Chapter 1 : When The Sun Rises.
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‘cause hope for me was a place uncharted and overgrown.
- Careful by Paramore
It was the one word that echoed through Draco’s mind as he stood at the large wooden doors of the Great Hall. The bewitched ceiling still showed the sky, which was only now beginning to awaken. It was going to be a beautiful day. Not that it mattered.
Draco wanted to close his eyes. He wanted to scream, cry, kick something, break something, but he didn’t. He remained standing where he was.
Despite the renovations the castle had undergone, every single aspect of Hogwarts remained the same. Magic, of course, made this possible. The Great Hall looked as it always did. As if nothing had happened here, as if a year ago, this room had not been filled to the brink with dead bodies and despairing witches and wizards.
He could still see it, didn’t even have to bother to close his eyes like with his dreams. Wherever he looked in the caste, he would immediately see the destruction it had suffered. All because of him.
And yet he had returned. As Head boy, no less.
If the act of returning to Hogwarts itself wouldn’t be horrible enough, returning as Head boy after everything that he had done could only be described as rubbing salt into an already stinging wound, before setting the entire thing on fire while attempting to teach Goyle the finer details of Potion brewing. Draco didn’t know what he was thinking. Heck, he didn’t know what McGonagall was thinking, appearing at his new house personally and insisting he would take the position.
He still didn’t know what to make of all that.
Then again, Draco didn’t know what to make of anything anymore. He hadn’t for a long time.
Finally, Draco closed his eyes, unable to see the stark contrast between what was and what is now any longer, even if nothing had really changed. His thoughts returned him to the Start-of-the-Term Banquet that had taken place here a week ago.
The hall was unnaturally quiet after the entrance ceremony. Not many new students had joined Hogwarts this year. Then again, not many had returned either. It pained Draco to know that it wasn’t because of all the horrible memories this place now entailed, but rather the fact that not many students were left to return at all.
Draco let out a shuddering breath. For the millionth time, he wondered why he had bothered to return. He really shouldn’t have. This was not his place, he had made sure of that.
Albus Dumbledore’s face appeared into Draco’s mind, and he tensed at where he sat, at the very edge of his house table, as far away as possible from the rest of the Slytherins.
That’s right. There was a reason.
“Welcome back, students, to yet another year at Hogwarts”, a voice echoed through the hall, startling Draco out of his thoughts. He, along with the rest of the students, looked up into the weary face of the new Headmistress. She seemed to have aged greatly, since his sixth year. Then again, everyone had.
Draco could only admire the strength of Professor McGonagall. It was only fitting to the Gryffindor Heads of House; who, despite being Headmistress, had refused to give either that position nor her profession as a Transfiguration professor up. It seemed like only yesterday when he would have called her an attention seeker or pompous wanna be. Now he admired her for her dedication to this school.
“I am aware of how little anyone in this room would like to remember what has occurred in these walls last year”, she said without hesitation. “But it must be addressed”.
Draco didn’t believe it possible, but the room grew quieter than it already had been. He didn’t think anyone even dared to breathe.
“We have seen death”, she continued bluntly. A few students flinched at the word, some breaking into quiet tears as the woman standing before them spoke. Still, they sat straight, making no efforts to conceal their grief but doing so with a strength Draco couldn’t begin to fathom. “We’ve seen destruction. We’ve lived and grown up in dark times. All because of a single Wizard incapable of love. However”, the headmistresses’ gaze rested on each and every one of them, a proud look in her eyes as she took in their determined faces. “We have not been broken”.
She paused briefly, letting her words sink in. Draco fought the urge to leave. He reminded himself that he didn’t belong here, he didn’t have the right to listen to this speech that so clearly didn’t include him. Yet he couldn’t.
He was part of the cause of their suffering and shouldn’t remain in a moment like this. Still he couldn’t make himself move.
“And we will not break now”
Professor McGonagall’s eyes rested on Draco, daring him to challenge her. Draco moved his gaze, unable to continue looking at this woman who had offered him so much despite everything he had done. Instead, his eyes met those of Hermione Granger’s, his former enemy. She was staring at him emotionlessly, her vivid green eyes cutting straight to his soul as Professor McGonagall finished her speech. The surprise of her attention on him couldn’t even falter the intense feeling of guilt that washed over him then. The knowledge at what he had done to her in particularly. If there was one person he felt obligated to feel remorse over, than Hermione Granger was definitely the one.
“We have survived. And now it is our duty to carry onwards, to live. We will heal. We will stand. And by Merlin’s beard, we will do it together.”
“Mr Malfoy”, Draco jumped, and whirled around, his hands flying to his wand, but stopping as he recognised who had addressed him.
“Headmistress”, he acknowledged, avoiding her eyes.
“I’m surprised to find you here, Mr Malfoy, seeing as your lack of attendance at meal times have made it quite clear that you prefer the kitchens”, she paused, surveying the Great Hall for an instant, in which it occurred to Draco that perhaps she wasn’t as strong as she led to be at the banquet, “…although I cannot quite blame you for that.”
“Sorry”, Draco murmured, his eyes fixed on the stone floor.
“I am aware of what you are doing Draco”, McGonagall continued softly. Her expression was the same as the one she had worn when she had visited him previously. It was an expression of serenity and kindness.
It was one of the reasons Draco had agreed to return. Draco could tell, from the way she looked at him that the acceptance that was portrayed on her face wasn’t forced or one of pity. There was no forgiveness in her demeanour, as there had not been any in Dumbledore’s. Because, to them, there had never been anything to forgive.
Too bad that he couldn’t believe that himself.
“You cannot continue like this. It isn’t why you have returned. You aren’t doing yourself any favours, Draco”, she told him firmly.
Draco didn’t answer, but this time, he held her gaze.
Professor McGonagall watched him carefully, her eyes seeming to search something in his. In the end, she sighed.
“I expect you to be at breakfast later on today. No excuses. As Head Boy, you have a role to play, Mr Malfoy”, she ordered in her familiar stern tone. Draco hesitated, but nodded.
“Of course”, he mumbled, breaking their eye contact. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see her give him a curt nod in return.
“Socialise”, she hissed then, but this time her stern appearance showed cracks of mild humour. Draco couldn’t help but give her a small smile. Their exchange was rather strange.
Draco watched her leave with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Now that the headmistress was gone the familiar doubt came crawling back into him. It was one thing to say one would socialise, as McGonagall had put it, but quite another thing to actually try that.
Draco turned around, looking up at the bewitched ceiling. Various thoughts and emotions flooded through him, made their presence known, if only for a second. In the end, only one thought remained, a question.
At this point, being who he was, was hope too much to ask for? A feeling he did not deserve?
Draco turned away from the brightening sky, towards the staircases that would lead him to his room in the Head Dorms. As he walked, Draco gripped the badge on his school robes tightly, almost tight enough to draw blood.
Not that it mattered. It only was the blood of a murderer.
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