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Prologue

Draco woke to the sound of soft taps on his window. “Ignore it, he will go away, it isn’t even bloody light out yet. Who could be owling me at this time of the morning”, he thought to himself. With that thought, he turned over, and closed his eyes tighter, willing the owl to go away. He knew of course that this would not work. Groggily he resigned himself to the fact that he would not be getting any more sleep, and went to retrieve the letter. Immediately the owl flew away.

He was pleased to see that it was from Blaise, his best friend of many years.

Draco,

I am writing in reference to your earlier inquiry as to whether I would be returning to Hogwarts this year. I have decided to return for one final year. I need the final year to prepare for and complete my N.E.W.T.s. Besides, I cannot deny all the women of Hogwarts one last chance at me, after all.
We can go to Diagon Alley together to get our supplies later this week. Owl me when works for you, and I will let Pansy know.

Blaise

A look of resignation came to Draco’s gray eyes. If his best friend could return for one more year, so could he. Hopefully he could stick to the Slytherin dungeon most of the year. At least there he could spare himself the looks from the rest of the students, now that all knew his exploits of the last year. He could be with Blaise and Pansy, the only two people he still considered friends. They knew he had changed, that he was no longer that arrogant boy of previous years, the one who had done all of those abhorrent things to everyone. He had changed.


Immediately he took out a parchment and quill. He had to the end of the day today to notify Headmistress McGonagall as to his decision.


He would be returning to Hogwarts, the home of too many memories, one final time.



*



Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione were sitting together at The Leaky Cauldron, discussing their thoughts for the upcoming year at Hogwarts over a few cups of exploding lemonade before continuing to Diagon Alley to finish their shopping.


“I am so excited they have decided to let you all come back to join with the rest of the 7th years!” Ginny was ecstatic that she would not be the only Weasley left at Hogwarts again this year. With Ron gone all last year hunting horcruxes, she had never felt so alone, even when surrounded by friends. Never before in her life had she been anywhere that she didn’t have at least one of her brothers to pester her. It helped also, that she would not have to be away from Harry, after spending every waking moment with him since the war ended. She was just starting to get through his emotional scars left by the previous year’s quest. They were nowhere near where Neville and Luna were though. Even now, no one could pry the two of them away from their current snogging session.



“I know, another bloody year of school. You would think tracking and killing Voldemort last year would have been enough to get us out of another year of school and any job we want!“ Ron was less than thrilled that he would be returning for another year of classes. At least there would be Quidditch. Maybe one more year would not be so bad after all. But, the real reason he was dreading going back to Hogwarts was the return of the awkwardness between he and Hermione after “the kiss”. They had both decided it was a mistake borne in the heat of battle. Even still it was hard to look her in the eyes… It had been easy enough to find other places to be while at the Burrow, but would be considerably harder once back in class, and in need of her “help” with the class work.


“I hear not many from our year are returning.” Harry said aloud, although his head was thinking, “I can’t blame them. All the memories, all the loss. If I thought Hermione would let me skip out, I probably would not have come back either”. “I heard the Patil’s will not be back, their parents are going to homeschool them for their N.E.W.T.s.”


Hermione’s opinion was expected, “I, for one, am thrilled! I am so happy they are allowing me the honor of being head girl! I am going to start studying for my N.E.W.T.s this evening. I have taken the liberty of creating planners for each of you once again to help you all prepare as well. Ginny, I made you one as well!” Ginny rolled her eyes as Hermione passed around the planners. Ron had told her about the color-coded study schedules given to him by Hermione in years past.


“But, the school year hasn’t even begun, Hermione. “ Harry said taking the planner she had prepared for him. “We will all have plenty of time to study before our exams next year.”


“Nonsense, we have so much material to cover. This could be the most important set of exams we will ever take! I know that I would like to work at the Ministry, so I cannot stand to slack off now.”


“Ron and I want to join the ministry as well but it seems we just returned to the Burrow. I want to enjoy every last minute before we have to be on the Hogwarts Express next week” With this he scooted a little closer to Ginny, taking her hand. He noticed the redness blossoming on her ears. He loved this about her. It helped him to know she was happy with him. They hadn't gotten any further that just holding each other's hands. But, this was enough for him.


After finishing their drinks, they exited through the back room. Hermione pulled out her wand, tapped a few bricks, and watched as the bricks rearranged themselves, clearing the way to Diagon Alley. They walked through to purchase the last of the supplies from their lists that had arrived by owl from Hogwarts the previous day. The wall reformed in their wake.



*



“Hurry up Ronald, you will miss the train!” Molly Weasley was full of emotion this day, as she would be standing on this platform, waving goodbye to her children for the very last time. Ron had dropped his knapsack, which had spilled quills and parchment all over the platform. With a flick of his wand, Ron had all the items safe in his bag once again. Molly looked on patiently as he rushed towards the train. It seemed only yesterday she stood on the platform, watching little Bill waving his hand out the window, off to start his first year at Hogwarts. "At least Ginny will have Ron; She won’t be alone", she told herself. She knew that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was dead. Harry had made sure of that. But, the fear and worry she carried over the past years was hard to banish from her mind just yet.


Ginny, with Harry’s hand held tight, along with Hermione, finally Ron, and the rest of the students boarded the Hogwarts Express before its departure. Molly watched as the bright red train grew small in the distance and finally disappeared. She and Arthur waited until the smoke from the locomotive could no longer be seen in the distance before leaving platform 9¾, to return to the Burrow.


Aboard the train, the four sat quietly in their own compartment, the memories of the previous years together on this very train ride going through their heads… “Oculus Reparo” Hermione had shown her skill by doing this spell for the first time on their first ride, repairing Harry’s broken glasses… Harry thought of Professor Lupin’s first appearance in his life, when he saved Harry from the dementors. He missed his dear friend. He would have Teddy to remind him though. Teddy Lupin, the first and only child of Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin, was his godchild after all, and Harry had no intention of skipping out on his duties as a godfather or the opportunity to hold on to this piece of them…Ron remembered his first meeting with Harry when he had shown him the scar and together they had met the then bushy haired girl sitting before him now…Ginny remembered being on the platform with her parents, to watch Ron board the train, only to come face to face with Harry Potter, and being too embarrassed to speak. Who would have guessed that the boy she had read countless stories about as a child would be sitting next to her now, holding her hand. Her ears went red again.

 

 

Draco sat with Pansy on the train, preparing himself for his final year at Hogwarts. Blaise was busy mingling with his fellow Slytherin housemates, mainly those of the female variety. Draco thought, "At least Blaise can enjoy this year." Draco was happy to sit with Pansy, in companionable silence along the ride to Hogwarts. Pansy was a good friend, and she knew how hard it was for Draco to return. “Draco, you may want to get into your school robes, I can see the castle on the horizon. It won’t be long until we are there” Draco summoned his uniform and with a light tap on his head, his clothes transformed into his Slytherin robes.


“Ready Pansy? Draco?” Blaise had come back to exit the train with his friends. With a small nod, Draco followed Blaise from the train.

 

As the students departed the train, many were shocked by the sight in front of them. Attached to the carriages that had seemed to have been pulled by an invisible magic force until now were bony, dark, horse-like creatures known as thestrals. After having witnessed death first hand, most of the students were now able to see them. Harry had been able to see them for a while now.


Harry noticed, out of the corner of his eye, the tell-tale white blond hair of his former nemesis. He noted, with surprise, how the loathing and hatred he used to feel for this boy was no longer there. Perhaps this was due to the sporadic interactions the two had experienced over the past year. Back at Malfoy Manor, Draco had refused to positively identify Harry to his Aunt Bellatrix. Doing so would have surely meant death for himself, as well as his two best friends. Because of this, even though he knew Draco would be residing at the Slytherin table this year, he felt a certain degree of appreciation that Draco had been asked to return for his final year as well.


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