Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, not me; also, a scene near the middle of this chapter was edited.
As the song faded they were face to face, Harry watched her new smile fade back into the scowl she'd worn for days. Do Something his brain demanded. He couldn't let Hermione slip back into her depression, he needed her to smile again. He had no idea what he would do, but Harry stopped Hermione when she tried to shrug off his arms and walk away, and caught her eye.
For a long moment they stared at each other, Hermione with wide eyes, a confused expression, and slightly open lips. And Harry realized then that she was the most beautiful person he'd ever seen. With the stress lines around her eyes, no makeup, the bulky clothes due to the cold and her thick ponytail - she was beautiful. And before he could think Harry kissed her.
It only lasted a few seconds and when Harry pulled back Hermione stared at him open mouthed. Harry felt awkward in the silence, and started to stammer an apology, but before he got far,
"Quiet Harry, I'm thinking".
So he shut up. And waited trembling as he watched her suddenly beautiful face for any hint, as she looked at him and chewed her lip. And then she kissed him.
The snatchers thought Harry might be Harry, so they were thrown into Malfoy's basement to wait for Voldemort. Luna and Ron were already there along with others. Ron was angry at Harry and knew Harry and Hermione were together. But the friction between Harry and Ron disappeared when Hermione was taken upstairs and they heard her scream.
"Expelliarmus" Harry's reflexes were so fast that before Voldemort could finish his Avada Kedavra the red bolt struck his wand which sailed through the air to Harry. The final of deathly hallows felt right in Harry's hand as he stared at the shocked Voldemort. The snake had been knocked off his feet and was now sitting on the ground blinking dazedly at Harry. After a moment that seemed to last forever -
The man collapsed. Holding the Elder Wand Harry turned to attack Bellatrix who was dueling Molly and Ginny, but before she was defeated Harry heard screams from behind him and turned. Voldemort was standing again, holding a new wand and rapidly firing deadly spells. Before Harry could act he watched horrified as a bright yellow bolt from Voldemort's wand struck Hermione. She was blown apart, not even leaving a body, just a red mess.
As Harry stood dazed, trying to comprehend what had happened, he was struck from behind. Operating with instincts that flowed from his new wand Harry threw a shield between him and Goyle's father, and jumped behind a ruined wall while casting an emergency spell that stopped him from bleeding out through the hole in his side. He looked for his remaining friends, but could only see enemies, and they were hunting him. So Harry ran, casting shields and conjuring barriers with a speed and brilliance he'd never shown before. And speeding down the river that ran by the castle in a conjured inflatable raft, Harry shocked himself by getting past the anti-apparition wards and escaping.
Harry stumbled through a pouring rain surrounded by thick trees and screamed when he tripped and fell on his side. He was lightheaded from blood loss and casting too many spells, and desperately hoped his 'point me shelter' would let him find somewhere to rest. Harry found an isolated hunting lodge. It was a two story white and brown wooden building with a large porch and it was empty. Alohomora opened the door and on the first floor Harry found an empty bed with wood set in the fireplace. After using Incendio to light the fire he collapsed into bed and fell asleep within a minute.
Harry would always be grateful for the nightmare of Hermione's death, in which he felt her blood splatter over him as he desperately tried to jump in front of Voldemort's spell. The dream woke him, and he felt far weaker than earlier and knew something was wrong. When Harry touched his side he found he was lying in a puddle of blood.
It was a long week before Harry could leave the bed. He forced himself to wake every two hours to reapply the spell that kept him from bleeding out, and the anxiety he felt at the possibility of not waking up meant he never could truly rest. When hungry Harry was too sick and weak get up so he summoned a live bird with accio and cooked it with a spell before eating it. Harry spent hours trying half remembered healing spells that often didn't work, and had a fever that left him shivering and made him think he would die. Only after four days of sporadic often painful experiments did Harry figure out how to use his magic to promote healing and kill the infection.
Hermione's death flashed before his eyes again and again as he lie in the wet sticky bed. He pieced together his memories of what had happened. Neville and Molly were definitely dead. Remus, Tonks, George, Colin and others had died before he went into the woods. He had no idea if he'd been the only one to escape, and had no access to a wizarding wireless (or even a muggle radio) to try and find out.
All Harry could do was think he might be the only one left and he knew what went wrong. He'd tried to do what Dumbledore would have done. He tried to disable Voldemort. He could have killed him, and if he had the death eaters would have fallen apart and Hermione would still be alive. He'd killed Hermione. It was Harry who killed her because he hadn't wanted to be a murderer. He couldn't bring himself in cold blood to kill a (very temporarily) defenseless man.
Hermione was dead. And it was his fault.
And Dumbledore's fault. He'd followed Dumbledore's plan. He'd followed Dumbledore's ideals. And Hermione was dead. Hermione was dead. It didn't make sense, and Harry refused to let it. As the pain in his side receded he refused to allow himself to think it, any time he could feel his throat start to tighten, or his eyes water he forced his mind away and pretended for a moment Hermione was still with him. Eventually he came to automatically flinch away from thoughts about how she was dead. He couldn't let himself mourn because it was his fault and he had to make it right.
Instead of grieving Harry thought about Dumbledore… he'd just done what Dumbledore would have wanted. Trust in Dumbledore seemed a noble beautiful thing while camping in the woods not sure where to go next. Faith was important, and doubt a betrayal of their cause. And the faith had been justified, they found the Sword of Gryffindor, they found the cup and then the diadem. They destroyed the horcruxes. Dumbledore's plan had worked, Harry had even come back from the dead. But Hermione was still - he couldn't let himself think about that.
Dumbledore. That fucker had taught him to lose. He taught him to die rather than kill, to do the difficult thing, the 'right' thing and not use lethal force. Everything Dumbledore stood for had failed. Love didn't protect anyone - killing did. Self sacrifice and a willingness to die for your friends didn't protect them - killing did. Sticking your enemies in prison didn't prevent them from killing those you loved - killing did. Goddamn him, goddamn Dumbledore and his teachings that killed Harry's friends and let Voldemort win.
Never again. Never again would he hesitate. Never again would he send someone to a revolving door prison. Never again would he let one of his friends die because he didn't kill an enemy. And if all of his friends had died - well Dumbledore was wrong about that too. Hate was as powerful as love. He'd find a way. No matter what, Harry swore, there would be vengeance.
Harry needed to know if he was the only one left. He knew it could be a trap, but he still decided to first check the Burrow. So as soon as he could stand and walk Harry apparated to an isolated point a mile from the farm house. It took Harry fifteen minutes to cast every detection spell could he remember, and they all told him there weren't any traps. Harry shrugged, it was stupid, but he almost wanted to be attacked. He'd at least have a chance to kill one of them then.
It took Harry an hour to painfully shuffle to the house; he had to sit down every hundred yards due to his lingering weakness. He had been very sick; he should have let himself heal for several more days. But he needed to know. When he arrived at the Burrow Ron walked out, "You!" the redhead shouted as Harry collapsed in pain onto a bench in the garden. "They're dead! All of them are dead - my Mum is dead, George is dead, and Fred - and my little sister. And Hermione - you fucked her and then you got her killed. It's all your fault! You were the chosen one, you were supposed to stop him. But you couldn't!" Ron's face was bright red and reminded Harry of Vernon's mottled appearance when he became very angry.
After his rant Ron stared at Harry; perhaps he expected Harry to respond. But Harry was tired and his side hurt. Besides Ron was right. It was his fault.
"Fuck you!" Ron waved his wand to cast a familiar spell. "Sec-tum..." Maybe it was the new instincts from the Elder Wand, but Harry felt like Ron moved in slow motion. Long, long before Ron could finish the spell Harry's hand had moved, and he'd popped a shield into place. "Sem-pra", the spell finished and Ron looked shocked when Harry wasn't hurt. His stunned look as he blinked at Harry was like Voldemort's when Harry had disarmed him.
"Stupefy." Ron collapsed. Enemies deserved to die, but Ron wasn't his enemy. Ron had been his friend, but Harry had killed too many to still have a friend. Harry hated that he couldn't stop himself from crying as he held his side and limped out the wards surrounding the Burrow.
The resistance to Voldemort and the Death Eaters had been destroyed during the Battle of Hogwarts. McGonagall, Flitwick and Slughorn were all dead. Kingsley was captured and later executed. Arthur Weasley was captured but sent to Azkaban. Four fifths of the adult members of the Order of the Phoenix died or were captured. The students who'd fought were dead or too scared to try again, and Voldemort had the support of giants, werewolves and dementors. All of the power was in his hands, and the few people who still might have tried to resist had fled the country.
Voldemort was too insane to truly enjoy his victory, but his followers weren't. They loved their newly increased wealth and power. And they loved that they had made the world a better place. They had permanently stopped the ongoing dilution of magical blood. Never again would mudbloods be allowed to join their society, and to make sure, all mudblood children would be killed, along with their families. The descendants of pureblood wizards would now be safe, and Wizarding Britain would slowly become the most powerful nation in the magical world now that the purity of their blood would be ensured.
For six months it went wonderfully, but then they started to die; first they were ambushed when alone, or attacked in isolated houses with weak wards. Then more senior wizards and larger groups started to die.
Refugees from Britian supported Harry and gave him tools and taught him what they knew. Bill Weasley now living at the Delacour mansion was the most important with his knowledge of curse breaking. And while they weren't willing to openly go to war with Britain, the French and German equivalents of the unspeakables gave Harry a time turner so he could pack several years of training into those six months. And they had their best hit wizards teach Harry to fight. With the help of the Elder Wand and his already great natural abilities Harry quickly reached a point where he could defeat any of his trainers.
By this time Fleur was pregnant and when Harry returned to Britain he convinced Bill to stay behind - he didn't want another Tonks and Remus, and Harry didn't think Bill had the stomach for what he planned to do. But Charlie did, and become half of Harry's backup. Harry's other backup came when he realized the magic binding house elves to their masters functioned in the same way a curse Bill taught him about did. Harry used this knowledge to modify the bindings for a dozen house elves who were willing to help him.
Despite his training, Harry learned the most from killing. After the first few fights Charlie and a house elf hung back to make sure no one came from behind, while Harry systematically tore his enemies to shreds. He was incredibly fast, and devious, and with the elder wand his instincts were sharpened further and he could see ways to get around his enemy's defenses. And fighting a battle to the death every few weeks allowed Harry to learn fast and get better quickly. It usually was this way in the magical world - powerful wizards who stood above the rest, and could only be taken down by their peers. Gellert Grindelwald, Albus Dumbledore, Tom Riddle, Harry Potter.
Harry found a pensieve the first time he raided the house of one of Voldemort's inner circle. It had been more than a year since he'd seen her - even all of the pictures had been destroyed or were in places he couldn't go. Before the next raid Harry spent days obsessively reliving scenes from their life together. Moments when they'd been intimate, moments from their childhood, times when they simply talked, times when they played together. Danced together. And then when she died. Harry went over the Battle of Hogwarts more than twenty times, cursing himself, looking for things he could have done better, seeing opportunities to kill people he'd missed. And watching Hermione die, again and again.
Eventually though Harry knew he needed to finish his revenge. So he used the pensieve as a tool help him kill. He'd fly over a death eater's residence with his broom at extremely high speeds, and then use the pensieve to examine what he saw at his leisure. He'd rewatch battles, trying to learn about the tactics of his surviving enemies, and criticizing his own performance.
He turned his Firebolt into a far more powerful tool, by removing all of the limiters in it, and developing protective charms that let him fly far higher and faster than before. He could fly at several hundred miles an hour, and used that exclusively to travel instead of apparition. It also made it far easier to travel back and forth to the continent.
After a near call when the camp Harry and Charlie had set up to observe a death eater's country estate from was attacked, Harry started to spend most of his time in Britain alone. They discovered the cloak would stop most scrying or seeking spells, so Harry spent whole weeks wearing the cloak even while sleeping, and then would fly to France and bring Charlie over before conducting a major attack.
While Harry did spend most of his time either researching tools for getting through wards or better ways to kill his enemies without dying, it wasn't all work. His broom was far more powerful than ever, and in the far north of Scotland, where no wizards would see him, he'd take it flying, going up thirty thousand feet until even with the protective spells he could feel the cold and his breath became short from lack of oxygen, and then he'd dive covering the six miles in less than a minute watching the sun glint off the water as the horizon narrowed.
Or Harry would take long flights travelling directly over the North pole, wearing sunglasses to protect his eyes from the glare off the vast empty expanses of ice. And he'd seek out vicious storms, flying through them, protected from lightning by his power and struggling with all of his flying brilliance to keep in the air while refusing to go above the storm. Or he'd find huge flocks of migratory birds, and slow down to travel with them for hours while thinking or remembering.
A year after the Battle of Hogwarts Harry also started to read literature. He'd been bored while staking out a remote hunting lodge where a group of death eaters were going to meet, and decided that since Hermione would have jokingly told him to read something, he would. Of course if she'd been here he never would have, but becoming closer to books would allow him to come closer to her. Initially it was boring, and Harry would keep up a conversation with imaginary Hermione, her voice fresh in his mind from watching her in the pensieve. He'd complain, and then imagine how she'd tease him.
But when Harry encountered Homer it became something he did for himself. The tale of endless bloodshed and man killing man. Of spears thrown through bodies, of mighty blows and sudden deaths, and the Gods helplessly watching as their favorites met their fate resonated with this young man whose life was killing again and again.
And then the story of wily Odysseus wandering far from home, meeting strange people, finding himself in danger, and always seeking his family. Except Harry's family was dead and his home destroyed. But still the story of an endless journey caught his imagination, and intentionally imitating Alexander the Great Harry started to sleep with the Iliad and Odyssey by his pillow. His conception of himself shifted through reading them, he wasn't merely trying to find vengeance. He was a great warrior, part of a grand story, and his success (or glorious defeat) had been dictated by fate. He would kill and even if he failed as Hector had, or died as Achilles had, they were never going to forget him.
It took Harry three years to hunt down all of the death eaters. Voldemort was easy, he was arrogant, and thought his new horcrux would protect him, and thought he could simply beat Harry. As soon as Harry had a plan that allowed him to capture the Dark Lord he sent an owl taunting Voldemort. And then after a short battle in Godric's Hollow Harry stunned Voldemort again, and moved him to his camp. It turned out Voldemort had a remarkably low tolerance for pain. Three minutes with the cruciatus and Harry knew where the new horcrux was and could kill Voldemort.
The feeling of satisfaction and happiness Harry had when he blew the body apart was the greatest moment in Harry's life, even better, though he didn't consciously compare the moments, than when he and Hermione first kissed. Even better than when he learned he was a wizard.
Malfoy took by far the longest, he had focused from a very early point on closing every hole in his defenses and building powerful wards to protect himself. Malfoy was smart and desperately wanted to survive, and never went anywhere that wasn't carefully secured. Harry eventually killed him by giving a modified polyjuice potion to a friendly house elf after knocking out one of the Malfoy elves. The house elf then left a small tactical nuclear device Harry had stolen in the manor.
After that Harry spent the next month at the Delacours in a long drunken binge, punctuated by vivid nightmares of Hermione's death. He'd hoped they'd stop once he was done, but hadn't expected it. Afterwards Harry settled down to think about what he wanted to do with his life.
He was a warrior, and felt the most alive in those moments of adrenaline when he unleashed a successful ambush, or he saw a plan come together. And he loved the fist pumping thrill he received when he killed another enemy. And he loved the heart pounding intensity of a duel with a man trying to kill him, spells flying and every fragment of his being focused on survival and victory. Harry was still young, just twenty. And he couldn't finish his education or go back to Britain. In fact he couldn't live openly anywhere - he was a criminal and a mass murderer after all.
But there would always be a demand for people who could kill like he could, and people who could hunt the greatest game like he'd learned to. Harry first got a job through his contacts in China where he worked on a contract basis to find and kill criminals who'd killed members of their police forces. But a combination of Harry's destructiveness and interfering with the operations of a well connected crime family led to him losing that job and being asked (politely, the Asian wizards were not fools) to go elsewhere. Perhaps Africa. They didn't have organized magical governments there, but they did have lots of horrible people.
So Harry went to Africa. And after two bloody years while Harry was hunting down Hutu wizards who'd been involved in the Rwandan genocide a group of his enemies found a way to remove Harry. African shamans knew many things European wizards didn't. And while the Master of Death was too terrifying and dangerous to face directly in battle, he could be trapped and sent elsewhere.
It hurt, and it felt wrong. As though an extra brain had been stuffed in his head, and the whole thing was about to explode. Harry nearly screamed, but even as he ground his mouth shut the thought was floating through his mind was that he'd expected hell to be worse. This wasn't even as bad as the cruciatus.
Other thoughts floated through his mind in a confused and weirdly entangled manner. For some reason he was having an incredibly vivid flashback to his first day in the magical world. Able to remember more clearly than ever details of Hagrid banging on the door, Dudley screaming, the taste of the cake Hagrid brought, why did he remember something from 10 years ago so vividly. Or was it yesterday, it felt like yesterday. But it had happened a decade ago…. He suddenly wasn't sure, was it yesterday?
As the pain faded and his mind slowly cleared he could hear Hagrid's voice, and Madame Pomfrey's, faintly in the background. But they were dead… he was sure they were dead.
Thank you for reading and please review