Chapter 1 : Starting Over
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He stood dazed for a moment, "where am I?" he thought to himself.
Reality suddenly came crashing back to him.
He was not in his familiar room on Privet Drive. In fact, he had not seen nor heard from his only surviving relatives in over a year. They had been forced, quite abruptly, from their home to go into hiding. Because of Harry no less. Harry smiled to himself as he wondered what had become of the magic hating Durselys living under first The Order's and now the Ministry's protection. He made a mental note that he would check back in on them as soon as things settled down.
"Why do I care about seeing them?" he questioned himself. He was plagued by so many unpleasant memories of them. But alas, they were his memories, they were his family, his only family, and they had in the end taken him in nonetheless. He, Harry the orphan. Harry thought about their final departure, of Dudley's warm goodbye, of him making amends. He vowed to see them again, soon, all in due course.
The room was a wreck. Empty glass bottles of butterbeer and firewhiskey covered every available counter top, not to mention the additional ones strewn across the floor. Half eaten, rotten sandwiches and stale chips were also littered throughout.
"What time was it?" he thought for a moment as he moved to look for a clock, but then stopped in his tracks. "What day was it?"
The gloom of his reality came crashing back to him as a violent wave. Harry collapsed back down on his bed. He heaved heavily as if short of breath. Harry first sat slumped on the edge with his feet still resting on the cold cobbled stone floor, shaking his head, attempting to shake the dark cloud from himself.
"Where am I?" he again questioned himself, racking his brain, but his mind instead replayed dark flashbacks from his all too recent past. Again the intense wave crashed over him, knocking Harry over onto his back. His breathing was uneasy as he felt the weight of it press down atop his chest. Harry laid nearly motionless, staring blankly at the ceiling. Only his chest heaved up and down. It was over, the nightmare was supposed to be over; he had done it, he had killed Voldemort.
But still, Harry did not feel as he should. The world outside seemed most dark and gray. As dark as ever. He anguished over having to go out and face it. They had won, but they had all lost so very much in the war. So many friends, so many innocent. Their faces flashed before him: Lupin, Tonks, Fred, Dumbledore, Sirius, Dobby, Moody, his parents, Snape, yes, even Snape he felt sorrow for. And even they were just the beginning of the all to heavy list. Images of the funeral flooded his mind. Of the countless small earthed hills, each covering the life of a fallen. Of Dumbledore's fine marbled tomb. His nostrils filled with the rotting stench of the house of Bathilda Bagshot in Godrics Hollow. What a horrid ending.
Harry fell deeper and deeper into his despair as the images kept flashing before him. It was happening all over again, as it had the day before, and the day before that, and on and on as if he were in some deep dark well, unable to escape. Harry moaned and blindly reached his hand towards the night stand in search for some bottle to ebb his pain. He knocked several bottles over in his search, which fell and smashed onto the hard floor.
His self gloom was suddenly interrupted by a knock on the door.
Harry moaned louder. Anger boiled up within him. "Why wouldn't they just let him be?"
The knock persisted.
"Harry, please," the voice of Hermione Granger sounded on the other side.
Silence from within, though the smallest hint of relief flickered in his heart with the sound of her voice.
"Harry, its been over a week, what's going on?" yelled an anxious Ron through the wooden door.
Still nothing but silence came from within the dark room. Murmurs sounded from outside the door as the two argued, though quietly, fervently.
"Still, going at it, them two!" Harry thought to himself.
The argument grew more heated until it was settled by a definitive "FINE!" and a familiar spell, which was cast with such force that the door to Harry's room was forced open with a loud, "BANG!"
Harry caught a glimpse of Ron and his fiery red hair as he entered the room, followed closely by Hermione, before he rolled over on his bed, turning his back to them.
"Phew mate," Ron exclaimed whilst wafting his hand back and forth before his nose. "Believe you could use a shower," he added while looking around at all the empty bottles.
"Oh Harry!" Hermione exclaimed while collapsing down beside him atop his bed. She
placed her hand on his shoulder. Her touch sent a shock through him.
"Please," was all Harry could say with a raspy voice.
"Please nothing, mate. We've given you over a week now to yourself, you won't talk to us, you won't explain whats going on, NOTHING. Bloody hell, Harry, you just defeated Vol-," Ron shivered, "well, you know. The entire wizarding world is celebrating and you have gone and locked yourself up in a room at the Leaky Cauldron. You thought you were famous before Harry, you wouldn't believe the girls..."
"Ugh!" Hermione cut him off by slapping him in the chest with the back of her hand, "Harry, please, talk to us."
Harry rolled over a bit to face them. He looked a mess. His hair was certainly disheveled but that was nothing new, if now only a little more askew. His eyes were deeply shadowed by dark circles and blood shot and crusted. His face was darkened by a developing beard. His clothes were stained and reeked.
Harry looked up and stared at Hermione for the longest while. She looked back into his green eyes unwaveringly. She was his foundation, she was his rock. Harry thought he had been through so much, but truth be told, they had been through so much together. She had always been at his side, never wavering. The Sorcerers Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, saving Sirius and Buckbeak, the Triwizard Tournament, the Horcruxes, the Hallows. Always, Hermione had been there for him. He could not believe how much he had taken her for granted. Even now, as he had unsuccessfully struggled to crawl from his own gloom, it took only her presence to reawaken a sense of life in him, a sense of hope. The clouds already seemed to be parting. She was his Sun, blasting apart the darkness.
Ron stood awkwardly, looking between the two. Harry finally spoke up, still looking all the while at Hermione.
"No, you're right, I've got to get out of this room. Its just that I've felt so...so, dark...and gloomy. Yes, we've won, we beat him, Hermione, but at such a cost. And I can't exactly explain it...but I can feel it, it just doesn't feel over, not yet."
The ghostly images of his fallen friends returned and Harry rolled back over, unable to face his friends.
"I know mate," Ron sat down on the bed as well, "trust me, Fred..." Ron had to stop as he began to choke up, "...but we have to keep going, one foot in front of the other, right?"
"And we got all the Horcrux's, every last one of them, it has to be over," Ron tried to re assure.
"Mum's fixing dinner tonight, she said you'd best be there or she'd be coming to collect you herself," Ron jokingly threatened.
Harry thought back to the images of Mrs. Weasley, her wild red hair thrashing violently as she faced off with Bellatrix Lestrange. Kind, soft, sweet Mrs. Weasley, dueling the horrid Bellatrix without fear, casting curse after curse as only the most hardened Auror could. For some reason this brought a smile to his face. 'We cannot always choose our paths, but we must be strong enough to face that which is laid within them.'
He turned back to his friends. They were surprised by the smile on his face.
"Wouldn't miss it!"