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Chapter One

1 September 1998

"Can you believe we're going back? I actually didn't think we would..." Harry asked his compartment full of friends. Headmistress McGonagall has asked everyone in their year to return for what she had deemed their "Eighth Year".

Out of the people returning, there was Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. The Golden Trio had been running around last year, all across Britain to find horcruxes, and were eager to have their final year of education.

Well, Hermione was. Harry and Ron just loved Hogwarts too much to turn down the offer of returning.

There was also Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, who were even closer than before, on account of Dean having been forced to flee from the school and his home because of his blood. Seamus realized how much he cared for his best friend, and decidedly grew closer to him.

They were often found whispering, heads bent over loads of parchment. But if you asked them what they were doing, they would replace all the papers in their bag in a hurry, and say, usually in unison, "Nothing!"

Neville Longbottom had returned on account of a special offer from McGonagall that could only be put into action if he finished his last year of school, and N.E.W.T.s. He, too, was not sharing this piece of his personal life with anyone, claiming it was a "surprise".

These six Eighth Years were sitting in a compartment together, accompanied by Ginny Weasley, now in her seventh year.

"I'm just glad I'm going back without creepy Death Eaters as my professors," Ginny added, thinking of the Carrows. "I wonder who their replacements are?"

No one knew the answer to this, not even Hermione.

Ginny glanced at her watch and yelped in surprise. "Merlin help me, I'm going to be late! See you in a bit, guys. Duty calls!" Pulling her Head Girl pin out of her pocket, she fastened it to her top as she hurried out the compartment door.

After she had left, it was time for everyone to do something on their own. This wasn't a rule but in a sense, a tradition. Ever since third year there was always a point on the train's journey where everyone would stop talking as a group, and break off into either small groups or by themselves.

Hermione read her book, Seamus and Dean did more paperwork, and Neville looked through his new September copy of Herbology Monthly.

Ron slept.

However, The Chosen One didn't have anything to do this train ride, unfortunately. After about twenty minutes of staring out the window, thinking about life and the upcoming school year, he stood up, "Guys, I'm going to go take a walk."

Everyone nodded distractedly, expect for Ron who was snoring loudly, and Harry slipped out the door. Wandering down the small hallway, he first headed toward the washroom.

As Harry was washing his hands after his "business", he decided to hunt for the woman who always asked, "Anything off the trolley, dears?" Really, you could count on her to say that line, to everyone, every time.

However, he wasn't watching where he was going as he came out of the washroom, and ran straight into someone waiting for its use.

"Oh, sorry-" But as he looked up at who he was muttering apologies to, he stared into grayish-blue eyes.

"You're fine, Potter." Draco Malfoy dismissed, and wove around Harry to get to the washroom, closing the door firmly behind him.

Harry stood there for a moment, then continued on his way to find the happy-candy woman, confused.

He was dumbfounded for two reasons. One, Malfoy was allowed to return, which meant he didn't do anything criminal as a Death Eater. Two, after running straight into the Slytherin, Malfoy didn't start a fight or do anything... well, juvenile, as he would've last year and the years previous.

Harry had to admit, Malfoy looked better. Healthier. From what the bespectacled boy gathered from his appearance, Malfoy was equally happy as Harry now that the war was over. The blond looked... cleaner, almost.

His eyes are brighter, as well. Harry observed, and almost tripped when he realized what he had thought. Why the Hell am I thinking about his eyes...? He shook his head as if it would clear his mind, and continued on his way.

Twenty minutes later, he returned to the compartment with arm fulls of candy for everyone to eat and share. For once, Ron didn't complain about charity, only thrilled that he had a few chocolate frogs to eat after his nap.

Ginny returned moments later to tell the group that the train was almost to Hogsmeade Station, and advised them to change into their robes. She quietly grabbed a liquorice wand, and her uniform, and left the compartment with Hermione to change.

"I saw Malfoy awhile go. I guess he's an Eighth Year with us, too." Harry told his friends, as he pulled on his white shirt.

"Great. Just what we need," Neville snorted, then continued angrily. "I was looking forward to being free of his stupid and judgmental ass."

"Didn't know asses could be judgmental, Nev," Seamus joked, and the boys chuckled as Neville's face turned pink.

"Furthermore, how do you know what his ass is like?" Dean added. Ron high-fived him and the boys laughed even harder.

"Fuck you guys." Neville muttered, and threw chocolate frog box at Dean's head. He ducked expertly while Harry caught it behind him with a smile.

In the carriages heading towards the castle, the old friends were having many conversations at once. Ron and Hermione arguing over the gender of the new Defense teacher, Dean and Seamus muttering again, and Neville and Ginny discussing the pros and cons of using a particular plant from west India to heal wounds.

Harry took this opportunity to observe his friends. Wow. It's been seven years since this all started. He was shocked at how different they all looked. Even more so, how their personalities evolved.

Seamus and Dean both got much taller, lost their baby fat, and became very handsome young men. They developed a real motivation to work, unlike when the boys were eleven and put everything off until the last possible minute. Now, they were working extremely hard, together.

Ron was a shocking six feet, five inches. How anyone could be that tall was beyond Harry... it went "over his head", as he was only five feet, five inches.

He had became very toned, as well. Really, all the boys had grown and lost any extra childhood weight. The girls had become more mature, as well; they had curves now, and really knew how to take care of themselves and look great.

They all grew up. And now that Voldemort wasn't lurking in the shadows or killing anything that had a pulse, they were free to be themselves. Which also gave Ron and Hermione the freedom to argue even more than usual.

"All I'm saying is, our best teachers have been men. That can't be a coincidence." Ron said with a shrug.

"The gender of the instructor has nothing to do with how well they can instruct, Ronald!" Hermione disagreed.

"Yeah? Well then, how come the only girl-teacher we've had was completely awful, and our two best professors were men?"

"Because Umbridge was a flaming bitch!" Hermione yelled, and everyone in the carriage turned to look at her, shocked at her language. "Sorry..." She apologized. The rest shrugged, not minding that she had cursed, just surprised that she did. "And, Ronald, one of our "best" was really a Death Eater in disguise, if you didn't remember!"

"He still taught us a lot!" He argued.

"Just because the best were male does not mean we can't have a great female teacher!" Hermione huffed angrily and crossed her arms over her chest. Harry realized she did this when she was done with an argument, every time.

The carriages stopped, and the friends piled out, looking up at the magnificent castle. It had been restored, after sustaining extensive damage during the Final Battle, and now looked just a glorious as it did before.

Ginny left the group to find her fellow Seventh Years, while the rest headed toward the large doors.

Walking behind Ron slightly, Harry smirked when he saw how guilty the red-haired boy looked for making Hermione angry with him. Do I smell some love brewing? Harry smiled at the thought of his best friends together. Most people would most likely be upset with their two best friends being together, but Harry simply loved the idea.

They deserve to be happy. We all do. Harry thought as he passed through the Entrance Hall into his final year at Hogwarts, his friends by his side.

Let me know what you think? Thanks xo -Maddie