The beautiful lights of the enchanted castle were shinning like stars in the dark night. Sofia did not find it welcoming though. She feared the castle where she knew danger was lurking this year.
"It's always so beautiful," Natalie said from beside Sofia in the carriage that led up to the school.
"It looks like home," Luke said absentmindedly from across the carriage.
Not to Sofia. To Sofia, it had become a place where she was separated from her brothers, living in fear of something happening to them.
"Look, it's Draco and his friends behind us," Andrew growled.
Sofia looked and saw Draco siting beside Pansy Parkinson, who was all over him. She was leaning into him, her head on his shoulder. She turned away before Draco caught her eye.
"Did anyone see Harry Potter get off the train?" Andrew asked.
They other three shook their heads.
"That's odd. I was hoping to ask him a question but I didn't see him with any of his friends when they got off the train."
Sofia looked back to Draco. He was staring at her now, his face emotionless. He looked away quickly, and Sofia was left staring at the back of his head. She was so lost in thought that she did not notice the carriage stop.
"Earth to Sofia!" Natalie called out. "We're here."
Sofia looked around, and sure enough they were outside the front gate of the castle. She climbed out of the carriage and Luke grabbed her hand.
Before entering the castle they were subjected to harsh searches from Filch, the caretaker. Every student was poked and prodded with a dark detector over and over again until he decided they were not smuggling anything Dark into the castle.
Sofia found herself glancing back at Draco after she passed through, hoping he had not brought anything with him. She was relieved when he was sent through.
"Hey, Sof, are you okay?" Luke asked.
"Are you sure? You keep looking back at Malfoy. Is something wrong?"
Sofia could not bite back her harsh reply.
"Well yeah, something is wrong. His father has been sent to Azkaban and Voldemort's probably looking for a reason to kill his whole family."
Luke stopped walking and turned to look at her.
"Sof, his father got what he deserved. He's a Death Eater! How do you know Draco isn't one too?"
"What about me Luke? What am I? I have to serve Voldemort too. Or have you forgotten?"
She tried to turn away from him but he pulled her into a hug.
"Oh Sofia, I have not forgotten. But Draco's father had a choice. You didn't. You never had a choice."
But she did. She could choose to give in and be just as evil as the rest of the Death Eaters, practice magic darker than Voldemort herself.
Sofia was shocked at her own thoughts. Where had they come from? Never once in her life had she ever though about practicing dark magic. In her mind, it was the lowest action one could do, and she had sworn many times that she would never let herself sink so low.
She pulled away from Luke.
"Let's keep going," she said.
He grabbed her hand again and held it all the way up to the castle. They entered the Great Hall and he dropped it as they headed to their own tables.
When Sofia sat down at the Gryffindor table, surrounded by friends, she felt safer than she had in a long time. The only thing shattering that was the dark looks Hermione Granger kept throwing her way. Sofia looked around to see if Harry was staring at her too, but she could not find him anywhere.
She took the wolf figurine Draco had given her during her first year out of her pocket. She pulled out the blank parchment inside. She and Draco had designed it over the holidays last year. The parchment could be written on with a wand, and then as soon as it was read the words would fade away. She took out her wand and scribbled onto it quickly.
Have you seen Harry Potter?
She put it in the wolf's mouth and it jumped off the table and took off across the hall.
"Some day you are going to tell me how you do all of this stuff," Natalie said from across the table.
The sorting began. About halfway through, Sofia'a wolf came bounding back to her. She took the slip of paper from it's mouth.
Brat deserves worse than what he got.
Sofia stared across the room incredulously. What had Draco done? She scribbled the question on the now blank parchment with her wand and sent it away with the wolf. It was only a few minutes before it came back again.
He's the reason my father is in Azkaban. It's all his fault and he is going to pay dearly.
Sofia stared at the parchment as the words slowly faded away. Then she lifted her head and her eyes met Draco's from across the room.
"Hey Sofia, why didn't Daniel come back to Hogwarts this year?"
Sofia turned to look at Natalie, her mind hardly comprehending the question. She had known these questions would be coming, but was still not ready with a reason.
"He, uh, didn't really fit in here. He missed his friends back home too much."
The lie slipped off her tongue. She felt bad for lying to Natalie, but how could she the innocent girl across from her that her brother was in hiding because Voldemort was looking to personally kill him. She would not understand.
"Oh really? I always thought he got along well with the Slytherins."
"He did but once he got back home, he realized how much he had missed it and decided to stay back."
"That's a shame."
The feast started, and Sofia was thankful for a reason not to have to talk anymore, as plates filled with food and students began stuffing their faces.
About halfway through the feast, the doors of the Great Hall swung open. Harry walked inside. He walked quickly across to the Gryffindor table and it took a moment for Sofia to notice that something was wrong.
His face and nose were covered in blood. His hair looked a matted mess and he looked extremely angry.
Sofia chances a look at Draco, who was glaring up at Harry with a look of pure hatred.
Harry sat down next to Ron. Hermione pulled out her wand and muttered a spell. The blood on Harry's face disappeared.
"Blimey," Natalie said. "What do you think happened to him?"
Sofia shrugged, even though she had a pretty good idea.
People returned to their foods as deserts arrived. Sofia was no longer hungry though. She sat silently and waited for Dumbledore to speak.
When he finally stood to speak, the talking and laughter died away rapidly.
"The very best of evenings to you!"
"What happened to his hand?" Sofia heard Hermione whisper.
She looked at Dumbledore's right hand. In was black and dead-looking, as though it alone had died and the rest of his body lived on.
"Nothing to worry about," Dumbledore said. "Now...to our new students, welcome, to our old students, welcome back! Another year full of magical education awaits you..."
Sofia allowed herself to zone out during the standard rule announcements like banned items and out of bounds areas. She began to listen again when he prepared to announce staff changes.
"We are pleased to welcome a new member of staff this year. Professor Slughorn," he said, indicating at a plump bald headed man, "is a former colleague of mine who has agreed to resume his old post of Potions master."
The word seemed to be echoed around the room, shock etched on the faces of almost all of the students.
"Professor Snape, meanwhile, will be taking over the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
Half of the hall turned to state at Harry, his loud shout carrying through the crowd. Sofia had to agree with him. This was an outrage. She did not like the idea of Snape being able to jinx her as part of a lesson, which she felt he would no doubt try.
Dumbledore cleared his throat to silence the buzz that had erupted in the hall. Then he continued.
"Now, as everybody in this Hall knows, Lord Voldemort and his followers are once more at large and gaining in strength."
Sofia glanced at Draco, who was completely uninterested in Dumbledore's speech. He was making his fork hover in midair with his wand.
"I cannot emphasize strongly enough how dangerous the present situation is, and how much care each of us at Hogwarts must take to ensure that we remain safe. The castle's magical fortifications have been strengthened over the summer, we are protected in new and more powerful ways, but we must still guard scrupulously against carelessness on the part if any student or member of staff. I urge you, therefore, to abide by any security restrictions that your teachers might impose upon you, however irksome you might find them-in particular, the rule that you are not to be out of bed after hours. I implore you, should you notice anything strange or suspicious within or outside the castle, to report it to a member if staff immediately. I trust you to conduct yourselves, always, with the utmost regard for your own and others' safety."
Sofia glanced at Draco again as Dumbledore dismissed the students to bed. She hurried to try and catch up to him, but she lost him in the crowd. She did, however, run straight into Luke.
"Well, the fifth year begins," he said.
Sofia suddenly felt awful. She had completely forgot that this was Luke's OWL year. He would be swamped with work.
"You'll do great," Sofia said as she reached up and kissed his cheek.
They said their goodbyes and headed off to their respective common rooms. Natalie caught up to Sofia as she was halfway to the Gryffindor tower.
"You and Luke are absolutely adorable together!" She squealed. "I'm so glad you chose him over Malfoy. You should have heard what he was saying! My brother said he was saying something about smashing Harry's nose. That must be why he was late."
They reached the common room and gave the password, stepping inside. Neville and Ginny were inside talking to each other quietly. They looked up as Sofia and Natalie entered. Ginny smiled.
"Hello Sofia, Natalie. How were your summers?"
Sofia shrugged while Natalie gushed at how wonderful hers was. Ginny looked bored, but said politely,
"Sofia, could we talk to you for a moment?"
"Sure. I'll be up to bed in a minute, Nat."
Natalie looked upset, and stormed off to their dormitory.
"Sofia," Ginny began uncomfortably. "Harry told us what you told him. I was shocked. To be honest, I hated you at first. But after I thought about it for a while, I realized it isn't your fault. And you've done everything you can to fight it. Without you, Ron and Hermione would be dead. We all might be dead."
Neville looked at her and said, "yeah, we never thanked you for that."
"Yeah. And we thought about it, and decided that we'll do whatever it takes to get you out of this mess. You don't deserve to live as a slave. But you will have to understand that we'll have to keep our distance from you a bit. We can't risk You-Know-Who forcing you to tell him any of our secrets."
Sofia smiled at Ginny's kindness. She had always liked the red-headed witch.
"Thank you, both of you. Although, I'm not sure there is anything either of you could do to break the curse. But I will gladly accept your help."
She waved goodbye and then headed up to her dormitory.
Natalie was sitting in her bed, looking absolutely miserable.
"What's wrong?" Sofia asked.
"Nothing!" Natalie snapped.
The girl pulled the shades closed around her bed. Sofia sighed as she changed into her pj's. Natalie was clearly angry with her. Sofia felt bad. She had not been a good friend to Natalie, and tomorrow she would have to make up for that.
A sealed envelope was sitting on Sofia's pillow. She picked it up and opened it, taking out the note inside.
Please join me in my office tomorrow evening at six o'clock. The password is "Acid pops."
Please don't hesitate to make suggestions! I will be glad to use them in story when I have the opportunity. Thanks for your continued support!