Chapter One, First Day Back

Ginny walked through the doors, and into the Great Hall, smiling in spite of herself. She stopped to take in the wonder of the place, the beauty and majesty of it. She looked at the clear, starry night sky, and the candles that lit up the room. She saw the tables that divided the houses, and the plates that would soon be covered in food.
And she remembered all the years she'd spent there already, how they seemed so far away now...

Suddenly a shoulder hit hers, and her brother jokingly dragged her to the Gryffindor table - to dinner.

The Sorting finished as soon as it had started - there were a lot less students at Hogwarts this year, with the war going on. She scanned the table and noticed that Seamus Finnigan hadn't returned. He'd had trouble with his Mother at the end of last year, so it was no surprise. But there were so many people missing. In Ginny's mind, it was a shame. Even without Dumbledore, Hogwarts was still one of the safest places on Earth - so many talented witches and wizards to protect it. One thing that surprised her was one face that WASNT missing. Draco Malfoy was still sitting over at the Slytherin table, looking like he owned the place. Ginny tried to supress the rage and anger she felt - she had half a mind to go over there and curse him right now, then tell McGonagall off for letting him anywhere NEAR the school grounds. It was common knowledge that Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater, and it was common knowlege that Draco was out on raids with him almost weekly. What wasn't common knowledge was that he was the one who'd let the Death Eaters into the school last spring - the night Dumbledore was killed. Even less people knew that he was the one who was supposed to have done the deed.

But there he was, smug and arrogant as always. Although something was different about him this year. He seemed almost subdued. A first year sat two seats away from him and he didn't even blink. Last year, he would've tortured the poor kid to tears, or at least tried. But no, there was something...not quite there about Draco. Not that Ginny cared. At all. It was just an interesting observation.

Ginny strayed away from thoughts about Draco and the War, and daydreamed and gazed while Professor McGonagall gave the usual introduction speech with the rules, then a new piece about House Unity and inter-House activities. Ginny rolled her eyes, and waited not-so-patiently for the food to arrive.

After she and her friends ate, they parted with Hermoine, who had to run off to do Head Girl duties, and the rest of them made their way up to Gryffindor Tower for a quiet night in the common room.

On the way, Harry and Ron were talking animatedly about the Quidditch team that year, but Ginny kept her head down. Her Mum had made it perfectly clear that she was not to play Quidditch this year. Ron and Harry had to keep up appearances, but she couldn't take the unnecessary risks, or the devote the time to her beloved sport. She was still debating in her head whether or not she was going to actually listen to her Mum for once. It was true, she was going to have less time this year, with school, fighting with the Order (only on weekends, of course), and her Mum had set up Healer training with Madam Pomfrey. The Order decided it would be prudent to have a trained Healer or Mediwitch or something of the sort on-site as often as possible, and Mrs. Weasley had volunteered Ginny because it would keep her out of the bulk of the fighting, and give her something useful to do for the Order.

Lost in her own mental debate about Quidditch, she didn't even realize she was about to walk into a tall, blonde Slytherin until it was too late. They collided, and she fell to the ground.

"You should learn to watch where you're going." Draco sneered, "It could come in handy someday."

She just glared at him, "Oh, shut up, Malfoy. Watch your own path, will you?" She shot back, knowing it wasn't a great comeback, but not really caring tonight. It had been such a stressful summer, and the beginning of the school year just made it worse - she didn't need this, nor did she want it.

Draco looked surprised and smug, and Ginny couldn't stand it. "What!"

"Just surprised you don't have anything better than that. I guess you're just too stupid to think of anything." He replied, trying to be callous, but the words spilling out just weren't cutting it. She noticed his poor choice of words, and realized he didn't have anything, either.

"Yup, that's it. Too stupid." She repeated monotone, hoping he'd just give up and leave her alone. To her surprise, and almost delight, he did. He sneered at her and stalked off. She rolled her eyes and continued her path to the Gryffindor Common Room alone. Apparently she'd been falling behind Ron and Harry before, and they'd gone on without her.

She walked into her bedroom, and flopped down on her bed, ignoring the girls around her. She always had, the only friend that she had that was a girl was Hermoine, and now that she and Ron were...well...she just didn't really count on that level anymore. She laid down on her bed, and closed her eyes for a moment to gather her thoughts. She thought about Quidditch, Healing, Harry, the War, her family, Hermoine and the ungodly awful summer she'd just finished, and before she even realized what was happening, she'd fallen asleep on top of her blankets...