The Hogwarts Express pulled into the Hogsmeade Station for the first time in the new age. The Wizarding world had achieved a certain amount of peace with no serious clouds of fear hanging over the formerly oppressed people. The Dark Lord been defeated, but at a great price. A raven- haired boy got off the train and stood on the platform; but this time, there was no great scar marring his forehead. He still wore glasses, and was still tall and a little lanky, but he wore no smile.
A tall brunette with long cinnamon curls pulled back in a neat braid followed shortly after him. On the front of her robes, the Head Girl badge was secured proudly, shining against the black of her school robes. She looked older than she had before the summer, and was taller, and far thinner. The war had taxed her dearly, but in the end, she had played a major role in the defeat of the Dark Lord.
'Harry, are you sure this is not too much for you?' she asked, voice filled with gentle, sisterly concern.
'Yeah, I'm sure. I need to do this because they can't,' Harry replied.
He was, of course, referring to the loss of his best male friend, Ronald Weasley, and his girlfriend, Ginny. The war had been very hard, and very unforgiving, and the loss of the two youngest Weasley's was just two among many on the side of light. Hermione understood his pain, for she too had lost two best friends. The difference was, she could handle it, and Harry struggled with that.
'Look Harry, I'll see you later. I have to go and make sure the first years get to Hagrid with Malfoy, okay?' Hermione informed.
'Right, but don't let that git of a Head Boy walk all over you,' he said with a wink.
Hermione snorted softly at that comment. 'Malfoy, walk all over me? I'd like to see him try…'
'Go on 'Mione,' he prompted.
Hermione smiled and hugged him, kissing him on the cheek swiftly before clearing a path for herself through the crowds to the jumpy-looking first years. She reached them and found that Malfoy was already nearby, smirking and looking at her in a superior fashion, crossing his arms in satisfaction.
'What did you say to them, Malfoy?' she hissed into his ear sharply. 'They looked positively frightened.'
'Nothing Granger,' he lied.
'Oh I'm sure,' she replied with a scoff. 'Anything that has anything to do with you could never be "nothing"'
'For someone who is supposedly accepting, you do a terrible job at actually proving it,' he retorted unpleasantly.
'I'll have you know…' she began hotly.
'FIRS' YEARS!' a loud voice boomed over the noise of the crowd on the railway platform. 'FIRS' YEARS COME WITH ME!'
Hermione turned around and saw Hagrid, and then ran to him, and immediately threw herself into a tight embrace with the half-giant. 'Oh, Hagrid it's so good to see you!' she exclaimed.
'Aye, 'Mione. It good ter see ye again,' he agreed warmly.
'How have you been?' she inquired thoughtfully. 'I haven't seen since the ummm… you know.'
He nodded. 'I'm well. I visited me brother and me Olympe over the rest o' the summer, an' visited Charlie Weasley an' his dragons.'
'That sounds lovely.'
'Aye,' he agreed fervently. 'Now what's this I heard about ye bein' eighteen an' all? I thought ye were 'Arry's age,' he asked curiously.
'I used a time turner for two years, and I'm a little scared to admit that I'll be nineteen next year, while everyone else turns only eighteen,' she replied.
'Right, well I'd better get this lot to the lake. I'll send an owl fer ye and Harry to come for tea some time.'
'Alright, see you later Hagrid.'
Hermione watched as the giant led the timid first years towards the path that wound to the lake. She waited until they were out of sight, before turning just in time to see Malfoy climb into a carriage, and close the door. It took off without her, and when she looked around, she saw that it was the last of them. Fuming, Hermione began the long walk from the station to Hogwarts, in the rain no less, for in autumn that was all it seemed to do in Scotland.
When her robes became too wet and heavy to wear without slowing her down, she removed it, glad that she was wearing her jumper and that her white shirt would not be visible when it became see-through underneath it, and carried it over her arm. She pulled her wand out, deciding that it would be better if she had easy access to it, just in case. Malfoy was going to pay for this.
Once she reached the gates, she found them closed and locked already, and annoyingly enough, she had absolutely no idea what the passwords were to unlock it. Groaning, she pointed her wand in the general direction of the castle and muttered a quiet, 'Expecto Patronum,' conjuring her Patronus. She watched as the graceful Black Panther emerged from her wand tip as opposed to the otter she once had. It had transformed sometime during the war from the adorable aquatic mammal, to the somewhat more elegant and mature-looking feline.
'Please send word to Professor Dumbledore that there was some – I was detained and that I need his assistance at the gates,' she instructed the cat urgently.
The panther mewled and bounded through the gates and off towards the castle that had served as her school for the past six years. Sighing in resignation, Hermione summoned a large rock from the side of the road to where she stood, and sat down on it with a huff. She waited for what seemed like hours until she saw the lantern, followed by the form of a carriage and the black Thestral that she could actually see.
It stopped by the gate and the door opened, and a long, black-clad leg emerged shortly after, followed by the second one, and finally, the black robes to complete the image of her rescuer. Of all people that could have been sent to fetch her, Severus Snape, surly Potions Master, Head of Slytherin House, and hater of all things Gryffindor had to be the one to save her from catching her death in the rain.
'Good evening, Professor,' she said as evenly as she could through chattering teeth, returning the rock to where it belonged with a flick of her wand as he tapped the chain and locks on the gate with his wand, murmuring and incantation under his breath in that silky, plumy voice of his.
He merely raised an eyebrow in response and opened to let her in before locking it all up again. 'Pray tell, exactly what were you doing, Miss Granger?' he drawled.
Hermione scowled at his tone and pulled on her soaked robes, crossing her arms in a defensive gesture. 'I hardly think that you'll even believe me, Sir,' she replied coolly, but honestly.
He sneered at her tone. 'Get in the carriage girl,' he spat.
Hermione did as she was told and sat down performing a drying and warming charm on her as she did, and getting as far away from the door and Snape as she could. Snape followed her in shortly after and closed the door to the carriage which took off with a sudden jerk. They sat in total silence for a while, until Snape's next words broke it.
'Give me one good reason for why I should not deduct House points or have you expelled for this Miss Granger,' he demanded.
'Malfoy intentionally left in the last student carriage without me while I was assisting Hagrid with the first years,' she replied simply, knowing that it was all in vain anyway. 'I was only doing my duty, sir.'
'Enough,' Snape said, holding up a hand to silence her. She was right; it wasn't her fault. 'I will see to it that Mr. Malfoy is punished appropriately for his deeds.'
Hermione gawked and stared at Snape, astonished at what he had just said. She wasn't being punished? Malfoy – Draco Malfoy, Slytherin Prince Malfoy was getting a punishment? That was positively unheard of.
'Th- Thank you sir,' she stammered.
He merely grunted a response and they didn't talk for the remainder of the trip. When they stopped at the castle, Snape got out first, and to Hermione's surprise, he actually held out a hand to help her from the carriage. Curiosity made her accept his help, and she managed to climb out without injuring either of them in the process, which was another positive.
'Your Patronus has changed form, Miss Granger,' he commented as the made the ascension up the stairs.
'You saw it – sir?' she asked, tacking a proper address on the end so not to sound impertinent.
'I received your message first. I didn't think that we should deprive the students of Professor Dumbledore's famous beginning of year inspirational nonsense,' he said sarcastically, making Hermione need to fight a grin. 'I was impressed with your Patronus. A panther is a very majestic creature.'
'His name is Lysander,' she commented idly. 'Shall I go see the Headmaster to explain my lateness?'
Snape shook his head upon reaching the doors to the Great Hall. 'I shall explain and discuss with the Professors to determine what Mr. Malfoy's punishment shall be,' he said dismissively. 'Join your house Miss Granger.'
'I shall. Thank you sir,' she said.
'Good evening,' he said, and with that, they entered the Great Hall, parting ways immediately, Hermione joining Harry and Neville at the Gryffindor table, while Snape took his seat next to the Headmaster at the Head Table.
'Severus, would you care to explain?' Albus prompted quietly.
'Mr. Malfoy found it necessary to play a prank on Miss Granger. I simply retrieved her from the gate,' he replied, watching as Hermione spoke a few words to her friends.
'Why that horrid boy,' Minerva exclaimed from the other side of Dumbledore. 'I told you that he would that he would be trouble. He's not fit to be Head Boy.'
'Calm down Minerva,' Snape said quietly. 'I fully intend to punish him for his wrong doings, if that was your concern.'
Albus sighed deeply, looking between the two of them arguing like students. 'I may have been too hasty in electing Mr. Malfoy for the position, but I truly believed that he would improve and become more responsible and less prejudiced in time with this position,' he admitted.
'Albus reconsider,' Minerva prodded bossily. 'Like father, like son. Terry Boot would have been an excellent Head Boy, or even Justin Flinch-Fletchly. Either would have done in a pinch. I would have chosen even Blaise Zabini over Malfoy.'
'I would have to agree with Minerva, although I hardly think that angering Lucius would be a suggestion at this time,' Snape said to Minerva's surprise. 'I would never have chosen Draco to begin with. His prejudices and immaturity outweigh his so-called intelligence.'
'Suspend him from all Hogsmeade trips until the end of Term and see if that improves his behavior. If not, then suspend his Head Boy position and give it to another,' Snape replied carefully. 'That can be his punishment, although I do not suggest you allow him to get too close to Miss Granger. He is known to lash out and seek revenge.'
'You're being serious,' Minerva said with more than a little shock edging her voice.
Snape nodded. He knew that after the war, he would be free to treat all of his students as equals. He had never been allowed that luxury before, and he certainly wasn't going to let the brat son of Lucius Malfoy get away with murder. He had never liked the snotty little blonde boy. 'Of course I am serious woman. When have I ever not been?' he said curtly to her.
'But he's a Malfoy…'
'… That needs to learn some discipline like any other wizard,' he interrupted. 'Contrary to popular opinion Minerva, I do not like the Malfoy's, both senior and junior night I add. Honestly Minerva. You're not terribly perceptive.'
'Then it is settled,' Albus said before Minerva could respond. 'I shall talk to Mr. Malfoy and discuss his punishment with him after dinner.'
'Lucius will not be happy,' Minerva commented tartly.
'When is Lucius ever happy?' Snape asked dryly, spearing a piece of broccoli lazily with his fork and examining it warily. 'Perhaps when he is in London cheating on his wife with loose women,' his mind offered reasonably which Snape had no objections to.
'Will you send young Draco in to me Severus?' Albus asked as he began his own meal with a hesitant expression.
'You can rely on it Albus,' he replied, allowing his gaze to drift over to the Gryffindor table, where Hermione Granger was sitting and staring miserably at her food in the same fashion that Potter was. The loss of the two youngest Weasley's had been far worse than anyone could have imagined. Potter would not be a trouble maker, and Granger would cease to ask bothersome questions and spout text books like a know-it-all.
But that in itself was a problem. He had already gotten used to that behavior. And now he would have to adjust to their depressiveness. The joys of being a teacher…