It was the start of another year and Harry, Ron and Hermione were finally back on the train to Hogwarts, A Wizarding School for children gifted with magic abilities.
Harry stared absent mindedly out the window of their train compartment, his eyes flitting from one place to another as the hills seemed to fly past in a green blur. He popped another sweet into his mouth, allowing himself to take in the view, and listened to Hermione and Ron's bickering as static noise to fill what would otherwise be an empty silence.
"Oh please Ron, you expect me to believe that?" Hermione reasoned "It's impossible to reason with Cornish Pixies, even the greatest wizards find them troublesome."
Ron huffed and sat back in his seat.
"Well believe what you want!" He said, popping a sherbert lemon into his mouth "My cousin wouldn't lie t'me, he's a bloody great wizard!"
Harry smiled at the argument. You see Ron had just been away to Cornwall that holiday with his family. It was obvious to him that they'd played a practical joke of sorts as Ron had come back thinking his cousin could speak to Cornish Pixies.
"Harry, you believe me right?" Ron asked suddenly.
"Mmm?" Harry hummed, not really wanting to give an opinion on the matter.
"Don't bring Harry into this!" Hermione said "His family has probably been giving him hell all summer!"
Harry breathed a sigh of relief and the two carried on their arguing, he knew it'd all be over by the time they reached Hogwarts as it always was so he payed no mind to it. She wasn't wrong though, his Aunt Pertunia and Uncle Vernon had been particularly hard on him this year, they'd even locked him back in the cupboard under the stairs again for a few weeks. Luckily for him, that was where they'd also stored his Hogwarts text books and equipment so he was able to get a substantial amount of work done while there, he even created a calendar so he could count the days until the summer ended.
Lost once again in his thoughts the teen picked up his second chocolate frog, taking care not to open it too wide. Though much Harry's annoyance, his careful approach to the enchanted snack didn't seem to have much effect on how far it would go. First it hopped into his hair, settling there for a few seconds then- before he could catch it- it leapt out of the compartment all-together, landing in the walkway. Hermione briefly glanced in his direction, roused by all the commotion but didn't seem too interested.
Harry sighed and got up to get his chocolate, not paying much attention to anything else. His eyes were almost glued to the frog as it's jump worsened, the magic slowly wearing off. He was so close to catching it, as it began to dawdle on the carpet, when he bumped head first into the somewhat fragile frame of Draco Malfoy.
"Sorry!" Harry apologised, standing up straight to meet his eye "...Oh, it's you."
Draco Malfoy had been an enemy, as childish as it sounded, to Harry and his friends since their first year at Hogwarts. Normally Harry would put more bite into greeting the blonde but this year there seemed nothing about Draco to warrant automatic hostility.
"Lovely to see you too, Potter"
The hoarseness of Malfoys voice caught Harry off guard, he sounded sick and as he glanced up and down he noticed he looked the part as well. His bones seemed much more prominent under his sickly pale skin and his Jawbones seemed to be pultruding somewhat. Bags had gathered under his eyes from, what must have been, many all-nighters and, if harry wasn't mistaken, Draco was shaking. Not much but enough for him to notice. Of course it wasn't too shocking for Harry to think that the undernourished boy in front of him couldn't hold his own weight but the fact that it was Malfoy had Harry puzzled.
As much as he would refuse to admit it, Draco's appearance made him feel a little sympathetic towards him.
"Quit staring at me like that." Draco snapped, breaking Harry from his train of thought.
"Sorry..." Harry murmured.
"What are you even doing out here anyway, aren't you suppose to be sat with Weasel-bee and Granger?" Draco said, spitefully.
Harry clenched his fists, clearly Malfoys haggard appearance made him no less cocky.
"Shove off Malfoy!" He said, taking a step closer to the blonde.
"Oh, someone gained an attitude this summer." Draco said, trying to keep his confident demeanour as much as he could.
A silence spread between them and the two locked eye contact, giving Harry time to notice the unusual scar across his left cheek. It was very faint and small but there nonetheless, it seemed like a scratch of some kind but he hadn't the skills to pinpoint the cause.
"Harry, what are you doing out here?" He heard Hermione call, breaking the tension building in the air.
The brunette turned around to see his friend poking her head out of the door, her curly hair bouncing as the train rattled. Her expression dropped when she saw Malfoy stood there too. Then a look of confusion took hold. Harry guessed she was shocked at Malfoys new appearance too.
"Malfoy." She greeted, the shock not at all hindering the venom in her tone.
"Granger." Draco returned with equal spite.
Hermione broke eye contact with the blonde and from then chose to ignore any presence he had in the walkway.
"Ron and I are going to set up a game of Wizards chess, you're welcome to come in and watch if you'd like." She offered "I'm sure it'd be much better company."
"I'll be back in just a sec, I've just got to find something, another chocolate frog managed to get away."
Hermione nodded in understanding.
"It can't have gone far, they don't have too much magic in them these days."
Harry nodded as the curly haired Griffindoor tucked her head back into the compartment. Harry turned his attention back to Malfoy.
"Well, as much as I'd love to help the famous Harry Potter, I have to get back to my compartment as well." Draco said, shoving Harry into the window.
Harry scowled at the blonde as he staggered away. The shove was definitely weaker than it had been before but nonetheless irritating.
As he watched Draco walk back to his friends in the other train car Harry couldn't help but notice there was something different about him this year, not just in his appearance, and it was something Harry couldn't quite put his finger on.
Shaking his head, he decided to forget the whole incident and turned around just in time to see his chocolate frog jump out the window with its last ounce of magic. A deep sigh escaped his throat and, with no other reason to be out there, he returned to his compartment too.
"Harry!" Ron smiled, patting the seat next to him as soon as he'd slid the door closed "Come on, I need your help, apparently Hermione got her hands on a Wizards chess set over the holidays."
Harry sat down next to his friend and chuckled.
"I doubt she's better than you already, Ron. You've been playing Wizards Chess since before we were first years."
"Yeah but this is Hermione we're on about, you can never be too careful." Ron reasoned.
Harry shook his head in amusement but didn't argue, nor that he'd be able to counteract his point even if he wanted to. Promptly, the game began and all three settled down for the long trip ahead.