Chapter 2 : Survivors Guilt
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He stood on tip-toes to scan over the crowd, and saw the distinctive huddle of red-heads and Hermione’s unmistakable bushy birds nest, rested lightly on Ron’s shoulder. He smiled at the sight of the pair of them, it had taken long enough! As he strode over to where they stood, studiously avoiding the eyes that followed his every move, Harry suddenly felt a twist of nervousness in his stomach, what if they all hated him? What if they couldn’t forgive him for causing Fred’s death? Or worse still, what if they pretended to have forgiven him, but still had that awkwardness hanging over them like a dark cloud? He inhaled deeply and approached his adopted family.
They all turned to him, and as soon as Harry looked into their kind eyes, he knew he had nothing to worry about, they all still had the tear-tracks freshly on their faces, but still managed to raise a smile for his benefit.
“Hello, Harry dear,” Mrs Weasley crooned, smiling a smile tinged with sorrow. She hugged him warmly, and Harry smelled the pleasant, distinctive scent that always followed both Molly and Ginny, it was rosy and sweet. He felt safe all wrapped up in Mrs Weasleys maternal embrace, and it felt as if the world was beginning to right itself again. Mrs Weasley released him, and he faced the others, while she fumed over how thin he was looking; his eyes met Ginny’s and suddenly, nothing else mattered, everything would be ok, because he was exactly where he was supposed to be. She smiled up at him, and Harry knew that he would always need to be with her. He was suddenly knocked almost off his feet by a crying Hermione, she dashed at him like a charging bull, sobbing indistinguishable and broken words, like;
“Dead..hic…g-gone…lef-left…hic..couldn’t..hic…f-find..” Ron rolled his eyes, and carefully prised her clenched fists off of Harry’s grimy shirt.
“She’s been like this all day, thought you’d left without telling us or something, I was beginning to wonder myself...where've you been?”
“Sleeping,” answered Harry truthfully, “I went up to Gryffindor common room last night, it felt the same, nothing happened to it, not even after…after last night.”
Hermione tutted scornfully, Didn’t either of you read A history of Magic?”
“No,” chorused Ron and Harry,
“Because if you had, you’d know that each of the four common rooms has a protective spell on it, that way, if Hogwarts was ever under attack, like last night, the students would have a last resort alternative of safety. As it happened, last night, we had the fore-warning to evacuate the majority of the students.”
Wow- thought Harry, everything was returning to normal after all…
After the preliminary catch ups with the Weasleys, Harry could tell that he ought to leave them alone, this was their final chance to say goodbye to Fred, after all. Tomorrow, the Ministry would escort the dead to an official morgue until each funeral could be arranged. He bade them adieu, and set off to explore the remains of the castle.
He’d just reached the entrance to Dumbledore’s…no, McGonagall’s study, when he felt a cool hand slip into his own. Harry glanced around to see Ginny, looking back at him, her big, dark eyes as round as saucers. He smiled fondly at her freckled adorned face,
“Hey stranger,” Harry smiled, his eye’s twinkling with the brilliant feeling that her small hand in his gave him.
“Hey Undesirable Number One,” she grinned back, glad that he hadn’t forgotten about her. She looked up at him, and flung her arms around him, nestled in comfortably and stayed there for some time.
When they released each other a while later, Ginny sighed contentedly and turned to face Harry,
“It’s really over isn’t it? He really has gone.”
“I should hope so!” laughed Harry, “took him long enough to figure out he wasn’t wanted!”
“Will everything change now, will it be alright?”
“I don’t know Gin, it’ll take a while for everyone to settle down, recover from what they’ve lost. People need to rebuild their lives now. We need to build a life too. Together, I hope?”
“Together,” repeated Ginny, firmly, “It’s going to be so different without Fred, I don’t think George, or any of us will feel like we can move on. He’s not coming back, it’s not right, Harry, it’s not right.”
She began to cry, which knocked Harry for six, Ginny had always been so strong, and he’d never seen her cry. Not when she’d fallen off her broom that time in the Hufflepuff match, or when Ron burned her clothes for a dare at the Burrow, not even when Mad-Eye died. But now, she let the tears fall freely and noisily. And for the second time that day, Harry found himself being wrung like a human handkerchief.
“Shush now Gin, it’s alright, it’s different, sure, but I promise it’ll be ok. I promise.”
And they spend the evening wandering around the castle, talking, laughing, crying, and making up for lost time.