The next few days went by slowly. I hadn't seen Draco since the duel and I had been starting to work harder in lessons. Today was a Tuesday, the day of Ron and Harry's visit and for the first time since I'd been back at Hogwarts I was excited for the day. Ron and Harry were due to arrive at lunchtime, but before that i had to get through Charms, a free, Potions, then another free. McGonagall had spoken to me the day before to tell me that I could go into Hogsmeade to greet them when they arrived. The morning passed by very slowly, as if the clocks were ticking slower on purpose. When I arrived at Potions I saw our new teacher, the thin woman who I had noticed at the feast. She had frizzy dark hair, which was greying and her eyes were large and blue. She was frightening looking, as Snape was but in a different way. She wore bright yellow robes, which emphasised the blue tinge in her skin, but they were slightly too large for her which simply showed off her overly skinny body. Her long thin hands, which were beckoning for us to sit down, were long and skeletal and her nails were so long they looked like claws. I looked around for Luna and Neville, and finally saw them on the other side of the room. They were so deep in conversation that they didn't notice me approaching, and they only lifted their heads when I loudly scraped my stool to sit on it. Luna whipped her head around and smiled when she saw me.
"Hermione! Ginny just wrote to me! She said she's training with the Holyhead Harpies!" She exclaimed.
"Yeah, she's so happy," I answered. I had received a letter from Ginny two days ago to tell me. She said I was the first to know, and as proud as I was, I found it hard to be excited for her. Since coming back to Hogwarts I had been feeling awful. I felt sad all the time, I was constantly preoccupied with sad thoughts for no reason and I was permanently home sick. I had never felt like this at Hogwarts before, but now it seemed so unfamiliar. The war had caused lots of damage to the school and the remaining teachers had spent all summer restoring the castle. Parts of the castle were still completely out of bounds due to irreversible damage. On the fourth floor, nearly all the classrooms were out of use as they were still covered in rubble and dirt. Over the Christmas holidays more restorative work would be going into bringing the castle back to it's former glory whilst most of the students were out of the way.
Our new Professor finally asked everyone to settle down and turned to looked at us with her large eyes. Those eyes reminded me of the large eyes of someone else. Dobby. He had died saving our lives last year and the thought of him made my eyes water. I swallowed hard and concentrated on our skeleton of a teacher.
"I am Professor Cinders and I will be your Potions teacher this year," she said, with something that she probably intended to be a smile, but looked more like a grimace. She continued talking but my mind started wondering to Ron and Harry. They would be here soon. After a while I suddenly snapped myself out of my trance, I had been concentrating well for a few days but I was slipping again. I hadn't been concentrating on my potion, which was now green when it should've been turquoise. Professor Cinders glanced at my cauldron and raised on of her thin, dark eyebrows. She didn't comment and carried on walking around inspecting everyone else's potions. Poor Neville's had gone bright red and his face was flooded in confusion. Neville had always struggled with Potions more than anything and Snape's presence had always terrified him. However, Professor Cinders seemed to be a lot kinder about Neville's struggles and simply told him to add three extra rat's tails. He did as was instructed and finally, after ten minutes of stirring, the potion had gone a shade close to the turquoise they were trying to produce. He was grinning from ear to ear, looking like a child at Christmas.
When the lesson finished we all had a free, so went to the common room to prepare for Harry and Ron's arrival.
"I'm so excited!" Neville exclaimed. "I haven't seen them all summer!"
"I wonder if these talks will become a regular thing," Luna muttered in her usual, day-dreamy way.
"I hope so!" Neville said. I did too. Being away from home would be so much more bearable if they could visit every once in a while. We arrived in the common room and Neville and Luna were excitedly collecting the birthday presents they had been waiting to give Harry for the last month and a half. I went to my dormitory and quickly applied some mascara. I rarely wore makeup but today was a special day for me and I wanted to look pretty for Ron. After a while it was time for me to make my way to Hogsmeade, where Harry and Ron would be apparating to. I bid goodbye to Luna and Neville who had chosen to stay behind. I was going to be accompanied by Hagrid so I made my way to his cabin. I had barely reached the front door when he flung it open and grinned at me.
"Bin waitin' all day for this," he said gleefully.
"He too," I answered, a little less enthusiastically.
"You don' sound so excited 'Mione. You alrigh'?" He asked.
"Yeah, I just...I don't know Hagrid, Ron's so different now, I'm worried about him. He's not right since...you know," I stuttered.
"O' course 'e's not, 'is brother died," Hagrid stated, matter-of-factly.
"I know Hagrid...I just mean that, he reacted worse than everyone else, even George," I said.
"Well tha' is weird, I'll admit. You just gotta give 'im time 'Mione," Hagrid said, putting a reassuring arm around my shoulders. We walked the rest of the route in silence and we finally arrived in Hogsmeade ten minutes early, so I decided to quickly visit Honeydukes to buy some chocolate frogs for both Harry and Ron. Hagrid left, muttering something about food for his pet. Hagrid had collected a large amount of pets over the years, most of them fairly dangerous and I hoped he hadn't acquired anything to strange, or illegal for that matter. After five minutes I slowly wondered back to The Three Broomsticks and ordered myself a butterbeer. I sat at a table in a shaded corner until Hagrid arrived a couple of minutes later, with Ron and Harry by his side. They all ordered butterbeers and took a moment to find me in my secluded spot. Finally Harry spotted me and he skipped over, while Ron and Hagrid dawdled behind him. I got up and hugged Harry tightly, then Ron, who also gave me a kiss on the cheek.
"I heard about Ginny, great news isn't it," I said enthusiastically.
"Yeah, it's brilliant," Harry replied, glancing at Ron who had a sulky look on his face. "Ron and I started our Auror training last week, didn't we?" Harry prompted.
"Yeah," Ron murmured in response.
"Tha's grea' tha'," Hagrid said. "I'm so proud of you all y'know," he continued, looking like he was about to cry. He wiped his eye with a napkin and quickly recovered. "You three are the closest I'll ever be to 'aving children and you're all brillian'."
"Um...thanks Hagrid," Harry replied. He glanced at me, slightly confused and I stifled a laugh. Ron slammed his empty tankard on the table and rifled in his pocket. He pulled out a galleon.
"Anyone else want another?" He grunted. We all shook our heads and he dawdled away to order another butterbeer. Once he had finished we started walking back to Hogwarts. I gave Harry and Ron their chocolate frogs and Ron quickly scoffed his. By the time we reached the school it was lunch time, so we quickly jogged to the hall, where we met Luna and Neville. All the usual pleasantries were exchanged and we sat down to eat. Neville, Harry and Luna spoke avidly about what Harry was up to, seemingly unaware of the glances they were getting from all the lower years. Conversation quickly turned to all the new professors and I watched Ron as he laughed along with everyone else. Ron rarely laughed like that any more and seeing him happy brought a smile to my lips.
"I'm surprised at how many people are back. I'd have thought all the parents would be pretty reluctant to send their kids here," Harry said, through a mouthful of potato.
"It's not like you-know-who's around any more for them to worry about, and with McGonagall in charge they know they have nothing to worry about," Neville grumbled.
"Do you really have to avoid saying his name still, Neville, he is dead you know?" Ron grunted aggressively.
"I know that," Neville replied, returning Ron's glare. Neville's confidence was growing. He had, after all, killed Nagini, who was part Voldermort, so had been given good reason to stop doubting himself.
"Biscuit anyone?" Luna asked, breaking the tension. Harry took one, obviously grateful for her interruption.
We left the hall ten minutes later, once again joking about all the new professors. As we passed Professor Harper Harry remarked about how much like Professor Lockhart he looked and he was right. He gave a large grin when he passed, which, as Harry had said, greatly resembled that of our disgraced ex DADA teacher. I am brought out of my thoughts when we reach the third floor and Ron suddenly comes to a halt right in front of me. I have to move to see why and I suddenly freeze. The blonde figure had just emerged from around the corner, carrying multiple books and nervously glancing around, as if he were checking that no one had noticed. But he was out of luck, he had been noticed. Ron Weasley's eyes were ablaze with anger as he came face to face with Draco Malfoy.
Sorry it has taken so long to update, unfortunately I've been completely weighed down by assessments and exams for the last month and a half. Hopefully by mid-January I will be able to start updating more often. Anyway I hope you all like the new chapter, thank you all for reading!