It was raining horrendously and the wind could be heard howling around Hogwarts as the two soaked and disgruntled boys in Quidditch uniforms trudged across the great hall towards the east tower. The hall was empty due to the weather and their angry mutterings could be heard echoing around the huge empty chamber.
"This is stupid." Ron moaned, and shook the water out of his hair, sending droplets raining down on his shorter companion.
"What's stupid? The fact that it's raining, or the fact that the common room is on the other side of the damn castle?", Harry muttered back irritably, lifting a hand to block the water.
"Both," Ron said darkly as they dragged themselves up the long winding staircase that would take them to the common room. "Especially the rain. Why the bloody hell would you have Quidditch practice in the fucking rain?"
"Oi! It wasn't raining when we started practice so shut up," Harry snapped back. He'd listened to Ron bitch all the way from the pitch and his irritation was growing by the second.
Ron grumbled an answer, and was silent the rest of the way up to the tower, where they approached a huge painting of an orange unicorn passed out in the corner of the frame. At the sound of their approach it lifted its head and yawned widely.
"Password?", it drawled in a bored voice, as though it didn't really care whether or not they knew the password.
"Peach flies," Harry said.
The unicorn didn't answer, merely laid its head back onto its front hooves and allowed the painting to swing open.
The common room they had been moved to at the start of the "eighth" year at Hogwarts was, in Harry's opinion comfortable enough—if not inconveniently placed—directly across a corridor from the Astronomy Tower. The common room had enough squashy armchairs to keep everyone satisfied, although the room itself was relatively smaller than the usual common room, since it only needed to house the eight Gryffindors, five Hufflepuffs, five Ravenclaws and four Slytherins that had returned to finish their magical education. Harry had actually been surprised that any of the Slytherins had returned and a little more than surprised to see that Draco Malfoy had been amongst those Slytherins, along with Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson. Harry figured that since Draco's father was locked away in Azkaban and Narcissa was nowhere to be found, he really didn't have much of a choice.
The room was currently occupied with what seemed like every person who lived in the tower. Parvati and Lavender were gossiping on one side of the large couch while Blaise and Neville played a quick game of chess on the other. Zacharias Smith and Hannah Abbot were both studying with the Ravenclaw's on the center rug and Pansy was asleep with her head on Theo's lap while he and Seamus studied on the other couch. Harry spotted Hermione curled up with a book and a copy of the Daily Prophet in front of the fire He quickly maneuvered his way around the forms of random people scattered on the floor and plopped next to her, with Ron on the other side. Hermione finished with her book and charmed it so it would float across the room land in Blaise Zabini's lap. he raised his hand in acknowledgement but didn't look up from the game, apparently determined to beat Neville.
It had been a bit of an awkward situation when they found out they would all be rooming together, namely with the Slytherin's, one of whom was a Death Eater. They had spent the first week of term torn between random violent outbursts and staring silently at each other and not saying anything. The impasse continued until Pansy Parkinson lost her patience, stood up after dinner and demanded that, "If one of you doesn't say something in the next minute I will go insane and believe me when I say that I will take you all with me!"
Ron had inched away from her and whispered to Harry "Blimey she's not kidding is she?"
Malfoy had turned to him with an exquisitely arched eyebrow and drawled "Pansy does not kid Weasley."
Another look at the thunderous expression on Pansy's face was all it took for Lavender to turn Hannah at the same moment that Neville turned to Blaise, and all four plunged into conversation. Pansy had visibly relaxed and from that second on the ice was broken and they managed to get on with out killing one another.
"How was practice?" Hermione asked, with a smirk, as she leaned to kiss Ron's wet cheek before opening her newspaper.
"Wet," Harry grumbled, as he peeled off his soaking jumper and nudged Hermione so she could cast a charm on him that left him warm instantly. He wrapped his arms around himself and laughed at Hermione's put out expression as Ron, still soaking wet, leaned against her. She smiled back as she cast the charm again on her boyfriend and allowed him to lay his head in her lap as she began to pour over her newspaper.
"Well why have practices in the rain?" Hermione asked, turning a page idly. "Seems a bit illogical."
"That's what i said." Ron piped up, earning himself a glare from Harry as he stretched himself out on the rug, tipping his head back.
He scanned the room from his upside down position and his eyes fell on Draco Malfoy, seated at a desk near the wide glass windows, idly twisting a quill in his fingers as he reread the essay he just wrote. Harry had been shocked into silence the first time he had spotted Malfoy for the first time on the first day of term. His white hair was longer and flopped into grey eyes that seemed to have lost all the fire they used to blaze with. He had paled two shades, and lost half his body weight in the four months after the war. Harry returned Draco's wand with a murmured "thanks," to which Draco hadn't answered. He merely nodded and walked away. Draco had been steadily ignoring Harry ever since. It had slightly unnerved Harry, but he merely chalked it up to not being used to a civil Draco Malfoy.
"Merlin's beard!" Hermione exclaimed suddenly, shocking Harry out of his Malfoy speculation as he turned his face back to Hermione.
"What?" Harry said.
"MacNair's dead." Hermione breathed, her eyes scanning the paper she had in her hands.
"MacNair? Nasty Death Eater bloke? I thought he was in prison." Ron said, pushing himself off Hermione's lap so he could read over her shoulder.
"He is, was." Harry said, rolling over. "How could he die? he's been in prison for all of what, four months?"
"I don't know..." Hermione muttered, turning the page back to the front so she could read the article from the beginning.
"AZKABAN. Notorious wizarding prison awoke on a drearier note than usual as the morning shone light on the body of Death Eater Walden MacNair that swung from the pipes that ran over the ceiling of his cell. MacNair seemed to have fashioned his pajamas into a rope and hung himself at approximately three thirty the previous morning. The guards were oddly perplexed at the lack of commotion they heard and their puzzled that they didn't notice him swinging until later that morning. What was odd that the guards discovered was that MacNair seemed to be asleep at the time of his death, bringing about the question of whether or not he had been sleepwalking at the time of his suicide. another oddity that was discovered upon a momentary examination of the corpse was the fact that though he was a known Death Eater, the Dark Mark was strongly absent from the man's forearm.
MacNair was a convicted Death Eater found guilty of multiple counts of murder and torture and had been sentenced to be kissed in a matter of weeks. No further investigation will be made regarding his suicide."
Hermione finished reading and looked up at them, her eyes wide with confusion. "How strange. Why would the mark be missing?"
"Why would he kill himself in his sleep?" Harry asked, leaning on his elbows and cocking his head. "I've heard of sleep eating but not sleep-self destruction."
"I can't believe they're not going to investigate this further." Hermione said, folding the newspaper to place it next to her and carding her fingers through Ron's hair when he settled himself back down into her lap.
"He's just a Death Eating piece of scum. No one cares about them, they're all just dead to the world." Ron said, closing his eyes and leaning his head into Hermione's touch.
"Not all of them." Harry said before he could stop himself. Hermione glanced at Draco, then turned back to Harry.
"True, but still. I suppose that makes sense. They should still investigate. Those marks are branded by very powerful dark magic and there's not much on earth that would be powerful enough to remove it." Hermione broke off, looking down at Ron's face with a pensive expression. "It's very strange."
"Yeah." Harry agreed. "Strange."
a huge thank you goes to my wonderful new beta SDino:) who has been the sweetest little birdy ever.
let me know what you think of chapter uno:)