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Chapter Text

With the Second Wizarding War at an end many mourn their losses and turn to friends for help.
It has only been two months since the famed 'Battle of Hogwarts', and the school has announced that the last year had been unsatisfactory in our children's education. Headmistress Minerva McGonagall suggests that all the students repeat the year, so that they might receive the teachings required. The Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, agrees, and while he didn't pass an official statement making McGonagall's plan mandatory, Shacklebolt admitted that, "As our youth are our greatest asset, we need them prepared."
- Michelle Gothsby, The Daily Prophet
Harry James Potter sat alone in a room at number 12, Grimmauld Place. He'd been there for nearly three weeks, staring wistfully at a picture he appeared to see straight through.
The picture in question holds a young man, wearing spectacles with messy black hair, laughing with a scruffy-looking man. They both look carefree and gleeful, but Harry Potter knew better. He knew that both of those men are dead.
The door handle rattles, dragging him from his musings. The murmuring of spells and the click of a lock sends tension down his spine.
"Harry? Are you in here?" The voice belongs to Harry's friend Neville Longbottom. Harry puts on his best attempt at a grin and says in a voice, scratchy from disuse, "Nope. You might check down the hall, though."
Neville pokes his head into the door and winces at the sight that meets him. "How long have you just been sitting there?" The pity in his voice is unbearable.
"Not long enough." Harry replies tersely; he didn't need people's pity.
There was the sound of a muffled voice from the landing below Harry. Neville stuck his head out the door to respond, but was cut off mid sentence. The sound of stomping approached, and Harry subconsciously curled up smaller.
"HARRY POTTER YOU BASTARD!" Came the voice of Hermione Granger, one of Harry's best friends.
"Nice to see you too, 'Mione." said Harry.
"Oh, don't start. You've been up here sulking for a month!" Hermione snarled. Neville shrunk away, and Harry wished he could follow. Hermione poked her head out the door and called "RON, I'VE FOUND HIM."
"It hasn't been a month, it's barely been a week," Harry coughed out in a vain attempt to calm Hermione down. He didn't exactly remember, but it couldn't have been that long. Could it?
"Yes it has." Hermione spit out, “Have you have just been sitting here not concerned that we didn't know where you'd gone? You just swanned off after testifying at some trials and didn't bother to tell any of us where you were going!" she steamed. "Just look at yourself, you're filthy! Have you eaten anything since you got here?"
Harry winced again, knowing that Hermione was not going to be happy. "Yeah," he mumbled "once in awhile." Though the only food he’d managed to choke down usually came back up during particularly violent panic attacks. He carefully left out that bit.
Hermione's expression twisted into concern, but just then, Ron burst in looking livid. Harry grimaced.
"HARRY WHAT THE BLOODY HELL? YOU HAD US SCARED TO DEATH! We thought you were dead! Oh, Kingsley is gonna love this, he had aurors looking for you all over the country!" Ron shouted and Harry winced.
Had he really been missing that long? Had he caused an uproar in his absence? He sighed and looked down at the bedspread that had grown rumpled after long hours spent curled up on it. He hadn’t meant to cause such a fuss.
"Sorry, didn't think it would be such a big deal. I was just looking to clear my head and I guess I got caught up thinking." Harry muttered loud enough for them to hear. His head felt wrapped in cotton, he couldn't get the right words out.
Neville opened his mouth as if to accept the apology, but Hermione shot him a glare before rounding on Harry again. "Harry, have you really just been sitting here for all that time? You prat, you're going to starve yourself!" She said, but this time it was more exasperated. Harry shrugged, trying to come up with a good excuse, but he couldn't get his brain to work.
Ron threw up his hands in annoyance. "I'll go send an owl to Kingsley. It's a good thing nobody else will hear about this or we'd be a laughing stalk– finding a missing person in their own house."
Harry looked up, his eyes unfocused, but Ron seemed not to notice and continued, "You ever pull a stunt like that again and I'll skin you. Well, assuming Mum doesn't first." Harry paled.
"Are you feeling okay, Harry?" Neville piped up from beside Hermione. Harry tried to look at him, and blurrily nodded.
He moved to stand up, but the floor disappeared and everything went black. (A/N Who doesn't love a cliché?)
Draco Malfoy was in mourning. Well, he was supposed to be in mourning. And he was, in the way a victim of stockholm syndrome mourns their captor.
Lucius Malfoy's death had been a long time coming. It was an uncommon occurrence when a Death Eater ever walked away from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's service, and Lucious hadn't exactly been well liked. He had dragged his entire family into this mess, not to mention countless others that he'd recruited. He had used anyone as a shield.
Draco tried to drag his thoughts away from that ledge, before he plummeted into horrid memories of his father, and what he'd done to his mother and himself.
"Draco, have you seen the prophet this morning?" Narcissa Malfoy asked from the front of the table. She was looking at him like she knew what was running through his head. "They have decided to bring back all of the seventh year students so you can get a proper last year's education."
Draco knew that the school had been planning that since they cleared the corpses. He was surprised they hadn't announced it sooner... But that left an uneasy feeling in his stomach. How could he face all of those he had hurt?
Narcissa saw her son's internal struggle. She knew the hardships he faced, but she wanted him to get past it.
"Draco," she started quietly, "you don't have to go back if you really don't want to, but I would like you to give it a try." Narcissa carefully watched Draco's reaction.
Draco himself was rather taken aback. He wasn't used to having a choice in his fate. The thought hadn't occurred to him to say no. He flinched at the thought of what his father would have- ...but his father wasn't here.
He breathed deeply and smiled back at Narcissa "Of course, mother."
Narcissa noticed the flinch. "Draco, he is gone. You have a choice."
Draco wondered whether his mother was was a legilimens. She seemed to know exactly what to say.
He smiled, sheepishly. "Thanks, mother. I think I'll give it a go, and send you an owl if things get unbearable."
"Excellent," Narcissa beamed, "then I'll send a house elf to get your trunk out. We can go shopping as soon as your letter arrives."

Chapter Text

Molly Weasley, if asked, would call Harry Potter her son. Indeed, she already had, without prompting, on several occasions. But if one of Molly Weasley's sons had run off to deal with PTSD alone and developed malnutrition, they would be killed.
As it happens, Harry Potter had gone and done exactly that and lived to tell of it completely intact. Well, mostly.
"HARRY JAMES POTTER, YOU SCARED US to DEATH!" Molly Weasley's voice rang like an angel's song through hall leading to the Chosen one's hospital room (if an angel's song was the screeching sound angels would make while being crushed to death by a very large rock).
The hospital staff briefly considered stopping this angry woman on her way to the savior of the Wizarding world's room, but all decided against it. Best not to get in the way of maternal instinct.
The small group already assembled in the room parted like the Red Sea as Molly entered. Harry quietly begged Hermione not to shift from her place on his bed, but she shot him a look saying,"It's your own fault" and moved to let Mrs. Weasley through.
Harry's head was still hurting from the illness that was result of him sitting in a room for three weeks with less than one meal every couple of days. Starvation and dehydration really should have crossed his mind before
There were also the issues of light and noise. He had been without either for quite a while, and was suddenly subject to an excessive amount of both. Not to mention the large amounts of people who thought that the best way to keep him from wanting to run away again was to yell at him for long periods of time. Harry was already chock full of guilt and regret when Molly stomped in.
Harry winced, his stomach curling with anxiety, he felt his breath shortening, " , I-"
"Did you even THINK WHAT Would happen? Of course not, you just up and LEFT!" Molly ran a hand through her hair, her nostrils flaring like a bull.
Harry, by this point looked thoroughly panicked, almost like a scared animal about to bolt, but the red haired woman didn't seem to notice at all. "You could have been killed, his followers didn't just disappear." she spat like the words were venomous "Not to MENSIO-
"MOLLY!" Arthur Weasley cut off, gesturing to the boy in the hospital bed "Look at him."
Harry Potter, the savior of the wizarding world, was holding his head with his hands, shaking like a leaf in the wind. He was quietly hyperventilating, obviously on the edge of a panic attack. Harry felt nauseous, his vision switching from the hospital room to Voldemort, the sickening high pitched laughter piercing his thoughts like a knife, to the bodies of his classmates that he could have, should have, saved, back to Voldemort, to the graveyard, Cedric-
Hermione was back at his side, pushing Mr. and Mrs. Weasley out of the way, before gently laying a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Harry, it's okay. You're here, with us. Whatever you're seeing, it isn't real."
Ron came on Harry's other side, gently nudging his shoulder. "Harry, mate, come back. I don't know what you see, but trust me, this is better. You are here with me and 'Mione. You're safe."
Draco walked across the side garden of Malfoy Manor, heading towards an old broom shed.
He'd always loved flying. Darco could recall his first time on a broom. it had been the most free he had ever felt. He'd flown so high and so far that he thought he would never have to return to the pain that awaited him back on the ground.
Draco had spent hours after particularly severe beatings dreaming that he and Mother could hop on the old broomsticks and fly so far away that Father could never find them. He'd even gone so far as to ask Mother, but she smiled with tears in her eyes and told him that they could never run that far. That hadn't stopped him dreaming, though.
Sometimes, like now, Draco wonders how it would have been if they had run. Father probably would have caught them, he grimaced, realizing how foolish he must have sounded to Mother.
But, what if he hadn't? Suppose they had flown to the coast, lived under the stars. Draco grabbed his broom and mounted, kicking off and soaring high up into the air. He imagined a life not lived. What would he be like without his false bravado? Without his dark mark?
The mark had faded after He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named passed, but there was still a burn scar where it had been cursed on. It reminded him of what he had become.
Draco dived steeply, pulling out and racing past the trees that whooshed on either side of him, taking with them his crowding thoughts. He outran his problems, for the first time since before the war.

Chapter Text

The best news Harry had received since his forced re-entrance into the real world was that he and his friends would be going back to Hogwarts. The judging looks and nosy people aside, Hogwarts was his home and he couldn’t wait to get back.
While Harry's main concern was to get back to Hogwarts, that wasn't the first thing on everyone else's mind.
"But the healers said that I would be fine." Harry was protesting, but Ron and Hermione were having none of it.
"Harry," Ron growled "we had to drag you out of Grimmauld place. You're hardly more than bones and you flinch at every sound. Not to mention your panic attack at St. Mungo's! I want to hear nothing else from you. You have problems, just like the rest of us and you have to face them."
Harry knew Ron was right, he just didn't want to go to a therapist. They'd want him to 'talk about it'. How was he supposed to tell his life story to someone he didn't even know? Besides, they wouldn't really want to know about his problems. Hell, he didn't want to know about his problems.
But on the other hand, Harry thought as he looked at the unyielding expressions of Ron and Hermione. He sighed, looking at his friends. He knew they weren't being unfair, but shouldn’t he get a choice in what happened to him? It was his decision, wasn't it?
As if sensing Harry's thoughts, Hermione's face hardened. "We tried letting you deal with this on your own already, and now you have to take healing potions twice a day. This isn't a debate, it's a notice."
Harry felt indignant, but Hermione's expression said that she was obviously not joking. He shook his head and let out a breath of frustration. His friends meant well, but they weren’t in charge of him. What was wrong with them? Wasn't he supposed to be the strong one, the one who protected and helped?
"Harry, Ron, Hermione, it's time for dinner. Wash up and get down here, we have guests." Mrs. Weasley's voice drifted up to Ron's bedroom. Harry sighed and headed out the door behind Ron and Hermione.
The guests turned out to be the twins, taking time out of their business to come and see the family. Harry felt a little less tense with people laughing at Fred and George instead of glancing at him.
"So Harry," Fred Started
"We heard-"
"-that you-"
"-gave mum."
"-quite a scare."
"Never thought-"
"-that she'd-"
"-actually scream-"
"-someone to-"
"-death." They grinned as everyone tried to keep up. Harry just shrugged, not wanting to go down this road again.
"No worries, mate." said George, scratching the side of his head where his ear used to be.
"We try not to judge." Fred added with a grin. They gave Harry a secretive wink. Gesturing to the back door, George and mouthed "later".
After talking for what seemed hours and quite a few of Fred and George's jokes, people started heading off to bed. With a scornful look, Hermione told Harry to go take his healing potion.
He slipped out the back door and seeing the empty yard figured he'd have to wait awhile. He sipped the healing potion, not wanting to take it all at once because of the horrible nausea it left him with.
"Ooh, the naughty boy hasn't taken his medicine." Harry coughed and choked as Fred popped up on his left side.
"No, he's taking it," George replied, springing out of thin air on Harry's right, "just dragging his feet." They grinned with wicked mock-scorn.
Harry finally got his breathing under control, coughing out "Buggers" at the twins. They sniggered at his obvious discomfort.
"It's better," George continued, "with a bit of cooperation."
Harry looked at him questioningly. "What?"
"You fight the potions," Fred said seriously.
"You fight the therapy,"
"you fight the healers,"
"you fight your friends,"
"what you really fight"
"is help." the twins finished together.
Harry's head was spinning. All he managed to get out was "You two need to cut that out. Can't keep up with both of you at once."
Fred and George looked at Harry seriously. "As much as we like jokes Harry, this isn't one." George said sympathetically. "We all had near death experiences in the war, but you really took the cake as far as that went. You can’t carry all that baggage alone, you need to talk to someone or you'll explode."
"No need to face this by yourself anymore." Fred agreed, nodding.
Harry knew where this was going and was tired of people shoving their opinion in his face and not waiting to hear his thoughts. "So you think I should just 'talk it out' with some random stranger who thinks that they already know my and "story"" he air quoted the last word trying to contain his rage and desperation. "You want me to re-open all those wounds so that some person can 'help'? No. What I need to do is move on and leave the past right where it is."
He turned to leave before he felt hands on his shoulders. He tried to jerk away, but was still weak and was easily dragged around to see identical looks of confusion on the twin's faces.
"Random stranger?" They chorused in bewilderment.
"Harry, mate," Fred started looking at the boy with a half grin, "they didn't tell you?"
"Tell me what?" Harry snapped, still trying to escape the twin's surprisingly strong grip.
George looked at Fred and they burst into fits of giggles. "H-Harry," George started, trying and failing to catch his breath.
"He, haha, oh no wonder- he didn't know- ha!" Fred hung off George, both shuddering with barely repressed laughter.
Harry broke free of their hold and was half tempted to just bolt, but couldn't help his growing curiosity at what was so funny?
"What?!" He tried again, getting impatient
"Those idiots!" George chuckled, looking up at Ron's window.
"It's no wonder they couldn't get anywhere with him!" Fred clapped his brother on the shoulder, catching his breath and wiping a tear of laughter from his cheek. "Whoo, I haven't laughed that hard since Lee Jordan put exploding snap powder on Umbridge's chair."
"WHAT?!" Harry burst out, thoroughly annoyed by this point.
George tutted, "Somebody's getting impatient, Forge." he gave Fred a knowing look.
Fred sighed,"Well, we better get on with it before it gets late, Gred."
They both looked at Harry, still grinning "You're not going to some random person, you'll be talking to us."
Harry's thoughts stopped and his face froze. Whatever he had thought they were going to say, that obviously hadn't been it.
"Y-you-" Harry started, unable to wrap his head around the concept.
"Yep." The twins said together.
"No, not tonight. We'll talk tomorrow." George said steering Harry towards the kitchen.
"H-hey!" Harry protested. "You can't just-"
Fred and George had enough. "Harry, this can go two ways," Fred said seriously.
"You can go to bed, or we can get mum, and you'll go to bed after a good lecture." George finished, sounding final.
"We'll be back tomorrow for lunch, after that we can talk, but right now we have to go home and you need sleep." Fred said "Now are you going to bed alone, or do we need to help you there?" He added jokingly.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up with his mind still buzzing from last night. He was not exactly pleased at Ron and Hermione because they had known that Fred and George were going to be the ones talking to him, but kept him in the dark. Just like Dumbledore had, just like the Order had, just like it seemed everyone thought they should. He was just so sick of being left in the dark for 'his own good'. When would people realize that he could handle bad news?
But there lay another problem. Was this bad news? He wasn't at all sure how to feel about talking to the twins. One of the main reasons he didn't want to go to a therapist was that they wouldn't know him, but these were people who he was close to. But how could he tell them all that had happened and expect them to look at him the same?
There was a knock at his bedroom door. His being relative, it was actually the twins old room, but Mrs. Weasley had said that he needed his own room because he was family and the twins didn't need it anymore. Privately, Harry thought that Ron had suggested it so Hermione could sneak up to Ron's room and they could sleep together.
The knocking started again, interrupting his train of thought. "Harry, dear, your letters have arrived. We're going to Diagon alley in about an hour, so you'll want to get up and have some breakfast."
Harry sighed and sat up. "Thanks, Mrs. Weasley. I'll be down in a moment."
"Alright dear." Mrs. Weasley's footsteps faded down the hall.
Harry got up and dressed before heading down stairs. In the kitchen Mr. Weasley sat reading a muggle newspaper like it was a fascinating piece of art. Across from him Hermione and Ron were reading their letters, but looked up at him as he entered.
Harry was still frustrated by the fact that they hadn't told him about Fred and George, but didn't really feel like talking to them about it. They were his best friends and he didn't want to talk to them. 'Merlin, what has happened to us?' he thought to himself.
"Harry, this newspaper is absolutely fascinating!" Mr. Weasley said excitedly. "The pictures don't move, but it's all in color! Do they use those, um, I think it's called a pint press?" He looked up at Harry
"That's a printing press, but yeah." Harry said sitting down and reaching for the toast.
"Brilliant!" Mr. Weasley exclaimed again.
As Harry spread jam on toast, thoughts gnawed at the inside of his skull. He tried to push them to the side, asking Ron for his letter. Opening it, the thoughts faded and he reminded himself that he was going home, and it was going to be fine. 'Yeah right.'

"Draco, we're going to Diagon alley today."
Draco was pulled from his thoughts as his mother's voice floated into his bedroom. His head shot up as she entered the room. "Whatever for? My letter hasn't-" But he stopped as his mother held out a parchment envelope.
"It arrived this morning, Draco." Ms. Malfoy said as he took the letter. "Best get dressed and ready, we'll be taking the flue in a few minutes." She headed back towards the door.
"Right." Draco muttered as she disappeared down the hall. He had been dreading this since she had first spoken of going back. In all honesty, Draco wasn't even sure he would be sent a letter after the things he'd done.
He looked down at the letter, wondering who was the new headmaster/mistress. Opening the wax seal, he saw the usual handwriting, greeting, listings of books and signature at the bottom. Scratch that, instead of 'Deputy Headmistress' it said 'Headmistress Minerva McGonagall'. So, that's who was running things. Draco couldn't say he was surprised, 'What with her being Deputy Headmistress and all'. Draco shook his head and moved to get ready.

"Alright, everyone, I'd like to stay together in a group. I know you're all capable of shopping alone, but safety in numbers and all that." Mrs. Weasley was saying to the group of teenagers. She looked over to Harry Ron and Hermione and said seriously, "That means no mischief, you three."
Harry rolled his eyes and looked around. The streets weren't too crowded, because it was so early. He knew that they would soon be swamped with all the students who'd just gotten their letters.
They entered Flourish and Blotts and Mrs. Weasley started babbling about the latest celebrity author of a Grey book, or something. Harry wandered through the astronomy section, watching the silver constellations shimmer across the deep blueish purples of the books' covers.
He checked his list to see if Professor Sinistra had assigned a book this year. No, just like every year, he only needed a star chart. Looking down at list again, he made his way to the potion books section.

Draco felt so exposed. His mother walked next to him, brisk paced and confident. He trailed slightly behind her, feeling like everyone was glaring at him, and for all he knew they were. He was a former Death Eater, after all. How could he just walk down a street?
His mother turned into Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions. Draco entered, suddenly feeling like this was a horrible idea. What if she realized who he was? What if she saw his dark mark?! 'The mark is gone you idiot!' he chided himself, but his tension lingered.
Madam Malkin stood him on a platform, got her pins and glanced up at him. Draco was sweating bullets when she paused at his face, but all she said was "Hogwarts?"
The rest of the day seemed to continue in a similar fashion. Just as Draco thought someone recognised him, they would turn and go about their own business. He was almost relaxed when they were walking into Amanuensis Quills, before he saw the back of a familiar, scruffy, black haired head.