A Change of Opinion
Hermione heard loud voices as soon as she Apparated onto the front stoop of the Burrow. She raised her hand to knock, but the door was pulled open before her hand even touched the wood.
"Hermione, dear, do see if you can't calm them down a bit," Mrs. Weasley said in greeting, holding the door so that Hermione could step inside.
"What happened?" she asked, talking rather loudly in order to be heard over the shouting coming from the lounge.
"It seems Harry invited Draco Malfoy out to the pub with the rest of the Aurors this evening," said Mrs. Weasley, stirring something in a mixing bowl in her arms. She had kept her voice deliberately even while saying Malfoy's name, but Hermione could tell that Molly didn't necessarily like the idea either.
"I see," said Hermione. "And I take it Ron isn't terribly fond of the idea?"
Mrs. Weasley gave her a sad smile. "I think it's fair to say that he is not."
Hermione nodded and stepped into the living room, while Molly moved through the room and back into the kitchen. The instant Hermione entered, both of the boys turned to face her, Ron's face showing some relief and Harry's nothing but irritation and anger.
"Finally. Hermione, talk some sense into him!"
Hermione pretended ignorance. "About what?" she asked.
Harry's voice exploded out of him. "He thinks I'm being – what did you call me? 'A complete idiot'? – because I invited Draco to the pub tonight."
"Draco?!" Ron sputtered. "Since when is that git 'Draco'?"
"Since the day he was born, I imagine," Harry said snidely.
Hermione winced as the two launched into another argument. She tried to come up with something to say to diffuse their tempers, but found herself at a loss.
"He nearly killed me, Harry!" Ron nearly screamed. "Have you forgotten? And what about Hermione? The git just stood there and let her be tortured! What about all those times he called her a 'Mudblood'? How can you have forgotten all of that?"
"For God's sake, Ron, I HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN!" Harry made a frustrated motion with his hand and Hermione saw the lamp on the side table wobble. She could feel the magic in the air and realized she had to say something or the situation would get completely out of hand.
"Why don't we all sit down?" Hermione said, forcing her voice into cheerfulness. "I'll get us some drinks from the kitchen. And then we can all talk this out like mature adults."
Harry spun around angrily and slapped the wall behind him with his palm. "I don't want to sit down, and I don't want anything to drink. I want the both of you to shut up and listen to me, because this conversation has been long overdue and I'm tired of it. I'm so bloody tired of it." Harry's voice had started out loud but had gotten progressively softer until Hermione could almost hear the exhaustion.
Ron opened his mouth to reply, but Hermione interrupted him.
"We're here, Harry, and we're both ready to listen to whatever you have to say." Again Ron tried to speak, but Hermione cut him off with a warning glare, and he crossed his arms sullenly over his chest.
Once it had finally gotten quiet it seemed like Harry didn't actually know what to say, because it took a long time before he spoke.
"I know this is going to sound clichéd, but it's the truth. Draco Malfoy isn't the same person he was at school. He's not," he insisted when Ron snorted. "He's been through a lot, and he's changed. He's had a rough time of it since the war, and I think it finally made him grow up. It's made all of us grow up," Harry added, and Hermione couldn't help but agree.
They had all changed. It was impossible to go through what the three of them had last year and not change at least a little. And though she knew bringing it to Ron's attention would only annoy him and possibly cause him to start yelling again, she knew that prior to the war they never would have been able to talk like this after all the yelling that had preceded it because Ron's temper would have gotten the better of him.
"If he's had a rough time it's nothing less than he deserved," Ron said then, and Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Ron, really. Hear him out," she said.
Ron huffed, but stayed quiet.
"Why are you so bothered by the fact that I invited him?" asked Harry.
"As if you really need to ask that," Ron snapped.
"Clearly I do, because I just did," Harry said mockingly. "I just don't understand why you're having such a problem with this. Just because I'm inviting him out doesn't mean you need to speak with him!"
"Well I'm going to have to be around him if he's with you!" shouted Ron.
"Why are you being such a stubborn arse?" Harry asked. "The war is over, okay? He was punished for what he did – his whole family was – so I think it's time to just forgive and forget."
"I won't forgive him, or forget! The bastard almost killed me, Harry!"
"You act like I'm the one who's forgotten! I haven't forgotten! Watching you on the floor of Slughorn's office was one of the most terrifying moments of my entire life, Ron, so it's not bloody likely that I'll ever forget it!"
Harry's tone completely deflated Ron's anger. "Then how can you stand it?" he asked pleadingly. "How can you stand to be around him?"
Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I can't really explain it to you, Ron. I guess I've just let it go. All of it. It's just not important anymore."
"Well it's bloody important to me," said Ron indignantly. "And I won't forget it, ever."
Hermione set her hand on his arm. "I will admit, Harry, that I've not forgotten either. But I understand what you're saying, and I will try to let it go. If you say that Malfoy is different, then I'll take your word for it."
Ron turned to her quickly. "Hermione!" he exclaimed. "How can you even say that? After everything he did to you?"
"A lot has happened since then," said Hermione. "And maybe Harry's right. Maybe we just need to forgive everyone. Because if we continue to hold grudges, who's to say that the war wasn't fought in vain? Who's to say that all those prejudices we fought against won't return tenfold some time in the future? We have to start letting all our preconceived notions go. And I suppose a good place to start would be with Draco Malfoy."
Ron looked at her aghast, but Harry gave her a small smile. "Thank you, Hermione," he said quietly.
He turned back to Ron. "Can you just let it go for tonight, at least? Maybe spending time around Draco will make you see how much he's changed since school."
Ron seemed uncertain for a moment, but then his expression hardened. "No, Harry. I'm sorry. But I won't be around him. I won't."
Harry was silent for a moment, then nodded his head once. "Fine. Then you won't be around me, either." He gathered up his coat from the back of the sofa and headed towards the door. "I'll see you around, Hermione."
"Harry," Hermione said, reaching out a hand pleadingly. "Wait."
"No," said Harry. "Ron has made himself perfectly clear. He can go to the pub tonight with the other guys without fear of bumping into Draco Malfoy. But he'll go without me."
Ron had turned red at Harry's earlier words, and finally shouted, "So you're choosing him over me, then, is that it?"
"For right now," said Harry angrily. "And I'll continue to do so until you realize that whoever I want to spend time with is none of your damned business!" And with that he slammed the front door of the Burrow so hard that the cuckoo clock on the wall in the living room went off.
For a moment the only sound was that of the cuckoo, and then Ron picked up the object nearest to him – which happened to be a book that Hermione had left the last time she'd been over – and hurled it through the air. But before it could hit the wall, Mrs. Weasley came in and, with a flick of her wand, the book fell harmlessly to the floor.
"Ronald Weasley," his mother began, and Hermione winced at her tone, "I cannot believe the things you said to Harry. You should be ashamed of yourself."
"What I said to Harry!" exclaimed Ron. "He's the one who just said he would choose bloody Malfoy over me!"
"Language, Ron," Hermione murmured.
"I imagine he said that because Draco Malfoy wasn't just standing in front of him, carrying on like a child." Ron spluttered, but Molly ignored him, saying, "Ronald, Harry has been nothing but the best friend he could be to you. He wasn't saying he was setting you aside for Draco Malfoy, he was simply saying that they're getting on and he wanted to invite him out. You just blew it entirely out of proportion."
"I blew it out of proportion?" yelled Ron. "I didn't blow anything out of proportion! Harry said he was bringing Draco bloody Malfoy out with him tonight! And he said it as if he couldn't see any reason why I might mind!"
"That's because Harry has grown up, and obviously thought you had as well," Mrs. Weasley said sharply. "And you did a marvelous job of proving him wrong."
"Ugh!" Ron clutched his head in frustration. "So you're saying I should want to spend time with someone who nearly killed me? Someone who just stood there while Hermione was tortured?"
Molly faltered for just a second, but then regained her steam. "I'm saying that you should trust Harry's judgment, just as you've done for the eight years you've known him. If Harry is of the opinion that Draco Malfoy is a good sort now then he's probably right." She paused for a moment as Ron made another noise of frustration, then said, "Ron, there was a time not too long ago that I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly about Draco Malfoy. After all the things his family has done and said to us, I would have easily written them all off as a bad lot, and pleaded with Harry to keep his distance. But times have changed, Ron. The Malfoys are not the same family they were, and of the three of them, it would be my guess that Draco has changed the most. Just trust Harry in this, Ron, okay?"
Hermione could tell that Mrs. Weasley didn't entirely believe what she'd said, but had to applaud the woman for her words. They didn't exactly seem to be getting through to Ron, but at least she could tell Harry that someone in the Weasley family didn't seem too upset about his recent friendship with Malfoy.
"I can't believe this!" Ron exclaimed. "He almost killed me!"
"Ronald, if you say that one more time I am going to scream. Of all the people who you might need to continually remind about this fact, I, as your mother, am not one of them!"
Ron flushed red. "Sorry," he mumbled.
"All I know is that you'd better get used to the fact that Harry has befriended Draco Malfoy," Mrs. Weasley said, "or you very well might lose him!" And with that she spun around and headed back into the kitchen, where Hermione heard a pan hit the counter sharply.
"Hermione," Ron said, turning to her pleadingly, "please tell me you didn't really mean what you said to Harry, about giving Malfoy a chance."
Hermione reached out a hand, which he took, gripping it tightly. "I can't, Ron," she said. "I have to believe that he really has changed. And if Harry doesn’t mind spending time with him then he must have changed. He must have."
Ron dropped her hand and scowled at her. "Great. Just great. Well, have fun hanging out with Harry and Malfoy, then, because I sure as hell won't be joining you!"
"Ron, honestly," said Hermione, but Ron ignored her, heading towards the stairs. Hermione heard the thumping as he stomped up them and sighed. She'd give him some time to cool off and then see if she couldn’t work him around. Of course, she herself needed to do a bit more thinking about this whole Draco Malfoy thing, too, but she wouldn't tell Ron or Harry that. She heard a door slam upstairs and shook her head in resignation. Yes, best to let him cool down. Possibly for several days.
She picked up her book from where it had safely fallen thanks to Mrs. Weasley's spell, and headed into the kitchen.
"Anything I can help you with, Mrs. Weasley?"