Chapter Nine: Malfoy
"Ron? Have you seen my socks?"
"No, have you seen my cloak?"
"I think I saw it last night near the door. Yeah, here it is. Now we've got to find my socks, I can't go to Hogwarts without my socks!"
"You've got loads of socks!"
"Yeah, but they're my favourites... oh, stop laughing!"
Harry grinned and beat Ron over the head with his pillow. Ron grabbed his own and ran after Harry, both of them were laughing and clouting each other with the pillows, until Mrs Weasley opened the door and stood frowning. "What on earth are you both doing? Come on, you've still got to have breakfast and get your trunks ready, and you're here fighting!"
"He won't give me my socks!" said Harry, laughing and beating Ron around the head while his back was turned.
Ron hit him back, "I don't have your socks!"
"Come on, stop fighting," Mrs Weasley chided gently, confiscating the pillows. "Harry, get some socks out of your trunk. Ron, you take your things down to the hall and don't wake Mrs Black."
Harry sat down on the end of his bed, opened his trunk and rooted around for some more socks as Ron started hauling trunks downstairs, banging around and muttering about unfair treatment. He only went quiet when he entered the Mrs Black Danger Zone. Mrs Weasley had managed to do something to the painting, some sort of complex muffling charm, which meant Mrs Black couldn't hear much outside a large chalked circle on the floor. Somebody had written, "MRS B ZONE, SHUT UP" in the middle, to remind Tonks, who kept forgetting and strolling through it singing loudly to the latest Weird Sisters hit.
"Harry!" Ron yelled, and he was quickly attacked by several loud hisses of, "SHHHH!". "Sorry, sorry... harry!" he called in a strangled whisper. "Harry! Harry, don't make me stand here all bloody day and croak up the stairs at you!"
Harry smiled, got off his bed and pattered out onto the landing, hopping as he tried to get another sock on. "What?"
"I don't know, she went out hunting last night," said Harry. "She knows we're going to Hogwarts though, we won't need to find her."
"Alright, throw the cage down as quietly as you can," said Ron. Harry retrieved it, made sure there were no owl droppings left at the bottom, and then held the cage over the banister. Ron stood underneath, stretched up, swatting at it vaguely.
"No, I can't reach it," he said. "Drop it, and gently, don't chuck it at me!"
"Alright, on three," said Harry. "One, two - "
"Ron! Come and get your toast!"
There was a crash at the bird cage hit Ron on the top of the head and he swore as quietly as he possibly could, doubled over, rubbing his scalp vigorously and checking Mrs Black's portrait worriedly.
"Ron! Watch your language!" said Mrs Weasley in a loud whisper, coming up the stairs from the kitchen and picking up the cage. "And will you both stop throwing things up and down stairs? You're worse than Fred and George."
"I warned him," Harry said, grinning.
"You are in for such a beating the moment I find a decent-sized pillow, Harry Po-"
"Stop fighting, and get out of the Mrs Black zone, she'll wake up," said Mrs Weasley, frowning. "And Ginny's been ready for an hour at least."
"Ginny didn't have Harry moaning at her about his favourite socks," Ron grinned.
"I'm not going to Hogwarts without my best socks!" said Harry, pretending to be offended. "Those socks are very special to me, they're old and don't quite match properly, they're like my children!"
Ron and Harry both doubled up laughing. Mrs Weasley scowled. "Well, if you'd rather stand here and laugh at each other, fine with me, I don't think you really need breakfast."
"Alright, alright, we're coming," said Ron. "What is it? Toast?"
"Anything you want," his mother said, as the two boys followed her down to the kitchen and sat at the creaky table. Since the disastrous episode of making their own lunch, Mrs Weasley had chosen to just cook whatever they asked for, as though terrified that if she didn't they would take matters into their own hands again.
After breakfast of bacon and eggs, Harry and Ron both helped haul the rest of their trunks downstairs and sat on them by the front door, waiting with bored looks on their faces. Both of them were itching to get back to Hogwarts, and both were so lost in thought that it was a couple of minutes before either spoke.
"Harry," said Ron.
"I wonder," Ron replied.
Harry glanced at him. "Wonder what?"
"About Hogwarts," said Ron. "It sounds like loads of stuff has changed. All those new defences. And Peeves had been trying to wreck the place all summer, I bet Gryffindor Tower's fallen down or something. Then there's that new subject we're doing. Wonder if we're going to have to take it at NEWT?"
When their OWL results came during the holidays, it had also included a form to fill in, and a short letter from Professor McGonagall about what they would need for their chosen career. Harry had filled his in straight away and sent it off, so he didn't lose it in all the mess of his room.
"Probably. What did you choose?" Harry asked, sitting back on his trunk, getting out a brightly coloured packet and offering Ron one.
Ron looked reproachful. "What are they?"
"Jelly beans," said Harry.
"Oh, Bertie Botts? What's with the new packet?"
"No, they're just ordinary," said Harry, as Ron took an orange one and looked at it closely.
"So there's no weird flavours?" Ron snorted, chewing the bean. "Where's the fun in that? Anyway. I've taken... ah... Defence Against The Dark Arts, Charms, History Of Magic, Transfiguration and Care Of Magical Creatures. What about you?"
"Defence Against The Dark Arts, Charms, Transfiguration, Care Of Magical Creatures, History Of Magic and Potions," said Harry.
Ron took on a revolted expression. "Potions? You're willingly carrying on with Potions?"
"I need it to become an auror," said Harry, shrugging. "What do you think this new subject's going to be?"
"It's probably going to be Curses or something," said Ron. He took another jelly bean and chewed it thoughtfully. "It must be important, something that'll help us against Voldemort. Maybe they're going to teach us to fight like muggles with those guns and stuff."
"No, I somehow don't think we'll be having Firearms lessons," Harry said, smiling. "Maybe it's like... stealth lessons. Teaching us how to sneak around undetected."
"That sounds alright," said Ron. He took another jelly bean. "Wonder what Hermione's taking."
Harry laughed. "I don't know, how many subjects are there?"
"I don't know," said Ron. "We'll just ask how many she's taking, and seeing as though she'll be doing all of them, I guess that'll be how many subjects there are."
"There's something else I've been wondering," said Harry.
"How are we going to get to Kings Cross? Your dad hasn't got a car, has he? Are we walking?"
Ron snorted. "Carrying all of this? No, course we're not walking. Fred and George are going to drive us there." He checked the battered old watch on his wrist. "They should be here by now though. Maybe there's been another traffic jam. Muggle traffic is so slow, you wouldn't believe. They took me to Diagon Alley to get my new school things a few weeks ago, we were stuck behind a tractor for an hour. Fred had a nap. And he was driving."
Harry was about to do a Hermione and express how dangerous he thought this was, when there was a screech of brakes on the gravel path outside and a great yellow mass blossomed in the yard, shimmering in the frosted glass panes around the door. Harry opened the door. Fred and George sat in their luminous yellow car, wearing lurid green velvet suits today and matching black sunglasses that were more like visors.
"Morning, Harry," Fred grinned from the driver's seat. "Like the new suits?"
"Yeah, really... unique," said Harry, trying not to laugh.
Ron didn't mince his words quite as much. With a disgusted look, he said, "What ARE you wearing?"
The twins swept coolly out of the car, snapping off their sunglasses and tucking them into their top pockets. Their suits were now revealed to have rather large, floppy legs that looked like the trousers of people at circuses who walked on stilts.
"Watch this!" said George, grinning, and both of them tugged on two pieces of string hanging from the bottom of their jackets. The suits faded to a luminous pink, through to orange, and then back to lime green.
"Cool," said Harry, grinning. "How did you make it?"
"Charmswork," Fred replied. "That and some dye that cost quite a packet, let me tell you. Well, get your luggage in the back, and watch the leather, just had it cleaned."
Ron, Harry, Fred and George all heaved the heavy trunks into the boot of the car, magically expanded like a great cavern. Even then, Fred had to jump up and down on the boot to get it to close, leaving foot prints all over it. By the time they were all packed up, Mr and Mrs Weasley were standing hesitantly on the step. Mrs Weasley was dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
"And do drive carefully, boys," said Mr Weasley, putting an arm around his wife.
"We will," said Fred, swinging his legs into the car, and turning to Harry, Ron and Ginny. "Well? Say goodbye, it's going to be a year before you see them."
Mrs Weasley grabbed the three of them in a tight hug, smiling even though Harry could tell she hated to see them go. "Have a good year, all of you. And work hard." Mr Weasley crouched down to join in the hug, patted Harry on the back and said,
"And try to stay out of trouble."
Harry smiled. "I can't promise anything."
Mr Weasley looked worried, but seeing the playful expression on Harry's face, he chuckled. "Good boy. Go on, you don't want to be late."
Harry opened the bright yellow door of the car, slipped in alongside Ron and did up his seat belt. With a last call of goodbye, Fred started the car and pulled away through the scruffy estate, out into the roads beyond. Harry turned around to wave, but Mr and Mrs Weasley were already inside. He felt sad to see the house go, and he knew he'd miss listening in on the Order meetings, playing hide-and-seek in the many rooms of the old house, sitting up for hours and eating sweets with Ron. He sighed softly.
"Harry? You okay?" said George, turning round to look concerned at the solemn look on Harry's face.
"Yeah, I'm just going to miss it," said Harry sadly. "This has been the best holiday I've had in ages..."
"Hey, hey, no sulky faces in the car," said George. He smiled and cuffed Harry jovially on the shoulder. "Come on, don't be sad. You've got a lot to look forward to, huh? New subjects, more work, NEWTs coursework... you lucky thing." He grinned. "Fred and me missed ours. But hey, who needs NEWTs when we've got flashy suits and a car that scares small children?"
Harry, Ginny and Ron all laughed, and Harry, feeling a bit better, happily turned in his seat to watch London flashing past around them. People were already out and doing some early morning shopping, or strolling briskly down the road, briefcases swinging back and forth and smart hats pulled over their heads. A lot of muggles turned to stare as the lurid car zipped past, like a great meteor flying through the centre of London, and when they stopped for George to climb out of the car and go to buy some chewing gum from the muggle newspaper kiosk, a crowd of curious Londoners formed across the street, all whispering and giving the car disapproving looks. Harry quite liked all the attention, and so did Fred and George, who took every opportunity to cruise past any good looking girls, smirking.
They arrived at Kings Cross station with plenty of time to go, and after finding trolleys for all their luggage, Fred and George took Harry, Ginny and Ron to a cafe for something to eat. There were quite a few Hogwarts students already in there, and when Fred and George strolled in, quite a few people waved and called to them. A table of Gryffindor fifth year girls near the counter cheered. Fred winked at them cheekily, found a table and went to order. George sat back in the seat, took off his glasses and lapped up the attention. Ginny grinned.
"You're famous, you know," she said, proudly.
"Yeah, I know," said George, smirking, shrugging off his jacket to reveal a white t-shirt emblazoned with huge yellow letters reading 'Gorge George'.
"Nice t-shirt," Harry chuckled.
George grinned. "It's funny because it's true, right?"
"Oh, I don't know, you're not my type," Harry said, and Ron laughed loudly. Fred arrived with drinks and handed them out, sliding into the seat with George, removing his own jacket - 'Fab Fred'.
They sipped their drinks leisurely, whiling away the half an hour until the train was expected to arrive. Fred and George said they wished they could rejoin the school again, and Ginny said they'd be welcome, but George said with a sigh, "The wizarding world of pranksters needs us, Ginny, dearest." Finally, it was ten minutes to eleven, and Fred announced that the train would have pulled into Platform 9 3/4 by now, so with cheery goodbyes, Harry, Ginny and Ron wheeled their trolleys out into the station, through the magical barrier, and sure enough, the Hogwarts Express stood by the platform, its doors open for students to embark.
They found an empty compartment easily, and after getting their luggage into the overhead racks, they all sat back to await the rest of their friends. Luna was first, breezing in like an overgrown fairy, perching on the edge of her seat and getting out a copy of The Quibbler, starting to read and not speaking much. Next was Neville, with his pet cactus and his toad Trevor, and finally Hermione found her way into their carriage.
Ron's eyes widened at the sight of the four trolleys full of bags straining with books that she was dragging. "Hermione, how have you managed to get all that here?"
She smiled brightly. "Dad's new company car's got a lot of room in the boot, so it wasn't that hard really. Hiya Luna, how are you?"
Luna didn't look up from her upside-down copy of The Quibbler, emersed deeply in some new article. "I am well," she said, softly. "And how are you?"
"I'm fine. Oh, thanks Harry," she said, as Harry helped her carry the first trolley carefully into the compartment. "I hope that it's not going to be too hot today... all the muggle railways were going through turmoil over the summer, the tracks kept buckling in the heat and all the trains were delayed."
"That's muggle traffic for you," Ron grunted, struggling with a particularly heavy wickerwork basket, trying to heave whatever was in side up the steps. "Hermione, what on earth have you got in here that weighs so much?"
"Crookshanks," said Hermione, promptly.
"Oh, well, that explains it," Ron muttered darkly, dumping the basket in the corner of the compartment. "You didn't tell me you'd transfigured him into an elephant over the summer."
Hermione frowned. "Don't be so silly, Ron.
Just then, a magical voice resounded out down the train. "May I have your attention please, may I have your attention please. Passengers are requested to not leave their luggage on the train but take it with them to the castle. Any items left on the train will not be back for another year, so make sure you get everything. Also, luggage must not be levitated from the train to the school, as if anybody has an accident there are no professors to help along the way. Thankyou." The voice cut off.
Ron groaned. "I don't believe we have to haul all this lot up to the castle... it was bad enough getting it on the train in the first place."
Harry looked around at the bulging bags of books now crowding the compartment, and it had to admit, Ron had a point.
The train pulled into Hogsmeade station with a long note from the whistle and a screech of brakes, one long journey later, as late evening was descending on the little village. Steam bloomed up from the wheels as they ground to a halt and the doors along the train slid magically open. The students poured from the carriages, all chattering eagerly. Luggage and boxes and trunks and cages were unloaded gradually and the darkened platform was filled with the sound of many owls hotting and the constant babble of the people.
Harry hopped out of the compartment, looking up at the sky. Dark storm clouds were swirling in across the horizon.
"Come on," he said, as Ron jumped down and handed him Hedwig's cage. "Looks like it's going to rain."
They took their luggage carefully from the overhead storage racks, carried it out onto the platform and loaded it carefully into one of the thestral drawn carriages waiting just outside the station. Ron jumped in without a second thought, and Hermione made to follow him, but Harry had seen something odd further back along the line of awaiting carriages.
Draco Malfoy stood next to one of the thestrals, and he was stroknig its neck gently, watching its magnificent face... but it certainly wasn't the Draco Malfoy that Harry remembered from last year.
He appeared to have diminished greatly over the summer. He was usually slim, elegant and tall, but now he was dangerously thin and a great deal shorter than when Harry last saw him. Perhaps it was due to the lack of his designer black and silver clothes. Gone were the tailored trousers and satin shirts, replaced by a rather old grey jumper and scruffy jeans under school robes several inches too short. His hair, once so sleek, was greasy and splayed vaguely around his sagging shoulders. Even though he had been pale before, he now just looked weak, severly underfed and ill. Harry found himself alarmed by the forlorn expression in his weary grey eyes.
"Harry?" said Ron, curiously. "Come on, get in. What are you looking at?"
"Malfoy," said Harry, quietly. "Look at him..."
Ron leant out of the carraige window and cast a contemptuous eye over Malfoy's startling new appearance. "Oh, poor thing," he said, unconvincingly, and then raising his voice, he yelled down the line. "Oi! Malfoy!"
Malfoy looked up, his hand falling still on the thestral's neck. He stayed silent, as though he was too tired to even speak any more.
"Which muggle did you torture to death to be able to see that horse, eh?" Ron yelled, and a knot of Gryffindors nearby laughed loudly.
Hermione, however, was not impressed at all. "Ron!" she said. "Don't!"
"Why shouldn't I?" Ron said, turning on her. "The great bullying git deserves it!"
"Didn't you hear what happened to Malfoy over the summer?" she said, raising an eyebrow.
"No," Ron snapped.
Harry climbed into the carriage, slammed the door and it began to move away up the long path through Hogsmeade. "Why? What happened?" he asked, sitting opposite Ron and Hermione.
"It was all over the Daily Prophet," said Hermione, in hushed tones. "I can't believe you haven't heard about it..."
"Are you actually going to tell us, or just build up the excitement for a few more hours?" Ron asked, frowning.
"I'm getting there," Hermione snapped. "Well... you know that Lucius Malfoy went to Azkaban. Everybody expected him to get out pretty soon though. There wasn't enough evidence, and Fudge was quoted in the Prophet as saying that Lucius was only in there as a precaution. But then they found evidence against him, and he was tried before the Wizengamot. He got sentenced to life for consorting with the Dark Lord."
"So?" said Ron. "Deserved it, didn't he?"
"I'm not finished, Ron, let me talk," she said. "Fudge tried to get him a lighter sentence. He wouldn't believe the charges, and he said that Lucius was a good man with a family. So Dumbledore agreed Malfoy could have on day out a month to see Draco and Narcissa, as long as he co-operated. Lucius had given the ministry some useful information about Voldemort while he was being tried, and he was behaving so well they planned to move him to a lower security prison. Then he got his first day-out... and he never went back to Azkaban."
"He escaped?" said Harry, with wide eyes.
Hermione shook her head. "No. He was just at Malfoy Manor with Draco... they only managed to get the true story of what happened when Draco was given a massive dose of veritaserum... one of the Death Eaters that Malfoy gave information about managed to get into the house. Rookwood." She looked up at Harry. "Lucius was murdered right before Draco's eyes."
Harry's jaw fell. Hermione nodded, her eyebrows raised.
"That's not the worst yet," she said grimly. "After he was announced dead, Malfoy Manor was seized by the ministry. I know that in usual cases, it would have gone to Narcissa and Draco, but Lucius was a Death Eater and none of the ministry had any sympathy for his family, except Fudge, but the rest of the ministry over-ruled him. They dug up some old law that said they could choose to seize his property rather than pass it onto next of kin. All the manor and lands were taken, with all the contents too. Narcissa and Draco were turned out of their home and didn't get a penny. They spent the summer in a hidden location somewhere out of the country, and there's a rumour that Crabbe and Goyle have been moved to Durmstrang too... so Draco's not had much of a holiday..."
There was silence for a few moments after she finished, finally broken by Ron's snort.
"So Malfoy gets a taste of what his dad's been inflicting on the rest of the world for years. Big deal."
"Of course it's a big deal," said Hermione, frowning. "Draco's lost everything, Ron... his father, his house, his things, his friends..."
"Malfoy's not the only person to lose somebody," said Ron. "Look at Harry! He's lost his parents and his godfather, and they were good people. Lucius Malfoy was just a scumbag."
"Does that mean that it's right that Draco had his life ruined?" Hermione snapped. "Draco might not have been in with Voldemort at all, Ron, just because his father was."
"Oh right," Ron sneered.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Hermione asked, coldly.
"Stop arguing," said Harry, frowning. "Why do you both always have to fight about everything?"
They fell silent, though Hermione was still scowling into her lap and Ron looked as though he wanted to keep arguing, playing with his fingers, a dark look on his face.
Harry folded his arms, sat back and said in a casual tone that suggested any more quarreling would not be tolerated. "It's sad that Malfoy's now poor and doesn't have a dad, but Lucius Malfoy got what he deserved. Nobody could feel sorry for him. Ron's right, Hermione, there have been loads of casualties so far, and Lucius Malfoy... well... he got what was coming to him. Even though it's sad about Draco," he added, seeing her angry expression. "And I'll probably never say this again but I feel sorry for him. There. Now just stopping fighting all the time."
Ron and Hermione nodded silently, and nobody spoke much at all for the remainder of the journey. As Harry clambered out of the carriage on the edge of the grounds, he couldn't help but notice that Malfoy had just a battered old suitcase for his belongings, and nobody was helping him get it down from the carriage's luggage rack.
"I don't believe how much books can weigh," Ron groaned five minutes later, as he and Harry helped haul the six carrier bags full of Hermione's books across the grounds to the castle.
"Me neither," Harry panted. His arms seemed to have stretched at least four inches in the last thirty seconds, straining under the weight of all the books. Suddenly, offering to help her carry some of them up to the castle hadn't seemed like such a good idea after all. "How many books do you need, Hermione? Mine all fit in a single bag."
"I'm taking more NEWT classes than you though, aren't ?" she said, promptly, strolling behind them with her suitcase, two more carrier bags and Crookshank's basket balanced on top of the suitcase. The ginger cat scampered after her, his bottlebrush tail in the air as he pranced quite smugly, pleased at not having to carry anything.
"Why?" Ron groaned, stumbling as one of the bag straps gave way. "You don't even know what you're going to do as a career yet!"
"Yes I do," she snapped.
"I'm going to be a professor."
"What of? Everything?"
"Don't be silly."
"I haven't decided."
"So you're just going to learn everything there is to learn?" Ron said, incredulously.
"Pretty much," she replied.
Ron goggled at her as she clipped smartly ahead of them, her hair swaying gently in the wind. "I don't know how she does it," he said more to himself than Harry, as they started to drag their luggage up the steps, grumbling every step of the way. Harry's arms were stretching almost down to the ground, aching with protest against the weight dragging them down. The thought that they'd now have to drag them up the marble staircase, all the way through the school, down six more staircases, along about twenty corridors and then all the way up Gryffindor Tower, was not comforting really.
Hermione heaved the doors apart and held them open for Harry and Ron to stagger in, gasping, and drop the bags to the floor with loud groans from both of them.
She giggled. "Honestly. Boys."
Ron glared at her from under the red hair sticking to his sweating brow, though said nothing, not trusting himself to speak.
"You can just leave the bags over there on that pile," she said, gesturing to a small mountain of luggage that had grown from nowhere in the middle of the hall. "Careful with them though, they're important."
Ron groaned, dragging the bags roughly across the floor and leaving them at the edge of the pile. "I've got a humped back now, Hermione," he groaned, massaging his arms.
Harry carefully positioned the bags at the foot of the mountain so that they wouldn't fall over, then straightened up and rubbed his lower back. He was about to head over to the Great Hall and find somewhere to sit down, when somebody emerged from behind the pile and nearly knocked him over as they ran. He jumped out of the way and caught a split second's view of a woman with long, feathery black hair and pale skin, dressed from head to foot in the darkest blue, before she rushed past him, her cloak sweeping along the floor. She looked to be in a great hurry, and Harry had the strangest feeling he'd seen her somewhere before, though he couldn't think where at all.
Next second, he realised why she'd been in a hurry as a face popped suddenly from around the edge of the pile with a loud shout of, "BOO!!!"
He jumped a foot in the air, stumbling backwards away from the luggage. Peeves the poltergeist grinned leeringly at him between two suitcases, squeezing out and laughing.
"Scared you, Potty?" he cackled, wickedly, floating up into the air and turning slowly upside down.
"No," Harry said, irritably, pulling his robes back in place.
Peeves chuckled. "Oooh, lies lies, Potty. You're getting as bad as Sneaky Snape, you are!" He laughed wickedly, and started to spin round and round in a circle as he sung in a childish voice, "Sneaky Snape, the first years he scares, clogs up the showers with his greasy black hairs! Ahahahaha!"
"Go away, Peeves," Harry said, trying to move past him into the hall. "Go bother somebody else."
"Ooooh, tough talk, Potty," Peeves cackled. "Should teach you a lesson, I should. Let's make it fun, shall we? If the Great Hall you wish to see, answer me these questions three!"
"No," Harry snapped. "Get out of my way."
Peeves bobbed up and down, laughing, his dark eyes full of wicked amusement, still refusing to move.
"I'll get the Baron," Harry warned, angrily. "I'm serious Peeves, let me past!"
Peeves shot forward, grabbed his head and ruffled his hair vigorously for a few seconds before he disappeared with a loud pop, his laughter still ringing the entrance hall. Harry stalked through the door, annoyed, sinking into a seat at the Gryffindor table with Ron, Hermione, Neville and Ginny.
"Where've you been?" said Ron, curiously.
"Peeves got me," said Harry, trying to sort out his hair. "You know, I don't think I'll feel sorry for him anymore. He's just an annoying - "
But at the staff table, Dumbledore was standing up and waving for quiet. Harry looked up at him, falling quiet, wanting to know what he was going to say for once. There was quite a lot to find out. The new subject, for one. Harry then noticed that there were two spare chairs at the staff table, one next to Snape, and one on Dumbledore's right hand side.
"Where's Professor Lupin?" said Ron, frowning, scanning the table.
Harry shrugged, "Don't know," as Dumbledore opened his mouth to start.
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