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A/N: Thanks to those who left reviews.  They are very helpful.  This chapter is a little depressing like the first, but I promise things will start looking up for our friend soon!  
Oh, and of course, none of these wonderful characters are mine...I'm just borrowing them from JK and having a bit of fun.



Harry slept fitfully throughout the day.  He kept re-living the final hours of the battle, wondering what he could have done differently so Fred, Lupin and Tonks would still be alive. He kept hearing Ginny tell him over and over again she could never forgive him for everything that happened. 

 

When he woke up, it was well into the evening of the same awful day.  His stomach was growling and he was miserably thirsty.  He didn’t have any desire to get out of bed, so he hesitantly called out Kreacher’s name, not sure if the house elf would hear him. 

 

Almost at once, he appeared by Harry’s bedside.  “Yes, Master Harry? It’s so good to see you again. What can Kreacher do for you?”

 

“Kreacher, would you mind bringing me some cheese and crackers and a pitcher of water, please?” His throat was so dry it hurt to speak.   

 

“But, Master Harry, surely you must be starving! You probably haven’t had a decent meal since the one I made for you so many months ago.  Please, let me draw you a warm bath while I prepare a real meal for you,” begged Kreacher.

 

“No, Kreacher, not now. Thanks” mumbled Harry as he rolled over on the bed, turning his back to the worried elf, and closed his eyes.

 

Kreacher had no choice but to obey his mater’s meager requests.  So, he apparated downstairs and was back with a tray within minutes.  “Thanks, Kreacher” said Harry.

 

“Is there anything else I can do for Harry Potter?”

 

“Yes, Kreacher. Please close off the fireplace from the floo network. I don’t want any visitors for a while. Thanks.”  And with a crack, Kreacher went to attend to his task. 

Harry slowly sat up in bed and tried to steady himself. He was feeling very woozy from lack of food and drink for so long.  He grabbed the tray and started on his ‘meal’.  When he was half way finished, he left the bed long enough to use the loo, then promptly fell back into bed to sleep the rest of the night away.  This time his dreams consisted mostly of Ginny and all the torture she went through while at Hogwarts,this past year. Every few hours, he would wake up in a cold sweat, his heart beating madly.

 

When he got out of bed the next morning, he felt just as broken as the night before. But, he finally decided to get himself cleaned up. He stepped into the steaming hot shower and let the water wash away all the blood and dirt, from the war, all the sweat and grime encountered on their journey to destroy the horcruxes, all the tears that dried on his face after so many hours of crying. All this was washed away down the drain as Harry stood there, feeling the water flow over his scarred and battered body.  Every muscle in his body was aching. He felt like he had survived a hundred cruciatius curses in one day.

 

After he dried himself off and got dressed he decided to take a look around Sirius’ room. On the walls were photos of the marauder’s, most of the later ones including Lily. Harry paused in front of one particular photo of his parent’s wedding. His mother looked so beautiful in her wedding dress, her face so full of happiness and peace.  His father couldn’t keep his eyes off her.  Everyone was dressed in tuxes and looked so happy to be at this special event, even wormtail.  Funny…he didn’t feel any hatred or anger toward him, anymore. It seemed as if  the anger in Harry dissipated when Voldemort died.  Maybe all that anger and unrest inside of Harry was from the peice of Voldemort that used to live inside him. Maybe now that Voldemort was dead, the awful feelings eminating from that horcrux were dead, as well.

 

His anger may have died with Voldemort, but his emotional pain didn’t.  And, Harry thought he knew why. This pain was caused by something Voldemort didn’t understand.  It was caused by the love he was capable of feeling; the love he had for those who died and for the one person who he hurt the most -- his Ginny.  “No,” he shook his head, “not his Ginny; not anymore.” His heart was aching. He didn’t think a person was capable of feeling so much pain that was not physical. In his opinion, this type of pain was worse.

 

To try to clear his mind, he made his way downstairs to the kitchen. He found that Kreacher had prepared an elaborate breakfast for him. The elf was no where to be found, so Harry sat down and helped himself to black coffee and toast. It was another beautiful day outside; the kind of day for long walks, quidditch games, and swims in the lake. But, none of those activities appealed to Harry today. There was nothing he wanted to do. No where he wanted to be and no one he wanted to see. He just wanted to not think anymore and the only way to do that was to sleep. So, leaving most of the breakfast foods untouched, he returned to the bedroom and got back in bed.

 

Unfortunately, sleep would not come.  He just lay there thinking about the funerals that were to take place soon for Tonks, Remus and Fred. He knew he was expected to go. And, he did want to pay his last respects to those he cared for so much.  But, he just didn’t think he could face everyone there. And, he didn’t want to cause Ginny any more pain by seeing him.  So, it was probably for the best that he not go.

He finally decided that he would not be able to sleep and went to the study, where he thought he would find a book to occupy his time. After aimlessly looking at the titles of all the ancient books kept at the Black house, Harry spotted the bar at the far end of the room.  Maybe, a bit of Firewhiskey would dull his senses enough so he could stop feeling some of this pain.  “It sure couldn’t hurt”, he thought.  Four shots later, Harry was feeling pretty numb and a warm sense of drowsiness took over him. He lay down on the sofa and felt himself fall asleep in front of the warm fire.

 

When Kreacher found him it was near dinner time.  He asked Harry if he wanted to have his food brought to him in the study.  Harry sat up and immediately wished he hadn’t.  His head was pounding.  It took him a few moments to remember why.  Well, maybe all that drinking wasn’t the best idea, after all.  But, at least he was able to sleep the day away and now all he had to do was get through the rest of the evening and it would be time for bed again. He wouldn’t have to be haunted by his thoughts for too much longer. He ate what he could and returned to the bedroom. He found a comfotable window seat, where he watched the outside world and waited for sleep to come to him again.

 

Thus began the routine Harry followed for the next two days. He got cleaned up, ate some breakfast, tried to read a little, but couldn’t concentrate.  Found his thoughts constantly drifting to those who died and their families and then to Ginny, always to Ginny. Even though he knew he shouldn't, Harry used the firewhiskey to escape reality, when nothing else worked. He welcomed   the emotional numbness that came with the alcohol consumption.  It just made things so much easier to handle, even with the awful hangovers, afterwards. 

 

On the third morning came an owl.  It was from Hermione and Ron.  They were worried about him and wanted to know when he was coming back to the Burrow. They told him how they suspected he was at Grammauld Place, but when they tried to floo over yesterday, they were unable to get through. They desperately wanted to talk to him, although they understood he probably wanted to be left alone, for now. Ron added that Ginny was behaving much the same way; keeping to herself and not talking to anyone. Finally, they informed him about when the funerals would take place.

 

Harry still didn’t think he could handle them, but was leaning towards the idea of going. To avoid Ginny he decided he would have to sneak in, using his invisibility cloak.  He sent the owl back to Ron with a note.

 

Dear Ron and Hermione,

I’m sorry, but I just can’t make it to the funerals. Too much has happened since we started this journey. I can’t seem to come to terms with all of it.  I know you will understand. Please try to make the others understand, as well.  Give my regards to the family and tell them I’m so sorry...for everything.  And, take care of Ginny.  She deserves to be happy now that this is all over.

Your friend,..  

Harry

 

After sending the letter, Harry couldn’t think about anything else, but the funerals.  He thought about all those left behind to bear the grief of losing their loved ones.  And, he thought of how much they must hate him for being the cause of their losses.

 

“Why am I still alive?” Harry screamed into the air.  He felt surer than ever that he was never meant to survive this final battle.  He was surely meant to die. Death would be far more peaceful and bearable than living with all these guilty feelings. After a few rounds of drinks, Harry felt himself fall into the now-familiar state of emotional numbness and soon he was asleep on the floor of the den, on the rug in front of the fireplace.

 

Kreacher hated finding his master in this condition so many times during the day. He wanted to help him, but didn’t know how.  If only he could get a message to Harry’s friends, then they could come and help him. But, Harry had made it clear that he did not want any visitors and Kreacher didn’t want to go against his master’s wishes.  He would just have to continue caring for Harry as best he could and wait.  If he didn’t get better soon, then he would take action.

 

Harry woke up in the morning with another terrible headache.  He crawled to the sofa and pulled himself up.  He made his way to the shower and let the cool water wake him up. He knew he couldn’t live like this forever.  He was slowly killing himself. But, he wasn’t ready to do anything about it, not yet. He just didn’t have the will to face what needed to be done in order to move on with his life.  He wasn’t ready to let go of his dreams of being with Ginny. He didn't know if he would ever be ready to do that.

 

Soon, Harry was dressed and ready for the funerals. Fred’s was first. He couldn’t believe he had to do this. Yet, he knew he had to at least talk to Fred one last time, to ask for his forgiveness. 

 

He apparated just outside of the Burrow’s garden. He couldn’t believe he was back. Had it really been 9 months since he was home?  “Home’” thought Harry.  This really was the only place he felt at home, besides Hogwarts.  He didn’t realize how much he missed it.  The funeral was just about to start. Harry picked a spot to sit away from the crowd of people gathered to honor the fallen hero, yet close enough to hear the eulogies. It was a heart-wrenching hour.  Harry could barely stand it, especially when he saw the Weasley family sitting up front, trying their best to cope. It seemed so surreal.

 

When everyone  had been asked to go inside for refreshments and to spend time with the family, Harry decided it was OK to go talk to Fred.  He walked right up to the dark wooden box and laid his hand on its smooth surface. He couldn’t believe his friend was lying in there, dead.  He would never move again. Fred was really gone. The realization hit him hard. He sank to his knees and started to cry.

 

“Oh, Fred, I am so sorry,” he whispered. “I never meant for this to happen. I only wanted to protect everyone. But, I failed. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I-I wish it were me in there instead of you. You should be here with the family who still needs you and loves you. This shouldn’t have happened to you. It should have been me…”  Over and over he sobbed these last few words. He was so absorbed in his sorrow he didn’t hear the footsteps behind him. 

 

Ginny had come out of the house to get away from everyone.  She couldn’t take any more looks of sympathy or words of condolences. Most of all, she couldn’t stand seeing George anymore, with his blank, hopeless stares into space. She ran out to the garden to get some fresh air and to talk to Fred, alone. That’s when she sensed it. At first, she thought it was her exhausted mind playing tricks on her, but as she got closer, she knew it was him; she sensed his presence. Then she heard his sobbing pleas and saw his arm resting on Fred’s coffin. The rest of him was still invisible under his cloak. She heard his quiet sobs asking for forgiveness and saying over and over again how it should have been him instead of  Fred.

 

Something inside of Ginny snapped.  This wasn’t right. Here was the young man who saved the world from the most evil person alive.  He should be standing strong and defiant in the face of death. He won against death. Instead, he was pleading for death to take him. He wanted to take Fred’s place. All this time she was so concerned about her own suffering, she wasn’t able to think about  what he was going through.  But, how could she have known this was how he was feeling?  Because you know him, Gin.  You know how he thinks. You should have known he would blame himself.

 

As these thoughts ran through her mind, she found herself slowly walking toward Harry.  She reached out to him and placed her hand on his shoulder, willing him to stop torchering himself.

 

Harry’s whole body seemed to relax. A feeling of calm settled in his brain. He suddenly realized someone was behind him, with their hand on his shoulder.  Slowly, he turned around and found himself staring up into her face. His instincts took over and he fearfully stood up and backed away from her touch, his cloak slipping off of him in the process. 

 

“I-I’m s-sorry Ginny.  I didn’t mean to intrude on Fred’s funeral.  I-I know you don’t want me around. I will lbeave, now. S-sorry.”  Harry spluttered out before he ran away past the gate so he could apparate.  He thought he heard voices calling out to him to stop but, he couldn’t. He just turned on his heels and apparated back to the solace of Grimmauld Place.

 

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