Author's Note: This story is canon compliant up to, but not necessarily including, the Hallows epilogue and subsequent JKR interviews. That means that anything written after page 749 of HPDH and spoken of by JKR after the book came out is up in the air here. This story also has no relation to any other stories I've written, nor will any of their original characters be ported over.
In the ensuing months after The Battle of Hogwarts, it was decided that Harry Potter and his classmates would repeat their last year of schooling, even those who had lasted the year under then Headmaster Snape, creating a jumbo Class of 1998. The school year was uneventful, compared to the cataclysmic events of the previous seven, though issues did crop up…….as well as the aftershocks of the last days of the man who called himself Lord Voldemort. This is a chronicle of some of what happened after Harry Potter graduated from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
This story begins approximately 14 months after The Battle of Hogwarts and the death of Tom Marvolo Riddle:
Friday, July 2, 1999
Hogwarts Private Dining Area
7:30 pm GMT
Headmistress Minerva McGonagall surveyed the large class of graduates seated at the tables in front of her. Her remarks were to be brief, not a public speaker was she:
"I would like to congratulate all of the Hogwarts Class of 1998, both the students who were supposed to graduate this year, and those who should have graduated last year…….and would have, if not for certain events." She smiled ruefully and most of the young people shared her look. She paused and looked at the "Potter" table, as she had thought of it through dinner. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna……and George, who had returned for his final three months of school. Seven students, among many others, who had risked everything for Hogwarts. A tear fell down her face as she thought of it, and quickly turned her head so that people wouldn't see.
But they did, and it touched even the cynical heart of Blaise Zabini, he of the many step-fathers. She continued:
"You have all represented us honorably during your time here, and I know that you will continue to do so upon your entrance into our society." Nice words, and it took every ounce of willpower Harry and company had not to look over at Draco Malfoy as she said it, though a few of the faculty were not so reluctant. Young Malfoy had only been readmitted to school under a plea agreement with The Ministry, though he had kept as low a profile as he possibly could during the last year. To her credit, McGonagall had made it a blanket statement, whatever she privately felt about certain students.
"Now, if you will all stand and face The Sorting Hat."
They rose and the battered old hat was placed in front of the faculty table, it opened it's 'mouth', and in it's customary hoarse and sardonic voice, screamed out:
"You are hereby graduates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!"
This was a new addition to the "ceremony", a Flitwick suggestion, and everyone raised their glasses at his signal:
And a big cheer let loose, deafening the room, as fully one quarter of the student body was present.
The party began to break up a few minutes later, as McGonagall and Flitwick eased over to Harry's table, motioning for the no-longer-technically-kids to stick around. When it was just the nine of them:
"Congratulations to all of you, I am so proud. I only wish Albus and Fred could have been here to witness it." The Headmistress had had a new favorite student these last few months, George, and pretty much let him get away with whatever he wanted. He walked over and hugged her, which no one would have done to the pre-war McGonagall.
"Thank you ma'am, he would have loved it, they both would have." George had not been the purveyor of mayhem he had been before, since his twin's death, but he was still the funniest person they knew. McGonagall squeezed back, and over George's shoulder:
"Ronald, are you prepared for your new prank responsibilities?"
Ron would be joining WWW as a junior partner, entrusted with managing the shop, as he had little aptitude for inventions.
"Yes ma'am, I hope to live up to the family name." They all got a chuckle from that, even Hermione, who still disapproved, quietly, the entire idea of WWW.
"Miss Granger, you will need to report back here in three weeks to assist with the Hogwarts letters to the incoming students."
"I'll be here Professor, I can't wait to get started." Hermione would be the new History of Magic teacher, Binns having finally decided that retirement was what he wanted most from death. She would be the only one of the seven to remain at school, at least until the faculty wore Harry and Neville down into returning someday.
"I'm sure I'll see everyone soon. Thank you." She shook hands with all of them, and a silent Flitwick followed her out the door. Harry took a long look at his friends, and decided that haste did not make waste.
"Well I'll see you all on Sunday, must get going." He walked as quickly out of the room as dignity would allow, and it was telling that no one was trying to stop him. Hermione and Luna looked like they were tempted though, and Hermione had "that look" on her face as she addressed it.
"This has got to stop, I mean honestly."
Ron shrugged, he and Harry had reached an agreement not to talk about it any longer.
"What do you expect Hermione? I mean he gets an hour of sleep every night, if that."
"There must be some potions out there that he hasn't tried."
Harry had been plagued with nightmares when he could get to sleep and insomnia the rest of the time, ever since he had 'died'. The Boy Who Lived had not gotten more than two hours sleep in any night in 14 months, and Pomfrey had exhausted her options. The four other Eighth Year Gryffindor boys had taken to be on Harry watch on a rotating basis, especially after a November incident had almost destroyed the room around them when Harry thought he was being attacked. It had been a long school year for everyone involved, and Harry's jet black hair was now streaked with white.
Neville just shook his head as he prepared to leave.
"He won't take them Hermione, you know that. He's afraid that he's going mad, and I'm not sure that he's wrong."
"He needs to talk to us."
"Have you ever died Hermione? He wonders every night if he's going to wake up again, and I think part of him wouldn't mind it if he didn't. No, Harry will talk to us if and when he's ready, and not before." Neville himself had been plagued with 'what if' questions ever since he had learned of his own potential role in Trelawney's Prophecy.
Hermione knew that on some level Neville was right, but she wouldn't admit defeat.
"I'll talk to him at The Burrow on Sunday, I'll have Molly tie him down if necessary."
Ginny didn't say a word, she was the next out the door. She was starting the Muggle Affairs Office on Monday, as Arthur's assistant. She and Harry had called another halt to their relationship once Harry had started becoming unstable, but none of them kept a closer non-nighttime eye on him than she did.
Luna put her hand on Hermione's arm.
"We'll try again Hermione, as much as it takes." Hermione squeezed the hand, she could always count on Luna.
"Thanks Luna, I know we'll get through eventually. Maybe being away from here will do him some good."
The five of them walked back up to The Great Hall, where their trunks were waiting for them. There was no Hogwarts Express for the graduates, as they would all be Apparating or Flooing to their residences, and most goodbyes had been said before the dinner. They got up there to find, not surprisingly, that Harry had already left. He would be living in Grimmauld Place, the old Order headquarters.
Neville was set to join him there the following week, at his own insistence, feeling that Harry needed someone to keep a loose eye on him, and his friend had barely put up a fight about it. Ginny and Ron would still be living in The Burrow for the time being, just down the road from Luna and her father, while Hermione was going to enjoy one last vacation in Majorca with her dentist parents before she took over her quarters at Hogwarts.
An hour later:
Number 12 Grimmauld Place:
Harry arrived in his 'new' home with such a sense of relief that he couldn't have described it to anyone even if they had asked him to. The house was totally empty, not a house elf or servant in sight, and he spent his first 30 minutes of post-graduation just walking around. He had visited this house during the Easter vacation, after being coerced into a Burrow Christmas, but it hadn't been the same as now. Kreacher was still at Hogwarts for the time being, as Harry just did not want the reminder right now. Speaking of which:
He walked over to a wizard photograph hanging on the wall. It was of Remus and Tonks, holding young Teddy.
"Well I did it guys, I got out of that place in one piece." He paused for a moment, almost as if expecting an answer.
Instead, Remus and Tonks just waved at him, smiling happily. The sight lifted his spirits even more as he looked at the baby, who was now over a year old and living with his maternal grandmother, Andromeda Tonks. The sight of Remus smiling always rocked Harry a little, since his parents' friend always seemed either sad or serious in Harry's memories. This photo, which he had not seen taken of course, was quite literally his only memory of Remus laughing.
"Don't worry Teddy, I'll be looking out for you. I won't abandon you the way I was, I promise."
Unpacking was slow and deliberate, after which he took a stroll around the neighborhood, getting re-familiar with the sights and sounds of his new home. He worked up a nice sweat, and after a long shower sat down to read a little. He dozed off around 10:00 and did not wake up until 2:30 am, and only then due to a call of nature that would not hang up.
It was his longest sleep in over a year, he even got two hours afterward before the nightmares woke him up again. The next night he would still get four hours, off and on, even though every slight noise woke him up, wand quickly drawn and at the ready. It was a start though.
Sunday, July 4, 1999
Molly Weasley bustled around her kitchen, getting ready for the big graduation party. It wasn't often that a family had three children graduating from the same school at the same time, especially three children of differing ages…….but the Weasley matriarch was very pleased with how the last year had gone. She peered at the family clock, which now had places for Hermione and Harry, and saw that everyone was either there or in transit, aside from Harry. No one had been in mortal peril, to her eyes, since the Battle of Hogwarts.
Though back in November Ron had almost been taken out by a screaming, extremely sleep deprived Harry, who was convinced that his roommates were Death Eaters attempting to finish some business. But Molly didn't know about any of that, and it was a sign of Ron's maturity that he not only held nothing against Harry, but had kept it quiet from the Weasley adults as well.
By 12:30 everyone was there but Harry, and he arrived 10 minutes later as everyone was sitting down to eat. He squeezed Molly's shoulder as he took his place between her and Ginny.
"Sorry I'm late, I got caught up in something." He was smiling, somewhat pleasantly, and Molly ventured a question:
"How have you been sleeping Harry dear?"
Indeed everyone was peering rather closely at him, they could actually see white in his eyeballs rather the bloodshot look of the past months. Hermione's theory was now looking pretty golden. Harry wanted to be irritated by the scrutiny, but understood where it came from and that he, to an extent, deserved it.
"Not bad actually, though I'm still getting used to the place. Neville, your wing is all set up, you can move in any time."
"I've got my stuff with me here, I was figuring on going back with you."
"Works for me." He dug into the slice of glazed ham on his plate and proceeded to demolish, figuratively, every bit of food Molly could put in front of him. He said little, aware that everyone would be reading much into any word or gesture he made. Molly and Arthur, grateful that he had shown up at all after all his Christmas resistance, chose not to prod him about what he had been doing, and instead let Percy and Hermione dominate the conversation, as was the usual habit lately.
Percy was now serving as the Deputy Chief Scribe to The Wizengamot, which as the title suggests was pretty much eight hours a day of paperwork. It was not quite a demotion from his old position, but he seemed happy with it. He had moved back home after the battle and his relations with his siblings had never been stronger.
He still wouldn't go near Arthur's shed though, with it's muggle items. He told his father that a line had to be drawn somewhere.
Hermione was all bubbling excitement about her new job, she had been the only Class of 1998 member to have been offered an immediate spot on the faculty. She and Ron were still a couple, though she had firmly told her boyfriend that there was to be no talk of marriage anytime soon. Molly had dropped so many hints over Easter that Hermione was wary of even thinking about becoming an official Weasley before she was settled in adulthood. She let none of that show here, and instead continued her Percy project, which was meant to ensure no more ostracism of the 'odd' Weasley. She basically interviewed him throughout the meal, but was so skillful at it that Percy didn't seem to understand that he was being manipulated.
Harry just sat there and listened to it, not contributing any words but nodding at the appropriate places in the discourse. He was full of energy after his extra, for him, sleep of the last two nights. He didn't want to get people's hopes up though, or perhaps even his own.
No such luck though, as Hermione snagged him for a walk after the dessert was finished. Her new 'cause' was the rights of garden gnomes, and whenever she visited The Burrow she made a point of taking them some food. Usually Ron went with her, and everyone assumed that they were just going off to snog.
Not this time though, and Harry was feeling just chipper enough to make a joke about it, once they got to the hedge, though they were still just in sight of the kitchen window if a person inside the kitchen was looking from the correct angle.
"You know, not that I would mind a snog with you Hermione, in theory, but I think Ron would hex us both……." That's as far as he got before she swatted him on the arm.
"Oh shut it you." She was grinning though, Harry had not been one for too many jokes over the last year or so.
"Shut it eh? I thought we were out here to talk? Or was the idea that you would do the talking and I would do the listening?" He sounded genial enough when he said it, but he just assumed that was what she wanted. Indeed Hermione did have a mental list of questions ready.
"You look rested."
"Four hours a night the last couple."
"Do you feel better?" Said in her earnest Hermione way, and Harry responded to it.
"A little yeah. It's hard, but I'm getting by."
"And the nightmares?"
"Still there, but not as bad the last couple of nights."
"A corner has been turned maybe?"
Harry was wondering why these seemingly obvious questions needed to be asked in private, but he decided to let Hermione un-spool this out in her own way and did her the courtesy of being honest.
"Maybe, one can hope anyway." His voice tried for noncommittal, but Hermione was tuned to it enough that she could hear the hope. She took his hand and squeezed it, he squeezed back.
"I'm glad Harry. I was hoping that leaving the castle would do that for you."
"So was I, though I'll still come visit you occasionally."
"You'd better. Does this mean that you and Ginny might have a chance?" An abrupt segue.
Here was where the wicket got a bit stickier, and Harry was a bit wary of how much to share here. He knew that while Hermione would choose him over Ginny in theory……..but at least now he knew the real reason she had brought him out to talk.
"Just between you and me?"
Hermione know this wouldn't be good, but there was nothing else to say but:
"Then no, I don't want to try again with Ginny. I love her, really I do……but there's just so much pressure attached. It just radiates from Molly every time I see her, that's mostly why I didn't want to come here for Christmas. It's just too much sometimes and I have so many other issues to deal with. It's like if we don't wind up getting married and having kids and whatnot, then everyone will be so disappointed. Better they get a little disappointed now than that much more so later." That was the longest speech Harry had ever given on the subject of Ginny since it had all happened, Ginny was another area where he and Ron had simply agreed to drop it.
"Perhaps that's another area where time and some distance from events might help?" Hermione said this because she felt that she must, but in reality she fully sympathized with the idea of Molly pressuring. It was one reasons she had put off marriage with Ron, to the point of even discouraging him from trying to propose.
"I won't rule it out, if that's what you're hinting at." His voice had a distinct lack of enthusiasm for ruling it in, so Hermione shifted tack a hair.
"Does Ginny know?" She sure sounded hopeful that she did.
"I've dropped some hints, but nothing has been flat out said. Is that what you brought me out here for? To talk about Ginny? I mean none of your other questions needed to be private." No more patience with un-spooling, or so it seemed, but Harry's voice was gentle and curious.
"Would you rather I had asked about her in there?"
"That would have been a little tacky……….but I still would have responded honestly. Probably." A rueful smile accompanied that last word.
"I guess I just wanted an inside scoop, I know they're all wondering about you, after the way the last year has been. I felt you might respond to someone who isn't pressuring you."
Harry's first thought was that this was indeed pressure, but for some reason he could take it better from Hermione than Molly.
"Look, Ginny and I are not a couple, and while I'm not seeking any dates out, I don't really want to have to talk about it with them all the time. Ron's left it alone, thank God, George too, and I'm going to be grateful for large favors and not press my luck."
"Fair enough, though I won't promise not to bring it up again."
That elicited a smile from Harry, and he took a piece of bread from her and hurled it over to the garden gnomes. By now the gnomes recognized Hermione, the lack of red hair was the proverbial dead giveaway, so they always knew that a meal was present when she was…….so they were waiting patiently on the other side of the hedge, giggling all the while.
The two of them talked Quidditch for a bit, something Hermione was getting more and more used to as Harry had signed to play with Puddlemere United, home to his old captain Oliver Wood, not to mention his old teammate Katie Bell. Training began in two weeks and Harry was due to start informal training a week before that. She still didn't want to hear about strategies or moves or anything of the like, but she tried to draw Harry out any nerves he might be feeling, or whether turning down the Auror Academy had been a good idea or not. It was shades of Percy actually, but unlike his red haired friend Harry was all too hip to it.
But he didn't mind, after all that time on the road during Hallows year, Harry was willing to indulge pretty much anything from Hermione if it made her happy.
They wandered back to the house, where Harry was prevailed upon to eat some more treacle tart. Not that he needed much prevailing in point of fact, it was much better than the store bought version he had purchased the day before at Sainsbury's and polished off 30 minutes later, he was at least comforted by the fact that his appetite was coming back. Molly, again sensing an opening, volunteered to get Harry and Neville a regular Sunday supply of it. To her shock Harry smilingly agreed, and even volunteered to do a de-gnoming once a month in compensation. Molly finally relaxed around him, and Arthur was full of good cheer as well.
Everything ended on a friendly note and more visits were promised. Harry and Neville flooed back to Grimmald Place and got Neville set up in record time. They were in the kitchen eating spaghetti when Neville brought up the party.
"So today wasn't too painful, was it?" Neville thought he was making a joke, but Harry's response had a slight edge to it.
"Everyone needs to stop building things up so much, not everything in life needs to be so momentous."
Neville kept smiling, to try and defuse the sudden tension.
"That's the way we've been trained you know."
"Well we need to un-do that training for the time being." Harry's tone of voice was equal parts exasperated and amused, but Neville's continual smile was making him…….well he wasn't frowning.
"Until the next Voldemort comes along."
"That'll be someone else's problem then, I'm done with it."
"If only it will be that easy. You're the next Dumbledore, you realize this don't you?"
The Daily Prophet had been full of speculation about this very theory, so it wasn't news to Harry.
"I don't see why you can't be the next Dumbledore, Mr. Auror-to-be."
Neville was the only member of the DOM crew to accept the invitation to join the Auror Academy, though all of them were asked. Even Luna, who no one even in her circle thought of as Auror material, was recruited, but she was going to right to work for her father at The Quibbler.
"This is just something to keep me occupied until Professor Sprout retires, it's not like I have ambitions to be Head Auror or anything."
"Maybe you should, I'd love to see you as Minister someday."
That lightened up the conversation, as while they cleaned up the dinner mess they had a lively discussion of the new Minister and what he should be doing. Gawain Robards, who had succeeded Rufus Scrimgeour as Head Auror, had been elected back in January. Robards had largely sat out the Pius Thicknesse administration, such as it was, taking a leave of absence to deal with 'family matters'. Not many knew quite what to make of that reason, but he had still survived the war with his reputation intact, which was more than a lot of Ministry workers could say. Thicknesse had been under Imperious the entire time, but was still seen as a security risk and was currently shunted into a mid-level position within the Ministry.
As they were heading off to their respective rooms, Neville threw out what he thought would be another innocuous comment:
"I wonder what Malfoy will be doing now?"
He was surprised when Harry jerked to a stop, with a curious look on his face.
"I don't know Neville, I've been wondering too." Harry and Malfoy had not exchanged a word since the final battle and Harry's one part that he was willing to play in the political aftermath was to vociferously argue against any amnesty for high ranking Death Eaters, including anyone with the surname Malfoy. He did so in private though, not wanting to use The Daily Prophet against someone else the way it had been used against him……so he was unclear if his old adversary even knew about it.
"He's kept his nose clean, you have to give him that much."
"I don't have to give him anything, he tried for a year to kill Dumbledore. Luna was a prisoner in his family's house, his nuthouse aunt killed Dobby…….need I go on?"
"I'm just saying, it's possible for people to change. I mean Snape pulled it off, somehow, there's no reason Draco can't either."
This was very Dumbledorian of Neville, wanting to see the best in people, or at least the best that the 'could' be, and Harry had to admire that. He grudgingly said so out loud now:
"Well like you said, if he keeps his nose clean, I won't bother him."
They said their goodnights and Harry went into his room. Neville lingered for a bit and put up a Listening Charm on Harry's doorway area. The rooms were not soundproofed, and Neville felt it was best to hear if Harry's nightmares got particularly intense.
They didn't, at least not this night, as Harry's Death Eater dreams only woke up Neville one time, though in the brief moment that he was awake, he distinctly heard Harry say:
"I'll kill you Malfoy!"
It only happened one time that night though, and after Harry volunteered the next morning that he got just a bit less than five hours of sleep, Neville decided not to mention it unless it became a recurring theme.
Flashback to Graduation Night:
One hour after the dinner ended:
Draco took his trunk out of his pocket, tossing it still shrunk onto his bed. The house was riddled with anti-Apparition wards and he had had to floo in from Hogsmeade, so he knew that his parents would have heard the fireplace firing. He counted the seconds in his head and was not surprised when he did not reach 30 before his mother strode in, putting her arm around him in a way that she never would have deigned to before certain events.
"Draco, why didn't you tell us you were home?"
"I wanted to put my things away first, I was going to come by the parlor in a minute." His father chose that moment to walk in then.
"Draco, welcome home."
"Thank you Father."
Both brief and to the point, with not so much as a handshake, so Mother Malfoy filled the breach.
"How was the Leaving Dinner?"
"It was fine, McGonagall was boring as usual, but nothing really happened."
"Well it's good to have you back here." She hugged him again, and this time he responded a little bit, though his mother's warmth toward him was still a bit hard to get used to. She swept out of the room at an unseen signal from Lucius, and the Malfoy boys were alone at last.
"Are you prepared to start work on Monday, or will you want to take a holiday? Our cottage in Bermuda has been restored and is ready for you if you want to go there for a week or two."
Work was Malfoy Enterprises, what was left of the family business after Ministry fines and other reparations that Lucius had been required to pay in order for he and the rest of the family to have a theoretically clean slate. Draco had accepted the job offer for lack of any other non-Quidditch options, and he was still wanting to lay low for awhile, telling the Cannons that he was not interested in playing during the coming season. He was a bit surprised at the vacation offer though, this was not like his father.
"I'm ready to begin work whenever you need me to Father."
"Very well, you shall come with Monday, we have some meetings to attend to."
"That's fine, I'll be ready." This was hard business, being so stiff and formal all the time, but young Malfoy was finally getting used to it. He had suspicions of his father's offer, and it was quickly rewarded.
"Good, we'll be going to Knockturn to meet with some people about The Ministry."
"What are the meetings to be about?"
"As I said Draco, The Ministry. It has new policies and people, and we must be ready to bear influence on both if we are to thrive in this new order of things."
"Are you supporting Robards then?"
"No this family will not support that coward. I could respect him a little bit if he had chosen the other side and been part of the victory, but instead he fled. There are other options to pursue, and you will be a key part of those discussions."
This was what Draco had been afraid of.
"Really, you are aware that I'm only 19 years old?" So much for the formality, though he stopped short of the sarcastic drawl that he was aching to break out during times like this. Lucius seemed to sense this, but then again his own sneer never truly left his face.
"You are the scion of this family Draco and thus a leader of those who share our views."
"What makes you so sure that I still share your views of the world? This is our longest conversation in over a year." He was not rewarded by so much as a flinch, bluffing though he was.
"Because you have no other choice, no other options. The Potter side will not take you, and you want the ease and influence that our money will allow you. Be at breakfast by 7:00 am Monday morning, we leave an hour later." With that, he left the room, not bothering to close the door behind him. Draco, relieved that he would not need to be dining with the family during the weekend, flipped the door closed himself with his wand and sat on his bed, pondering.
Monday morning would be here soon enough.