Chapter 1 : Aftermath
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Harry, Ron and Hermione left Dumbledore’s office and began to head down the escalator-like spiral staircase. Harry was looking forward to going to the Gryffindor Tower and his four-poster bed so he could sleep for as many days as possible. He was beyond exhausted.
“Do you want me to have Kreacher bring something light for dinner to the Gryffindor Common Room?” Harry asked.
Ron looked at Hermione, their fingers intertwined with each other as they held hands, and sighed. “I really need to back to the Great Hall to be with my family” Ron said. Hermione nodded her agreement.
Harry looked at his two best friends with a resigned look and said, “OK, we’ll go down to the Great Hall”.
As they descended the staircase, Harry felt the lead weight of despair begin to settle in his chest. He did not want to go back to the Great Hall even though he knew Ron was right. They had to go back and face the people there and begin to grieve. Harry sighed and hung his head thinking, ‘All those people are hurt and dead because of me.’
When they reached the bottom of the staircase and climbed over the gargoyle that was on its side Ron asked, “You OK, mate?” Harry said nothing and kept on walking toward the Great Hall. After they had walked a bit, Harry saw a mirror on the wall and looked at himself. He did not like what he saw. His eyes were red and bloodshot to the point you could not tell they were green. He was covered in dust and dirt from the battle and had several cuts and scrapes with dried blood almost everywhere. His clothes were torn and tattered. Harry did not notice until then he was still holding his wand. He put the wand in his pocket with the Elder Wand. Harry wondered how he would put the Elder Wand back in Dumbledore’s tomb. He decided to think about that later. He could barely think as it was.
“Look at us” Harry said.
Ron and Hermione stood in front of the mirror and looked at themselves. Ron had bruises beginning to form on his arms and generally looked as bad as Harry. Hermione looked no better than her friends did, except to Ron who thought she looked beautiful. Ron was not surprised he had been so stupid for not realizing his feelings for Hermione sooner. ‘So much wasted time,’ he thought. He would not allow himself to make that mistake again, and squeezed Hermione’s hand. She returned the squeeze and put her head on his shoulder.
“We should get going” Ron said keeping everyone on task.
Harry nodded and continued the long, sorrowful journey to the Great Hall.
As they walked along the corridors and into the entrance hall, Harry was shocked by all of the damage and destruction he saw. He was sure Hogwarts would never be the same again. So much debris, blood all over the floors and walls, large chunks of stone missing and whole walls gone. Harry began to slide deeper into his despair. The lead in his chest began to fill every part of him.
When Harry, Ron and Hermione entered the Great Hall, they were met with great cheering, clapping and many compliments and thanks.
“Way to go, Harry!”
“It’s the ‘Chosen One!’”
“We won, we really won! I can’t believe it!”
So many people were coming up to Harry to shake his hand, give him a pat on the back or just be close to him that he almost vomited. ‘All I want to do is sleep, is that too much to ask?’ Harry thought to himself. As he began to look around, Harry almost broke down. He saw the Weasleys in the middle of the Great Hall, Ron and Hermione with them still holding hands, next to Fred’s body. Not far away he saw Lupin and Tonks and thought of Teddy and how he would never know his parents. Harry continued to look around and saw Colin Creevey. Tears began to well in his eyes of their own accord. He walked over to Colin’s body and knelt down.
“I am so, so sorry I let this happen to you Colin. I wish I could take your place and you could have the rest of your life to live. It should have been me.” The tears came unbidden. Harry had no idea how long he had been at Colin’s side when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Come with me Harry,” a voice said. It seemed far away and he could barely hear it. He felt the hand squeeze his shoulder and then the voice said again “Come on, there’s nothing you can do for Colin now.” Harry realized Ginny was speaking to him in a soft and comforting voice. Her presence began to fill his senses; her smell, that wonderful smell of flowers she always seemed to have, her soft and comforting touch. Harry would like nothing more than to stay in this moment forever.
Harry placed a hand on Colin Creevey for the last time and said he was sorry for the millionth then got up at Ginny’s urging. When he turned to look at her, he almost collapsed again. Her face was swollen, she had bloodstains all over her, but he couldn’t tell if they were hers or not.
Ginny was dirty, dust covered, singed and so very glad to be standing next to her one love, Harry Potter. She began to bring Harry over to the Weasleys when he stopped dead in his tracks. She looked at Harry and asked “Is something wrong?”
Harry looked at Ginny, shock and fear in his eyes, and said “I can’t go to your family, what would they think? I got Fred killed because I couldn’t kill Voldermort sooner.”
“Mum wants to see you. She has been worried ever since you, Ron and Hermione left to do whatever you three did,” she said.
Harry looked at her, heaved a great sigh and said, “OK. Let’s go.” His whole body felt like lead now.
When he got to the Weasleys, Mrs. Weasley jumped up and gave Harry a huge Molly Weasley hug, almost crushing his chest.
“Where have you been, Harry?” Mrs. Weasley asked. “We have been so worried about you.” She looked into Harry’s face, saw his grief and despair and hugged him again.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Weasley…I’m so sorry. I should have done more. Sooner,” he repeated over and over.
Mrs. Weasley looked directly at Harry and said, “None of this is your fault, Harry. YOU defeated V-Voldermort. YOU did. No one else. Please try and understand. Without you we would still be in fear and running for our lives.”
Harry knew Mrs. Weasley was trying to make him feel better, but it wasn’t working. The more she said the worse he felt. It finally became too much for him to handle. He looked at Ginny and said, “I need to see some of the others.” Ginny nodded and got up to come with him, but he put up a hand and shook his head. “I need to do this alone.” She nodded again and sat back down. Harry just wanted to leave the Great Hall but knew he couldn’t right now, so he went to see Neville and Luna.
Harry found Neville and Luna sitting next to each other talking with a bunch of other students and adults, the Sword of Gryffindor still by his side. Harry had to smile at the expression on Neville’s face. He was not used to getting any attention, and now he had more than he could handle. Luna had her normal dreamy look that said this was all great fun. Luna was also getting more attention than ever before. So many people saw her, Ginny and Hermione dueling Bellatrix Lestrange in the middle of the Great Hall that she will be popular for some time to come, wanted or not.
“Hi, guys.” Harry said. “How are you?”
Neville looked up in surprise. Luna looked up and said, “Harry you look terrible.” Luna always had a way of getting right to the point. Usually to the discomfort of the person she was addressing.
“Thanks, Luna.” Harry said sarcastically, “I feel like shit too.”
“I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t mean it to sound that way. But you really do look terrible.”
“Forget it. I’m just really tired.”
Harry, Neville and Luna talked for a long time. When Harry said he should see some other people Neville and Luna understood.
When Harry got up to leave, he extended his hand to Neville and said, “None of this would have been possible with out you, Neville. I owe you more than you can imagine.”
Neville shrugged his shoulders and said “All I did was what you asked me to do, nothing more.”
“No, Neville. It was so…so much more. Thank you.” And then shook Neville’s hand.
Harry went over to Luna and gave her a kiss on the cheek and whispered in her ear, “You are a great friend and I owe you as much or more than Neville. Thank you.” Luna just looked at him with her dreamy expression and smiled. Harry had to admit he liked it when Luna smiled; it would light up any room she was in. Harry’s spirits were lifted for just a moment.
As Harry made his way around the Great Hall he finally realized how bright the room appeared. He figured it had to be some time around noon. The light pouring into the Hall was warm and brilliant. With all of the damage to the Hall the sun cast many shadows. It was then that Harry noticed a smell he hadn’t before. Earthy, like herbs; familiar, but at the same time not. Harry began to look for the source of the smell. He had not been paying much attention to his surroundings. Harry was so wrapped up in his own sorrow and with visiting everyone in D.A. that he didn’t notice all the Healers caring for the wounded. He scolded himself for not noticing before. ‘How could I NOT have noticed. Some ‘Chosen One’ I am, I don’t even care enough to talk to the wounded. What a piece of crap I am.’ Harry continued to search for the source of the smell but at the same time he started to talk to some of the injured.
Then Harry saw something he never expected. Someone who had to be a Healer, but then again maybe not. The man was huge; at least six feet tall, athletic looking, with a dark complexion. His hair was long and black, braided in a ponytail that went to the middle of his back. Looking again, Harry saw the streak of silver in his hair on the left side of his head that was about two inches wide and ran the entire length of his hair. He had a striking visage, firm, square jaw, high cheekbones and a purposeful gait in his step. There was something else Harry saw on the man’s face. It looked like some type of scarring, but Harry was too far away to tell for sure. He was not wearing the lime green robes of the rest of the Healers. He was wearing, what do Muggles call them – scrubs. He was also wearing some type of vest with a great number of pockets.
Harry watched the man go to a young girl lying on the floor and start talking to her. He could not hear the conversation so Harry just watched.
The Healer pulled a vial from his vest and made her drink the contents. He examined the girl for a couple of minutes then stood up and said something to her with a smile on his face. She smiled back. Then the Healer pulled something else from his vest. It looked like a wand, but it was too short and too big around. Then he pulled what looked like a silver Muggle cigarette lighter with an emblem on it. He flicked the flint and the lighter sprang to life with flame. He lit the end of the wand looking thing then blew the flame out and smoke began to rise. The Healer snapped the lighter closed with a flick of his wrist.
He moved the wand thing in an up and down motion then used his free hand to move the smoke over himself and over the girl on the floor. He said something to her and handed her the smoking wand thing. She closed her eyes and breathed.
Harry was curious about the Healer. He had never seen anyone like him before, but was so tired he dropped it and went to look for an empty table to be alone.
When Harry got to the table he saw, he sat down and exhaled deeply. He was so tired he was punch drunk. ‘I need to sleep,’ Harry thought. ‘I want something to drink.’
“Kreacher, come here please.” Harry said.
Kreacher appeared with a pop, “Master wishes something from Kreacher?”
“Yes Kreacher, I want you get me a couple of bottles of Butter Beer—no, make that a couple of glasses of Fire Whiskey, please.”
Kreacher said in his bullfrog like voice, “Kreacher will get Master Harry his drinks” and disappeared with a pop. A few minutes later Kreacher returned with the Fire Whiskey.
“Thank you, Kreacher” Harry said and gulped the first glass as fast as he could. The burn of the whiskey was something Harry was not used to. He felt like fire was consuming his insides for a minute then it died down to pleasant warmth. Harry began to sip the next glass, enjoying the burn and the warmth that followed.
Green – Brilliant…
Screaming – Ear splitting…
Pain – Tremendous…
Laughter – Mirthless…
Harry awoke with a start, breathing heavily and sweating profusely. For a moment he did not know where he was. His glasses were not on his face. Harry felt around, found his glasses and put them on. He realized he was still in the Great Hall. He saw he had not finished the second glass of Fire Whiskey. His whole body was stiff and sore, he hurt everywhere. Smacking his lips together, Harry was sure of only one thing; Crookshanks found him while he slept and used his mouth as a litter box. Harry was surprised when the blanket covering him fell to the floor as he moved.
Harry got a good whiff of himself. He stank. The dirt, dust, blood and sweat made him feel sticky and awful. He needed a shower as quickly as possible. When he stood up all his joints screamed in revolt. ‘This is going to be a crappy day’ Harry thought. Looking around, Harry saw that the wounded had been moved, probably to the Hospital Wing or St. Mungo’s. The dead had also been moved. He saw a corner had been cleaned and there was a buffet set up with food and drink. Harry walked over to drink some water and get an egg sandwich. ‘How long have I been asleep’ Harry wondered. It was still daylight. Had he been asleep for just a few minutes or was it the next day? Harry didn’t have a clue. Right now the only thing that mattered to Harry was to find Hermione and get some clothes out of her bag.
Harry looked for Hermione. She was not in the Great Hall, so he decided to go to the Gryffindor Common Room. When he arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady he realized he had no idea what the password was. She looked at him and smiled, opening the door without even asking for it. “Thank you” Harry said to the Fat Lady. “You are welcome here at any time Harry Potter. You do not need a password ever again,” she said. Harry felt himself flush with embarrassment. He said, “Again, thank you” and passed through into the Common Room.
When Harry entered the room, he saw the couch he, Ron and Hermione usually sat in. Ron was sitting on one end with his arms on the back; head laid back, mouth open and snoring loudly. Harry chuckled to himself. He walked around to the front and found Hermione curled up next to Ron with her head in his lap, sound asleep. Harry looked at his two best friends for what seemed like a long time, smiling all the while. Harry envied the total contentment on their faces. Even though they were filthy, bruised, beaten, bloodstained and generally disheveled they looked as if they were at complete peace. Harry looked at the table in front of them, saw Hermione’s bag and picked it up. He searched inside and found a clean change of clothes.
By the time Harry returned to the Common Room after his very long shower he was beginning to feel better. He saw Hermione was up rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Hey,” Harry whispered to her.
“Hey yourself. How are you feeling?”
“Better, now that I’ve had a shower and got on clean clothes.”
“We found you sound asleep in the Great Hall and decided to let you be. Ginny put the blanket over you. You still look really tired Harry.” Hermione said.
“I am” Harry responded “but I guess I will get caught up soon enough.”
Hermione just grunted. She got up, picked up her bag and rummaged around until she found a change of clothes herself. “I’m going to get a shower too. I feel disgusting. Wait for me?”
“Sure” Harry responded.
After what seemed to be a long time, Hermione returned to the Common Room drying her hair. “Much, much better” she said. When she had dried her hair as much as she was going to, she threw her towel at Ron and said “Ron, get up.”
Ron shook awake and looked around rubbing sleep from his eyes “Wha…? What’s going on?”
“You have been asleep for more than fifteen hours Ronald Weasley. It’s time to get up,” Hermione scolded.
“Is that all?!” Ron groaned. He then closed his eyes, curled up on his side and was back asleep as soon as his head touched the couch. Hermione ‘hmphed’ and stormed out of the portrait hole. Harry had to giggle to himself as he followed Hermione out of the portrait hole. ‘Some things will never change’ Harry thought.
Harry found Hermione in the Great Hall at the buffet getting Pumpkin Juice and a plate of food. Harry did the same thing and sat down next to her. They ate in silence, two friends enjoying each other’s company with out a word said between them. By the time they were almost finished with their food Ron walked in. When he got to the table he had his usual very large plate of food. Hermione just sighed and shook her head. They all sat there quietly, some things just did not need saying. Hermione put her head on Ron’s shoulder and looked contented. Ron stopped eating just long enough to kiss her on top of the head and smell her hair.
When Ron finished eating, Harry motioned for them to follow. They walked out of the entrance hall and onto the grounds. Taking in all the damage and destruction, Harry felt the lead begin to fill his chest again.
“Where we going, mate?” Ron asked
“Dumbledore’s tomb to return the Elder Wand” Harry responded.
When they reached Dumbledore’s tomb they stopped and gasped. The grave had not been repaired since Voldermort took the wand. They could not believe it.
“Bloody Hell.” Harry said in disgust quietly to himself.
Harry walked the last few steps alone and looked in the tomb at Dumbledore. “We did it Professor. Tom Riddle is no more.” Harry then placed the Elder wand back in his hands, touched him on the shoulder, bowed his head and said a silent prayer. When Harry looked around at the two people who had been with him through everything, he saw Hermione crying openly, tears running down her face. Ron had tears in his eyes as well, but was holding Hermione around the shoulders so she would not collapse to the ground. Harry felt the tears begin to well up in his own eyes.
Harry grabbed his wand from his pocket and pointed it at Dumbledore’s tomb saying “Repairo.” Harry felt power like never before from his wand and watched in shock as the tomb quickly repaired itself. This was his wand, holly and phoenix feather, but more. Harry looked at it strangely while he held it. Harry decided to talk to Ollivander when he had a chance. They stayed at Dumbledore’s tomb for a while longer then began the trek back to Hogwarts.
The next three days went by in a blur; visiting all those in the Hospital Wing, meeting those who came to claim the bodies, crying, laughing when necessary and always blaming himself for not finishing Voldermort sooner. Harry slept in his bed in his dorm room but he knew he could not stay at Hogwarts long. There were just too many memories and feelings Harry did not want to deal with now.
Green – Brilliant…Harsh…
Screaming – Ear splitting…Blood chilling….
Pain – Tremendous…Mind numbing…
Laughter – Mirthless…Maniacal…
The nightmare started the same way each time. When it started Harry would wake with sweat pouring from his body, shaking hands grabbing sheets, a total sense of confusion and frantically searching for his wand. Harry began to ask Kreacher for a bottle of Fire Whiskey and a glass every night. Fire Whiskey before bed seemed to help stave-off the nightmares. At least he could sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time.
This is my first attempt at written story telling and Fan Fiction so I feel it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge several people for their inspiration. I hope you like the story. It has been a great deal of work, a lot of fun and somewhat therapeutic.
To my darling wife, who has been by my side with her love, support and compassion during my own journey through the Ninth Circle. Without you none of this would ever have been possible. There are not enough words to express how much I love you.
To all who are going through or have been through their own journey, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Someone is out there to help. Always remember that. It will get better, I promise.
First: To J. K. Rowling for creating the fabulous and magical world of Harry Potter. All characters, settings and events in the Harry Potter cannon are owned by her, Warner Brothers, and various publishers including, but not limited to, Scholastic, Inc. I own only this story.
Second: To Harry Potter Fan Fiction author Singularity for the Song-Fic Breathe, the inspiration for this story. Some of the narrative images in this story are used with Singularity’s permission. Thank you very much. I strongly encourage and highly recommend that you read Singularity’s work. Also to Harry Potter Fan Fiction author Jet LaBarge for the story Almost Happily Ever After, which has provided great insight into the events immediately following the Battle of Hogwarts. Thank you. Again I strongly encourage and highly recommend you read Jet LaBarge’s work.
Third: To Dante Alighieri for the Nine Circles.
Fourth: To the Native American peoples of the Hopi and Lakota (Sioux) for their wonderful heritage, languages, culture and history, without whom my original character could not have life.
Last (but certainly, not least): To you, the reader, for your interest, responses and reviews. Thank you.