“We went to the war, lookin’ to die. Turns out, it was the real world I couldn’t survive.”
-Quoted from Firefly show, episode: "The Message"
Everyone told Harry he was great. They crowded around him, snapping incessant photos, shouting at him, making his head throb painfully. You’re a hero, Harry. A bonafide hero.
Harry didn’t feel like one. He remembered reading somewhere that Muggles who went to war sometimes ended up coming home shell-shocked from the war. Some wouldn’t speak. Some could never stop reliving the events every day until they slowly went mad. But some recovered. Harry was pretty sure that was what was happening to him. Just shell shock. He could recover from it; he was sure.
He ignored it, hoping that at the end of every day, he would fall asleep and he wouldn’t have to be haunted. But it was useless, and he knew it. In that state between sleeping and staring at the ceiling, he would want to waken, but Fate with its cruel jokes would always decide at that one moment Harry didn’t deserve rest. The nightmares would ensue, replays of the past, but with alternate endings. He wouldn’t win. The next day he would awake and feel crabby, stricken with an insane need to rid world of evil. But evil was never quite like Lord Voldemort. So he would pick fights with people he loved. Ginny found herself more than once huddled on the bed, legs pulled in close, eyes red from crying. She would never let anyone know how horrible she felt. She knew Harry didn’t mean it. She knew he had the nightmares. Sometimes he’d thrash out in the middle of the night, jolting her awake. Scared, she’d hold her breath, praying that he’d stop soon. She used to try to pin down his arms and call his name, hoping her voice might bring him back. Sometimes it would, but mostly he’d fight so hard, cursing so angrily, she would pull back to retreat into a nearby chair and wait for daylight. Those nights she wondered if he even still loved her, but sometimes in the morning, after a particularly bad night, she would jolt awake to find he had placed a blanket lovingly around her. But as the day progressed, he would grow more and more irritable, harder and harder to reason with.
When Harry did return to work, it was under the impression that some sort of occupation would help him. Harry tried. He really did. He was sent out on missions, but he had an issue with his partners always. He wasn’t sure why, but after the war, it was easy to just end things with violence. Through time and work, he discovered that violence could do wonders for you. If someone was withholding information, the threat of hexing them with Unspeakables was fun. They cowered with fear in front of him, and a superior glint would appear in Harry’s eyes. His partners found his methods unorthodox and a little frightening. He was good at his job, but a risk. The last straw was when Harry maniacally fired hexes at one man’s prized Muggle animals, freezing them, petrifying them, what have you. Even after the man broke down and confessed, Harry was still throwing spells hither and thither, almost hitting his partner. Harry Potter or no Harry Potter, he was a liability.
Ginny went to visit Headmistress McGonagall because she was worried. Harry was unemployed, depressed, and still suffering from the nightmares. She had stood in the office, looking at the portrait of Albus Dumbledore, or at least where he should have been. He was gone. Severus Snape’s portrait was sitting about, sneering at another portrait. Ginny ignored him.
“Profess-Headmistress,” Ginny corrected herself as McGonagall walked in.
“Ginevra, what are you doing here?” McGonagall took her glasses off as she set some large books down on her desk. Ginny was surprised that she called her by her first name. She had been Ms. Weasley for many years, and Ginny didn’t think McGonagall had even known her first name.
“I was wondering if we could speak in private. It’s about Harry.”
McGonagall’s face contorted a little in fear, and with a quick glance, she ushered Ginny out of the room with a reassured, “Of course. Come this way.”
When they exited, McGonagall explained, “The portraits have a tendency to spread words, and I’ve already heard something about Mr. Potter. He was dismissed from his job a few weeks ago, am I correct?”
Ginny was surprised by how easily McGonagall could make her feel like a student, sitting in her class, transfixed by the fact that she seemed to have a wide knowledge about everything. “He’s not well,” she admitted. “He’s picking fights with me for no reason, and he has such horrible nightmares. I want to help him, but I don’t know how to.”
“Albus and I were always afraid of this happening. We were afraid he’d come out of the war, and suddenly find that he might not have a place in the world anymore. To be depended upon, to be a hero is a wonderful thing sometimes. To have that taken away is difficult. To lose so many friends and family in the process,” she paused. “Even worse.”
“I can’t send him to St. Mungo’s. I couldn’t bear knowing I’d done that. I just want to make him happy, but I’m not sure I’m enough anymore,” Ginny’s eyes welled up, and before she knew it she was sobbing loudly. Inside, she chastised herself for being so weak, especially in front of strong Professor McGonagall. McGonagall knelt down beside the crumpled Ginny, pulling her into a warm embrace that had Ginny been more about her wits would have surprised her.
“Come along,” McGonagall pulled the girl up, and Ginny felt herself being guided, but her eyes had too many tears to see clearly. She stumbled along with McGonagall. She was sat carefully into a seat, and she rubbed away the tears until she could see McGonagall’s face clearly. “You are not well,” McGonagall noted, a noticeable tone of concern in her voice.
“Professor, just...tell me what I can do for him,” Ginny whispered, sniffling loudly, wiping her tears on her sleeves.
“Albus and I have something prepared in case this ever happened. It would make him happy, but...”
Ginny’s head shot up, and she looked at McGonagall with a mixture of eagerness and fear. “What?” she asked warily.
“I don’t think you’ll like it, dear,” McGonagall finished quietly, sitting beside her and grasping her hand in a motherly fashion.
Harry didn’t want to go to sleep, but Ginny coaxed him to bed with the promise that the dreams would go away. He looked at her beautiful face, such a familiar face, such a comfort to see it. But it had been years since he had seen her smile, or was it years? He wasn’t sure. Time seemed to slip like sand in a sieve. He fell asleep holding Ginny in his arms, her head on his chest, listening to his heart beat.
When he woke up again, he sat up with a start. He didn’t have any nightmares. He laughed, then stopped. Pinch. It hurt. He pinched himself harder. It still hurt. It wasn’t a nightmare then. He wasn’t about to wake up and find his Ginny dead. In fact, he could hear her clattering around in the kitchen. His Ginny would never lie to him. He knew that.
He clambered out of bed and heard Ginny call, “Come on, Harry! Out of bed! We have to send them to the train station!”
Train station? Them? Harry scratched his head. Shaking his head, he pushed himself off the bed and stumbled into the bathroom. It took him some time to notice that the face staring at him wasn’t exactly what he had been expecting. His shoulders had broadened considerably, and he thought he’d grown taller. His hair was still messy, but as he tried to fix it, his eyes caught sight of silver. Silver. He didn’t have silver hair. He looked...old. Splashing water on his face, he looked at himself in the mirror. He still looked old. Hurrying downstairs, he saw a woman with red hair setting a table for five. Were they having guests? Why did they need five sets?
“Ginny...?” he said almost like a question more than a statement.
The woman looked up, and it was Ginny. An older Ginny. She was still beautiful. If it was possible, time had made her even more beautiful. She looked a little different, but Harry couldn’t quite put his finger on it. “How long have I been asleep?” he wondered.
“A good ten hours,” she huffed. “Now you’re not even dressed, Harry! Really, we’re sending the kids off today!”
He paused, trying to understand when he was attacked by three little bodies accompanied by loud shouts. “Dad! Daddy!” He peered down at the owners of the voices. They looked like a perfect mixture of himself and Ginny.
“We’re going to Hogwarts today, Daddy! You’re coming to see us off, right?” one of them said, hugging his waist excitedly.
“Of course he is,” Ginny said sternly. Harry smiled and nodded.
A chorus of hoorays filled the house until Ginny ordered each of them to sit down and eat their breakfast. “You get dressed,” she said, sounding quite a bit like her mother. Harry nodded obediently, and though she sent him a glare, she had a smile twitching on her lips, and Harry knew it was mock anger. He ascended the stairs quickly, dressing hurriedly, and running down the stairs again. He half expected them to be gone, for the dining room to be empty, for him to be alone. Completely alone.
But he wasn’t. When he came down the stairs, they were still there. Waiting for him. Waiting to send his children to school. Harry let out a sigh. Everything was perfect. Eerily perfect, but he didn’t mind. Life wasn’t perfect for so long that it was nice to have it be really perfect. Not to mention, it wasn’t even a dream. This was reality.
Harry never did find out what happened or why he suddenly seemed to lose so many years, but Ginny merely laughed it off whenever he asked her about it. Sometimes, he’d stop to think about it. Things seemed too perfect, but he learned not to question it. It was so wonderful a life that he didn’t want to.
Harry’s lifeless body lay on the table, his head covered by a floating orb. Ginny Weasley felt old. It had been a good 15 years since she had first gone to see Headmistress McGonagall about Harry. It had been 15 years since she sent Harry into an altered dream world, and since then she had lost everything in her life. Hermione and Ron didn’t understand why she did it. Didn’t think it was right. Her parents were angry that she didn’t even ask them for their advice. Didn’t they understand though? She wasn’t a baby girl anymore. She was a grown woman, and she made her choice as she thought fit for Harry. He deserved to be happy. He deserved to live in a world where the dreams wouldn’t plague him, where his scar wouldn't hurt him, where everything was perfect, even if that meant leaving her alone in the world.
She cursed everyone else. Everyone who expected so much of him. Wanted him to be strong and stubborn in his fight. Sure, it had won him the fight. He saved the world, but he lost himself. Somewhere on that battlefield in Hogwarts, he snapped. He lost it all, and not even Ginny could save him. She hated the world for taking away the one thing she loved. It was immature, she admitted. But not unjustified. What had the world ever given Harry? Pain and suffering. He watched his friends die. He watched every one of his family die. He didn’t owe the world a damn thing, but he still saved it. Then, there was nobody left on the terrible earth to save him. But she could give him a world he wanted. A world that didn’t have her. Not the real her, at least. She stared down at his face. He had a smile on his face. It had been so many years, and he had never looked so peaceful. She loved him so much, and she hoped that somewhere in that dream world he was living in, she was the reason he was smiling. Reaching to touch his face gingerly, she suppressed the tears threatening to spill. An ultimate sacrifice made out of love.
A/N: I got my inspiration for this from Firefly, a TV show by Joss Whedon. For any readers, I suggest you watch the series! It was too short lived but amazing! :) Go, go, go! Go watch :)