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Harry Potter and the Wrath of the Fallen by sjg74
Chapter 1 : After the Battle
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 18


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A young man slept restlessly, his dreams tormented by haunting images, until finally; a beautiful red haired girl with blazing eyes, a flash of green light, and his whole world turned white.

The young man opened his eyes, but found the afternoon sunlight streaming in through the window was momentarily too bright, causing his eyes to involuntarily close. He blinked several times before reaching out towards the small bedside table he could just make out next to him, his fingers locating what they were searching for as he sat up. He put his glasses on, brushing his shaggy black hair out of his eyes as he did so.

He was surprised to find himself sitting in a warm, comfortable bed. It was also a very familiar bed. As he surveyed his surroundings and comprehension dawned, he wondered how he came to be here in his old school bed. He considered this for a moment, but could not quite remember coming up to his old dormitory room.

The vivid images from his dreams had quickly faded from his consciousness, leaving only the image of the red haired girl floating in his mind. The girls’ image was familiar to him, he knew this girl, and he instinctively felt that he loved her, but this final image from his restless dream was threatening to fade from his mind. He tried to hold onto the memory; it gave him comfort and warmth. He felt the memory of the girl in his dream was important to hold on to, yet the image felt vague and fragile, like it may slip from his mind at any moment.

Harry Potter swung his legs out of the bed, placed his bare feet on the cool stone floor, and stood up. Harry found that his body ached from head to toe; a burning pain in his chest was causing him considerable discomfort. He pulled his shirt off over his head and looked down at his bare chest, startled by the ugly mark in the middle of his chest that looked as if the skin had been burned. The mark was about the size of a silver Sickle coin, and while it was circular in shape, the edges of the mark were jagged, the skin seemingly torn and ripped. Harry gingerly touched the mark and felt a bolt of pain shoot upwards through his body until it stopped at the lightning bolt shaped scar which had been on his forehead since he was an infant. Harry grunted as he clutched at his chest and forehead.

His memories of the previous evenings horrible events came flooding back to him with such force, he felt the breath leave his body. All memory of the beautiful red haired girl was gone as Harry’s mind was flooded with images of violence, blood, death and suffering. He remembered standing in a forest clearing facing the dark cloaked, white skinned, Lord Voldemort, the snake like features of the evil wizards’ face glowing in the darkness. The fear had gripped at his heart, and he knew he would die, yet he did nothing to prevent it. The memories left him feeling nauseous as he staggered towards the bathroom.

He reached the bathroom with only moments to spare, grabbing hold of each side of the wash basin as he proceeded to vomit. Once nothing was left in his body, he looked up into the mirror above the basin, and saw that his face was pale, badly bruised and battered, with a number of deep gashes and scrapes leaving him covered in dried blood and dirt.

Harry turned on the tap, and as he ran his hands under the slowly warming water, he noticed that they too were covered in scrapes and bruises. He cupped the warm water in his hands and began to wash the blood and dirt from his face. The warm water was soon mingled with his tears as a crushing sense of loss began to overcome him, causing his hands to shake violently and gasping sobs to pass his lips. He sat down on the stone floor and pulled his knees up to his chest, placed his arms across his knees, rested his head on his arms, and let the heartache he now felt take over him.

The immediate hour following the battle had seemed joyous to Harry, as the sun rose and warmth flooded his body. He had seen old friends and teachers, battered but alive, and the Great Hall had been filled with a feeling of hope after their freedom had been so dearly won. Those feelings had left Harry now, replaced by immense guilt and misery, knowing so many had died to help him, who would never have the chance to enjoy the very freedom they fought for.

After what felt like an eternity to Harry, he lifted his head and rubbed his eyes. He forced himself to stand at the basin and resumed removing the evidence of the previous night’s violence from his face and neck.

                                                               *

 

Downstairs in their old Gryffindor common room, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley lay curled together on the large red sofa in front of the fireplace. The embers in the fireplace were still gently glowing. They had both woken some time ago, but were comfortable lying together so had not yet moved. Ron nestled against Hermione’s bushy brown hair, enjoying closeness with Hermione that he had longed for but not expected. Yesterday this had been a distant dream for Ron, and he smiled to himself as he noticed that strands of his own long and straggly ginger hair were intermingled with Hermione’s hair.

Ron turned his mind back to yesterday’s events. He found his thoughts were conflicted; he was happy that he, Harry and Hermione had achieved what they set out to do so many months ago, bringing down Voldemort, the greatest evil to face the magical community for a thousand years; yet he was devastated by the loss of his brother Fred, and countless other friends. He could not bring himself to face that just yet, so he would lie here with Hermione and wait for his friends to rise from their slumber. He was sure it would be easier to face the tragic results of last night’s battle with his two friends by his side.

Ron knew Harry was sleeping alone up in his old dormitory room, while he and Hermione had stayed downstairs in the common room to make sure Harry was not disturbed by anyone. Ron heard the sounds of movement coming from upstairs and figured Harry must have finally woken. He would leave Harry in peace for now as he suspected that once the three of them left the sanctuary of the Gryffindor Tower, there would be no rest for any of them for some time.

Hermione was content to watch the flickering embers in the fireplace, knowing that she was being held by the man she loved. The fear that had plagued her constantly for the previous ten months had lifted, and she felt free to let her guard down and give in to her emotions. After she and Ron had carried Harry up to his old bed early this morning, despite her exhaustion, she had lain awake for hours crying as Ron held her. She knew so many were dead and injured, and that Harry would blame himself, but she had her own feelings of guilt as well.  She, Harry and Ron had brought this battle to Hogwarts, placing innocent children at risk, some of whom now lay amongst the dead in the Great Hall downstairs. She kept replaying the previous day’s events over in her mind, wondering if they could have done anything differently to avoid a confrontation with Voldemort at the school.

“Are you awake, Ron?” Hermione asked quietly.

“Yeah, love. I think Harry is awake too. I heard him moving around upstairs.”

“Maybe you should check on him.”

Ron considered for a moment, “Give him some peace ‘Mione. He is probably enjoying some time to himself right now. I’ll go up in an hour if he hasn’t come down before then.”

“Okay, Ron. I’ll just have to wait here with you for another hour.”

Ron couldn’t see Hermione’s face but he knew she was smiling as she talked, and he was glad for it. Something wonderful had come out of their tragic victory, and he was content to lie here with the girl of his dreams, letting her warmth soothe his own aching body.

Ron whispered in her ear, “I love you, Hermione Jean Granger.”

Hermione sighed as she felt her heart melt. “I love you too, Ronald Bilius Weasley. Promise me you’ll stay close to me today, please.”

Now Hermione could sense the smile on Ron’s face as she felt his warm breath on her shoulder.

“I will, my love, I promise.”

                                                               *

 

Half an hour later, Harry felt well enough to walk without holding onto the furniture or walls. He had redressed in his dirty clothes before making his way down the stairs to the Gryffindor common room. When he reached the common room he felt a small spark of joy when he saw his two best friends curled up on the large sofa together. Finally, he thought to himself, as an image of Ginny appeared in his mind. The final memory of his dream became clear in his consciousness; the beautiful red haired girl had a name.

Ginny... he had seen Ginny with the grieving Weasley family as they sat at one of the wooden tables in the Great Hall this morning. Harry was overcome with a desire to hold her and comfort her, to tell her he loved her, and to take away her pain. However, when Ginny had looked up and seen him approaching the Weasley family, Harry had stopped in his tracks. He had seen her grief turn to anger as she glared at him, before she slowly lowered her head and returned to her grief.

Harry was confused by his encounter with Ginny earlier today. He had always imagined that she would run into his arms when they were finally reunited after all those months apart, but instead she appeared angry with him, and not inclined to live up to the fantasy he had carried for so long. None of the other Weasley family members had noticed him nearby except Ron, who had risen from the floor and wandered over to him, asking if he was okay.

Harry didn’t remember anything after that. He had awoken in the bed upstairs without any recollection of how he had gotten there. He assumed Ron and Hermione had probably escorted him to bed as they seemed to be the only other people in the dormitory with him. For a moment Harry wondered how they had stopped any other visitors from entering the dormitory. He decided he didn’t care how they had done it, but he was grateful, so he brought his thoughts back to the present and to Ron and Hermione.

Harry leant down over the back of the sofa and shook Ron’s shoulder, “You awake, mate?”

“Yeah, Harry,” said Ron as he rolled over to face Harry, a lopsided grin on his face. His grin faltered as he took in the appearance of his best friend. Ron noticed Harry was pale and gaunt, with large, dark circles around his red rimmed eyes, and scrapes, cuts and bruises covered his face and neck. Ron suspected his friend had been crying as Harry’s eyes were bloodshot, their usual green colour now dull and lifeless.

“Merlin’s beard, Harry, you look terrible. Come and sit down before you fall down.” Ron started to sit up, gently shaking Hermione’s shoulder as he did so, “’Mione, wake up, love. Harry’s here.”

Harry registered the word ‘love’ and smiled despite how he was feeling, as Hermione mumbled something incoherent into the sofa cushions. She pushed herself up and looked at Harry as he sat down in one of the smaller chairs arranged around the fire place. Harry met Hermione’s gaze and noticed as her eyes widened in alarm.

“Harry, are you alright?” Hermione didn’t wait for an answer. “I’ll get Madam Pomfrey to come and have a look at you.” She started to stand but Harry waved her back down.

“I’m okay. I think I just need some fresh air is all. Come on, let’s go down and see your family Ron.” Harry’s voice was croaking with the effort of speech.

Hermione and Ron looked at each other doubtfully. Whatever was wrong with Harry looked like it would take a lot more than fresh air to sort out. They watched as Harry stood and clutched at his chest.

Harry felt another searing bolt of pain shoot from the mark on his chest up his neck until it finally stopped at the scar on his forehead. He could feel the sweat break out on his face and his vision started to blur at the edges until suddenly, the pain was gone as quickly as it had started. Harry took a deep breath as he took in the concerned looks on his friends faces. He could see Hermione was about to voice her concerns, so he decided to cut her off by holding out his hand before she spoke.

“I’m fine, it’s nothing.” Harry’s voice was barely above a whisper as he turned and walked slowly towards the portrait hole.

Harry had not yet explained to his friends how he had come to be in the forest facing Voldemort last night, or that he had been struck in the chest by the Killing Curse and survived it for a second time. He was worried they would not understand why he had given himself up to Voldemort, but he could not bear the thought of telling his friends that he had been the last Horcrux, carrying around a tainted piece of Voldemort’s soul inside himself since he had been an infant, the only way to rid himself of it by letting himself be killed by the man he had sworn to kill. The thought of Voldemort’s soul touching his own sickened him and he did not want his friends to fear him as he now feared for his own soul’s purity.

Behind his back Ron and Hermione shared a look, both of them raising an eyebrow. Ron shrugged his shoulders as he took Hermione’s hand in his own, and followed Harry towards the portrait hole.

                                                               *

 

The Fat Lady swung open to reveal a corridor filled with signs of the previous night’s battle. Harry, Ron and Hermione surveyed the scene before them. Pieces of masonry of all sizes were scattered the length of the corridor, shards of glass from the broken windows and crystal shards from the chandelier glittered on the floor as the sunlight streamed in through the holes which had been blasted through the castle walls, crumpled suits of armour and shredded tapestries littered the corridor. Harry shuddered as he noticed the dark stains on the stone floor and walls. The blood had dried since the battle and nobody had had a chance to wash it off yet.

The sight of the blood made Harry’s heart ache and again he thought he might vomit. How many were dead because of him? Remus, Tonks, Colin...Fred. The thought felt like a blow to his stomach. Wrapped up in his own misery, he had forgotten that his best friend had lost a brother during the battle. Harry turned to face his friend, a look of horror on his face.

“Oh, Ron, I’m so sorry about Fred.” Harry could feel hot tears stinging his eyes as he reached out to Ron.

Ron looked crestfallen at the mention of his fallen brother, as he stepped forward and embraced Harry. As they held their embrace they heard a soft sob from behind them.

Harry looked over Ron’s shoulder to see Hermione was crying quietly, her bottom lip trembling as she fought to retain her composure. Harry and Ron opened one side of their embrace and pulled her in. The three friends stood in their group embrace for several minutes, letting their sorrow wash over them, before Ron finally broke the circle.

“I’d better get down stairs and help Mum and Dad.”

Ron wiped his red eyes and started down the corridor towards the staircases, Hermione going with him, an arm wrapped around his waist in support.

Harry was startled when a voice behind him said, “Well done, Mr Potter.”

Harry turned and saw that the portrait of The Fat Lady had swung silently closed and she now smiled down at him. Amazingly she appeared undamaged despite the destruction throughout the rest of the corridor.

“You have won a great victory today and I thank you.”

Harry didn’t know what to say. A victory at what price, he thought to himself.

Harry grimaced as he felt another wave of guilt pass through him. He turned on his heel and set off after Ron and Hermione, fear starting to creep into his mind. Would Mr and Mrs Weasley think he had won such a great victory? How would they feel about The-Boy-Who-Lived, now that his fight had cost them one of their own boys?

                                                               *

 

Ron and Hermione descended the marble staircases with Harry following close behind. Remarkably the stairs appeared to have sustained only minor damage, but many of the portraits which hung around the central staircase were burned or torn, and a large number were missing from their places on the stone wall, only the large iron hooks remaining.

As they reached the bottom of the staircase they came across a large collection of paintings which had been stacked neatly into two piles and placed to one side. Harry realised the portraits from around the central staircase had fallen from their hooks as the walls shook during the battle last night. Somebody had evidently started the clean-up operation and as Harry inspected the two piles he noticed one pile contained undamaged paintings while the other contained paintings suffering varying degrees of damage.

As they continued making their way towards the Great Hall, Harry briefly wondered what would happen to the characters in the paintings if they had been damaged. Could they be repainted, or were they, like him, scarred for life?

The three friends rounded the corner and found themselves in the castles Entrance Hall. While the corridor outside the Gryffindor dormitory had startled Harry, it was nothing compared to the overwhelming scene that he now faced.

Rubble was strewn across the floor, spilling out the huge wooden and iron doors which stood open, into the grounds beyond. The dark red blood stains were everywhere Harry, Ron and Hermione looked, but thankfully all the bodies had been removed from the entrance and the grounds beyond.

Harry was struck by the contrast as he gazed out past the giant doors. In the distance he could see the black water of the lake rippling gently in the breeze, the surface sparkling as the sunlight reflected off it; he even noticed several people sitting down by the shore under the tree where he and Ginny had spent those precious stolen afternoons last year, before their new love had been cut short by the death of his mentor and the task he had been left to perform. He tore his gaze away and looked at the blood stained floor at his feet again.

Is this my fault? Harry agonised with the thought which kept invading his mind. He knew the others would tell him he was blameless, but he could not bear the thought of asking the question at the moment. Instead, he turned to face the Great Hall and moved slowly towards it.

As they moved towards the Great Hall they passed a small anteroom which sat off to the left. Harry peered into the room and felt his breath catch as his stomach lurched. Several bodies were lined up on the stone floor of the room, all wearing the distinctive black robes of Death Eaters, some still wearing their Death Eater masks. One body however, stood out. The snake like features still gleamed and the red eyes stared lifelessly at the ceiling. Harry felt the searing pain in his chest again as he stared at the body of the man who had haunted his dreams for almost half his life.

Realising Harry had stopped; Hermione and Ron came back and stood by his side, looking down at the bodies arrayed before them. Hermione, a look of disgust on her face, averted her gaze. Ron’s face was contorted with rage, and he vented his anger by launching a violent kick at the body of Voldemort. As Ron’s foot connected, the pain in Harry’s chest surged until his vision blurred and he thought he might pass out.

“Come on. I don’t want to look at it,” said Hermione, her voice rasping as she put her arm around Ron and steered him back towards the Great Hall. Harry grimaced as he shook his head clear before he slowly trailed after Ron and Hermione.

The three weary friends passed through the open doors of the Great Hall, Ron and Hermione still holding on to one another for support. The tables and chairs which normally lined the entire hall had been removed from one side and replaced with beds, which now contained sleeping witches, wizards and house elves. Harry noticed that several of the sleeping figures were visibly injured, but the injuries did not seem too severe. He was momentarily comforted by this before he realised the badly and critically injured would be filling the hospital wing. He felt his heart sink again as another wave of guilt and misery passed through him.

Harry looked to his immediate right and was surprised to see the Malfoy family still sitting near the entrance to the Great Hall, looking entirely unsure of what they should be doing. He had assumed they would have fled or been arrested by this point, but he didn’t have the energy to worry about it at the moment.

“There they are,” said Ron quietly as he and Hermione headed towards a group of red haired witches and wizards sitting at the end of one of the long wooden tables on the other side of the hall. Harry looked towards the group seated in the distance and hesitated as he saw the grief on the Weasley family faces.

“Come on, mate,” said Ron, looking back over his shoulder, “They’ll want to see you too.”

Ron and Hermione continued onwards but Harry didn’t move as he saw Ginny raise her head from the table and look directly at him from the end of the hall. Harry almost smiled at Ginny but it faltered on his lips. He was troubled by the expressionless mask Ginny’s face appeared to be, even from this distance. She showed no reaction to seeing Harry, instead, resting her head back onto her father’s shoulder and looking back down at the table in front of her.

                                                               *

Ginny was seated on a wooden bench at the far end of the Great Hall, near the staff table. Her pain at losing her brother was magnified by the other losses, particularly Tonks and Remus. She had spent her childhood growing up with regular visits from both of her parents friends and had become close to Tonks, who often made her laugh by changing her appearance in the middle of dinner.

She had been delighted when she had learned of Remus’ and Tonks wedding, the couple finally finding happiness with each other. Shortly after, little Teddy Lupin was born and she had marvelled at the change in Remus upon her return to the Burrow only a few short weeks ago, before going into hiding. Teddy had been just what she needed to keep her mind off the horrors she had endured during the school year, but the happiness was so short lived. Teddy was now an orphan as his parents lay dead in another room of the castle.

She ached to see her brother and her friends again, at least one more time, but she knew this was not possible. She had thought the same thing last night when she saw Hagrid carrying the limp, lifeless figure of Harry towards the castle doors. She had felt her heart was being ripped from her body as she screamed his name, and would have given anything to bring him back to life.

Now she looked up and there he stood, her wish come true. She felt a surge of anger flow through her body as she looked at Harry, but she no longer had the energy to maintain her anger. Her heart still ached for Harry. He looked so damaged and weak as he stood at the end of the hall, no longer exuding the strength and control he had always possessed in her eyes. Harry looked gaunt and pale, cuts covering his exposed skin, the sparkle in his eyes no longer there to captivate her. She did not know if she wanted to kiss him for being alive, or scream at him for letting her think he was dead.

She could not make her decision right now, so she looked away from Harry Potter and returned her head to her father’s shoulder.

                                                               *

 

Harry watched as Ron and Hermione reached the other Weasley family members seated at the far table. He watched as Mrs Weasley stood and embraced her youngest son and Hermione. He watched as Charlie, Bill, Percy, Ginny, and Mr and Mrs Weasley all stood and exchanged handshakes or embraces with Ron and Hermione. Only George remained seated, his head bowed and his shoulders slumped; inconsolable at the loss of his twin.

Harry had always marvelled at the closeness shared by the Weasley family, and often felt himself lucky to be drawn into their circle of support. But the Weasley’s were not his family. So he watched from outside the circle, desperately wanting to be comforted by his own family, feeling a sharp pang of loss that his parents were unable to hold him and love him as he felt he so desperately needed.

Harry started to notice that other people were now looking in his direction, many of them pointing and whispering to their companions. Harry felt the walls of the Great Hall closing in around him. He was caught off guard and felt a sudden need to pull his invisibility cloak over his head and disappear beyond the walls of the castle.

He instinctively reached under his jacket, grabbing for the cloak. His hand came out empty as he remembered he had left his cloak in the Gryffindor dormitory.

He scanned the faces around the Great Hall, recognising many of his former class mates. Neville Longbottom was still clutching the sword of Godric Gryffindor, and Seamus Finnigan sat with him, seated at a table with several other students, who were all now looking at Harry with anticipation. Nobody looked hostile but nor did Harry see any happiness in the faces turned towards him. At the far end of the hall he saw Mr Weasley motion for him to join them, but Harry felt unable to move his feet in Mr Weasley’s direction.

Making excuses about needing to see the Headmistress, even though he was talking only to himself, Harry turned back towards the door way and walked out of the Great Hall heading back to the Gryffindor dormitory and the safety of his invisibility cloak.

Harry was half way up the central staircase before he heard a familiar voice call after him from below.

“Harry, wait.” Ginny’s voice had lost all of its defiance from the previous evening, but it still retained a hard edge as she called to him.

Harry felt his chest tighten at the sound of Ginny’s voice. He had waited so long to be with her again, but now the moment had come and he felt very unsure of what he should do. It had been a lot simpler in his dreams... no looks of anger and bitterness had passed between them, and Harry had known exactly what to do and say, resulting in a joyous moment of love and celebration making the previous year’s struggles worth all the pain and fear.

Instead, Harry had found that a vice like pressure had gripped his chest as he desperately fought the urge to start running up the remaining stairs and hide in his dormitory.

Harry stopped and turned around, facing back down the stairs as Ginny ascended from below. He watched as her long red hair moved back and forwards across her shoulders as she came towards him. She reached him quickly but stopped several steps short of where Harry waited.

She surveyed him carefully, becoming more alarmed at his appearance now that she was so close to him. She noticed the deep cuts on his gaunt face, and the hollow look in his once vibrant eyes. She could tell he was torturing himself for the outcome of the battle, but she was unable to show her sympathy for him now. He had pretended to be dead, knowing she could see his lifeless body, and he had let her believe it knowing it would break her heart. She could not understand why he had done it and her anger would not subside until she had an explanation.

“Why did you do it?” Ginny demanded, her eyes blazing at Harry.

Harry was lost already, “Why did I do what?” he asked, baffled.

“I thought you were dead. How could you let me think that? How could you let any of us think that?” Ginny couldn’t restrain the venom in her voice.

Harry had expected this but still found he was unprepared.

“Ginny, you don’t understand.”

“Explain it to me then.”

Harry tried to open his mouth and answer her. He wanted to tell her everything. He wanted to tell her about his tainted soul, about the prophecy which foretold his death, and why it had been necessary for him to face Voldemort and allow himself to be killed. He had sacrificed himself for her; he had almost stopped when he had seen her in the grounds as he walked past, wanting only to have her stop him. He wanted her to know that she was the last thing he saw before he died, that she had been the image that allowed him to hold his nerve as he faced his death.

Instead, his answers caught in his throat, and he could barely look the girl he loved in the eyes. He stood in front of her and said nothing, unable to breathe, seeing the agony etched on Ginny’s face as the fire in her eyes faded.

Harry saw the tears form in her eyes as she turned away from him and descended the stairs. He watched her go for a moment before he turned and ran the rest of the way back to his dormitory. Upon reaching his bed he grabbed the invisibility cloak from the bedside table and covered himself as he sat down heavily on the floor.

Waves of anguish and guilt passed through him as he cried, his body trembling as his chest heaved from the effort of drawing breath.

                                                               *

 

Ginny descended the stairs, a feeling of emptiness spreading through her heart. She stopped and looked back up the stairs; she could not leave it like this. But Harry was already gone, the sound of running footsteps coming from above.

Ginny felt numb, Harry had left her again.

As Ginny reached the bottom of the stairs Hermione rounded the corner, and upon seeing the distress on Ginny’s face, grabbed her by the arm.

“Ginny, what’s wrong? Where’s Harry?” Hermione asked, concerned for both of her friends.

Ginny pulled her arm out of Hermione’s grasp and ran to the girl’s bathroom located outside the Great Hall. She slammed the bathroom door behind her, nearly knocking Hermione out as she came running in after her.

“Ginny, wait. What’s happened?” Hermione asked breathlessly.

Ginny spun around, startling Hermione with the anger on her face.

“He wouldn’t even talk to me,” she screamed. “I asked him why he wanted me to think he was dead. He didn’t say a word, just looked right through me.” Ginny was nearly hysterical by now.

Hermione rushed forwards to hold Ginny. She felt her own tears begin to flow as she held Ginny and stroked her back, trying to calm her distraught friend.

As Hermione held her, Ginny’s knees buckled and she sank to the cold tiled floor, taking Hermione with her.

Hermione moved herself into position sitting beside Ginny, and pulled her friend’s head down onto her shoulder. She had known something was wrong with Harry, something was wrong with his chest, she had seen that much for herself. But she could not understand why he would shun Ginny. She had seen Harry watching his map of Hogwarts while they were on the run, hiding in forests, keeping his eye on the dot that represented Ginny. She had seen the relief on his face each time he became sure Ginny was alright, sleeping in her bed at the top of Gryffindor Tower. She knew Harry’s one guiding light throughout their ordeal had been Ginny, and his desire to be reunited with her again. Something was very wrong and she didn’t know what it could possibly be.

“Ginny, did Harry say anything to you at all?”

“No,” Ginny responded bitterly, “and as soon as I turned away from him he ran away.”

I need to get Ron onto this now, Hermione thought herself. He might be able to find out what is troubling Harry so deeply that he could not talk to Ginny.

“Why wouldn’t he talk to me, Hermione? I’m the one who should be upset. It’s not like he lost family last night, did he?” Ginny regretted the words the moment she said them, a wave of anguish passing through her as she began to sob into Hermione’s shoulder.

Hermione stroked Ginny’s hair as her own tears poured down her face. She didn’t know how to respond to Ginny. Ginny was right; Harry hadn’t lost any family during the battle, only because he had no family left to lose.

Ginny’s voice was rasping when she spoke again, “It’s not fair, Hermione. I have waited and hoped and prayed all year that he would come back to me. I have loved Harry for too long to let him leave me just because I might be in danger, but I accepted his decision at Dumbledore’s funeral because I believed he would always come back one day. And now that he has returned, I’m angry with him and he can’t talk to me.” Ginny began to sob again. “What do I do, Hermione? I thought it would be so easy once Harry returned.”

Hermione was deeply troubled. Her two best friends had always seemed destined to be together. She knew Ginny had felt that way since Harry had rescued her from the Chamber of Secrets when Ginny was only eleven; and Harry loved Ginny so much that he thought the only way to ensure her safety was to break up with her, breaking his own heart as he did so. Hermione didn’t know what the problem was now; however, she did know what she had seen during her travels with Ron and Harry. Hermione continued to stroke Ginny’s hair as she spoke softly to her.

“He loves you Ginny. I know he does. When he thought Ron and I were asleep at night he would sit and stare at you on the Marauder’s map, watching you sleep for hours.”

Ginny took a deep breath to calm herself, hating that she had lost control, “What’s the Marauder’s map?”

“Oh.” Hermione had forgotten that Ginny had not been part of their group when the map was last used. “It’s just a map that shows the location of every person within Hogwarts castle. Fred and George gave it to Harry several years ago.” She felt Ginny stiffen for a moment at the mention of Fred’s name, but then she relaxed into her shoulder again.

“He could see me on this map?” asked Ginny, a touch of hope in her voice.

“He would stare at you for hours, hoping you were safe. I think you were the only thing that kept him going in our darkest hours, and it got very dark at times. We didn’t know if we would succeed, or if we even could succeed.” Hermione’s memories of their quest floated to the top of her mind as she recalled the fear and dread they had lived with for nearly a year.

Ginny lifted her head from Hermione’s shoulder, “Did he talk about me?”

Hermione could sense the longing behind Ginny’s question, but she could not lie to her friend.

“Harry never talked about you... because he had promised Ron that he had ended it with you and wouldn’t hurt you again,” Hermione saw the flash of anger in Ginny’s eyes, and realising she may have just put Ron in harm’s way, she decided to quickly move on, “but mainly I think he was scared to talk about you, even just with me. I think he was afraid something would happen to you if he acknowledged his feelings for you, and he couldn’t bear the thought of putting you in further danger.”

Ginny lifted her head and looked at Hermione, smiling weakly.

“I can relate to that. I spent my year terrified of hearing that something had happened to the three of you. But I still can’t understand why he would let me think he had died.” Ginny shook her head sadly. “How did he even end up in the forest anyway? I thought he was inside the castle with you and Ron.”

Hermione thought that was an interesting question. It hadn’t occurred to her before now. What had happened to Harry before Hagrid had brought him up to the castle?

“He was with us,’ Hermione explained, “we had seen Voldemort kill Snape in the Shrieking Shack, and then returned to the castle. I know he was with us when we found you in the Great Hall but after that I didn’t see him until... well, you know.” Hermione pondered for a moment. Where had Harry gone? Obviously Hagrid knew something - that would be the place to start.

Hermione stood up off the cold tiled floor; she reached out and helped Ginny to her feet.

“Ginny, I think it’s time we got some answers.”

Ginny nodded in agreement, wiping the last of her tears away and brushing her hair back out of her face.

“Come on, let’s go back to the hall and find Ron. Together we will get to the bottom of this,” said Hermione. “We also need to find Hagrid.”

“Hagrid, why Hagrid?” asked Ginny, slightly puzzled.

“Whatever happened to Harry in the forest, Ginny, Hagrid knows something about it. He was the one carrying Harry back to the castle after all.”

Hermione and Ginny started walking back towards the door, holding each other for comfort.

“Don’t worry Ginny, everything will be alright soon,” said Hermione, trying to convince herself as much as Ginny.

                                                               *

 

Harry sat on the stone floor underneath his invisibility cloak, clutching his chest as bolts of pain shot through him, leaving him gasping for breath. The pain was now accompanied by shocking images from his past, reminding him of all those who had fallen after they had come into contact with The Chosen One.

Harry watched again as Cedric Diggory’s body flew through the air; struck by the Killing Curse delivered by Peter Pettigrew on Voldemort’s orders. He saw Sirius Black, his godfather and one remaining link to his family, laugh as his own cousin, Bellatrix LeStrange, struck him with the Killing Curse; Sirius falling backwards into the archway in the Department of Mysteries, at the Ministry of Magic.

The images continued to play in Harry’s head as he rocked backwards and forwards gently, a low guttural noise coming from his throat as his misery grew.

Dumbledore falling backwards from the Astronomy Tower at Hogwarts after Snape delivered the Killing Curse to his chest. That Dumbledore had arranged his own death with Snape’s help did little to ease the sorrow and pain Harry endured having to relive the loss of his mentor again.

Dobby the house-elf; who Harry had freed from his enslavement to the Malfoy’s. Harry remembered Dobby standing before him at Shell Cottage, a silver knife protruding from his tiny chest. He had dug the grave for Dobby by hand, in the garden of Bill and Fleur’s cottage by the sea.

Pictures of Mad-Eye Moody’s rough and scarred visage rose in his head, followed by the heartbreaking sight of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, so recently having  become parents, lying dead together on the floor of the Great Hall.

Percy Weasley shielding his brother’s body from further harm after the castle wall had exploded next to them during the battle last night; Colin Creevey’s body being carried inside from the grounds; the underage wizard having joined the fight, against orders, to help Harry and the others.

Even the sight of Snape lying on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, his life ending as his blood flowed from the wound to his neck inflicted by Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, was now tragic to Harry. The man he had hated for seven years had secretly been protecting him all that time, and in his final act had given Harry the knowledge he needed to bring about Voldemort’s downfall and end the war.

While the huge cost in lives to his friends and family weighed heavily on Harry, it was the loss of his faithful companion Hedwig, which Harry took hardest. His beautiful snowy owl had been his one link to the magical world when he was left to languish at the Dursley’s each summer. His uncle Vernon, aunt Petunia, and cousin Dudley, had all gone out of their way to make Harry’s life miserable, but having Hedwig with him always reminded Harry that he was not alone in the world. His poor Hedwig had died as Harry and Hagrid tried to escape from Voldemort’s Death Eaters, not free to sacrifice herself as Harry had been, but trapped in a cage. The futility of it haunted Harry to this day.

Harry was racked with guilt. So many had died because of him; some just because they had been with him, others because they had stood with him, not realising that they would be killed one by one until Harry sacrificed himself. If only he had known, he could have ended it so much sooner. How many families would have been spared the torment of losing one of their own if he had not come into their lives?

The family that had treated him as one of their own was downstairs right now, mourning the loss of a treasured son, simply because they had taken pity on a lost little boy at a train station all those years ago. Harry was so consumed by the pain that flowed through his body and the visions in his head, that he did not hear the door to his room open.

“Potter,” enquired Professor McGonagall, “I need to see you, Potter.”

Harry flinched at the sound of Professor McGonagall’s voice. He realised he must have been sitting up here alone for a long time if people had started to look for him, but he didn’t dare answer his Professor just yet, as he didn’t want anybody to see him in this state. He knew he couldn’t be seen under the invisibility cloak, but he instinctively pulled the cloak tighter around himself and checked that his feet were also concealed beneath the fabric.

Professor McGonagall sighed heavily, “Harry, dear, I know you are up here. The school portraits observed you enter this room and have not seen you depart. Although Professor Dumbledore had previously informed me that you are in possession of a cloak that would aid you in departing unseen, I am confident that you would not have done so as yet.”

Harry looked at his old Transfiguration teacher from beneath the cloak. Her face looked strained and tired, but her grey hair was perfectly in place and she had managed to change her torn and dirty robes for a formal black set. Harry realised that Professor McGonagall would have been meeting with the families of the dead all day.

Professor McGonagall waited a minute before speaking again, scanning the room for any sign of movement. With another sigh she turned and headed back to the door way.

As Professor McGonagall reached the door way she looked back and spoke into the room, “Very well. Come and see me when you have a mind to, Potter. We have much to discuss.”

Harry was then surprised when he heard a quaver in his stern Professors voice.

“You have nothing to be ashamed of, Potter. I know you are blaming yourself, but yesterday’s events were not your doing.”

Harry wondered how much of that statement could be traced back to the portrait of Albus Dumbledore hanging in the Headmistresses office. The shrewd old man had known Harry’s propensity to blame himself for the burdens, real and imagined, that befell others on his behalf. Had Dumbledore confided as much to Professor McGonagall? Harry guessed his old mentor had and he had a moments panic at what else Dumbledore might have mentioned to Professor McGonagall. He felt revulsion that his Horcrux secret may already be revealed.

When Harry spoke his voice was bitter with regret.

“They should blame me. They all died because of me.” Harry began to sob again from beneath his cloak.

Professor McGonagall did not immediately react to the voice which appeared to have come from somewhere on the floor. Instead, she took a deep breath first before slowly moving towards the point she believed the voice had come from. As she got closer she could hear the sound of Harry sobbing. She knelt down next to Harry’s bed and reached a hand out until she felt the fabric of a cloak. She grasped the cloak and pulled it towards herself until it slid over the top of Harry’s head.

The sight of Harry caused Minerva McGonagall’s breath to catch in her throat. Harry looked a shadow of his former self, trembling and sobbing as tears rolled down his cheeks, splashing onto the floor between his feet. The strong, confident young man she had seen only yesterday had all but disappeared.

“Oh, Potter,” sighed Professor McGonagall. She suddenly found herself doing something she had never done before.

Professor McGonagall sat down on the floor next to Harry and put her arm around the shoulders of her former pupil, blinking back her own tears as she imagined what Harry must be going through. The portrait of Albus Dumbledore had told her that Harry might be experiencing an inordinate amount of guilt about the losses suffered yesterday. She had come to the Gryffindor dormitory prepared to tell Harry that he was being foolish; that he should snap out of it and enjoy the victory as he was now a hero, having rid the world of Lord Voldemort and the threat he had posed.

Instead, she had found a heartbroken boy on the floor, and could do nothing more than comfort him as best she could. Evidently Albus Dumbledore had known Harry Potter far better than she did, and she felt a pang of guilt for that fact.

After several minutes Harry stopped crying and sat motionless. He suddenly felt very awkward as he sat on the floor with Professor McGonagall. Thankfully she broke the silence before he could break down again.

“Potter, listen to me carefully,” said Professor McGonagall kindly, “you mustn’t blame yourself. You are not responsible for the deaths that occurred last night. Lord Voldemort caused those deaths, and you brought about his end, preventing many further deaths.”

Harry sniffed, “But they died fighting for me. If only I hadn’t come to the school they’d still be alive.”

“They fought with you Potter, not for you.” Professor McGonagall’s tone was stern again now, “they fought for their freedom and their families, because like you, they chose to do what was right, instead of what was easy.”

Harry was left speechless by this, recalling Professor Dumbledore’s use of the same words. He dared to hope for a second that Professor McGonagall was right, but it didn’t sit well with him; the nagging feeling that he could have done more still resided in his mind.

“Now, if you would be so good as to accompany me to the Great Hall, we shall render what assistance we may to those who need it, yes?” Professor McGonagall stood and helped Harry to his feet.

Harry looked into Professor McGonagall’s face for a moment before lowering his eyes to stare at the floor again.

“Yes, Professor.” croaked Harry, fighting to regain his composure.

“Good man. We must honour the memory of those who died by living… not by wishing to join them.”

With that Professor McGonagall nodded sharply, turned on her heel and swept from the room, leaving Harry in her wake, his respect for the new Headmistress growing deeper. He sighed to himself and began the long journey back to the Great Hall, thinking about what he would say to Mr and Mrs Weasley, and to Ginny. As he walked he found the burning pain in his chest helped to clear his head; maybe I should get that looked at, Harry thought to himself. His anxiety was growing, but if he could walk into death, he could walk into the Weasley’s.

                                                               *

 

Hermione, Ron and Ginny sat at a wooden table in the Great Hall, the enchanted ceiling now matching the sunset outside as they talked quietly. Nearby, Arthur and Molly Weasley held each other for comfort, the scope of the loss they had suffered starting to sink in.

Hermione glanced up at her adoptive family, and felt overwhelming sympathy for them. Arthur and Molly had treated her as a daughter for years, drawing her into the closest family she had ever known. She knew the loss of Fred must have devastated them, and she would grieve with them soon, but right now she could not ignore the nagging feeling that Harry was in trouble.

“Ron, have you seen Harry’s chest since last night?” asked Hermione.

Ron looked back at her, “Why, in the name of Merlin’s armpit, would I be looking at Harry’s chest, Hermione? I can think of many other chests I’d rather look at.”

To Ginny, her brother’s reply seemed a fair question. “What’s wrong with Harry’s chest?” she asked quietly, noting that the concerned look on Hermione’s face hadn’t changed at all, despite Ron’s ill-timed and tacky attempt at humour.

“Didn’t you see the way Harry clutched at his chest when we were in the common room, Ron? His eyes rolled back and I thought he was going to pass out until he spoke again.” Hermione bit her bottom lip, “He’s been injured, possibly badly, yet he doesn’t want anybody to know. Something’s not right.”

Fear gripped at Ginny’s heart. She and Harry had gotten off to a bad start following their reunion after ten months apart, and she knew she was partly to blame for the uncomfortable atmosphere that had sprung up between her and Harry. She wanted to fix the problem between them, but they had been unable to find Harry for almost an hour now. They had also been unable to find Hagrid, the one person who may be able to shed some light on the events involving Harry last night. She knew others were looking for Harry too, but it seemed he had deliberately disappeared. She didn’t think she would be able to forgive herself if something happened to Harry before they had a chance to reconcile. Her initial anger had given way to a growing concern for the man she knew she had loved for most of her life.

When Ginny brought her mind back to the conversation she found Ron was sitting next to her looking thoughtful.

“I don’t know, ‘Mione,” said Ron cautiously, “I mean, I’ll admit Harry looked pretty beat up, but he did walk down here with us, and according to Ginny, he was able to run up the stairs as well. Just how badly could he be hurt if he can run?”

Ron’s argument seemed to have convinced himself and Ginny, but Hermione remained undaunted in her concern.

“His clothes weren’t damaged,” Hermione persisted, “yet his chest was obviously causing him pain. Maybe a strong curse hit him and its affects haven’t fully set in yet.”

Ron looked doubtful, “Curses aren’t like the flu, Hermione. You don’t get symptoms, you get hit. Not a lot of middle ground in curse territory.”

“I know that.” Hermione reached across the table and took Ron’s hand in her own. “I’m just concerned about Harry, that’s all.”

“Yeah… me too. I’ll keep an eye on him if the bugger ever shows up.” said Ron.

“Ron,” hissed Hermione, inclining her head towards Ginny.

Realisation dawned on Ron’s face. “Oh, Ginny, I’m sorry.” Tears began to form in Ginny’s eyes again. “I’m sure Harry’s around her somewhere. He probably just needed a bit more sleep, that’s all.” Ginny nodded, but her tears kept falling into her long red hair.

Hermione looked up at the entry way of the Great Hall as a familiar figure entered.

“Look,” she indicated towards the end of the Great Hall, “there’s Professor McGonagall. Maybe she can help?”

Hermione and Ron stood but made no attempt to move any further.

Ron grinned as he sat back down again, “Erm... maybe not.”

Ginny turned to her brother, looking puzzled. Hermione had also returned to her seat as well.

Ron grinned at his little sister. She had a sudden urge to Bat-Bogey hex him but he merely pointed over her shoulder and said, “Look who’s with McGonagall.”

Ginny felt her stomach drop as she turned around to look at where Ron was pointing. Please let it be Harry, she thought to herself.

Ginny stared at the person walking behind Professor McGonagall. Her heart seemed to skip a beat as she watched Harry stride into the Great Hall. He still looked terrible but at least he was here.

Harry strode down between the rows of tables towards them. Ginny never took her eyes off of Harry; as if afraid he would vanish again if she even blinked.

Harry looked at Ron, Hermione and Ginny seated at the table as he walked down the row. Ron and Hermione were grinning at him, but Ginny had tears in her eyes and looked more shocked than pleased to see him again. Harry maintained a grim expression as he made to walk straight passed his three closest friends.

Ginny took her chance. She grabbed Harry’s arm as he walked passed her. Why hadn’t he stopped? She could feel the anger rising inside her again as Harry turned and looked down at her. She stood up, bringing her eyes level with Harry’s.

“What......” Ginny began, but a small smile from Harry stopped the words in her throat.

Harry took her face gently in his hands and placed his forehead against hers.

“I just need one minute, and then I’ll be back.”

Harry’s voice held a determined tone and Ginny knew not to protest right now. She also knew he meant it when he said he would be back and she felt her heart fly; she had not lost him forever.

Ginny nodded slightly as they broke apart, and she sat back down and watched him head towards her parents. Ginny instantly understood where he was going. Smiling, she turned back to look at Hermione, whose face was radiant with the pleasure she felt for her friends. Ron, however, looked indifferent, his only reaction to seeing the shared moment between Harry and Ginny was a slightly raised eyebrow directed towards Hermione.

Hermione wondered if Ron had realised the significance of what had just occurred between Harry and Ginny. She was waiting for him to say something completely Ron like, which would leave her highly embarrassed and Ginny highly angry. After all, Ron had been less than courteous towards Harry after barging in on him and Ginny sharing a kiss at the Burrow last year.

Hermione waited, but no outburst from Ron was forthcoming; he didn’t even seem inclined to indulge in a good case of the sulks. “I wonder where we can get some food,” Ron mused to himself.

Hermione couldn’t stand it any longer. “Ron, are you going to be okay?”

“Okay about what?”

Even Ginny seemed a little surprised by this. Hermione guessed that Ron did not understand what he had just witnessed.

Hermione spoke calmly, trying to suppress the urge to laugh, “Harry and Ginny, you big goof ball.” She was grinning now. “You do realise they are going to get back together, don’t you?”

Ron looked at Ginny first for a moment, and then back at Hermione. He shrugged his shoulders, muttered “I ‘spose,” before continuing to scan the Great Hall in the hopes that food may have magically appeared from the kitchens below.

Hermione was flabbergasted, “What’s going on Ron? I thought you didn’t want Harry and Ginny to get back together.”

Ron grinned at Hermione, “You should see your face ‘Mione.” Hermione’s brow was furrowed and her eyes squinting; she appeared to be thinking so fast that she might pass out. He loved how she looked when she couldn’t understand something, it happened so rarely after all.

“Ronald…” Hermione began.

“It’s okay Hermione.” Ron turned to his little sister. “I know you love him Ginny.” He smiled at his sister and gave her a quick squeeze around the shoulders.

Ginny blinked back tears, “Are you sure you’re going to be okay with this Ron?” Ginny felt elated, if a little bewildered. She had been planning her response to Ron’s objection to her relationship with Harry ever since Hermione had accidentally informed her of Ron’s attitude regarding Harry and her.

Ron let out a small chuckle. “Ginny, I watched Harry defeat the darkest wizard of our times last night. If he wants to be with my little sister, it would probably be very unwise of me to object, as it may limit my own prospects for future happiness with all of my original body parts still attached. Besides, I know he loves you... sitting there watching you on that map every night.”

Hermione and Ginny looked gob smacked. “You knew?” asked Hermione, starting to laugh.

“Knew? Course I knew,” said Ron, looking bemused, “three people in a small tent doesn’t leave much room for secrets does it.” With that the three friends began to laugh amongst themselves.

                                                               *

 

Harry tentatively approached Mr and Mrs Weasley. He could see the devastation he felt mirrored in the faces of these two people who had just lost a child to the war. Harry almost stopped, unsure if he should interrupt their quiet grieving. Harry felt panic rise in his chest, another surge of pain shot through him and he felt his mouth go dry. The-Boy-Who-Lived had brought a series of near fatal events to this family over the years, and last night their luck had finally given out.

Arthur and Molly Weasley’s son, Percy, remained at their side with his head bowed. He had taken the death of Fred hard, questioning why he had been allowed to live despite his treachery towards his own family, while Fred had died standing next to him.

Harry wondered where the rest of the Weasley’s sons were; Bill, Charlie, and of course, George. George would be with Fred, being unwilling to be parted from his twin, Harry guessed.

Harry knew he couldn’t hold it together for much longer, so he took a deep breath, and knelt down in front of Arthur and Molly. He hung his head, letting his long black hair cover his eyes, as he sought for any words that wouldn’t sound hollow and empty. He flinched when a gentle hand cupped his chin and raised his head up. He looked up into the eyes of the kind face before him.

“Mrs Weasley…” Harry spoke softly. “I don’t know what to say.”  After a brief pause he continued, “I’m sorry it was Fred and not me.”

Molly Weasley, who had cared for Harry as if he was her own, was troubled by Harry’s appearance. She had already seen her son, Ron, and Hermione; and while they looked like they hadn’t eaten properly for months, and were suffering from obvious exhaustion, they had otherwise looked relatively healthy. But the young man kneeling before her looked broken, both physically and emotionally. Something dark and terrible had plagued this boy for most of his life, and Molly was worried that now it was over Harry was going to come apart at the seams.

“Oh Harry, dear. You mustn’t think like that,” said Mrs Weasley through her tears, “There’s nothing you could have done.” With that Molly stood, and with her husband they drew Harry up and embraced him as their own.

They talked for several minutes about how Harry was, before Harry asked where the rest of the Weasley family were. Arthur and Molly explained that their eldest sons, Bill and Charlie, had departed for the Weasley house, The Burrow, in Ottery St Catchpole, taking the body of their fallen brother, Fred, with them. George Weasley had also returned to the Burrow, refusing to either speak or leave his twins’ side. Bill and Charlie had promised to return once Fred’s body had been placed within the local mortuary.

Harry quickly made his excuses as he felt his legs begin to shake; the pain in his chest was now spreading through his body. He turned and made his way back to Hermione, Ron, and his beloved Ginny. As he walked slowly towards his friends he noticed the Malfoy’s still sitting near the entrance to the Great Hall. Nobody seemed to be paying them any attention at all.

Harry sat down next to Ginny and took her hand in his under the table. Ginny responded by leaning her head against his shoulder. Harry looked down the table at Ron, and was startled to see his best friend grinning at him. Harry wasn’t about to complain, so he drew his hand out from under the table, let go of Ginny’s hand, and placed his arm around her, before taking her hand again in his other hand.

The sound of a booming, and possibly drunk, voice suddenly filled the Great Hall. They all turned to see Hagrid enter the hall, all wild bushy hair and animal skin clothes, singing merrily to himself and anyone else within earshot.

“Arry,” bellowed Hagrid, as his black beetle eyes spotted Harry. The half giant gamekeeper stumbled over to Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron.

When he arrived at the table he clapped Harry hard on the back. “That was bloody amazin’, Arry,” slurred Hagrid, “there’s not many who as could ‘ave done that. The way yer just walked straight up to ‘im, just as bold as yer like. Amazin’, it was.”

“What’s he talking about Harry?” asked Hermione.

“Nothing,” said Harry quickly.

“Nothin’… nothin’,” Hagrid chuckled, “you ought to ‘ave seen ‘im ‘ermione. Just stood there in front ‘o old Voldy…”

Harry saw the confusion on Ron and Ginny’s faces, but Hermione’s face held a dawning comprehension. She was looking at Harry’s chest, as if she could see through the fabric. Harry panicked and stood suddenly, almost knocking Ginny off her seat.

“Hagrid, could I have a word?” asked Harry, already walking away from the table so he wouldn’t be overheard.

“O’ course, Arry.” Hagrid shuffled off after Harry.

Hermione watched intently as Harry and Hagrid spoke quietly for a minute. Eventually Hagrid gave Harry a quick nod and a pat on the shoulder, before he lumbered off towards the staff table, not looking entirely pleased. She turned back to Ron.

“Ron, Harry’s hurt. I’m sure of it,” said Hermione, urgency in her voice. “Something’s wrong with his chest. I don’t know how Harry ended up in the forest with Voldemort last night, but I’m sure it has something to do with his chest.”

Ron stuttered for words while Ginny’s face paled. Ginny suddenly rose from the table and ran to Harry.

Harry turned just as Ginny reached him. She grabbed him by the hands and looked directly into his eyes. Harry suddenly felt fixed in place.

“Harry, are you hurt?” her voice barely above a whisper, terrified of the answer.

“I’m fine, Gin. It’s okay. Just a bit sore is all.” Harry hated to lie to Ginny but he was far more frightened of having to explain what had happened to him and the damage he feared his soul may have suffered, than of the physical pain that accompanied the ugly wound on his chest. I’ll feel better tomorrow, Harry told himself.

Ginny thought Harry looked scared for a second as he answered her, but she didn’t want to argue tonight. Instead, she leaned forward and gently kissed his lips, drawing him into a warm embrace.

Harry and Ginny held onto each other, both falling hopelessly in love with each other again. Neither realised that this was the first kiss they had shared for nearly a year. Everything suddenly felt right in their world and for one perfect moment they both happily let themselves be taken away by it.

Both Harry and Ginny flinched as Arthur Weasley called from behind them.

“Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione,” Arthur beckoned to them all, “Professor McGonagall has informed us there will be a remembrance dinner here later tonight. We shall all head back to the Burrow and prepare. I think a hot shower will do you all the world of good.”

Arthur led the four friends, his wife and son, Percy, out into the grounds and the quickly fading light. The sun had dropped below the distant mountains; the first stars were twinkling in the early night sky and an eerie calm had descended over the castle. Harry looked back at Hogwarts castle, surprised to find the damage didn’t seem so bad in the darkness.

“We can apparate from here, the protective wards inside the castle have been recast but all the wards surrounding the grounds are still down at the moment, and will remain so until tomorrow at least,” explained Arthur. He turned on the spot and disappeared with a ‘pop’, followed by Molly, Percy, Ron and Hermione.

Ginny turned to Harry, “I can’t apparate yet. I think Mum and Dad forgot.”

Harry smiled at her, “It’s okay, take my hand.”

Ginny smiled back as she took Harry’s hand, and with a ‘pop’, they were gone.

 


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