Draco Malfoy couldn't, for all his life, figure out how he'd allowed his mother to convince him to return to Hogwarts this year. No words he could imagine she could have said that would have made him want to return this year knowing what could to happen to him, but she managed to do it anyway, convince him to come back and he now had a lovely scapegoat to blame his current situation in.

You see, Draco was currently in some unused hallway of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, frozen still, but by no spell, dreading the power a small group of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff fourth-years had over him. Not the best situation to be in, but it could have been worse, Draco mused bitterly.

Draco was in his eighth year of Hogwarts now that the war was over and the Dark Lord was defeated by Harry Potter's hands, or wand to be specific. After the war, the leaderless and, thus, easily defeated Death Eaters were rounded up by the Ministry of Magic and most were put in Azkaban, the worst offenders given the Dementor's Kiss. That's where his father was, going loony in a dank cell in Azkaban, waiting for the Kiss. The only reason he and his mother weren't right there with him was because of the intervention of one Savior of the Wizarding World. Harry had spoken up for he and Narcissa, saying they'd both saved his life during the war, and claiming he wouldn't have been able to win if not for Draco's wand (that he stole; Draco was sore that he still hadn't gotten it back). With the Chosen One's testimony on their side and their word, under Veritaserum of course, that they'd been under threat of death throughout the war, they were spared Azkaban, but were too infamous to get away anywhere near unscathed.

Almost the entirety of the Malfoy fortunes and every one of the Malfoy properties, including, no, especially the Manor, was sealed off from the remaining, free Malfoys. They were given a small apartment near, but not too close (can't have the Death Eaters too close) to the Ministry and allowed on the barest amounts of money from their vaults to survive ("What is this drivel? People actually eat this?"). There were very few job opportunities to former Death Eaters, and especially few to Death Eaters as prominent as the Malfoys were, and, as a result, he and his mother were living in near poverty and being scorned by nearly all of the Wizarding world. Narcissa had insisted he go to Hogwarts when McGonagall, in an effort to get them their lost education, had sent all the locatable former seventh-years Hogwarts letters requesting they return for an eighth year. Draco had been adamantly against it then, for he had come into his Inheritance over the summer after the war and had no desire to be around other people, but somehow, in some way, Narcissa had convinced him (Curse her for being so…so…Malfoy) to return and he found himself seated on the back of the Hogwarts Express when school time came, being waved off by his mother.

Draco had tried to sit in the normal Slytherin section of the train, which was in the very front, but he quickly found out how far Slytherin loyalty ran. One glance at him and the Slytherins were dismissing him, shunning him now that his family had fallen. A few of the nastier Slytherins, including some who's families Draco knew had some not-so-good relations with his father, had sneered at him and he'd been unlucky enough to pass one of the older Slytherins too close and ended up flat on his face courtesy of a tripping hex. The train section had burst into laughter at his misfortune, and, face burning, he'd quickly shuffled out of the Slytherin section, too embarrassed to be near his housemates. The other Houses hadn't been much better, what with the Hufflepuffs' whispering and the Ravenclaws' blatant ignoring of him, and the Gryffindors had actually been worse, seeing as they jeered at him the entire time he spent in their section, and only a quickly cast shield charm had kept him from being the victim of a few hexes and even a curse. Outraged at the treatment he was receiving from the Houses ("How dare they treat a Malfoy this way!"), he'd settled into the very back of the train, which was empty, and fumed until he tired himself out.

When the train finally reached Hogwarts, Draco was both terribly happy and horrified. He didn't have to stay on the train, which was dreadfully boring without any of his friends (so-called friends) to talk to, but not staying meant he had to leave, which required meeting people from the other Houses. Refusing to be cowed by the others, he'd left the train with his head held high, and would have made it all the way to the castle unbothered if not for someone calling his name. He'd stiffened and ignored them, but when they called again and told him to wait, much more forcefully this time, he'd frozen on spot, and schooled his features into that condescending boredom that usually graced his features, easily hiding his inner panic.

The one calling him had turned out to be his friend (ex-friend) Blaise Zambini, and he'd explained that he had no problem with the Malfoys losing their fortune, and that he, as well as Pansy Parkinson (cow), Theodore Nott (traitor), and Goyle (oaf) could look past that and still be his friend. Naively, he'd believed Blaise, and followed along with him to the Great Hall, ignoring the Golden Trio and the light, unsettled feeling he had when he passed them, and settled into his group of friends.

For awhile, namely about a few weeks, his life had passed normally, no, routinely, and he'd been as close to happy as he could be in the situation, gladly ignoring anyone and everyone besides his four friends, except for Potter and his crew, of course, though only paying attention to them to sneer and throw barbs. While surrounded by his friends, the others had backed off, and Draco had become quickly accustomed to being glared at and shot dirty looks when they thought he couldn't see, but no one had tried to hex him yet, or, thank Merlin, talk to him, so he'd been relatively safe.

The day his safety ended had arrived far too soon for his taste, and the event that changed his school year irrevocably was upon him, bringing Draco back to his current situation. He'd been walking down the hall, alone for the first time since the school year had started, going to get the book he'd forgotten in his dorm, when a group of young students wearing Gryffindor red and Hufflepuff yellow ties had spotted him and called for him. The second he'd heard the voice call his name he'd walked a little faster ("Malfoys do not run.") and tried to lose them in the winding halls, but the little buggers were persistent, and soon, he was within earshot of the shouting children, and one "Wait up, Malfoy!" practically snapped at him had him frozen once more, the cold magic sending shivers down his body.

The children had been surprised that he'd actually stopped, but quickly got over it, and there was where Draco currently found himself, frozen and at the mercy of a bunch of children.

"Well, well, well," drawled one of the little brats, the oldest-looking Gryffindor of their group, circling around Draco like he was a prize they'd caught. "is the big, bad Malfoy stopping for us little fourth-years?" Draco gritted his teeth, caught between cursing the child and cursing himself for walking off alone knowing the climate of the school towards him and his condition.

"…" Draco didn't reply, knowing that there was nothing he could say if he didn't want to reveal his secret to them. He had been trying to avoid this at all costs, though he knew it was futile, there was no way he could have avoided being called out with the reputation he now had.

"What, you can't speak, Malfoy?" the boy sneered, stopping in front of Draco and glaring up at him, seeing as Draco was a good two heads taller than all of them.

"Why should I? Do I really need to waste my breath defending myself against a little Gryffindork brat like you?" Draco huffed, unable to keep his mouth shut. He smirked at that look that spread across the brat's face.

"Why, you-!" the brat didn't even finish his sentence, just took out his wand cast a stinging hex. Draco bit his tongue in his attempt to keep back a yelp at the sudden pain, and glared hard enough to cause the watching Hufflepuffs to squeak and shuffle away from the group.

Draco practically growled in irritation and whipped his wand out, a stronger stinging hex ready to fall off his tongue when-

"Wait, stop!" the Gryffindork jumped away, most likely not having expected to have a wand turned to him. Draco cursed wildly in his head, keeping his face schooled into his trademark glare as the cool magic traveled his body, freezing his wand arm in place and stopping the hex before it left his lips.

It took a minute for the ruddy group to realize that Draco hadn't hexed them into oblivion yet, and they spent another minute staring in shock. Draco nearly cried in relief when the sound of footsteps echoed down the hallway, and his friends, who had apparently been searching for him if Goyle calling his name was anything to go by, interrupted before the children could recover enough to ask why he hadn't hexed them into oblivion.

"Draco, dear, what are you doing here with these brats?" Pansy sniffed, standing there with her hand on her hips flanked by Blaise and Theo with Goyle trailing behind. "Come on, let's go before class starts."

Draco bit his cheek, wishing she'd said it differently, and didn't reply. When nothing was said, Pansy stomped her foot and was about to snap at him (thank Merlin for her impatience!) but was interrupted by the oh-so-annoying Gryffindor k. "Weren't you going to hex me?" he asked slowly, then quickly as he continued "I-I mean, not that I want you to hex me or anything, but you have your wand out and everything…" the accursed child trailed, bringing attention to Draco's wand which, as he'd said, was still frozen mid-pointing at the child and his little ("Weren't there more of them?") group of friends.

"I…" Draco was forcing himself not to panic, especially as he could see Pansy's impatience being won over by her curiosity, meaning she wasn't moving until she found out what she wanted to know. "Why haven't you hexed that brat yet, Draco?" she asked.

Draco looked away, then up, and back down again, then gritted his teeth. "I'll tell you later, Pans. Let's go to class."

Blaise and Theo frowned, Pansy scowled and Goyle just stared. "No," Pansy insisted, planting her feet firmly on the ground. "I want to know now, Draco."

Draco shifted his glare to her, ignoring his arm, which was starting to ache from being suspended in the air. "Later, Pansy," he said, voice dropping as close to a growl as a Malfoy could get. "Deal with these brats first."

"Why can't you do it?" Blaise spoke for the first time, staring pointedly at Draco's arm. "All you have to do is flick your wrist and say the hex. Why are you asking us to do it?"

Draco scowled. "I know quite well how to cast a hex, Blaise. I can't do it myself, don't you think I would have if I could?"

"Why can't you?" Theo insisted, curiosity greatly peeked; Draco had never held back a hex before.

Draco looked between his friends, realizing, with dread, that there was no way to avoid telling them his secret if he wanted their help. His anger at their curiosity and resistance was crushed as a sense of helplessness (Merlin I hate that feeling) washed over him and he let a little of it show on his face when he said, "Later, Theo. I'll tell all of you later. Just do this for me so we can go," he glanced at them and saw that they weren't fully ready to take his word for it, then swallowed a sigh, and gritted out "Please." Merlin, Lucius would be turning in his grave if he were dead.

Shocked by Draco practically begging for something, Blaise absentmindedly sent a Bat Boogey hex at the now lone and long since deserted Gryffindor, and barely noticed the fourth-year running away. "What's wrong with you Draco?" Blaise murmured.

Draco sighed and looked away, trying to ignore the shame of having to say 'Please' to anyone, and mumbled, "To class now, then?"

He got some slow nods in response, and the group turning around to lumber out of the room. "Draco? Come on!" Pansy shouted when she realized Draco hadn't followed them.

"Coming," he'd replied, and followed, sauntering to the front of the group and falling back into his old self easily, acting as if the incident in the halls had never happened. The others let Draco pretend but knew they had some questions for him when they returned to the dorms.