Picking up some pieces
“Hey Harry, breakfast is-” George’s voice called out into Bill’s room, but had been cut short. His voice had not been cheerful or playful, merely matter-of-fact. But his eyes had landed on the two figures in Bill’s bed, and his mouth had temporarily stopped working. A groggy Harry was slowly pushing himself up into a sitting position, having heard George’s voice during his fitful sleep. Harry rubbed his eyes, attempted to flatten his messy hair, and reached out for his glasses.
“Breakfast is ready,” George finally finished, having recovered from the initial shock. It wasn’t as though George had walked in on something he shouldn’t have. It had simply been the last thing he had expected to find when he opened the door to rouse Harry. In the same bed was a curled up Hermione, looking as though she was clutching her pillow for dear life.
“Hermione, wake up.” Harry nudged her, yawning.
“You guys sleep okay?” George asked curiously, though suddenly aware that he could have stepped out and closed the door, but instead had remained stupidly planted there with his feet nailed to the floor, and had asked an equally stupid question.
“Not really,” Harry shook his head, stretching. Hermione had still not stirred, and had let out a small whimper in her sleep.
“Hermione, wake up,” Harry insisted again, nudging her body harder this time. He leaned down next to her, gently rubbing her back with his hand and whispered, “It’s just a dream. Wake up.” Finally she moved, her body stretching and her arms releasing the death grip on the pillow. Her eyes slowly fluttered, but then popped open.
“What? What happened?” she exclaimed, startled. There was fear in her voice as she stared between Harry and George. Waking up to the sight of the two boys in her room instantly roused feelings in her of fear, alertness, and a readiness to take on whatever attack was coming. It had been the feeling they had grown accustomed to waking up to. George took the sight in curiously, but didn’t laugh.
“Breakfast is ready,” he repeated, and slightly smiled to her. Hermione’s body seemed to relax as she sensed that truly there was nothing to fear, and that she was in fact neither in her room, nor on a battle field in haunting darkness, but rather nestled safely in Harry’s bed back in the Burrow.
“Thanks George,” Harry called out, getting out of the bed.
“No problem. I’ll see you guys downstairs.” And finally, George closed the door, and trotted downstairs.
“What were you dreaming about?” Harry asked seriously, after George had closed the door. Hermione was quiet, pushing the covers off her body and straightening out her shorts.
“I know you were dreaming…” Harry continued, as he pulled his shirt off and leaned over his trunk to search for a clean shirt. Hermione shifted uncomfortably on the bed, and cast her eyes about the room, glancing at Harry.
She was so lost in the images from her dream that her brief glimpse of Harry’s upper body hadn’t registered. She had seen him shirtless – several times, in fact, during the last year. They had all been in tight-quarters and often hardly had the comforts of privacy.
But now seeing Harry shirtless was different, for now Hermione’s eyes glanced, without actually taking in, the view of his chest torn with a large, fresh gash which started near his right shoulder, became increasingly largest and thickest over his right pectoral, then became thinner as it snaked down and split off into several directions in small wispy tears in his flesh. The scarring couldn’t be prevented, but they had managed to use a Sealing Charm, which kept the gash from being an open wound.
“I was trying to wake Ron up, but he was already dead,” Hermione admitted in a quiet and emotionally void voice. Harry turned to watch her.
She had spoken so quietly Harry had strained to hear her words. He didn’t know what to say to her. Her voice was sad, but also quite factual, as though it had been some event she had watched, but not taken part in.
Hermione wanted to tell Harry how she’d woken up underneath them, and had first discovered that Ron was dead and Harry was barely hanging on to life. But, then again, she didn’t think Harry wanted to talk about it just then. Hermione took a band from her wrist and threw her bushy, messy hair into a ponytail as she yawned; Harry had stopped thinking about dressing altogether.
“I miss him,” Harry finally stated, having pulled his fresh smelling T-shirt on. He had spoken very softly, but his voice had been gruff sounding, because of his effort to hold back emotion and tears. Sometimes he felt as though he was always fighting off these emotions. Other times he felt like he couldn’t feel anything.
“Me too,” Hermione whispered. She took up her pillow and blanket in hand, stood from the bed, and told Harry she’d see him downstairs. Harry watched her leave his room, and finished preparing for the day. Today was the day after. They were home, they were fed, they were rested. Now, he feared, everyone would want to know everything.
However, the day passed by without too much discussion, much to both Harry and Hermione’s relief, but they both knew it couldn’t last long. What seemed to be most difficult was having nothing to busy one’s mind with. It was like being off on a vacation… but having plenty of time to contemplate things was the last thing Harry desired. Also, facing Ginny was another ‘last thing’ he desired at the moment. He spent most of the day avoiding her glance, or avoiding being in a room alone with her, or even around her. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he was probably being unfair, but it was one more thing he couldn’t handle, didn’t want to face, and wanted to completely hide from.
“Harry, I thought maybe I could take you into the office this week to do a bit of paper work and reports. It’s necessary, you know,” Mr. Weasley stated quite matter-of-factly as Harry wandered into the living room, where Mr. Weasley was sitting, reading the Daily Prophet. Although curious as to what the Daily Prophet might report, Harry was also having doubts as to whether there was any truth left in the newspaper. It had rather gone down the drain, so to speak, with Voldemort’s return. One was just as well off reading The Quibbler.
“Yeah all right, I could use something else to do.” Harry mumbled his response. He was thankful that the Weasleys were taking care of him, but he really did need some more distractions. Harry took a seat on the couch, next to Mr. Weasley’s large chair, and absent-mindedly stared into the fire. An image of Sirius’s face swam into his mind among the flames. If only Sirius were still around… but he had been one of the first of many losses. If only Ron was here – he always knew how to distract Harry.
But somehow, Harry imagined if Ron were here, he would hardly be in such great need of distraction. His best mate… how could he go on enjoying life, knowing he’d ended his best mate’s life? What about Ron’s family? How was it that the Weasley’s didn’t hate Harry for all the trouble he’d brought into their family? What if Harry had never met Ron on that first train ride to Hogwarts… Then Ron would still be safe and alive.
Harry ridiculed himself in his mind, knowing he was being unreasonable. He couldn’t imagine Hogwarts without Ron. Ron, Hermione, and Hogwarts had been all that was precious in Harry’s short life. He felt miserable at number 4 Privet Drive, but he felt alive at Hogwarts, and he became the best version of himself when he was with Ron and Hermione. He was never going back to Privet Drive, that was for sure. But he would never be back at Hogwarts either. And he would never be back with Ron. All he had left of his happy little world was Hermione. Hermione… What were they both to do now? But Harry could kick himself for hosting a little pity party, with himself as the guest of honor. He’d managed to live, and that was far more than many others. Would this battle in his mind and heart ever end? Would he ever be normal again? He was constantly torn between despair, guilt, and at times perhaps, self loathing.
Harry wasn’t sure how long he’d sat on the couch in the Weasley’s living room, staring into the fire, but it had been long enough for the sun to go down, and for the living room to fall quite dark. If Mr. Weasley had ever said anything else to Harry, it had been completely lost on him, and now Harry saw that Mr. Weasley had vanished. It was just as well. But the house seemed rather empty now. Surely they hadn’t all left him there alone?
But Harry was reminded, as happened to him several times a day now, that the house had been left quite empty, compared to its former state. It would be unusual to find oneself alone in a room at the Burrow – the house with a family of nine! But, in the Burrow now, only a sad family of four (excluding Bill), and two strays, resided in the house. And then Harry was depressed again.
After another long session of staring into space, Harry finally figured he might as well retreat to his bedroom. While restful sleep would be nice, he almost knew that it would not be a reality. Only nightmares and haunting images awaited him tonight. He did have a weak sleeping draught that Mrs. Weasley had concocted for both he and Hermione, so at least there was some hope. Harry lazily pushed himself up from the sofa and made his way toward the stairs, not bothering to pay very much attention to where he was going, distracted by a world of dark images that swam in his mind’s eye. But then, he was jolted out of his mental world and into the physical one when his body collided with something quite immovable.
“Harry!” Ginny exclaimed, stumbling backward. She had apparently just descended the stairs, and was presumably on her way into the kitchen.
“Hey, Ginny.” Harry spoke quietly, raising his gaze from the floor to look into her face for the first time that day.
“How are you?” Ginny’s voice asked very quietly and tentatively. She was fingering the hem of her shirt, apparently nervous.
“I’m… I’m okay,” Harry mostly lied, but for the time being that answer always seemed to suffice whoever was asking.
“I… I’ve missed you,” Ginny whispered. Harry stared into her eyes, then looked away.
He couldn’t give her the response she wanted. He knew that she desperately wanted to know that he had missed her too, that he’d thought of nothing but coming back to her. But that was so far from the truth. He found his world… well… his world hadn’t left room for him to have crushes and spend hours pining away for the pretty face…
When Harry first left Ginny, he had had a few fleeting thoughts of her, and perhaps the first few nights her image had teased him as he lay, trying to fall asleep. But he couldn’t be distracted. He was determined to protect Ginny, and had to break up with her, but once he left, he could not allow himself the comfort of a beautiful face to distract him from his deadly mission.
Most nights his mind had instead become filled with visions of battles, curses, new spells, tactics to keep his friends safe while he risked everything, even the faces of Ron and Hermione constantly tormented his mind as he feared for their lives, fearing the day they would be gone. Today was now that day he feared.
As much as he had loved Ginny, and in some way cared for her now, he couldn’t give her what she wanted. He wasn’t ready to be someone’s hero, or knight in shining armor. He was ready to collapse into a heap, never to recover from the intense pain that he felt.
Harry must have stood for several minutes without responding, when finally Ginny spoke.
“I was just coming down for something to drink.” Her voice was still quiet.
“Ginny, I’m sorry.” Harry finally spoke. “I’m so sorry for everything.” By this, he certainly meant that he was so entirely sorry for taking away so many of her brothers.
“Harry…” Ginny softened again, and actually stepped forward, closing the gap between them, and wrapped her arms around him. She hugged him quite tightly, perhaps shedding a few tears, but Harry couldn’t be certain because he couldn’t see her face. He patted her on the back, but felt quite uncomfortable in her embrace, though at one time he had relished it. Ginny finally stepped back, her hands dropping away from him.
“I knew you’d come back, Harry.” Ginny’s eyes were glistening. “I just knew it. I was so worried, but I knew I’d see you again. Oh Harry!” And with that, Ginny couldn’t resist hugging him again. Harry was perfectly speechless, and was actually considering how to get out of this awkward conversation. But he scolded himself for being so heartless.
“Harry…” Ginny whispered, pulling back from the hug. “I still love you.” Her voice was quite firm, and she had looked him dead in the eyes as she said this. Harry’s gaze held hers for a few fleeting seconds, before he tore his eyes away, staring at the ceiling and gathering his thoughts.
“Ginny, I… I can’t do this.” Harry finally mumbled.
“Do what?” she asked, her eyes still wet. Harry wanted to say, ‘Stand here and talk to you!’ and then dash away to his room, thus escaping the conversation, escaping Ginny, even escaping the entirety of reality as he now knew it.
“I can’t… I’m a different person, Ginny. Things are different. I’m… I can’t, Ginny.” Harry spoke, desperately hoping something he had said would make sense. Fresh tears began to pour from her eyes, as her face fell, and her eyes avoided his.
“I’m sorry,” Harry whispered. He had killed her brothers, and now he was breaking her heart. Harry felt like a royal git.
“Good night, Harry,” Ginny said quite curtly, then sniffed and stepped around him, making a beeline for the kitchen. Harry’s shoulders fell, and he once again pursued his path up the stairs to Bill’s old bedroom. Had he mentioned self-loathing earlier? Because he was definitely hating himself.
If Harry thought that was the end to his depressing evening, he was not quite right. When finally Harry had managed to top the stairs, he began walking down the hallway with heavy feet. But a noise caught his ears. It was the distinct sound of sniffling, or was it sobbing? The cries sounded quite disturbed and depressed. Harry had one guess as to the source. Heading up more stairs, and walking down the hall, he continued to listen closely, hoping to pinpoint which room was emitting these noises. He should have known. Standing just outside Ron’s old bedroom door, Harry could hear Hermione’s crying. Her cries had become familiar, and oddly enough he could recognize her sniffling, with intervals of heavy sobs, as distinctly “Hermione.” Tempted to leave her in her own misery, Harry decided to open the door instead, and see what could be done.
The opened bedroom door revealed Hermione, wrapped in Ron’s old Chudley Cannon’s blanket, sitting on the floor next to his bed, one of his old T-shirts clutched in her hands as she leaned against his bed weeping and sobbing. She looked a right mess, but Harry’s heart tore at her sadness. He had never seen her so upset.
In three long strides, Harry crossed the room, and lowered himself onto the floor next to Hermione. She hadn’t stirred or noticed him amidst her sorrow. Harry sat on the hard floor, facing her, except that her face was buried in Ron’s mattress. Wordlessly, Harry wrapped his arms around Hermione, and listened as she sobbed even harder. He held her against him, and rocked her gently, attempting anything that he thought would make her feel better. He gently rubbed her back as he rocked her and waited for her tears to subside.
After a few moments, she pulled her face away from Ron’s bed, and dared to look Harry in the eyes. Her deep brown eyes revealed her inner torment, and tears billowed over her lower eyelids, as she stared at him.
His beautiful green eyes held the same pain and anguish as hers did. But he wasn’t crying. Did he ever cry? Would he ever? Hermione felt weak; she felt like she was letting him down because she’d let her pain get the best of her, and had collapsed into a heap, weeping over Ron’s old Muggle T-shirt.
When Hermione couldn’t handle Harry’s strong gaze anymore, she buried her face into his shoulder, wrapped her arms around him, and cried some more. All she could think of was Ron – his beautiful red hair, his voice still ringing in her ears, the last words they’d shared, the feel of his hand in hers… Had he loved her? Had he loved her even half as much as she had adored him? But what was the use? He was gone. And with that thought, her sobs returned and her body was shaking in Harry’s arms.
For quite some time, they sat on the floor of Ron’s old room, with Hermione wrapped tightly in Harry’s arms, soaking the shoulder of his T-shirt in tears, as he rocked her gently. Occasionally she mumbled something about never hearing Ron’s laugh again, or about forcing him into it, and something being her fault. But Harry knew it wasn’t the time for logic or reasoning – that much he wasn’t too thick to get. He knew he was probably best off just holding her.
Finally Hermione pulled away from Harry’s shoulder, and sniffed enormously, then began wiping her eyes with both her hands. Her eyes were tremendously puffy and red and swollen. She had no hope of hiding the fact that she’d been crying. She stared in Harry’s eyes again, with one final swipe at the remaining tears, and then the look of determinedness settled on her face. Harry knew this look well. It had been Hermione’s constant companion for the last year, and had kept her from ever falling apart or losing her cool. Now she was fighting to keep that face held on.
Harry wasn’t sure what to say, and even thought of suggesting, ‘Hey, let’s get some sleep,’ but figured that suggestion was just as silly to her as it was to him. Sleep was no longer their friend. Instead, Harry stood up, took her hands in his, and lifted her up from the floor. He took the T-shirt that Hermione was clinging to quite tightly, and forced it from her hands, then threw it onto Ron’s bed. She took the blanket from her shoulders, and dropped it also on top of the bed.
“I miss him… and it hurts so bad,” Hermione whispered, though her voice sounded quite unlike her own.
“Will it ever stop?” Hermione asked, turning and looking into the scarred emerald eyes. Harry had no answer for her. He pulled her close to him, one last time, and held her for a moment, hugging her. He felt like he had nothing to offer her.
“Hey, I thought I heard someone up here-” Ginny’s voice rang out, before stopping short. Her voice hadn’t been chipper, or accusing, but merely friendly with a tinge of sadness. As Harry and Hermione looked up at her, she stood frozen with her hand on the door, and her face still in shock. Without a word, Ginny turned on her heel, and Harry and Hermione could both hear her burst into tears as she ran down the stairs crying. A million thoughts raced through Harry’s mind, ranging from, ‘Oh great!’ to ‘Now what?!’ but before he could say anything, Hermione spoke.
“I’ll go talk to her. Don’t worry, Harry.”
“Thanks, Hermione.” And with that, the two of them left Ron’s room, turning out the light and shutting the door tightly. It wasn’t safe for either of them to venture in there, lest they be bombarded by painful memories, but it would probably not be the last visit to that room.
Harry had been revisiting a dangerous search for a Horcrux, when the world had dissipated into a dark room lit only by a silvery sliver of light falling from a nearby window. He felt a nudge in his side.
“What? Is it time to wake up?” Harry spoke groggily into the fuzzy world around him. It was hard to see anything without his glasses.
“No. Move over,” Hermione’s whispered voice instructed him. Harry obeyed, making space for her on the small bed that had not long ago been Bill’s.
“I keep seeing Dementors.” Hermione’s voice was nearly shaking, as she pulled the covers back on the bed, and slid in next to Harry. He knew exactly what Hermione must have seen in her dream – it was a particular fight against a league of Dementors that Harry didn’t want to revisit, either.
“It was just a dream,” Harry whispered reassuringly, as he found her hand under the covers and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“I hate the dreams…” Hermione whispered, as she turned onto her side. Harry knew the feeling. He stared up at the ceiling, awaiting for sleep to take him away again, hoping that it would be a much better place this time, than seeking for more Horcruxes.