After the war, the survivors try to find a way to cope with the losses they have incurred and move into a future they have yet to create. As they try to find ways to save themselves, they realize that perhaps the best way is to save each other.
This story will eventually be Harry Draco Slash. It will probably take a while to get there from here. This chapter is rated for general audiences.
Posted so far: 14 Chapters / 72,698 words.
Again and still: thanks to my betas ivyingarden and rosskpr . Their help makes this a better fic, between brainstorming, catching errors in grammar and canon, reviewing plot flow, and supplying encourangement to "write write write". Any errors after the two of them have combed through the work are from the author not paying attention (or being just plain stubborn)!
Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling. I play here.
In some ways, it feels like the chapters up until this point have been winding down from the final battle. After the next chapter (which includes Remus' and Tonks' funeral, and a tiny bit of Harry and Draco interaction), I expect the flow to surge back up, with new things growing from the seeds that have been planted in the chapters so far.
As always, reviews and critiques keep the creativity flowing! Let me know what you think!
On to the Chapter
Chapter 14 - Funerals, Part 1
May 6, 1998
There were too many funerals. Each was carefully entered on a list, with date and time and place, posted near the Great Hall. The times overlapped, with each family making their own arrangements, and there was no way to attend them all. Harry felt a bit like he should. So many people had died. He thought of all those months they had been on the road, hiding, following false leads. Could he have done it faster? Would more people be alive if they’d made different choices? He didn’t know. What he could do now is pay his respects. He could mourn.
The Ministry’s notion to have one large service for the war heroes was politely declined by their families. Harry couldn’t imagine waiting while they talked of strangers, when all he wanted to do was remember those he cared about. Fred. Remus. Tonks. His mind went back in its litany of those he’d lost. No one wanted to have the memory of their loved one overshadowed by so many others.
A tiny seed of thought in the back of his head was horrified at the very idea of a common service for another reason, asking how the magic would return to the families if one Ceremony of Memory was supposed to suffice for all the losses. It would take some time to get used to the Black way of thinking. It was like having a little Pureblood in his mind, making subliminal comments. Harry snickered for a moment at the image: the quintessential pureblood, looking like a tiny Draco Malfoy, standing on one shoulder, making comments, like half of the of the devil/angel pair he’d seen on one of Dudley’s programmes before Aunt Petunia had shut it off as being too freaky. Malfoy would certainly be the devil, no matter how pale his hair and skin. Harry tried to think who the angel would be. At one time it would have been Dumbledore. But as soon as he thought that, he realized who it would be: his mother.
The brief moment of levity left him, and he felt bad for laughing. It was a day to mourn, in a way he had not been able to before.
For now, Harry ignored the thought. There would be time later, in his now obligatory lessons with Andromeda Tonks, to listen to it and decide whether it was...meaningful to him.
Harry had heard the other volunteers chattering while they worked, over the past few days. After the families declined having a joint service, there was talk of an official memorial in addition to the private ones, in remembrance of those who so bravely blah blah blah. That would come later, and Harry didn’t want to think about it.
Everyone deserved to have time to remember those they loved. That’s what he focussed on now, letting other thoughts and worries slide beneath the numb fog in his mind. He wished he remembered his parents’ funeral. Had he even been there? Knowing the times, and the way Dumbledore had chosen to protect him over the years, probably not. Had Aunt Petunia even gone to her sister’s funeral? He wished Sirius had had a funeral. He was determined to go to the funerals of those he had been close to, since for the first time in his life, it was possible.
Remus and Tonks’ funeral was not until Friday. Harry was a bit glad of that. As much as he wanted to remember them both, he wasn’t sure he was ready. Mrs Tonks made it sound as if he would have a role to play, besides just sitting and remembering. At Fred’s funeral, though, he could just –remember. With the Weasleys all around him. Somehow, that felt safer.
Fred’s funeral was on the same day as that of several Ravenclaw students, and Colin Creevey. Harry would have felt bad for missing Colin’s funeral, except that talking to Ginny last night had left him mostly feeling numb.
His entire focus had been on defeating Voldemort. He had pictured what life would be like afterward. He would be free to go places. He could see the ocean on a sunny day, without Horcruxes looming in his mind. He could visit the Weasleys, and he and Ginny could date like normal people, only that wasn’t how it worked. The Weasleys were mourning Fred, and Ginny had left him (never mind that he had left her first… he had planned to return to her, once the danger was gone), Hogwarts was damaged, and he was somehow expected to learn how to be the head of a Pureblood family—one of the more bigoted ones at that. It was all too much.
Harry wished he could just work on repairing Hogwarts and be left alone to think. The rhythm of the work was soothing, and he could focus on it, and let his mind drift. But the funerals were important, and he couldn’t imagine letting any of them pass. These were people who had fought with him, fought for him, fought to protect him and make it possible for Harry to do what he had to do. Despite the obligation he felt to all the others, he knew he would not want to leave the Weasley family funeral or gathering, once it started. They were all the family he had.
So, early that morning, he went to see Professor McGonagall. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately. He really shouldn’t—he had a feeling she made time for him because of who he was— and he could see how much she had to do. Every time he saw her, it seemed she was surrounded by people needing her decision or approval on something. For this one thing, though, he knew she could help. As Head of House for both students, she would certainly have a similar conflict. He really should have asked her sooner, but he had too much on his mind. Somehow, the little things kept getting lost.
McGonagall told him she planned on attending Fred’s funeral, but leaving in time to pay her respects at Colin’s. He suspected several others would be Apparating from one funeral to another like Professor McGonagall would be doing.
Harry regretted that he’d not had the time to get his Apparition license. He was not sure when he’d have time to take the test, or if the ministry was even in a state to administer it. Somehow, Apparition licenses seemed a lower priority than the housecleaning he knew the Ministry was undergoing. He’d make time soon, he promised himself. He wanted that freedom. He’d check with Mr Weasley if the testing centre was open. It didn’t matter in this case, he realized. He wouldn’t be able to Apparate, as he’d never been to either location.
Apparently, he was not the only one with this problem. With the ease of frequent repetition, Professor McGonagall helped him arrange for a Portkey to a place right outside the Weasley family plot, and one to the alley behind the church where the Creevey funeral would be. He hated Portkeys, but this one was under his own control, and he had the trigger phrase. He could stop at Colin’s briefly, to pay his respects beforehand. It would allow him to stay at Fred’s funeral and the gathering afterward, without feeling guilty about missing Colin’s.
Harry arrived early at the Weasley cemetery to help set up. The fields were the kind of emerald green you only get in the late spring, and the trees were in full leaf, again in that amazing green. The day was sunny. The air was too bright for Harry. It should be overcast, or raining, the sky weeping for all those who could not. Harry had not cried since the battle. Not once. He wondered if he’d ever be able to properly feel again.
The Weasley family plot was not far from the Burrow, about halfway down the road toward the town of Ottery St. Catchpole. It was a smallish cemetery ringed around with spells of protection and charms to redirect the eyes of outsiders. Bill explained to Harry that the Weasley land had once included both the Burrow and the cemetery, including the green fields stretching from one to the other. Weasley land had nearly extended to the outskirts of the town. Muggle farmers now held some of the land, and small Wizarding cottages dotted the rest. Bill relayed this fact as if it was ancient history, of interest merely as a historical note. Harry wondered that Bill did not seem to resent the reduced land-wealth of the family. Ron had never mentioned it, which also surprised Harry, considering how bitter Ron could get about being poor.
He found Ron, setting out a scroll and quill on a table. He looked sombre, more adult than he did a few days ago.
“You okay, mate?” Harry asked.
“Yeah. No. I suppose.”
Harry wished he could think of something comforting to say. As many people as had died, he didn’t know what to say at a funeral.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” Ron blurted. “"Fred could be a right berk sometimes, but he was still my brother.” He fell silent for a moment. “He should be alive. He was always so…”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed.
“He was there, and then he wasn’t. I should have done something.”
“I know how that feels, Ron. But you can’t think that way.”
Hermione came up just then. “Ron, your mum is asking for you.”
As Ron walked toward a cluster of redheads by a small stone building, Hermione turned to Harry. “How you holding up?”
“We’ve missed you at the Burrow. I think we all expected you to stay there.”
“I need to get some things sorted in my head.”
“All right. Just don’t take too long about it. We care about you. Maybe we can help you get it sorted?”
“Not yet. It’s been a really busy couple of days.”
“Okay, Harry. Just so you know you can come to us.”
Someone who looked like a Weasley cousin brought folding chairs that had been shrunk for ease in transportation, and Harry and Hermione turned to help. After they had been unshrunk, Harry realized they weren’t exactly folding chairs, more like folding chair representations. They had legs and seats and backs, and collapsed when folded, but Harry doubted they were ever meant to be sat upon. Professor McGonagall arrived at the same time as the chairs. She explained, as Harry and Hermione helped levitate them and place them in gentle arcs on the grass, that they were constructs, designed to be easy to transfigure into anything with the approximate ‘chair’ function. After they were all positioned, she then transfigured them into elegant upholstered sofas and armchairs for the comfort of the attendees. The upholstery was in demure shades, with a jacquard print of black on black woven throughout. The effect of the black against the emerald leaves and fields was striking. And as he watched the attendees arrive and settle into the cushioned furniture, Harry had to admit the sense of the softer furniture, as it gave the mourners a chance to give and receive comfort.
But now that it was all set up, Harry had to go, so he could return in time for the service itself. He couldn’t see Ron. Catching Bill’s eye, he waved him over to let him know that he would be back, and then stepped out of the small cemetery and triggered the Portkey to an alley outside the Church where Colin’s funeral would be. It was an Anglican church in Exeter, Professor McGonagall had said, near where the Creevey family lived.
Harry pulled off the forest-green dress robe he had borrowed, folded it over an arm like a coat, and tugged at the Muggle suit he had likewise borrowed. For a change, the borrowed clothes mostly fit, and had been charmed an appropriate dark colour for the funeral, but he was unused to wearing Muggle clothes any fancier than Dudley’s cast-offs. He needed to check with Hermione if she had found the beaded bag. Not that his clothes were something worth worrying about—he’d be better off buying new ones, now that he had the freedom to wander around Muggle London, or even Diagon Alley—but he had stored other things in Hermione’s bag. He’d had his invisibility cloak rolled in a tight wad and stuffed beneath his robes that night, and the Map in the pouch around his neck, but the photo album Hagrid had given him was still in the bag, as were some treasured letters, and the mirror from Sirius. He was sure Hermione would have tracked it down after the battle. It had practically an entire library in it.
Harry shook his head to clear it. He could not seem to focus on anything, with his thoughts skittering from topic to topic. He felt as if he was watching his thoughts, his feelings, not participating, barely feeling.
He tugged again at the uncomfortable Muggle jacket, and pushed his way through the doors of the church. It was dark, and the windows were stained glass in muted colours. A low, droning music was playing. It was strange, with all the deaths he had seen, he had only once gone to a funeral, and he suspected that he was only allowed that because it was on Hogwarts’ grounds. He did not want to think about Dumbledore right now.
Every other time someone had died, he was too protected to attend, or there was no funeral at all.
Harry looked around. He could not remember ever having been in a church. The Dursleys never took him to the Easter and Christmas Eve services, not wanting to take the risk he might do something ‘freakish’ in public. And the Wizarding world… well, religion had never really come up at Hogwarts. It had never occurred to Harry to wonder why. He would have to ask someone.
The church had a dark wooden floor, and there was a red candle floating near the ceiling at the front. No, not floating. Harry saw that there were chains holding it up.
Rows of hard wooden benches lead the way to the front, where a small cluster of people stood. There were not many people in the church. Some were scattered on the benches, mostly near the front, where the coffin rested, presented waist-high on a pedestal. A man in a Vicar’s collar stood nearby.
Harry did not see very many wizards or witches here. A few Gryffindors from Colin’s year, and a Hufflepuff. Why weren’t there more? What must his Muggle family think of the Wizarding world, when so few people from Hogwarts came. How much did they know of the war? Of how and why Colin died?
Harry walked forward down the left side aisle. He could hear a low murmur of voices from those in sitting in the front pews, and standing near the coffin. Harry saw a woman with Colin’s features, but with darker hair, and a blond man by her side, and guessed them to be Colin’s parents.
“Mr and Mrs Creevey?” Harry asked softly.
The woman raised her eyes to him. She looked to be tearing her handkerchief in half, so tightly was she pulling at it.
“I’m sorry for…” Harry did not know how to finish that. But the woman nodded.
“Thank you.” She said. “I recognise you. You were the one—” Harry started to fidget. “He took all those pictures of you.”
“We were in the same house. At school.”
“He said you were famous. Like a hero. In your world.”
“It wasn’t just me. There were so many. Including your son.”
Mrs Creevey looked at him, as if pleading. Harry was not sure what for.
“Colin was very brave,” He told her.
They looked at each other. Harry did not know what else to say. He wondered how much she knew about the battle. Had Colin been at school? He was Muggleborn, it would have been dangerous. If it had been allowed at all. From what he remembered from the break in at the Ministry of Magic, Muggleborns were being rounded up. The image of the trials he had witnessed flashed through his mind. No, Muggleborns would not have been safe at Hogwarts at all. Maybe was he one of the ones that had responded to Neville’s summons. Harry was embarrassed that he had not thought about it up until now.
“He said he wasn’t allowed to go back to school. And he couldn’t go to the school nearby. He wouldn’t know any of the material covered before. He only knew the subjects from your world. And then your world just threw him out.”
“Our world was a mess. Hopefully it won’t be any more. And it’s because of people like Colin, that we were able to take it back. I know that doesn’t help.”
“No. But it is good to know. I am glad you came. I never really got to meet any of his friends.”
Harry felt awkward. Was Colin a friend? He had improved in the DA, and he had fought, when others had not. That counted. “I can’t stay long. There’s another – there are so many funerals.”
“Oh! Of course. I hadn’t thought…”
Harry saw she had suddenly realised why so few of Colin’s friends were present. He hoped that the overloaded funeral schedule was the reason. Harry suspected the Muggleborn might be overlooked in the chaos. But he did not want to mention that as a reason. He was not sure, and he hoped it wasn’t true. But he rather doubted that just killing Voldemort would change Pureblood ideology.
Harry wished he were better at speaking. “I wanted you to know that Colin mattered. To many of us. He was brave, and followed his beliefs with all of his energy. I was glad to know him.” Harry did not feel at all hypocritical in saying that. Colin had been annoying in his first year, but after he’d joined the DA, Harry had a chance to see him, like so many others, grow into his potential. And Harry was glad to have seen that. He just wished it hadn’t killed him.
Mrs Creevey nodded. She used her handkerchief, and turned to Mr Creevey, who put his arm around her and she leaned into him. Mr Creevey spoke up for the first time. “Thank you. And thank you for coming. It means a lot to us.”
Harry nodded. He looked at the small form in the coffin, smaller than a body should be at a funeral. Too small for a warrior against the dark. He turned and left the church. Outside, it was still sunny and bright, and his eyes stung and teared at the change. He ducked around the corner into the alley, put his dress robe back on, and triggered the Portkey to the Weasley plot.
* * *
May 6, 1998
When he got back, more people had arrived, and the transfigured chairs and sofas were starting to fill up. He could not help but compare it to the emptiness of Colin’s funeral. Instead of being dark, quiet and sparse, this one was bright with sunshine, and crowded. The breeze felt cool against Harry’s skin, and it felt like a reminder of change. Some part of Harry hoped that it was. The hope broke briefly through the numbness. Perhaps it wouldn’t always feel like this.
The funeral would begin soon.
Ron and Hermione sat on one sofa, holding on to each other for comfort. Ron looked a bit lost, now that he wasn’t doing anything. Molly Weasley held onto Arthur, her face red and blotchy, the handkerchief in her hand looked like it had been put to frequent use.
Harry looked around, trying to find a place to sit. Ginny and Neville were sitting together, hands clenched in each other's. It was one more pain, added onto so many others. Harry couldn't think about it. She had told him, so he wouldn't be surprised, but it still felt like a sudden stab in his heart. He closed his eyes, breathing as if he had been running. He was here for Fred, he reminded himself. For George. For all the Weasleys. After a few deep breaths, Harry opened his eyes again.
There was an empty seat on a small sofa. George occupied the other spot. It was as if no one wanted to take the spot where Fred would have been. Next to George. Harry greeted him and sat. George looked slightly more animated than he had been over the last week. Harry did not think he could stand to see George staring through him again, as he had every time Harry had encountered him since the battle. At least now it looked as if there were someone behind those eyes, a hint of the twin Harry had known.
Harry sat stiffly, not knowing how to give comfort, and not feeling like he had the right to receive it either. It was a bit like he was an intruder into their grief. All those visibly crying around him, and he just stared, going through the motions. Knowing, deep down, that if it had not been for him, these deaths might never have happened. He felt just – empty. He wondered briefly if the emptiness he had seen in George’s face this past week was what other people saw when looking at him. He rather suspected it was so, but he could not bring himself to present a more animated face to his friends.
Fred’s body was in a casket, just like at a Muggle service. But there, the resemblance to a Muggle service ended. There was no vicar. Instead, each member of the Weasley family came forward to cast blessing incantations on the body. Hermione had explained earlier that some were to keep the body from being used in the dark arts, and some were to aid the spirit in its future endeavours. In all the time Harry had been at Hogwarts, he had not seen these kinds of spells.
He supposed that if you grew up in a Wizarding family, you would learn this type of spell as a matter of course. Even a young Weasley cousin, too young to have received her Hogwarts letter, much less to have her own wand, held her hands out to the coffin and spoke her part of the incantation in a clear, childish voice, speaking each syllable with the care in enunciation that spoke of knowing something by rote rather than by understanding.
Various people got up to tell stories about Fred. Most of them were about what a prankster he was, but quite a few revealed the courage and conviction that lurked beneath the frivolity. Harry remembered many interactions with Fred, but did not feel right about telling any of them. He remembered the twins giving him the Marauders’ Map, and testing products from Weasleys’ Wizards Wheezes on first year Hogwarts students. He remembered the moment of rebellion when the twins left Hogwarts for good, in protest against Professor Umbridge. He remembered the two at Order meetings, acting serious for once. Mostly.
He remembered how important it had been to him, to hear Fred on Potterwatch. How it had made him feel connected. That he still had friends, that there were people out there thinking about him, people he knew. Of course he knew that Voldemort and his Death Eaters were thinking about him, a bit too much, and everyone who saw an “Undesirable Number 1” poster, but these were people who cared and supported him, knowing who he was. He remembered how suddenly it was not just Harry and Hermione and Ron, alone, trying to complete an impossible task. It let him know that they weren’t in it alone. That had helped.
There were more private conversations, such as when Fred gave him advice for his date with Cho, horrible advice of course. Even so, following it would have made less of a muck of that first date than Harry had made of it on his own. Something about speaking Russian, because girls always like the sophistication of a foreigner.
Harry realized he had been drifting, for people were starting to get up and walk to the front to say personal goodbyes to Fred. When it came to their turn, Harry numbly got up and followed George toward the casket, staying a little back to allow the twin some privacy. Harry could not fathom how deeply George must feel Fred’s absence. He had always envied the twins for their closeness, a bond so deep they could, and did, finish each other’s sentences. They could act in concert in a way Harry had never seen. When the two played as Gryffindor’s beaters, their movements could have been choreographed. And their sense of humour was certainly shared.
Harry had never had anyone that close. He doubted he ever would. Fred and George had been together literally since birth. He wasn’t sure whether to envy that George had had that closeness, or to be grateful he had never had someone that close be torn from him. He loved Sirius, but what he lost with Sirius was the potential for a relationship, potential for family that loved him and cared for him.
He looked at George’s face, trying to gauge how his friend was surviving it all.
And did a double take. George had a smirk on his face, as if he were trying to repress a wicked grin. He had the kind of twinkle in his eyes that the twins always had when they were about to perpetrate a prank of the first order. And he was reaching into the coffin.
He was. From the seats behind them, George probably seemed as if he were reaching to take Fred’s hand in an expression of grief. Instead, George was putting something into Fred’s casket. And then he took something out, and tucked it into his robes. If Harry had not been so close, he would have missed the whole thing. Harry took the few steps needed to stand right next to Fred.
“What are you doing?” Harry hissed quietly.
George looked at Harry, then held gestured with his finger as if he were about to raise it to his lips. “Shhh.”
Harry looked incredulously at George. He could not believe it. His own twin’s funeral and George was pulling a prank. Thunder gathered in his eyes, and he looked away from George to look at Fred in the casket.
Fred’s wand. It was …
Fred and George had once replaced all the Gryffindor boys’ wands with prank wands they had designed. If a spell was cast through them, they would shoot sparks, or suddenly become limp, like spaghetti, or blow bubbles, or turn bright colours. The worst was one that would grow a mouth that would shout out insults. Harry became very familiar with these wands; they all had a tell-tale rough spot in exactly the same spot near the tip. Fred’s hands were crossed over his chest, and in his left hand, he held one of the joke wands.
“He would have been amused.” George insisted quietly.
Harry shushed the little voice in the back of his head, and nodded.
* * *
May 6, 1998
Harry was glad there were no more funerals he needed to attend that day. It was good to join the Weasleys at their house to continue the storytelling and remembrances. Mrs Weasley had cooked enough for fifty, but only the family and a few close friends had been invited. He was sad to think of those who would have been invited, had they still been alive. Sirius, certainly. He and the twins had gotten to know each other well, while Sirius was stuck at Grimmauld Place, and the Weasleys were staying there for safety reasons. Dumbledore would have been there. Harry didn’t know how well Remus and Tonks had gotten to know the Weasleys... but they had all been at Grimmauld Place for a long enough stretch for it to be likely they would have been here too.
It was good to see the Burrow crowded with people Harry knew and liked. Even if he didn’t necessarily want to talk with them all, it was good just to let the conversation wash over him, as he found himself inundated with memories. Not just of Fred. He remembered Hermione’s buck teeth and wild hair in her fist year, and how bossy she was. He thought fondly on that. She had changed so much, and it was so good that she was still in his life. She was talking animatedly with Mr Weasley at the moment. Looking around, almost everyone was energetic. It was as if the funeral had released their grief, and they wanted to celebrate the fact that they were all alive, and the battle over.
Harry didn’t have that energy himself, just then. He kept seeing the hole where Fred should be. George was even smiling a bit, with the secretive smile that meant something was about to happen. Fred should be there to smile back. And when the prank happened, the two would smirk at each other and slap each other’s hands in the air.
Mrs Weasley was playing hostess. Even though there was plenty to eat and drink, she made a point of going to each person and checking whether they were in need of something. Her eyes were red, and her smile a bit over-bright, but Harry expected that having things to do was all that was keeping her from wailing.
Ginny and Neville were sitting in the midst of a group of Gryffindors from the Twins’ year, but the two were mostly ignoring the group. They sat knee to knee on the sofa, hands clenched together.
Suddenly Harry felt alone. He was reminded why Ginny was not with him, because he valued her enough to send her away. But she had been in the battle anyway. She had survived, but all that he had done had not kept Fred safe.
Mr Weasley must have seen the look on Harry’s face, because he motioned Harry to follow him away from the others onto the front porch. It was quiet and dark, after the bright noise inside. “Harry, I wanted to thank you.” He said quietly. Harry winced. “I mean it. If you had not done all that you did, Fred would still be dead.” Arthur’s voice was ragged as he said that. He took a deep breath. “But at least now, his death, and all the other losses we suffered, were not in vain. Harry’s throat clogged at hearing the words, as if his heart had come loose and lodged there, blocking his breath. He didn’t understand how he could feel both so loved and so alone, so relieved and so guilty, all at once. Mr Weasley patted him awkwardly on the back, and after a moment went back inside.
Harry stayed on the porch. He could still hear the conversation and occasional bursts of laughter, as someone regaled the others with stories of the Twins’ pranks. But he didn’t have to watch Ginny and Neville. He didn’t want to lose either of them as friends; he had few enough that really knew him. If he watched them right now, it would hurt too much, and he would get resentful. He wished he could wish them well.
He didn’t want someone right now. He doubted he could deal with sharing who he was with someone, when he wasn’t sure he knew himself. He had died, and unlike Fred, he had come back. Despite what Dumbledore said, he didn’t understand why he could come back, when none of the people he cared about could. Now he was here, and alive, but it felt like he was somehow adrift. He felt like the person he was had died, and he wasn’t sure who he was now. He had come back to finish the task that had been set for him. He hadn’t been finished; now he was. His task was done. If that was all it was, then he had no reason left to stay.
Except that wasn’t all it was. He had really returned for all those people he loved: for Ron and Hermione, for Ginny, in fact for all of the Weasleys. Ginny had been there, a possibility, someone to return to when he was ready. Now she wasn’t. And without someone waiting for him, what was he? He had no purpose left.
Nothing measured up to what he had been. He’d never wanted it, but now that Voldemort was dead and the Wizarding World saved from his madness, who was Harry Potter? He didn’t want to live a life based on past glory. He wanted to be useful, to figure out who he was now and what he now had to offer.
Would he be able to do anything without his NEWTs? The decision to leave Hogwarts early had been the only choice he could have made. They had needed to find the Horcruxes, or Voldemort would still be alive. He couldn’t regret his choice even a little bit. But now, with his only skills being Quidditch and Defence, (the latter of which was not terribly useful without his NEWTs), he didn’t really know what to do next. Of course, he could bank on his name, but the thought of doing that made him severely uncomfortable. It wasn’t who he was. He knew that much.
He leaned back on the sofa on the front porch, and looked upward at the stars, listening to the murmur of conversation and stories from inside. For a moment, the emptiness welled up, filling him. Who was he when he was not the ‘Boy Who Lived’ or the ‘Chosen One’ or any of those idiotic names the press saddled him with? Who was he without Voldemort hunting him?
There was a sudden burst of laughter through the open window. Harry felt a moment of wonder. It sounded like Fred. No, Harry realized, it would have been George. But that moment when it could have been… it broke through something, and the emptiness drained away. He doubted it was gone for good, but for the moment, he felt connected. With the stars shining in a clear, spring sky, and the warm breezes on his skin, and the murmur of so many living people in his life, he couldn’t help but feel things might just work out, even if he didn’t know how.
After a moment, he got up to join the others.