A/N: Hey everyone! Welcome to the newest, newest venture of mine, a Harry/Delphini story! After numerous requests and a vote on my Discord, this story won by far and will now be a secondary project of mine. Fair warning, Harry will be minorly different than in canon as I'm unsure of my abilities to keep him fully the same! This story will take place Post-Battle of Hogwarts with the trope of 'Eighth Years' - if you dislike that, I'm sorry!
Unlike my main story, The Power of Love, this will not update weekly. Instead, it will update biweekly on the first and third Saturday of every month. Finally, the new chapter of Power of Love will release on schedule tomorrow - check it out if you haven't, it's a Harry/FemRiddle story! As usual: a big thanks to my Beta's and Discord Staff - Alec, Alpple, Athena Hope, Babo, Champ, O'Neill, Seventh Son, SinisterFox, Tetricaclus and Xevier! Feel free to join my Discord for updates and information, link on my profile. Without any more rambling from me, I hope you enjoy the story! (Sorry if you don't!)
September 2nd, 1998
"Welcome back, Potter."
Harry had just stepped out of the Floo and was already greeted by the new Headmistress of Hogwarts, McGonagall. As much as it pained him to be back on the grounds and moreover, to be standing in the office where Dumbledore had always spoken to him, it felt right. Hogwarts was his home, his childhood and he would give anything for it - he'd given his life for it.
He smiled at the Headmistress and his former Head of House. "Thank you, Headmistress."
Professor McGonagall, stern and stoic as she'd always been, actually returned the smile. "Do try and avoid trouble this year."
"I'll try Professor."
She looked at him knowingly and with a snap of her fingers, levitated over his timetable joined with other information attached. "You're quite sure no problems will arise in those new living quarters?"
"Yes Professor." She was referencing the 'Eighth Years' as most were calling them. People like him who'd have to make up a year at Hogwarts considering the circumstances of the year prior. Problem was, Hogwarts only had dorms for Seven Years and with all the repairs that were done with some still not even seen to, they'd not had the time to expand the facilities. As such, the new Headmistress of Hogwarts reopened a relic of the past, Married Quarters, and transformed them into a communal space for the dozen or so that returned.
"Good. I do believe Longbottom and Lovegood are waiting for you." Harry took the dismissal for what it was and grabbed his belongings. He hadn't expected to talk with her too long but had expected more than a thirty-second conversation. When he looked over towards her desk and saw the feet of paperwork on it, he was more understanding.
"Thank you again, Professor McGonagall." With that, he made his way over to the exit of her office and descended the steps, stopping when she called out to him.
"Potter... it's good to have you back." Harry heard how the woman's voice choked up and smiled again back at her.
"It's good to be back."
They both dipped their heads to one another and Harry exited her office only to be wrapped into a bear hug by a much taller, bulkier boy. It was so tight that the air was forcibly ejected from his body and words couldn't be said.
Neville was very excited to see him again.
"Neville, if you squeeze too much of his breath out the Quavals will go into his lungs instead of air."
Luna sounded as calm and unique as she always had.
"Err… right." Neville let go of Harry and immediately the smaller boy took in a breath.
"Good to… see you… mate." Harry took deep breaths between each word.
"Sorry, Harry! Hadn't seen you since a few days after the, well, you know." Harry did know and he was thankful that Neville didn't feel the need to say it.
"No problem Nev, I should've kept up with you and Luna better. I guess I needed time, we all did." Harry still needed time, his nights were sleepless until he took a potion of Dreamless Sleep, passed out due to exhaustion or in rare instances, drank himself to sleep. Coming back to Hogwarts was selfish on his part, it was his first home and he felt as if he belonged here, like a piece of him still remained at the school.
"Don't worry about it Harry, I'm just glad to see you're alright - we both are," Neville added the last bit when he looked back over to Luna who was smiling with a faraway look in her eyes.
Some things never change. Harry chuckled inwardly, truth be told he was glad Luna was still Luna while so many of his friends had changed.
"I told Neville you'd come back." Luna still had the look in her eyes when she spoke up.
Harry looked at the boy in question who raised his hands. "I didn't say I didn't believe her! It's just - so many people didn't."
Hermione and Ron hadn't, they were busy looking for her parents in Australia, they'd been gone for a few months now. Other than them, Luna and Neville, Harry didn't really know people in his year. That would have to change with his two best friends gone.
"So who came back then?" Harry could be familiar with names, some of them at least, the main reason he asked was he wanted to know who to be wary of.
"Well, from Gryffindor we have you, me and Fay Dunbar."
That was it? Nobody else had returned?
Neville saw the question before Harry spoke. "Dean and Seamus decided not to bother returning if they didn't have to. As for Parvati, it was easier for her not to return. Fay's friend is still recovering at St Mungo's too."
Three Gryffindor's were all that returned for the year, Harry wondered if all the Houses had fared as badly as they had.
"From Hufflepuff, Ernie Macmillan, Zacharias Smith, Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones and Megan Jones - Susan will be glad to see you too, she mentioned wanting to speak with you. Ravenclaw has the least returning, surprisingly - only Terry Boot and Lisa Turpin came back, I reckon it's because most of them already got into positions that they wanted to."
Harry saw how the boy paused without mentioning Slytherin and decided he could push it off for a few seconds at least. "What did Susan want to talk to me about, I don't recall having talked with her all that much."
Neville avoided eye contact. "Well, uh. Tha-"
Luna cut him off, "She wants to thank you of course."
"Thank me for what?" Harry scratched his head at the girl's remark. He hadn't done anything for Susan in recent times.
"For saving her life, Harry Potter. You cursed a man before he could finish his killing curse." Luna said those words in such serenity that he'd initially thought he'd misheard. When he looked towards Neville for confirmation and saw how the boy was looking at him, that confirmed he'd heard correctly.
"She doesn't need to than-"
"I told her you'd say that you'll still have to visit her - she's quite cross that you've not spoken with her since that day, you know." Luna scrunched her facial expression into an interpretation of anger when she'd said the word cross and immediately let it slide off once the word was spoken. He'd almost forgotten her quirks and how uplifting the girl was to be around.
"I'll speak to her." Harry promised while looking at Luna, he then switched his attention back to Neville and asked, "Slytherin's, who came back?"
"Goyle, Zabini, Nott, Bulstrode, Parkinson, Greengrass and Davis."
"Most of them returned?" Harry'd have figured if anybody would stay away from Hogwarts, it'd have been them. For Merlin's sake, almost the lot of them had family members fighting against the Hogwarts Defenders - they had to know their returning would make them prime targets for the other Houses.
"Yeah, mental aren't they? I've heard more than a few people talking about getting revenge, they oughta be careful if you ask me."
"You didn't tell him about the other girl too." Luna piped up.
"Other girl?" Harry questioned immediately.
"Oh, escaped my mind, thanks, Luna," Neville said, moving in to kiss the much smaller girl on the cheek much to her contentment if the sigh was any- wait what?
"You two are?" Harry asked without saying the full question, looking between his two blushing friends.
Momentarily forgotten was the so-called 'other girl' as Neville rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly while Luna hummed.
"Brilliant, happy for you both." He meant it, if anybody deserves happiness it was the two people in front of him now.
"Thanks, mate - we were going to tell you later but, uh, instinct. You know?" Neville laughed while fiddling with his fingers. Luna for her part paid them no attention and continued with her humming.
"Not a problem Nev." Harry yawned as he finished his friend's nickname, he'd come in late the evening and hadn't slept the night prior, not for a lack of trying mind you. "Think we could get walking to this new common room while we continue catching up? I'm dead tired."
"Oh, yeah. Not a problem. Don't mind if I escort Luna back first do you?" Neville wrapped an arm around the aforementioned girl, pulling her smaller frame into his much larger one. Harry hadn't failed to notice how the girls humming quickened or her face got red. If only Ron were here to see it, he'd be likely to blow his top off at the new couple! Not out of anger either, rather out of shock - everyone had assumed Neville would get together with Hannah Abbott.
Seeing that his two friends were looking at him in question, Harry shook himself from his thoughts and responded, "Not at all, may try to find my own way down and do some exploring all the while. Catch up in the dorms, yeah?"
"Ernie or Terry would be glad to help you if you need anything and yeah mate." Neville began walking away with Luna still firmly against his side, the girls humming going faster still. Right before they turned the corner, the other boy called back to Harry. "Mate! Really glad to have you back."
Harry didn't have the chance to reply and simply smiled to himself. Maybe it was too early to say, but he knew he made the right decision, Hogwarts was where he belonged.
Finding the smaller tower where the Eighth Years were staying hadn't been overly difficult, only tedious to walk to due to its distance from Professor McGonagall's office. As he recalled from something mentioned offhandedly a week beforehand, this old tower had been largely abandoned over a century ago when the birthrate began declining. It'd made sense to empty it considering how out of the way it was - similar to much of the former classrooms in the dungeons.
Once he'd arrived at the large ornate set of doors that'd been erected and saw none of the usual traffic, his mind briefly lulled him into thinking this wasn't the place. That didn't last, as only a few seconds of standing outside it, the twin doors were opened.
Two feminine figures were walking out while speaking with one another, neither paying attention to Harry's body standing in the way until he dodged off to the side to prevent a collision.
Thank you, Quidditch. Harry thought, as his reflexes served to both avoid the girls running into him and alerted them to his presence.
"Oh! Hi Harry." One girl in Ravenclaw robes greeted him - it had to be Lisa considering she was the only one that'd returned.
"Harry, you came back!" Fay Dunbar, the only other Gryffindor beside him and Neville that'd returned said with a smile.
"Hey Fay, Lisa. Heading out?" Harry greeted them both in turn with a smile on his face.
"Yeah, we're going to see if we can get a snack from the kitchen, House Elves always love doting on us!" Fay replied excitedly while Lisa nodded, the former girl's eyes then lit up while looking at him. "You should join us!"
Lisa nodded again. "You should, it would probably be better than going into the common room right now. "
Harry looked at them questioningly before asking what they meant by that.
"Megan got into it with Bulstrode, it's since escalated into a pretty large argument that neither of us cares to deal with," Lisa answered while this time it was Fay who nodded.
He should probably go deal with that then, lest somebody ends up cursed. "I'll have to take you up on that offer another time, looks like right about now I need to play peacekeeper."
Fay smirked and winked at him while Lisa shrugged, the former girl was the one that'd ended up responding to him in a singsong tone.
Both girls were off, walking the way he'd come from without a care in the world as they began to sing.
Harry turned his attention back to the twin doors that were still open and stepped inside. What greeted him was a small room with a window on his left and right, a few chairs, tables and other furnishings were also included along with another equally as ornate set of twin doors - whoever had designed this new tower loved the things.
None of his new dormmates seemed to be in this small sitting room, however, likely meaning that the second set of twin doors hid the real common room along with dorm entrances.
Harry stood in silence and strained his ears for any sound that would indicate the argument the girls had mentioned earlier - nothing was heard. He could only surmise that a silencing charm was put on the entrance. Cautiously, he made his way over to the two doors and pulled on the handle of the right one. Sound greeted him immediately along with a bright flash of a red spell that he was very, very familiar with.
Fay and Lisa hadn't been exaggerating in the devolution of the argument based on the six wands currently illuminating the room. Maybe the new Headmistress hadn't had the brightest choice when she'd mixed all the houses together.
He was shaken from his thinking when a pink coloured spell he hadn't seen before landed right beside him at the door.
Harry quickly put up a shield and observed who was fighting who.
On one side was Bulstrode, Davis and Greengrass. All three looked to have their chests heaving in exertion.
On the opposite side from those three stood Hannah, Megan and Susan. Unlike the other trio, these girls didn't look to be even half as tired as the three Slytherin girls were, causing Harry to feel a touch of pride. They'd put in the work and had fought far harder than they currently were when they defended the school. He was glad to see their skills had done anything but decline in the time he'd not spoken with them. That didn't mean he'd let them put the three snakes in the ground.
"Enough." He called out loudly, trying to make his voice heard over the chaos of the room.
No luck, spells were still being fired and furnishings shredded.
Harry sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose, this time bringing his wand to his throat to make sure he was heard.
"Knock it off." His voice was firm and the results were immediate. Hannah, Megan and Susan kept their shields up but stopped going on the offensive.
All three Slytherins went wide-eyed and appeared nervous at his presence, keeping their shields up while turning their wands towards the ground. None of them so much as made a sound and all three avoided eye contact soon after realizing they'd been staring at him.
"Harry, you're here!" Susan said happily, dropping her shield and walking over to him when she'd seen the Slytherin girls point their wands towards the ground.
"Hi, Harry!" Hannah called from where she'd been standing.
"Harry." Megan only said his name in a way of greeting, though even that was enough to feel the warmth she felt towards him.
"Hi Hannah, Megan, Susan. Care to tell me what's going on?" Harry returned the greeting as warmly as he could given the circumstances and questioned them immediately. He was very tired and the last thing he wanted to be dealing with at this point in time was petty squabbling.
"Well, B-" Susan had her head about her and made to explain when Megan cut her off, the latter was far less composed.
"Bulstrode the Bitch found it funny that my cousin died in an Auror raid last week."
Harry knew that both of Bulstrode's parents had fought for Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts - most people in Slytherin had at least one relative who had. He looked over at the three Slytherin girls who all were avoiding looking at him, one of them, a brunette, was even trembling at the situation, causing him to reflect on his just prior thought.
Just because most had a relative or family member that fought for the mad man didn't mean all had and as far as he cared, Bulstrode herself hadn't fought for Voldemort. Neither did Davis or Greengrass if he remembered correctly, he wasn't sure about either girl's parents.
As inclined to believe Megan as he was based on the personal relationship he had with the girl, he looked at Susan - he could always rely on her to tell the full truth even if they'd never been extremely close.
Susan sighed. "Bulstrode made a remark that could be considered insensitive, that being 'Aurors die, they know that when they sign up'. Megan took offence and said something about her parents, effectively the same thing about them serving you-know-who. They got into it and when I tried to stop it, those other two decided they should get involved."
"No!" One of the Slytherin girls blurted before slapping a hand over her mouth and retreating further behind Bulstrode and the other one he didn't know.
Harry rolled his eyes, looked at Susan, looked back at the girl that'd blurted something out and made up his mind; he walked over to the Slytherins until he was standing directly in front of the girl that'd spoken.
She stayed looking at the ground and began trembling again.
He didn't want to scare the girl and so he took a step back, lowering the firmness in his voice as he questioned her again. "Tell me what happened from your point of view, I'm dead tired and truly would rather be dealing with anything else but this right now."
Still, the trembling girl avoided eye contact, but this time she spoke to him. "Jones said that her parents deserved it for fighting for the Dark Lord. Bulstrode told her to take it back and Jones wouldn't, they started fighting. B-bones then got involved with Abbott, they stunned Bulstrode and told Megan to bring her up to the dorms, she used that time instead to k-kick Bulstrode on the ground. She did it a second time with little complaint from Bones and Abbott, so we t-tried to help. I'm sorry for a-attacking your friends. Potter… sir."
Harry stayed where he was and ran a hand through his messy hair in aggravation. Susan hadn't lied to him, nor had she given him the full truth if this girl was to be believed - but that was just it, could she be believed? He hated sounding prejudiced, even if only he heard it, but he didn't truly trust anything a Slytherin did or said. Bad experiences over and over are a breeding ground for resentment along with distrust.
Either way, whether he believes the Hufflepuff trio or Slytherin trio, something would probably be left out for the benefit of that group.
He looked at the still shaking girl and asked her for her name, she told him that it was Tracey Davis, meaning the other girl, a blonde, was Daphne Greengrass. Both girls were beautiful and had similar body shapes, the only real differences were their hair colourings and eyes.
Harry walked back over to the centre of the room and spoke loud enough for both groups to hear.
"I'll never know the full story and really, I don't need to. It sounds like you all could have handled this situation better. Please, for the sake of all of us, don't do it again."
That was all he cared to say and when he finished, he moved back over to the girl he now knew as Tracey. "Thanks for telling me what you saw, feel free to call me Harry, not sir or anything else. Potter works too if that's more comfortable for you - I would like to speak with you sometime too."
Daphne eyed him like a hawk as he spoke to Tracey, the latter girl squeaking out a "Yes, P-Harry." before running up the stairs to the girl's dorms with the blonde behind her. Bulstrode wasn't far behind as she cast a wary glance in his direction and another towards the Hufflepuffs, slinking up the stairs after huffing.
Once the three Slytherins were gone, Susan approached him and set a hand on his shoulder. "Brilliantly handled, I'm sorry I let you down too Harry. I could've stopped it, I know I could've, but I just… I get so upset sometimes, thinking about people like Bulstrodes parents and what they've taken from all of us. It wasn't her and I understand that, I'll not let it happen again."
That confirmed that Tracey hadn't been playing him as he'd thought she could've and it also showed him that he'd need to keep an eye on Megan in the future in case the girl acted up again.
"Susan, you're brilliant and one of the kindest people I've met. I understand it can be rough and I know you won't let it happen again." Harry liked the beautiful, shy smile that appeared on the girls face, it reminded him of the way Ginny used to look at him for the brief time they'd dated. He quickly clamped down on the self-pity and sadness that flared up at the mention of his former girlfriend, thoughts like those were useless.
Vaguely while enraptured by Susan's beauty, he could hear Hannah giggling while Megan snorted.
"T-thank you, Harry. I'll let you go off to rest then, can we… can we sit together at breakfast? I really want to speak to you when you have the chance." Her cheeks were blushing and the usually confident attitude that surrounded the girl had quickly dissipated. Neville had been spot on too, the girl wanted to speak with him and it was about something that was bound to make him feel uncomfortable. Still, if Andromeda had told him anything, it was to express your feelings rather than bottle them up - it'd helped him to some degree and so he'd hear the girl out in hopes of it helping her too.
"Yeah, we can sit together whenever you want to, mind if I have Neville tag along too if he's not busy with Luna?" Neville was the only person from Gryffindor that he had a strong friendship with that was still in Hogwarts. Harry didn't want to devour all his mates' time but until he made some new friends for this last year, Neville would act sort of like a crutch for him to use.
"Neville is more than welcome!" Susan encouraged, shooting a look over her shoulder at Hannah who quickly ducked out of view.
"Thank you, Susan. Goodnight girls." Harry dipped his head to the three Hufflepuffs and walked over to the set of dorms he assumed to be the boys based on where the Slytherin girls had gone. Evidently, he was correct and upon his climbing of the stairs, he was greeted with individual rooms with a sign beside each of them. He looked until he found one that had his name on it and wasn't surprised when he found that it was at the far end of the Hallway. Before he opened the door that led into his room, he took a moment. This was the first time in his Hogwarts education, they'd be given private rooms - the first time he'd not hear Ron's snoring or the antics of Dean and Seamus.
He was in for one very different year.
With the moment in his thoughts completed, he opened the door that led into his new quarters for the year and was struck stock still. He'd thought the dorms he'd shared with his Housemates had been immaculate, but these were even more so.
Unbefitting of the Castle, the walls of the room were wooden with shelves along the entirety of them, ornate carvings depicting things Harry had not the knowledge of were carefully done in the wood. As for the floor, it was stone grey with red and gold carpets, similar tapestries hung from the walls while the sheets of his bed were that of which he was familiar. In the middle of the room came down two stone pillars, each having a stand beside them with two chairs. Finally, in the far corner of his new room was a very large desk, a comfortable looking chair and a dresser. All in all, the beauty of the room couldn't be understated.
Harry closed the door behind him once he'd finished ogling it and made his way over to the dresser, taking out a pair of pyjamas that the Hogwarts Elves had put away for him. As soon as he was in the comfortable, familiar clothing, he put a locking charm on the door and dove onto the incredibly large and comfortable bed.
For once, sleep came easy.
September 3rd, 1998
"You awake Harry?" Neville's voice called to him from the other side of his door, rousing him from the deep sleep he'd been in.
"Yeah," Harry yawned and rubbed his eyes before reaching over for his glasses, "What is it? Am I late for classes?"
Harry cast a Tempus when he grabbed his wand, his eyes widening when he saw that it read ten in the morning - he'd overslept.
"Nah mate, McGonagall has us with the first week off, needs to work out a new schedule considering we have eight years of students now."
That was very nice of her, useful too, considering he'd caught up on the sleep that he'd been missing and with no nightmares either! Maybe he'd just need to stay at Hogwarts until whatever was clouding up his mind went away.
Harry made his way over to the dresser, grabbing a change of clothes and then made his way over to the door. He cancelled the locking charm on the door and swung it open, revealing Neville leaning on the wall beside it.
"Good morning mate." Neville cheerily greeted with a wave.
"Morning Nev. Care to talk after I take a shower? Still want to find out about that 'other girl' you mentioned, among other things." She'd almost escaped his mind - as did Neville's seemingly random relationship with Luna.
"No problem Harry, I'll wait for you in the common room, yeah? This one I mean, not the Gryffindor one - as welcome as we'd be back it's a bit far of a walk."
Harry nodded at the taller boy and they both went their separate ways.
He took his shower at a relaxing speed and enjoyed the hot water cascading over his body. When he finished, he dressed casually, not fully dawning the robes and other items of the uniform, that could wait. Finished, Harry made his way down the stairs and saw Neville standing beside a concerned-looking Susan along with a shy looking Hannah.
That's when it hit Harry that he'd forgotten to join Susan for breakfast. Of course he'd forget something like that and on his first day no less!
"Ah, there he is," Neville said when he looked over and saw Harry standing idly in the doorway.
"Harry, are you feeling alright?" Susan asked him as she made her way over until she stood beside him.
He didn't make to respond immediately as he took the girl in again, his mind no longer held down by sheer exhaustion as it'd been the night before. They'd gotten off easy by him after their incident with Bulstrode, maybe he should use the time now to double down on his defence of the Slytherin's even if not all of them truly deserved it.
"Yes, I'm alright, brilliant actually now that I've slept."
Susan smiled at him. "I'm glad you're feeling alright, I was worried when you didn't come down to breakfast."
He returned the smile. "I needed to catch up on my sleep, thankfully I didn't miss any lessons." Harry then flickered his gaze between Hannah and Susan, "No more problems with the Slytherin girls, right?"
Both of them looked away from him with Susan being the one to respond. "No, no more problems… I'm sorry again for that, Harry. I swear I won't participate or be a party to any rudeness directed towards them."
Harry watched her facial expression carefully, as best he could anyways with her looking towards the window rather than him, from what he saw the girl meant what she said and wasn't saying it placatingly.
"Thank you," Harry returned his gaze firmly to Susan, "Now, how about we do lunch together when it's time?"
"I'd like that," Susan said, smiling shyly while looking at him.
"Susan, Megan is probably waiting for us in the library." Hannah reminded the girl before explaining to the boys, "Susan and I promised to meet up with Megan to get an early start on our studying for the year. We don't want to waste the opportunity, you know?"
Harry nodded to the girls while Neville verbally said goodbye.
Hannah raced out the door with urgency while Susan faltered in her exit, turning to Harry she blew him a kiss before turning almost as red as her hair and fleeing out the door. Once both girls were fully gone, Neville looked where Susan had been and back to him.
"Lucky you mate looks like Susan Bones fancies you."
Lucky him indeed, Susan was very talented, not afraid to speak her mind and very fit. He'd not mind dating the girl at all, the only hesitance he felt in starting a relationship with the girl came from the recent bout he'd had to break up and he figured that it was more a rarity than a common problem. Harry had never seen Susan be aggressive to the point of hurting anyone before.
"Yeah. Maybe I'll give it a go." Maybe. Harry had a lot of time to explore a relationship now that Voldemort was no longer trying to kill him at the turn of every corner.
Neville gave him a thumbs up before walking from beside the door where he'd been standing and taking a seat nearby the large window looking out over the Hogwarts grounds. As he was sitting down, he motioned for Harry to do the same which he did without hesitation.
"Suppose you'll be wanting to start with the new girl before those other things you were mentioning mate?"
Harry nodded his head. "Yes, I don't think we've ever had anyone join us that wasn't a first-year, who is she?"
"Delphini Black. Apparently, she's from some lesser branch that moved out of Britain about a century back, she came back when she'd heard the war was over, in her own words she'd wanted to return earlier but her parents wouldn't allow her to while the country was embroiled in a civil war. Don't know much about her other than that and the fact she placed in Seventh Year."
"What house is she in?" Harry figured he likely knew the answer but asking couldn't hurt.
"Slytherin - though weirdly enough she'll be staying with us eighth years here. McGonagall said something about putting her with us would be less intrusive than putting her in an already established year considering the circumstances. Luna thinks it's because she wants good examples set for the new girl rather than letting her get wrapped up in the inter-house politics Slytherin seems to have. Whatever it is, the girl has a few friends on the board of directors being allowed in."
Harry furrowed his brows at Neville's last comment. "What makes you say that?"
"Mate, you said so yourself, there hasn't been a transfer student since we've been here. Luna checked too, a vote has to pass to allow the new student and that's after them taking a placement test to ensure they'd go in the year they belong in rather than ahead or below where they should be for their age. All I'm saying, there's a lot that needed to line up for her to be placed here and you'd best be on your guard, she wanted to speak with you."
"Who told you that?"
Neville looked around to make sure nobody was around before answering, "She did. Somehow she knew we were mates and came directly up to Luna and me, asking where you were. When we told her that you decided not to return she looked absolutely livid for a moment before a weird smile settled on her face and she walked off after thanking us. Seems mental she does, but better you than me."
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. "I was thinking this year would be normal for a change, I guess that's too much to ask."
Neville laughed and patted him on the back. "It can't be all that bad. It's only some weird girl instead of Voldemort."
"We both know girls can be scarier than old Snakeface," Harry paused to laugh with Neville before continuing, "Anything else you can tell me about her before I meet with her? Maybe who she spends time around if you've noticed in the day she's been here?"
"Not really," Neville paused in thought, scratching his head and then snapping his fingers, "You're probably thinking that she knows some of the Slytherin classmates of ours - I thought the same thing. But based on how cautiously they interacted with one another, they've never met before."
Harry exhaled, "Well, thanks, Neville. Suppose I'll be keeping an eye out for her then."
"No problem… say, Harry, think you're up for a game of wizarding chess now that the resident master is gone?" Neville saw the hesitation and laughed, "Lunch doesn't start for another couple of hours, maybe you could win a game in that time mate."
Upon hearing those words, it was decided. Harry would play however long it took until he beat Neville, then he'd play him again and win a second time to show that he'd gotten better.
Harry had ended up winning three games of the seven they played, coming out far better than he'd expected to despite the confidence he'd instilled within himself at the start. He suspected Neville had taken it easy or gotten worse in the time since they'd last played - Harry knew he himself hadn't improved.
When the two completed their seventh game and saw the time, they made their way to the Great Hall, joining Susan for lunch as Harry had promised. Luna initially planned on joining them at the Hufflepuff table, nearly choosing a seat between Hannah and Neville before saying she'd forgotten something and running off before anything further could be said.
The lunch that followed in the company Hannah, Neville, Megan and Susan was a quiet affair - far more so than eating at the Gryffindor table had ever been. That wasn't to say Harry didn't enjoy it, he did, yet that didn't change the sadness that crept up on him. Never again would he laugh at an outrageous joke Seamus said early in the morning, nor would he play peacekeeper between Hermione and Ron while others looked on in amusement. His Era of Hogwarts was well and truly on the way to a close.
Susan made a remark to him quietly towards the end of the meal, likely sensing the emotions he was feeling and telling him that her first meal back she'd felt the very same. It would pass, so she said, everything eventually does. He'd smiled at her encouraging words and thanked her, before getting up. Neville followed suit and Harry kept the smile on his face as he told her he'd love to join the girls for another meal, something of which she agreed.
Neville too picked up on the mood during the walk back to the new shared space among the eighth years, offering a comforting pat on the back rather than words. Harry looked up at the taller boy after he'd done so and saw that the contact he'd initiated seemed to benefit him just as much. Harry looked away from his friend and back down the hallways of Hogwarts, enjoying the silent companionship provided until they stood outside the twin doors.
"Know the password Harry?" Neville asked.
Harry hadn't needed to use it the night prior and with them having been in a rush down to lunch that afternoon, had forgotten the information parchment McGonagall had provided for him. As such, his answer was "No."
"You'll love this then," Neville turned away from Harry and walked right up to the door, "Cap-"
Neville didn't have the chance to finish it when the door was swung open, nearly hitting him square in the face while a silver-haired girl in Slytherin robes exited so fast she didn't have the time to avoid a head-on collision with Harry.
Both he and the girl made an "umph" sound as they tumbled to the ground, her landing on top of him.
Harry rubbed his head after it made contact with the stone floors and turned his head forwards. He was greeted with dark-brown eyes on a sharp-featured, pale and feminine face.
When the girl spoke, her voice was extremely soft but rather than come across shy as he'd have expected in the situation, she sounded confident and energetic while still being atop him.
"Hello, Harry Potter."