I have not read Harry Potter. I watched the movies which probably means all you die hard Harry Potter fans are probably going to want to kill me for writing Harry Potter fanfiction "unprepared". I thought about this long and hard, but I've had this idea for over a year and I really want to run with it. I promise, I'll be sure to check my facts and be as book-compliant as I can be. If I fudge something up, feel free to write me a review and correct me and I'll change it. That being said, this completely ignores the epilogue (well, for the most part). Also, without giving away too much of the mystery, this story deals greatly with the theme of accepting homosexuality, so if you have a problem with that, well there's definitely something wrong with you, but don't leave me any nasty reviews. Anyway, enough rambling. Enjoy my first Harry Potter fanfic and please leave a review.

Chapter 1

New Beginnings

Harry Potter anxiously sat himself at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. He could feel eyes boring into the back of his skull – something that set his hair completely on end. The presence of his friends beside him did little to quell his nervousness, though it did help somewhat. Harry, Ron and Hermione, like all Seventh Years had been invited back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as the Second Wizard War had denied them a proper education. Harry had wanted to forgo the formalities of school. He'd already been asked to join Auror training. Of course he was friends with Hermione Granger and so that was clearly never going to happen.

"Lighten up, mate," Ron Weasley, his best friend since the tender age of eleven, laughed quietly into Harry's right ear. "They're only grateful."

Ron knew quite well that Harry despised all the attention he received for being the Saviour of the Wizarding World. Honestly, Ron himself, who thought he'd love the spotlight, was desperately hoping for the whole hero thing to blow over and soon. Hermione couldn't agree more.

"I've spent my whole life being watched," Harry grumbled. "You'd think people could just keep their eyes to themselves."

"If it makes you feel any better, not everyone's looking at you." Harry followed Ron's gaze to the Slytherin table where other Eighth Year students were gathered. Among them was a young man with aristocratic features and a shock of platinum hair. "Death Eater Juniors are back as well it seems."

"Ronald," Hermione snapped, shaking her head in disbelief. "It's called tact! Honestly!"

Harry found it easy to block out the newly dating couple's minor squabble. He'd had enough practice over the years. Ron and Hermione became background noise as he drifted off into thoughts about Draco Malfoy and the roll he had played in his exoneration. Harry wasn't entirely sure whether he made the right choice in helping Narcissa and Draco or not, but he sorely hoped he had.

Harry was pulled out of his thoughts in that moment as the doors to the Great Hall opened and Minerva McGonagall entered followed by a small group of First Years. The war had left most parents frazzled and even more lives completely upturned. The insignificant number of students came as no surprise to Harry. The only Gryffindors that had returned for their eighth year were himself, Ron, Hermione, Seamus and Neville. Much the same, the only Ravenclaw to return was Terry Boot. Hufflepuff saw only Hannah Abbott return to complete her schooling. The only surprise in enrolment was the number of Slytherins to return. With Draco Malfoy sat Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson.

"Welcome students," Professor McGonagall – Headmistress McGonagall rather – said, her voice ringing out and brining a chilling silence upon the student body. "Welcome back to a new school year. Let the sorting begin."

Just the same as always, Headmistress McGonagall placed the Sorting Hat on a stool and the hat came to life, singing yet another new song about the Founders and the Houses. First Year students were called up one by one to sit under the hat. The majority of them were sorted into Hufflepuff, much to everyone's surprise. Unsurprisingly, only one student was sorted a Slytherin and the poor child looked mortified. With all the First Years having been sorted, Harry, much like everyone else, assumed the sorting to be over. When, instead of putting the sorting hat away, McGonagall cleared her throat and eyed the students gravely, no one was sure quite what was going on.

"Due to the unusual circumstances created by the Second Wizarding War, Hogwarts will be opening its doors for three orphans who, up until this point, were being homeschooled. It is strongly advised that no one make trouble for them."

Giving the students one last warning look, Headmistress McGonagall flicked her wand and the doors to the Great Hall swung open. Harry looked on among the other curious students as the three orphans came into view. The youngest was a pre-teen boy with sandy-blonde hair and big, blue eyes. Beside him was a teenage girl with brown eyes and honey-blonde hair cut in a bob. A thick, angry scar ran along the right side of her face down her neck disappearing down the collar of her uniform. And finally, the oldest among them was a tall young woman with pale skin, long, black hair and mesmerizing turquoise eyes. Harry was having a hard time imagining her as school-aged. She looked old enough to be in her early twenties and those chilling eyes held the wisdom of woman five times that age.

"Joining the Second Years, Jonathan Strauss," McGonagall called. The shy young boy hesitantly sat on the stool and allowed the Sorting Hat to be placed on his head. After a moment, the hat called out Hufflepuff and Jonathan quickly made his way over to the table of yellow and black ties.

"Joining the Fourth Years, Katherine Cobain," the Headmistress continued, lifting the hat to place it on yet another head of blonde hair. The Sorting Hat barely touched her head before it triumphantly yelled Ravenclaw.

"And lastly, completing her education in the special Eighth Year program, Rhea Devonshire." Headmistress McGonagall placed the ragged hat upon the ebony-haired girl's head. Her eyes were momentarily hidden by her straight bangs and she suddenly looked a whole lot less sure of herself than she did when she first walked in.

The hat was quiet for a long time, obviously having a harder time sorting someone who was older than it did with someone who was younger. Finally it roared Gryffindor and Rhea hesitantly took a seat next to Hermione, picking at her black-polished nails nervously.

"I'm Hermione Granger," Hermione whispered. Rhea's head snapped up and she looked, unsure, at the hand Hermione had extended before taking it and shaking it.

"Rhea Devonshire," she mumbled meekly. Harry deduced that she wasn't being shy, just being wary of the first impression she made.

"I'm Harry Potter," Harry said, extending a hand. Again, Rhea examined it for a moment before shaking it firmly.

"Pleased to meet you," she said, smiling lightly. "And thank you."

"I'm Ron Weasley," Ron but in, thinking he was saving Harry from another admirer. Harry however hadn't been put off by Rhea's expression of thanks because it wasn't accompanied with any undue gawking or idolization.

"A pleasure," Rhea mumbled, shaking Ron's hand too.

McGonagall, deciding she'd let the students chatter enough, spoke up at that moment. "Last year was a particularly dark one, one that I'm sure we'll all be glad to have behind us. Now, with a new year before us, I'd like to welcome two new teachers to our staff. First, teaching Muggle Studies, Professor Kennedy Staples."

A tall man stood up from his seat at the High Table. He was almost startlingly thin and delicate-looking. His short, light brown hair stuck up around his head and his green eyes sparkled in mirth. Harry wanted to be focused on how Professor Staples seemed like he'd be a fantastic Professor, but he was left with a sour taste in his mouth remembering that the last Muggle Studies Professor had been killed at Voldemort's hand.

Professor Staples looked their way and lifted his eyebrows playfully. Harry was confused until he saw Rhea cautiously lift a hand and wave.

"You know him?" Harry asked before he had time to think about the question.

"He was a good friend of my parents," she replied and Harry mentally cursed himself for bringing up a potentially sore subject. Rhea didn't appear offended however and Harry counted his blessings.

"Muggle Studies will be a mandatory course this year," McGonagall said sharply. "Any students who argue this point will find themselves promptly expelled."

Rolls of tension washed over the Great Hall under Headmistress McGonagall's firm words. She straightened and continued. "We also have a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Joshua Fletcher."

Another man stood from his seat and for a very brief moment, Harry thought himself face to face with the ghost of Severus Snape. Of course, this was ridiculous because the man in front of him looked nothing like the late Potions Master. Still, the tall man with his short black hair, brown eyes and richly tanned skin gave Harry the same sinking feeling Snape had always given him.

As soon as he'd stood, Professor Fletcher sat once more, only adding to the brooding impression he gave.

When Headmistress McGonagall finished an exceptionally long speech about house unity and overcoming difficulties, she summoned the banquet to the table. Students greedily filled their plates, their eyes much bigger than their stomachs, something that apparently even a war couldn't change.

"Where are you from, Rhea?" Hermione enquired as she cut up a piece of chicken. On Harry's other side, Ron had a whole drumstick in his hand, eating ungraciously straight off the bone.

"Cambridge," Rhea replied, picking at her lump of mashed potatoes.

"I've been there," Hermione remarked. "It's rather nice."

"It is," Rhea agreed, smiling a little. Hermione and Harry continued to exchange pleasantries with her until the end of the meal. Ron too would have participated, Harry imagined, if he hadn't been stuffing his face full of all the food he could get his hands on.

When the students were dismissed, Hermione offered that Rhea walk with them up to the Gryffindor common room. Rhea nodded her consent and she quietly followed the trio. Before they could leave however, Rhea felt a hand on her shoulder. The four stopped and turned to see Professor Fletcher staring Rhea down.

"It's a shame about Rinette and Pierre," Professor Fletcher said, though his voice sounded cool and aloof and not at all like he thought it was a shame.

"You know, you're allowed to call them my parents. That's typically the title one gives to the people to whom they were born and raised," Rhea said just as coldly as Professor Fletcher had.

"Still, my condolences," he said, quirking his eyebrow in a way that was almost daring Rhea to argue with him further.

Before Rhea could get a word in edgewise, Professor Staples appeared behind where Professor Fletcher stood.

"Hey, Kiddo," he greeted, smiling at Rhea fondly. "Making friends already?"

"Ah, yeah, I guess," Rhea murmured, casting a quick glance at Hermione who nodded. They were friends.

"And Joshua, you're already making nice with your future students," Professor Staples remarked, his voice laced with sarcasm and his expression whimsical.

"Kennedy," Professor Fletcher grumbled, and Harry wasn't sure whether it was in greeting or warning. "If you'll excuse me."

Professor Fletcher quickly turned on his heels and made his way out of the Great Hall. Professor Staples laughed throatily and gave the quartet an amused look.

"Don't mind him," he chuckled. "I'll see you around, Rhea?"

"Yes Kennedy," Rhea sighed. "Or, Professor Staples," she admonished, realizing her mistake.

Professor Staples turned on his heels and headed back to the High Table in the general direction of Headmistress McGonagall. Before Rhea could apologize for the brunette so rudely butting in on them, Hermione asked her whether or not she'd be taking Arithmancy and she lost herself in small talk once more.

That night, before going to sleep, Harry wondered how Rhea had lost her parents. He wondered how Rhea and Professor Staples knew each other. He wondered why Professor Fletcher had been so hostile towards her. But most of all, he wondered as he had all evening, if Draco Malfoy was capable of change or if he had, with the best of intentions mind you, helped a guilty man walk free.