Draco began to regret his decision no less than two seconds after the train departed King’s Cross Station.
He stood in the middle of the compartment—the one he had always frequented with Crabbe and Goyle, as it was the first one the sweets cart would stop at—his hand firmly clenched around the wand in his pocket, still gazing out the window, even though his mother’s face was long gone.
With a deep breath, he unclenched his hand and withdrew the wand from his pocket before sitting down by the window.
He twirled the wand between both of his hands, observing the way the light bounced off the shining wood. A long fifteen inches, Draco still wasn’t used to the way it fit in his hand.
He had been in somewhat of a rush when he’d gotten it, not wanting to be seen by anyone, and he’d been far too ashamed to go to Ollivander’s after the ordeal the senior wandmaker had been through at his own home, so he settled for some back-alley wand shop. The owner had been so thrilled to have a customer, Draco thought he could’ve been the Dark Lord himself and he still would’ve been happily seen to.
Draco had gone through only two wands before losing his patience. After the first two—“vine wood with veela hair, vivacious, quite bendy!” and “pine and kelpie mane, very strong!”—had both resulted in rather loud explosions of a coat hanger and then a window, Draco had decided he’d rather not have anyone walking in to see a Malfoy exploding things.
“I don’t need some aggressively powerful weapon.” he had gritted out in a low tone. “I just want a regular damn wand.”
The owner’s wide grin had faltered a little, but it quickly returned and he’d said, excitedly, “I know just the wand!”
Now in his solitary compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Draco gently flicked the wand, muttering, “Lumos.”
The end of the wand emitted a soft, yellowy light before flickering and completely dying out.
He snorted to himself, remembering the way the wandmaker had described it.
“Redwood and kneazle hair, fifteen inches, pliable. Gentle wand. Known to bring luck! Best suited for those who always make the right choice!”
Make the right choice, eh?
Idiot, Draco thought to himself.
But nothing had exploded when he took the wand, so he’d paid five Galleons—an absurd price for a wand of such shabby quality—and left as quickly as he could. Once he had gotten home, he tested a few simple spells with his new wand and it turned out not to be entirely useless. It seemed to handle basic charms without much difficulty and it certainly wasn’t an aggressive wand.
But it wasn’t his wand, and despite his efforts to be satisfied with it, Draco found himself feeling a certain reproach for it, which he knew would not help its efficiency.
He went to tuck it back into his pocket, but its length caused it to stick out and so, frustrated, he tossed it into the seat across from him. A sad little golden spark erupted from the tip as he did so.
“Known to bring luck, my arse.” he mumbled, though he knew of course no one was listening.
Merlin knew he could use a little luck these days.
After the trial, he’d been sure all he wanted to do was hide in his room for months, if not years, and never see anyone again. If nothing else, he was utterly exhausted. The last two years of his life had seemed like a never-ending nightmare and he hadn’t dared to think of what would come afterwards. He hadn’t even dared to hope there would be an afterwards.
He certainly hadn’t imagined he’d be sitting on the Hogwarts Express on September 1st, in a compartment all by himself, feeling disdainful towards a stupid wand.
It was his mother’s fault, really.
She had never explicitly said that she wanted Draco to go back to school, but in the end she made up her mind.
After the trials—after they took Lucius away—Draco expected his mother to fall apart. He expected to step into his role as man of the house, as Lucius had always told him he would one day. He was prepared to take care of his grieving mother and devote all of his energy and focus to her. She deserved that.
But Narcissa did not fall apart. She had been allowed a goodbye with Lucius, during which she spoke to him in a reassuring voice and told him she would inquire about visitations, and when they’d hauled him off, she had gripped Draco’s arm and turned him away, rather fiercely walking him towards the Ministry’s Floo network.
Draco had supposed she was simply keeping up appearances—his mother always made sure she looked impeccable and untouchable when in public.
“Never let people know more about you than they need to,” she had always said to him.
Narcissa hadn’t broken down at home either, though. Draco had kept waiting, walking on eggshells around her, wanting to be there when her façade dissolved.
But it never did.
She had declared it her personal mission to deeply cleanse Malfoy Manor, and she was unstoppable. Even the remaining house elves—only two, Polkey and Cobby—hadn’t been able to slow her down, and Merlin knows they’d tried, working through the night sometimes, but she had been determined to do much of the dirty work themselves. Eventually Draco had quietly told them not to punish themselves when they saw her scrubbing floors, that she wanted to be doing it.
He had no idea why she did want to, but the one time he tried to stop her, it did not end well.
“Draco, you’re old enough to know what Dark Magic does when it’s left to fester. Cleaning this house will take more than simply washing windows.” she’d said briskly and returned to her work.
She had been right, of course. Malfoy Manor had been tainted with Dark Magic, Draco felt it in every corner, felt it seeping from the walls, rising from the floors.
He hated it.
It was much better than how it used to be, when the Dark Lord was using it as his headquarters. But that certainly wasn’t saying much, and Draco still awoke in the middle of the night drenched in sweat with his heartbeat pounding in his ears.
To Draco’s surprise, Narcissa had been making great strides, and the house elves had become much happier once Narcissa had discovered that elf magic was actually stronger at removing Dark Magic and allowed them to busy themselves with the great purging of the Manor.
Draco felt that he wasn’t as needed around the house as his father had made him believe he would be. He’d found that he didn’t mind much, however, as he quickly took to spending most of his days lying in bed. When he could sleep, he did, because despite the nightmares, being conscious was much worse, as it left him alone with his thoughts far more than he liked, and his mind was not a place he felt safe in anymore.
Finally, one day, Narcissa had marched into his room with a determined look on her face, her normally perfectly sleek hair looking frazzled and wild, and dust covering her robes.
“That’s quite enough sulking, Draco, it’s time you get up.”
Draco had just looked at her, barely sitting up from his horizontal position on the bed.
“If your father were here, he would be furious,” she’d said, changing tactics.
“Yes, well, Father’s in Azkaban, so I’m sure he’s got bigger things to worry about.” Draco had responded, still not making any moves to rise from his bed.
“If you’re not going to be any help around the house, you may as well be doing something to better your own future.”
At this, Draco had finally looked up at her. Her arms had folded and she was regarding him with a scolding look, like when he was a child and got caught chasing after the peacocks in the garden.
“My future? Mother, I have no future.”
Narcissa had simply tutted at him. “Don’t be so dramatic, Draco, of course you do. I received a letter from Professor McGonagall; they’re inviting the students of your year back to Hogwarts to properly finish off their seventh year. You’re going to do just that.”
Draco had gotten very close to asking his mother if she had lost his mind.
“Hogwarts? You want me to go back to Hogwarts? After all the—after we—after the war?”
Narcissa had looked resolute.
“Yes. You haven’t completed your N.E.W.T’s and you will not be able to acquire any respectable job without them.”
Draco had gaped at her, wondering how she couldn’t see that he would never be able to get any respectable job due to the bloody Dark Markseared into his forearm. He had wanted to argue, but he’d recognized that look on her face, that look that clearly said nothing on earth could change her mind.
“I haven’t even got a wand,” he’d said weakly, in a last-ditch attempt.
“Then we’ll get you a new one,” she’d answered simply, and turned sharply to leave his room, leaving a cloud of dust in her wake. He supposed he could have argued with her, insisted he go to Durmstrang instead or perhaps study independently and just go sit for his exams in June, but instead he’d remained silent, and done as he was told.
So that was why Draco was now sitting alone in a train compartment with a wand he hated and a terrible feeling in his stomach.
He had successfully been able to completely ignore any thoughts about going back to Hogwarts until now, despite purchasing his books, his new wand, and packing his trunk to prepare. He was rather good at that—pushing unpleasant thoughts and feelings away with a throwaway promise of ‘I’ll deal with that later’.
He, of course, had not dealt with it, and now he was faced with a host of anxious questions eating away at his mind.
Would he even be allowed back? Did McGonagall mean to send the letter to him or did it just go out to everyone from his year—everyone who’d survived the war, that is? Would she refuse him at the door and insist he return to the Manor? Would any other Slytherins be returning? Somehow he doubted it.
And Merlin. The rest of the Houses.
He’d be eaten alive before even taking a seat at the Slytherin table.
Well, he thought to himself miserably, there are worse ways to go.
Eyeing his wand with another contemptuous look, he decided there was only one way to stop the slew of stress-inducing questions, so he fetched his outer robes from beside him, fished in the pockets to find the vial he was looking for, and quickly swallowed down some Dreamless Sleep.