with himself, it was starting to mean less and less to him too. This meant that the friendships he had managed to form during his time at Hogwarts, Crabbe...Goyle...Pansy...were meaningless. They only liked him because he was rich and aristocratic, and his parents knew their parents. There was no one in the world who liked him for who he was, and suddenly he was sorry for it.

A picture formed in his head, of Harry standing in the Transfiguration classroom, offering him back his quill with trembling fingers. There had been such confusion in his eyes, which was not surprising really. After spending the last five years trying to make the boy's life a misery Draco himself had almost forgotten that he was a decent person - a gentleman. His mother had seen to that, no matter what misguided lessons his father may have taught him.

Draco found himself quite concerned about the look of frank astonishment on Harry's face, when all he had done was lend him a pen. It only served to illustrate what a complete bastard he had been to Harry over the years, when he could have been trying to earn his friendship.

He turned over and buried his face in his pillow, remorse added to his stock of new and painful emotions. 'I'm so sorry, Harry'.

The turmoil of Draco's thoughts kept him awake well into the small hours of the morning. He had no idea how to alleviate the confusion and guilt that came with his feelings. More than anything he was afraid. Would he ever be brave enough to declare his feelings to his father...or to Voldemort?

With a pang of regret he realised that there was nobody in the world he could talk to about this. His parents were out of the question, of course. His friends would be utterly horrified and would probably disown him. There was no teacher he could trust with something so personal, not even Snape - there was no knowing where his loyalties lay.

He thought back to dinnertime in the Great Hall. Everyone around him had been chattering happily, sharing their stories, their opinions, and their problems with their friends. He had secretly watched as Weasley leaned across the table to confide something to Harry. Something personal, judging by the way the back of his neck had gone red. Harry's expression had changed from curiosity to concern, and then to understanding. He had spoken softly in reply, nodding and smiling encouragingly at Weasley, then he had reached out and patted his friend's shoulder reassuringly.

Draco had flinched with jealousy at that point. But then Granger had arrived, presumably after a late revision session in the library. Both boys had abruptly stopped talking, and Harry made a show of moving up to make room for her, distracting her from their blushing friend.

Draco couldn't have said why the scene had moved him, or why he couldn't stop thinking about it. He just suddenly wished he could have what Ronald Weasley had - someone who would listen, and understand without judging.

Suddenly struck by an impulse he reached for the flask of potion, which he had hidden in his bedside cabinet. Hardly knowing why he thought it would help, he took a swig. Then he lay back to wait for it to take effect.

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