Chapter 1 : The Morning After
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It was a beautifully clear May morning in England. The fog that had been set over the country for months had seemingly disappeared overnight. People all over the country were waking up with the feeling that something had been lifted from the very air, that their minds, for the first time in months, were unclouded and capable of hope.
But besides the unbelievably clear skies, there was nothing else significant to the day that is to the non-magical eye. Wizards and witches also awoke with a feeling of hope, but they knew why. It had only been hours since the Boy-Who-Lived's final victory over the Dark Lord, but the news spread quickly and magical folk were finally free, free to talk, free to laugh, free to celebrate their savior's triumph. The streets of London were rapidly filling up with strange people wearing cloaks, not bothering to conceal their jubilation, setting off sparks and fireworks with their wands that would have gotten them in serious trouble with the Ministry that is if the Ministry wasn't it in a right state of chaos.
Yes, Voldemort's ministry had collapsed overnight. It really was amazing the kind of loyalty his followers possessed, deciding to flee for their lives even though they still outnumbered the Order of the Phoenix at least two to one. The new Death-Eater-free Ministry had enough on their plate, trying to round up surviving Death Eaters, attempting to distinguish between the imperiused and true supporters of Voldemort's regime, and locating all those that had been forced to flee the country. They really did not have the time or resources to make sure the International Statute of Secrecy was being followed, and many Ministry employees were taking apart in the celebrations anyway. They had a right to rejoice in the defeat of the most powerful dark wizard of all time, after all. But none really had any idea of the sacrifices and sufferings that finally brought about his downfall. Miles away, far from the streets of London, Hogwarts, the sight of the final battle, bore all of the marks of the fighter's hardships.
A young man with the most unruly black hair and a lightning shaped scar was beginning to stir. All over the castle, it was clear a battle had taken place, but thankfully the fighting hadn’t made its way into Gryffindor tower and the seventh year boy’s dorm remained unscathed. Harry Potter rubbed his eyes and reached for his glasses. He had no memory of how he got into his bed, but something told him a certain bushy-haired girl and red-haired and freckled boy had something to do with it.
The rest of the dorm was empty. There were no clothes lying around, no posters on the walls, no sign that anybody had lived there in weeks. Of course, nobody had as him, Ron, and Dean were on the run all year, and Neville and Seamus were forced to stay in the Room of Requirement. Never the less, it was extremely odd for it to be so quiet. Usually, you could count on an argument between Dean and Seamus about football or quidditch or Ron’s snoring to break the silence, but no, Harry was alone with only his thoughts.
Very quickly his thoughts brought him to the previous day. It had all been a blur really. It happened so quickly that there was no time to think, and just as quickly as it started, it was over. Sitting up in his bed, Harry saw the faces of Remus, Tonks, Fred, and even little Colin Creevey flash before him. It really just wasn’t fair. Colin, who had some how found a way back into the castle, fought and was killed because of what he had taught him, Harry thought. He had talked so much about fighting Voldemort in those D.A. meetings, how it was like to come face to face with him. Of course Colin, who had always looked up to Harry with a small amount of reverence, would charge into a battle without giving it a second thought because that’s what Harry would have done.
Fred, too, was part of the D.A., but he and George had been begging to be allowed to fight ever since the Order of the Phoenix reformed. He would have fought regardless if Harry had taught him. Still, Fred and everyone else for that matter came rushing to Hogwarts because Harry was there, and he needed help.
Harry remembered Remus coming to the Shell Cottage to tell them all about his new born son. It was the happiest he could ever remember him being. But he too nobly answered the call to arms and there was no way Tonks, a fully trained auror, was going to stand idly by while her husband was risking life and death. And now, both were gone from this world, and Teddy would grow up without his parents. And poor Andromeda who not only lost a husband, but a child and sister as well. Someone would have to be the one to tell her, tell her what victory had cost. It was all too much to think about right now and Harry forced himself to think of something else.
Ultimately, he couldn’t shake these thoughts away. Harry kept thinking that there must have been something different he could’ve done, if only he was just a little quicker in figuring it all out. Of course, Snape had been his scapegoat for the past year and really since Sirius’ death. It had always been so easy to focus his anger towards the supposed traitor, to make Snape out as a coward, a lesser wizard who hid behind the talents of the likes of Voldemort and Dumbledore. That wasn’t the case, though, and Snape had more to do with Voldemort’s ultimate downfall than any member of the Order. Harry still wasn’t sure how he felt regarding the revelations about Snape, but one thing was certain: he couldn’t be blamed for the death and destruction of the battle.
Harry’s thoughts then shifted towards Dumbledore, the man behind the master plan. Once again, he had not been completely truthful with Harry, holding back small details concerning Harry having to sacrifice himself. Surely, some blame lied with Dumbledore, but Harry had pretty much forgiven him after their meeting yesterday. Sure, Harry wasn’t given everything up front. Yet, figuring out the clues was essential to the quest and he may have made different choices, wrong choices, if he had known everything from the beginning.
So, Dumbledore did his duty, providing him, Ron, and Hermione with the tools and knowledge that would ultimately be needed to finish off Voldemort for good. Ron’s and Hermione’s job was to keep him alive and focused, and they absolutely did that. Without Hermione, Harry almost certainly would have been captured within a week following Bill and Fleur’s wedding, if not at the wedding. She was essential in their infiltration of the Ministry, her wards were always impenetrable, and he would have been killed in Godric’s Hollow without her quick thinking.
Now Ron may not have been as unwavering as Hermione, but his leaving was as much Harry’s fault as it was his. They both said some things, under the influence of the horcrux, that they immediately regretted, but the only thing that matters is that he came back. Besides, it was because of Ron that Harry wasn’t currently frozen at the bottom of a lake.
It all came back to me, Harry thought. Ron and Hermione were there to help him, not the other way around. Ultimately, it was Harry’s job to sift through the puzzles and riddles left by Dumbledore, and to trust his instincts to lead him to the answers. Well, his instincts told him months ago that a horcrux must be hidden at Hogwarts, that the place was just too important to Voldemort for it not to be. Unfortunately, he allowed them to talk him out of the idea. They were able to convince him that there couldn’t be a horcrux there because Dumbledore would have surely found it if there was.
Ah, but Dumbledore did not discover all of the castle’s secrets, and he himself would be the first person to say such. Harry thought back to all of the one-on-one lessons he received from Dumbledore last year and not once did he think it important to mention a secret room that had hidden thousands of objects for students over the years. No, anytime Harry spoke during the lessons was to express his doubts and concerns about Snape. Harry had let his own personal feelings toward the man prevail over his trust for Dumbledore. Looking back, he saw how much time he had wasted worrying about Snape, not just his time but Dumbledore’s, who unbeknownst to Harry, had a very limited amount of time left.
Harry knew he would have to deal with his guilt by himself, though. If he expressed his feelings to anyone else, they would just tell him he was being ridiculous. He could just imagine Ron and Hermione’s reaction. Hermione would give him a sympathizing look, tell him it was perfectly natural to feel this way, and maybe even come up with a name for his feelings. Ron, well, if he wasn’t overcome with grief about his lost brother, he’d give him some sarcastic response about how the bloody chosen one thinks he killed a bunch of people. They really just wouldn’t understand.
Well, there was no reason to dwell on those that are gone; Harry had learned that lesson the past two summers. However, there were many others who had been lucky enough to survive relatively unharmed that Harry felt he had hurt by his actions both yesterday and over the last year. Foremost among them was Ginny, that beautiful red-head with the fiercest brown eyes Harry had ever seen. He knew he had caused her serious pain by breaking up with her, regardless of his reasons, and he didn’t even want to think of the abuse she had to endure at Hogwarts while he was off hunting horcruxes. Plus, the giant ass that he was, he made her, and everyone else, think that he was dead. “I’m just going to have to accept the fact that she’ll want to hex the crap out of me,” Harry said out loud to himself. “I’ll just have to apologize and then stand there and take it like a man.”
It was certainly going to be a long day. Miles of people will be coming up to thank him, but Harry will be convinced he should be apologizing to everyone. Harry wondered who he should meet with first, and then it came to him. Harry needed to see the man who had been forced to watch his murder. He got out of bed, put on the cleanest pair of pants he could find, and grabbed his Invisibility Cloak before making his way toward the door. Harry was going to pay a visit to his oldest friend.
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