Disclaimer: I forgot it last time, so all original characters belong to JKR, I own nothing but the plot!
At the Malfoy Manor, Lucius, Narcissa and Draco sat in the huge living room, all three of them shocked by the decision Lucius had taken. Draco finally understood why he had to return to school.
There was no other choice.
"What a pity we have to part," he confessed. "I hope the Ministry keeps us safe until you leave."
The conversation they had had with the Minister had impressed him deeply and he was glad to assist with protecting his family. It was a big part, maybe the main part he would have to handle, and he felt it's weight already.
"Minister Shacklebolt promised," Lucius answered and Draco could tell that his father was hiding his feelings carefully. "And I trust him in this. He seems to know what he is doing." After thinking for some minutes he remarked, "If the Order of Phoenix has some more wizards of his kind its ranks I'm not surprised anymore why they where able to hunt so many of us down in the end."
"So let's hope the same people hunting us earlier will protect us now!" Narcissa said. Her face was full of sorrow and all he wanted was to see her smile again.
"I'm sure," her husband repeated. "The information I gave him this afternoon was so important, he will put a lot of effort into this."
He had hardly finished his sentence when the bell rang. Seconds later a tiny house elf appeared with a loud crack and squeaked, "Master Malfoy, there are two men from the Ministry, who wish to speak to the Master. Shall Dakey guide them to the Master's study?"
"Yes, Dakey, hurry!"
The elf vanished and Lucius got up immediately.
"I think they will put on the Protection Charms. Wait for me here," he advised his little family and headed towards his study.
Two hours later, the manor was one of Great Britain's most protected houses. After the two Ministry employees had disapparated Lucius had put on some spells on his own. Old habits die hard, he thought and the famous Malfoy-smirk was plastered on his face when he shut Ancient Dark Protection Charms. At least no one would be able to attack them until their departure to a safer place.
Two weaks later, it was the 14th of August. Narcissa Malfoy looked around her home one last time. She would miss it, but it was not so much her home anymore since the Dark Lord had used it as his headquarters. Who knows, she thought, maybe we can live somewhere else as good as here.
Suddenly she froze in her place. That was impossible...She heard a huge explosion and the front door burst open. The last thing she heard before fainting was Lucius calling her name.
The rest of the summer spun away at the Burrow, and soon they had forgotten the Malfoy's mysterious visit at the Ministry. But only until the 15th of August. On that day Mrs. Weasly opened the Daily Prophet and called out, "Merlin!"
"Mum, what happened?" Ginny asked anxiously. Although the war was over the newspaper was still full of announcements of death and disappearances.
"It´s horrible...," she whispered and read the article out.
Mysterious double slaying at Malfoy Manor!
Yesterday night unknown intruders broke into the Malfoy's family estate and murdered the married couple Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy in cold blood. The culprits were able to break the Protection Charms the Ministry had put on the Manor. The old mansion itself was heavily damaged during the attack. The Malfoy family tried to defend themselves but their efforts were unsuccessfull.
“It´s a mystery to us how this could happen“, said Peter Weasley, Assistent to the Minister of Magic, visibly shocked. “We opened the investigations at once“, Weasley added.
Anyone who has observed anything suspicious or has information they may lead to the culprit being apprehended may be is required to report this to the Departement of Magical Law
"My God...," was the only thing Ron managed to choke, after his mother had finished reading.
"Even Malfoy doesn't deserve this! By the way, he's not mentioned in the article." Hermione said quietly.
"But it's clear that he will not return to Hogwarts this year. One less problem to worry about," Ron opined and his good mood returned.
Ginny gave him a venomous glare. "Don't make jokes about this! That's not funny!"
"Really Ron. Losing your parents is a worst case scenario. Imagine if your parents died. What would you do?" Harry added, visibly angered about his best friend's behavior.
Hermione agreed with Ginny and Harry and she was not sure if Ron was right. Where else should Malfoy go after his parent's death? His relatives were dead or on the run. He didn't have his N.E.W.T's, because the exams never took place in his final year for obvious reasons. The article said his house was presumably inhabitable, so she was pretty sure that he would come back. But she didn't explain her opinion to her friends, she decided not to destroy their hopes.
Not even Hermione knew that Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange were also reading the article, of course they had stolen the newspaper.
"What a pity, Lucius!" Rodolphus said with a mean smirk on his face. "Seems as if someone has done our work already dear brother!"
"Indeed!" Rabastan answered. "But who?"
Yes, who killed Lucius and Narcisa Malfoy? Harry, Hermione and the whole Weasley family discussed this question over and over again, but they came to no conclusion.
Mr. Weasley believed that the Lestranges were the culprits, but this was the only theory everybody found reasonable. Who else could be interested in their death? Ron joked that some hardliners in the Ministry could have taken the law in their own hands, but he hardly believed it himself.
Hermione instead suspected that there was more. But, as so often in the past weeks, she couldn't put a finger on it.
When the 1st of September approached, Mrs. Weasley was in her you-have-to-leave-soon-so pack-your-things-in-time-mood. She bustled through the house, calling her children to get their freshly washed clothes and distributed their books.
In their room, Harry and Ron were packing their trunks.
"So, tomorrow we will solve the riddle: Will the evil return to Hogwarts?" Ron grinned, imitating Rita Skeeter.
"Oh Ron, I can't imagine that Malfoy will come back. As you said weeks ago, he wouldn't survive it! He may be a Death Eater and a cruel, arrogant git, but he isn't dumb! Remember, he was always second-best. After Hermione of course."
"Yeah..But what if...He will be such a pain in the ass!"
"I'm not so sure...," Harry contradicted. "Maybe his parent's death changed him?"
Ron couldn't believe his ears. "How dare you mate? He will never change. For me he will always be Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret! And a spoiled brat!"
Harry grinned. "Yeah...Who would have thought that a Death Eater would give us our most precious memory considering Malfoy? But we will see. First of all, I'm just gladthat we are returning to Hogwarts."
Finally it was the 1st of September, a dusty day. It smells like autumn, Hermione thought when she was waiting with her friends for the Ministry cars which would take them to King's Cross.
She was eager to get going, as it would be the last time ever that they would do this journey. Finally the dark grey saloons arrived. Of course it had to be a little extravagant...she thought when she looked at the plum-colored seats. Arthur was curious as usual, because they would go by car and Harry had to explain one more time how the motor worked.
After they had loaded their luggage into the boot, they started towards King's Cross. Thanks to the car's ability to jump in front of every queue they arrived there twenty minutes before the train's departure.
Chatting happily they glided through the barrier between platforms nine and ten.
Hermione felt like a child again when she saw the scarlet steam engine and she remembered the first time she had come here. Now this was the last time.
"Harry, Ginny, Hermione! Oh, and hey Ron!" she heard someone call and Neville appeared in front of them.
"Neville, mate, great to see you again!" Ron laughed and shook hands with him.
"Yes, Gran said I should return and do my N.E.W.Ts. Afterwards I can study Herbology,” he answered happily.
"Hey, that's great!" Hermione said and hugged him. "I'm sure you will teach our children someday!"
Ron shot her a glare and winked at her. She always felt awkward when he did such things, but she couldn't help but smile.
"Oh, you're here, too!" The dreamy voice of Luna Lovegood floated towards them and Ginny hugged the blonde girl tightly.
"Luna! How are things going? Great to have you back here!" Harry said and looked at her with a smile on his face.
"Where else should I go?" she asked with disarming honesty. "After Dad died I lived at my aunt's, but she's not very nice. So I was really happy when I got the letter!"
Everybody was silent for a moment.
Obviously Harry tried to lighten the mood when he said:"Did you notice yet? Hermione was made Head Girl!"
Neville replied absent mindedly, "Oh, that's great. I didn't see your badge!"
"What's up Neville?" Luna asked and looked at him.
"Hm, when you mentioned your Dad, did you guys hear this thing with Malfoy's parents?"
Hermione sighed. "Of course, Neville. It was in the Daily Prophet. What do you think about it?"
"I think nobody deserves that, not even Malfoy!" he answered determined.
"What do you all have with Malfoy?" Ron asked. "Why do you all pity him? Remember what he did to all of you!"
"Yes, Ronald, but obviously you can't understand us, because you still have your parents !" Hermione hissed angrily.
"Oh, I'm sorry, shall I feel bad now?“ he snapped . "Then go to Malfoy and tell him that you are so sorry for him. Do you know what he will tell you? Piss off Mudblood!"
He had raised his voice while speaking and half of the people at the platform were looking at them. The warm feeling she had sensed some minutes ago suddenly vanished.
"You just called your girlfriend a Mudblood!" Luna pointed out calmly."That was really rude!"
"I didn't call her a Mudblood. I just tried to say what Malfoy..."
"Oh sod off, Ron!" Hermione yelled and tried to hide her tears. "I think I'll leave. You're such a git!"
She was crying when entered the train. What a great start, she thought and started searching for the Head's Compartment. Don't let this bother you she told herself, you have more important things to do. Wiping away her tears she prepared herself for her duties. But she couldn't help to notice the sharp pain Ron's words had caused. He never said something like that to her. Why now?
Things went surprisingly well. Terry was a good partner, and together they introduced the new Prefects. Afterwards they made small talk. She didn't know him very well and so it was interesting to hear more about him.
"My father is a wizard, but my mother is a muggle," he told and smiled a bit. "But it works. At least it wasn't such a shock when my first letter came."
"For me it was a shock," she laughed. "I couldn't believe it. But I never regretted coming to Hogwarts. I had the best times of my life there!"
"Merlin's pants! Imagine if you had never came to Hogwarts! What a pity!" he said, his blue eyes were twinkling.
Hermione blushed slightly. Did he just try to flirt with her? Never! Afterwards they mostly recalled memories of the DA and enjoyed pulling Umbridge to pieces.
Because of their animated conversation, time went by quickly and finally they arrived at Hogsmeade.
While his class mates planned their school year, Draco Malfoy stood at a cliff in Cornwall. He breathed in deeply and opened the ornamented urn he held in his hands. Then he scattered the ash into all directions. His face was expressionless as Kingsley Shackelbolt put a hand on his shoulder.
"Come on Draco, time to leave."
He nodded and climbed onto his broom, following the Minister into the quickly approaching darkness. Emotions weaken you my son, his father's voice echoed in his head.
Later that evening, Hermione was sitting in the Great Hall next to Harry and Ginny. She was still angry at Ron for his rude statements at King's Cross, so she had decided to avoid him for the time being.
Professor McGonagall had just stood up and started her first speech as Hogwarts Headmistress. She let her gaze roam over the Great Hall, which was enlightened by thousands of floating candles and said, "Dear students, dear teachers! It's a great pleasure to welcome you to Hogwarts again! It's a light of hope for all of us, it shows that the Wizarding World is slowly recovering! Those of you, who helped to rebuild the castle know how much work was needed to restore the school back to its former glory. A big applause please for the volunteers!"
The students clapped and cheered and Hermione smiled at Harry and Ginny.
"After last years happenings it's only natural that there are some changes in our staff." McGonagall continued. " I'm glad to tell you that Professor Slughorn agreed to stay as Potions teacher. He will also remain as Head of Slytherin. Welcome back!"
Horace Slughorn got up and smiled at the students.
"Hard times this year without that book, Harry!" Hermione grinned at Harry.
"So maybe he'll understand that I'm no Potions genius!" he replied smirking. "But Slug Club will be rather annoying!"
"Silence please!" Professor McGonagall called. "Furthermore Professor Grubby-Planks will take up her teaching profession for Care of Magical Creatures."
"What's about Hagrid?!" Hermione furrowed. She was worried at once, what had happened to the Half Giant?
"Let's visit him tomorrow,"Harry suggested. She nodded and turned her attention back to the Headmistress.
"Finally greet with me Professor Ross. He's your new teacher for Defense against the Dark Arts!"
An astonishing young man rose and bowed slightly. He was not big, with short brown hair and sharp blue eyes.
"Doesn't seem as if he can teach us something...," Ron emphasized.
"You know that you sound quite arrogant, don't you?" Ginny asked and raised an eyebrow.
"But I'm right," he grinned and continued eating the huge amount of food he had shoveled on his plate.
Hermione felt like throwing up. What had happened to her boyfriend? There was always something new to learn.
"Silence, please!" Professor McGonagall commanded and once thesilence was resored she finished, "So, I think they were the most important announcements. For our first years, The Forbidden Forest is called forbidden for a reason and during breaks you must not do magic! So enjoy your meal!"
Suddenly the four tables were overloaded with food. Hermione took a spoonfull of roast potatoes and looked at the Slytherin table. But Draco Malfoy was nowhere to be seen.
"Malfoy is not here!" she whispered to Ginny.
"Good for us," the red-haired girl answered without looking up from her plate.
Hermione sighed. Seems as if I'm the only one who cares at least a bit about his absence, she thought.
One moment, why do I actually care? She asked herself. There's no reason. She shook her head and decided not to think about the Slytherin.
After they had finished the meal, the Prefects guided the first-years to their dormitories.
Hermione's eyes were searching for Terry and she found him sitting at the Ravenclaw table. She waved and pointed at Professor McGonagall. They had to meet the Headmistress before going to bed because they didn't know yet where their rooms were.
"Ah, very well," the old witch said when the two of them approached her.
She led them towards the great front door and said, "Please be patient for a moment. We have to wait for someone."
Terry looked at Hermione in confusion.
"Whom do we have to wait for? Everybody's there!"
She shrugged. "I don't know."
Some minutes passed while Professor McGonagall paced up and down and Terry and Hermione talked in whispers. Finally there was a knock at the door.
The Headmistress hurried towards the door and opened it with some effort.
Hermione gasped in shock.
There, outside in the misty dawn, stood the one person no one but her had expected.
A.N.:So, second chapter is up! Thank you for reading! Did you like it? Found it horrible? Please leave a little review, I really need the feedback! This chapter editied as well...