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Chapter 1 — Healing the Wizarding World

Life after the war was nothing like Harry Potter imagined it would be. Not that he’d imagined it very well. It was a luxury he didn’t often allow himself. Despite what some of his surlier professors believed, Harry wasn’t ignorant. He had every expectation of dying during the final battle. However, he’d also lived with the assumption of death being a permanent thing.

Thus, he had to now learn what a post-Voldemort Wizarding World was truly like. Even worse, he was expected to help rebuild the damn thing.

The few times he’d allowed himself to dream of life after the war, he’d been horribly naive. For starters, he’d unrealistically hoped people would leave him alone once he’d done his part and offed the bastard. If anything, the crowds and acclaim became ten times worse. Which he really should’ve realized would happen. Since he had not, it irritated him to no end and he spent quite a bit of time directly after the battle hiding at Hogwarts.

During his retreat, Harry realized he was - despite all he’d been through - still rather immature. In a world where broken bones could be regrown by a potion or cuts mended with a spell, he’d hopelessly thought the entire world could be easily healed from the trauma of war. He was, of course, mistaken. Hogwarts was destroyed, the Ministry in shambles, and far too many people were not fortunate enough to come back from being dead. Much work needed to be done to fix their world, and everyone assumed the Boy-who-Lived was going to be the one to do it. Harry, though, just wanted to hide his head in the sand and pretend it never happened. If nothing else, he wanted a chance to lick his wounds in peace.

It was Hermione who suggested he immediately release a single press statement. In the speech she’d written for him, Harry spoke little of what happened during the final days of war. Instead, he talked of what needed to be done now to fix what Tom Riddle had broken. Then, in a move that angered many a reporter, Harry said the Boy-who-Lived would be making no further statements until after he’d given his testimony before the Wizengamot. Since there still wasn’t a Wizengamot, it bought Harry time, at least, if not peace. Half the Wizarding World’s reporters were camped in Hogsmeade hoping for a word from their Savior.

During his seclusion, Harry spent time talking to Dumbledore’s portrait about some of what had happened, skirting the painful issues carefully. It helped to heal some of their relationship, though it did little to help Harry deal with some of the more painful decisions the Headmaster had made for him. It was during this time that Harry learned he was not the only Gryffindor with Slytherin tendencies.

Minerva McGonagall, his Head of House, was the first to display she had a rather shrewd and cunning persona she kept hidden. “Potter,” she said one day while they were having tea, “the Wizarding World is in your debt.”

Harry cringed, as he did anytime the words ‘debt’ or ‘hero’ or ‘Savior’ were used. “I only did what I had to, Professor,” he grumbled.

“Be that as it may, Potter, you might want to consider what you wish for as a reward.”

Harry had been flabbergasted and more than a little appalled.

It was Hermione, though, who later explained the statement to him. It still went against his Gryffindor nature but at least now he understood. “She doesn’t mean you are going to be paid,” she explained patiently, laughing slightly at her disgruntled friend. “But you are currently in everyone’s favor. It is doubtful anyone would deny a request from the Boy-who-Conquered at the moment. Professor McGonagall is merely suggesting you consider what you would like to happen with our World so you can use your reputation for the good of all of us.”

Harry personally thought he’d already done enough ‘for the greater good,’ but he did understand what Hermione was saying. Ron, as usual, had less than helpful suggestions. As Harry doubted he really wanted to work for the Ministry, even once it was rebuilt and hopefully corruption free, the request for early admission into Auror training interested him little. He also didn’t want a job based only on his fame, so there was no way he was going to ask for an automatic pass on all his NEWTs. The last suggestion so appalled Hermione that his studious friend spent the next hour arguing with Ron while Harry got a chance to actually think about what he did want.

His first request was easy to decide upon, though he didn’t doubt it would be difficult to achieve. He wanted a full pardon for Severus Snape. Harry had saved the life of the Death Eater spy, but he wanted to make sure he didn’t lose his freedom after-the-fact. More importantly, he wanted the world to know Snape as the hero he truly was. After the last war, Dumbledore had assured Snape’s freedom, but done little to clear the man’s name. Snape was still reviled by many and barely tolerated by most. In Harry’s opinion, Snape had atoned for his mistakes and deserved the people’s respect.

The other thing he wanted was going to be even more difficult, and he doubted he had a chance of succeeding. However, he had to at least try. He’d spoken to Ron and Hermione about it, briefly, right after the final battle. They’d understood his reasoning, though they both thought he was barking. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a clue how to go about doing it. With that in mind, he made his way up to the Headmaster’s office. McGonagall wasn’t in; she and Madame Pomfrey spent quite a bit of time in the safe house they’d moved Snape to. Harry simply let himself into her office as she’d given him permission to do so. He seated himself in the chair behind the large oak desk, turning it to face Dumbledore’s portrait.

“I need your advice, sir,” he said without preamble.

“Of course, my boy! What seems to be the trouble?”

“I want to redeem the Malfoys.”

For a moment, the painted wizard looked completely stunned. Then, a small smile formed, almost hidden in his beard. The blue paint chips of his eyes started to twinkle.

*************

Lucius Malfoy looked terrible. There was really no other way to describe his haggard appearance. His long, pale hair was dirty, tangled and lank. His face was smudged, and there appeared to be fading bruises under the dirt. It was easy to tell, through the grimy prisoner uniform, that he’d dropped a significant amount of weight. All in all, it made Harry even more eager to save the man’s family. However, he tried to hide his concern. Dumbledore suggested Harry needed to think like a Slytherin if he wanted the man’s respect.

The room the guards were letting Harry use was cold and dank. It gave him the shivers and terrified him, though he knew it was only a residual affect left over from the Dementors. Azkaban was completely run by a human (or mostly human) staff now. Still, though, he knew any amount of time in here would be hellish.

Lucius was bound when they led him in. Hands and feet bracketed with heavy metal shackles, movement limited by the chains connecting them. Still, the guard looked hesitant about leaving Harry alone with the Death Eater. Harry wondered what they thought he could do. The new enchantments on the prison bound the magic of those inside it (including Harry and the guards.) It was a protective measure put in place to prevent people escaping, like Sirius or Barty Crouch Jr.

Lucius lowered himself into the rickety chair with a slight grimace of pain. Other than the momentary flinch, his face was completely devoid of expression. “Mr. Potter,” he greeted Harry. His voice was scratchy and cracked. He sounded, and looked, nothing like his normal aristocratic self. He hadn’t even looked this bad when he was being held prisoner in the Manor by Voldemort. Harry’s plan of cool treatment vanished in a flash of empathy. When the steely eyes studying him hardened, though, Harry realized the pity was difficult for the proud man to deal with. He tried to force his face into a calm, almost bored, expression.

“Lucius,” he greeted cordially. “Are they treating you well?”

The harsh, bitter laugh was somewhat expected, but Harry still flinched at the grating sound. “Are they treating me well, Mr. Potter?” Lucius said, sounding almost amused by the naivete of the question. “What do you think, boy?”

Harry grit his teeth. He hated to be called ‘boy.’ It reminded him of Uncle Vernon. For a moment, his sympathy vanished. “I think part of you would prefer the Dementors,” he said coldly. “That way you wouldn’t have to see the derision of your fellow wizards. I think you truly know how far the Malfoys have fallen.”

For a second, Harry thought Lucius was going to test the binding on his magic so he could hex Harry. For the first time since he’d sat down, emotion flashed across Lucius’ features. It looked rather like hatred to Harry. “Come to gloat, have you, Mr. Potter?” he snarled.

“Not at all,” Harry said. He fidgeted in his chair, struggling to keep his temper leashed and his heart-rate even. He knew, in some part of his brain, he needn’t fear the man any longer. That part was being remarkably silent. The part screaming ‘run!’ was infinitely louder. Carefully, he pulled a scroll from his pocket and tossed it on the table in front of Lucius. He hoped his nervousness wasn’t as palpable as it felt.

The Death Eater had some difficulty picking up the scroll and unsealing it because of his heavy chains. Harry took it upon himself to inform Lucius of what it said.

“By decree of Kingsley Shacklebolt, Interim Minister of Magic, all Malfoy assets, including Malfoy Manor, are frozen pending verdict by the Wizengamot. Lucius and Draco Malfoy are released from Azkaban into the care of Harry Potter, and/or any member of the Order of the Phoenix designated for the assignment by Harry Potter, pending verdict by the Wizengamot. All charges against Narcissa Black Malfoy are henceforth dropped and she is released from Azkaban on her own recognizance.” Harry paused before adding, “I will be taking you and Draco to Order Headquarters. Narcissa is welcome to join us.”

“You did this.” It was more a statement than question, but Harry still nodded. “Why?” Lucius sounded both curious and confused.

“I have my reasons,” Harry said vaguely.

Grey eyes narrowed in the dirt streaked face. “What is it you want from me, Mr. Potter?”

“I want your help, Lucius.” Harry allowed a small smirk to twist his lips, even though he knew it was ineffectual. The man in front of him was a consummate Slytherin; he doubted he had much in the way of intimidation factor helping him.

“Why do you believe I should help you?” Lucius asked, proving Harry was right; he wasn’t intimidated in the least.

“Your Master is dead, Lucius. I killed him.” The words made him feel sick. He knew he was a murderer, and hated that everyone celebrated him for it. Here was one man who wouldn’t and Harry was shoving it in his face anyway.

Lucius leaned back in his chair, chains rattling as he steepled his fingers. “I’m listening,” he drawled, sounding a bit more like his former self.

“I need… an advisor. Some one to help me deal with the press. With the Wizengamot. I believe you’d be perfect for the task. Though make no mistake, Malfoy, I won’t deal with your crap or you working your own agenda,” Harry warned with a glare. “However, if you help me to my satisfaction, I will do what I can to keep you and Draco out of Azkaban.”

He held his breath, waiting. It seemed forever until Lucius gave a slow nod. Relieved, Harry exhaled quietly.

*************

“You still aren’t sleeping, are you Harry?” Hermione asked, sitting down at the kitchen table in the basement of Grimmauld Place.

“It’s getting better,” he said with a shrug.

“I don’t see how. We all know how much you hate this place. Ron thinks you should come stay at the Burrow for awhile.”

Harry hoped the panic the words inspired didn’t show on his face. He’d only been around all the Weasleys a handful of times since the final battle. It was horribly awkward. Molly was crying constantly, while George looked as if he didn’t have any tears left. Percy kept insisting, loudly and adamantly, that Harry had nothing to feel guilty about because none of it was his fault. All the while, he’d be looking at Harry as if the blame lay solely at the feet of the Boy-who-Lived. On top of all that, Ginny kept trying to cuddle or snog. As if Harry could possibly be in the mood with everything else going on!

It was a fiasco, every time. Inevitably, Harry’s nightmares would be worse when he came back to Grimmauld. He’d see Molly trying to banish her boggart. It would change from corpse to corpse. Each would open their eyes and tell him how he’d ruined their lives before falling dead until Molly cast Riddikulus. Then, the boggart would shift to some one else Harry’d gotten killed.

“I can’t go to the Burrow, ‘Mione,” he said apologetically. “You know that. I have to stay here and watch over the Malfoys.” It was a lie he’d fallen back on often since he’d moved into Sirius’ old house.

“It isn’t healthy, Harry,” Hermione lectured. “You need to get out once in awhile. They are the prisoners here, not you.”

“Kingsley’s coming by for lunch tomorrow. I’ll see if he can babysit for a few hours while I run to Hogwarts.”

Hermione frowned, lips pursed in disapproval. “Kingsley is Interim Minister of Magic. I don’t think it a good idea to let him be alone with Lucius Malfoy.”

“Then tell that to Kingsley,” Harry snapped. He took a deep breath, trying to calm his anger which flared up constantly these days. “You worry too much,” he said, much more gently. “Lucius wouldn’t try anything here.”

“You don’t actually trust them, do you?”

Harry gave an amused snort. “Of course not. But until I testify for them, they won’t do anything to jeopardize their only chance of staying out of Azkaban.”

Hermione looked at Harry as if she didn’t quite believe him.

*************

It was not uncommon for Harry to wake screaming. Afterward, he lay panting, trying to control his racing heartbeat. He was calmed by cool, gentle fingers brushing across his hair. He sank back into the bed, relaxed by the soothing hand, and tried to regulate his breathing. A quiet, melodious voice softly lulled him back to sleep.

He’d heard Aunt Petunia sing Dudley a lullaby before; a song about buying him gifts until he shut up and stopped crying. It seemed like the perfect song for a Malfoy, though it was most likely Muggle. The gentle voice singing to him spoke of enchanted things, of faeries and magic that would keep him safe and protect him in his dreams. As he fell into a peaceful slumber, a small smile on his lips, he wondered if there was a spell woven into the words of the song.

The next morning, neither Lucius nor Draco taunted him about his screams. Narcissa gave him his morning tea with a worried smile. He wanted, so badly, to throw himself into her arms and be comforted as he had the night before. To recapture the feeling of having a real mother.

Instead, he gave a tired whisper of thanks and hoped she knew what he really meant.

*************

“I don’t understand how all those people fawning over you didn’t drive you mad years ago, Harry.”

Harry gave an amused snort at the deep, lilting voice and automatically grabbed a second tea cup from the cupboard he was already reaching into. “Don’t you know? According to the Prophet, Kingsley, they did.” He turning to look at the large, impeccably dressed wizard. “Don’t you like your adoring fans, Minister?” He laughed at the disgruntled look on Kingsley Shacklebolt’s face before offering lunch. He knew the answer would be no; this wasn’t the first time the Interim Minister had stopped by Grimmauld Place. Sometimes Harry thought he came by because he knew the house would be mostly empty. The Fidelius Charm was still active, and he needed a place to hide for a few hours. Especially since he tended to come by after a particularly trying day.

“Just some tea, thanks. And I told you to stop calling me Minister.”

Harry grinned at the expected retort. “Rough day already?” he asked, fixing Kingsley his tea as he liked it and joining him at the table. “Masses out en masse today?”

“Press conference,” Kingsley answered. “First of many, I’m certain. But, tomorrow’s headlines should be filled with quotes about another great hero of the war.”

“Snape,” Harry said with certainty. Kingsley knew how Harry felt. He’d agreed to help him both with Snape’s pardon and with redeeming the Malfoys as much as possible. “Snape’s going to hate it, isn’t he?” he said with a smirk. He shared a conspiratorial grin with the Minister.

“Poor bastard,” Kingsley responded, his rich chuckle filling the kitchen. “We may be doing the man a disservice. I imagine Severus would be much happier with a pardon and disappearing into obscurity.”

“Not going to happen,” Harry declared firmly. “Besides, it’ll take some of the spotlight off of us.”

“One can only hope.” For a brief moment, Kingsley looked wistful. Harry had to fight a grin. The dark-skinned man had only been dealing with the fawning crowd for the months since the war, while Harry had years of excessive fame to deal with.

After the Battle at Hogwarts, Harry learned Kingsley was the one who’d kept the Order of the Phoenix going in seclusion. Kingsley had not only warned the Burrow of the Death Eaters attacking the Ministry, but had evacuated as many civilians and Aurors as he could and took them all to a secret location. He had even been the one to start Lee Jordan’s pirate broadcast as a means of keeping Harry informed while on the run. The Prophet called the resistance the Phoenix Underground. As its leader, Kingsley was being heralded as a hero and hounded almost as much as Harry.

Kingley hated it all. However, like Harry, he put up with it for the good of the Wizarding World.

Dumbedore once told Harry that the only people who truly deserved power were those who had no wish for it. Kingsley certainly fell into that category. It was part of the reason he made a brilliant Minister of Magic. Harry, though, knew many of his complaints were just bluster. Kingsley loved the politics.

“The Wizengamot is going to convene for the first time next week, Harry,” he said into the silence which had descended over the kitchen.

“So it begins,” the younger wizard replied with trepidation.

“I’m afraid so. One of the first motions I will push for is in regards to your testimony. I’m going to make sure it is given only to a closed court and that the Wizengamot is under a Vow of Silence.”

“I appreciate it, Kingsley, but I don’t think it will pass unless you actually tell them of the Horcurxes.”

“I might. After the Vow of Silence is taken. For now, I believe we should use Granger’s story of what you were searching for. It will work on several different levels. However, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve, Harry. There are known instances involving you during the war that create security issues for our World.”

“Gringott’s,” Harry said bluntly. “I robbed a bank which was largely believed to be unrobbable.”

“That, and you know how to break out of Azkaban.”

“Only if the Dementors were still there.”

“I plan on leaving that little detail out,” Kingsley said, a smile lifting the corner of his full lips.

“Will Snape’s trial be first?”

“Yes.”

“Then the Malfoys?”

“Actually, I’m hoping to have their trial date set late. I don’t want you losing any leverage on your house guests.”

“Makes sense.” Harry shrugged. “Don’t think Lucius will like it much.”

“I’m sure Lucius expects it. Speaking of Lucius,” Kingsley rose and put his tea cup into the sink, “he is waiting for me. I will be in the Library when you return from Hogwarts.”

“Thanks, Kings.”

“Next week we can begin writing your press statements, so you might want to ask Granger to come by as well.”

“Sure thing.” Harry watched Kingsley vanish up the stairs into the main part of the house. He had no idea what the Interim Minister discussed with Malfoy every time he visited. Frankly, he didn’t want to know. He carefully washed both cups, much to the annoyance of Kreacher, before disapparating to Hogsmeade.

*************

“I do not believe Professor Snape is yet up to entertaining guests, Mr. Potter,” the Hogwarts nurse said as she bustled around the Infirmary.

“I just want to thank him,” Harry said desperately.

“So you’ve said. Every time you’ve spoken to me. My answer is still no, Harry. I’m not certain you understand the magnitude of his injuries. Your spells stabilized him, most likely they saved his life. But he was still grievously injured. He needs complete isolation for his healing. If nothing else, to ensure he does not lose his temper unduly.”

Harry grinned at the last statement. Snape had almost torn his throat out again yelling at Harry before he got the man to the Infirmary. Madame Pomfrey was wrong about one thing, though. Harry did understand how seriously Snape was hurt. Harry hadn’t saved his life. He’d been rather dead by the time Harry made his way back to the Shrieking Shack. As Harry had already proven himself, death was not necessarily a permanent state. Not when one held the Deathly Hallows. Not with Harry being Master of Death.

He wanted to know how Snape was handling his resurrection. Even with his throat ripped to shreds, the dour man had scolded Harry when first brought back from the dead. Harry had been almost thankful when Snape fell unconscious after screaming at him for a few minutes.

Since then, Harry had not seen him. Pomfrey and McGonagall spirited him away to a safe house and would tell no one of its location. They wouldn’t even let Harry visit. McGonagall returned the vial of memories to Snape after both she and Kingsley viewed them. Harry hated parting with the precious gift, but they were private and belonged to Snape.

Harry was deep in thought as he made his way through the castle. He barely noticed the rubble that had been cleared away, or the goblins working to reinforce the damaged walls. The castle wouldn’t be ready for classes to begin in September, for which Harry was a bit thankful. As much as he looked forward to returning to the only place he’d ever thought of as home, he still had much to do with the Death Eater trials about to begin.

The gargoyle was still unrepaired, so Harry made his way up the spiral staircase. He knocked politely, though McGonagall told him previously he could use her office whenever he wished. “Mr. Potter,” the Headmistress greeted before smiling slightly. “Harry,” she corrected, voice a touch warmer.

“Headmistress.” For some reason the response made McGonagall cringe. Harry’s thoughts abruptly scattered. “Is everything all right?” he asked instead of what he was originally going to say.

“Everything is fine, Mr. Potter,” she said. Her tired expression belied her words.

“I believe you should tell him, Minerva,” Dumbledore’s portrait advised.

“Honestly, Albus. There is no reason to involve Harry in this.”

Harry fidgeted in his chair, torn between curiosity of what was bothering McGonagall and irritation that they spoke of him as if he weren’t even there.

“On the contrary, my dear. Harry needs to be informed of this so he knows to what extent Severus will need his help.”

“Is Snape all right?” Harry asked immediately in a voice tinged with worry.

“Professor Snape,” McGonagall corrected automatically. “And yes, he is as well as can be expected.”

It didn’t sound terribly reassuring to Harry. “What does he need my help with?” he pushed. “Does he need more healing? I could—“

“His health is not the issue,” the Headmistress interrupted quickly before Harry could get worked up. “The problem is what will happen to him after he finishes healing.”

“Oh,” Harry said dumbly. “Actually, I just met with Kings— er, Minister Shacklebolt — about Sn— Professor Snape,” he corrected himself again, unable to keep from rolling his eyes slightly. “He gave a press conference this morning, and I will begin testimony next week. Hermione’s going to be working on my press statement. Since it will be my first one since the war, it should get a lot of attention.”

“Wonderful, my boy. Unfortunately, I fear it might not be enough.”

“I’m hoping to get him a full pardon and an Order of Merlin, First Class.”

“You may need to give more than one statement in regards to Severus if he wishes to return to Hogwarts.”

“Oh.” Harry frowned for a second before asking, “Does he?”

“I do not believe that is relevant,” McGonagall said with a hint of annoyance.

Harry gave her an incredulous stare. “I think it is rather relevant. I mean, if he wants to return to Hogwarts, I will do my best to make it happen. If he wants to open an apothecary and sell nothing but love potions, I’ll do the same. But it should be his choice. He had to teach to be a spy and stay safe… I could see why he might not want to anymore, is all,” he finished as he realized how closely he was being scrutinized by both McGonagall and Dumbledore.

“Hogwarts is his home,” Albus said simply, knowing Harry would understand. “He needs to be allowed to come home.”

“All right,” Harry said quickly. “I can talk to the Board of Governors if I need to. I’m sure Kingsley will help me include some stuff in my press statements to help achieve those ends.”

“It is imperative that Professor Snape be allowed to return,” McGonagall informed Harry firmly. It was obvious to Harry they had something planned other than Snape’s happiness. If they thought he was going to blithely go along with it, they had another think coming. Snape’s life had been manipulated as much as Harry’s. He wasn’t going to let them continue to do so. To either of them. “Tell me why,” he demanded, green eyes narrowing.

His former Head of House pursed her lips in irritation. “Because,” she said, voice holding a hint of disgust, “according to the castle, Severus Snape is still Headmaster.”