Draco began to regret his decision almost immediately 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 of the window, even though the station was now 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 of the shining wood. A long fifteen inches, Draco still wasn’t used to the way it fit in his hand.
He had been in a bit of a rush when he’d bought 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 Draco’s own home, so he had settled for some unknown, back-alley wand shop. The owner had been so thrilled to have a customer, Draco thought he could have been the Dark Lord himself and he still would have been happily attended to.
He had tried out only two wands before he started losing patience. After the first two—“vine wood with Veela hair, vivacious, quite bendy!” and “pine and kelpie mane, very strong!”—had resulted in rather loud explosions of a coat hanger and a window, Draco had decided he’d rather get this over with quickly before someone walked in and saw a Malfoy exploding things.
“I don’t need an aggressive weapon,” he had gritted out in a low tone. “I just want a regular damn wand.”
The wandmaker’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 dying out. He snorted to himself, thinking of the way the wandmaker had described it.
“Redwood and kneazle hair, fifteen inches, pliable! Gentle wand, known to bring luck! Suited for wizards who always make the right choice.”
Always 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 wasn’t entirely useless. It handled basic charms alright, but it wasn’t his wand, and Draco found himself feeling a certain reproach for it, despite knowing this would not help its efficiency.
He went to tuck it back into his pocket, but its length caused it to poke at him in his sitting position and so, frustrated, he tossed it into the seat across from him. A sad little red spark fizzed from the tip as he did so.
“Known to bring luck, my arse,” he mumbled, though of course no one was listening.
Merlin knew he could use a little luck these days.
After his 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 had been utterly exhausted. The previous two years of his life had felt like a never-ending nightmare, and he hadn’t ever 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 pettily disdainful towards a wand.
It was all his mother’s fault, really.
After the trials—after they had hauled Lucius off—Draco had expected his mother to fall apart. He had expected to step into his role as the man of the house, as Lucius had always told him he would one day. He had been prepared to take care of his grieving mother and devote all of his energy and focus on 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 when they’d taken him away, she had gripped Draco’s arm and turned him around, fiercely walking him towards the Ministry’s Floo network.
Draco had supposed she was simply keeping up appearances—his mother had always made sure she looked calm, impeccable, and untouchable while in public.
“Never let people know more about you than absolutely necessary,” she had always said.
Narcissa hadn’t broken down at home either though. Draco had kept waiting, walking on eggshells around her, waiting to be ready when her façade dissolved. But it never did.
She had declared it her personal mission to cleanse and purge Malfoy Manor, and she had become 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 herself. Eventually, Draco had quietly told them not to punish themselves when they saw her hard at work, that she wanted to be doing it. He had had no idea why she did, but the one time he had tried to stop her, it hadn’t ended 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 could feel it in every corner, seeping from the walls, rising from the floors. He had hated it.
It had gotten better, compared to how it had been before, when the Dark Lord had taken it over as his headquarters, but that wasn’t saying much, and Draco still awoke in the middle of the night sometimes, drenched in sweat with his heartbeat pounding in his ears.
To Draco’s surprise, Narcissa had begun making great strides, and the house elves had become much happier once Narcissa had discovered that elf magic had its own strengths in removing Dark Magic, and allowed them to busy themselves with the great purging of the Manor.
Draco had felt that he wasn’t as needed around the house as his father had made him believe he would be. He’d also found that he didn’t mind much, however, as he had quickly taken to spending most of his days lying in bed.
When he could sleep, he did, because despite the nightmares, being conscious had felt even worse, as it left him alone with his thoughts far more than he would have liked, and his mind was not a place he felt safe in anymore.
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 and ashes covering her robes.
“That is quite enough sulking, Draco, it’s well past 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, testing a different tactic.
“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 properly. Her arms at folded and she was regarding him with a scolding look, like the one she used to wear 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 Headmistress McGonagall for you; they’re invited the students of your year back to Hogwarts to properly finish. You’re going to do just that.”
Draco had gotten very close to asking his mother if she had lost her mind.
“Hogwarts? You want me to go back to Hogwarts? After all the—after we—after the war?”
Narcissa had been resolute.
“Yes. You have yet to complete your N.E.W.T.s and you will not be able to acquire any respectable job without them. There was a time once when you did not have to worry about employment, but that is no longer the case.”
Draco had gaped at her, wondering how she couldn’t see that he would never be able to gain respectable employment due to the bloody Dark Mark seared 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, a cloud of dust settling in her wake.
He supposed he could have argued with her more, insisted he study independently and just go sit 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 returning to Hogwarts until now, emotionlessly purchasing his books and wand, and even packing his trunk to prepare.
He was rather good at that—pushing unpleasant thoughts and feelings aside with a throwaway promise of “I’ll deal with that later.”
He, of course, had not dealt with it later, and now he was faced with a host of anxious questions eating away at his mind. Was he even going to be allowed back? Did McGonagall really mean to sent 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?
And Merlin. The other 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 where he had hung them up by the compartment door, fished in the pockets to find the vial he was looking for, and quickly swallowed down some Dreamless Sleep.