She sat silently in the compartment closest to the train's engines, listening to it purr. Her big brown eyes remained unfocused and cold starring out the window. Hermione's only movement was the small pats she gave to the creature curled on her lap. A chilly draft blew across her face as the compartment door slid open and inside slipped Mrs McGonagall followed by whom she could only assume to be Draco Malfoy. Her attention however remained in the outside world.
"Miss Granger, I'm glad to see you found the compartment alright. Shall we begin?" McGonagall's voice sounded strained and tired but beneath that there was a sense of pity. Hermione knew it was for her. At that same moment she heard Draco Malfoy's sharp intake of air and again she knew it was for her. Her body was badly battered, deep gashes were visible all over her body that were being held together as best as could be with stitching, her face was swollen with black and blue bruises that spread themselves like cancer across her body but she didn't feel embarrassed or ashamed, why should she? She didn't feel angry or annoyed, she felt numb emotionally despite the immense physical pain she felt, her body screaming from the torture she had endured only ten days prior. Tearing her eyes away from the pane of glass she focused on McGonagall, her new headmistress.
"Miss Granger, Mr Malfoy, again I would like to pass on my congratulations in your positions as Hogwarts head student's for this year and I am proud of both of you for returning to complete your education after last years ordeal." She paused and fleetingly looked at Hermione, frightened that she may have offended her but if she had Hermione never let on. "Obviously with the war last year, there was a lot of damage done to the castle itself. I along with the board of trustees, decided to take it upon ourselves to make some long overdue changes. One of these changes include a new common room for the head students with your own private dormitories located opposite the great hall. While we will still be sorting children into houses, we are placing more of and emphasis on school unity, in particular Slytherin playing more of a positive role within the school." The elderly witch turned her attention solely to Draco at this point. "I must be honest Mr Malfoy, this is a large part of why you were selected as head boy, while your grades have always only been second to Miss Grangers, it is my hope that if the school can see yourself and Miss Granger put aside differences and work together to build a better future then this dream may have a higher chance of success." Another pause and glance at Hermione before she carefully continued. "Now as I am sure you have seen in the paper's, Miss Granger has recently undergone a very traumatic experience. It seems for now that she is not comfortable with speaking to anyone at all so the two of you will have to find a way to work together despite of that. Also as you know students are permitted to bring a cat, an owl or a toad if they so wish however, Miss Granger has been granted a special exception to this rule and has been allowed to bring her puppy with her this year, I hope this does not bother you however if it should please come and see me and we will have to work out another arrangement. With that being said I believe that is all for now, you may stay in here should you wish otherwise feel free to go join your friends" with that McGonagall stood and strode from the compartment leaving behind her a still silence.
Hermione's gaze returned to the window and the countryside that flew passed them. She understood why McGonagall had to explain her current situation but she wished it didn't have to be now with such a long journey of silence ahead of herself and Malfoy.
It was clear that Draco felt uncomfortable with something, her appearance maybe? Or perhaps he still held onto the belief that muggles are scum.
"Granger, I just want to apologise, in the last seven years I have not only been unkind to you but I have been cruel, I know that it is no excuse but my father has always held a certain set of expectations that if not met, held consequences. I hope that throughout the next year I can at least prove to you and everyone else that I am not my father." It had been in the papers when Lucius Malfoy had been arrested and then again when he was killed trying to escape. "I do not expect my thoughts or opinions to matter to you but for what its worth I'm deeply sorry for what has happened to you if the papers are anything to go by, that being said I'm not going to tiptoe around you, I know your hurting but I also know that normal is the best thing for you right now. I'm going to go patrol the compartments and make sure there is no trouble, I'll be back soon."
He too strode from the compartment, leaving her again with just the small ball of fluff on her lap, she tried to fight back memories but they bore into her mind and like setting a fire burned through her.
Her father smiled at her from across the living room, her mother at his side. Next to her sat her six year old twin sisters.
"Hermione we know its not your birthday until the nineteenth but we wanted to celebrate early with you before you go back to school." Her mother could barely contain her excitement as she spoke. "For years you've hounded us for a dog and we know your not allowed to take dogs to school but you only have one year left.." Her voice trailed off as her dad reached behind the couch and pulled up a brown cardboard box and handed it to Hermione.
"No way!" She jumped up to take the box, the realization of what was happening sinking in. Inside crouched in the corner sat a tiny brown and tan German Sheppard puppy.
Immediately behind her, her sisters Chelsea and Annabelle began yelling with excitement, their brown eyes dancing with childish joy.
"I want to see!" "Can I see Sissy?!"
She must have dozed off because she woke with a start as the train lurched to a halt. She looked over at Draco who sat on the other side of the compartment cuddling her puppy, looking at his gold tag that simply had the name Barter engraved on it. Noticing her stare Draco placed the pup back on her lap and gave a strained smile.
"Sorry he came over to me while you slept, I hope its OK I gave him a cuddle. We've arrived though so we should probably go lead everyone to the carriages." He stood and opened the door, motioning for her to go first. The night air outside was chilling. The stars littered the sky and sitting brightest in the centre of all of them was a beautiful full moon. Hermione had hoped that a sense of home would come with stepping onto the platform but as she looked around she felt nothing, just bitter and empty.
"All students except first years this way to the left in a neat and orderly fashion please!" Draco's voice called over the clatter and constant chattering. Hermione lifted her wand to point under his chin, alarmed he took a step back. Frustrated Hermione rolled her eyes and tried again and then motioned to the students surrounding them again. Realization dawning on him he repeated his message with booming effects, all older students moved to the left and made their way up the path to where the carriages would await them. A giant silhouette appeared out of the darkness to the right holding a dimly lit lamp by his side.
"First years this way please." Hagrid called unnecessarily loudly, most of the other students had already moved up the path, leaving the platform predominantly quiet with the first years nerves kicking in.
In the distance Hogwarts looked much the same as previous years but as Hermione and Draco's carriage drew nearer changes were indeed evident. Most of the castle was incredibly old and while it was not dirty the stone bricks that had made up the castle were visibly old, especially compared to those new ones that were an entirely different shade of grey. The building to the right of the door appeared to have been brought out a few metres, and in fact, the tower had been completely replaced and where it had stood now was a much larger square shaped formation of what appeared to be several new classrooms. Walking into the grand entrance both Draco and Hermione were greeted by a tall portrait of a knight in shining armour looking ready for battle. Draco paused to query if this was the entrance to the new head's dormitories.
"Yes sir." Replied the knight sharply.
Nodding Draco and Hermione continued into the great hall, where instead of the four rows of houses that they were accustomed to, a great horse shoe shape of tables greeted them. The only way to tell which house belonged were was from the subtle coloured place mats that started with Ravenclaw blue at one end worked around to Slytherin green followed by Gryffindor red and finally finishing with Hufflepuff yellow. Hermione thought bitterly to herself that this change was all good and well but it didn't change people's mind set. Mudbloods were still mudbloods and they would always be inferior to and deserve no place among those with pureblood and since the incident nine days prior, for the first time in her life, she actually believed it.
(A/N: Hey guys, its been a long time since I wrote anything, my life has certainly changed a lot in the last few years, I've grown up a lot more had two children and gone back to study however my love for writing and for reading hasn't gone away especially involving Harry Potter and so I'm back with a determination to finish at least one of my novels haha. I originally set out to complete 'The Price You Pay" however this one caught my eye and after rereading the first chapter I fell back in love with this idea that I started with initially ten years ago as a silly awkward teenager. While I love this story there is also so much of it that needs fixing so please bear with me while I rewrite the existing chapters and hopefully get some new content for it up shortly. It is going to be a lot slower than originally written especially this first chapter which really is just the very basic foundations for why things are the way that they are.
P.S. I don't think I need to say it but obviously the characters in this story belong to that of J K Rowling, for whom I am not. I merely have to pleasure to create other fictions using them.)
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