Blurb: Harry isn't the same as he was before the war. He's going through the motions of existing and keeping those around him happy. But in reality, he's lost, and so is someone else... If he can save him, then surely, he can save himself?
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, some Harry/Ginny and potentially George/Angelina in later chapters!
Rating: Rated M for some... ahem.. mature content which may appear in later chapters. ;) If it doesn't, I'll drop the rating down. If that stuff offends you, I'll warn people before the chapter starts, so you can skip it!
Author's note: Hi! This will be my first multi-chapter story for a very, very long time, so please be kind! Bit of a rubbish blurb, as this story could go in so many ways... I just have no idea! I've got a few firm threads in mind, but... I have no idea how long it will be, I originally planned for four chapters, but my plans now currently are around 7 chapters so... It could definitely grow! I'll see where my writing - and of course, any of your ideas/comments/responses take me!
P.S: Anyone who read my previous one shot "Solace in Firewhiskey" and was hoping this would be the sequel... bad news, its not. Good news, I do have an idea for that in mind, hopefully you'll see it soon!
The First Month
The first month after the war had been a non-stop blur of funerals and trials, sobbing and screaming, loss and vengeance. Those who had fought valiantly had been laid to rest, whilst those who had defied good were laid in chains. Fred's funeral had been, as expected, inexplicably awful and Harry had only just about made it through the day. The most memorable of all the funerals he'd attended, just barely preceding the joint funeral held for Tonks and Lupin just days before. The funerals were sad yet, as they should, provided some closure. So no, it wasn't either of those funerals that had kept Harry awake at night.
Draco Malfoy's trial had been announced, and was to be held on the 2nd of June, exactly a month after the battle, both dates Harry knew would weigh on his mind for years to come. When he had announced to Ron and Hermione he would be attending the trial, Ron's face had turned beetroot with the insult he fought back, knowing better than to question Harry's sanity - or lack thereof - under Hermione's knowing gaze. Harry was grateful to Hermione, grateful to how the war could have changed his best friends relationship in to one that was strengthened by their experiences, not shattered like so many had been. He was grateful, most of all, that neither of them asked why - for Harry wasn't sure he knew himself.
The night before the trial, sleep had not come easily to Harry. He twisted and turned, his body writhing in the tangle of blankets he slept fitfully under, his body glazed with sweat as if he were really in the flames he dreamed of where he grasped endlessly for thin, pale fingers and a life to save. Harry reached furiously, over and over, desperately trying to place a firm grip on the fingers which slid from his grasp each time. He was close, so close, desperately giving everything to save him but each time missing by inches. With a final determined swoop Harry dipped his broom lower, ignoring the way the flames singed his shins as he did so, finally taking a firm grip on the hand beneath him, wondering if he had the strength to make the final pull and save them both from the fire...
Blinking in the dim light as he awoke, he groaned and threw his head back against his pillow. He glanced to Ron, not for the first time jealous of how his best friend snored through the night like a Hippogriff. Despite his jealousy, Harry was pleased not to have woken his friend not wanting the awkward conversation that would surely follow. Inwardly, Harry allowed himself to smile. Ron's blossoming relationship with Hermione was beginning to change his friend - as evidenced earlier, her influence had already stopped the way his blustered thoughts could often stumble insultingly from his lips like a Puking Pasty but his former words were yet to be replaced by Hermione's knowing wisdom. Truthfully, Harry hoped they never would. Too many people had changed too much already.
Resigning himself to wakefulness Harry reached for his glasses and jammed them clumsily onto his face. In the dim light of the bedroom they slumbered in they did little to improve his vision but the act was so natural he barely even thought of it. Throwing the covers aside and quietly lifting from the bed, he crept downstairs in search of ice cold pumpkin juice to cool his once sweaty, now somewhat sticky, skin.
At the Burrow's large kitchen table he saw George, slumped across the table. For a moment Harry paused in the doorway, not wanting to intrude. The moment passed as quickly as it came. After all, returning up the creaky stairs would undoubtedly wake many of the Weasley's and Hermione who slept above. Harry doubted he would ever get used to the sight of George without Fred, but looking at the lone figure before him was becoming less painful with each day, the void beside him less raw. After making his drink in silence Harry slipped into a wooden chair not far from George, who had still not registered his company. Leaving the goblet before him untouched, Harry let his mind drift to the day ahead. He knew, of course, why his dreams tonight had been plagued by Malfoy in the Room of Requirement. He often dreamed of many scenes from the war and although this particular memory visited him in sleep frequently the poignancy of the dream-edited version of the memory was not lost on Harry. Normally, the dream would play out precisely as it had happened, more of a horrific memory than a true nightmare. But this time it had been different. He had even trying to save Malfoy, each time so close, yet so far...
"Ron says you're going to watch." A voice broke the silence, a voice he hadn't heard in so long he almost did a double take. He turned to face George, wondering for a mad, fleeting moment how he could be reading his mind, knowing he was thinking of Malfoy and the trial. Mistaking the confusion on Harry's face, George nodded toward the previous days issue of The Prophet folded on the table just past them. Glancing at the page Harry saw the headline "Malfoy family disgraced as trial ends tomorrow with youngest son" accompanied by a photograph of Draco with an expression that made Harry's gut wrench. He didn't need to read the article, he already had. The report of the two trials and speculation over the one to come would forever be etched in Harry's mind. Lucius had been sent to Azkaban indefinitely, his war crimes stacked out endlessly; bearing a Dark Mark, use of unforgivable curses, housing the Voldemort, murder... The penultimate crime made Harry shiver in a way the others didn't. They were all horrific crimes, but having Voldemort living in his house was unthinkable. Not that that had bee Malfoy's crime, for Merlin's sake, he had been sixteen years old and no doubt had no say at all in who claimed residence in the Malfoy Manor. Narcissa's trial had followed her husbands, a much longer affair due to its complications. Word had risen that she had pronounced Harry dead, allowing him the opportunity to defeat Voldemort. She'd been subjected to harsh scrutiny under veritaserum to determine the truth of that night and her motive behind her actions. Her response had been she had wanted to save her son. She had known that Harry Potter could defeat Voldemort and that would be the only way to save her son - after he had not immediately left Hogwarts to join the rest of the Death Eaters, she was certain he would be killed if the battle was allowed to rage on. The jury of the Wizengamot had deliberated long and hard over her response. Her intentions, of course, had been to save her son, not to save the Wizarding World, or defeat evil, silencing dark magic forever. Yet at the same time, if she had been a true Death Eater she would have disregarded her son as Luscius had, sickened that he had not joined their greater cause. As such, her trial and acquittal has become one of the most talked about since the war had ended. She had been spared Azkaban but the Malfoy estate had been dismantled, their Manor home, possessions and most of their gold taken in war reparations. The news had made Harry's stomach twist uncomfortably - if most of the Malfoy estate had already been claimed in debt, what would there be to save Draco? He had the strongest reason for forgiveness of his family, the first of them to turn to support Hogwarts and, after evidence that he had been underage when given the Dark Mark, growing speculation as to if he had ever believed in Voldemorts cause at all.
Realising he had been lost in his thoughts for some time he returned his gaze to George and merely nodded.
"He's a git" George said, surprising Harry once again with the fact that this was the most he'd spoken since a heartbreaking speech at Fred's funeral "But he isn't evil."
The final words shocked Harry more than anything. Voldemort – Death Eaters – the Malfoys – they were all part of the reason why George was now a shell of his former self, the reason why he would forever be, in at least one way, alone. Again Harry nodded. What Harry hadn't spent much time deliberating was why he cared so much about the outcome of Malfoy's trial. He had told himself he simply didn't save someone's life just to see them rot in Azkaban and that was the end of it. Yet George's words struck something deep within Harry. He wouldn't say he cared for Malfoy – no, not at all – but he didn't believe he deserved punishment. He hadn't asked for most of what happened to him. As George said; he wasn't evil.
"I saved his life... in the battle." Harry admitted, scratching the back of his neck in an awkward gesture "And as my role goes, I'm usually up their offing evil, not rescuing it."
He hadn't intended to make a joke, yet when a snigger escaped George's lips he was glad he had. Harry knew George wouldn't be dancing from the rooftops anytime soon but he deserved to be able to think of happiness again.
"So you are going?" This time it was a question, not a statement, and Harry felt the need to defend himself. Reading the look on his face, George shook his head, making the argument die on Harry's lips. "I'm not going to try and stop you" he said, raising his hands in mock surrender "I'm going to help... When Ron told me I went back to the shop... Me and..." His brother's name wouldn't – couldn't - escape his lips and Harry simply gave a knowing nod, which George looked thankful for "Well we'd started branching into potions, at first for fun but then to help The Order... It's sort of like polyjuice, but resistant to a lot of enchantments the Wizengamot will surely have in place. It's not one hindered percent, we never really got round to testing it but... I figured you'd appreciate anything that would give you a chance of being... Y'know... Not you."
Harry realised he hadn't given any thought to what it would look like, Harry Potter, saviour of the Wizarding World watching on at the trial of a former Death Eater, more to the point a Death Eater who had been a noted rival through their school years. Coupling this with his name already in the Malfoy trials, he suddenly felt a rush of gratitude for George and his consideration of a thought Harry hadn't even realised himself. "Definitely" he said, the appreciation ringing loud and clear in his voice.
George's shoulders seemed to relax although Harry hadn't noticed the tension before. "I don't know who you could use, though, I mean, you could go out in Diagon before and charm a hair, but it's going to be a very public case so really you need someone who's going to be unseen all day..."
"He can have mine," a voice from the doorway interjected, making both at the table jump. "Sorry," the voice instantly apologised, Harry recognising Hermione's voice before he saw her face as she sat opposite him. "I won't be out, in fact, I'll be very far away. I'm going to Australia to get my parents back... Ron said he'll come with me - I mean - if that's ok with you Harry" with the last sentence the tip of her ears turned pink and Harry managed a small, but meaningful smile.
"Of course its ok, it's more than ok" Harry replied, and he meant it. "It's great. We need more good news; it'll be great for you to get your parents back."
Hermione smiled thankfully and relaxed into her chair "I'm sure Ron would offer too, but... Well... I think his appearance might cause as much as a stir as yours." Of course, Ron had lost a brother in the war and his hate for Malfoy had always been clear at school too. Although Hermione had dislike him, she had never been as publicly vocal in her feelings as the boys had. "Also, I mean, my appearance isn't exactly as striking as yours or Ron's… Keep your head down, no one will really notice you..."
"It's great, Hermione, thank you." Harry's words met with a nod, accompanied by a small, supportive smile.
"I better go and start packing," she said, excusing herself from the table.
Harry and George once again sat in silence, listening other footsteps lightly trail the stairs.
"Fred would have loved it" George broke the silence again, a ghost of a smile on his lips. "Those two" He clarified, nodding after Hermione. "He wouldn't have let him live it down for a second."
"It's good that they're happy." Harry said, smiling at the thought of Fred mercilessly teasing Ron over his long-awaited love. "You should be happy too." He dared, taking a careful glance over at the remaining Weasley twin.
"So should you."
Harry sighed, letting the words hang between them. The war had changed so many relationships. Whilst some - like Ron and Hermione's - grew stronger, some had been broken. George would never have Fred again and Harry thought, not for the first time, that he may not have Ginny. They'd both changed, casualties of the war, and whilst a love remained between them, he doubted it would be the same again. A comfortable silence stretched between them as the sun rose, bathing the kitchen in its early morning light. Hearing the dull sounds of those waking above them both Harry and George took this time to retreat, Harry returning to the room he shared with Ron.
The room was empty, Ron probably packing with Hermione for their trip. A strange feeling twisted in Harry's stomach at the thought of his two best friends off on a journey without him. He was happy for them in the relationship, happier than anyone else. It was just… They'd been a trio for so long; it was strange to think that now they'd be doing things without him.
As he flopped down on his bed his thoughts returned to the dream he had and the feeling he couldn't shake that Malfoy still needed saving. His unease from the Prophet's reports of his mother's trial lingered mixed with images of the pale fingers from his dream. Once again paying little attention to the reasons behind his actions Harry sprang into motion, settling into the small desk in Ron's room as he rooted through its drawers for a quill, ink and parchment. He scribbled furiously over the page, telling himself once again that there was nothing to his desire to attend Malfoy's trial, nothing to his desire to see him spared from Azkaban, just a simple need to have his actions in the Room of Requirement mean something more than a rotting soul behind bars. Especially a soul that, as George had so eloquently put it, despite being a git certainly wasn't evil.
Letter complete, he hastily rolled the parchment and addressed it, feeling a pang in his chest for Hedwig once again. Letter clasped firmly in hand he took the stairs two at a time downstairs, finding Mrs Weasley in the kitchen.
"Can I borrow an owl?" He asked, the importance of the note in his hand outweighing the need for morning pleasantries.
"Of course, dear" Molly replied with a kind smile. The smile was as warm and comforting as it had always been yet it was another thing that had been changed by the war, a smile that didn't reach her eyes in the way it once had before.
Nodding his thanks Harry skidded out into the Weasley's back garden, tying the letter to the foot of the first bird he came across. He knew these didn't all belong to the family, but had been somewhat adopted from fallen friends. "Quickly" he urged the owl he'd chosen with a whisper, watching it glide off into the sky.
"YOU'RE WHAT?" A shrill shout from inside the house startled Harry, the angry tones of none other than Mrs Weasley ringing out into the garden "RONALD BILLIUS WEASLEY I FORBID IT!"
As he raced back to the house he wondered idly how long he'd been in the garden if such a scene had already exploded, although he had less time to consider this thought as he burst back into the kitchen. Ron stood, defiant yet red-faced next to a considerably embarrassed looking Hermione as Mrs Weasley loomed over them, shaking with her rage.
"Hermione needs to get her parents back, mum, and she can't go on her own!" Ron argued, his voice raised but somehow eerily calm.
"Of course I'm not saying that – of course dear, you shouldn't go alone" Mrs Weasley flustered, shaking her head as if the idea were insane as she glanced at Hermione "Neither of you should go, not now, surely the Ministry…" She trailed off weakly, already knowing what the answer would be.
"I asked Kingsley." Hermione said, her small voice giving the answer to the silent question "They just can't spare the manpower, what with the trials and still trying to round up those who've run… He said he'd put them to the top of the list but… It could still take months. Maybe a year. It might be too late to make them remember…" Her voice trailed off as a strange, strangled sob hit her throat and Ron protectively threw an arm around her. At the sight Harry shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, feeling like he was party to an intimate scene he shouldn't be part of.
Mrs Weasley's features softened at the gesture and she sighed, wearily looking down. "Be careful, I can't lose..." She didn't finish her sentence, but it wasn't needed. They all knew the words she couldn't speak.
"We'll be fine mum, back before you know it" Ron promised, reaching his free arm to awkwardly pat his mothers who at the touch grabbed the pair in an overbearingly tight hug. As the embrace broke Harry shuffled further into the room and announced his presence with a soft cough.
"Harry!" Hermione said brightly, as Mrs Weasley busied herself with wiping her tears on the corner of her apron. "Here" she said, reaching into her pocket and handing him a small tube with a long, curly hair inside. Taking the tube with a thank you, Harry pushed it deep into his jean pocket as Ron joined the pair.
"Look after each other. Good luck." He gave Hermione a hug which she returned with a grateful squeeze before slapping Ron on the back in a much more macho style.
"You too mate" Ron replied, his eyes shifting to today's Prophet sitting bundled on the table with the mornings post. Harry could just making out the start of the blazing headline "Final Malfoy trail –" before the letters covered it and he met Ron's gaze with a nod.
"I will." He promised, clapping his best friend on the back once more before stepping back. He watched his best friends disappear into the garden hand-in-hand, watching their retreating backs until they left the wards of the Burrow. Harry stared until he heard the faint pop of their apparition and sighed, sinking into a chair and pulling the paper towards him.
"I'm not stupid, you know" Mrs Weasley stated as Harry read the latest speculation regarding Malfoy's trial. "I know you're going. I know George is helping you. I won't stop you… In fact, I'm glad it's given George something to do…" she trailed off, her tears threatening to swell again. "Just be careful." She told him, in much the same tone she had used with Ron and Hermione, letting Harry know once again that she saw him as much of a son as she did her birth children.
"I will, I'll be back for tea." He assured her with a twisted smile, trying to ignore the twisting nerves in his stomach.
Smiling kindly once again, she tilted her head toward the stairs. "George is in his room. Hermione left some robes with him for you."
Without a word Harry took to the stairs, finding himself outside George's room in no time at all. Knocking before he entered, Harry felt a stab of sadness hit him once again as he noted the two beds in the room despite the now single occupant.
"Hermione left me her hair" He told George by way of greeting who simply nodded, turning to a cupboard behind him and tinkling with vials inside.
"Here" he said, offering a vial to Harry which shone a deep, glittering red. Harry didn't know what he had been expecting – something similar to polyjuice, he thought but took the vial with a nod, the tube holding Hermione's hair now retrieved from his pocket in the other. Opening the potion he was hit with a strong smell he couldn't place, looking to George for encouragement before dropping Hermione's hair into the mixture. It gave off a faint hiss, a small billow of smoke rising although the potion itself didn't change, another way in which George's creation was different to polyjuice.
"I'll leave you to it" George said, leaving Harry alone with the still softly smoking potion. Should he wait for it to stop? Would it stop? Did he need to drink it right away, or let it brew? Ignoring the questions he lifted the vial to his lips and tipped back his head, feeling the liquid run down his throat.
His first thought was one of pleasant surprise. This wasn't half as awful as polyjuice he thought to himself as he felt his skin begin to bubble as it changed. Strange, but not painful, he mused as he watched his fingers change before his eyes. Then it hit him, a heat rising through his body which burnt like he was on fire. He opened his mouth to gasp yet all that escaped his lips was a billow of smoke the same shade of grey as that had smoked from the potion. Oh Merlin he should have waited for it to stop he thought as the heat within him grew stronger, so strong he had to collapse onto the bed behind him, sweat dripping from his brow. Suddenly the heat washed from his body as quickly as it had begun leaving an ice cold feeling in its wake. Vaguely, Harry was aware that his vision was blurred and his skin wasn't bubbling as it was before. The transformation must be complete he thought as he removed his glasses and placed them on George's dresser, standing to take a lot at himself in the mirror across the room.
It had definitely worked. Staring back at him was Hermione, looking somewhat out of place in Harry's snitch patterned t-shirt. Seeing the robes Hermione had left on George's dresser Harry began to change, finishing the fastening as George re-entered.
"It worked" Harry said brightly, although the tone that left his lips was Hermione's.
"Of course it did" George replied, looking a little insulted. "We knew that much, it's just if it will withstand all the Ministry's security charms…" He frowned then gave a shrug, instead fixing his face to a more neutral expression. "You should have five hours from now… The trials at nine so…" They both glanced toward the clock, seeing the time now was half past eight.
"I better get going" Harry finished, straightening himself and oddly trying to become used to the way Hermione's body moved.
Pointing his want to the grate in his bedroom, a fire roared to life. "Me and Fred hooked it to the Floo years ago. No one ever knew. Brilliant." He said with a faint smile as he visited the memory of his brother. "Figured it'd be better for you than, y'know…"
Harry knew. He was by now sure all the Weasley's knew of his plan to attend Malfoy's trail, but that didn't mean he wanted to parade through the house as Hermione to do so. Stepping toward the grate he took a pinch of Floo powder from George's outstretched hand.
"Good luck, mate."
Not used to Hermione's expressions, Harry smiled, hoping he was able to hide the fear he felt clawing at him and stepping into the roaring flames without a word.
"The Ministry of Magic!" He announced clearly, whipping dizzyingly into the flames as he was transported to his destination.
Tumbling out of the flames Harry found himself in the familiar entrance hall to the Ministry. As he walked the corridor he was relieved to see the sickening statue of a Wizard sitting on crushed muggles removed from its atrium. Wondering where he should go Harry stumbled along with the crowd, hoping desperately he wouldn't be forced to ask and draw attention to his – or rather, Hermione's – presence.
"Fantastic, you can just feel the… Apprehension." A shrill voice broke through the crowd, one that sent a shiver down Harry's spine. He would not forget Rita Skeeter in a hurry and as he turned to face the voice he saw her, Quick Notes Quill avidly scribbling away. "The final Malfoy trail begins; will he be his mother's boy or his father's son? Does dark lurk beneath that pale exterior? Does evil shine through that golden hair?" Although usually sickened by the way the witch revelled in peoples misery Harry was, for the only time in his life, feeling pleased to see her, knowing she would lead him directly to the courts he needed to find.
He kept his distance - although he disguised he knew Rita would still recognise Hermione if he got close enough – trailing just far enough behind to still hear Rita as she cackled on, gleefully directing her Quick Notes Quill into a dramatic speculation of Malfoy sharing a cell with his father. Harry tried to ignore the unpleasant twist in his stomach at the image, pushing the thought away and realising that before he knew it they had reached the lower floors of the Ministry where the courtrooms were held.
A small, elderly wizard sat at a high desk, stopping each who passed him and pointing them in the direction of – Harry swallowed uncomfortably – several wizard cloaked in unmistakeable Auror robes watching intently as their wands cast a series of vigilant security charms. Before he knew it he was at the front of the queue, the old wizard gazing down at him.
"H-" Harry cursed inwardly, taken by surprise but thankful that, at least, his and Hermione's names started with the same letter. "Hermione Granger" he amended, vowing to be alert from now on.
Accepting this with a nod, the Wizard took note on a piece of parchment in front of him.
"Trail?" He asked.
"Malfoy. Draco Malfoy." Harry confirmed, willing his – or rather, Hermione's – voice to be firmer, masking the fear that clawed at him inside.
If the wizard had made any connection between Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy he hadn't let on, merely continuing with his duty. "Wand?"
This question stopped Harry firmly in his tracks. Bloody fuck – this was it, he hadn't even got as far as the Aurors' enchantments. They would trace his wand in moments and see that it wasn't –
"It is a requirement of the Ministry of Magic that no witch or wizard be armed in court. Your wand will merely be labelled and stored, returned to you on your arrival." The wizard drawled in an impatient tone, misreading Harry's reluctance as a fear of giving up his wand.
Feeling not at all relieved, yet sensing he had no choice, Harry slid his wand from his pocket and handed it over to the wizard. With a flick, a label curled itself around Harry's wand before it flew into a pigeon hole marked 'Court 3' behind a thin, shimmering veil Harry figured must be some sort of security charm.
Handing Harry a visitors badge the wizard did not speak again, nodding Harry toward a particularly sour-faced Auror who tapped his foot impatiently. Trying his best to arrange Hermione's features into a determined, confident expression Harry stepped forward. Without a word the Auror began his magical assault and Harry's insides clenched and twisted in fear as he felt the charms wash over him. His mind willed for George's potion to stay strong, to defeat the Ministry's charms. His thoughts chanted harder than ever, harder than they had when he had begged the Sorting Hat to spare him from Slytherin in his first year –
"Forward." The Auror announced curtly, making Harry jump from his thoughts in surprise. It had worked, he was in! Rushing forward and hoping the clear relief in his expression didn't cast suspicion he hurried forward, eyes raking the corridors until his gaze found a large metal number 3 gleaming dangerously above a dark stone archway. Checking his watch he saw he had no time to gather his thoughts and hurried inside, slipping into a free seat toward the back of the public gallery yet with a clear view of the court floor below. Before he had had time to register his luck, how George's potion had held strong, how –
"Witches and wizards of the Wizengamot, of the public and press" a loud, booming voice broke Harry's racing thoughts and demanded his attention "We are here today on a most notable date. One month today has passed since the end of the war and this court has sought justice from many of those responsible. Today our trials continue. Auror Grett, if you will." Harry's eyes instantly sought a burly, straight-faced wizard who Harry reasoned must be Auror Grett, who nodded in response to the instruction and rose to his feet.
"I command the presence of Mister Draco Lucius Malfoy." The wizards booming voice returned as Auror Grett opened the heavy wooden door with a loud creak and a strangled gasp escaped Harry's lips….