Word Count: 2213
Warnings: Angst. Lot's of angst. Post-war. Mentions of canon character death. 8th Year.
Written for: Back to Hogwarts at hd_writers. Drabble challenge, all prompts included. (Go RAVENCLAW!)
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or make any profit from this work.
Summary: A new school year is welcomed in and Hogwarts continues to march forth, resilient.
A/N: Nothing really. All the prompts are there and it is intended to read as one story rather than separate drabbles. It is rather angsty and a canon divergence 8th year fic. Everyone else wrote lovely happy things - doing great everyone by the way, all the fic coming out if amazing! - but I thought I'd stick to my strengths and I actually found this to be one of the easiest things I've written in a while, flowed nicely. Enjoy and let me know thoughts. :D
Also, take note of the song, I actually think it fits the fic quite well and maybe that's why it turned out a way i quite like :)
Professor McGonagall is as charismatic as always when she takes up the mantle of the welcome back speech. Her voice is firm and no nonsense and sets a good tone for the year to follow. She is stern but forcefully softening herself. Harry has known her long enough by now to know it is all a defence mechanism, her coping procedure already settling into place for when she glances back at the gaps around the Great Hall that are far louder than the constant murmuring that rustles from the gaggle of bodies present.
For when the Sorting Hat yells 'Slytherin' and the little First years cry pitifully, as thought they were being cursed and sent to the gallows, before trudging to the emptiest of the four house tables.
Harry thinks she even tries for a joke. But Hagrid is the only one who laughs and he is quickly silenced by Trelawney's gentle fingers upon his hand.
But as much as she tries, McGonagall can never be Dumbledore. She knows it. The students know it. But there is a fierceness to her that makes every present Gryffindor heart swell with pride.
So a new school year is welcomed in and Hogwarts continues to march forth, resilient.
There is a disquiet that hovers around the ghosts of Hogwarts. The House Ghosts are twitchy and uncomfortable, always checking the locations of their fellows behind their backs. It takes three hours for Harry to convince a stony silent Nearly-Headless Nick that he wants to divulge the problem.
He says, bitter and sad, that all trust is gone between the houses and leaves Harry to puzzle out the rest.
It's Hermione, as usual, who illuminates them somewhat. The Grey Lady is disorientated and mistrustful, seeing deceit around every corner. The Bloody Baron simmers in his guilt and self-loathing, content to watch the students of his house suffer the same. And Nick? Nick is doubted. He chose favour of a student over his fellow ghosts. Despite the overall positive outcome of the situation, his faith in Harry is a betrayal to his fellow ghosts, whom he has rotted with inside Hogwart's stone walls for centuries.
The castle is discontent.
First Night Back
Harry's first thought when he ducks into the Gryffindor common room is that it's quiet. Unnaturally so. The first years behind him are pale and worn, almost as worn as Hermione's own personal welcome speech, which is monotonous and grates on his nerves.
The dorm is even quieter. Ron is already there, perched on his old bed. But he's the only one.
No one is really sure how the tower stayed standing through the war zone that the school became for those few hours. But it is, even if Harry can hear a multitude of extra creaks and overworked groans that weren't there before. He can't help resenting them.
It's like going into a crowded room with a fading ability to hear. Everything is muted, even colours. Harry had thought being back in a classroom would bring back a sense of normalcy, or belonging. But it just intensifies the feeling, the knowing, that something is wrong here.
Everywhere he looks there are empty seats, for whatever reason. Peers that are too terrified to step foot on the retired battleground again, afraid of haunting memories it will awaken. Parents that are now over-protective and mistrustful of the protection Hogwarts can provide, despite the fact that the main enemy is vanquished.
Students who died.
So instead of feeling comfortable in these rooms and halls, because they have been his definition of home for most of his life, now all he can do is look around. The empty desks and chairs. The missing echoes of laughter. It will take generations for them to return to the way they were.
New DADA Teacher
Their new Defence teacher is good. She's marvelous, in fact, compared to most of the utter rubbish they're been subjected to over the years. She knows how to make them pay attention whilst learning and how to add just the right amount of fun to keep them involved.
But she isn't Remus and every positive thing about her is a positive Remus had in spades ten times higher than her.
The classroom isn't packed with interesting artifacts and her office isn't brimming with tanks and cages. It isn't full of kittens and pink either, which is a point in her favour.
But she just isn't Remus.
And those are the two people Teddy needs...
Those are the two people Harry needs.
Late For Class
Harry feels the absence of his house mates, particularly his dorm mates, most heavily in the mornings. It's the time when Dean would normally be throwing pillows at everyone to wake them up and Neville would already be in front of the mirror perfecting the knot if his tie and Seamus would be slapping lazily at his bedside table for his wand. Of course, Ron would still be underneath his mountain of sheets but the muffled groaning is enough to make his presence known.
They would all still be late for class anyway, despite Dean's efforts, but it would be worth it just for the tradition. Just for that breathless run through corridors and down stairs, all together, that felt like freedom.
But now, he and Ron are summoned by Hermione's patronus early enough that they have time to nap into their respective cornflakes for half an hour before class. They sometimes 'get lost' on the way just so they can feel like they aren't letting the dorm down in some way by shattering their tradition. Even if Seamus' parents had forbidden him to return and Dean's muggle parents, although somewhat in the dark, had been scared off and enrolled him into a muggle school and Neville is...well, no-one really knows where he is. There's a rumour going around that he's already working with the Aurors, or that he's honeymooning with Luna Lovegood.
Harry thinks he just needs some time to himself and he's probably building a greenhouse in his back garden right that second.
Harry doesn't like looking at the first years. Doesn't like being reminded of the young and the way the war affected them. They aren't as innocent and hopeful as he was, even though he has been accustomed to a Dark Lord set on killing him for most of his youth. There's a kind of righteous fury that comes with this thought.
Voldemort wanted to kill him and mutate the Wizarding World to his own design. Harry killed him instead and stopped the catastrophe. It was him that grew up scared and feeling alone, separated by his burden from everyone else. It was him that everyone looked to as a saviour, as if some muggle child who knew nothing of magic could perform a miracle just because it had been foretold. It was him who had his naivety ripped from him with bones and Unforgivables and fire. Harry was the one that suffered.
And yet all of these fresh faced teenagers look upon the world, this dark world that sees the dawn coming and should be rejoicing, like it is the end of it.
Their youth also reminds him of cameras flashing and young, boundless energy. But Harry still remembers what his body looked like, where they laid him in the Hall with the others, so he focuses on his ire and avoids thinking about him.
There's a welcome familiarity that comes with the practice of taking a potions partner. It's even a comfort when Slughorn inevitably pairs him with Malfoy, which is a testament to how bad things are in itself. Slughorn's hope of Harry's goodness rubbing off on Malfoy is bright in his eyes while he watches the Slytherin plod to Harry's bench.
Harry doesn't think it will do much good.
And Malfoy really is plodding. The usual grace of his step, honed from years of upper crust upbringing, is muted and there isn't a saunter in sight. Harry hadn't even expected him to return and yet here he is. Silent and ashen, like a wraith wandering the halls, and disappearing into the shadows when class isn't in session.
Perhaps it shows something of Harry's mental state that his first thought is that Malfoy won't be any match for him on the pitch anymore; not like this. Not a challenge at all. And that he's saddened by it in a slow, longing way makes him feel a prickle of embarrassed heat under his skin.
But Malfoy just sets to the task at hand and Harry fumbles along beside him. There isn't a single jibe concerning his ineptitude and inadequacy.
Hermione avoids most topics concerning the war. She buries herself in her books and her studies and doesn't reappear until her eyes are red and bloodshot from lack of sleep and her limbs are shaking and weak from hunger.
Harry respects her space. He knows she is worried for her parents, for the school, for the students.
She worries for everyone and the weight of it is visible on her shoulders. He isn't sure if it's a cruel irony that he is the one who has risen from the ashes and into this new world the least harmed. But then again, maybe he had the least to lose in the first place.
Ron's quill is bending and quivering with the strain of taking the force of his scratchings. The ink on the parchment is uneven and spidering out where he hasn't renewed his blotting charm.
Harry thinks it will snap soon, but he doesn't say anything because he knows. He knows that every time Ron's eyes dart up he isn't looking at Harry. No, he is looking through him to the scorch mark on the wall in the corner, the evidence of a past Weasley Wizarding Wheeze gone wrong. So, Harry lets him vent on the feather.
And when it finally does give in to his tight grip, Harry just slides another towards him and watches as he begins all over again.
Harry is thankful that Hermione manages to drag both Ron and him back into the strict homework regime she has planned out for them since their first year here. He isn't sure how he could have survived without the structure to his day. The quiet and the general solemnity that has settled on the castle is suffocating and he isn't sure how he hasn't gone insane already.
It must be the little things, like this. The familiar and the comfortable.
How Hermione automatically flicks her wand when his inkwell is nearing empty and she slides the right book across the chipped library table before he has to ask for it. Their homework is repetitive and, after all the research and reading he had spent most of his time wading through last year, he feels like his mind is moving too fast for it. But he persists, if only to hear Hermione's little huffs of impatience when Ron asks her to explain something about a subject she isn't taking but can explain perfectly anyway.
It's in these moments that his teeth grind and his jaw tenses because he needs to hug them so badly. But he doesn't, he just watches from under his eyelashes and pretends there isn't a wet heat rising behind his glasses.
The first note isn't signed and it comes as rather a large shock to Harry that he knows who it's from anyway. He's used to seeing it as a pompous signature or on foot after foot of neatly headed and divided essays but...it's Malfoy's. Still the same.
He glances over at the Slytherin on the other side of the Charms classroom opposite him. He's peeking tentative glances back at Harry, like he's unsure, which is absolutely preposterous because, come on, it's Malfoy.
'Help me with my Defence paper?' is all it says. When he reads it in his head there's still the sneer and the not-quite-question-more-of-an-order format. But when he finally catches Malfoy's eyes, they're imploring, if hard with embarrassment.
His nod is slight and he ignores the scandalised stare Ron directs at him once he's read the note over Harry's shoulder.
It's actually a little sad to think they could have been...getting on – he doesn't want to say friends because that's a long way off and he doesn't want to jinx this unstable, new thing they have going – rather than scratching and sniping at each other at every opportunity. Ron doesn't understand it and Hermione is surprised at the new turn of events but they both take it in stride, and Harry is irrationally proud of them for it.
Even though Malfoy is pitiable and broken at the moment, his face still flushes, pleased, whenever they argue about Quidditch or whenever Harry asks him about a particularly stupid and illogical potions rule. He's still in there somewhere. And the arguing, it's more playful than it was. There's no heat behind the words. It's more like what Harry has with Ron, except Draco prefers quick wit rather than crude humour.
Harry is quickly finding he likes both.