Hadrian put a hand to his head and almost sagged in exhaustion against his desk.
It was the last day of classes before the Yule Holidays and Dumbledore seemed to be hell-bent upon making his class a nightmare for the Slytherins.
He had given out a surprise test to the joint Slytherin-Gryffindor class and had called each student upfront to perform all the spells that they had been taught in the first half of the term.
Whenever a Gryffindor couldn't perform up to par, he would admonish them lightly and send them back.
On the contrary, he would take two points each for every Slytherin student who didn't perform the spells up to his standards.
In the last few months, the Slytherins had made sure not to give Dumbledore or anyone else a reason to take any undue points from them.
The reason for that unanimous decision was that Professor Slughorn had come to the common room and announced that for every twenty points lost per person, they would have to serve two-hour-long detention with him—scrubbing and cleaning the used potion cauldrons.
As soon as the class was over, the Slytherins gave sighs of relief and went back to their dormitories to finish or start packing, as the case may be, for the holidays.
Most of them sneered at the red-headed professor.
Everyone in Slytherin hated him.
With good reason, he always took the side of the Gryffindors over them.
It was as if the Slytherins were all lying all the time or were in some way lesser than his precious Lions intrinsically.
The next day, most of the students once again boarded The Hogwarts Express to go back home and enjoy this small respite from studying.
Wandering along the corridors of the train, Hadrian couldn't help but roll his eyes at all the students squealing happily for getting a break.
Most of them were talking loudly about their Yule or Christmas plans—for the purebloods and the muggle-borns respectively.
Sliding into an empty compartment, Hadrian couldn't help but feel his thoughts take a turn for the worse.
It was as if no matter how hard he tried, sometimes his thoughts would go off on a tangent and he couldn't help but think about things that had long passed.
He caressed his bracelet and felt some of his melancholy disperse.
He recalled the last Christmas he had spent with Hermione.
Ron had run off to Shell Cottage due to their argument which had been influenced by The Salazar Slytherin's Locket that had been turned into Horcrux by Voldemort.
He remembered that the day before they went to The Godric's Hollow, Hermione had been crying to herself; trying to stifle her tears and gasps; fearing that it would ruin his already overcast mood or alternatively make him more prone to be sulky.
He had talked to her that night for quite a long time and she had confided in him all her worries and fears.
She had told him that she was worried about the three of them, that she feared they wouldn't last to see the end of the war or that they would lose all hope and eventually everything would turn to bitter ashes.
Thinking about it, even when they had been on the run and scrambling for their lives, the three of them had still been naive in their beliefs.
They—especially himself had naively thought that everything would end on a happy note and that they would be able to pick up the pieces of their hearts and carry on as normal.
That everything would still be fine as long as the threat of Voldemort was removed.
Sadly, in the long years after that Harry had realised that it wasn't Voldemort that was the problem.
The root cause of so many Dark Lords rising in the last century was The Wizarding World itself and the unique ability of the wizards to see everything with their rose-tinted glasses.
Recalling that particular talk, he remembers that he had innocently and sincerely told Hermione that they would all come out of it stronger.
He had believed that Ron was just being an insufferable prat for the moment; that after this Christmas when the war ended, the three of them—Harry, Ron and Hermione would spend every Christmas together until they were all old and grey with wrinkles on their face.
He had even joked that he would come to Ron and Hermione's place to mooch off of them during the holidays.
Hermione's peal of laughter had been so hearty at his words.
She had promised that the couple would never turn him away from them.
Only Harry got to be old and wrinkly.
Hermione and Ron hadn't survived the last day of the battle.
He could still feel a deep, sharp ache when he remembered that time.
While Hadrian had been lost in his thoughts, the door to his compartment opened.
Abraxas Septimus Malfoy entered the compartment, followed by Tom Riddle.
Since the incident of the spell, Malfoy had somehow taken Riddle under him and would be seen talking to the other boy at opportune times.
Harry didn't know if it was Malfoy becoming close to Riddle because of a shared debacle or if it was Riddle being opportunistic to crawl up the totem pole.
Anyways, he wasn't in the mood to think about it or pry the thoughts that were motivating either of the boys.
So, he kept to himself and didn't bother with them.
After all, both of them could handle themselves and he had no need or heart to poke his nose into other people's business.
He'll only intervene if one of them tried to take undue advantage of the other or things exceeded a certain limit.
Until then he could allow his cousin to have an acquaintance who wasn't cowed by the Malfoy name.
It would also give Riddle a chance to get to know people who ran The Wizarding World.
This chapter is dedicated to all those who have lost a loved one.
It's always hard, sad and terrible.
Worst of all is losing someone to an incurable illness or war.
We don’t realize what it actually is like until it happens to our loved ones and it is terrible. All the emotion we go through and the strength we need to build up is hard.
Sending loads of hugs your way.
Shiksha Jerath x
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