A/N: Hello and welcome to the (fictional) eighth novel in the Harry Potter series! This story picks up immediately after the events of Deathly Hallows and follows Harry for his first year after the Battle of Hogwarts. It deals with themes of PTSD, grief/loss, and relationship issues as Harry attempts to rebuild his life. I attempted to stick to the canon as closely as possible with only a few creative differences – basically trying to fill in the gaps between Year 7 and where we know the characters ended up. I expect this story to run between 25-30 chapters or so when it's all said and done. Without further ado, please enjoy!


Harry Potter was running.

What he was running towards, or from, he did not know. He was hurtling through narrow passageways, down dilapidated corridors, past scores of bodies strewn across the stone floors of Hogwarts. He could hear the screams of fighters nearby, the jets of deadly spells ricocheting off the walls, the chaos of battle raging all around him. He was chasing somebody – or were they chasing him? He rounded a corner...found himself face to face with Lord Voldemort...saw him raise the Elder Wand in triumph…

Harry awoke with a loud gasp, sweating profusely. He promptly toppled out of bed and found himself tangled in the ruby-red curtains of the four-poster. He thrashed about violently, still in the dream, unable to free himself—

"KREACHER!"

There was a loud crack nearby. Harry felt himself tumble sideways as the curtains extracted themselves from his tangled body. There before him stood a small house-elf, wearing only a loin cloth, magically repairing the curtains above Harry's head.

"Master was having a bad dream?" Kreacher said in his low, guttural voice.

"No," Harry lied. "I just—"

"Master has been muttering in his sleep," Kreacher continued. "Days and nights Kreacher has watched Master toss and turn in his bed. Many people came to see Master, but they dared not wake him…"

Harry grasped at the bedside table for his glasses, jamming them onto his face. He squinted around the room, trying to get his bearings. He was in the Gryffindor dormitories, but whose he did not know. He did not recognize the posters on the wall...perhaps one of the lower years, who had been evacuated prior to the fighting? "Kreacher," he asked tentatively, "what day is today?"

"It is Monday," Kreacher said simply. "Master has slept for over two days since the Battle of Hogwarts."

The Battle of Hogwarts. The words rang in Harry's ears, taking him back to the struggle that had no doubt consumed his dreams for the past forty-eight hours. He remembered the fierce fighting in the halls...the death and destruction all around him...Voldemort's lifeless body falling to the ground before him…. The last image was enough to help calm Harry, to remind him that he was safe. The war was over. Voldemort was dead. But he remained uneasy all the same.

"Where is everyone?" he asked. "You said people came to see me?"

"Master's friends came to see him as he slept," Kreacher croaked. "They left him letters." And the house-elf pointed to the floor beside Harry, where he could see two folded pieces of parchment with his name on them. They must have fallen off the nightstand during Harry's flailing about in the bed curtains. Harry reached for them at once and unfolded the first, recognizing Hermione's scrawled handwriting at once:

Dear Harry,

Everyone is leaving the castle tonight and heading to The Burrow. We were going to take you with us, but McGonagall thought it best that you be left to sleep. Don't worry, a few Aurors have been left behind to make sure you're safe. Don't feel like you need to rush out of bed on our behalf. We're all okay! You can either Apparate to the Burrow or use the Floo Network if you prefer. Madam Rosmerta was told to expect you at the Three Broomsticks if you choose that way. See you soon!

-Hermione

Harry was surprised to feel relief at this message. His dream had brought him right back to the Battle, fearing for his friends' lives, running past bodies and not knowing who they belonged to. We're all okay! He folded the letter and stowed it in his pocket before reaching for the second. It was much more official-looking, and it bore a Ministry of Magic seal at the top:

Harry Potter,

I am requesting your presence in my office at your earliest convenience. There are a great many topics we need to discuss about the future. Things will be hectic at the Ministry for the foreseeable future, so please take your time and come when you are ready. Speak to Arthur Weasley if you would like to schedule a meeting, or drop in whenever you're available. I will always make time for you if you require anything at all.

Sincerely,

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister of Magic

It took Harry a minute to register the "Minister of Magic" title under Kingsley's name. He was so used to feeling a mixture of disgust and anger at whoever occupied the post, but Kingsley was a good man through and through. He knew he would do justice to the job and hopefully restore order to the Ministry after so many years of mismanagement and corruption. He pocketed the second letter beside the first.

Harry struggled to his feet, his muscles aching. It was then that he realized he was quite hungry. "Is there any food in the kitchens, Kreacher?" he asked hopefully.

"The kitchens were destroyed in the battle," Kreacher croaked. "The house-elves have all been sent away for the summer. Shall Kreacher find you something else to eat?"

"No, Kreacher, that's all right," Harry sighed, rubbing his forehead. His scar no longer hurt him, but it was an automatic reflex at this point. He felt like a walk through the grounds would do him some good, and he was sure he could find something to eat in Hogsmeade.

"Will Master require anything else of Kreacher?" asked the house-elf with a low bow. Harry noted the reverence in Kreacher's voice – a welcome change after years of contempt for him and his impure blood, or whatever he believed. Harry also noticed the small cuts and bruises on Kreacher's torso, and remembered seeing the house-elf during the Battle of Hogwarts, attacking the Death-Eaters he once pledged allegiance to, and Harry felt a great swell of pride.

"Just one more thing, Kreacher," said Harry. "Have you been to Grimmauld Place recently?"

"No, sir," said Kreacher. "It was seized by the Ministry after you broke in last year. It housed some very dangerous wizards."

"Can you go there and check to see if it's safe?" Harry asked. "See if anyone is still there, if they placed any enchanted traps? And don't stick around if it is dangerous!" he added hastily. "I don't want you to hurt yourself fighting anyone."

"Yes, Master," Kreacher bowed, and with another loud CRACK, he disappeared. Harry hadn't even thought about where he would live from now on – he'd been on the run for so long, staying in one place felt like a foreign concept to him. He had no intention of living at Grimmauld Place long-term, but as long as he owned it, he might as well make use of it until he figured out a more permanent housing situation.

Harry glanced around the room for anything else he might have left behind. On the bedside table he saw three wands of different lengths and materials. One was made of holly, eleven inches, phoenix feather core – his original wand from Ollivander's, freshly repaired. Harry examined it, relishing the warmth when he picked it up...it had been five long months since it was broken in Godric's Hollow fighting Nagini, and he was relieved to have it back and functioning properly.

The second wand was slightly shorter, made of hawthorn with a unicorn hair core. Draco Malfoy's. It had served Harry faithfully for the past few weeks, including in his final confrontation with Voldemort just two days prior. He examined the wand carefully, unsure of what to do with it. Should he turn it in to the Ministry? Break it? He certainly had no intention of returning it to its previous owner. He wondered what Draco and his family might be up to now...were they in hiding? Had they already been captured by Aurors? So many questions swirled in his mind that the Malfoys barely registered concern, so Harry pocketed the wand without a second thought.

The third wand was the most imposing of all. Fifteen inches long, elder wood, thestral tail-hair core. The Elder Wand. Harry handled it carefully, knowing its terrible power and history. But he also knew it answered to him, so he did not have to worry about what its previous ownership meant. He stowed it away in his cloak with the other two wands and set out to leave the dorms.

Harry swept from the room and descended the spiral staircase to the Gryffindor common room. It was quiet as expected, but the fire place was active, several logs burning happily in the grate. Harry found this curious. For a moment he wondered why he had to go all the way to Hogsmeade to use the Floo Network if he could've just left from here. Then he heard a shuffling behind him. Harry instinctively wheeled around, drawing his wand—

"Easy there, Potter," said a voice. Harry saw a large man seated at one of the tables, sipping a mug of steaming liquid and reading a copy of what looked to be The Daily Prophet. Harry lowered his wand. He recognized the man, but could not place where.

"Who are you?" Harry demanded, still keeping his wand at the ready.

"Name's Robards," said the man in a gruff voice, slowly getting to his feet. "I was posted here to make sure nobody bothered you while you slept."

Harry realized where he knew the man from now. He recognized his face from an article in The Daily Prophet, shortly after the Ministry fell to Voldemort. Gawain Robards had been head of the Auror Office under Scrimgeour, before Pious Thicknesse took over and the department was dissolved. Harry pocketed his wand and shook Robards' coarse hand.

"So you're back with the Ministry?" Harry asked.

"Indeed," said Robards. "Shacklebolt contacted all the old Aurors and offered us our jobs back shortly after the Battle. Not that I needed convincing. I was here fighting Voldemort alongside half the wizarding world this past weekend." Harry noted the pride in Robards' voice at this statement, and immediately knew that he could trust the man. Not only because he appeared loyal to Shacklebolt, but because he was unafraid to use Voldemort's name.

"Good to meet you, sir," said Harry.

"Likewise," said Robards. "I imagine this won't be our last meeting, eh Potter? Rumor has it you've got an eye on the Auror Office yourself. I daresay you won't have to apply, given what you've been through." He chuckled at this, and Harry managed a small smile. He hadn't given any thought to what he might do now that his quest to defeat Voldemort was over. It was true that he had wanted to become an Auror, but that was back when Voldemort was still at-large. Did Harry really want to sign up for a life of further conflict with Dark wizards and witches? He wasn't so sure anymore.

"Anyway, I expect you'll be wanting to head out now?" Robards continued. "I've been told to escort you down to Hogsmeade when you're ready."

"Actually, I'd prefer to go alone, if you don't mind," Harry corrected. "Get some fresh air. Clear my head."

"I suppose you've earned that right," Robards smiled. "Shacklebolt seemed concerned for your safety, but I don't think there's anything to worry about. No Death Eater will dare set foot on these grounds again after what happened here on Saturday. And besides," he added with a wink, "I reckon you could handle yourself if you got into trouble."

Harry was grateful for this gesture of faith. He had grown tired of adults treating him like a helpless child for so many years. "See you around, I suppose," he said, nodding his thanks to Robards before heading for the portrait hole. He considered pulling out his Invisibility Cloak, but did not see any point. It was unlikely he would run into anyone in the castle he did not want to see. He clambered through the hole and hustled off down the corridor before the Fat Lady could notice him.

Harry was struck by the extent of the damage to the school. He had to backtrack multiple times because of obstructions in his path, and several stretches of wall had been torn away completely, exposing the building to the outer air. Luckily it was a warm spring morning, and Harry enjoyed the rays of sunlight penetrating into areas of the castle that were once cold and gloomy. Harry also noticed the deep charred streaks of errant spells along the walls that did remain, and wondered how much of the magical damage could be repaired. He supposed Hogwarts might never look exactly the same – even after repairs, it would always bear scars and reminders of the terrible events that took place there.

Harry heard a faint squeaking noise as he passed an empty classroom. Curious, he turned and peeked through the open door, and saw something he never in his wildest dreams imagined possible. Peeves the Poltergeist, hanging upside-down from the ceiling, meticulously screwing in a fallen candle fixture to a chandelier. Harry gaped in awe: in all his years at Hogwarts, he had only ever seen Peeves destroying the place, never once helping to put it back together. Eventually Peeves sensed his presence and turned to meet Harry's gaze, his mouth contorting into a twisted smile.

"Our little secret, Potter!" he cackled, zooming past him through the open door. "No fun causing destruction when everything's already destroyed!" Harry watched the poltergeist go, then turned his attention back to the chandelier. It had cracked down the center, with half of the brackets falling away and sending candles spilling onto the ground below. Harry slipped into the room, drawing his wand and waving it at the chandelier.

"Reparo," he whispered. The crack repaired itself, and bits of brackets and candles levitated off the ground and reattached themselves. Harry assessed his work, satisfied. It was a small gesture, given the sizeable destruction all around the room, but the repairs would have to start somewhere, right?"

There was a sudden commotion behind him. "What're you—?" Argus Filch puttered into the room, pointing an accusatory finger at Harry, before he noticed the repaired chandelier. "Oh. Thanks for that, then," said Filch in a resigned tone. "Don't know why you bother. Gonna take an army of witches and wizards to put this place back together."

"I suppose you're right," Harry shrugged, stowing his wand away. "Excuse me, sir."

Harry brushed past Filch on his way out of the classroom. As he rounded a corner he could hear Filch muttering to himself: "Sir...you hear that, Mrs. Norris? No student's ever called me 'sir'. I could get used to that…"

Harry slowly winded his way down through the castle to the Entrance Hall. He glanced into the Great Hall briefly, half-expecting to see people seated at the long tables enjoying breakfast, but it was indeed empty. He wondered if Voldemort's body was still lying in the chamber beyond, but decided it didn't matter much. It wasn't really Voldemort anymore, just a hollow shell he had once inhabited before departing this world forever. Harry pushed this thought aside and stepped through the oak front doors out onto the grounds.

Harry closed his eyes momentarily and drank in the morning sun, feeling grateful to be out in the open. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been able to enjoy fresh air without worrying that somebody might be nearby, watching him, waiting to strike. He strode across the grounds towards Hogsmeade – it was a long walk, but he didn't mind. This was his true home. Hogwarts may lie in shambles now, but it would always be the place he found the most comfort in, where he felt like he belonged. He'd missed being here all last year, and nothing could tarnish the happiness he felt while on these hallowed grounds.

Harry glanced down towards the lake, where he could see Dumbledore's white tomb gleaming in the sunlight on its western bank. It still bore extensive damage from when Voldemort magically burst it open to steal the Elder Wand. Harry intended to return the wand to the tomb – but not yet. He would wait for the tomb to be repaired, when any passer-by could not just reach in and claim it for themselves. He would return some quiet night and reunite the wand with its rightful owner. Until then, he would act as its custodian.

Eventually Harry reached the iron fence marking the edge of Hogwarts territory. As he passed through the gate, he heard a faint voice whisper behind him: "Potter's on the move. He's walking into Hogsmeade now." Harry turned to see a stern-looking young witch standing beside the gate, just as she flourished her wand and send a silvery eagle Patronus soaring into the air. Harry recognized her as Amelia Proudfoot, an Auror who had been stationed at Hogwarts during his sixth year. He nodded in silent greeting, and she returned the gesture.

Harry knew he could now Apparate if he wished, head directly to the Burrow to see everyone, but Harry thought a warm meal and some Butterbeer in Hogsmeade sounded delightful. He knew everyone would want to talk to him when he arrived, and he relished in the peace and quiet he now enjoyed. They could wait a little bit longer to see him. Besides, he wasn't technically sure if it was legal for him to Apparate, considering he never got his license. Not that anyone would care, but still...

Harry could see a handful of witches and wizards milling about the Three Broomsticks as he approached the village. He kept his head low and kept a wide berth, heading further south towards the outskirts of Hogsmeade. He had no intention of entering a crowded pub and dealing with the throngs of people there, jostling to see him, to speak with him, to touch him. He had a quieter locale in mind…

Minutes later, Harry arrived at the dingy exterior of the Hog's Head. He half-expected it to be locked, but the door swung open at his touch, and he ducked into the pub. To his relief it was completely empty. "Aberforth?" Harry called out as he settled into a stool at the bar. He heard a creaking above him as the barman lumbered to the stairs. Then Aberforth Dumbledore emerged behind the bar, looking confused. A toothy smile appeared on his face at the sight of Harry.

"Well if it isn't the great Harry Potter," he laughed. "I wondered who might come calling at this hour."

"Wondered if I might get a bite to eat," Harry said eagerly. "D'you have any food?"

"Matter of fact I do," Aberforth grumbled. "Just ordered a fresh shipment last week for those hungry kids up at the castle. Yeh'd never believe how much twenty-odd teenagers consume on a weekly basis…" Harry chuckled, remembering the sight of Dumbledore's Army crammed into the Room of Requirement, hiding from the Carrows. He would have to speak with Neville one of these days about it...they had a lot to catch up on...but that was far down the list of things he had on his mind at the moment.

Aberforth disappeared into the back room, and emerged moments later with a thick cut of ham and a side of mashed potatoes. Harry eagerly devoured it all – he couldn't remember the last time he'd had a proper meal. Probably the week before at Shell Cottage, shortly before disembarking for Gringotts…but that felt like a lifetime ago by now.

As Harry dug into a second plate Aberforth provided, he noticed the long purple scar running along the barman's cheek. It looked fresh – Harry didn't remember him having it the last time he'd seen the man, prior to the battle. Aberforth must have noticed him staring, because he absent-mindedly stroked the wound and said, "Got this one from Dawlish during the fight," he muttered bitterly. "Wish I could say I repaid the favor, but I lost him in the crowd."

"Dawlish?" Harry frowned, confused. "Isn't he an Auror?"

"Was," Aberforth corrected. "Worked for Thicknesse after the Ministry got reshuffled. Technically the Auror Office didn't exist up until yesterday."

"But I don't understand," said Harry, gears turning in his head. "Dawlish fought for Voldemort?"

"He was likely Imperiused, m'boy," Aberforth mused, seemingly unfazed. "Soon as the Dark Lord was defeated, scores of his fighters lay down their wands and said they'd only been acting under his influence."

"And Dawlish was one of them?"

"No clue," Aberforth shrugged. "Haven't seen him since. S'pose the Ministry will be sorting that out over the coming weeks."

"But that's rubbish!" Harry said indignantly, forgetting his meal now. "What's to stop every Death Eater from claiming they were under the Imperius Curse? They can't all get away with that excuse!"

"I don't envy the blokes that have to figure out the liars from the victims," Aberforth agreed. "But I wouldn' fret over it, Potter. The Ministry are smart folk. They have ways of discerning the truth—"

"It took them a whole year to even realize he was back in my fifth year!" said Harry hotly. "They wouldn't know the truth if it hit them in the face!"

"Sure, with a dolt like Fudge in office, I expect they wouldn't," said Aberforth. "I trust Shacklebolt to treat the matter with utmost care. And you should too." Harry wasn't altogether comforted by this, but he didn't have the energy to argue the point further. He scarfed down the rest of his meal and stood to leave.

"Thank you, Aberforth," Harry said. "I...don't have any money with me, but I can come back—"

"You don't pay here," Aberforth reprimanded him. "You can eat here for free the rest of your life s'far as I'm concerned."

"Thanks, I guess," Harry shrugged.

"You could tell your D.A. friends to stop by every once in a while, though," Aberforth smiled. "T'would be nice to see those unruly blokes again. Besides, your old mate Longbottom owes me a few Galleons for all the Firewhiskey he 'borrowed' last term."

"I'll tell him," Harry smirked. "Farewell, Aberforth." He waved goodbye and exited the pub. Hogsmeade was bustling with more people now as the day progressed, and Harry didn't much fancy being spotted. He extracted his Invisibility Cloak from his cloak and threw it over himself before heading back towards The Three Broomsticks.

Harry slipped between two drunken wizards arguing outside the front entrance and into the main room. The place was full of customers, many of whom Harry recognized from the Battle. There was a table full of teachers, including Slughorn, Flitwick, and Sprout, all chatting merrily over goblets of Butterbeer. A few ex-students milled about the room as well, some of whom Harry hadn't seen in ages, such as Oliver Wood and Alicia Spinnet, who were talking animatedly about the upcoming Quidditch World Cup in Morocco. Harry hoped to reconnect with all of them in due time, but now was not the moment. He slipped behind the bar and into the back of the pub unseen.

Madam Rosmerta was in the storeroom refilling a keg of Butterbeer. "Hello, Rosmerta," said Harry, removing his Cloak, and Rosmerta yelped with fright, spilling Butterbeer all over herself.

"Good lord, Potter!" she exclaimed. "You could've announced yourself."

"Sorry, ma'am," Harry said hastily. He removed his wand and helped Rosmerta clean up the spilled drink.

"It's all right," huffed Rosmerta, still clearly annoyed. "They told me you might come through. Floo Powder's in the urn there; I expect you can let yourself out." Rosmerta hoisted the keg over her shoulder and swept from the room.

Harry walked towards the fireplace against the back wall. He reached into the silver urn sitting atop the mantle and grabbed a small handful of green powder, then stepped over the threshold and into the grate. He took a deep breath, knowing he was about to be bombarded by people. His troubles with Voldemort may be over, but he had a feeling he was in for a long summer nonetheless.

"The Burrow," he announced clearly, dropping the powder, and he felt himself spinning away into darkness.