Disclaimer: JKR owns all HP characters and settings etc. They are not my dollies, I simply stole them and played with them for a short while. Only the plot belongs to me.
Rated: M for language and some sexual situations.
Warnings:There will be slash/ malexmale/ yaoi/ whatever you want to call it. Basically, if you are a homophobe, I don't advise reading this story. Also, for some, there may be unbearable amounts of fluffy relationship stuff that may induce vomiting and/or blindness. Have a nice day.
Post-DH but NOT epilogue compliant. There may be some spoilers.
The seemingly never-ending rain pelted down from the darkening sky in sheets of steely-grey menace, ice-cold droplets stubbornly soaking anything and everything they happened to come into contact with. The vast expense above was frequently illuminated as bolts of lightening streaked the inky blackness; eerily devoid of stars, but the ever-present moon loomed; a white orb floating ghostly in the emptiness above as raindrops continued to beat downwards; seemingly increasing their intent to bruise an unfortunate victim as the storm wore on miserably and the wind howled alarmingly outside.
It was a sharp contrast to the atmosphere inside the recently restored Great Hall of Hogwarts. Everywhere there were screams of delight and exclamations of happiness and contentment from the wet students, as old friends were spotted and reunited; sharing stories of their summers; reminiscing about times they had recently shared together in the great stone castle; and quietly lamenting the loss of friends who were no longer there to join the start of term celebrations.
The usual too-many-to-count number of candles floated merrily in the air; lighting the huge hall that danced happily in the flickering glow of the many flames; the stone walls rebuilt and standing proud and solid as ever, were emblazoned with giant banners of the house colours and emblems; the Hogwarts crest once more hung pride of place above the teacher's table at the head of the room, giving those who cast a quick glance up at it, a sense of pride and belonging again.
In amongst the happiness however, there was a rather small collection of older students; gazing around at the halls that had housed them for seven long years. The fifteen or so ex-seventh years glanced around at the mass of people; feeling greatly out-numbered. It had been their year that had suffered most in the war. Countless had died during the fighting and the number of witches and wizards they had taken classes with since the age of eleven had dwindled dramatically. They silently mourned the loss of their departed friends as they looked around at the happy reunions; thankful for the ones they had left as they glanced at each other and smiled smiles that conveyed the swirling emotions they felt to the people closest to their hearts.
The teachers began filling the empty chairs at the head of the hall and students dispersed to their respective house tables; reluctantly cutting off the topics they had been discussing as the chatter died down, in favour of sitting on the long wooden benches and looking up expectantly at the door to the right of the hall through which the scared-looking, tiny, new first years trooped, lead by a portly Professor Sprout; her face beaming down at the new arrivals as she carried in the famous three-legged stool and the old and weathered Sorting Hat, placing the latter gracefully on the former before turning and unrolling a long scroll of parchment.
Harry let his eyes glaze over as the Sorting began; no longer caring much for the event that would separate the large number of small pupils into the four rival houses for the rest of their school career. He was always proud when a new Gryffindor was welcomed into the house, but he felt the divisions between the small communities that developed as a result of tonight's events were too wide; too full of competition and mistrust now. He missed Dumbledore's wise and long-winded speeches about house unity.
The Sorting drew to a close; the school applauding a tiny blond boy whom was sorted into Ravenclaw as Harry and Ron's stomachs gave particularly audible rumbles. They glanced at each other and grinned while Hermione threw them both exasperated scowls, her fingers entwined with Ron's as the boys eagerly awaited the imminent moment when food would finally appear on the golden plates before them.
Headmistress McGonagall stood elegantly, the move commanding silence from the murmuring students. She looked over her charges for the year, smiling gently down at them with her thin mouth; the war had aged her, but also eased her temperament slightly.
"Welcome and welcome back everyone." Her voice was the same as Harry remembered, clipped and short; but there was a new edge of warmth that seemed to soften the harsh woman now. "It's good to see so many of our students returning, and I'm glad to have such a good turn out of new pupils in our First Year. I think I shall leave the rest of this speech until after the feast; you all look rather hungry." She smiled again and sat down as the golden tableware filled with the day's work of the Hogwarts kitchen staff.
Harry and Ron piled their plates high, Ron even graciously fetching food for Hermione, pecking her cheek as he served her and grinning as she turned a light shade of pink. Harry found his mind and gaze wandering as the pair descended into playfully feeding each other bites and morsels of food; coming to rest on a sleek blond head over at the Slytherin table. Malfoy sat, head bowed as he mumbled to Zabini Blaise and Pansy Parkinson. The famous arrogant smirk did not cross his face once as Harry stared over at the trio talking humbly to one another.
Harry hurried down Diagon Alley, careful to avoid eye contact with anyone; he still caused a great deal of commotion in the wizarding world, even though the war had ended over eight weeks ago. He wished people would stop paying him special attention and acting like he was the hero who had saved them all; there had been others helping him all the way. He didn't want constant praise, endless ceremonies held in his honour and countless awards. And he certainly didn't want the incessant attention from the press who seemed to be waiting around every corner for him and taking his photo every five minutes. He hated interviews; they always seemed to twist his words to make him sound like some kind of noble, brave hero. Couldn't they see he just wanted to be left alone, in peace; that he was an ordinary boy who'd been handed an extraordinary fate?
Lost in mutinous thoughts, he didn't notice the other person progressing down the street at his own rushed pace, heading straight towards him; head also bowed against being recognised. They collided and Harry looked up, startled and began apologising profusely - until he recognised the person he had crashed into.
"Malfoy." He voiced his recognition in a curt tone, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. The other had grown slightly taller than him since the last time Harry had set eyes on the blond, now standing half a head taller than himself; Harry noted with a twinge of irritation. Malfoy had also allowed his hair to grow out, the ends now gently curling just above his collar and his eyes were still the same shade of striking grey Harry had never seen imitated on anybody else.
Malfoy inclined his head towards Harry in a reluctant action of polite acknowledgement. "Potter."
Harry's eyes narrowed further – Malfoy was never polite to him. Ever.
"What are you doing here?"
"I expect the same thing as you, Potter, shopping for the books I shall require for this year's revision schooling."
Harry blinked. That was it? No sneer? No sarcastic comment? He briefly wondered if this was not indeed Draco Malfoy, but someone who had taken Polyjuice Potion in order to either get a statement from him for the latest Prophet article about the war, or someone trying to kidnap him, but dismissed the idea when he realised that someone intent on either of those things wouldn't disguise themselves as his worst enemy. He blinked again.
"What's wrong Potty? Cat got your tongue?" Ah. That was the Malfoy he knew.
"I didn't know you would be returning for this year?"
"Yeah, well… I'm not in Azkaban, am I? Why shouldn't I return to Hogwarts?" His voice was defensive, a little of the famous sneer starting to work its way back on to Malfoy's pointed features.
"I – uh… That wasn't what I meant…" Harry tailed off lamely, a little taken aback at how Malfoy had taken his inquiry; was he really that worried that people would treat him as a Death Eater? He hadn't really done anything besides look scared and fetch and carry things…It hadn't come as a great surprise to Harry when he hadn't been convicted as one during the trials.
Malfoy scowled at him. "Well, what did you mean Potter?"
"I just meant that I didn't actually know you needed to come back for this year Malfoy. You were at Hogwarts last year." Harry cringed as the last sentence sounded like an accusation; Malfoy hadn't been tortured and sliced open like his friends had.
"There were no examinations last year. No NEWTS. The war sort of interrupted normal school procedure, in case you didn't notice."
It was Harry's turn to scowl in reply to Malfoy's comment; having no words he deemed fit enough to say in public, and punching the blond in the face usually didn't go down too well.
Malfoy seemed to realise the road they were headed down and scooped up the small pile of books he had been carrying, lying forgotten on the ground as he and Harry talked. "Sorry, Potter." He bit out.
Harry blinked in surprise and confusion for the third time during this little discussion. "Err… No problem." It was awkward standing here and receiving an apology from his enemy. They stood in silence for a few moments, neither boy knowing what to say to the other; they were too used to hurling insulting and punches at each other; normal conversation was out of the equation by this point and neither knew how to carry one off with the other.
"Well… I better get going." Malfoy said, finally. He adjusted his books in his arms and made to move off.
"Yeah… Err… I'll see you around I guess…" Harry mumbled as he made his way towards 'Flourish and Blotts' to purchase the same books Malfoy had just been carrying.
That short meeting had had Harry wondering about Malfoy ever since. He had definitely changed, but Harry wasn't sure why, or in what way. He couldn't figure out if the war had weakened Malfoy, or made him into a better, and hopefully more polite and less arrogant person. And why, all of a sudden, was Malfoy being civil to him of all people? Surely they had enough history by now for everyone else to realise that they were never going to be anything less than rivals? The thought disgruntled Harry for some bizarre reason and he put it down to not wanting to have to fight with someone constantly now that Voldemort was dead.
Malfoy glanced up - having felt eyes on him for a prolonged period of time - and Harry looked away as grey and green connected; realising he had been staring, and felt his cheeks redden. He ate his way through the rest of the meal, chatting quietly to anyone who started a conversation with him and stubbornly refusing to look over at the blond seated at the Slytherin table; who he could have sworn had turned the same colour as he had done when their gazes connected.
The feast eventually drew to a close when the last of the dessert plates had been cleared and Headmistress McGonagall rose to her feet once more. She spoke for a while about the values of Hogwarts, encouraging the students to put aside old rivalries and try and make the school function as a whole body. There was a short explanation for those who had not read their letters about everyone repeating the year they had studied last term, as exams could not be carried out and lessons had been infrequent and rarely attended by all students registered for the class. There was a brief speech of the war and a minute's silence held in respect for the ones they had lost, and after the usual start of term notices about the Forbidden Forest, banned items and no magic in the corridors; she dismissed the school, save for the small group of students who looked too old to be there.