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CHAPTER ONE- It’s Over…Now What?


Harry made his way down the stairs with Ron and Hermione, each silently lost in their own thoughts. Harry had just shown his two best friends Snape’s memories from Dumbeldore’s pensieve.  Now they understood, as did Harry, how their former professor was risking his life everyday, to give Harry the best chance he could of defeating Voldemort.  It was all so overwhelming.  Harry could still not believe that it was all over.  He had actually been able to rid the world of the evil that was Voldemort. And, he was still alive.  This was the most bizarre part of the whole story.  He had fully prepared himself to die; thought for sure he would not survive.  Yet, here he was while so many others lay dead in the great hall and on the grounds of Hogwarts.  It didn’t seem fair.  They should all be here, too, celebrating their freedom from hell. If only he had been able to kill Voldemort sooner.  Then, maybe Tonks and Remus would be alive to raise their son.  If only he would have destroyed the horcruxes earlier, Fred would still be here joking with George and making everyone around him feel better, even with all the sadness surrounding them.  Fred…Harry was again overwhelmed by the fact that a member of the family he been close enough with to call his own, was gone forever.  How were the Weasley’s going to go on?  How was George going to be George without Fred? 


All of a sudden, Harry stopped in his tracks, his breath caught in his throat.  There she was standing at the foot of the stairs, staring right at him.  She was even more beautiful than Harry remembered.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He could tell that she had been crying.  Her eyes were puffy and her cheeks were red.

Ron cleared his throat, “Um, er, well…I guess Hermione and I will head over to the Great Hall and check on the others, see how um, Mum and Dad are coping with, well, you know…umm…  “Come on Ron!” whispered Hermoine as she tugged on his arm and led him away to leave a stunned Harry alone with Ginny.  She slowly walked over to where he was standing on the stairs and stopped only inches away from him.  Harry was reeling from the closeness.


To his amazement, Harry was able to find his voice and immediately asked Ginny how she was holding up. But, instead of answering his question directly, she reached out her hand towards him and touched his chest, as if to make sure he was really there. Tears started running down her face.  “I…I thought you were dead,” she managed to choke out. I thought I would never s-see you again. I w-wanted to die, too.  First Fred, then you; I couldn’t stand it, anymore! Yet, here you are, right in front of me and I still can’t believe you’re alive.  I saw you kill Voldemort but I still don’t feel relief.”


She tore herself away from Harry, turned around and covered her face with her hands, sobbing uncontrollably. Harry couldn’t take seeing her in such misery.  He immediately went over to her and wrapped his arms around her. It felt so good.  He had missed this so much. He never wanted to let her go. They stayed like that for a long time before Ginny quieted down and took a step back to look up at Harry’s face.


The look in Ginny’s eyes made Harry nervous.  He could tell she was struggling with something.  Could she be having doubts about them?  Could she be too angry with him to get back together? These questions were playing in Harry’s head, when she finally spoke. 


“I really thought you had died.  How could you do that to me?  Do you know how that felt? It wasn’t enough for you to leave me behind; to take my brother and best friend with you.  For, what was it you said, to keep me safe?  Yeah, I was really safe here, Harry!  Do you know how many unforgivable curses I withstood at the hands of the death eater professors this past year?”  She started to pace back and forth in front of Harry. “Do you know how many times they singled me out just because they knew of our connection with each other?  They knew Harry, just like I told you they would.  It didn’t matter that you left me here.  I was in just as much danger, maybe more, than if I had come along with you three. I had to leave before term was over, as it was, or I would have been next to be abducted, like so many others…If it wasn’t for Neville and Luna I don’t know how I would have survived!  Not only did you leave me but, you took two of my best support systems with you; my brother and my best friend!  After they took Luna, and Neville went into hiding, I was all alone. I was terrified. I’m still terrified!  I don’t know how I am going to get through this.  Fred is gone. And, I thought you were dead…”  She trailed off in a whisper.  Then she stopped pacing and looked Harry in the eyes. “I’m sorry… I wasn’t sure how I would react when I saw you again.  I realize now that I can’t just go back to the way things were. I can’t even be near you right now. I am too angry and I can’t forgive you for leaving me.  I’m sorry, Harry…”


With that she turned and ran away from Harry—away from what was causing her the most pain at that moment.  She didn’t even wait to hear Harry’s response. He wanted to tell her she was right; she was in the same amount of danger whether she had stayed at school or had come with them.  He had no idea it would be that bad at school; he didn’t know all the details, but from what Ginny just said, it sounded like hell. 


He wondered many times during their mission if he had made a mistake by leaving Ginny behind.  But, the one thing she didn’t take into account and that he didn’t explain to her was how he would not have been able to concentrate on his mission if she was by his side on their hunt for the horcruxes.  Even though he knew she could handle herself just as well as Ron or Hermione, he wouldn’t have been able to control his desire to protect her, no matter what.  It was a guttoral instinct; something he could not control.  He would have spent so much time and energy making sure nothing would happen to her, he would probably have gotten himself killed before the job was finished.  But, how could he tell her that without making her even angrier with him?  It sounded so lame, but there it was, the true reason he hadn’t taken her with them.   


Harry felt like he was going to be sick. He felt like someone had just knocked all the air out of him. Now what?  All these months the only thing that kept him going was thinking of Ginny and how they would be together after it was all over.  Now, she couldn’t even stand the sight of his face.  It brought her too much pain.  What could he do but to stay away from her, as she requested?  He would do anything to make her happy, even if it killed him inside. What was he going to do?  How could he go on pretending he didn’t have feelings for her?  How could he face all the mournful days ahead without the sureness of their future together to keep him going? That was the only reason he fought this war. So that they could one day be together and live out the remainder of their days in peace. 


Now that he thought about it, it was very selfish of him to assume she would wait for him all this time.  He had deserted her after all.  He had expected her to forgive him unconditionally and come running into his arms after Voldemort was vanquished.  What had he been thinking?  He had thought their love was unmatched, that nothing could change their feelings for one another. Well, he knew his feelings hadn’t changed, but hers definitely had.  “Pull yourself together Potter, there are a lot of people you need to see and help back in the Great Hall. Now is not the time to lose it. Go in there and finish your job” he said to himself. “Yeah, look what ‘doing my job’ all my life has cost me.  I wish I had died today” he thought. 


Harry forced himself back into the Great Hall where he knew people needed to talk with him, congratulate him, cry with him. As he entered the mostly destroyed room, the first thing that registered in his mind was the whole Weasley family plus Hermione huddled around Fred’s body to the left of the entrance. Then he heard the roar of cheers coming from the entire room.  They were all cheering for him and then for Ron and Hermione, when they joined him as he walked to the middle of the hall.  It seemed everyone wanted to touch him, pat him on the back or give him a tearful hug.  It was very overwhelming and Harry could barely stand it.  He was glad Ron and Hermione were being treated as his equals, as they were just as responsible for Voldemort’s downfall as he was. 


After a while he found his way over to Fred’s body. He saw George’s expressionless face; Mr. Weasley’s tears flowing freely down his face.  He saw Bill and Fleur hugging each other for support. Then he saw Ginny.  She glared at him from beside George making Harry cringe. That’s when he broke down. It hit him so hard, he could barely breathe. Fred was dead.  He was never coming back again.  He was gone.  Just like Tonks and Remus and Dumbledore and Snape and Serius.  And, it was all so he could survive. All so he could finally rid the world of Voldemort.  But, why did he deserve to live and they didn’t?  He would gladly have sacrificed his own life if it meant their survival.  And, surely Ginny and the whole Weasley family would be far better off.


 Just then, Mrs. Weasley came over to him and hugged him and they both wept in each other’s arms for what seemed like an hour.  Harry kept saying how sorry he was about Fred and how he wished it was him instead, who had died. At this, Mrs. Weasley stopped her crying, took Harry’s face in her hands and scolded him, “Don’t you ever think that way, Harry. You are the reason Voldemort is dead and he is the reason our dear Fred is gone; not you.  You are the one who saved us Harry.  The entire wizarding world owes you their lives.  I know this is hard for you, but you must not blame yourself for everyeone's deaths.  You must never wish you had died, instead. Do you hear me?”


Harry heard her, but couldn’t make that promise to her.  “I’m sorry Mrs. Weasley, but I just can’t hide from the truth any longer.  I should have died tonight.  I realize now that was my fate, all along.  Even Dumbledore knew it.  It wasn’t supposed to end this way. I was supposed to die. I was ready to die. I wish  I was dead…With those final words, Harry walked out of the Great Hall, away from all those people who were giving him false praises. Away from the family who gave him their undeserved love.  Away from his best friends who deserved most of the glory themselves. Away from Ginny, who couldn’t forgive him and didn’t want him anymore.


He didn’t know where he was going to go.  Only that he had to get away from everyone.  He just needed to be alone.  He found himself thinking of Graumald place and apparated to Sirius’ old bedroom. No one had occupied this room since Sirius died. As soon as he saw the bed he fell into it.  He didn’t care that he hadn’t eaten or drank since breakfast the previous day.  He didn’t care that he still had blood and sweat all over his clothes and body. He curled himself up into a tight ball and cried himself to sleep.


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