. . .
Ronald Weasley leaned back into the sofa in the front room of the rebuilt Burrow. In the kitchen he could hear the soft words being exchanged between his friends, Hermione and Harry. Well, actually he could hear Hermione saying something and then there would be a short pause as she waited for Harry to acknowledge her words. Leave the poor bloke alone, 'Mione, the ginger boy thought to himself. The last thing he needs is you nagging him," he felt, but was wise enough not to voice. They were all having a tough go of it, hanging on by the smallest of threads at times.
It had been only a week since the defeat of the Dark Lord known as Lord Voldemort. There had been so much death and destruction, that for the first day after the Battle of Hogwarts everyone who had survived had been in a kind of state of shock. It almost didn't seem real at times that it was finally done, the war had been won. The wounded were brought to the great hall of the once formidable castle for care. The seriously injured were portkeyed away to St. Mungo for emergency treatment if possible.
Ron, along with the rest of the Weasleys had been in tears, each lending support and receiving it from their other siblings and relatives as they mourned the passing of Fred. He suspected that just like himself they were all finding it hard to believe that Fred was actually gone. Even now just thinking about the missing twin caused the young man's eyes to burn with unshed tears. As bad as I have it I'm certain George has it far worse, Ron thought as he blinked his eyes rapidly.
The whoosh of the floo activating caused Ron to look up. Hermione walked through the door and into the room, making her way over before taking a seat on the sofa next to Ron. The young witch looked tired and worn around the edges. Not much different from the rest of them, truthfully. "Alright there, 'Mione?" Ron asked at the worried expression on Hermione's face. It was clear from the creased brow that she was pondering something in great depth.
Hermione seemed to pull her mind back from some deep place before she gave him a short smile. "As well as can expected," she finally replied. "You?" The two teens each possessed a multitude of cuts and bruises from the frantic final battle that were as yet still healing. Even after a week the signs of the struggle they had survived were still plain to see. No one who was at the Battle of Hogwarts escaped unscathed. Even once the wounds healed there would still be those, the ones unseen, which would never truly heal.
Ron gave a shrug and dropped his eyes to stare down at his hands in his lap. "I think I am at times," he told her, "then I see George and I swear it's Fred. But that can't be can it? I mean Fred is...gone," he finished with, once more fighting to hold back the tears. The last thing he wanted to do was break down in tears again. It seemed like the Weasley thing to do the past week, cry and then cry some more. You'd think we'd all be dried up and shriveled by now with all the crying we've done.
Hermione reached out and took his hand in hers, giving it a small squeeze. "I can only imagine how hard this is for you Ron. I wish there was something I could do to help you and your family," she told him in a quiet voice edged with frustration. The young witch was a doer and thinker. Not being able to help those in need, especially those that were close to her, did not sit well with her at all.
"You've been loads of help, 'Mione," Ron assured her. "I don't know how I would have gotten through this without you!" he confessed as he turned his head to regard her with big watery eyes. "I'm really fortunate to have friends like you and Harry." His two friends were seen as honorary Weasleys by all of the family. It was no secret that Molly Weasley would like to see it be more than just honorary someday. Harry and Hermione had supported the rest of the Weasleys as best they could over the last week. It was something that Ron was extremely grateful for.
With everything that had transpired in the last week the two teens on the couch hadn't as yet had a chance to talk about what happened in the Chamber of Secrets. Their near death, scared of dying, fear induced kiss. There was always one thing or another to deal with or someone who needed comforting. Finding time by themselves hadn't been a luxury they could afford as the family struggled to soldier on under the weight of their loss.
"Friends then?" Hermione asked, unable to hide the relief in her tone as the words left her mouth. She had given the event a great deal of thought and still couldn't determine just what had made her turn and kiss her friend. Maybe I just didn't want to have died without having my first kiss? Maybe I just wasn't thinking at all. Temporary insanity. Maybe I'm mental like Ron always said?
Ron regarded her closely for a long moment. He wasn't the best when it came to girls, a fact he well knew, so he decided to be honest with her. "Friends," he replied with a short sharp nod of his head. "Always," he added only to feel Hermione's grip on his hand tighten briefly as a smile graced her features. Now that it was said and done the young wizard felt a wave of relief. He knew that the two of them would never have worked out.
"Always," Hermione echoed his words as she rested her head on his shoulder. Long moments passed with neither saying anything. Author Weasley was at the Ministry trying the help organize things there and assist with weeding out the Death Eaters that remained. Molly had taken Ginny and George to their Aunt's house for a bit, in the hopes that a change of scenery would be good for them. Family, perhaps now more than ever, was important Molly had realized. Ron had begged off as he didn't want to leave Hermione alone.
Ron shifted slightly, the corners of his mouth twitching up slightly. "Kind of like snogging my sister actually," Ron said with a chuckle only to let out a sharp 'UMPH' when Hermione elbowed him in the side in retaliation.
"Had much experience at that have you, Ronald?" Hermione enquired indignantly, but with a sparkle of merriment in her eyes. It was the first time either of them had been able to smile or joke.
"Some," Ron replied, his face blushing a deep red at the admission. Seeing Hermione's brow jump nearly to the back of her head he knew he would have to explain. "When Gin was little she liked to play dress up. Her favorite thing to do was enact marring The-Boy-Who-Lived. One guess on who got to play the male role."
"You're such a good big brother, Ronald," Hermione teased with a grin, to which Ron simply rolled his eyes. Neither missed how out of character that was. Normally it was Hermione that always rolled her eyes at Ron's comments and attempts at humor.
"Gin must have been three or four at the time when we had our wedding," he continued with. "At the end of the ceremony she jumped on me and kissed me. Now I was all of five at the time and got a little bent out of shape. I told her that she couldn't just steal a kiss and I proceeded to take it back."
A slight smile slipped onto the wizard's face as he recalled that moment of his childhood. "Gin said I had stolen Harry's kiss from her and that she was going to take it back. When Mum retells the story she says she found us rolling around on the floor snogging each other. To this day she maintains that it was the cutest thing she'd ever seen."
"That's fantastic, Ron! I never knew you and Ginny were so close!" Hermione declared before laughing heartedly at her friend's embarrassment.
"Where was Harry off to?" Ron asked, hoping to change the topic from him snogging his baby sister to their mutual and missing friend.
Hermione's laughter and smile disappeared as if someone had dropped a bucket of ice water on her. "The Creevey's," she replied with a pensive frown. "I offered to go with him but he said he would be fine."
Colin Creevey had been a member of Dumbledore's Army along with his younger brother Dennis. The Muggle born wizard was well known for being everywhere with his camera. Despite being expelled in his sixth year for being muggle-born, the determined boy had managed to slip back into Hogwarts for the final battle. Colin, like many others, had paid the ultimate price for the defeat of the Dark Lord. The young wizard's death had hit Harry especially hard.
"Bloody hell!" Ron exclaimed as he exhaled heavily. "I don't know how he does it. I don't think he's missed a funeral or wake yet." The Weasley's had held a small ceremony at the Burrow for Fred, limited to family and a few close friends such as Harry, Hermione and Luna. Hermione as well as Ron had attended the funerals of Lavender Brown as well as the one for both the Lupins. It had been difficult but they had stood by Harry's side when he attended the funeral of Professor Snape. The three of them had been the only ones present. "How many does that make now?"
"I don't know," Hermione replied. "I lost count somewhere in the twenties. Nearly sixty people perished at Hogwarts that day. Several more couldn't be saved even after they were taken to St. Mungo." Hermione sighed heavily, worried about her missing best friend. She had more than once awoke in the middle of the night to find Harry sitting in a chair staring out at the night sky. When asked if he was alright he had dismissively stated that he was fine and just couldn't sleep.
"I think Harry feels that it is his responsibility to be there for the families of those that didn't make it. I'm really worried about him," she confessed. "You know how Harry is. He probably thinks this is all his fault in some way."
The first few days after the battle everyone had been numb from the sorrow and pain. It wasn't till Harry had left early in the morning to only return late in the evening, causing Molly no end of worry for him, that they realized what he was doing. It was only after questioning him that they had discovered that he had spent the day attending the funerals of those who had fallen.
"He'd have to be mental to believe that he caused all this," Ron replied, though in his heart he knew she was probably correct. It's Hermione after all. She's always right! Scary brilliant, but right. Logically Ron knew that it wasn't any one person that had caused everything that had transpired. It wasn't even completely Voldemort's fault if he was being honest. Not that the bloody wanker didn't have a large part to play in it, he reminded himself.
There is no one place where all the blame could be heaped, he reasoned. If the Ministry had responded to the threat sooner, rather than Fudge spending a year trying to discredit Harry and Dumbledore, things might have been different. The fact that the Headmaster had kept so much information from them hadn't helped either. We could have had years to prepare rather than months, he correctly surmised.
"This is Harry we're talking about, Ron," Hermione reminded the wizard next to her. "Every wrong in the world is somehow his fault," she added in a clipped tone, angry at both Harry's tendencies to assume blame that wasn't his as well as the events that always seemed to happened to place him directly in harm's way.
"Yeah, but even Harry can't think this is all because of him," Ron replied, his voice sounding uncertain in his own ears. "Can he?"
Harry stepped out of the floo and into the Leaky Cauldron, managing to keep his feet under him. It seemed with the end of the war he had finally managed to handle magical travel without landing on his face. The Hero of the Wizarding world was almost immediately swarmed by the establishment's patrons. Hands were shook, shoulders were slapped upon and offers of drinks were politely declined.
It took him nearly ten minutes to extract himself from the mob and make his way out into Muggle London. Once outside, Harry hailed a cab and climbed into the back seat as he provided the driver the correct address. The wizard couldn't tell if it was a long or short trip, lost in thought as he was, but before he knew it the cab came to a stop before a small chapel. Harry paid the driver and got out, silently watching the black cab drive away.
Here we go, he thought silently to himself as he crossed the street, walking to the door of the chapel and the small line of people there. Taking his place in line he waited till it was his turn to speak with the family. "Mr. and Mrs. Creevey, I can't tell you how sorry I am," he said as he shook their hands. "Harry Potter," he added. "I go to school with your sons."
"Mr. Potter," Kent Creevey, a tall slender man dressed in a black muggle suit, replied. "Colin and Dennis both have spoken about you quite often."
"They're both wonderful boys," Harry assured the parents. "Please, it is just Harry," he instructed them.
Beverly Creevey, a sturdy woman, with her hair up in a bun and wearing a black dress, reached out and grasped Harry's arm. "Mr. Potter, could you perhaps get up and say a few words? I know Colin would have liked that."
Faced with the deceased boy's grieving mother what could he say? "Of course. I would be honored," Harry replied, laying his free hand over hers where it rested upon his arm and patting it in a comforting manner.
Harry stepped into the chapel and took a seat at the end of the last row. Near the front of the chapel he could see a closed casket. Next to it on an easel was a large picture of Colin. How fitting, he thought as the boy had been a photographer as much as a wizard. Seeing the young boy's smiling face sent a pain through Harry's heart. His chest felt tight, as if there was a great weight set upon it. Taking several deep breaths he waited for it to pass. This wasn't the first time he had felt it. It had been the same at every funeral. Guilt. It was a heavy burden to bear.
Before long the service had started and progressed. The Vicar had asked those that would like to come forth and say a few words to do so. The first to stand were Colin's parents who talked about their son and how blessed they had felt at his birth. It wasn't long before Mrs. Creevey broke down in tears and had to be assisted back to her seat by her husband.
Finally Harry stood and walked to the front of the chapel to stand near the casket. For a long moment he simply stood and stared at the image there. I'm sorry Colin. So very sorry. You deserved so much better from me. Harry couldn't help but recall all the times he had found the boy to be annoying. Always there with his camera, talking a mile a minute and snapping pictures. The all too familiar burning behind his eyes, a sure sign of the tears to comes, finally forcing him to turn and address the audience.
"Hi. My name is Harry," he opened with as he gazed out over the filled chapel. "I went to school with Colin. I have the distinct honor of calling him my friend, though that was not always the case. I recall the first time I meet him. He nearly blinded me with the flash from his camera," Harry stated with a small smile as a few chuckles were heard from those gathered who had apparently had the same encounter with the boy.
"He was one of those rare people who was gifted. I mean truly gifted. Gifted in that he always had a smile on his face no matter what he was doing. You just couldn't help but smile back when you saw it," Harry confessed. "Everything at school was new and exciting to him, even if he had already seen it several times before," he added with a wry grin.
"I asked him once why he always had his camera with him. Why he was always taking pictures of everything. I'll never forget what he said to me," Harry told those gathered. "He said, Harry, the world is a wondrous place. There are just so many new and exciting things to see. There is beauty, all around us every day, even in the simplest of things. I don't want to miss or forget a single second of it!"
"I think he saw the world far better than the rest of us. Better than I did certain. That was the Colin I knew. Eyes wide open to the world. Trying to take it all in at once. That is the Colin that I will remember till it is my turn to leave this place," Harry said as he wiped at a tear that had worked its way free to roll down his cheek.
"Why?" asked a pain filled voice. "Why couldn't you save him?" Dennis Creevey asked through the tears streaming down his cheeks. "He looked up to you! He admired you!" the upset boy exclaimed lunging to his feet. "He trusted you!" Dennis exclaimed in an emotionally charged tone as he took a staggering step towards Harry.
"Dennis," Harry tried to reply as he crossed the short distance to Colin's younger brother. Harry tried to find the right words, knowing that there truly were none to express his regret. How do you explain to someone who has just lost their brother that there is no reason for it? Death is indiscriminate, claiming whomever it would. There is no rhyme or reason to war or the actions of a mad man such as Voldemort. "You're right, Dennis. I should have saved him. I am truly sorry that I couldn't," Harry finally answered with.
"I hate you!" Dennis screamed, lunging forward and pounding his clenched fists repeatedly upon Harry's chest. "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" he sobbed, the young teen's strikes becoming weaker and weaker as he broke down crying for his missing brother.
"It's alright," Harry told the younger boy, finally pulling Dennis into a hug once the younger boy's anger had turned to grief. "It's alright if you hate me," Harry whispered as the two of them cried together for the boy who saw the world as something more than just an image through a lens, something which was beautiful and worth preserving.
Harry returned to the burrow shortly after the service for Colin was concluded. In the end he had relinquished the emotionally distraught boy to his parents who offered apologetic looks in return. A block from the small chapel Harry found an alleyway from which he could apparated to the Burrow.
Hearing the crack of apparition in the backyard Hermione was up and out of her seat with Ron right behind her. The two of them reached the back door just as Harry stepped through it. Their friend offered them a quick, halfhearted smile that never came near his eyes. "Hey," Harry said in a disheartened tone as the door swung shut behind him.
"How was it, Mate?" Ron enquired, looking over Hermione's shoulder at his friend.
"It was at a Muggle chapel. There were a lot of people," Harry stated. "Mr. and Mrs. Creevey are very nice and asked me to say a few words."
"What'd ya do?" Ron asked.
"Of course Harry got up and said a few words," Hermione replied, trying hard not to roll her eyes. Harry simply nodded in agreement with her words. "How is Dennis holding up?"
"He's having a rough go of it," Harry replied, dropping his eyes to the floor around his feet. "I think it might have helped him, me being there and all I mean."
"I'm sure he appreciated it," Hermione answered, laying a hand upon Harry's forearm and giving it a slight squeeze to show her support. "How are you holding up?" she asked with a concerned look.
Harry absently ran a hand through his hair and sighed heavily. "Honestly, I'm a bit knackered. Think I'll catch a bit of a kip if you don't mind."
"Sure, Mate," Ron told him. "Your bed is still up in my room."
"Actually," Harry said, "I think I'll floo over to Sirius's place. There are a few things I need to attend to there."
"Grimmauld Place? Why would you want to go there?" Ron asked in surprise.
"I'm sure Harry just wants some quietness," Hermione spoke up, coming to Harry's defense. "It isn't always the best of places to sleep around here." Ron couldn't argue with that, with so many people under one roof there was almost always a bit of noise. "You'll be alright then, Harry?" she enquired.
"Sure," Harry replied with a small shrug of his shoulders and a bit of a smile in appreciation for her stepping in and answering Ron's question. "Just need a week or two of sleep," he added, forcing his mouth into a semblance of a smile for their sake. "It has been a rough week or so," he continued with as he led them into the kitchen and the large fireplace there.
Hermione returned his smile as she nervously reached out and adjusted his collar before adjusting the tie Harry was wearing as well. "Let us know if you need anything," she instructed him as she pulled him into a hug and placed a short kiss upon his cheek before letting him go.
"I will," Harry assured her.
"Don't be gone too long. Mum will just worry and trust me you don't want that!" Ron told him with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. "When she finally catches up with you she'll force feed you till you're about to burst!"
"I'll keep that in mind," Harry said with a slight chuckle. For a long moment he stood there and just stared at them both, drinking in the sight before his tired eyes. "Take care," he finally said before tossing the floo powder into the fire and calling out his destination. In a whoosh of green flames he was gone.
Just a little Ficlet that wouldn't leave me be. As the Muse had been rather absent for a while I thought it was best to take what she would give me and run with it. She also started on two additional stories, though they are coming along slightly slower than this one was. I have made headway, for those wondering, on the next chapter of 'I, Alone'. I haven't forgotten the story, I just refuse to post something that was rushed or forced.
Suggested Reading: Moving On by Xavras – A chance encounter between Harry and a former Slytherin Ice Queen. Well worth the read!
As always, your reviews are not required but they are greatly appreciated.
All characters within this story, unless otherwise stated are the sole property of J. K. Rowling the original writer of the Harry Potter series.