After the war

Chapter 1 Changes come; life will have its way

Harry, Ron and Hermione were entering the Great Hall once again. This time it was for their 8th year in Hogwarts because they hadn't been in school the last year and they still hadn't taken their NEWTs. Harry and the current Headmaster of Hogwarts, Professor McGonagall, had been sending owls during the summer so Harry was well informed of what the new school year would be about. Mostly, the correspondence between them had been discussions about the so-called 'inter-house activity'. Basically, it meant that the different houses in Hogwarts wouldn't be taken as seriously anymore and that the friendship between different houses would be encouraged. It was time to learn from the past and not to simply forget the war, which was over, but instead make sure that things would change for good.
McGonagall and all of the teachers in Hogwarts shared the same opinion: if the students could all get along better in school, maybe they wouldn't have to face each other on opposing sides in a war, if there ever came one. Harry thought it meant something like, "Let's all be friends, love thine enemy" or something else just as ridiculous but after Harry had been thinking about everything McGonagall had said over the summer, he slowly started to see a bigger picture. It might just work. At least it was an attempt to do something and not just forget about all the lives that were lost during the war.

Of course, McGonagall had been sharing this information with Harry because she wanted him to give a speech for the first dinner of the new school year so that he would encourage the inter-house activity and would set an example to the students of Hogwarts. Harry of course hadn't been keen to the idea, but Hermione had convinced him that it was the right thing to do. Hermione was certain that things like inter-house friendliness could perhaps change the future in the long run. At least it would be a step for the right direction and every effort counted.
Harry had been thinking over and over again whether he should give a speech or not. He didn't want to – and yet, just like everything else, it seemed like a responsibility of his. Maybe it really was for the best. At least he would have a chance to speak to all the students in the hopes that it would calm them down a bit, Harry knew there would be a lot of gossiping and talking behind his back this year. Everyone wanted the hero and no-one knew how much Harry hated carrying this role on his shoulders. How much Harry felt responsible for all those deaths. He knew it wasn't his fault but it still didn't take away the feeling of guilt.

So as they sat at the Gryffindor table for the first time in their new school year, Harry scanned through the Great Hall. It was no surprise that there were only a few Slytherins at the Slytherin table and he was surprised to see Draco Malfoy there, sitting next to Blaise Zabini. Harry swallowed painfully, anticipating the moment he would have to give his speech. McGonagall tapped her spoon against a glass and everyone fell silent and watched her as she started to give her speech.

"Good evening, dear students. I am glad to see you all here tonight.
The war is over and Hogwarts has been rebuilt into a new castle which still remains to carry a huge part of its former history with it. Most of the things here in Hogwarts will go on as before, but there are many things that are going to change from now on.
I hope that all the old students will listen to me carefully 'since these changes are going to start right away.
First of all, although the rebuild lasted for the whole summer, there are still plenty of areas here in Hogwarts that are not complete. Therefore the 7th and 8th year students will have to stay here after dinner so you will be informed of your new accommodation arrangements.
The first year students won't be given houses this year at all, 'since from now on the sorting will happen in the beginning of the second year."

People were gasping and whispering at this point, Harry kept his eyes on McGonagall.

"Silence, please! The most important change this year will be the inter-house activity that will take place. I am certain that we need to increase the friendliness between different houses in order to make our future better. This inter-house friendship will be encouraged in several ways.
One of the biggest changes is that two different houses will be united as one when it comes to accommodation. From now on Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs will be sharing a common room area. Also the bedrooms of the students have been already randomly chosen so that there will be members of both houses in the bedrooms. I call this shuffling. We've also shuffled Slytherins and Gryffindors, there will be a shared common room area and bedrooms will be shared by randomly chosen students from both houses. "

Now the students were gasping, whispering furiously and someone even yelled, "You can't do that!", "I won't sleep in the same room with any Slytherins!"

McGonagall carried on, "I definitely can, I assure you. I know that most of you are in shock right now about all these changes, but I hope that you will learn the benefits from these arrangements and that the bullying and hostility between the houses will be diminished. There are a couple of more things… Quiet, please! There are a couple of more things.
There will also be new arrangements considering Quiddich, but you will be informed of that later on. As the old students have probably noticed and guessed, there are new parts in Hogwarts, both indoors and outdoors. Those you will receive information about and you will all be given a set of the rules of Hogwarts. There are changes in the school rules this year so read them carefully.
And now, finally, I think we all would like to hear a speech from a student.
Would Mr. Harry Potter come up here and give a speech? Mr. Potter, if you would be so kind…"

Harry rose from his seat, unsure of whether he should go to the teacher's stand or stay where he was. He decided to stay and relied on that his voice would carry. He needn't have worried about that because Hermione had already got her wand out and quietly cast a sonorus charm. Harry clutched his fingers around the paper he had in his pocket. It was the speech he had planned but now he felt like he couldn't pull it out because his hands would shake and he simply decided to say aloud everything he remembered thinking before.

"Hi everyone... I'm Harry and most of you probably know me already. I'm not good at giving speeches and when Professor McGonagall suggested that I should give a speech, I thought that.. I thought that I wouldn't do it. But then I decided to tell you guys something about myself so that you wouldn't be making the same mistake I did."

He took a deep breath and noticed he was relaxing, although the next lines would be too personal to be said aloud but he needed to say those things, 'cause he'd been thinking it the whole summer.

"I will tell you a short version of something that's happened. When I was eleven I met a wizard boy who offered me his friendship. I didn't accept and there was more than one reason for that but… anyways, we became something like enemies instead…"

Harry tried to keep his eyes in the opposite wall and not get distracted by the whisperings and the heads, which turned to where Malfoy was sitting. He acknowledged that Malfoy would probably use sectumsempra on him after this but it was too late to stop now.

"He was a Slytherin of course and I was thinking that he was my enemy, until one day during the war when I noticed that I had been wrong about him. He… he saved my life.
After the war was over, I started to think about the years that we had spent hating each other and I suddenly realized a lot of things. I realized that I had judged him already when I didn't know him and that people should never judge each other if they don't know each other well enough to do so. Well, anyway, I saw this very weird dream recently where he and I were dead…"

People were muttering, horrified by the word 'dead', but Harry couldn't stop now.

"..and we were in a place that resembled King's Cross. We started talking, like we were friends, and we were talking about some events that had really happened in the past. We were wondering why we had hated each other because, now that we were dead, we wouldn't have the chance to try to be friends anymore. It was a weird dream, like I said, but when I woke up I thought that the things we had been saying in the dream were actually true. I still don't know that boy very well but next time I see him, I will offer my friendship to him and do my best to learn to know him and to see who he is as a person. The reason I wanted to share all of this with you was that I'm certain that if there had been inter-house activity during my former school years, I probably would've gotten to know him better before. I think that the inter-house activity could've helped us learn to know each other and maybe we could've ended up as friends. Who knows? This is why I will be doing my best to support these inter-house things, and I hope that all of you will be doing the same thing.
Give each other a chance to know each other instead of hating someone on a principle. It really doesn't matter which house they belong to. We've all had enough suffering last year. All we can do is try to do our best to not let it happen again in the future. Thank you."

Everyone had fallen silent when Harry finished. He had no idea how long he had been talking and he realized his speech had been a horrible one. Maybe people would hate him after this. He shouldn't have done this. Then came the applause, whistling and shouting, "Great, Harry!"

Harry sat down and took a glance at the Slytherin table. For once, Draco Malfoy seemed frozen. He blinked his eyes but remained otherwise passive, not looking furious, not hexing him, but instead just looking. Maybe he hadn't even realized that Harry was talking about him. No, of course Malfoy knew Harry was talking about him. He had to know. Everyone knew who Harry was talking about, although Harry hoped that they wouldn't.

"Ahem. Thank you, Mr. Potter, for your... unique speech. I would like all the 7th and 8th year students to stay here after dinner. And now… let's eat!"

The food appeared on the table and Ron was eagerly filling up his plate. Hermione smiled at Harry and told him that he had a good point. Ron wasn't too happy, "Why the hell did you say you're going to offer your friendship to the ferret?"

Harry shrugged, "Because I plan to do so. I told you I'm going to do it and I am sticking with my plan. He saved my life. I simply can't hate him after that. I'm going to do my best to get to know him and see if we can stand each other or whether I will start hating him again."

Hermione nodded and agreed to do the same. She kept on talking about how the inter-house project would do a lot of good for everyone. Almost like she believed that this would suddenly change everything.
"I'm just trying to do the right thing." Harry said in between the mouthfuls of shepherd's pie.

After dinner, all except the 7th and 8th year students left the Great Hall. McGonagall came to them and started giving them more information and organizing them into groups before they left to find their new rooms.

It was extremely weird. Instead of rooms, they actually got tents because the 8th year dormitories were still under construction. What was horrifying was that when they arrived at the room where the boys' tents were, one of tents had a sign which simply read "Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy".

"Bloody hell!" Ron exclaimed, "Harry, he's going to kill you!"

"Oh, bloody hell!" Ron yelled again when he turned around and noticed he was sharing a tent with none other than Blaise Zabini. "Harry, I can't take this, I can't believe this! Tell me this is a nightmare and please wake me up fast!"

Ron even pinched himself and made a face of disgust mixed with fear. Harry was staring at Ron and couldn't form a sentence. His brain was shouting that this couldn't be a coincidence, this was not fair and that McGonagall had probably decided the pairs for the tents. Suddenly, Harry really didn't want to see Malfoy at all. He would rather put his invisibility cloak on and vanish.

"Ron," he finally sighed, "Let's just do our best, act like adults and so forth…"

Yet he gulped for some reason. The idea of offering the hand of friendship to Malfoy seemed impossible. Why on earth had he said something like that?

The door opened and in came all the Slytherins. Most of them looked annoyed when they found out who they were sharing their tents with. Draco Malfoy simply walked right past Harry and stepped inside their tent.

Harry swallowed and looked at Ron. They shared a similar expression on their faces – disbelief and something that resembled fear.

Harry sighed and whispered to Ron, "I'll go and find out if he's ready to kill me now."

Ron nodded and turned to go to his tent.

When Harry entered the tent, he was once again surprised at the size of it. It was huge, as huge as the boys' former dormitory. All that space just for two people. He also noticed that all the noise had gone quiet and realized that this tent had been given a silencing spell so that it felt like a real solid room. Malfoy was standing with his back to Harry and was unpacking his things onto the bed. The other bed, which would of course be Harry's, was on the other side of the room from Malfoy's... and luckily not very far from the door.

There was a cupboard on the same wall as Harry's bed. There were two study tables, two smaller night tables between the two beds and in the middle of the room there was a huge couch. On the opposite wall to the couch, there was a fireplace, and it was lit. There were two doors, one next to the fireplace and one on the other side of the fireplace. Harry walked straight to the first door and opened it. Behind it was a huge bathroom with shower and everything and there was another door inside the bathroom. He went in and opened the second door. When he stepped inside, the dark room suddenly burst into light and he was standing beside a small pool. "Wow" he said to himself. The ceiling was charmed to resemble the sky, just like in Great Hall, but this sky was full of sunshine and just one little white cloud. He left the room and went back to the biggest room and said to Malfoy, "We have a pool."

Malfoy didn't answer but Harry saw that his shoulders went tense. Harry stood still for a minute and asked,

"Malfoy, can we talk?"

At that, Malfoy turned around. He looked at Harry with a calm, cold face, nothing to be read from the grey eyes. He slowly put his hand inside the pocket of his robes and very slowly pulled out his wand. Harry didn't panic although his brain was screaming for him to pull out his own wand.

Then Malfoy slowly aimed his wand at the wall, right between the two study tables and whispered something. A beam of light shot from his wand and when it hit the wall there was a small "whoosh" sound and something that looked like glass appeared right in the middle of the room. It was almost invisible, but it could still be seen, it had a hint of baby blue colour and it cut right through the couch and the fireplace. Finally, it stopped moving and stayed where it was. The almost invisible material had cut the whole room into two separate sections. Harry was on the other side and Malfoy on the other.

"What is that? What are you doing?" Harry asked Malfoy. Malfoy didn't look at him but went back to his bed and continued to unpack.

"Malfoy! Explain to me right now. What is this?" Harry almost yelled, although he did his best to keep a calm voice. Malfoy didn't answer. Harry took a step closer to the weird material and touched it. It had turned solid and felt like plastic.

"You can't do this!" At this point, Malfoy turned to look at him and stared at Harry, whose voice had risen to shouting now, "You can't just cut the room into two sections! This doesn't solve anything! I'm sorry if I offended you in some way but I have no idea why you're reacting like that! Can you just explain to me…"

Before Harry could go on, Draco opened his mouth and talked. Harry frowned, because he couldn't hear what Malfoy was saying. Automatically, he said, "What?"

And then he read Malfoy's lips, they were clearly saying 'I can't hear you'. It was true. Harry couldn't hear Malfoy's voice either. So the nearly invisible wall between them was also soundproof. Great, Harry thought and then swallowed the frustration he was feeling, taking a slow calming breath and articulating very clearly his next word, "Don't."

But Malfoy turned away and continued unpacking until he found his notebook and a quill, bent over and started writing. Harry was standing in the same spot and punched his fist at the invisible wall, but Draco didn't look up. So Harry assumed Draco couldn't hear that either. Then the blond devil straightened himself up and walked right up to the other side of the wall and looked at Harry. They were mere inches apart but the wall was there. How frustrating was that? Malfoy had a paper in his hand and he slowly lifted it so that Harry could see it.

The letters looked angry and the note said,

I'm speechless. I've never hated anyone this much in my life. I should have given you to the Dark Lord when I had the chance. Do me a favor and kill yourself.

Harry looked up from the note and stared Draco in the eyes. The grey eyes held the gaze but seemed totally ignorant, no emotions, nothing at all. It didn't even look like hatred, it simply looked like ignorance. Then Malfoy turned and returned to his bed.

Harry went to his own bed and started unpacking. He felt extremely odd. He felt like the words had actually hurt him, although usually everything coming from Malfoy merely made him irritated. The war and the following summer must've changed things between them more than Harry had thought. He felt empty.

Stupid sentences were flying inside his head; telling him that Malfoy would calm down, that Malfoy was an idiot, that there was a door nearby and that Harry could leave the tent, that Harry could go to McGonagall and tell her to find him another tent, that Harry could go and find Ron and they could wait until Malfoy left the tent and they could beat him up and… what the hell, it wasn't supposed to go like this. Why the hell was Malfoy acting like this? Was this simply because Harry had talked about Malfoy in his speech? Was that it? If it was that, then why couldn't Malfoy just say so?

While Harry was unpacking, he found his notebook and started writing in it himself. He simply wrote,

"I just wanted to know why – " but then he decided that it was better not to and threw the paper in the bin under his writing table. He scanned the room once again with his eyes and realized that there was still one door in the room he hadn't opened. It was on Draco's side. He sat on his bed and simply stared at Malfoy, who was now reading a book on his bed.

Well, at least the door of the tent was on Harry's side. And so was the bathroom. Because he was frustrated with Malfoy's behavior, he decided to go and find Ron.

He shouted "Ron!" in front of Ron and Zabini's tent but no-one answered. He wondered if the sounds from outside could be heard inside the tent at all, so he tried to step in instead. That didn't work out either as there was an invisible wall blocking him. Apparently, the tents were warded so that only the habitants of the tent could go in. 'What more could go wrong?' Harry wondered as he returned back to his tent.

He realised that it was getting late when he saw Malfoy yawning. The boy was still reading, ignoring Harry completely. Harry's frustration only got worse, so he first decided to take a bath but then decided to go swimming in pool instead. There were even plenty of swimming trousers of different colours in the bathroom, so Harry pulled on the ones that had Gryffindor colours. He jumped straight into the pool and started swimming laps to free his mind. The pool was nice. It was unfortunate that it was difficult to enjoy it because his mind was still on Malfoy's eyes. How could he look so indifferent? And the words on the paper… why did it make Harry feel so empty? He felt an ache, like a pain, somewhere inside his chest. How could Malfoy say something like that? Encourage Harry to take his own life? That was a bit much even for a git like Draco Malfoy. After all, Harry had given a testimony on both Draco and his mother's trials after the war. It was because of Harry that Malfoy could come back to school at all. It was because of Harry that Malfoy wasn't rotting in Azkaban right that minute.

He shouldn't care. It didn't matter. He could try to be friends with the insufferable git some other time. He wasn't going to fight with the ferret this year. No, that would have to change. They were older now and they should act according to it. They had both saved each other's lives during the war – it couldn't have been for nothing!

After swimming for a while, clearing his thoughts without forming a plan and noticing that he had never been swimming in a pool like this before, he got up and went back to 'his part' of the room. Malfoy was still reading. Harry was only wearing the towel when he picked his t-shirt and boxers up from his cupboard and went to change into them in the bathroom. After that, he went straight to bed, put his glasses on the night table and turned off the light that was on the night table. Even without his glasses on, Harry could see the blurry form of Malfoy, who occasionally turned a page in the book he was reading. Harry felt weird for a minute and then realised that for some reason his pillow was clearly at the wrong end of the bed. Wasn't the pillow meant to be in the end where the night table was? If Harry left the pillow as it was, he would have to sit up in the bed, and reach to the other end to get his glasses from the night table.

Not very convenient, Harry thought and he picked his pillow up and threw it to the other end before crawling after it and slamming his head onto it. He had only managed to close his eyes and open them again when he became irritated. Now it was impossible to see Malfoy because the night table and the working tables were blocking his view. It would feel weird not to see what Malfoy was up to. It must have been some survival instinct. He made an irritated 'hmmph' sound and sat up again, threw his pillow back to the other end where it was before, and sighed happily when he once again put his head on it. He opened his eyes once more, thinking about whether he should get his wand somewhere closer than the night table, when he noticed that Malfoy's head had turned to look at him. However, Malfoy looked so blurry through Harry's eyes that he couldn't tell the expression on him. He ended up closing his eyes and hoping that Malfoy wouldn't curse him while he was sleeping. The thought was unnerving but he soon fell asleep nevertheless.

Harry woke up. It was dark and it took a minute to realize where he was. Oh right, the tent.
Then he took a glance around. There were several very small spots of light in the ceiling and Harry wondered what they were, so he sat up and reached for his glasses. Apparently they were some sort of night lights that looked like stars in the ceiling. It was pretty convenient, since the tent would otherwise be very dark due to the fact that there were no windows. Now it was possible to see the whole room but still the light was so subdued it wouldn't disturb when he would try to sleep again. Harry sensed a movement on the other side of the room and when he looked at Malfoy's bed, he noticed that Malfoy's pillow had just dropped onto the floor. For some reason, he looked at Malfoy, wondering again about the note and the behavior of the ferret.
Malfoy was moving and Harry tensed. Was he asleep?
Harry narrowed his eyes and could tell that Malfoy had his eyes closed, so he must be sleeping. The movements of the boy were slow and small but Harry could clearly see how Malfoy's fingers started to clutch the sheets. Then his legs moved a bit, pushing the blanket away, but not succeeding and his head turned towards Harry and then Harry could see his lips moving. Was Malfoy talking in his sleep?
Then the head turned again, towards the wall where Harry couldn't see his face and then it turned back again towards Harry and he could see the deep frown on Draco's face and lips. There was only one clear word the lips were repeating over and over again, "No."

Harry's heart started hammering. Malfoy was having a nightmare. There was no doubt about it. Harry's fist clenched and he could feel a small pang of pity. He could see the distress on Malfoy's face and how his body was tense – almost like someone was torturing him. The lips were repeating 'No' over and over again. Harry took a deep breath, sympathy paining his chest. He wanted to walk to the boy and wake him up. He would've done that but the barely visible wall Malfoy had created was still in the middle of the room. He really shouldn't be feeling any sympathy for Malfoy, who deserved the pain. But still Harry knew exactly how awful the nightmares could be and didn't wish them for anyone. And when Harry knew some of the things Malfoy had been facing before and during the war, it was no surprise the boy saw nightmares.

Suddenly, Malfoy's whole body twitched like he'd suffered an electric shock and his eyes flew open. He sat up and pulled his knees to his chest and leaned his head upon them. Clearly taking some deep breaths and visibly shivering. Then, in a quick movement, he lifted his head and looked straight at Harry like he had sensed the gaze and it was only then that Harry realised he had been staring – looking at something that must've been very private. Nightmares were always personal and private, Harry assumed.

Without thinking, Harry got up and walked to the wall separating the room and articulated his words, "Let me in."

Malfoy was staring, grey eyes huge and emotions flowing in them. He shook his head.

Harry didn't move, but took a deep breath before saying, "Please."

Malfoy blinked and then his expression changed, the face turned cold, regaining the form it usually wore and then he clearly shouted, "Fuck you."

Then he lay back and turned on his side towards the wall, not even noticing his pillow wasn't in the bed but on the floor and leaving Harry staring at his back. Harry muttered aloud, knowing no-one else would hear his words, "Why do you have to be such an idiot when I'm trying to be nice to you for once..."

Harry waited for a minute and then returned to his own bed. He sat on the bed staring at Malfoy's back for a moment before giving up, putting his glasses on the night table. He put his head to the pillow and soon he was asleep. No nightmares tonight for Harry.