Harry Potter sat, eyes fixed to the front, at the assembly before him. It had been two days since the war had ended, but the joy brought to the wizarding world by the knowledge of safety was marred horribly by the faces of those who had been killed in order for it to happen. Harry was sitting in the grounds of Hogwarts, amongst the crumbling stones that had been flung from the castle walls, in a patch of clear ground cleared by the clean up squad that stayed behind after battle to return Hogwarts to its previous splendour. But this was not the time for cleaning. The large circle of grass had been cleared, and scattered with flowers conjured from the tips of wands. They were pale silver-blue, and covered the ground so perfectly that it felt as if it was a massive carpet, bursting with subtle fragrance. Chairs had been arranged in the cleared space, all facing towards a podium that had been erected.
Here, Kingsley Shacklebolt, the acting Minister for Magic, and Minerva McGonagall, the new Headmistress of Hogwarts, were standing. McGonagall had a tear in her eye, but her voice never wavered as she said, “It is here that we say our last farewells. We may not be able to see them, or touch them, but nevertheless, they will be there. They died so that we might one day live in a world where their family and friends can say that they are safe. They fought for the noblest of causes, and won. And for that, we thank them.”
As she read the long list of names of those who had died, Harry listened for ones that he knew. Each time he heard the name of one of his friends, it felt as if his stomach twisted over. He could not shake the feeling that this was all his fault. In his heart, he knew he had done all he could, but still he could not get rid of the guilt.
He picked up Ginny’s hand, who was sitting next to him, and squeezed it. She looked at him, eyes full of tears not quite ready to spill over, and gave a sad little smile. They both turned back to the front, but then Mcgonagall read the name, “Fred Weasley”. Ginny’s nails dug into harry’s hand, and she lay her head on his chest, heaving silent sobs. Harry stroked her back and kissed the top of her head, murmuring softly under his breath to her. They weren’t really words that he said, just sounds, letting her know that he was still there, that he understood.
They returned back to the burrow that evening - all the Weasleys, Harry and Hermione. Fred’s body had been taken there a few hours earlier, after the ceremony, and now they all walked out into the garden. As if they had rehearsed it, every person raised their wands and whispered, ‘pucera’. Thousands of tiny balls of light streamed from their wands, filing the large garden with a silver glow. “Alright” said Molly, her voice quavering, “on three” and they pointed their wands at the ground, and slowly raised them up. A large rectangular hole was made, and it was here that Fred’s five brothers lowered him into the earth.
As everyone stared at the coffin in the ground, Harry raised his wand, and silently, so silently, a silver stag leapt from it. It landed lightly on the ground, and slowly bowed its antlered head towards the grave. Hermione’s otter soon joined it, and then the patronuses of the Weasleys joined them. The sorrow that filled them did not cease, but the presence of the patronuses seemed to make it easier to bear. The pure goodness that flowed from them was so calming, so full of love, that each of the mourners felt a little less alone.
When they had filled in the grave, they each quietly excused themselves one by one. Each one of them wanted nothing more than to sleep for days, just to try and forget what had happened. Eventually it was just Harry and Mrs Weasley left in the living room. Harry went to sit next to her, and put his arm around her shoulders. “I’m so sorry Mrs Weasley.” he said, so quietly that if he hadn’t been right next to her, she wouldn’t have heard. She sniffed, and looked at him tenderly as if she had been his mother.
“Harry, you are a very good man. Now get to bed.” Harry could still hear the trace of Molly-ness behind the grief. He smiled a little. He said goodnight and started up the stairs.
When he passed Ginny’s room, he heard sobbing from inside. He knocked quietly, and opened the door. She was curled up on her bed, rocking slightly back and forth. She didn’t look up at him as he crossed the room and sat next to her on the bed. He took her in his arms and held her there tightly. They stayed like that for several minutes, until she finally raised her head. She looked at him, straight in the eyes, and then kissed him. She was gentle, soft at first, and then grew with urgency, as if she needed to make sure that he was still there, that he wouldn’t leave her as well. Her hands were in his hair, his at the small of her back, when they broke apart. Harry was hit by how radiantly lovely she was, even with puffy eyes and teartracks down her face. He kissed he once more, just once, and whispered to her, “You are so beautiful”. He got up to leave, for at the burrow, people were bound to ask awkward questions if he stayed all night, even if they didn’t actually do anything. She stopped him, catching his hand with hers. He kissed her forehead, and closed the door behind him.
He stood outside her door for a while, wishing that he could just hold her all night, then went off to the camp bed that he lived on in Ron’s room. Ron wasn’t there yet, although he had gone to bed a while ago. Harry assumed he was saying goodnight to Hermione. Harry was glad to be alone. What with the aftermath of war, he had had barely any time to himself. He lay on the creaky camp bed, and fell asleep immediately. When he woke up, his face would be wet with tears.