A/N This is my first full fanfic. It's a Post DH that disregards Snape's death, but pretty much follows all other events. I've literally read hundreds of the HP stories posted on this site and have had so much fun with them. Many have come very close, but none have yet to fill the void left for me in the realm of unresolved issues between Harry and Severus. So far this story doesn't either! But it's taken on a life of it's own, and somehow the Malfoys have dominated the first several chapters. I hope you enjoy it!
Chapter One - Failure to Thrive - Part I
The late spring of 1998 saw a terrific battle on the grounds of an educational institution housed in an ancient castle called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A boy named Harry Potter had attended that school and had spent the last seven years of his childhood preparing for the fight of his life against a maniacal dark wizard who had wreaked havoc on Wizarding Britain and beyond, for too long to measure. At seventeen, Harry had faced and defeated Lord Voldemort by forcing the monster to use his own evil magic upon himself. Harry had then made one singular statement to a new reporter for the Daily Prophet, Alec Corsi, saying simply that he had never worked alone, and that to call him the one who'd vanquished Lord Voldemort was a horrible disservice to all whose lives had been impacted by Tom Riddle's reign of terror. He had insisted that Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape be credited with plotting the ultimate strategy that had culminated with Harry's return to the school to face his nemesis. Harry agreed that he had taken the final step and cast the final spell to end the evil wizard's life, but everyone who had raised his or her wands to defend the Light had done their share to help him get to that point. He'd closed by saying that he'd take offense at anything printed in the future that labeled him alone as the one who'd saved them all.
Harry hadn't bothered to read the article itself, and therefore hadn't seen that Corsi had reprinted his words verbatim. Harry had also missed the exposé Corsi had begun which showcased the sudden and dramatic changes in the Boy Wonder's physical appearance. The changes that Harry himself was refusing to acknowledge. The changes that made him physically appear to be quite a bit younger than his seventeen years. The journalist had published a TriWizard Tournament photo beside a current photo of Harry taken just a week after the Final Battle. There was no visible difference between the dark haired boy-wizard in either photo.
In a matter of days, the buzz about the Boy Who Lived -Twice was that he'd deliberately de-aged himself to reclaim his lost childhood.
The combination of shock, grief, elation, and the sudden cease of the terror that had fueled Harry's actions for the better part of the past year didn't hit him until about two days after the Final Battle. Equally traumatized, his friends had allowed him to retreat to his godfather's house, where he cancelled the Fidelius charm and reset the wards. Then he set about ridding the old home of all of the dark magic and artifacts it contained. Days passed, then a week, as his fellow citizens set out to begin repairing their lives. In spite of their collective joy, no one seemed at all prepared to handle the depth of devastation they'd experienced both privately and as a society, and everything continued to feel upheaved. The Ministry of Magic had to purge itself of the criminals that had overtaken it. Escaped Death Eaters had to be caught. Trials had to be held. All of this had to be done with new and precariously understaffed leadership. Harry wanted no part of it, but had been informed that he would be called as a key witness for numerous hearings. And he himself had restitution to pay, to the goblins of Gringott's Wizarding Bank who had yet to respond to his attempts to begin a dialog. So far, they had not sought charges against the Golden Trio, but neither had they been willing to let Harry into the bank for a personal visit. His money was accessible by owl only. For reasons he'd not yet worked out, he'd requested a large sum in muggle funds and intended to open an account in a bank in muggle London.
Harry fully intended to throw himself into the clean up and rebuild of Hogwarts, which was set to begin in a few weeks. The realization that he had no life of his own to repair settled in heavily, and left him feeling very empty. He didn't even give the Dursleys a thought, figuring whomever was supervising their security would likely tell them they were free to return to Little Whinging. He accepted invitations to dinner at the Weasleys, but refused to move into the Burrow with his grieving friends. He kept his distance from Ginny, and as always, she seemed to realize it was for the best. He exchanged owls with Hermione when she went to fetch her parents in Australia. He attended funerals and dreaded the endless court appearances, all the while noticing a growing numbness in his emotions that he was powerless to overcome. The final blow to his heart happened when he'd gone to retrieve Snape's body from the Shrieking Shack and found the dilapidated structure to be burned to ashes. He barely recognized the spot it had inhabited. Clearly whomever had set fire to the building had done so with the intention to erase the last of what had remained of Severus Snape.
About two weeks after the battle, Harry made one public appearance in Diagon Alley on his way to muggle London. People recognized him, of course, but seemed to be able to read his moodiness and kept their distance, for which he was glad. He ignored their stares and pretended not to hear the muttered comments of wonder as to what spell he'd used to de-age his appearance. And other than an oddly friendly run-in with Lucius Malfoy, Harry had succeeded in avoiding conversation. He'd had to apply a glamour to look his age again and opened a new account in his own name. He left with a plastic ATM card and a book of temporary checks that he found quite cool. At Harrod's, he purchased a selection of comfortable muggle clothes that actually fit him. There would be no robes in his new wardrobe: just jeans, jumpers, T-shirts and trainers.
"Minister Shacklebolt," Narissa Malfoy failed to hide her surprise at the sight of the tall, dark war hero at her front door. The wards had alerted her that a Ministry official had just apparated onto the property and her stomach had clenched in dread. She held the door open for the newly appointed Minister of Magic. "Please come in."
"Thank you, Madam Malfoy," Kinglsey Shacklebolt said graciously.
"Minister," Lucius Malfoy greeted from behind Narcissa as he rushed into the foyer to stand with his wife to face whatever grim pronouncement the Ministry may have for them. "Welcome, would you care to join us in the garden for some tea?"
"Certainly, thank you Lucius," Kingsley agreed. His use of Lucius' first name put the blond man slightly more at ease.
Lucius took his wife's hand and they strolled along towards the massive doors at the back end of the lower level of the manor. He could see Kingsley's curious assessment of the interior, which was decisively stripped of nearly all of the furnishings and art, looking somewhat battered and abandoned.
"I see you've taken your commitments to heart," Kingsley said, "and rather quickly!" He chuckled. "Couldn't get rid of the aftermath soon enough, eh?"
Narcissa smiled nervously at him, not entirely sure that he was here for friendly reasons, but wanting to be on good terms with him nonetheless. "That is exactly the case, Minister."
"We will begin an extensive remodel immediately," Lucius added. "The manor will be unrecognizable to all who have known it in the past."
They reached the doors and exited to a grassy area under a tree, where the Malfoys had set up the chairs and tables they'd spent most of their recent days using. A transfigured gazebo-style roof hovered over the seating to protect them from the elements. When they were seated, Narcissa conjured a tea set and put tea in the teapot to steep. Within a couple of moments of light chitchat, tea was served and Kingsley started in without further preamble.
"I've been meeting privately with a number of peers and colleagues to form the plan for rebuilding the entire infrastructure of Wizarding Britain," he told them.
"I see," Lucius said.
Kingsley seemed to realize his hosts were unsettled by his appearance. He obviously had an agenda. "There is much to be done, so much more than trials and repairs to damaged homes and businesses. The most sensitive aspect will be the social interaction of the survivors."
"Ah," Lucius responded carefully. His wife's hand slipped into his. "I certainly agree that it will be a difficult recovery."
Kingsley nodded. "I want to quickly establish a model of the new norm in wizarding society," he told them. "It's foolish to hope that hatred and discrimination have been obliterated, but I believe initiatives can begin in that direction. The first action I will take is to have a thirty-day memorial of Voldemort's fall. I would want every citizen to feel comfortable enough to attend." He lowered his head and held each of his hosts' gaze for a serious moment. "Now that you've both faced the court and have a plan of action to rebuild your own lives, I would like your advice on how to best reintegrate the populous."
Lucius blinked rapidly, utterly flabbergasted to have been drawn into Shaklebolt's confidence to this degree. He clenched his jaw against a sudden rush of emotion and cleared his throat but could not disguise his feelings. "We would be honored to offer our input, Minister, and as well to act as role model to those who…, like us, had built their social lives around prejudice and malice. I would guess that many of my own… associates are feeling the stinging slap of reality quite strongly. I myself can tell you that Narcissa and I will be struggling with our own regrets, but we will be at the memorial with Draco, and will be certain to encourage those others to attend as well."
"Excellent. I am grateful to you both," Kingsley said.
"We don't deserve it, Minister, but we will endeavor to live up to the trust you have just shown us," Narcissa assured him.