It's funny really, how our impressions of people change over time. Or rather, how they don't change at all.
When I first met Draco - Malfoy as he was to me then - he impressed upon me his self-importance, his wealth, his pride. He expected me to know who he was, and want to be his friend for that reason alone. I don't think I was meant to like him particularly. Neither was I supposed to dislike him. I was meant to envy him, and look up to him, though not necessarily respect him, and want for him to notice me.
But I didn't know who he was. I didn't like him much, he wasn't friendly, he thought himself better than me.
Our second encounter increased those feelings and cemented the impressions. The mould set.
When he extended his hand to me in an offer of supposed friendship, I knew that it was not friendship as I understood it - not that I knew much of friendship, to be honest, I knew what I thought it should be, but had little actual experience upon which to base it. He would be the dominant one. I would be his friend, he would not necessarily be mine. A relationship of convenience for him, to be worn like a badge of office. Friend of The Boy Who Lived.
I don't know what he thought of me. I doubt it was favourable. I was an unassuming, rather quiet, shy little boy; not very tall, nor physically large. And in awe of everything and everyone he met. The Wizarding world a complete wonder, beyond belief, and I had looked around eyes wide and staring, drinking it all in, amazed. But I wasn't impressed by him. And that bothered him.
He offered a crude imitation of friendship in my direction and I rejected it. We were sorted into different houses. His father was evil, mine was killed by the same evil forces his father was allied to. He became, in my mind, an enemy. Malfoy. The word spat with disdain. I wanted to see him fall, to make mistakes, lose house points, get detentions. And I know the same was true of him. He would always try his best to get my friends and me into trouble. And the Quidditch rivalry only increased the tension between us. House points and detentions seemed so important then; now I realise how hollow it all was.
And so it went on. For years. 5 years, in fact. I saw of him only what I wanted to see. I never really bothered looking beyond my own first impressions of the boy.
They say the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, and in my case that is certainly true. When we first met, he made a strong impression on me, so strong that for 5 years I never thought to look past it. My take on his character, as I had perceived it when I was 11 was, it seemed, indelibly marked on my mind.
And then we started sixth year. He came back a different boy. No longer a boy at all, really. But a young man. With troubles weighing down upon those slender shoulders. Pressing down on him.
His father was in Azkaban, and it seemed that away from Lucius' influences, he had learned to think for himself - a talent he had perhaps tried to nurture but that had never been encouraged, and always crushed. Now free, he was able to question and follow his thoughts to a conclusion not aligned with his father's ideas of the world.
His fellow Slytherins were not so respectful of him after that, his sycophants drifted away. He had to make friends for the first time. Had to do so on his own merit, not his money or his surname. And the olive branch was extended in my direction, so subtly that I didn't recognise it for what it was until long after the event. Since it was I who was responsible for his father's incarceration, I would imagine that he thought about me a great deal. At first, unfavourably, I dare say. But his newfound freedom of thought allowed him to see me differently. To look beyond the impressions he had of me, formed when we were but 11-years-old, and begin to see me as I was then.
And that triggered a similar transformation in me. I began to look deeper, saw not the little boy he had once been, and who I had continued to see for the past 5 years, but the young man he had become.
And somehow, in my inspections, I realised that my first impressions had been wrong or poorly made. So poorly made that they did finally shattered so that my impressions of him might be recast, for which I can only be grateful. I saw only his surface; not what formed that surface, not what gave rise to what it was that I saw. I had misjudged him.
It felt like everything in my head was shifting and sliding. What I had believed to be a firm foundation changed into sand and tumbled away.
I told no one. And tried not to let it show outwardly in any actions I might or might not take. But I think he saw the change in me just as I saw it in him.
I remember the first time we spoke to each other. Really spoke. It was the Christmas of sixth year, Christmas Eve - his father had been 'released' from Azkaban and he had elected to remain at school for the 'benefit of his studies'. Of course, in our 5-year history, we had spoken before. Often we had a rather heated exchange of words. But we had never really talked to each other. Never held a proper conversation without falling into an argument or hurling insults. But we talked that night. Talked and talked and talked until we both fell asleep. I remember waking on Christmas morning and I knew that something had forever changed. I no longer saw an enemy, I saw someone who I wanted to know better, who I wanted as a friend. Someone I wanted to trust, and who I wanted to trust me. And it was only then that I realised that he had become human to me. Whole and three-dimensional. Before, in my mind, he had been flat and two-d. The person I saw in my mind was merely a stamp on a page. A few scribbled words. Now he was more. The paper had been folded this way and that, like origami, and he gained shape and texture and a whole new dimension. He was a block of clay in my mind that I had, that night, carefully begun to shape, but that still needed a lot of time and effort to perfect.
And I wanted to take the time to perfect it.
It will take a lifetime, I am sure. And that is a lifetime I am more than happy to commit.