Theodore sat with Draco and Blaise and Pansy on the train, as usual. Today he didn't have his head in a book. Nothing could hold his attention, and he couldn't be bothered to start a conversation, so he was just starring out the window at the passing scenery absentmindedly petting the cat in his lap, lost in thought. Nothing felt real, none of this. They were on the train heading back to a school they'd ended a war in or fled for their lives from not but three months ago. It still felt like not everyone was here, like they should wait a few more minutes and then leave. Like the train shouldn't be chugging on its way down the tracks already and out of the station. Daphne, Tracey, Millie, Crabbe, and Goyle none of them were here. He'd never been particularly close to Pansy's best friend or Draco's idiot vassals, but Millie was his friend. She was socially awkward, preferring the company of her cat or some parchment and art supplies over people. The type that only opened up when you befriended them. Nothing was ever forced or faked with her, you see what you get, and she wasn't afraid to punch you if you crossed her, and in pureblood society among Slytherins no less, that was refreshing.
And now his only real friend at Hogwarts was dead. She should be alive, sitting there across from him entertaining them by playing with the rambunctious, energetic cat she'd named Aurora. She should be sitting there with her girlfriend Tracey on her arm telling him all about how she wanted to start a business breeding half-kneazles after they graduated. And now she never would, and Tracey was nowhere to be seen. Did she withdraw before the Ministry announced its decision in mid-May, like Daphne had? She'd married her betrothed, Graham Montague.
Pansy would probably know. He wasn't friends with her, he couldn't be called actual friends with most of his yearmates, but her not being here concerned him. Pansy had been best friends with Daphne and Tracey. But now probably wasn't the right time to ask, he thought, looking over at her. She was still reading this year's History of Magic textbook, but she had yet to turn the page since they sat down. He'd heard from Draco that she and her parents had been fighting - they weren't betrothed anymore, but they still talked. He wanted to say something, and ask if she was okay, but he wasn't sure what to say. None of them were okay, except perhaps Blaise but nothing ever bothered Blaise. Merlin, I swear he's not right in the head sometimes. Blaise was playing wizard's chess with Draco, who looked ill and paler than usual. I don't wanna go back either.
The Ministry was making them. The Ministry was getting a lot of bad press for everything that went down at Hogwarts so they made a new Department of Education to deal with it, and put all of the schools of magic in Great Britain under their jurisdiction, even the exclusive, expensive schools like Beauxbatons and Durmstrang who weren't allowed to be all-girl or all-boy schools anymore, respectively. Among other things. Like how Astronomy was now an elective and Muggle Studies was a required, seven-year course for all students. Going back to school, for a normal year for once, felt so…unnecessary, after everything they had seen and been through these past two years. Going to school doesn't sound any better than going back to my empty mansion. Everyone would hate them. Him, Draco, and Pansy especially. He could only hope they forgot about Pansy's comment by now. She had enough to deal with. It was nothing in comparison to what him and Draco had to do, unwilling or not. All Pansy did was follow the professors's instructions. All she did was survive.
It took them until late afternoon to pull into Hogsmeade, and a lot longer than usual to board the carriages because of how many students could now see the thestrals. Blaise had led them through the mass of gawking students to the first available carriage. Children as young as eleven had stopped and gasped and starred in a mix of horror and disgust at the winged, skeletal beasts pulling the carriages. Circe, there's so many this year! More pupils could see them this year than couldn't. He didn't really care about them, he'd always been able to see them, but it was sad. He glanced over at Draco, wondering how he was taking the spectacle. Pansy had a supportive arm on his back. "Its not your fault, Dray." Her voice was quiet, barely audible. Hardly the loud, demanding, annoying Pansy he remembered from fourth year. The last somewhat normal year any of them had. Nothing's ever normal at this school. Draco just ignored her and shrugged. "May as well be." Because he let the death eaters in through that cabinet. Eventually, finally, the children were all settled in carriages and they were off to the castle.
The sorting ceremony, and really the entire Start of Term Banquet, was weird. The staff table was at least twice as big, and at the end of the house tables an adult was seated. He recognized their old prefect and former Head Boy, Christophe Rosier, now 24, sitting at the far end of the Slytherin table so him and the rest of his few yearmates sat beside him. What's my nephew doing here? She was his older sister Josie's son. He had a lot of older sisters, much to his father's annoyance and disappointment.
Blaise put his hand out in proper greeting. "Rosier, it's been a while. Do you remember us?"
Chris nodded, shaking his hand and then pushing a lock of curly black hair out of his striking blue eyes. He'd never seen eyes as blue as his. "Of course I do! You were the last bunch of firsties' I toured around." At least Chris had the tact not to ask where everyone else was. And not embarrass him in front of the entire Slytherin house like he had when he was in first year. He'd dropped his normally melancholy expression, grinned, and darted over to greet him after he was sorted, attracting way more attention than he was comfortable with.
"What are you doing here?" Pansy asked. "Are you teaching?"
"Nope. I'm your new Head of House." Cue looks of confusion from all of them. Chris laughed and his laugh earned varying looks of surprise from all of them. I've never heard him laugh before. Rosier ignored it and elaborated. "The new Department of Magic thinks that the staff is grossly inadequate, and that the traditional Potions Master combined with Slytherin Head of House as one position makes the hiring process unfair. So, they're separate positions now."
A new, middle aged woman in plain work robes with wild, long chocolate brown hair stepped forward, holding the sorting hat. "My name is Constance Everdeen, and I am your new Deputy Headmistress. I am a former teacher at Hogsmeade Day School for Children." She paused for a moment, letting the information sink in. "And now, we will begin the Class of 2004 sorting ceremony." She turned her attention to the nervous little first years in front of her. For combining two years into one, essentially, the class was quite small. Just as small as his own, and that was saying a lot. "When I call your name, you will come forward, sit on the stool, and place the hat on your head to be sorted."
Theodore tuned out the rest from there, only idly listening and watching out of the corner of his eye. From his place sitting beside Draco and across from Blaise and Pansy, he looked up at the staff tables. Indeed, Rosier was right – there were almost double the staff as last year, to accommodate for the baby boom that followed the fall of Lord Voldemort. Now there was one new professor sitting between each of the professors for the core subjects. I wonder if we'll still have the same professors for our NEWT courses?
When the sorting finished, the Headmistress tapped a goblet with her fork to get everyone's attention so that they would quiet down to listen. "Good evening, everyone. Welcome, new students, and welcome back to Hogwarts! My name is Minerva McGonagall, and I am your new Headmistress." Professor McGonagall began, her voice amplified by a sonorus charm, "I am very proud of all of you, to our staff and to our students, and especially to our brave seventh year veterans who fought in the Battle of Hogwarts. We've been through a lot, as a school and as a society, no matter where you were last year." She paused for a moment, looking meaningfully between all the tables.
"This year, I want to emphasize unity to each and every one of you. No matter what house you are sorted into, and no matter where you come from, and no matter what situation you found yourself in last year, you are all Hogwarts students. If someone is upset, go and comfort them. If someone is being bullied, help them. Regardless of house or family. I don't want to see a single hex thrown in the halls, not at Gryffindors, not at Slytherins, none of it. Bullying and throwing hexes will not be tolerated this year and will result in an immediate detention, at minimum, with your head of house." Once again, she paused to give everyone a stern, serious warning look.
"Now, to the part I'm sure all of our returning students have been wondering about. The Ministry of Magic has created a Department of Magic to oversee all Schools of Magic in Great Britain, and this includes Hogwarts. Our class time and student to staff ratio did not meet their new educational standards, so I have hired new members of staff. All of our returning professors for the core classes - that is Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology and Muggle Studies - will remain as NEWT subject professors, while our new members of staff will be teaching years one through five for their respective subjects."
Theodore tuned her out once again, as she began the introductions. Remus Lupin was back as the new Defense teacher. Well at least we've got someone who knows what he's doing this year. After introducing the new heads of houses and the new professors, he had thought she was done talking and would give the code word to the elves to send up the food. "One more thing, I would ask that all seventh years remain behind after the feast. I would like to have a few words with you." Then, she smiled at them. A genuine smile. I've never seen her smile. "Let us begin the feast!" In an instant, platters of food and goblets of water and pumpkin juice appeared in front of them. Apparently, she wasn't using the random nonsense words that Dumbledore had. All that did was make him look like he'd was off his rocker. He started filling his plate right away. His elves cooked delicious food, but there was always something different, nostalgic maybe, about the Hogwarts food. Plus the Nott elves cooked traditional family recipes, of course, and they were cooked to perfection, but they only used what was available, and there isn't much variety on the northern tundra, especially when its frozen in snow for half the year.
Author's Note: Sorry I feel like this was random and rushed and sloppily written. I wrote it sleepy with a bit of a migraine. What do you think? Do you want a second chapter? It might end up being a series of oneshots eventually rather than a chronological story, as I have no chronological plot in mind. Ron won't be returning because it seems like in every eighth year fic he's used as a source of conflict. So to put him here I feel like is repetitive. Also, I didn't want to make up another teacher when I'm already adding in an OC as their new head of house, so Remus is alive. I don't know that I made it clear like I intended to, but they're repeating the whole year. All of them are. I might change to Draco's point of view as well next chapter. I find it easier to write from the point of view of a loner, though, being one myself. I know Minerva probably came off OOC but like I said, I don't feel well and either ways, a lot needed to be said. A lot of changes are happening.
7/19/18 Note: Reread through in the morning and made minor edits for clarification.
7/19/18 Note 2: Revised some more. Christophe Rosier is now related to Theodore.