Good for McGonagall! I probably should be feeling bad for Draco, as it's clear from the opening that he's struggling, but I can't help it. I'm totally with her on this one. If I was in her position, I'd have objected to his returning too. Draco made his choices -- granted, they were made under duress, but regret doesn't absolve you of all consequences.
Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. In all honest though, I thought McGonagall's reluctance to have Draco back and the restrictions she put on him were incredible believable. I have trouble with "8th-year" stories sometimes because they gloss over this issue. I thought you handled the set-up really well here.
I loved your use of Slughorn in this chapter. He's the perfect "escort" for Draco. He's too... what's the word? Cowardly? Oblivious? Whatever it is, it keeps him from making any real comments or judgments about Draco and his past. And it introduces just the smallest amount of humor. Slughorn really is one of those characters who doesn't seem to learn and grow. He lives through a war and I still imagine he's most interested in any damage befalling those ingredients that were "quite difficult to obtain."
Oh, Luna. She really is one of my favorite characters. You did a wonderful job capturing her character here. She's got enough confidence in herself now to step up and intervene in an argument but seems to hold no bitterness for what she's been put through. When Draco asked himself why she came to his defense, it really says so much about him as a person. He really, at least at this point in his life, doesn't understand the idea of doing something simply because it's the right thing to do and not because a person is obligated to do it or hopes to gain anything from it
I do have one question though about Draco. What's his motivation for returning to Hogwarts? I know in the last chapter he tells Zabini he's thinking about going back, but he never really says why. It's clear that being back is hard for him, and added to that the indignity of being shuffled around and kept separate from the other students. But he doesn't seem to question his decision to return, which makes me think it's something more important than a few NEWTs. Is he doing it to make his parents happy? To right some sort of wrong? To punish himself? He hasn't expressed any specific career interests (unless I'm forgetting something) that require him finishing school, so I'm wondering what's pulling him back...
Another great chapter. I'm sorry it took me so long to stop by again. I don't know what happened to the last four weeks of my life. Can't wait to read how the next encounter with Astoria goes.
Author's Response: Hello, again!
So I truly, **truly** loathe stories that over-simplify the aftermath of the Second Wizarding War. So many people were hurt or killed, so much was destroyed and the psychological impacts on the survivors must have been horrendous. So to imagine that Draco Malfoy of all people would be welcomed back to Hogwarts with open arms just seems ridiculous to me. I don't think anyone on the "good" side of the war except for possibly Harry really understands much about what Draco and Narcissa went through. So, no, McGonagall isn't one bit happy to see him and she lets him know about it.
Slughorn, to me, is so glad-handed that he's not even willing to be judgmental toward an outcast like Draco. And he has a lifetime of experience when it comes to pretending to enjoy other people's company and making polite conversation. Plus, being Draco's former Head of House, he seemed like the obvious choice to play chaperone. That said, he doesn't do a very good job of it, does he?
I love writing Luna, but at the same time it terrifies me. She's like love and modern art: you can't define what makes Luna sound like Luna, but you know it when you read it. So I'm very, very pleased that you thought she sounded right. I don't think bitterness is an emotion that has any meaning to her, because she lives in the present. At least that's how I always interpret her.
Draco's motivation for returning to Hogwarts is so that he can prepare to sit a few N.E.W.T.s. He believes that finishing his education will help to show people that he's serious about putting the war behind him and not letting the rest of his life be defined by his family's former allegiance to the Dark Lord. When Astoria's father ordered her away from him in Diagon Alley, it made an impression. He doesn't want to be viewed as this horrible person for the rest of his life, but he also isn't quite sure how to go about "fixing it". So finishing his education seemed like a good albeit small first step, I think. He does not, at this point, have any specific career interest other than helping to manage his family's fortune.
Please don't apologize. We're all busy and I'm tickled pink that you enjoy this enough to want to keep reading! Thanks for the awesome review!