It was a comfort to step off of the Hogwarts Express and see Hagrid standing there with the same lantern he’d had six years ago, herding the new first years to the boats. He gave me a wave and a smile and I could barely restrain myself from flinging myself at him and giving him a hug. But, being of good propriety, I smiled and waved back before turning my attention to shepherding the other students to the carriages.
Admittedly, I was somewhat worried about the way some of the younger students would respond to the thestrals, but their nearly immediate acceptance of the curious creatures lifted a weight off my chest. I climbed into a carriage with Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Neville. Looking back, I noticed Malfoy awkwardly standing alone.
I’m so going to regret doing this. “Malfoy, come on. Head Boy can’t be late for the welcome feast, now can he?” I teased, endeavoring to lighten the mood a bit.
He hesitated for a moment before climbing in and sitting next to me. A silence descended upon the other four in the carriage as he sat down. Yeah…definitely regretting this.
“So, Malfoy, you’re Head Boy? How’d you get that arranged?” Ron asked with a scowl.
Before I could step in, Malfoy responded so cold, yet so polite, I shivered. “Perhaps I’m Head Boy because I was second in the class and Dumbledore specifically wished me to be. I noticed you weren’t at the Prefects meeting on the train; care to explain that, Weasley?”
Ron turned a violent shade of red, spluttering, but Harry’s restraining hand on his wrist prevented him from doing something rash. I released a breath I didn’t know I had been holding and turned to Neville and struck up a conversation about his duties with Professor Sprout and how elated he had been when he’d gotten the owl about it.
I glanced to my right and noticed Draco had rearranged his features into a porcelain-like mask. Glancing to my left showed a sore Ron being talked to by Harry and Ginny quietly.
Sighing to myself, I realized just how much work it was going to take to help everyone recover from the War and its aftereffects.
A dark figure crept in the shadows by the castle walls, slipping into a hidden entrance to the castle. The figure murmured a complicated spell in Latin and waved his wand, making the entrance disappear. In the dim torchlight, a jagged smile stretched across pockmarked skin before the figure was swallowed up in darkness.
As the last few returning students trickled into the newly repaired Great Hall, a somber atmosphere spread through everyone. The House tables suddenly seemed much too large for the students sitting at them, the hall itself too big for the decimated student body. The high table was much grimmer than it used to be, but three new faces piqued interest in some of the students, especially the older ones.
Hermione looked at Draco and noticed he looked rather despondent; and she wondered if it had to do with the fact that many of his housemates had not elected to return for fear of retribution, or if it were something else entirely. A pang of sympathy went through her, and she decided she would be civil towards him for the time being.
Then the doors opened, echoing loudly through the hall, as Professor Sinistra lead in a group of roughly forty scared eleven year-olds to the Sorting Hat. Professor McGonagall, now the Headmistress, raised a hand for silence. The quiet chatter died down and every head turned towards the Sorting Hat expectantly.
The Sorting Hat sprang to life, earning a few gasps in surprise from the new first years. It began its song reminiscing about life before the War and how, if everyone put the effort into it, then they could have that life again. It sang about the tragedies and casualties of the Battle of Hogwarts, causing many students to tear up or even full on cry, as the dark scenes replayed in their minds. Quickly, it moved on and sang of love and hope:
Because Harry Potter sacrificed his life for us that night
Inside all of us lies protection of the highest kind
We must use that hope and climb into the light
Remember, forgive, but do not forget, it is within our minds our placement we will find!
After the final note of its song faded, silence descended upon the Great Hall as students comforted each other and composed themselves. Immediately, Professor Sinistra unrolled the scroll she was holding and read off the first name to be sorted. “Collins, Morgan.” A timid-looking boy stepped up to the stool and sat down.
The Sorting Hat debated for a moment before shouting, “Hufflepuff!” The Sorting continued at a solid pace, getting through all forty students relatively efficiently. Once all of them had been welcomed to their new Houses, Professor Sinistra picked up the stool with the Hat on it and left the Hall to put it away in the Headmistress’s office. With each House having gained an even ten new members, the Great Hall suddenly didn’t seem so barren and desolate.
It was at this point Professor McGonagall rose from her chair and stood behind the podium. Solemnly, she folded her hands together and rested them on the back of the eagle. “Welcome, staff and students, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Before you tuck in to the feast, I have a few matters to discuss. Many of you lost loved ones; quite a few were students here, a few too young to even fight. They died so that we could create a better society: one without prejudice, without hatred, and fear. A society built on love, hope, and friendship,” she paused at this point and nodded to Professor Sinistra.
Professor Sinistra unveiled a large black marble plaque centered on the wall directly behind the Headmistress’s chair. “And to honour those lost to us in the Second Wizarding War and the First, the Hogwarts staff created this in their memory, in the hopes that their efforts not be forgotten. If you wish to know more, simply tap the name and say ‘Nomine Revelio.’” Whispers raced down the tables.
“Now, this year will be somewhat different than in years past. Due to repeating years, all seventh year students will be moved into a dormitory together. If you have any issues with this arrangement, please see me directly after the feast. As per usual, the Forbidden Forest is off limits to every student and please, do not taunt the squid in the Black Lake or you will get detention. It pleases me to announce your Head Boy and Girl this year are Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger,” McGonagall was cut off as outraged cries and insults were thrown at Malfoy.
“Silence! I will not tolerate petty hate any longer! Your table does not define you, nor does your House, nor do your previous actions, no matter how troublesome they might have been. It is up to you, as students, to unite and act together, because if Hogwarts is split as it has been for far too long, then we might have another war on our hands. It is highly recommended you all make some new friends this year; prejudice will not be permitted nor tolerated. We all lost far too much these past years to take steps backward,” McGonagall stated coolly.
“Now, back to happier subjects, we also have three new professors this term, filling the positions for Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Potions. Professor Tatiana Tawley will be taking over my position in teaching Transfiguration, Professor Dean Dragoran will be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, and finally Professor Isaac Imohera will be taking over as Potions Master for Professor Slughorn, as he wished to return to retirement.”
Loud clapping filled the Great Hall as she finished introducing the professors, each rising and giving a polite nod or wave before resuming their seats. “Now that those things have been covered, I believe you all are hungry,” she smiled, raising her hands. Instantly, platters of food and goblets filled the tables, and bubbly voices sprang out. “In the words of the late Professor Dumbledore, ‘Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak!’”
Another round of applause, albeit a little hasty, followed her closing words as students and staff alike dug in to the feast prepared by the house elves in the kitchens below. The meal passed quickly, with a polite ‘pass the salt please’ here and a ‘can I try some of that?’ there and easy, excited conversations going on everywhere. The Slytherin table, although a little forlorn looking, was still in good spirits; even Malfoy was enjoying himself, talking with Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini, both of whom felt the need to finish out their education to restore some pride to their family names. Theodore Nott sat with them as well, but was much quieter than the rest, as per usual.
Soon enough, everyone having eaten their fill and become very sleepy in the process, it was time to go to the dormitories. Prefects led the first years out first, then the rest of the Houses bolted out of the Great Hall, taking whatever which way they so pleased. The other seventh years and I hung around after, not sure where we were to go.
Professor McGonagall came down from the high table and explained loud enough so everyone could hear her, “Your dormitory is behind a portrait of the Four Founders on the Fourth floor, near the Head dormitory. The password is ‘House Unity’. Because there are so few of you, there are just two towers with a few separate designated bedrooms so please, do not try and separate into your Houses. These people are your House now, generally speaking. Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger, your dormitory lies behind a portrait of a young Merlin, and the password is ‘Dumbledore.’ Do try and get along! Off you go now!” she shooed us off.
The twenty or so of us walked off together to the fourth floor, making quiet conversation.
“Sorry, what’s the password again? I forgot what McGonagall said it was already,” Neville asked sheepishly.
Everyone else chuckled at Neville’s forgetfulness. Dean answered him, “House Unity, Longbottom. Glad to know we can still count on you to forget the password.” The Gryffindors of the group really laughed at this, but I was somewhat perplexed as to what the joke was. Then I remembered in second year when I stole his Remembrall, and it clicked for me.
We reached the portrait of the Founders then and they made a grandiose show of letting Neville give the password. The portrait swung open with laughter from both its inhabitants and the seventh years. This was where Hermione and I were supposed to break off.
“See you guys later!” Hermione said cheerfully, waving at them before the portrait hole closed. We walked down the corridor a while longer before reaching a large portrait of what appeared to be a teenage version of the great wizard Merlin. “Password?” he prompted jovially.
“Dumbledore,” I said. He did an exaggerated bow as the door behind his frame swung open to allow us in. Being the gentleman I was, I let Granger go first. It was I made the wrong decision because once I stepped inside I couldn’t go anywhere because she was blocking the way. Even though I was nearly a foot taller than her, her bushy hair still blocked part of my view so I carefully eased around her and took a few steps into the common room so I could get a proper look at what was to be our living space for the next nine months.
Even for my standards, it was rather extravagant, especially for a school dormitory. The walls were cream with spots of scarlet red and emerald green that made it look like a very intricate mosaic. The sofa and plush armchairs chairs were also cream colored, and looked like they would be heavenly to lie down on and sleep forever. A roaring brick fireplace opposed the couch and chairs and an ebony coffee table with the Hogwarts crest engraved on it sat in the middle of the furniture. A small kitchenette was partially hidden behind an inky, black wooden bookshelf, complete with muggle contraptions I had no knowledge of, nor a want to find out. In the center of the area was a small, round wooden table with four chairs around it.
I heard a gasp from somewhere behind me and I turned around but didn’t see Granger in the immediate area. I looked to the left behind the sitting area and saw a three-stair hallway leading to what I presumed would be our bedrooms and bathroom. There were three doors, two of which were facing each other in the narrow hallway; one had ‘HG’ in red and gold, and the other had ‘DM’ in emerald and silver. The third door was at the end of the hallway, and it was slightly ajar. After deciding I’d take a look at my room later when I actually went in there to sleep, I went into the bathroom to see if that was where Granger’s gasp had come from.
Pushing the door open all the way, I proved myself correct. Granger was currently inspecting the large bathtub with twenty different taps on it. The floor of the bathroom and bottom of the bathtub were tiled in black marble. The shower was nearly as nice as the bathtub; it boasted five different nozzle buttons and twelve settings for each of the five nozzle buttons. Thankfully, there were two deep sinks set into a black marble countertop, with medicine cabinets behind two sections of the three-part mirror. All of the cabinets were white, as was the stand of the bathtub and walls of the shower. The toilet was pure white porcelain, standard for most bathrooms, Malfoy Manor’s included. I hated to say it, but I was impressed. Hogwarts had outdone itself with comfort for the Heads.
“Well, Granger. I’d hate to break you two up, but I’d really like to use the loo, and I’d appreciate not having you in here while I’m doing my business,” I said, holding back a snicker at her jumping when I spoke. “And I call shower first in the morning!” I rushed out, smirking at her dismay.
“Fine! Prat,” she retorted, walking out and closing the door behind her.
Quickly I relieved myself and returned to the sitting area, wanting to try talking with her again about her memory issue. I saw her sitting with her legs tucked up under her on the couch, so I opted for one of the armchairs instead. Right as I opened my mouth, though, a loud crack sounded and a small house elf in a flowery sundress and booties appeared in front of the fire.
“Bloody hell,” I muttered, containing my surprise. Hermione jerked a little at the noise and appearance of the elf.
“Mr. Malfoy, sir, and Ms. Granger, madam, my name is Starry. Sir and madam, I am your personal house elf. Starry can send messages, sir and madam, to Headmistress McGonagall or other professors or sir’s and madam’s friends. Starry can get food from the kitchens for you, sir and madam, and many other things for you, sir and madam. Does Mr. Malfoy or Ms. Granger have any requests for Starry?” the house elf recited as if reading from a script.
Granger and I shared a glance before I spoke first. “Yes, actually we do. There’s no need to address us as ‘sir’ or ‘madam.’ Please, call me Draco,” I said gently.
“And you can call me Hermione,” she butted in.
Starry nodded vigorously. “Is there anything else Starry can do for si-Draco and Hermione?”
“I think we’re good for tonight, Starry, thank you. If we need anything in the morning we’ll call you,” I said, giving her a small smile.
Starry nodded once more before snapping her fingers and disapparating. The common room felt eerily silent after the loud crack of disapparation faded from my ears. I cleared my throat and yawned loudly, effectively breaking the silence.
Granger was studying me curiously as if I’d just sprouted horns from my forehead. It took me a moment to realize she was looking at me so oddly because I’d treated Starry nicely. She’d never seen me treat a house elf like they weren’t rubbish beneath my feet. I could see the cogs turning in her head and the million questions burning on her lips.
“Well, I’d love to sit up and talk about our feelings, Granger, but I’m going to bed. See you in the morning,” I ran a hand through my hair, stood up and then climbed the three stairs to the upper level, opened the door with my initials on it, and quickly slipped inside.
My room was surprisingly cozy. The walls were the same cream color as the common room, but there were only green spots. Lush carpet covered the floor. The wardrobe and vanity-dresser combination were inky, black-stained oak wood. Against the far wall, next to a big picture window overlooking the Quidditch pitch with a gratuitous window seat, was a massive four-poster bed. The duvet was emerald green in color, embroidered with a large Slytherin crest done with black stitching. Matching silver and emerald striped curtains hung loosely at the corners of the bed. My battered school trunk lay at the foot of my bed. Opening it up, I realized it was empty and guessed that all of my clothes had been put away in the wardrobe and dresser, presumably by Starry.
I walked over to the dresser to see that I was correct and pulled out the first t-shirt and pair of silk boxers I grabbed. Changing into them quickly, I threw my robes on the ground, ignoring the hamper that had just materialized, crawled onto the magnificent bed, and soon fell asleep—feeling safer than I had in the past two years.
After Draco left for his room I quickly followed suit, curious to see what lay behind my door. The room was just as beautiful as the common room and bathroom. Soft, thick carpet covered the entire expanse of the room. The walls were the same cream color, but with only red spots, and the wardrobe and vanity were mahogany-stained oak wood. There was a large window overlooking the Black Lake that held a very wide window seat, perfect for reading. Against the wall next to it was my four-poster bed. Scarlet and gold hangings framed a scarlet bedspread, which was embroidered with a large Gryffindor emblem done with gold stitching.
Crookshanks made an appearance then, jumping onto my bed and sitting square in the middle of the Gryffindor crest. I quickly changed into an old pair of shorts and a t-shirt and grabbed Hamlet out of my trunk. Sitting cross-legged in the window seat, I read for a while by a mixture of both wand-light and moonlight.
After what must have been about an hour or so, I decided a nice, steaming hot shower before bed sounded wonderful. Taking my fluffy robe from the wardrobe and putting on a pair of flip-flops, I picked my wand up from the window seat and went to the bathroom. The ostentatiousness of it still amazed me three hours later; I felt like I would never get used to having all of this.
I slipped off my shoes and quietly padded over to the cabinet, making sure to grab scarlet towels and not emerald ones and set them alongside my robe on the ground by the shower. Deducting that if my clothes had already been put away, my other stuff had been as well. I looked in the shower, and sure enough, all of my products and razor were already in there, looking somewhat ridiculous to Malfoy’s preposterously expensive soaps and razor. Turning the water on with the nozzle for the overhead showerhead, I stripped down and put my clothes in a pile next to my robe and towels.
Stepping in to the steam-filled shower was like heaven on earth. The water was just the right temperature, not scalding hot or lukewarm, and I felt the knots and tension ooze right out of me. I worked my favorite strawberry scented shampoo through my hair, followed by conditioner, and finally my special cream that kept it from frizzing up horribly. Next, I lathered my loofa up with vanilla body wash and really scrubbed myself clean. Finally, I just stood under the relaxing spray, letting it wash away any remaining tenseness and worry from my body before I turned the water off and stepped out.
Goosebumps raced across my skin as my feet hit the cold marble floor. I quickly dried myself off with the first towel and wrapped my hair up with the second one. I put my robe on and was just about to do some final sleep prep when Malfoy barged in, rubbing his eyes blearily.
“Malfoy! Get out!” I shrieked, covering myself with yet another towel even though it was completely unnecessary.
“Bloody hell, Granger, sorry!” he remarked, instantly turning one hundred and eighty degrees and slamming the door behind him.
Well if this isn’t just the thing you were expecting, I don’t know what to think, I said to myself. I’m going to have a talk with that boy in the morning about privacy!
Completely positive that encounter had just ruined the work of the shower, I huffed in annoyance and returned to my room. Putting the clothes I’d had on earlier back on, I unwrapped the towel on my head and performed a quick drying spell on my hair. After throwing the wet towels in the hamper that had magically appeared a minute ago, I hung my robe back onto its hook on the back of my door.
Closing the curtains around my four-poster as I crawled onto it, I pulled the covers back on my bed and burrowed deep down in them. Soon enough, Crookshanks hopped up and joined me. I fell asleep almost instantly.
A/N: Thanks so much to all of you who are bearing with me in this major rebooting process! Also, a HUGE S/O to my beta Mischief_managed18 who has been an amazing supporter throughout this crazy month of NaNo and editing! I'll get the next chapters up as soon as possible, I love all of you guys! :)