Failure to Thrive - Part III
They had just had a lengthy discussion on the merits of muggle medicine, specifically in the area of eyesight, over dinner. Harry was tired of wearing glasses and wanted to undergo a muggle procedure that could potentially restore his eyesight. It was called Lasik surgery, and sounded utterly barbaric. All of the Malfoys were alarmed and fearful of the risk he would be taking, but they had failed to talk him out of it. It was the first truly independent thing that Harry would be doing since the final battle, so Lucius tried to regard the plan in a positive light. He had insisted that he would accompany the boy when he had the procedure done. Harry had laughed a hearty guffaw until he saw that the blond man was completely serious and growing stern. He had hastily apologized and agreed to the escort, but explained that they would need to travel by muggle means and therefore be in the muggle world for hours on end. Lucius had informed him quite frankly that he had some familiarity with muggle ways, thank you very much. Harry had rushed to explain that he suspected that apparation might compromise the healing of his eyes, so they'd need to take the Tube, or walk, and floo home from the Leaky Cauldron. Lucius had agreed, and the easy feeling of something between friendship and family was resumed.
Less than two weeks later on a sunny Friday afternoon, Lucius appeared in a nicely cut muggle ensemble of dark slacks and camelhair sports jacket and accompanied Harry to have his procedure done. He insisted on being in the room while the boy underwent the laser surgery and held his concerns at bay in the light of what he considered tremendous bravery on Harry's part.
They left the office with Harry's glasses in his pocket and prescribed eyedrops for Harry to use several times a day to help his eyes heal.
"I think the doctor thought you were an artist, or a musician. He kept looking at you like he thought he should recognize you," Harry teased. "The long hair definitely says rock 'n roll."
"And is that good or bad, in your perception?" Lucius asked with amusement.
"Oh, it's good," Harry grinned.
"You feel no pain then?" Lucius asked him as they walked.
"No, and I can see everything. Well, mostly. Some of it's blurry, but loads better than I ever could without glasses!" Harry was craning his neck to look at everything he could possibly lay his eyes upon.
"Would you like to stop for something to eat?" Lucius asked on impulse. He recognized an iconic muggle restaurant across the street. "Perhaps McDonald's?"
Harry turned to him in very youthful surprise at the idea of an adult offering him fast food. "Yeah, that would be great. Thanks."
They entered the establishment and the overwhelming smell of processed food left Lucius feeling assaulted. He concluded that he should not partake in any sort of meal here and quickly scanned the menu to see what he could order so that he was at least participating in the treat this clearly was for Harry.
"If you want to take that table there, sir, I could order for us," Harry suggested.
"Excellent," Lucius agreed. "I'll have a milkshake. Chocolate. Do you have the correct funds on hand, Harry?"
"Yeah, no problem." Harry said. He flashed a grin as he turned to join the queue.
Lucius sat at the table and surreptitiously cast a wandless scourgify on the surface. I am not disparaging this society, he defended inwardly. I am merely protecting myself from foreign contaminants. He noted that Harry was making slow progress in the queue a short distance away as a large, blond haired teen walked up to Harry and tentatively tapped him on the shoulder.
"Harry? It is you," the large oaf said in blatant confusion. "You look really young. Why's that?"
Harry turned and there was no mistaking the shock on his face. "Dudley! What… I really didn't expect to ever see you again."
"Why not?" The bigger boy seemed to lose traction at Harry's response. "We're cousins, yeah?"
"Well, it's just-" Harry stopped himself.
"I heard a lot about you while we were at the safe house. Hestia and a few others told me what they had heard while you were on the run. It was a scary year, wasn't it? I was scared. They showed me the newspaper from your world, and I saw how you'd defeated that bad bloke." Dudley seemed to realize he was rambling. "It's just that I really wanted to talk to you sometime. Could we do that? You could send me your owl and we'll set it up?"
"Hedwig was killed right after I left your house," Harry said, already shutting down and going numb.
"Oh, but one of those twin ginger fellows - I never knew if it was really Fred or George - he told me that when it was all over I could owl you to see about staying in touch."
"Fred died too." Harry said softly.
Dudley appeared to be dumbfounded at that news.
Lucius stood and cautiously approached them as the people behind them in the queue circled around the obstacle they'd become. "Harry? Will you introduce me?"
Harry looked up at his pseudo guardian and his tension was palpable. "Dudley, this is Lucius Malfoy. Lucius, this is my cousin Dudley Dursley."
"Ahh," Lucius said, eyebrows raised. Harry had never yet spoken of his relatives. "A pleasure, Mr. Dursley."
"Uh, you too," Dudley said, shaking Lucius’ hand awkwardly. "I guess Harry doesn't talk much about us."
"No, but Harry and I have only recently become better acquainted. There is still much to share," Lucius replied, watching Harry.
"Well, I understand if you don't ever want to talk to me again, Harry. I just wanted to tell you that I know you saved my life a few years back from those Dementey things. Probably saved the lot of us when we didn't even know it. All of the wizards who were looking out for us said you were really great." Dudley faltered. Harry wasn't giving him any help. He looked over at Lucius. "He didn't have a nice life with us, is all. And I just wanted to say sorry about that."
And with that, the awkward young muggle turned and walked out of the restaurant.
"Can we just leave?" Harry asked. His expression had grown pinched from his inner turmoil.
Lucius frowned, his concern now turning protective. "Of course." He cupped his hand around the back of Harry's neck as they exited and kept it there for the long walk back. "You and Mr. Dursley grew up together?"
"No," Harry said shortly. "I lived in a cupboard under the stairs while Dudley had a nice childhood." It was clear from the edge in his voice that he had said all he intended to say on the matter.
Lucious struggled to comprehend what Harry had just revealed, but held his tongue until they were in front of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. "You can talk to me about anything, Harry. Do you know that?" The boy kept his eyes averted and nodded noncommittally. "I'm not comfortable leaving you in this state," he added. "Perhaps you could come back to the manor for a while. We won't press you to talk and you could be alone with your thoughts."
"I'm alright, sir. Hermione and Ron will be here in a bit and they're staying all weekend. Hermione will fuss over me. You don't have to worry." Then as if remembering what Lucius had done for him, "I'm really glad you were with me today."
Lucius smiled at Harry fondly. How quickly the boy had wormed his way into his heart. "I couldn't have allowed you to go alone. I'd have been worried the entire time."
Harry managed a responding smile for him and then bade him goodbye. Lucius watched him enter the house, but still felt unsettled about the boy's mood. He disapparated to the manor.
"We can't expect him to trust us blindly, darling," Narcissa told Lucius when he'd recapped the day’s events as he'd witnessed. "We've yet to earn that from him. We are doing something right though. He keeps coming back for Sunday dinner."
"True," Lucius reluctantly accepted her wisdom on the matter.
Their unlikely makeshift family unit fell into a comfortable rhythm that held strong all through the summer. Draco took a membership at an Irish summer club, and spent his weekdays there, immersed in a study of both muggle and wizard culture in the British Isles. The two senior Malfoys put their energies into remodeling both the external grounds and the interior of the manor. Since they had far less gold in their vault these days, they took the time to practice decorative charms, and were able to refurnish and repaint through long-term transfiguration, often utilizing the mismatched pieces that had not sold at auction. Narcissa especially had excelled at the interior decoration. Lucius was finding that he had a knack for drawing the layouts so that they could plan the changes as they went along.
Harry had thus far spent every weekday and Saturday at Hogwarts. The massive clean-up and rebuilding effort were underway. All three Malfoys had offered their assistance but had been denied because they were deemed untrustworthy with the sensitive magic being rewoven into the building. That had hurt, but not been unexpected. They regularly told Harry that they in no way wanted to use him to segue back into the good graces of the wizarding world. He seemed to believe them, but both Lucius and Narcissa feared he could change his mind if they were not careful.
The subject of muggle attire came up often. The senior Malfoys quickly gave up on offering any guidance on wizarding etiquette in that regard. Harry dressed entirely muggle these days, not feeling any sort of need to justify his choice to anyone. The gossip grapevine that Draco occasionally tapped into credited Harry Potter with the trend among the younger wizarding population to mix jeans and jumpers into their wardrobes, often wearing an open robe over the casual attire as a new take on wizarding traditions. Draco would tease Harry about being a trend setter, and laughed at Harry's return barbs about how great Draco looked in the tight-fitting black t-shirts he was in the habit of wearing under his own robes along with his jeans.
The mood was consistently light, often set by Harry's easy manner which left no real room for their formal ways of the past. Yet there was a very clear undertone of support for the healing of emotional wounds within their circle. The Malfoy parents took it upon themselves to play the role of counsel for the younger wizards, establishing the Sunday meal as the time to share ideas, recap the goings on, and on occasion, express concerns. The result after these first three months was that Draco had ventured way outside of the small social circle of his past and was meeting wizards and witches from all walks of life. Harry seemed to have stabilized emotionally to some degree, and had slowly worked through some of the grief he felt. His manner was less despondent and he was less guarded around them. It was difficult to measure if he'd regained physical age at this point, and neither Narcissa nor Lucius had yet brought up this concern. Thus far, Harry had shared little about his inner turmoil other than to admit he felt guilty for not having finished the horcrux hunt sooner.
All three Malfoys could see he was inclined to take responsibility for the many deaths over which he felt such heartache. They would discuss this in short non-threatening conversations that were hopefully laying the groundwork of trust from Harry to know he could count on their support.
Time would tell.