Some of the tension Draco had been feeling these last few months disappeared as the train sped away from London towards Hogwarts. Being able to leave his many troubles behind felt like a breath of fresh air and, though Draco did realise that this year would still be very hard, this little measure of control in his life had finally stopped him from feeling as though he were drowning. As soon as they were underway Draco unlatched Galen’s cage and let him out into the compartment, stowing the now empty cage back into the luggage rack. The bird sat apprehensively upon Draco’s shoulder, clearly still not over the ordeal on the platform. Draco fed him treats while speaking words of comfort and stroking his silky, copper coloured feathers. It was nearly a full minute before Draco realised that there was somebody standing in the doorway of his compartment. Looking up he got the shock of his life.

“Blaise,” Draco blinked, “What on earth are you doing here?” The handsome form of Blaise Zabini was leaning against the frame of the open compartment door with a small smirk playing on his face.

“The same as you, I imagine,” Blaise replied, “I’m coming back to finish my final year at Hogwarts.”

The two young men appraised each other for a few seconds more before grinning heartily at one another. Draco stood up, Galen still perched precariously upon his shoulder, and greeted his old friend enthusiastically. After stowing Blaise’s trunk up in the luggage rack and letting his northern hawk owl, Melusina, free of her cage to socialize with Galen the two boys made themselves comfortable and began catching up on everything that had happened since they had last spoken over 4 months ago. Not soon enough the lunch trolley finally appeared and they enjoyed a lunch consisting of homemade sandwiches, pumpkin pasties, and an assortment of sweets.

“So,” Blaise started, “do you plan on taking the same subjects you were last year?”

“Yep,” Draco replied, “I don’t see any sense in changing them now. You?”

“Not sure. I was musing over the possibility of changing from Charms to Astronomy.”

“Fair enough, wasn’t charms your mothers choice?”

“Yes,” Blaise replied a little darkly, “What do you think Mcgonagall is going to be like as headmistress?” he continued and Draco knew the subject was closed.

“I think Mcgonagall may be a damn sight better than Dumbledore was, though I wonder who will get her job,” said Draco, “Nobody could be worse than that Lockhart fellow though.”

“True, very true,” Blaise laughed, “so,” Blaise continued after a short pause, “that scene on the platform was really something.” Draco shifted uncomfortably in his seat and gazed out the window, seemingly immersed in the rolling hills and beautiful scenery they were passing by.

“You saw that?” Draco asked absentmindedly.

“Yeah,” Blaise replied, “Sorry for not stepping in but I just…”

The rest of his sentence was lost but Draco understood. You just did not want to have them turn on you or draw any of the attention to yourself, he thought bitterly. Yet, he also understood. Had Draco been in Blaise’s position he probably would have acted in the exact same manner. Neither of them were heroes and it was pointless to pretend to be.

“Don’t worry about it,” Draco mumbled.

The rest of the journey passed rather quickly, even with the stares and whispers of their fellow students as they passed by their compartment to get a better look at who were probably the two most unpopular students in the school. Soon the sky outside began to darken as they zoomed towards the castle. Both of them changed into their school robes as they neared their destination, however, Draco found this slightly uncomfortable due to the tattoo emblazoned upon his left forearm which had not quite faded yet. He attempted to hide the mark from Blaise’s view, paling slightly in shame and embarrassment.

“You don’t have to hide it from me, Draco,” Blaise assured him, “I have no right to judge you.”

“It’s not that it’s just…” Draco trailed off, not sure how to phrase his feelings.


“Don’t worry about it,” replied Draco. He pulled his robes over his head and turned back to his friend, “I think we’re nearly there,” Draco smiled.

The two of them shut Galen and Melusina in their cages and waited for the train to come to a full stop. Gathering their things they exited the train and walked towards the school carriages that were being pulled by great-winged, skeletal looking horses called Thestrals which, due to the previous year’s events, many of the students could now see clearly. Ignoring the stares and whispers of their fellow students Draco and Blaise climbed into the nearest carriage and set off towards the castle gates. The two of them continued to be subject to glares and mutterings as they passed through the entrance hall and made their way to the Slytherin house table. However, a few minutes later they were all but forgotten when the group consisting of some of the heroes in the battle of Hogwarts entered the great hall to tumultuous applause.

“Typical,” Blaise smirked.

“Yeah,” Draco replied, barely paying attention to him. Since his mind was focused on watching the events over at the Gryffindor table, Draco did not realise that somebody had sat next to him.

“Hello, Draco,” a soft voice to the left of him spoke. Startled, he looked towards the newcomer and found himself face to face with a few more of his old friends.

“Daphne, Lily…..I had no idea you were returning as well,” Draco laughed, hugging both of them briefly.

“Yes, well you wouldn’t since you didn’t bother to keep in touch with any of us over the summer,” Daphne replied a little sultrily, one eyebrow raised.

“Sorry,” Draco smiled, “had other things on my mind.”

“I bet,” Lily responded, a wicked gleam in her eyes, “Nerissa and Scarlett are back too, they’ll be here in a few moments I suppose.”

“I never thought so many of us would want to return,” Draco replied, “is Pansy here?” he asked with a tinge of hope in his voice.

The two girls shared a look with one another that Draco did not understand. Before they had a chance to respond, however, Nerissa and Scarlett joined them accompanied by Fergus Cowley. Almost the instant they had finished greeting one another, and had again sat down, the doors to the great hall swung open and in marched professor Hagrid who was followed by a long line of pale and slightly frightened looking first years. He plonked the wooden stool he was carrying onto the stone floor, placed the old sorting hat on top of it and stood back. As usual the hat twitched and the rip near the brim opened to form a mouth. Draco enjoyed watching the reactions of the newest students as the hat began to sing, barely paying attention to the song. While he stared at the first years, Draco realised that the pool of new students seemed to be drastically reduced than it had been in the previous year’s he’d been at the school. Not wanting to dwell on that fact for long he continued to watch the hat finish its song, still not taking in what it was singing.

The sorting then began and as one by one the students filed up to be sorted the entire hall’s attention was placed solely on them. When the first Slytherin was announced Draco cheered with the rest of his table, though perhaps not as enthusiastically as he once would have done. He shared a grin with Blaise when one of the first years accidently tripped over his robes in his eagerness to reach the stool and a ripple of laughter sounded throughout the hall. The small boy, Ignatius Dringle, was sorted into Slytherin and Draco gave him a small smile of assurance when he sat down. Finally the sorting was over and professor Mcgonagall stood up to address them all.

“Good evening to you all, and welcome back to another year at school. There are a few notices that I would like to get through, but those can wait until after the feast,” Mcgonagall’s voice rang through the room. She clapped her hands twice and the golden plates in front of them filled with every kind of food imaginable, “Enjoy.”

Draco filled his plate and fell ravenously upon his food, not realising till that moment how hungry he seemed to be. The group around him kept up a steady flow of conversation, laughing and enjoying themselves as they normally would, completely forgetting the animosity of the other students though not many of them were paying the Slytherins any attention at all. Caught up in the atmosphere, Draco didn’t initially realise that their new headmistress had gotten up to speak. Mcgonagall stared around the room until she had attained absolute silence.

“Once again a very good evening to you all. Now that we have all been sufficiently fed I have a few start of term notices to announce,” Mcgonagall paused, surveying the room, “As a student of Hogwarts School I expect nothing but your best behaviour throughout the new school year. It is essential that mistakes of the past are forgiven and we look only to our future,” her eyes lingered upon the Slytherin table as she said this, though Draco knew that this request would be a hard one for his fellow students to comply with, “I would also like to reiterate that there are parts of the school which are still being rebuilt, and so are unsafe, which are out of bounds as is the Forbidden Forest I need not remind you,” she contined.

Draco saw Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger share a grin between themselves before turning back to focus his attention on Mcgonagall. Looking at the staff table he could clearly see the new appointments and wondered what subjects they would be teaching. As though she had read his mind Mcgonagall began to speak again.

“I would also like you to welcome our new Muggle Studies teacher, Professor Holly Claxon, who will be taking over Charity Burbage’s position,” a painful memory seared through Draco’s mind at the memory, “and Professor Jerimiah Higgins who will be joining us as our new part-time Transfigurations teacher. I shall be continuing to take classes this year, after which Professor Higgins will take up the post full-time,” there was an outbreak of muttering at this that was soon quelled by the look their new headmistress gave them, “We have also acquired a new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor, Veronica Delguine, although she has asked me to amend that she will only be staying a term of two years during which guest teachers will be taking over her classes from time to time. I am also delighted to announce that my post as head of Gryffindor house is now to be filled by none other than our own Rubeus Hagrid.”

The last announcement was met with a roof-raising applause, especially from the Gryffindor table, before the room settled down. Professor Mcgonagall paused again and surveyed the room. Suddenly her facial expression had turned sombre and Draco had a feeling for what was coming next. Not wanting to be assaulted by the hoard of troubling memories, he attempted unsuccessfully to block out the words his headmistress next spoke.

“It has been a tragic time for most of us over this past year. Many of us have lost people who we loved and cared about. It is them we must remember, it is them we must honour. Let us now take a moment of silence to think about all those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of all of us in this very room,” Mcgonagall finished.

The entire hall went silent and Draco, not daring to breathe, stared unblinkingly down at his own hands, crushing them together in an attempt to dull the pain. Visions of all the horrors he’d seen flashed before his eyes. He remembered seeing the rows of dead people he’d once known and spoken to. Draco squeezed his eyes shut in the hope that the visions would subside. No, please no, Draco thought to himself.

“Thank-you for that,” Professor Mcgonagall’s voice brought him mercifully back into the present, “Now would you please all leave the hall in an orderly fashion to get back to your common rooms. You all need to be well rested for your lessons tomorrow. Goodnight.”

The sound of benches scraping against the stone floor filled the room alongside chatter from students in every direction. Draco stayed sitting in his seat still affected deeply by the headmistress’s speech. Slowly he got up and followed Blaise and the others across the entrance hall and down to their common room in the dungeons. As he crossed the hall, however, a large Gryffindor boy purposely banged his shoulder into Draco’s with an expression of deepest loathing. His fingers tingled, wanting so badly to reach for his wand, yet Draco merely sighed and continued on down the stone steps.

“Polyjuice Potion,” said Nerissa, “one of the Carrow twins told me.”

They stepped into the common room and bid goodbye to each other, going up their separate staircases. Upon reaching their dormitory the three boys quickly undressed for bed, chatting animatedly between one another. Draco continued to not say much throughout this exchange, still thoroughly shaken from the day’s events and thinking about Mcgonagall’s speech.

“Hey,” Fergus interrupted his thoughts, “why aren’t you in a single room this year, Malfoy?”

“Well I doubt that I’m a Prefect anymore,” Draco smirked getting into bed.

“That’s true,” Fergus grinned while Blaise chuckled from his bed, “wonder what tomorrow’s going to be like.”

Draco made a non-committal grunt and turned over in his bed, leaving Fergus and Blaise to continue their conversation. They soon stopped talking and Draco could hear the steady breathing and snoring that suggested that the two of them had succumbed to sleep. Draco closed his eyes, waiting for sleep to overtake him. That was the first night he dreamed of Harry Potter.

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