A/N: So, I published this story about a year ago under the name "Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands". I really liked the concept but I hated the writing and I've decided to rewrite it. I'm just going to warn you now, it may seem very similar to the sixth book within the first few chapters, but I assure you it isn't. It does take place in the sixth year, though. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy!
The confined Hogwarts train compartment was absolutely silent. And not that comfortable silence that sometimes occurred in the cubicle on the way to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where visions of the Great Hall, Sorting Hat ceremony and feast occupied the young teens' minds. No, the silence was far from ordinary.
Harry Potter sat solemnly, only fidgeting his limbs if they grew uncomfortable or restless. Ever since last year, Harry wasn't too sure about returning to the school he had considered his home since he was just a small preteen, eager and willing to figure out the wizarding world. No, he had grown far from that curious boy, that naïve boy.
He wanted to fight, and he wanted to fight now. Anger and malice raged inside of him as the vision of Bellatrix Lestrange, wand in her veiny hand, danced before his eyes. And then there was Sirius… a tender knot formed in his stomach when his godfather's name so much as flashed through his mind. He quickly attempted to think of something else.
Beside him, Hermione Granger sat, crunched together with Ron Weasley on the small bench that seemed so spacious just a few years prior. Hermione's bushy hair was unkempt and frazzled, as always, and her expression thoughtful. That was the only expression she seemed to possess these days, anyway. Always thinking ahead, never halting for just one moment.
Even Ron Weasley seemed to be pondering something, for his face was crumpled together in concentration. His fingers tapped impatiently upon his jittery knees and the red of his gingery hair didn't seem to shine as it used to. His little sister sat directly across from him, and she sported the same expression on her face. They were more similar than they would have liked to admit.
Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom sat opposite of the trio, breaking the silence as they spoke quietly, reading a herbology magazine. Neville's brow was creased in that oh-so-familiar manner while he muttered something to the blonde, whose face was serene and vacant like always. Harry would always wonder how she kept such a calm demeanor when everything around her was utter chaos. Hermione and Ron simply glanced at them while Harry's eyes wouldn't stay in one place. They bounced off of every wall, and, finally, rested on the outside world zooming past. Blotches of bright green blurred as the train chugged on, lurching and burping like an old car on a dirt road.
Draco Malfoy clutched his stomach a few compartments down the hall while he tried his best to keep his lunch down. His cronies didn't seem to notice his face grow pale and his fingers dig deeper into the cloth of his black robe. Crabbe and Goyle laughed as they picked the legs off of a chocolate frog one by one, watching it squirm in discomfort.
"Ha ha, look a'it!" boomed Crabbe, as the frog made a squelching croak. Draco wasn't paying attention. His eyes were glassed over in deep thought as his mind roamed the nooks and enclaves of his summer, the worst summer of his life.
He tried everything to forget it. But nothing he did mattered; the feeling of his father's grip on his arm was still fresh in his mind, as if it was still there, begging and shaking. The blood in his veins curdled when his mind wandered to that shadowy, enclosed place.
And then like a fish out of water, Draco remembered how the grip had gone limp and his father's white hand slithered lifelessly to the floor. In the train compartment, Draco carefully rolled up his sleeve and examined his pallid arm. Those fingerprints were permanently etched onto his skin, and they burned him like a hot iron.
His knuckles turned white when his mind drifted back to the dead silence in the room after the incident. His own living room. People of all sorts occupied it, yet if Draco were to close his eyes, it wouldn't seem like any of them were there. That's when he looked up at him. The man's eyes burned scarlet as they looked down at the body; he smiled. The whisper of his hissing voice was enough to make the hairs on Draco's body stand erect and goose pimples cover his appendages.
Everything was permanently carved into his memory. The way that serpent-like mouth beamed down at him as he explained what was going to happen next; the way that awful man's lips curled around the word "kill" like it was a delicious hard candy. It made Draco cringe.
"Eh?" came a voice from next to him. He looked up to see Goyle, who pointed towards the compartment door with one pudgy finger. "The train's stopped."
Harry, Hermione and Ron stepped out of the train and hopped onto the first carriage, still silent. Everyone else around them seemed completely unscathed while they chatted happily, discussing the new first years and their class schedules. The three wondered if they would ever speak so lightheartedly ever again after the battle in the Department of Mysteries. Harry swallowed the giant lump in his throat that threatened to cause his eyes to swell and water with fresh tears. He was back at Hogwarts, but he felt like he was returning to a world that wanted so desperately to kick him out that it was willing to harm every single person he was close to.
Next to Harry, Ginny sighed slowly while looking up at the abundant castle that loomed in the distance. He didn't neglect to notice that their arms were touching. A fluttering feeling in his stomach raised his spirits gently, but not enough.
The mood altered a little more when they entered the Great Hall. It was decorated from floor to ceiling with bright colors, fancy drapes, and golden silverware. The house ghosts floated to and fro, greeting familiar faces and tipping their hats (or in Sir Nicholas's case, heads) off to the teachers. It wasn't long until the Sorting Hat Ceremony began, and for once, the trio wasn't interested whatsoever.
"Acker, Maggie!" called Professor McGonagall, as the first of the newcomers nervously tiptoed up the steps and sat on the stool. Hermione and Ron laughed a little as the girls eyes widened dramatically when the Sorting Hat fit snugly around her head. He whispered to her furtively as the rest of the hall looked on.
"SLYTHERIN!" it shouted triumphantly. The girl looked rather shocked as the Slytherin table erupted into applause. Her wobbly legs carried her over to the table, where she squeezed herself between two second years. Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged looks of impatience.
"Me mum bought me a new wand this year!" Seamus Finnigan whispered to the table ("Albertson, Peter!") as he brandished a thin wand. "Made from a willow tree, it is. Strand of unicorn hair in there, too!"
Harry smiled to himself. It was things like this that he had definitely missed over the summer. Ever since the forming of Dumbledore's Army last year, he almost felt as if he was missing out on something… missing out on being a kid.
Everyone 'ooh'ed and 'ahh'ed as Seamus twirled his wand around his fingers foolishly, and then the onlookers excitedly whispered for him to try it out ("HUFFLEPUFF!"). With some hesitation, he pointed the wand at his water goblet and quietly stuttered "Evanesco!"
The Gryffindor table held in their gasps as half of Seamus' cup vanished, leaving the right half still and intact. Water dribbled onto the table as Professor McGonagall called yet another first-year name, staring at her house table with a look of tremendous annoyance. Harry could barely stop himself from laughing as McGonagall stared daggers at Seamus, who attempted to dry water off the front of his robes.
Several Slytherins grunted and rolled their eyes at the Gryffindor table, some making rude comments while others just stared with pointed looks. Draco Malfoy, for once, was not one of those Slytherins. He stared down as his empty plate, ignoring the obvious disruption.
"Breckenridge, Robert!" shrieked McGonagall as Seamus tried the Transfiguration spell on another cup.
After the Sorting Hat ceremony, Draco ate silently and quickly, hoping to make an escape to the Slytherin dormitories before anyone could talk to him. But to no such luck.
"Draco!" came a sickeningly saccharine voice. He looked up to see Pansy Parkinson, chewing a large wad of gum as she stared at him intensely. He didn't respond. She twisted her squished pug-face into a frown.
"So I heard about… what happened," she said in a tone that was supposedly sentimental.
"Did you?" he asked scathingly, looking down at his grubby, calloused fingers. She continued to talk, but he let it flow smoothly in one ear and out the other. He examined the veins in his hand that protruded against the skin, the tiny blonde hairs on his knuckles, and the paleness of his fingers. His hands looked so… pure. Was he even capable of murder? He cringed when he thought back to that moment in his living room. Fretfully, he stood, interrupting Pansy's one-sided conversation. All he wanted to do was go to sleep.
After that night, everything seemed to be falling back into its usual place; teachers had already begun assigning projects, the Quidditch teams were booking practices on the field, and for people like Draco Malfoy, letters were arriving from home. Most of them were reminders, while others were dripping with pleas and begs from his own mother. "Do as your father would have wanted," said the letters. Draco threw each of these letters into the fireplace upon arrival, and made sure to watch them crackle and crumble into ashes every time.
Within the first week of school, teachers had already begun cracking down on the sixth years. Projects assigned, the trio barely had the time to talk to each other anymore. Every dinner in the Great Hall was spent studying, as was every breakfast. Lunch was often skipped, and spent in the common room.
"It's good groundwork for our N.E.W.T.S.," explained Hermione one day as they hurried towards the common room, piles of books in their quivering arms. "I'm actually glad they're preparing us early."
Ron and Harry looked at her incredulously. "We still have another year to prepare!" Ron reminded her harshly.
"She's right, you know," the Fat Lady said all-knowingly, crossing her pudgy arms.
"Flobberworms," Ron said, ignoring her. Indignantly, she swung open and allowed the three to enter the common room, which was rather packed with students, most of them with their Advanced Potion-Making books lying in front of them.
Slughorn had recently assigned them a project that was supposed to take almost all semester. Although they weren't to work on the projects in class, the assignment was to pick a difficult potion (denoted by the number of dark black skulls next to their names) and perfect it. Towards Christmastime, everyone in the class would present their potion, provide a sample, and read their reports.
"This bloody project is going to be the death of me," Ron complained as they squeezed onto a couch with Harry and Hermione. Simultaneously, they all began flipping through their ruddy, old textbooks. "Honestly, what kind of nutter assigns something like this? People could be killed!"
"How?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Oh, I don't know Harry, how about this one?" Ron pointed a freckled finger at the yellow textbook page. The words Mors Mortis stained the sheet in jet-black lettering, and there were four skulls next to the name. "It's a poison that slowly eats away at your insides! Eats away! Why would something like this be in a textbook? We could be killed!"
"That's preposterous, Ron!" Hermione exclaimed. "Slughorn told us of the ones we weren't allowed to brew. Plus, look at the ingredient list for it…"
They all peered down at Ron's book to see an ingredient list that was twice as long as most of the other ones in Advanced Potion-Making, which included several items that were almost impossible to find.
"Some idiot is going to try and brew that," Ron said with a trembling, accusatory lip. "I just know it."
Harry and Hermione exchanged looks before rolling their eyes.
"What, you don't believe me? Well, fine. Don't come complaining to me when one of you dies," Ron muttered, clearly dejected. "What potion are you even doing, Hermione? That recipe is almost as bad as Mors Mortis."
"It's a mind reading potion. I'm not quite sure if these directions are right, though… says I need the innards of twelve horned spewing slugs!" she exclaimed, scrunching up her face into a frown. No one could blame her, either. Not only did the slugs live up to their name (horned, and they spewed green goo through two holes in their underbellies), but they were at least three feet long, with gaping, drooling mouths. "But it's a fascinating potion, really. You drink half of it, and slip the rest into someone's food or drink, and be able to hear their thoughts for up to five minutes!"
Ron gave her a strange look, as if he was wondering if she would use it on him. Harry, however, wasn't listening as he flipped through the pages of his tattered Potions book, stopping just a few times when a title caught his eye.
"What are you thinking of brewing, Harry?" Ron asked, hoping to possibly get an idea from him.
"I've no idea…. I'm stuck between a sleeping draught and… well" – Harry suddenly looked sheepish – "a love potion of some sorts."
"Amortentia?" Hermione asked quizzically, thumbing through her own book as Ron laughed to himself.
"I guess," Harry told her, reading through the directions.
"A love potion?" Ron asked, elbowing Harry in the ribcage. "Don't go all soft on me now, Harry."
"I'm not!" Harry replied sharply. "It's just… it looks easier than most of them."
"Suuure," said Ron, before he turned his attention back to Advanced Potion-Making. Just then, Ginny had entered the common room, which caused Harry to grin almost instantly. His cheeks pushed against the lower rim of his glasses when she waved to him, and thankfully Ron didn't seem to notice Harry's new shade of red.
In addition to schoolwork, Harry and Ron were buzzing about Quidditch as well. The first match of the season was just days away, and it was practically all they could talk about. One moment, they were quarreling about game strategy and the next they were laughing about a team member.
"You'd think that McLaggen would have the decency to leave me alone, eh?" Ron began one evening as after a particularly rigorous practice. Like a feline, he stretched out on the common room couch and yawned before continuing, "He's on the team, too. And to think you almost didn't let him… I would have been a bloody pulp by now. He hates me, mate."
"Probably because you're better than him," said Harry simply as he scribbled something on a parchment. "Just ignore 'im. People like McLaggen are all talk."
Hermione, who had been listening to their Quidditch squabbles since tryouts, was getting a little sick of being left out of the conversation. She stood abruptly and peered up at the clock on the wall. She was a few minutes early, but it didn't really matter.
"I'm going to go make my rounds," she stated bluntly as she straightened her prefect badge on her robes and headed out the door, being sure to turn a cold cheek towards the boys before they could say a word otherwise.
The hallways were deserted, as they always were at this time of night. Despite the fact that most were seemingly unconvinced of the dangers in the wizarding world now that You-Know-Who was back, they still stayed clear of the hallways anyway. There was a definite eeriness to the castle when the moon came out of its hiding place, and shone its light through the rustling trees outside. It gave Hermione the creeps as she bounded down a large corridor, her hair flying wildly behind her due to her increased pace. She walked so fast that she barely noticed Draco Malfoy hurdling around the corner. A loud smack sounded in the air as they collided, causing Hermione to scream and several portraits to 'shush' her. Draco stared at her blankly.
"What are you doing out here?" she asked him incredulously, brushing off the front of her robes. She was fully expecting him to make some snide comment about her Muggle-born roots, or about her hair, or anything. But instead he just stared at her, not even a frown on his face. "Gryffindor prefects have rounds on Monday nights, didn't you know?"
He had almost forgotten that he was a prefect. Shaking out of his daze, he glared at her. "Don't tell me what to do."
"Just go back to your dormitory! What're you doing out here, anyway?" she asked him in confusion. He looked so befuddled that for a moment, she actually thought she could have a normal conversation with him.
"Don't worry about it," said Draco tersely. Uncomfortable, he shifted his weight from side to side.
"It's dangerous at night, you know," she said matter-of-factly.
"I said don't worry about it," he repeated. His arms were crossed tightly, and it was so dark that Hermione barely noticed one of his hands was stuffed inside his black robes. He was clutching his wand so hard that he was sure it would snap in two. Hermione gave him a wary look before sidestepping him.
"You should go back," she said authoritatively, before walking quickly past him. She didn't know why, but something about him not even bothering to insult her was… unnerving. Feeling anxious, she quickly made her way around the castle before heading back to the dormitories, eager to tell Ron and Harry about her strange encounter.
Much to her disappointment, they had already retired to their beds when she returned.
A/N: I'm sorry it wasn't the most eventful chapter. Let me know what you thought!