Disclaimer: Only the premise of this story belongs to me – the whole HP universe most obviously belongs to JK Rowling. I just like taking it all out to play with for a little while :-) - ES

Chapter 32

While the staff meeting was going on, unbeknown to any but those involved, Harry and his friends were in the newly designated all-house common room on the second floor. They had been there since right after breakfast, only leaving to join their class-mates for lunch in the Great Hall. To say that they were all surprised by the announcement at this morning's breakfast would have been an understatement.

Immediately after breakfast was concluded, the group of friends from the other houses came over to the Slytherin table to meet up with Draco, Harry, Blaise and Daphne. All of them had smiles on their faces as they turned to who they considered their leader.

"So, Harry, any other surprises for us today, hmm?" asked Susan, while looking over at the other Slytherins.

"Don't look at me that way, Susan," Draco started, "I didn't know any of this was happening either."

"If you must know, I talked to Professor Snape about the possibility for an all-house common room last night. He suggested I bring the idea to Professor McGonagall, and wrote me a pass so I could speak with her last night. I talked to her about it and she designated one of the empty classrooms on the second floor, did some transfiguration on the furniture and put a plaque on the door. I didn't know she was going to do one on each floor. I was just looking for someplace we could all get together without worrying about being too loud." said Harry.

"Yeah, and you wanted somewhere to play some games..." snickered Terry.

"Well, yeah, that as well. But honestly, I had no idea she was going to announce it like that or make the other ones." said Harry

"I think that they're a great idea!" exclaimed Hermione, "I think that a lot of the problems between the houses are because they're so isolated from each other and have no place to see each other besides classes."

"That's probably what Professor McGonagall thought as well, and the most likely reason that she went ahead and created the other ones – to encourage unity in the school." said Neville, logically.

"Regardless of why she did it, I'm glad you came up with the idea Harry!" Parvati enthused, "Now, show us where this wondrous common room is!"

Harry then proceeded to the second floor all-house common room. He pointed out the plaque so they'd remember which room it was and entered, bowing them all into the room with a playful flourish. "Your room, my ladies and gentlemen!" he smiled at them.

He watched as they all looked around and then made themselves comfortable on the various seats. He saw that the fireplace was already lit and there was a bell-pull near the mantelpiece. Curious, he pulled it while the others watched to see what he was doing. Almost immediately, a house-elf wearing what looked to be a tea-towel with the Hogwarts Crest appeared near Harry.

"Can's Dibbly be helping you, young master?" asked the house-elf in a squeaky voice.

"Yes, Dibbly, I wanted to know why this bell-pull is here and now, why you appeared when I pulled it?" replied Harry.

"Mistress McGonagall gave us instructions that we's should be here to give you snacks and maintain the fire." squeaked Dibbly, "So, we's put a bell-pull so we's can be knowing whens yous needs us. We's also will clean this room and the others like it at night."

"That sounds like a lot of work, Dibbly. Are you sure it isn't too much bother?" asked Harry, as Dibbly shook his head so hard his ears flapped.

"Oh, no, young master, there is being too many of us for the work, so I's volunteered for this room. Now I is being happy because you is the first one to call." Dibbly beamed at him.

"So, you're happy that we called you?" asked Hermione, from behind Harry.

"Oh, yes, young mistress. House-elves loves to work, and our magics come from serving powerful wizards. And young master is a very strong wizard, so I wills be more powerful too!" exclaimed Dibbly.

"Well, Dibbly, can we have some drinks? Maybe a tea set and some pumpkin juice for now?" asked Harry.

"Yes, young master, Dibbly bes right back with your drinksies." with that Dibbly disappeared.

"Wow, I never knew about that!" exclaimed Draco, as several of the others looked at him. "I mean, I knew that house-elves were born to serve, and got their magic from working for wizards, but I never knew that a wizard's magic level affected their house-elves magic levels."

At that moment, Dibbly reappeared levitating a full tea set with biscuits and a dozen small containers of pumpkin juice. He put them down on a table and then disappeared with a pop. Everyone admired the tea service, while Harry poured himself a cup and made his tea. The others followed his example and grabbed their own drinks, settling back down on the seats while Harry took one for himself – a comfy chair right near the fireplace. He noticed a trunk near the fireplace and pulled it over to explore the contents. He found a couple of chess sets, some exploding snap decks and a few muggle games. Calling their attention, Harry showed what he had found. Everyone crowded around excitedly and started taking games out to play amongst themselves. Dean and Hermione were especially excited to see Monopoly, Sorry and Scrabble.

When the games were put out, everyone moved around to participate in the games they wanted. Once Dean and Hermione had explained the muggle games to the pure-bloods, there were a couple of people crowded around each table. Harry and Draco decided to play wizards chess, while Ernie had joined the group around the Monopoly board. Daphne and Susan both decided to be observers, as they had never played muggle games before and wanted to see how it was done before attempting it themselves.

When Harry noticed the time, it was almost lunch, so he called out across the room "Lunch in 10 minutes!". The others put a stasis charm on their board games, as most were unfinished, and got ready to leave for lunch. They went down and ate quickly, wanting to return to their new common room for some more fun. The group all sat at the Slytherin table, having decided that they would alternate tables for weekend lunch-times – another idea from Harry to help with inter-house unity that appeared to work as they only received a few raised eyebrows from their house-mates. The next house would be Gryffindor, and they expected some hostility from them, or more precisely, Ron Weasley. Not that this would stop them, but it would be an annoyance they would have to deal with.

They returned to their common room and to their games, for the ones still in progress. Harry was quite pleased as he surveyed his friends, glad that he had approached Snape, and even happier that he had taken the first step by approaching the people he now called friends. 'And to think, Dumbles wanted to stop me from this – well, maybe not exactly this, but he did try his hardest to keep me from having lots of friends in my previous life. If only I had realized it earlier, maybe I would have done things a little differently. I definitely won't be walking to my death this time – I'll not be a martyr for that old goat's idea of the Greater Good!' Harry thought.

A voice brought Harry out of his thoughts, the voice of the usually quiet Daphne Greengrass.

"What are you thinking about Harry? Or is it too personal for me to ask?" queried Daphne.

"No, it's not personal. In fact, I was just thinking that I'm lucky to have you all for friends." at her surprised look, he continued, "No, really. I don't know if you've noticed, but we've all been doing well in our school-work because we work together and now, even the Deputy Headmistress has given her blessing in the form of this awesome room! The past few months have flown by because I've been having a good time with all of you, and the work definitely seems easier to understand." Harry explained.

"I have to agree with you Harry, and I'm sure that the others would as well. I think we all feel lucky to have formed this group, but I think that you're the reason that we are all doing so well, and we're the lucky ones to be friends with you." smiled Daphne, as Harry blushed.

"I, uh, really Daphne? You really feel that way?" asked Harry while Daphne nodded, smiling again.

"Yes, because you were the one who came to us and introduced yourself. You didn't let house affiliation stop you from becoming friends with Neville on that first day in Potions and Susan in Astronomy that night. You cared more about the person than the house they came from, and it made the rest of us see that we're not so different. We're all just starting in this new experience at Hogwarts, and you've become almost the leader of us, without even trying." seeing Harry about to protest, she continued, "No Harry, it's true and I'm sure that everyone else here feels the same way. You've set the standard for how we should treat others and we work together well, but we would never have formed a group like this if you didn't start it. We were all too wrapped up in house affiliation and what we've heard to judge for ourselves. Then you come here and start talking to people regardless of who they are or what color their robes are and voila! Our little group is doing quite well academically and even, as you said, the Deputy Headmistress gives her blessing and acknowledges that you started a trend that could change Hogwarts to be a better place."

"Hear! Hear!" said Dean, while a few of the others cheered. Harry now realized that the others must have heard them talking and gathered around while Daphne was talking.

"She's right, you know." said Padma and Parvati in that eerie way they had of saying things at the same time. 'Probably a twin thing' thought Harry.

"Yeah, Harry," Draco chimed in, "I'll be the first to admit I didn't think I'd have any friends outside of Slytherin, and you've changed that, just by being you."

"I know that I wouldn't do nearly as well without this group, so I have to agree with Daphne." said Neville, "we are the lucky ones." he concluded, with a smile as the rest of the group nodded at his statement.

Harry blushed and smiled at them. He still thought he was the lucky one to have them all as friends. 'That's because I know how it could have turned out.' he thought, consideringly. 'And I'll do what I can to change things so that Hogwarts is a better place and all of our lives are better than they could have been.'