The sliding of the door momentarily drove the attention of Harry and Hermione. As Ron dully acknowledged the two, their faces fell with disinterest at the new presence. Ron made his way to the empty seat earning the suspicion of Crook-shanks before she dosed off due to Hermione petting her.
The sharp sound of the selling cart could be heard approaching. It's high pitch almost causing Harry to flinch and hiss.
"Anything from the trolley?" The old woman asked them, her expression frozen as the extraordinarily neutral as Harry had always remembered.
He nodded and the woman once again began pushing the trolley, it's bell once again ruining the peculiar silence of the train. He had not considered asking others if they had wanted a snack but they did not seem to object. Even Ron hadn't been excited at the brightly emblazoned sweets he would usually love to devour.
Harry sighed. He had desperately wanted to spend a normal year at Hogwarts without creatures and death eaters and consecutive missions of saving the world. With Voldemort dead, he could finally look forward to one, though it seemed that the mist of dread had cleared leaving only an emptiness behind.
The train stopped an everyone departed at Hogwarts gathering into the great hall. The first years were bunched together murmuring either about the houses they desired to be in or of course regarding Harry Potter, the celebrity that sat among them. They were curious an nervous as any first years had ever been but other than them there was little that didn't feel different from the previous years.
A certain raven-haired teacher whose faced failed to give any expression was not glaring at them. A quick glance across the room confirmed that a number of familiar faces were absent. Harry disregarded the obvious reality of why they were missing. Instead he began to foresee how the year would go without Dumbledore, he found himself equally reluctant to think about it. Thankfully, the entrance of George Weasely snapped him out of his thoughts.
He eyed Genera from the corner of his eyes then advanced at George embracing him in the most brotherly manner. The purpose of the gesture was their shared grief over everything that had happened and specifically the deceased Weasely. Harry escorted him to two empty seats on the Gryffindor table. He risked a glance at the Weasely girl finding her left with Seamus and Neville. She did not look back though and seemed that was purposely not doing so.
Harry had not been able to attract with her in the sense of lovers? again. He did not even remember growing close to her and perhaps neither did she. She had sensed it too, the absence of what they previously felt and like Harry, she had not addressed it yet. Perhaps now that their brains had more to process than an ongoing war, the romantic bubble in between them simply popped.
Besides leaving George alone brought back the realizations of what had occurred, he did not want that.
He looked up at the golden peninsula where Dumbledore previously delivered his speeches and found Minerva McGonagall approaching it. She too wore the same mask of blankness that had become a common sight in the hall.
She began her speech with the 'tragic incident' that had taken place in their school probably finding it inappropriate to neglect it. She made a few humble remarks regarding those who had lost their lives. She also made an attempt at cheering the student body up but finding uselessness in the formal and coaxing words. She skipped to congratulating the first years for making it the school for magic and ended with mimicking Dumbledore's 'wish you a spectacular year at Hogwarts—she instantly repented.
Once the sorting began, the number of Gryffindor-s and Hufflepuffs had visibly increased. Ravenclaws had received the same number of students it annually did and the Slytherin table almost remained unchanged. No one made comments but it was established that situations were going to be different with the particular house this year.
None of the newcomers appeared to hold a pride about being sorted into the house of the former supporters of the dark lord. Their act of changing allegiances simply for personal benefits had impacted the view of people over the Slytherin. Considering also, that their former leader had lost the war, they were branded as cowards.
Blood purity too had become known as Voldemort's cause hence the people had strictly formed opinions against looking up to it and had begun to detest the names of the high society. Funny enough, either were associated with the house of the snake symbol.
The most active reason to not prefer being in it however, was the marked death eater that had rejoined the school. Draco Malfoy, being born to the dark lord's right hand, making an attempt at assassinating Dumbledore, carrying a dark mark on his arm and being a racist, it had all given reasons for a strong contempt to be developed against him.
The blonde briefly crossed Harry's mind. He located him easily sitting alone at the end of the Slytherin table near the exit of the hall. He stared mindlessly up at the head mistress ignoring the constant glares he was getting. Harry had heard a little of the manor and fortune being confiscated and trials at the ministry held against him. Narcissa Malfoy had escaped Britain with Fenrir Greyback and was being searched for, Luscious was sentenced a lifetime in Azkaban.
After the ministry had been restored and all the supporters of the dark lord had been removed from their positions, they had turned against all high society names, the house Malfoy in particular because their heir's uselessness to the dark lord had proven him innocent 'technically'. They had giving the remaining Malfoy all kinds of trouble but for Harry to bring himself to worry, Harry found his 'hero complex' disappeared.
Food was served on the table by the usual means of magic. Harry desperately wanted to ignore how his area on the table was covered with a larger variety of foods. Ron decided on settling with a modest amount on his plate, Hermione stabbed a slice of ham with a force and Harry refused to eat at all.
He could feel pairs of admiring eyes set on him, coming from all table including Slytherin. He avoided them all turning to his side. He was met with Luna's gaze who smiled at him. Harry returned it instinctively.
His attention was diverted by George's elbow poking at his rib. "Eat mate, you don't want to go to the dormitory with all this food left untouched." He punctuated his suggestion with a smile—a brief curve of lips discreetly fading into despair.
Harry caught it though, He thrust a chocolate muffin into his mouth, bit it and dropped it onto his plate.
They were finally allowed to leave. The teachers grouped the students and walked them to their dormitories. (Both Slytherin and Gryffindor were appointed new house heads)
The next day, before leaving with Hermione for Charms classes, Harry was met with a crowd of first years, all exited, they were followed by hesitant looking Slytherin kids who were not certain if they should've joined. He quickly assured them that he did not hold a prejudice and were as welcomed to greet him as others. This delighted them and added further to Harry's heroic persona.
The young snakes were still cunning and clever, yet clear of conscience. Harry could see why. Their discretion had sharpened knowing Voldemort as the utmost evil and therefore, him, his counterpart, an idol to follow.
Harry sighed as they left. No one was getting over the war any time sooner. All the faces looked agonized yet no one dared to confront the war. In the following days, Quiditch practices were dropped as no one had the same enthusiasm, the trip to Hogsmeade had also been delayed.
Harry noticed that Peeves only sneered at the students now but caused no mayhem. Filch had discarded his scowl and did little but mopping the floors. With a horror and almost glumness, he realized that Mrs. Norris was not ever seen wondering about the corridors.