"KIMBERLY MARIE DANIELS! You've got ten minutes to be down here or you're going to miss the train!" my mother screamed at me.
I rolled my eyes and called one of the houselves to take my trunk downstairs. My cat, Bast, wove her way around my ankles and meowed loudly looking up at me.
"I know we're late Bast, you don't have to give me that look," I said to the midnight colored feline. "I'M COMING MOTHER!" I shouted as I walked down out my door.
This will be my last year at Hogwarts. I'm glad to finally be completing my magical education. This means that I can do what I want instead of following all of those ridiculous school rules. Just in case you were wondering I'm in Slytherin. Yes, I know, boos and hisses from the lot of you. Well that's your opinion. I don't need or want your approval either way.
I scooped up the disapproving feline and bolted down the stairs. Grabbing my mother's arm tightly, as she grumbled about my tardiness under her breath, I prepared myself for the inevitable, momentary discomfort of apparition. As we appeared on the platform I released my tight grip on my mother's arm thinking of how glad I would be when I could apparate on my own in a couple of weeks. As I turned to say good-bye to Mother, Father appeared, looking rather hassled, with my trunk.
"Be careful this year Kim. There's danger everywhere now, but at least the school affords a bit more protection than anywhere else. We'll be here to pick you up for the Christmas holidays. And don't forget to write," said my mother. She had a worried look on her face and I know that she had been against letting me go back to school this year after what happened at the end of last term. Although we're a pureblood family with a tendency to end up in Slytherin, we're not exactly zealots like the Death Eaters. Our family has a talent for looking after itself. In the dark days, there were a couple of cousins that joined them, but they didn't survive. The fact that I'm a pureblood has always been a point of pride, and it's certainly made our lives easier in recent months.
"We'll miss you. Don't get caught if you decide to stir up trouble this year," my father warned with an amused look on his face.
I'm known as a bit of a troublemaker. I generally don't get caught, but one of my bigger schemes got me into a tight spot at the start of term last year. I managed to talk my way out of severe punishment, but Snape kept a rather close eye on me after that. Although I don't suppose I'll be bothered with him this year.
With one last hug I grabbed my trunk and Bast and headed for the train. I finally found an empty compartment and proceeded to make myself comfortable. A few minutes later Kat and Sara come bursting through the door, and squealing with excitement, we all hugged and began telling each other about our summers. Nothing too interesting happened to any of us this summer considering the reappearance of You-Know-Who. We had all spent most of our time checking the Daily Prophet for the names of anyone we knew.
With a rather blank stare I said, "I read that McGonagall will be the new headmistress and someone named Analise Nightshade is to be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
"I read about that too. It's going to be so strange not to have Dumbledore there," replied Sara.
"Yeah, I know what you mean," said Kat.
As silence filled the compartment an unpleasantly familiar voice said, "Missing poor Dumbledore, are we?"
Anger suddenly flashed in me and I stood up with my wand pointing at Malfoy.
"They didn't send you to Azkaban, Malfoy? I thought that they would have surely given you a cell next to your father's. I think you should leave before I do something you'll regret," I spat at him.
He stood there with a sneer on his face. He had taken on a rather haunted appearance. His skin was, if possible, paler than normal and there were faint circles under his eyes.
"Don't you dare speak of my father. And if it's any of your business, the Ministry thinks that all that horrible dark magic was forced on me. They believe that I should be sent back to Hogwarts," he replied in a deadly whisper.
"Don't take that tone with me Malfoy. I'm not afraid of you or your goons," I said, nodding in the direction of Crabbe and Goyle. "They haven't got the intelligence to use a hex between the two of them."
Malfoy looked at me with contempt in his eyes. He turned and muttered something to Crabbe and Goyle and they lumbered off down the corridor cracking their knuckles menacingly.
*She's the only bloody girl in Slytherin that never gives me the respect I'm due. They always do whatever I want. She's different. She'll be my greatest conquest at Hogwarts. I might as well have some fun while I suffer this last year of school. Victory will be all the sweeter when she begs for forgiveness for refusing me at first.*"You will beg for me to forgive these transgressions one of these days. You'll show me a lot more respect before it's over with Daniels," he said.
Laughing derisively, I replied, "I was wise enough to avoid you and your kind in first year Malfoy, and I've only gotten smarter since then. What exactly makes you think that I'll be foolish enough to ingratiate myself to you now? I have higher standards for acquaintances than a cocky, self-absorbed, pureblood with a superiority complex. I may be in Slytherin, but unlike the rest of your brainless fan club I don't worship the ground you walk on."
With that I sent a nonverbal spell at him, pushing him into the empty corridor. With another lazy flick of my wand I closed the compartment door and force the shade to unfurl over the window.
I stood there looking at her with a sneer. Then with a look of pure loathing she pointed her wand at me. The force of the spell hit me in the chest and knocked me down. I looked up to see the door closing and the shade covering the window.*Oh, she's going to pay for that one. She'd better be glad that no one was out here to see that or I would have had to curse her. God my arse hurts now.*
As I sat back down Sara and Kat managed to wipe the looks of utter surprise off of their faces and start going on about how proud they were of me for telling him off. I just laughed and told them that he had it coming, which was completely true.
By the time we finished discussing what a horrible little ferret Malfoy was it was time to change into our robes.
A low mist hung heavy over the village of Hogsmeade. In the faint light the shadow of the castle could be seen in the distance.
As we arrived and made our way to the carriages we saw that several of the shops had been boarded up. There were signs posted by the Ministry everywhere. It seemed as though we'd be stuck within the confines of the castle grounds this year.
"I wonder what this year's going to be like?" I mused as we sat in the carriage.
"Well I'm sure that we can all agree that it's going to be a stressful one. From what I've heard from seventh years in the past it's always been really difficult what with N.E.W.T.s and everything, but with how everything else is it's going to be even worse," said Sara.
"You know they're going to be a lot stricter with the rules, too. I just want to get through this year without any major incidents," replied Kat.
"I'm guessing that means that you guys want me to ease up on finding trouble?" I questioned. I already knew what the answer would be, but I was hoping to lighten the conversation a bit. I was beginning to feel like I was in a room with the walls closing in around me. Just knowing that everything that I had ever known would never be the same again made me feel terrible.
"Yes. That definitely means that we want you to cut out that particular proclivity. We know that you have a certain disregard for rules, but this year it's just too dangerous," said Kat with an anxious look at me.
"I know, I know," I replied. Noticing the skeptical look on Kat's face I said, "I swear, no trouble out of me this year. I'm with you guys. I just want to get out of here in one piece."
By this time we had arrived at the castle and were ascending the steps. Entering the Great Hall, we headed for the Slytherin table and took our usual seats near to the middle. Things proceeded as always, the only differences, aside from the new staff members, being that Professor McGonagall was sitting where Dumbledore once had and Professor Flitwick lead the first years in to be sorted. The hat's new song was much as it had been for the past couple of years. It spoke of how we should all pull together because that was the only way we could pull through the difficult times ahead. Most of the Slytherins and Gryffindors gave each other looks of hatred at this, but some of them merely looked indifferent. Kat, Sara, and I had already talked about all of this. We weren't bothered by the fact that everyone was divided into separate houses. We had friends throughout the school. There were some Slytherins and Gryffindors that didn't follow the stereotype of hating each other. We weren't given much thought. Everyone would much rather play up to the ones that did. That of course meant that people thought that all of us were like that. Oh, well there's not really much we could do about it.
Sara elbowed me in the side and I was abruptly brought out of my thoughts. All of the new students had been sorted and McGonagall was standing to make the start of term speech.
"Many unfortunate events have occurred since we were last here. Our numbers are less than they have ever been, but it has been decided that as long as the students are willing to come then we will remain here to teach. Your magical learning is now more than ever a priority to us. First years should note that the Forbidden Forest is strictly off limits. The rest of you would do well to remember this also. All post is being searched so it may take longer for you to receive packages. New security measures have been put into place and no student is to be in the corridors after hours under any circumstances unless accompanied by a professor. Be vigilant. Although the castle is a safe place, be mindful of your fellow students. Now," she said with a small, sad smile, "I think it is time that we enjoy the feast."
With that, the tables were suddenly laden with food, and everyone was piling their plates with roast lamb and potatoes.
I sat staring grim-faced at my plate not feeling very hungry anymore.
"Kim? Are you alright?" asked Sara.
"Huh?" I asked, startled. "Oh, yeah I'm fine...just thinking."
I decided to eat before she could question me further. I wasn't really in the mood for conversation, which for me was highly unusual.
Just as I was reaching for a piece of chicken there was a commotion beside me and the boy sitting next to me was shoved roughly out of the way. He was replaced by the last person I wanted to see. Malfoy sank down into the now empty place with a sneer on his face and anger in his cold gray eyes.