Regrouping - Part I
"I've no valid reason to employ deputies on the rest of the operation at this point," Kingsley told him. He held up a hand to ward off Severus' argument. "I've concluded that I have two options, and both are completely within the capabilities of the aurors I trusted with tonight's activities. I have to think about the court hearings that will follow, and the letter of the law being brought to question by the defense."
Severus sighed heavily. "I agree," he said reluctantly. "I most definitely want this to be over for the victims. But the fact that that bastard Rabastan remains suspended from a tree above my home-"
"The Anti-Severus room, yes," Kingsley snorted. "Not particularly impressive, that."
Severus relented and smiled slightly. "What are these two options you are considering?"
"Well, either way, we will cut him down from the tree," Kingsley told him, "and contain him in his sanctuary to transport him to the Ministry Explosive Spell Reversal Room. Option one would be to keep him stuck in there until hunger and bodily needs make him tell us the enchantments required to reverse the spells on the interior-"
"Which would cancel the magical expansion, and force his body to shatter the walls of his tiny home," Severus supplied. "An entirely acceptable solution."
Kingsley grinned. "Or, we will leave him in place and deconstruct it ourselves," he said. "Both have their risks, and the latter could result in spell reverberation that would of course endanger my aurors, but it is less questionable in the eyes of the courts, because it protects the prisoner's safety. I intend to sleep on it, extensively. I hope Lestrange won't be needing the loo." He clapped Severus on the shoulder. "I will keep you informed."
They shook hands and bade each other good night. Kingsley made a point of addressing Narcissa and Hermione, and Severus heard him say that he would seek them out for their statements in the next day or so. Severus checked in with Poppy about Lucius and was informed that she and Professor Flitwick had not yet found the curse that resided in the senior Malfoy's leg, but had identified a healing charm that would significantly reduced the drain on Lucius' strength, and also minimize the discomfort. She was in the process of measuring out his doses of Skelegrow, as he now would have enough magical strength to safely to heal his bones.
"He'll be on his feet tomorrow," Poppy said. "And he'll be able to move about normally. The curse will eventually need dealing with, but I'll leave that for another day. We will likely consult with St. Mungos. Now, with Draco, I'm less certain. I need to see how he is when I pull him out of his sleep. His magic may have suffered some damage that will take longer to repair."
"But his brain activity is normal?" Severus asked.
"It is," she confirmed. "He'll be back to his charming self in no time." Poppy had not interacted with Draco since sixth year, and he'd been at his personal worst with her that year, so her tone suggested she'd be happy for him to remain asleep.
Severus stepped closer and asked softly. "And Narcissa?"
"She suffered some bad bruising and minor cuts. She's nearly healed already," Madam Pomfrey said. She knew what Severus wanted to know, however. "She's more traumatized than physically injured, Severus."
He nodded that he understood and murmured his thanks. "And Harry?"
Madam Pomfrey gave him a sharp look. "The next forty-eight hours or so with tell with that. I'm hopeful, Severus. He has far more support in his life now than he ever had in the past, and that is a huge factor in the psychological aspects of the Syndrome. The physical ones remain more of a mystery. His injuries were minor, so as I said, I am hopeful."
Harry joined the circle of deputized aurors in time to be told by Kingsley that their duties had been completed. He wasn't quite sure how he felt about that, being that he wanted to be certain Rabastan paid for having hurt Narcissa and scaring Hermione. But, he also figured that this way, there would be less chance that he'd take the law into his own hands again. After today, Harry knew he had no desire to have a career as an auror. But he did like the idea of being someone who could be called up to help, once in a while.
Severus made his way over to the group and shook hands with all of the fellow wizards who were now about to take their leave. Arthur announced that he'd like to host a gathering at the Burrow in a week, when the dust had settled, and they could all regale each other with their tales of battle. Harry caught Severus watching him during all of this and could see his concern. Something else was there as well, some sort of conflict.
A very deep desire to go back to Grimmauld Place settled in, so Harry was one of the first to leave, right after Hermione.
They stepped through into the parlor to find Molly waiting up for them. She fussed over Hermione for a short while, before shooing her off to bed. Severus lingered for a moment longer, but then seemed to realize Molly wanted to speak with Harry alone, so he excused himself as well. Harry wanted to ask about Luna, but resolved to wait until he could speak with her himself.
"I know Ginny had harsh words for you just before all of this occurred," Molly told Harry when they had the room to themselves. They were still standing, and she had her hands cupping his shoulders.
"Yeah," Harry said. He wasn't ready to discuss any of it, but he could tell that Molly had something to say to him, and by now knew there was no point in trying to avoid hearing her. "It feels like a lifetime has passed since then."
"I'm sure it does, dear," Molly said. "Harry, Arthur and I have had several long discussions on the matter of our own grudges against Lucius Malfoy."
Harry nodded dully, hating to hear this. He remembered quite clearly how Lucius had treated the whole Weasley family in the past, and especially how antagonistic he'd been to Arthur.
"After Ron told us about the way that locket horcrux had affected him," Molly continued, "enough to turn his back on his two dearest friends, we've had to take into account that the diary likely had the exact same qualities."
Harry bit his lip. "I don't remember it being as vile," he said in all honesty. "It was far more subtle. I think it raised alarms for me back then because of the way my scar hurt, but otherwise, I was just as easily influenced as Ginny. I imagine it fed right into all of Lucius' prejudices while he had it."
Molly pressed her lips together. "I have a lot of anger at that man," she declared. "But he's managed to gain both Hermione's and Ron's confidence, and Merlin knows he got through to you when none of the rest of us could. And, Arthur seems to be continuously faced with coming to his family's aid. It's as if the gods are asking us to make some concessions."
"He didn't even use his wand to fight Rodolphus," Harry told her. "Narcissa told me that none of them want to be treated with any more privilege than any of us would be afforded, and they're taking their probationary restrictions to heart. They're all trying, Mrs. Weasley."
"That much has been very clear to Arthur," Molly agreed. She slid her hands down to take Harry's in hers. "We both witnessed the confrontation between you and Ginny, and how Lucius was right there for you, right away." Harry just nodded uncomfortably. "Harry, Ginny does not speak for the rest of us, alright dear?"
"She is completely right to be angry with me," Harry said. "I can easily see that. I can see myself reacting the same exact way under different circumstances." His breathing became agitated as his old sense of abandonment returned. "But she and I could never really see things the same way because she has always had something that I don't. She has always known where she belongs, when all is said and done. She is a Weasley."
"We've considered you one of us all along, Harry," Molly said emphatically.
"I know," Harry told her quickly. "But you weren't able to help me in the ways I needed the most, right at the time that not having that help really messed me up. And I know that was because of Dumbledore, and all of the laws, and manipulated circumstances. But when the dust settled, I didn't feel like I belonged with the Weasleys. I felt our strong friendship, and always will, but for me, it doesn't really feel like family." He looked beseechingly at her for understanding and found her nearly in tears. "Maybe if things could have worked with Gin and me, and I could get past this syndrome and be a normal person, then I'd feel differently."
"There is nothing about you that is not normal, dear." she chided. "Arthur and I love you like a son. We are heartbroken that Ginny has rejected you. We wanted a wedding between you two one day to finally officially have you in the family."
Harry covered his face with his hands. All of this was just making him feel more guilt and conflict. "I don't know what to say to that," he whispered, trying not to give into tears.
"You don't have to say anything, dear," Molly said. "I just want you to know where you will always stand with the Weasleys."
She hugged him. "You'd best try to get some sleep, Harry. This whole day of drama can't be good for your health."
"Yeah alright," Harry agreed. When she'd disappeared into the floo network, he sat heavily back on the sofa and felt the return of the heaviness. This time is was all consuming, and the force of it made him flop back against the cushions, eyes on the flames.
"You need rest, Harry," Severus chided from the doorway sometime later.
Harry kept his eyes on the flames. "I won't sleep tonight, and I'll just get frustrated with tossing and turning if I go to bed." He'd watched the older wizard approach him through the corner of his eye, and flinched involuntarily when Severus seemed to reach down to take him by the arm.
Severus froze, then stood straight. "I was going to ask you to perform a healing charm-"
Harry blinked. "Uh, yeah, sorry," he looked up at Severus and realized the older wizard was dressed for bed, in flannel sleep pants and loose t-shirt. He had a sweatshirt tossed over his shoulder and a jar of salve in one hand. "I don't know any healing charms, though."
"Which is why I had you in mind," Severus said. "I will teach you the one to use with this bruise paste." He held the jar out to Harry and pulled his T-shirt over his head, sitting at an angle so that his back was to Harry.
"Uh, Severus?" Harry said, not just a little bit awed by the view of his former professor's rather well defined back. "What you ought to do is have Hermione heal you. I think she'd benefit from seeing how yoked you are."
"Mr. Potter," Severus said, clearly attempting to sound stern, but amusement won out. "I have asked you to do it for precisely that reason. There is a time and a place for such things, and it is not here and now."
"Pfft," Harry tsk-ed sarcastically, opening the jar. "I sat through your classes with her for six years. I know she always had a thing for you, and she still does."
"I am not interested in having this discussion with you, young man," Severus said more firmly. "She and I have already addressed the subject. It is not yet time. Understand?"
"Yeah," Harry said in a put out tone. "So how do I do this, then?"
Severus instructed Harry on applying both the salve and the sing-song healing charms to the three rather brutal abrasions he'd suffered while he'd dueled Rodolphus. He was not oblivious to Harry's demeanor, which was coming across as superficial. But the boy had been concerned that Severus had been walking around with these injuries nearly the whole day. Severus had dismissed Harry's worries with a flip comment about having a high pain threshold. When the healing efforts were concluded, he put his T-shirt and sweatshirt on and turned to face the boy. "Returning to the subject of your sleep," he said. Harry sighed and was already back to staring sullenly at the fire. Severus rolled his eyes. "I suggest you go take a hot shower and put on pajamas. If that doesn't relax you enough for bed, then come back down here and glower into the fireplace again."
Harry turned to give him an unreadable look. They stared at each other while Harry debated his willingness to cooperate, and cooperation won out. Harry left to do as he was told, and Severus transfigured a couple of the cushions so that he could partially recline on the sofa and commence studying the flames himself, realizing he wouldn't be likely to sleep until his mind had processed the day's events from all angles.
When Harry returned to the parlor, he had indeed relaxed and had also grown very quiet. He circled around the table and crawled over the cushions to sit beside his former professor, and allowed himself to be wedged in between Severus and the sofa back. The strong arm that had known exactly when he needed comfort throughout the day's drama was now draped heavily over his shoulders. The flames danced and Harry stared, and instead of fretting, his mind actually quieted a bit. This is what safe feels like.
"Will you tell me what you've been pondering in your quiet moments since Hermione returned?" Severus asked quietly.
Harry kept his eyes on the flames. "I was just remembering things, and having sentimental thoughts, I guess."
Severus ignored the way his stomach tightened. "Were you thinking of your godfather?"
Harry nodded. He didn't have to look at Severus to know this wasn't a pleasant subject for him. "I don't really know how to explain it. I just kind of wish I could tell him about how you and I teamed up today, and how great it was. It's stupid, because neither one of you would want me to, but…"
"Tell me," Severus said softly, feeling the sudden tension in Harry's body from where he sat so close by.
"It just meant a lot to me, Severus," Harry said, and his voice broke. He wanted to tell Severus that he'd reached damned near to god status today in Harry's eyes. But that thought made him remember how close Sirius had come to the same thing, and that brought an intense flash of heartbreak.
"I believe I understand what you are saying," Severus said.
"I know it's a fantasy," Harry said roughly. "But there were so many times when I was younger that I wished for-" he couldn't say it. It just plain hurt too much to go there.
"What did you wish for?"
"This." Harry said. He swiped at his eyes and grabbed Severus's arm as it crooked around his neck to hug him. "I just really needed this."
"And you should have had it, Harry," Severus said. He rested his chin on Harry's head for a while until the boy had composed himself. "And you do have it now. I can't think of anything that has ever mattered to me more than this."
The clock on the mantle read half three in the morning. The two dark haired wizards continued to study the flames in a comfortable silence.
"George collected some memories from me," Harry said after a long while. "He said he's ready to do a demonstration with the cubic pensieve."
"He is," Severus confirmed. "He'd finished a prototype just before Fred's memorial. I've yet to see it, but have a fair idea of how it will work."
"He said he was only allowing memories from post-Voldemort times. He went in to see Lucius, too." That thought made Harry smile. "Ten galleons says that we will get to see the Lucius versus Rodolphus showdown."
That made Severus chuckle. "I'd actually pay real money to see that."
"Ginny gave me the shove-off. Did you know?" Harry asked suddenly.
"I did not," Severus said. "Was that just before you were whisked away? I saw that you were off-kilter right then. Lucius too."
"Yeah," Harry said. "She's angry with me for becoming friends with him. She feels like I betrayed her by not continuing to hate him for the diary and the Chamber of Secrets," he bit his lip for a moment. He scooted out of the tight space he was in and turned himself so that he could see Severus. "When she told me, I felt horrible. I still don't like that she's so furious with me. But I feel like I've already let it go."
"Continue," Severus told him.
"Well, I feel like I had no real choice. I needed help, and Lucius knew it, and he got through to me." Harry said. He frowned and shook his head. "Why do I have to apologize for that?"
"You don't," Severus said simply. "You've made an extraordinarily evolutionary step in your life by forgiving Lucius, Harry. And to your credit, not many people are able to do something so valiant. Ginevra Weasley is not a bad person. She is rightfully angry. But it is a choice to hold onto that anger, and by doing so, she is allowing it to handicap her. And indeed it has done just that. She's lost you."