After the Halloween incident, Draco felt like he had to reconsider some things. On the following night, he sat in his room, idly spinning on his chair with Zosar as the only company. He had been thinking about his goals and mistakes.
Previously, he had thought that while his presence as 'Draco' in the plot-line was only important in a few key moments - the rest of the plot would mostly happen as it was even without his interference.
Voldemort would still go after the stone, and Harry would still follow. In the fourth year, Voldemort would still regain his body because his spirit was getting stronger for the past decade, and Harry would still participate in the Triwizard tournament because Barty Crouch Jr. was already out of Azkaban and resisting his father's control.
It was better for these things to happen without trying to change them because after the changes were done, he wouldn't be able to predict the consequences.
Then, there was his own role…
The original Draco was only shown as an important character in sixth and seventh books, so as long as the new Draco didn't interfere with the events too much and only covertly directed the main characters when it was required, he wouldn't have to concern himself with major happenings until then. His role in the future would be to ensure that all of the Horcruxes were destroyed, his family and himself weren't implicated in the war and that Voldemort would die. It couldn't be any easier, considering that he knew the plot-line.
And yet, the butterfly already took flight.
The troll managed to wake Draco up. He realized that for the past few months, maybe even years, he had been relaxing too much:
Voldemort's destruction didn't require for Draco to crazily train himself during days and nights because Harry would take care of it, people were giving him praises for being a business genius and a magical prodigy, his 'peers' were admiring him for his intelligence and ability…
What else could one wish for? Everything came easily, without any effort – even learning magic wasn't hard!
However, now he realized that his own presence wasn't so minor – he didn't fully control the future and it could change at any moment. It suddenly hit him very hard:
'I am not just in some fictional book – this is my reality. If I make a mistake, I could die and people who I came to like could be in danger as well due to my negligence.'
Draco sighed and looked up at the ceiling. Then he calmed his wandering mind, stopped the spinning chair and took out his wand, muttering the 'Tempus' spell.
It was already almost 4 a.m.
He had spent the whole night thinking about various issues, yet he hadn't arrived at a conclusion.
The blond boy waved his wand once again and the numbers telling the time vanished with a puff of smoke.
• Shall we go? • asked Zosar after stealing the look at the time.
Draco stood up and rummaged through his pockets, making sure that everything he needed was on hand. After two minutes of double-checking, he raised his head and nodded at his familiar.
"Just make sure that we appear in the unmonitored spot," he added as a reminder.
Zosar chirped in agreement and engulfed both of their figures in flame. The phoenix and the boy vanished from the room as though they were never there in the first place.
After he felt the fire subside, Draco opened his eyes, which unconsciously closed whenever he experienced any form of magical travel. Before him, was the entrance to the third-floor corridor.
The blond Slytherin looked around and, after making sure that there was no one who could have noticed their appearance, cast a simple privacy spell which could also block any sound coming through.
• Like I said before, the whole place is covered with various wards and signals, warning the caster whenever someone opens these doors or enters through other means, • explained Zosar as he settled on Draco's shoulder.
Because students were still trying to catch glimpse of the famous bird, Zosar had taken to exploring Hogwarts at night. He found many hidden crevices and entrances, leading to the most surprising locations. The third-floor corridor also wasn't exempted from his explorations, although he had been wary of entering it. As a phoenix, he could sense magic whenever he came near it, and the corridor was saturated in it.
"I knew that Dumbledore wasn't so stupid as to leave this place protected with only a few animals, plants and first-year level of traps," muttered Draco under his breath.
He quickly rummaged through his pockets and took out a few shrunken books. After tapping on each of them with his wand, the books returned to their usual sizes and piled up on the stone floor.
Draco wasn't finished. He rummaged through another pocket and took out a shrunken stool. After quickly resizing it, he comfortably sat down before the doors which housed Cerberus, and opened the first book, immediately starting to cast the spells which could detect magic and wards.
The Slytherin boy wasn't worried that someone would accidentally stumble upon him there – there were no portraits monitoring the doors and the teachers who patrolled the halls usually did so only until 1 a.m. After all, they also needed to sleep sometime.
Besides, teachers could easily find out that someone broke curfew because of the enchanted entrances to the common rooms – whenever an entrance was opened in the middle of the night, the professors would know that there are rule-breakers wandering across the hallways.
Draco hadn't so much as opened the door out of his room, much less leaving the common room so openly. As such, he was completely relaxed as he leafed through several books while muttering spells and recording the results on separate parchment.
Finally, after an hour of tedious work, he sighed and closed the last book.
"I think that even your fire travel will be detected if you directly take me to the room where they will hide the Philosopher's stone," Draco said with furrowed brows as he scanned the list of wards he had detected. "And I am not even sure that this is all there is to it…"
• I could try to fire travel there by myself first, • offered Zosar. He was really curious about the protected corridor. Besides, the wards didn't block the phoenix's traveling methods. He could just quickly enter and exit without anyone finding out who it was that triggered the spells – maybe they would rule it out as a fluke.
However, Draco shook his head.
"No, I don't want for Dumbledore to hold even a shred of suspicion before we get the stone. I will send the list of wards and enchantments for Dirk and Eugenius to analyze – they will be able to suggest more detection spells to try as well as help me pass these protections undetected."
The phoenix nodded and, after making sure that there was nothing left that would betray their presence, he transported Draco back to his room.
The young Slytherin covered his yawn with a hand and went to bed – he was thankful that the next day was the weekend. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to wake up for his lessons even if a bunch of dragons stormed through Hogwarts.
After Halloween, Hermione gradually got closer with Hannah and Susan. Although she was also friendly with Harry and Ron, it wasn't to the extent it was portrayed in the books. After all, both of the Gryffindor boys were partly to blame for the girls being in the toilet at that time the troll came in.
Draco wasn't sure whether this change was a good or a bad thing, however, he didn't try to get closer to the Gryffindor girl.
First of all, his parents and relatives would surely bombard him with calls and owl post demanding an explanation if they so much as heard a rumor of him being friendly with a muggle-born.
Secondly, by becoming closer with Hermione he would have inevitably affected the future to the extent he couldn't predict – would she even be loyal to Harry, in the end?
And last but not least reason: the girl seemed to dislike him.
Even though Draco also briefly participated in her rescue and his familiar helped even more so, Hermione couldn't let go of the rivalry that she had been cooking up in her head for the past few months.
Because Draco was doing exceptionally well in most of his classes, he got the attention of the professors as well as the competitive Gryffindor. She liked to raise her hand at every question the teachers asked and whenever she provided the correct answer, she would look challengingly in the blond Slytherin's direction.
This was also the case during the practical magic classes – whenever Draco mastered a spell or completed a potion first, he would inevitably become the target of Hermione's indignant glare.
As such, the bushy-haired girl couldn't suddenly change her attitude towards her Slytherin rival (with whom she competed in a completely one-sided manner).
Draco didn't mind – he didn't want to be her friend as it would only bring more problems to him. Besides, he was busy with other things, so he couldn't spare much attention to his close friends, let alone think of getting new ones.
After the first try at cracking the wards in the third-floor corridor, Draco sent the results to his most competent staff at Dragon Enterprises – Dirk and Eugenius (the chief arithmancer and enchanter, respectively).
Dirk helped Draco with analyzing the possible structures of wards surrounding the corridor – since Draco didn't have magical sight, which could help him in clearly seeing all of the wards with naked eyes, he could only slowly transcribe the detected spells onto parchment.
Eugenius helped a lot with this part of the process – he created a magical mirror which showed the active spells. Wherever the mirror was directed, it would indicate whether an item or a place had any magic or wards cast over them. The blond Slytherin found it to be very useful – he could use it not only to analyze the wards but also in checking his own items on what kind of magic was cast over them.
However, although this mirror was very practical, it wasn't very strong - Draco had a hard time discerning the spells whenever there was more than one or two of them cast over a particular item. The magic always showed up in different forms and colors – sometimes it enveloped the item completely, other times it was in the form of a cobweb.
The third-floor corridor showed a rainbow of colors whenever Draco directed the mirror at it. Because of that, the job of analyzing the wards was very tedious and took a long time. Draco had to spend an unbelievable amount of time trying to discern whether one alarm was of brick red or wine red color - according to the books, the former would be a simple alarm, while the latter would be a motion-detecting alarm.
As such, the Slytherin first-year soon found himself suffering from the lack of sleep, though that also wasn't without its own gains:
Firstly, he made steady progress in understanding how to get through the wards undetected and steal the Philosopher's stone.
Secondly, he gained more knowledge about wards and enchantments than in all of his years of studying similar subjects with private tutors.
Truthfully, Draco hadn't thought that stealing the stone would be so hard. However, it seemed that Voldemort hadn't spend the whole year trying to overcome the first-year protections, as books made him initially believe.
Still, the stone wasn't the only thing which kept the Slytherin first-year awake at nights.
After Halloween, Draco also focused on learning the spell chains.
Spell chains were spells cast one after another with continuous flowing wand movements – the first spell's ending motion had to smoothly transcend into the second spell's beginning motion and so on.
This made dueling quicker and tested the dueler's prediction ability as well as adaptability. After all, experienced duelists had to memorize a lot of spell chain variations - knowing the opponent's favorite spell chains would help to predict the incoming spells.
There were plenty of books recording various spell chains – from those which contained useless household spells, to those which were dangerous and could be life-threatening to the opponents. Draco found that at the first-year level, there really weren't many useful spell chains.
Of course, he could have learned one of the useless ones and thus completed Flitwick's requirement, however, it wouldn't be of any help during the competition – people would only have a good laugh at the boy who went to duel using a song-inducing spell, followed by the shoelace tying one.
As such, he had to learn truly useful spells to increase his chances in the Winter Season Juniors' Championship.
After sorting out his thoughts and priorities, Draco determined that going into the competition with the mindset of 'gaining experience' would be just an excuse in case he lost. Instead of continuing to play around and waste his time, he thought that he had to win it.
Winning the competition at the age of eleven would help him in widening his social circle to international level – who knew what kind of contacts he would need in the future? And who wouldn't want to help a young well-known genius?
Beside that motivation, Draco had one more – he realized that during the last few years, he had been casting magic and training with Abraxas under very safe conditions. Although he had mastered a few spells here and there and was proficient in wielding a sword, in a real fight it would help him as much as a toothpick.
He truly had no talent in thinking quickly under stressful conditions – he had more ability in planning ahead and thinking of various details that could go wrong.
After all, as a modern man he had never experienced such things as fighting for his own life – he hadn't been a policeman, a soldier or a firefighter. He was a normal civilian! He had never even been mugged before!
After he became Draco Malfoy, he was also carefully protected by others. Sure, he could grow up to be a wonderful magical theorist, businessman, politician or whatever - he could leave fighting for Gryffindors and Aurors.
However, Draco didn't want that – he was also a man and since this world was full of danger, he had to be able to hold his own in front of others and be better than all of them!
In the Wizarding World, connections and money were important. However, all that paled in front of true magical power and ability. Ancient and Noble families such as Malfoys were prominent, however, they still had to bow down before Voldemort, who was a true magical prodigy.
And who could forget that the current British Magical Government was basically in Dumbledore's hands? What did he have? Money? Connections? At first, he basically had nothing! What he had was power and charisma, which made people blindly believe in him.
Draco didn't want to be controlled by anyone – he had a truly rare chance to live his life in any way he wanted, and he couldn't waste it. Because of that, he had to work more to overcome the shortcomings he discovered in himself. And dueling competition, where thinking on one's own feet was the most important thing, was truly a good platform for growth.
For this very reason, every second of Draco's spare time before the arrival of winter holidays was spent holed up in his room reading and practicing various spells and their combinations. By the beginning of December, he finally demonstrated one spell chain to Professor Flitwick, who had to keep his promise and approve the Slytherin's request to enter the Dueling Competition.
And then, the winter arrived.
I saw that there were many opinions about the last chapter with the troll. Actually, Draco isn't all that strong yet - he has advantage in his intelligence and understanding of magic as well as magical core growth. However, his spell repertoire and experience is still lacking and the troll is very resistant to magic in the first place.
Btw, I let Ron take the last hit on the troll because it's one of his shining moments in the books. I couldn't just heartlessly take it away =P