Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or anything else that may be referenced in this chapter.

A/N: Massive thank yous to you all for reading, reviewing, following and favouring; and I hope you all enjoy this chapter! :)

Twitter: Prof_McGonagal

Chapter 16

Once outside on the pavement, Rose took a deep, steadying breath, tucked Miss Marple's cage more securely under her arm, adjusted the strap of her rucksack and redoubled her grip on the handle of her trunk. Glancing around to make sure there were no Muggles about- though she was none too sure if the statute of security was still important- and once she was certain there were not, Rose turned on the spot and Apparated away, intent upon reappearing on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, for the start of what she had a strange feeling was going to be a very different year.

A slight breeze pressed against Rose's skin and ran through her hair as her feet landed in solid ground, but so quiet were her surroundings that were it not for the smell of smoke in the air, in the moment before she opened her eyes, she wondered if she had apparated into a library or something by mistake.

When she opened her eyes, she found that she was indeed standing on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, but like the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley, it had changed. Rather chillingly, stern-faced witches and wizards in long black robes lined the perimetre of the platform, scrutinizing the few families that were there at half-past ten, who were there huddled together, talking in low voices and, every now and then, glancing around fearfully at those watching. Pushing her hair from her face, Rose opened her mind, let Severus know she was on the platform.

'Good. Ignore the patrols around the platform; they're, ah, Aurors looking for Potter.'

'Nice,' Rose resisted the urge to pull a face. 'So Aurors are basically Death Eaters now?'

'They are following Orders from the Ministry, which is under the Dark Lord's control; so yes, more or less."

'Lovely,' Rose replied sarcastically, grimacing inwardly. 'Well, I just wanted to let you know I made it here okay, so I'll see you at school.'

'See you- and good luck with the Prefects' meeting.'

'Thanks.'

Rose closed her mind; checked Miss Marple was alright after the apparition and, having assured that she was, looked around for Draco. They had arranged to meet on the platform and get on the train early to get ready for the Prefects' meeting.

Moving forwards to continue her search, Rose caught sight of a familiar head of platinum blonde hair Apparate onto the other side of the platform and hurried over.

"Hey, Draco!"

"Hey," Draco smiled back walking forwards to meet Rose as she approached him, his smile fading slightly as he saw her jacket and the long sleeve of her shirt poking out the sleeve of her left arm; he wore a long sleeved shirt, too, but it was so thin and such a light shade of grey that if one looked hard enough, they would be able to see the faint outline of something tattooed into his skin. He glanced around them as he fell into step beside her and they turned back towards the train, and, taking in the Aurors and seeing more families Apparating onto the platform and entering through the barrier, merely said: "Come on, I'll show you where the prefect's carriage is."

The prefect's carriage turned out to be one long compartment. It rather like a classroom; filled with desks and chairs facing a blackboard against the wall with another desk and two chairs in front of it. Unlike a classroom, however, luggage racks were situated above the windows, and one of each of the four house banners hang between the windows on either side of the compartment. Rose and Draco stashed their belongings on the rack and Rose sat down atop the desk in front of the backboard, watching as Draco picked up a piece of chalk from the bottom of the blackboard and wrote the names of the four houses on the board in block letters, one after the other.

"Okay…" he said, "How about we start off by going over the basic rules, detentions and point docking and that; then we'll work out a schedule for patrols; then have them decide upon the passwords; then we'll let them go?"

"Sounds fine to me," Rose agreed, shrugging. "You're the one with prefect experience."

"Yeah, true," Draco acknowledged, nodding. "So, how's your arm?" he asked, lowering his voice and glancing out of the windows outside; though they were alone in the carriage, the platform was slowly yet steadily filling up with families, but it was as quiet as ever, likely due to the watchful stares of the Aurors. "And d'you know who those people are, watching everyone?"

"My arm's okay- doesn't hurt anymore but I've kept the bandage on for comfort and concealment." Rose replied, "And Severus told me when I asked that those people are Aurors, who are looking for Harry."

Draco raised his eyebrows. "Nice."

"That's what I said." Rose pushed her hair from her face and stood up from the desk. "I'm going to go and get changed." She said, crossing to the luggage rack and pulling her rucksack down. "It's early, I know, but I think robes will attract fewer questions than a black jacket in this weather."

"I reckon so." Draco replied, tugging the left sleeve of his shirt down over his wrist almost habitually as Rose left the prefects carriage.

Rose kept her eyes downcast as she walked through the train. Both it and the platform were steadily filling up with students, and perhaps due to the warrant for Harry's arrest, Rose could feel eyes burning into her from all sides and hear the hissing noise of hushed whispers following her down the carriage from all sides-

"Oh my Merlin."

Rose looked up. Pansy and Theo stood before her, their belongings beside them and expressions of great surprise on their faces.

"Hey, Pansy; Theo."

"Hi," 'Pansy replied, staring at Rose as though she couldn't quite believe her eyes. "I- I can't believe it- you're back!"

"Yeah," Rose answered, smiling. "Actually on my way to get changed into my robes- bit keen, I know, but I'm also Head Girl so I might as well embrace it."

"You're Head Girl?" Pansy asked. Rose nodded. "Congratulations! D'you know who the Head Boy is?"

Rose smiled. "Thanks; and yeah I do- it's Draco."

"Draco?" Theo repeated, looking surprised; Rose nodded again. "…So, er, is it true, what was in the paper this morning?"

"What do you mean?" Rose asked, frowning slightly, "I haven't seen the paper today."

"Is Snape really the new Headmaster? It was on the front page of the Prophet."

"Oh," Rose raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Yeah- yeah he is." She lowered her voice as she spoke, for a pair of identical fifth year twins edged past them, eyeing her uneasily.

"Merlin." Theo murmured, faint surprise in his tone. "Er, I can grab your stuff from the prefect's carriage and put it in our usual compartment if you want? I'm talking Pansy's stuff and it'll help you get to our compartment after the meeting quickly. Save you some of the bother of people staring." He raised his voice as he spoke, glaring pointedly at a group of third years who were edging past them, staring wide-eyed at Rose.

"Yeah," Rose nodded gratefully. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it." Theo grinned.

"I get it," Rose nodded understandingly, pushing her hair from her face. "I'd better go and get changed, before it gets even madder. See you later."

"See you."

Rose couldn't help but increase her pace slightly as she walked away. Her interaction with Pansy and Theo, brief though it had been, had awakened her to the sheer amount of lying she was going to have to do to her friends. Not only was she going to have to be lying about the nature of her relationship with Blaise, but there was, she realised, absolutely no way she was going to be able to tell them about her having the Dark Mark. With the exception of Millicent and Blaise, all of then had parents who were Death Eaters, and though thanks to that they were already liable to be used by the Dark Lord to get what he wanted, as indeed Millicent and Blaise were, too, thanks to Draco's also having the Mark, all of them were going to be in all the more danger now that she had the Mark, too- and informing them of that fact would hardly improve anyone's quality of life, for clearly, Pansy and Theo's fathers' hadn't told them…

When she reached the girls' bathroom and the end of the next carriage, Rose hastened to enter and duck into a cubicle to change, her mind whirling. She tried not to look at her bandaged arm as she changed, instead she focused upon trying to think of what if anything, she was going to say to her friends, and Blaise, how she was going to keep them as safe as she could, without going mad…

Rose scarcely said a word for the entirety of the prefect's meeting, nor did she register who was there or really hear anything Draco said. So preoccupied was her thoughts, her lies, was she that Rose didn't even realise the meeting was over until she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Wha- oh," Rose relaxed as she came out of her thoughts and saw that the hand was Draco's.

Draco, however, was looking at her in concern, as was Pansy, who was standing beside him in the otherwise empty compartment. "Are you okay?" Draco asked, "You hardly said a word all meeting and you seemed very out of things."

"Yeah- I mean, I'm fine," Rose lied, pushing her glasses up her nose. "Just, you know, this Head Girl stuff, it's a lot to take in all at once,"

Draco eyed her suspiciously; Pansy, too, looked rather doubtful. Rose looked back at them as innocently as possible, hoping that whatever it was Draco knew about her face or body language that told him she was lying didn't betray her- after all, technically she wasn't lying, the mere thought of being Head Girl was rather overwhelming, never mind how difficult the practical side of things turned out to be. Fortunately, however, Draco and Pan seemed to buy the lie, for a moment later the two nodded understandingly and lead the way out of the Prefects' Carriage. Rose followed, endeavouring as she did so to pay more attention to her surroundings until such a time and place wherein she could think without arousing any suspicions.

Rose felt rather as though she was a part of some kind of zoo exhibition as she followed Draco and Pansy though the train towards their usual compartment. With the train now packed with students and well and truly moving through the dark countryside outside, Rose found she could scarcely pass a compartment door without a head turning in her direction, then back again so that undoubtedly, conversation about her presence could commence.

A wave of relief washed over her as she, Pansy and Draco reached the entrance to their usual compartment, for at last she would get some relief from the stares. But the relief was short-lived as she looked through the glass door as Draco slid it open, and saw Crabbe, Goyle, Theo, Millicent and Blaise. Rose's heart lurched at the sight of Blaise. It felt as though it had been an age since the last time they had seen each other. So much had happened, and she wanted nothing more than to hug him close, tell him everything and then kiss him until it all went away. But she couldn't, all she could do was meet his perfectly cool gaze with one of her own, look away from him and smile at the others as she entered the compartment.

"We saved you some food," Theo said as Rose slid the door clothes behind her, Draco and Pansy, "and your stuff is up there," he pointed up to the luggage racks, where Draco, Pansy and Rose's respective belongings lay with those of the others'. "I let Miss Marple out Rose; she wouldn't stop mewing."

"That's okay," Rose said with a smile, "Thanks again."

"Don't mention it," Theo grinned back as Rose looked around for her cat. Rose's smile faded uncomfortably as she saw Miss Marple had curled up into a ball and fallen asleep in the small stretch of compartment seat between the window and Blaise.

A slightly awkward silence followed. Pansy's brow furrowed. "Am I missing something?" she asked, sitting down beside Theo.

"They broke up," Millicent said softly, gesturing between Rose and Blaise.

Pansy's face fell. "Oh," she said, "I'm sorry."

"It's fine." Rose and Blaise spoke at once, caught each other's eye ad looked away quickly.

Draco cleared his throat, clearly hoping to cover another awkward silence as he and Rose sat down, too; he opposite Blaise. "I've already talked to Rose and I started to talk to Pansy and Theo before the Prefect's meeting, but I didn't get the chance to really explain everything- my side of everything that happened last year- why I did what I did; and I'd like to do that, now."

"Yeah?" Goyle raised his eyebrows, a challenging edge to his tone.

"Yeah." Draco nodded calmly. Rose reached out and took a Chocolate Frog from the empty seat opposite her as Draco launched into his explanation, telling tale of his fear and the way it had taken over him, and how he had, ultimately, been scared, made mistakes, took responsibility for them, and apologised. "…So you know, I hope you see that I was terrified and an idiot and I do realise it and regret it."

"Oh, we do." Millicent said as the others nodded and Pansy mimed swatting Draco over the head, rolling her eyes.

"I'm glad you didn't leave," Millicent went on with a smile, turning to Rose. "We tried to surprise you on your birthday, you know, but you weren't there."

"In fact," Theo raised his eyebrows, "it looked very much as though the house was all shut up, and had been for a few days."

"Yeah," Rose shifted slightly in her seat and pushed her hair from her face, launching into the tale she had come up with- a story that was true, but omitted Blaise and his family.

"Well, the Order wanted to break my mother's protection charms before my and Harry's seventeenth birthday, so we left, and I presume Remus and Tonks left after us- Harry and Remus had to separate for the charm to break, see." she said, "It was all very sudden, but it's not the weirdest thing that happened. Rufus Scrimgeour turned up on my birthday- the Ministry released the contents of Dumbledore's will. I don't know what Harry got- he, er, wouldn't say-" Rose felt a twinge of guilt for lying, and hastened to quickly cover it with the truth, "but Dumbledore left me this vial of this dark plum purple coloured potion. He didn't say what it does, only that it was a particularly complex potion he invented, and he left it to me hoping that it may inspire me to persevere in difficulty and never give up."

A stunned silence followed these words.

"…He left you a potion?" Goyle said at last. Rose nodded.

"Do you know what it does?" Draco asked.

"No," Rose shook her head, "I don't want to tamper with it in case I ruin it; the Ministry ran tests, apparently, and couldn't figure it out; and knowing Dumbledore it could mean bloody anything."

"Very true," Crabbe acknowledged, nodding in agreement. "Especially since if it was just a normal motivational-type potion the Ministry would be able to work what it does."

"Exactly," Rose nodded. Out of the corner of her eye, she should see Draco looking at her out of the corner of his eye, clearly wondering if she was going to say anything about her having the Dark Mark.

SCRREEEAAACCCCHHH!

"What the-?!" Draco exclaimed, jolting so far forward in his seat he fell out of it as the train jolted to a screeching halt; Miss Marple woke with a hiss and Goyle's rucksack fell from the luggage racks, falling heavily into his lap.

"Oof!"

SLAM!
SLAM!

The sound of doors slamming in the carriage outside echoed over to the Slytherins as Draco hastened to get to his feet, but no sooner had he straightened up than the door to their compartment slid open and a stooping man in black robes with the thin light brown hair and a rather stern expression stepped into the compartment.

"Who're you?" Millicent demanded, standing up.

"Aurors are searching the train for Harry Potter." The man said curtly, casting a careful look around at everyone in the compartment in turn, before raising his wand in one swift motion. "Homenum Revelio!" he barked.

Almost instinctively, Rose's left hand curled around the left sleeve of her robes, but as nothing of substance happened the small movement went unnoticed and the man turned on his heel and marched over to the compartment opposite the Slytherins', presumably to perform the same routine. As another Auror shuffled past their compartment to the other end of the carriage, Goyle got up and closed the compartment door after the man before replacing his rucksack on the luggage rack, his brow wrinkled in confusion.

"Why would Potter be on the train? He's the most wanted bloke in the Wizarding World right now."

"I guess they're just covering all bases," Millicent shrugged, taking a liquorice wand from the chair opposite Rose and biting into it as she sat back down. "I saw the Weasleys on the Platform but Ron Weasley wasn't there and I didn't see Granger at all… Do you think they're with him- with Potter?"

Draco jerked his shoulders in what was clearly supposed to be a nonchalant shrug, but didn't quite make the mark. "It's very likely," he replied, "they've always done everything dangerous together- bloody Gryffindors- they're like some kind of 'Golden Trio.'"

"'Golden Trio?'" Theo repeated, raising his eyebrows.

Draco shrugged again, this time fully and defensively. "They're in Gryffindor- the Gryffindor colours are red and gold- they're a trio- it works."

Theo nodded slowly, looking thoughtful. "I see it… and also they always came out of everything that should have got them into a lot of trouble at school smelling like roses- golden, one might say."

"Yeah," Pansy agreed, nodding too, "but, you know, what's going on at the moment- this is a full on war- there's no way they, or anyone else for that matter is going to come out of this either smelling like roses or golden."

Rose flinched inwardly at Pansy's words, sinking back into her seat as discreetly as she could. Pansy was right, what was happening was a war; it was highly, highly improbable that anyone was going to come out the other side entirely unscathed… and Rose couldn't help but think that her being a Death Eater would only place her friends in even more danger than they were already… which would only decrease their chances of minimal or fixable damage…

Something was wrong with Rose. Blaise wasn't exactly sure what, but he could tell something was bothering her. Though she was ignoring him as much as he was pretending to ignore her, she didn't seem to be paying any attention to anything at all; and the more time passed the more anxious an expression settled over her face. Her brow furrowed; her top teeth kept imbedding herself into her bottom lip, and her eyes were glazed over; clearly she was lost in some troubling thought. Wishing he could do something to help her that minute, Blaise made sure to slip a scrap of parchment and an ink filled quill into the pocket of his robles when he pulled them from his trunk and wrote a quick message to Rose when he ducked into the bathrooms to change into his hopes, hoping he would find a window of opportunity to slip it to her.

Rose chewed her lip, letting out a frustrated sigh in the safety of the emptiness of her compartment- her friends had all gone to change into their robes.

…If only, she could think of something she could do; some way she could fix this…

The answer dawned upon her as she and Draco did the last of the scheduled patrols of the train as it neared Hogsmede station. Rose chewed her lip further, lapsing into renewed thought, trying to work out how to make it work… It could work, she was sure, all she needed was a plan and a way to explain…

So deep in thought was she that Rose scarcely registered anything going on around her for hours on end... the cold of the Dementors around the platform and the castle didn't faze her, nor did the patrol of Aurors... she heard nothing of her friends' conversation in the Thestral-drawn carriage they took to the castle, nor of the Sorting, nor of Severus's welcome speech- perhaps as a mark of change he did his long speech of staff appointments and school events before the meal as opposed to after- though she joined in with the smattering of applause from the Slytherin table that followed it's conclusion. In fact, the first time Rose fully registered anything beyond her plan was when a great BOOM! of thunder echoed into the Great Hall from the sky outside jolting Rose from her thoughts.

"Whoa," Pansy glanced up at the ceiling of the Hall which reflected the thunder as well as the flashing lighting and pounding rain that had joined it in the sky outside. "That built up quickly."

"Yeah," Millicent said, looking up, too, and it doesn't look as though it's going to stop anytime soon."

Rose nodded her agreement, looking around to try and gauge how much time had passed. She was slightly alarmed to see a three quarter eaten slice of apple pie in front of her, as she did not remember what she had had for dinner at all, but a moment later her food, along with the food in the rest of the Hall, vanished, signalling the end of the meal.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Draco muttered to Rose as they all got up from the Slytherin table, leaving the fifth and sixth year prefects to take care of the First Years, as was custom. "You've hardly said a word all day."

"Yeah I'm fine." Rose answered, pushing her hair from her face. It wasn't a lie- her last thought before the boom of thunder had laid the final piece of her plan and set it into place, filling her with a strange sense of calm. She was going to protect her friends and Severus and take control of her life again- the way she had always said she would. The conviction she felt must have shone through in her reply for Draco dropped the subject and offered her a small smile which she returned.

The doors to the Entrance Hall were crowded with students jostling to get out of the Hall. As she and the others joined the crowd and started to wade through it- taking advantage of the fact that people stopped slightly to stare and then mutter to their friends when they caught sight of Rose- Rose felt someone bump gently into her. At the same time, she felt someone slip something into the right hand pocket of her robes, but with so many eyes on her every move and seeing Blaise fall back into step beside Goyle, who was walking behind her, out of the corner of her eye, she decided to wait until she was alone before investigating. First and foremost, however, she had to put her plan into action. Feigning exhaustion when she and the others entered the common room, Rose went up to her dormitory early and thankfully, found it empty, save for the pets of those in the dorm and quiet, save for the swirling water of the black lake slamming against the windows curtesy of une stop in the sky high above. As quickly as possible, Rose prepared her things and Miss Marple and wrote a brief note before ducking into the bathroom to prepare herself and change. Only once she was safely in her bed with the hangings firmly drawn did Rose feel safe enough to investigate the contents of her right pocket. Turning it inside out, Rose found a scrap of parchment folded into a small square. Unfolding it, Rose's theory as to who had bumped into her was confirmed by the sight of Blaise's handwriting.

Room of Requirement, 11:00pm? x

Guilt flooded Rose's stomach. She hated having to stand Blaise up, especially since she really really wanted to meet him, but she knew it was the only way to keep him safe. Folding the note back up, Rose slipped it into the pocket of her jeans, extinguished the lights in her dormitory with a wave of her wand and rolled over onto her stomach, fixing her gaze on the luminous hands of her watch as she did so.

When Pansy, Millicent, Daphne and Tracey entered the dormitory roughly half an hour later, Rose closed her eyes, feigning sleep.

"Is Rose alright?" Rose heard Daphne ask quietly.

"Honestly? Not sure," Pansy replied softly. "I think she had a pretty rough summer- dealing with everything that happened in the fallout of Dumbledore's death and she and Blaise had a big row and broke up, so I imagine she hasn't really been looking forward to today- she was really quiet and she went to bed immediately after dinner. I think we should try and talk to her tomorrow, Millicent, make sure she's really okay."

"Yeah I agree." Millicent replied and the matter was dropped. Roughly forty-five minutes later the dormitory was silent once more, save for the steady breathing of her dorm-mates and the slamming of the swirling lake water against the windows. Rose lay perfectly still, watching time tick by on the clock face of her watch.

Ten o 'clock... Ten-fifteen... Ten-thirty... Ten-forty-five- Blaise would be leaving his dormitory any minute, but Rose didn't dare check her copy of the Marauders' Map, lest the light she would need from her wand wake anyone in her dormitory... Eleven o'clock- he would be waiting for her... Eleven-fifteen... Eleven-thirty... Eleven-forty-five... If Blaise hadn't been caught out of bed he would very likely be back in his dormitory by now, wondering why she hadn't meet him. Guilt flooded Rose anew but she pushed it away as best she could. She was trying to keep him safe, and in any case, it was time to move.

As quietly as she could, Rose sat up, shouldered the packed rucksack she had stored on the end of her bed, coaxed Miss Marple back to sleep with a gesture and a stroke and pulled her copy of the Marauder's Map from under her pillow. The note she had written earlier still lay on top of it, and though it was too dark to read, Rose remembered writing the words as she set the note atop the Map atop her pillow and got out of bed.

Sorry,

Use the Map however much you want & please look after Miss Marple.

Stay safe,

Rose.

Adjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder, Rose took her wand from her pocket, closed the curtains around her bed and slipped from her dormitory and into the common room, which was empty as she predicted it would be given the lateness of the hour. Once she reached the common room, Rose increased her pace, running as quickly and soundlessly as she could from the common room and through the dungeons towards the Entrance Hall. She knew from her working on the patrol schedule during the Prefects' meeting that all patrols within the castle ended at midnight; in her capacity as Head Girl that it was at this time a member of staff would lock the front door, and this year new security measures within the castle entailed an anti-concealment charm on all the windows and doors leading out of the castle, which, if triggered, would break the concealment and alert Severus, so she couldn't use a Disillusionment Charm; the more tine she had before the alarm was raised the better. All she had to do was slip out of the front doors before someone came to lock it, or, falling that, get into an empty classroom and risk someone hearing the noise…

Rose paused as she reached archway that lead into the Entrance Hall from the dungeons, looking around carefully, preparing to confound someone if necessary. It was five minutes to midnight, but bizarrely, the Entrance Hall appeared quite deserted. Confused though she was, Rose took advantage of the circumstances and bolted across the Entrance Hall and through the front doors, which were, mercifully, unlocked.

Rose exhaled as she stepped out of the castle into the heavy storm and moved away from the front doors. Though she was soaked through to the skin and freezing cold within seconds, she'd done it; she was out. It was not happy feeling, given the circumstances, so she knew she would not attract the Dementors. But whatever relief Rose felt was quickly replaced by nerves as she realised she now faced part two of her plan: explaining what had happened to Harry.

Closing her eyes, Rose steeled her resolve, pushed her soaking wet hair away from her face, reopened her eyes, and cleared her throat.

"Kreach-"

"Rose?"

A/N: Please review! :)