Chapter 7 : Anywhere But Here
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Anywhere But Here
Beginning the attempt to live again, or return to normal
They had been at the Burrow for several days, and Harry had been extremely thankful that Mr. Weasley had taken him into the Ministry of Magic the day before. Although Harry had dreaded seeing so many people, and had cowered away from most of them and avoided conversation as best he could, nonetheless, the distraction had been welcomed, even if it had included paper work and reports. He had been able to write down lots of comments without having to talk to anyone, which he preferred. He couldn’t help catching many sideways glances and plenty of stares. If erupting onto the Wizarding scene seven years ago had brought lots of stares, it was nothing compared to his emergence from defeating Voldemort.
On the way back to the Burrow, Harry felt he’d be pleased to delay his next adventure out into the public eye. He figured he couldn’t get lucky twice in avoiding people and conversations.
Today it was back to distracting himself, but even his best ideas ended in turning his thoughts toward what he most wanted distraction from. For instance, he had thought a nice game of wizard chess would keep his mind on the game and away from battles, attacks, curses, and images of dead friends. He had even considered asking George for a challenge, hoping he would be up to it. Surely George wanted distractions as well. But as Harry gathered up the wizard chess board and pieces, he was instantly reminded of many chess games played with Ron and even of their life size chess challenge in which Ron had led them to victory, sacrificing himself so Harry could finish the ultimate task and keep Voldemort from acquiring the Philosopher’s Stone.
Harry chucked the board aside and thought he’d try again. Once upon a time, Harry could easily be distracted by the Apparating twins, and their many joke shop ideas. Those days were long gone now. With a sigh, Harry headed downstairs, hoping to find something to do with himself.
To his surprise, several new guests had shown up at the Burrow that morning, including Remus Lupin, Bill and Fleur Weasley, Mad Eye Moody, and Professor McGonagall. Apparently they’d all already eaten breakfast together and were gathering in the living room to talk.
“Harry, your breakfast is on the table, dear. Hermione, Ginny, and George are in the kitchen eating,” Mrs. Weasley called out as he was descending the stairs. Harry peeked into the sitting room and briefly caught a glimpse of Mrs. Weasley taking a seat on the couch with her husband. He glanced Lupin, also, who seemed quite down, as he lowered himself into the seat next to the couch. Harry nodded his greeting to the new arrivals before making his way back to the kitchen and joining his friends at the breakfast table. It would soon be time for lunch already, but regardless, he was starving and would enjoy the late breakfast.
“Harry, you’re up,” George grunted, forcing more eggs into his mouth.
“Yeah,” Harry grunted back. In such a short time, something had happened to make them seem anything like the kids they once had been not too long ago.
“Here’s your plate.” Ginny gently spoke, pushing a plate with food piled on top of it toward Harry. He took a seat and tucked in to his food, still thinking about what distraction he could provide himself with today. Everything still seemed so surreal. When would he wake up from this nightmare?
“Mrs. Weasley thought we should spend some time with Professor Lupin, Bill, Fleur, and the others. I think McGonagall is even here, and Mad Eye Moody. Mrs. Weasley said we could all talk and spend the day together,” Hermione mentioned quietly, looking up at Harry briefly, perhaps slightly nervous at his reaction.
“Great,” Harry muttered, still eating. His plan of a wonderfully full day spent avoiding reality was quickly falling down around him.
“Come on in, kids. We were just catching up!” Mrs. Weasley said as George, Ginny, Harry, and Hermione tentatively made their way into the living room. Mrs. Weasley’s voice was unnaturally cheerful, and she was obviously trying to force a lighter mood. What they had to catch up on was anything but light. The four of them greeted each of the visitors and pulled up chairs from the back of the living room and a couple from the kitchen, so everyone had a seat.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Bill said, shaking his head, and apparently continuing part of their previous conversation. By ‘it’ he seemed to be meaning the entire torturous reign of Lord Voldemort and all the evil he wrought on the world.
“Is it really over this time? I mean, he came back before, right?” Ginny spoke up skeptically, surprising her friends sitting near her. She sounded hesitant to believe that everything was really over. Harry couldn’t help feeling that her voice also carried with it a frustration and anger at the loss she now felt. She wasn’t speaking shyly or timidly – her voice was firm and demanding. She wanted answers. Harry also couldn’t help feeling more than a little responsible for some of Ginny’s frustration. He could kick himself for all the havoc he’d caused in her life, and now he couldn’t even be man enough to talk to her, to tell her everything that had happened. Harry sighed and turned his focus to the continuing conversation.
“It’s over, all right. All the Horcruxes are gone. There was no surviving for him.” Mad Eye Moody spoke gruffly. Harry was glad that he wasn’t having to answer yet. It had been necessary for him to tell some of the closest members in the Order about the Horcruxes, at least in the end. Still, only a handful of people knew about them, and now even that number had shrunk.
Harry looked around, again hoping to escape the unavoidable. Both Mr. and Mrs. Weasley looked at him sympathetically. He thought he’d heard Mrs. Weasley shushing Ginny for being unthoughtful. He caught Professor McGonagall’s eye and held her strong gaze for a moment before looking away, not wanting to bear the pressure.
“Well, I saw what was left of him, but I’m not entirely sure what happened…” Mr. Weasley turned to Harry, looking at him apologetically. He didn’t seem to want to force Harry’s participation in the conversation, but then again there seemed to be no avoiding it. Harry looked around the group, faces of young and old around him, all staring expectantly, hoping for his story. Would it be entirely rude to Disapparate at this moment?
“I used an Unforgivable Curse, and killed him,” Harry said. No one seemed altogether shocked. The Order already knew that it was perhaps the only way to defeat Voldemort, and the Ministry was prepared to pardon an unforgivable curse in this rare situation.
“But did you see him die?” Ginny asked, still not willing to believe it so easily. Her eyes had narrowed solely upon Harry, searching his eyes with a cold stare, begging him for something, but what exactly, he wasn’t quite sure.
“I saw a white light…” Harry muttered, rubbing the back of his neck.
“He’s gone, Ginny. He really is,” Mr. Weasley reaffirmed.
“What’s the death toll?” Lupin asked Mr. Weasley. George, Ginny, Harry, and Hermione all suddenly took intense interest in their shoes, shoelaces, and the Burrow’s living room carpet.
“It’s in the thousands.” Mr. Weasley sighed. Professor McGonagall straightened the hem of her robes but didn’t seem to have much to contribute at the moment. Mad Eye Moody’s eye was darting around, taking in the sitting room over and over again, but he, neither, spoke up.
“How are you doing, Professor Lupin?” Hermione inquired gently. Harry was surprised, at first, to hear her voice, but wasn’t surprised that her inquiry had been about Professor Lupin’s well-being. But if he felt anything like Harry did, then he was probably tired of hearing that question.
“I’ve been better.” Lupin slightly nodded, as though he was trying to convince himself that he was all right.
“How are you guys?” Bill asked his parents. As the oldest Weasley child, he had the most adult relationship with his mum and dad and knew they had suffered a great loss, in a way only parents could suffer. Mrs. Weasley took a fleeting look around at the four teenagers, as though unsure that they could handle her true thoughts.
“We’ve been better, too,” Mr. Weasley answered for both of them. Harry noticed a look of sympathy cross Professor McGonagall’s usually stern face. The look was often mirrored by Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Professor Lupin, and Mad Eye Moody at different moments. They all seemed to have some secret understanding, or seemed to know or remember something the others couldn’t.
“I’m glad you made it out.” Mrs. Weasley smiled tearfully to Bill, sad but also proud. Apparently she’d returned to a previous conversation that Harry and the others had missed while eating. He guessed that she was referring to Bill’s survival from battle.
“I was devastated when I heard – Charlie, Percy, Fred, and Ron…” Bill fought to keep his voice from choking up. His thoughts seemed to have visibly taken him away from the Burrow’s sitting room.
“Percy too?” Mrs. Weasley asked, unbelievingly. They had all held out hope that Percy had survived and would be coming back to them. Harry looked away from Mrs. Weasley’s face. He felt it a dishonor to her, to unashamedly watch her broken-heartedness for the wayward son she’d always longed to see return.
“Yeah. They weren’t sure what side he was on in the end, but either way, he was killed too,” Bill informed his family, but his voice seemed far away. Harry still refused to watch the grief spread across the Weasley faces. He often felt like an intruder upon their sorrow.
“Where are they burying everyone?” George asked gruffly, jarring the conversation back into motion.
“Some will be buried on the battle field – some Death Eaters and other unnamed bodies… Others will be transported to wherever their families desire,” Mr. Weasley told his son. He’d found out this information at the Ministry yesterday. Harry had overheard.
“Can’t anyone tell us what actually happened? Tell us about the battle? We weren’t all there!” Ginny snapped suddenly. It sounded as though she’d been holding in all her many questions every day since the final battle had ended. The entire room seemed to gaze around at one another, waiting for someone to answer. Ginny crossed her arms, refusing to allow her inquiries to go unanswered.
“Ginny, dear, I’m afraid it may not be something anyone is ready to relive again,” Mrs. Weasley tried, gently. But Harry couldn’t help feeling that Mrs. Weasley, in some way, for some reason, wanted them to be able to talk about it. Professor McGonagall decided to try and help.
“I believe, if I was informed correctly, that all the fighting finally came to a head down near the caves of Orudan. Voldemort had been hoping to spring an ambush. The Order found this to be their last option, and had to launch an offensive attack. If I am still correct, it seems the majority of the Order and Dumbledore’s Army held the Death Eaters for some hours, keeping them occupied so as to allow time for Harry to reach Voldemort. It was a necessity, of course, for Harry to meet Voldemort.
“But also, if my information is accurate, Ron and Hermione had followed Harry, as his faithful comrades, and the three of them together ended up facing Voldemort. It seems Voldemort and most of the Death Eaters were finally killed. A few escaped, but Aurors are currently still hunting them down. Thousands died – from the Order, from Dumbledore’s Army, and also many innocent bystanders, including many, many Muggles.” Professor McGonagall had tried her very best to objectively summarize the final battle. She had not been able to join the Order when the attack began. She had been off on another mission for the Order when she’d been called back. She had arrived just in time to survey the aftermath of the battle and help identify bodies.
No one spoke for a few minutes.
Harry noted that she’d left out the most horrendous details in this account of the final battle. She hadn’t mentioned hearing the terrified screams, seeing the revolting blood spatters, being chased by mobs of Death Eaters, or fighting off Unforgivable Curses. She hadn’t described the nearly immobilizing fear that was felt upon finding oneself trapped, alone, and out-numbered twelve-to-one. Neither did she explain what it felt like to endure repeated Cruciatus Curses, nor to watch one’s school mates fall mercilessly by the wand of a vicious Death Eater who had not even given them a chance at survival – despite being a Wizard more than twice their age and size.
She hadn’t spoken of the chaos that surrounded them as he, Ron and Hermione were facing Voldemort. She hadn’t spoken of Harry’s terror upon realizing that Ron and Hermione had followed him – and he had to not only watch out for himself, but protect their lives as well. And she had certainly not detailed the dead bodies left behind on the battlefield as the few survivors were dragged out, leaving behind the feel and smell of death that seemed to flood the field afterwards. She had left out a lot, but Harry wasn’t exactly bothered by this.
“What do we do now?” Hermione’s shaky voice came out from the seat next to Harry. Apparently, she had been seeing images of the forgotten details as well.
“Life goes on,” Lupin answered after a moment.
“Hogwarts will reopen for the next term. Ginny still has another year left. And, of course, you’re always welcome back for more training or to take your N.E.W.T.s. I’m sure you will find many opportunities available for yourself and for Mr. Potter,” McGonagall answered Hermione.
The conversation continued with more discussions of what life meant after the war had now ended. Then they returned to naming the dead, and then began reminiscing and telling stories. Harry wasn’t sure if he could handle this. It had been only days, what felt like only a few hours, since he had seen the dead bodies of so many of his friends and classmates. He didn’t much feel like telling stories about the good old days. He felt like disappearing into the presently quite terrible days, drowning himself in sorrow, and never coming up for air again.
He had never thought about what it would feel like after the war. He had always had a goal, something he was working to achieve. Now he felt as though he would give anything to be back with his friends, back into the trouble-making, adventurous days. He would give almost anything, anyway. He knew the one thing he wouldn’t give was the very same thing that had torn apart his life and the lives of those he loved. How could everyone go on talking about living normally again? How could they laugh about what things Fred or Ron used to do? Would this fight inside him ever go away? Would he ever lose the guilty feeling he had for being alive?
Apparently Fleur had been mid-sentence when Harry had abruptly stood from his seat. Everyone stared at him, surprised.
“Sorry. Uh… just need some fresh air.” And with that, Harry quitted the room. He found his feet carrying him past the garden and far out into the meadow in front of the house. He took a seat in the grass and stared out at the scenery around him. He didn’t much feel like mulling over his thoughts, but perhaps it was better than talking. Maybe half an hour had passed before Harry’s thoughts were interrupted.
“Hey.” George spoke softly, taking a seat next to Harry.
“You had the right idea…” George spoke somewhat light-heartedly.
“Getting up and walking out.” George almost seemed to smile.
“I’m sorry, mate, I had to get out of there…” Harry started to apologize.
“No, no, I understand completely. I wanted to bail out with you…” George shook his head.
“I didn’t feel like talking,” Harry stated.
“Who does, besides them, I mean? Maybe it was their attempt at helping us deal with things. Getting us to cope. Fixing us…” George sighed.
“Find anything else out after I left?” Harry questioned.
“Ah… only some news about Hermione’s parents.” George’s voice seemed sad again.
“What about them?” Harry turned to look at George.
“Seems Voldemort found out they were Hermione’s parents… He’d had them captured and was planning to use them later to get to Hermione, and ultimately to you. Needed something for leverage. But when the Order showed up earlier than expected, the plan was ruined, and Voldemort was killing as many Muggles as he could. He found them useless and killed them.” George sighed. Harry turned away and stared out at the sky.
Hermione was probably devastated. But Harry didn’t move a muscle. He couldn’t go to her. He couldn’t do anything for her. He didn’t have the power, and even the desire to try was lacking. He couldn’t say or do anything that would change things. He couldn’t fix it, he couldn’t make her feel any better, and what was worse – Harry felt that the continual barrage of bad news was always and forever linked to him. He hung his head, deep in thought, and George lost himself in thoughts as well, staring out across the meadow.
The two boys sat together, silently, for a good part of the afternoon, staring at the sky, the grass, the dirt, and the trees. Not until Mrs. Weasley’s voice called for dinner did they stir.
And that night, once again, Hermione pushed her way into Harry’s bed, this time crying again and murmuring about her dead parents. For all the victory people now claimed Harry had achieved, he felt quite defeated. He had been entirely unsuccessful at protecting his friends and their families. Those were the most important things in life. If he had failed at that, what had he accomplished? If he had lost them, what was left?
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