Failure To Thrive

Regrouping - Part II

It was nearly dawn when Harry finally figured he could sleep. Severus had just "hit a wall," and would have succumbed to deep slumber while sitting up, if Harry hadn't announced he was going to bed. They walked up the stairs slowly, whispering about whether they would need to go to the Ministry or the infirmary later in the day. Severus squeezed Harry's shoulder and kissed the top of his head when they reached the third floor.
"Goodnight, Brat," he said as he continued on up the stairs.
"Are you just now going to bed, Harry?" Luna asked softly from down the hall.
"Luna," Harry whispered softly. He headed over to her. "I've been so worried about you," he said gently when he was closer. She was walking towards him too, and in the dim light looked somewhat vulnerable. "Did you get hurt? Can I hug you?" Harry had no idea how to read the smile Luna gave him until she stepped up to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. She even placed a light kiss on his neck… which felt fantastic. Harry stood there, more than a tad befuddled by what exactly it was that he was receiving from Luna. The embrace felt lovely, so he made no move to end it and hooked his chin over her shoulder, for once hugging someone smaller than himself. Besides, she smelled like lemongrass, and that was one fragrance he could never get tired of.
"Ron and Neville assured me you were just fine, but I am glad to see it for myself," she told him.
"Did it help to have Fleur come by to talk?" Harry asked carefully.
"Oh yes," Luna said. "I took it all harder than I normally do. Not sure why."
"Maybe it's because it's the anniversary of everything? I was feeling really heavy about all that, still am," Harry offered.
"Yes," she said softly. "But I liked having Fleur to talk to. She's very matter of fact about things. It helps."
"Do you need to see a healer, Luna?" Harry asked, even more carefully.
"Oh, no," she said. She was pulling away, so Harry released her. "I didn't get hurt, Harry." She tilted her head as she said this and the corners of her mouth raised up.
"Well, that's great!" Harry said. Too late to backpedal, he stopped beating around the bush. "It's just that the Lestranges are notorious for the horrible things they do to women, so…."
"Oh, well, the boys that were waiting for me when I landed were very sorry to have bothered me by the time I was finished with them," Luna said. She leaned closer. "I know how to look after myself. I learned from the best."
Harry grinned at her. "George is collecting memories to show in his new cubic pensieve. Will you let him have yours, so we can see for ourselves just how you handled things?"
"Alright," she said "You go ahead and sleep now, Harry. I'll see you later."
"Okay," Harry said. He didn't really feel tired all of the sudden, but also didn't know what else to do in this unexpected scenario. He settled for squeezing her hand the way she'd always done to his over the years, and headed back down the hall to his room.

Harry woke up at noon to a growling stomach. He still felt tired, so he kept his pajamas on and headed down the stairs to see if Kreacher had anything on hand for him to eat. Hermione was in the kitchen, sipping tea and reading through some notes.
"Harry," she greeted him. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, actually," he said, giving her a tired smile. "But I'm still a bit fatigued." He nodded in answer to the inquiring look he got from Kreacher.
"Well, that might be because you stayed up all night," she chided with a smirk.
"Obviously you've seen Severus," he said. "Did he go back to bed?"
"No, Kingsley sent a patronus to tell us he was at Hogwarts to take official statements from Lucius and Narcissa, and said we could go there too, or that he'll come by here tomorrow. Luna decided to go see him now. Severus went too, just a couple of minutes ago, to check on the Malfoys. They've got to be really worried about Draco."
"Yeah," Harry said softly. "I am too. I was going to go sit with him for a while. I'll catch a nap first, then go later, before dinner."
"He's asleep, Harry," Hermione said. "You should take the chance to get your own rest."
Harry gave her an exasperated look. "Thank you, mummy," he said sarcastically. Then when she frowned at him in frustration, he was suspicious. "Hang on, what have you been told that I have not?"
Now she glared at him. "Nothing. It's just common sense, for Merlin's sake. You're suffering from a syndrome that came on from intense trauma and tragedy. You just recently started to show real signs of improvement. Aren't you worried that yesterday's events will cause a setback?"
Harry blinked. "No," he said in complete honesty. "Hermione, between Lucius and Severus, I've gotten more attention and felt more protected than I've- … well, than ever. I mean, I can only go by how I feel right this moment, but I think I'm okay about the whole thing. And even though I was really, really scared while everything was happening, I didn't go through it alone."
"Ron said Severus really looked out for you," Hermione told him.
"Yeah," Harry said. "But he also relied on me to hold my own when we were fighting the Lestranges. He trusts my magical skill that much."
"I see," Hermione said, thoughtfully, and Harry could tell by the way her eyes teared up that she knew exactly how much that meant to him. "It kind of balances out the hardship."
She gave him a crooked smile. "And what about getting called out for snapping wands?" she tried not to laugh, but was losing the battle as Harry turned beet red.
"Totally worth it," he said, ignoring entirely the fact that his complexion was contradicting him. "Bloody Normal Thickeness. I showed him what was what."
Now Hermione laughed. "Please tell me you gave that memory to George."
"Of course," Harry said. Kreacher set a plate of French toast in front of Harry and a glass of orange juice. He thanked the elf and tucked hungrily in.
"And, so what happened with Ginny?" Hermione asked.
Harry recapped the confrontation, and the blatant non-verbal announcement that she'd gotten back together with Michael Corner. "It was actually really well timed," Harry said. "All of the drama that happened next kind of took the wind out of that bag." He narrowed his eyes at her. "You're going to say you saw it coming for ages, aren't you?"
"Well, I was hoping I was wrong, wasn't I?" she said a tad shrilly. "Poor Ginny has had it rough too, Harry. A different kind of rough, but it's been really hard for her as well."
"I know," he said softly. "I hate to think of her feeling so badly and not having been there for her."
"You weren't able to be," Hermione said. "It's just the way the cards were dealt, Harry. You cared for her, loved her, I imagine, but you weren't available to be what she needs." She put her elbows on the table and leaned in. "Ginny has a rebellious streak, and she wants to be reckless now and then. That's just not who you are. It's not a good match any more."
"I know," Harry said again. "It's over. I'm okay about it." His thoughts wandered to Luna. And then Neville. "So, was it just me, or doesn't Neville have a thing for Luna?"
"I thought he did," Hermione said slowly, "but now I'm thinking it's just loyal friendship. I think Neville has someone else in mind for himself."
"Hermione, what are you not saying?" Harry knew when she attempted to hedge around a subject.
"I'm not saying anything because I only have suspicions, and no proof whatsoever," she declared.
Harry gave her a pleading look that turned into a frown, then into an a-ha. "He likes blokes."
"I actually think he likes either sex, Harry," Hermione said. "But like I said, it's just a hunch. I've no proof."
"Huh," Harry said.

Lucius stood in the hallway outside of the infirmary with Arthur and Kingsley. Neither of the Ministry officials had commented on Lucius' attire, although he knew they badly wanted to. He'd asked Narcissa to bring him fresh clothing and she'd shown up with his most faded jeans, a white T-shirt, and a navy cotton sweater. His black boots completed the ensemble that Narcissa clearly enjoyed seeing him wear, which was at this moment the ultimate proof of his paradigm shift.
"The incident with the aurors on Tuesday last was not entirely unexpected, although we'd no idea how things would play out, or with whom," Arthur told Lucius. "Wesley Rothchilde was under surveillance by some of our more senior aurors for suspicious activity and abuse of his authority. We knew he was up to something complex, so we promoted him to Commander with full expectation that he would be way too tempted to accelerate his plan, and would grow careless. He'd been diligently covering his tracks, but we'd finally traced him, and connected him to his cohorts only this past Thursday. The intelligence had linked Rothchilde and six others to a group posing as American wizards visiting Britain's muggle universities. We immediately drew a connection to Hermione Granger, and were literal steps away from connecting Naomi Butler as well. We now know that Naomi Butler was portrayed by a man named Morris Black, whom I am fearful is of some relation to your wife's family."
Lucius closed his eyes. "I've failed my son in so many ways, but this is insurmountable." He did not elaborate on his thoughts, but looked at the two officials. "How much of this will go public?"
"We will try to keep it on the down low, Lucius," Kingsley said. "I will demand to keep the hearings closed, and we might just prevent the Prophet from starting an exposé on the key players, eh?"
"Of course, Minister," Lucius said quietly. "Please act in accordance with the standard. I truly do not wish for more than that."
"That is all I guarantee," Kingsley said, his deep baritone revealing a hint of sympathy.
"Arthur," Lucius looked his former adversary in the eye, "you must be very proud of your children. They're each in their own right very skilled, and very powerful wizards. Not to mention that they are each honorable and kind. They take after their parents in that regard."
"I am proud," Arthur said. "However, it's always nice to hear such high praise from a new source."
"Don't you mean an unlikely source?" Lucius with a tiny smile of self deprecation. But his expression grew grim with shame. "It's poetic justice, isn't it?" Lucius asked, completely failing to prevent the flood of moisture in his eyes as he looked at his former adversary.
Arthur shook his head and said firmly, "No." But their eyes held and he relented, holding his thumb and forefinger up to show a small measurement. "Perhaps just a smidgeon."
Lucius sniffed and blinked his eyes to contain his emotions. "Then all may just finally be right with the world."
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