Ashes to Ashes
A/N So this is obviously not the sequel to Resolution. This is a separate story, a separate plot bunny, which I hope you will enjoy. And if you were hoping for the Resolution sequel, don't worry, I have every intention to do it, but I need a writing break from it. Also, if you are wondering when the action is going to kick in, it's really not. This is more of a slice of life sort of deal.
Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived, The Chosen One, former Undesirable Number One, Receiver of the Order of Merlin- First Class, and the Master of Death, woke up sneezing violently, hitting his head against a pile of books on his bed side table, knocking them to the ground.
Harry groaned, clutching his forehead and muttering. He stumbled out of bed, pulling open the curtains and blinking into the afternoon light that slanted through the window, exposing the twirling dust behind him, which he had been ignoring for the last week.
Rubbing his eyes and yawning, Harry put on his glasses and made his way slowly down stairs, sneezing a few more times and rubbing his eyes more, causing them to become redder and more puffy.
Harry sat down on the couch, a flurry of dust raising up around him, which he also ignored as he sneezed again.
"You have got to be joking, Harry." Hermione's face stared out at him from the fire. Harry jumped, his hand automatically reaching for his wand.
Mrs. Weasley face was next to Hermione's, her mouth open in indignation. "This is just silly, Harry Potter. You will come home at once!"
Harry sighed, his arms crossing over his chest.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Don't sigh at us. This is what I was worried about, you do realize it is almost two in the afternoon, don't you?"
Mrs Weasley followed, "And you haven't cleaned an inch. You said you would clean first thing, said you wouldn't need our help at all. Smug, wasn't he, Hermione, saying, 'I think I can master a dust cleaning charm, thank you.' Now look at you, your whole face is has puffed up. I known I have a potion for allergies around here…"
Harry waved his hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it Mrs. Weasley. I have every intention of cleaning the place up today. I've just been busy this last week. And I'm not returning to The Burrow, I had already been there for three months, I can't stay there forever…"
"Why not?" Mrs. Weasley interjected, "We love having you and the house is so quiet now, what with everyone returning to their homes and Ron moving in with George and now heading off with Hermione. Ginny's going to start school soon..."
Mrs. Weasley's face became more strained the longer she spoke, her eyes filling with tears, as they so readily did these days. Harry and Hermione glanced at each other quickly, frowning. Harry guessed that Hermione was patting Mrs. Weasley on the back now, based on the angle of her head. Harry gave a small cough. "I love being over at The Burrow, you know that Mrs. Weasley, but I'm almost eighteen now, and I have this house just sitting here…"
Mrs. Weasley blinked rapidly, giving a watery smile, "Yes, almost eighteen, all grown up." She gave a small chuckle and then sighed. "I do suppose you'll want your independence. But still, at least let me come over and help with the cleanup…"
"That's really alright, I actually do have time today. Next time you all come over, it will positively glow." Behind Harry, the grandfather clock sounded twice, pushing dust out with each chime, then wheezing to a stop. This time Hermione and Mrs. Weasley traded looks.
"Yes. Well, I know you aren't going to change your mind, so I'm afraid I must be off, I was half way through sorting the laundry when Hermione said that she was going to call you. I'll leave you two to talk." Mrs. Weasley popped out of the fireplace at Harry and Hermione's goodbye.
Hermione looked at Harry consideringly. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but perhaps you should call Kreacher over?"
"I see how it is, Hermione. It's house-elves rights this, house-elves rights that, but the moment there's too much dust…"
"Hush up, you." Hermione grinned at him before turning her head, looking around the room. "It really is gross in here though. I mean, it wasn't exactly sparkling when we left, but…"
Harry smiled at Hermione, hitting the arm of the couch, which puffed out a small amount of dust. "If you open the windows, the dust kind of sparkles."
Hermione laughed. "That was strangely poetic."
Harry groaned. "Can you imagine. I'll write the biography everyone has been asking for, but as a poem. I'll title it, 'Harry Potter: My life in Poetry.' But you know, Kreacher is happier at Hogwarts, I think. This house doesn't bring out the best in him."
Hermione snorted. "I think that's true about Kreacher. Also, the sad thing is that a book of narcissistic poetry from you would probably sell out instantly." Hermione's face shifted, wincing. "This isn't terribly comfortable. Ron and I just wanted to give you our love before we left. It will be hard to for owls to get here quickly, but I promise we will write all the time while we're away."
"Yes, I'm sure Ron was all about sending love. I bet you five knuts he told you to tell me, 'Ta! Don't make anymore nearly immortal enemies while we're gone.' or something similar," Harry said, smirking.
Hermione's mouth fell open a little. "That's exactly what he said! But you know, I'm not going to give you five knuts for knowing that Ron has all the sentimentality of gargoyle."
Harry sat down in front of the fire, his grin slipping into a more serious face. "You and Ron stay safe, okay? Please do write, seriously. I want to know how it all goes with your parents."
Hermione swallowed, nodding earnestly. "I will, I promise. But you know, Harry, it's not too late, you can still come…"
Harry shook his head, a small smile on his face. "I think it's going to be hard enough to explain everything without showing up with two boys you spent months in a tent with. One should be more than enough."
Hermione rolled her eyes, but gave Harry a small, grateful smile. "Write back Harry Potter, or I swear…"
Harry nodded, waving as Hermione popped out of the fireplace.
Harry looked at the book on the bed, trying to make sense of the complicated twirling motion of the wand movements the picture was showing.
"Alright, attempt number twenty one, lucky twenty one, I can do this." Harry muttered to himself, squaring his stance, his face showing intense concentration. "Aer Mundus."
The dust around him swirled dramatically, making what looked like a small tornado, which grew smaller and smaller until it was an incredibly dense ball in middle of the room. Harry punched the air, exclaiming, "Yes, I defeat you dust, I…" But just as he spoke, the ball exploded, showering the room, and Harry, with a fine layer of dust. Harry sneezed.
"Damn it." Shaking his head and patting down his clothes, Harry left the room, moving determinedly towards the stairs. "I'll just have to ask Mrs. Weasley…"
Harry stopped at the top of the stairs. "No. No. I've bothered her enough. I need to figure this out on my own. I need to try to be a regular, adult, wizard…"
Harry moved back down the hallway muttering again to himself, "A regular adult wizard who doesn't talk to himself and get defeated by dust…"
He climbed the stairs at the other end of the hallway, entering Sirius's room, picking up the book of heavy duty cleaning spells he had left in here a few days ago. He moved to leave when a picture of Sirius, young and smiling, his arm around Remus, caught his eye.
"Dying? Not at all. Quicker and easier than falling asleep."
Harry sighed, suddenly feeling incredibly tired. He sat down on Sirius's bed, looking at Remus and Sirius's laughing faces.
He had told the Weasleys over and over again what had happened when he had died. He told them as a group, before Fred's funeral, their faces pained and hopeful.
He told Mrs. Weasley five or six different times, usually in the small hours of the morning, his arm around her shaking shoulders.
He told Mr. Weasley once more, in the shed, his head bent over a toaster, tear drops falling on the exposed coils.
Ron and Hermione hugged him, both at the same time, as he told them first, the day after.
Bill and Charlie, at different times, had smiled at him in strikingly similar ways, asking to hear it just once more.
Percy just stared at him, opening and closing his mouth, his face becoming more and more red before Harry just asked him if he wanted to hear about death again.
George had grabbed him on the shoulder, too hard, his hands shaking, his expression raw, staring at him directly in the eye, "You're sure Harry, mate, you are absolutely sure?" Harry had nodded back, just once, trying to somehow show all his sincerity in that one gesture.
Ginny frowned at him, hesitating, her breath catching. "I don't like to hear of you dying. I don't like it at all. But, once more, for Fred, could you…"
He had told them all, "There is a life after death. I don't know what it is, but I know it's there. I know, because I've seen it myself, felt it myself, that we will see them all again. So I know that this isn't goodbye, so much as see you later."
Harry carried that truth with him in the procession of funerals that followed the final battle. He carried it with him when he saw Mrs. Weasley sob over Fred's grave. He held it in his heart when he saw Andromeda's face, white with anguish, holding Teddy, asleep, unaware of just how much he had already lost.
But Harry didn't tell them how he jerked awake at night sometimes, trying desperately to dodge the sickly green light he knew would always hit him.
He didn't tell them how, even though he knew there was life after death, even though he had supposedly mastered it, that he didn't want to die again, not like that. Not at all.
Perhaps he didn't fear death the way that most do anymore, but, Harry thought, gripping his book tightly, he also felt achingly aware of his mortality, acutely conscious of the thin line between here and gone. Between the before and the after. Between alive and dead.
Harry closed his eyes, taking a few deep breaths. His grip loosened on the book, he stood up shakily.
Smiling a little grimly to himself, he muttered, "But let's focus on the real battle here, Harry. The thing you really have to master. Dust." Harry walked quickly forward, closing the door firmly behind him.
Harry realized that his he really was losing his mind as he made a dust angel in the carpet by his bed. He couldn't get over how he had killed a Basilisk, fought dragons, battled death eaters, and defeated the Dark Lord but could not, no matter how much he tried, no matter what spell he used, clean the dust in his room.
His wand, his precious wand, which he chosen over the Elder Wand, laid by the wall, where Harry and thrown it in frustration. It was a matter of pride. He could not, would not, ask for help with this.
He had defeated Voldemort.
He would defeat the dust.
But how? Harry contemplated as he stood, looking down at his sad, brown version of a snow angel.
Harry tapped his finger against his lips. "No, I give up."
He walked out of the room, down the stairs, and over to the fire place, his shoulders slumped.
Harry coughed and tried to stop the sickly spinning feeling flooing just his head gave him. He stared out into the empty kitchen of The Burrow, which was, truthfully, strangely quiet.
"Mrs. Weasley? Mrs. Weasley?" Harry yelled out, wondering if he should just try back later. He heard footsteps round the corner just has he was about pull away.
Ginny looked down at him, eyebrow raised, her face a little stiff. "Well, if it isn't Harry Potter."
Harry looked up at her, grinning. "Perfect. Ginny, I need your help."
For a split second Ginny's eyes widened, her expression surprised and oddly vulnerable at the same time. Then a moment later she just looked suspicious. "With what?"
Harry shook his head, "Just come over really quick, if you have time?"
Ginny nodded, frowning.
Harry waited, smiling more fully as she came twirling out of the fire much more graceful than he could ever manage.
"What is it, then?" Ginny asked, looking around the room curiously, almost cautiously.
"I can not, for the life of me, get a dust cleaning charm to work for me."
Ginny glared at him balefully, turning on her heel and moving back towards the fireplace.
"No! Ginny, don't go. I really do need help." Harry pulled her back, laughing.
Ginny looked up him, her expression annoyed. Harry couldn't help noticing, even though she didn't look pleased, how pretty she looked, her long hair put into a lazy bun at the nab of her neck, freckles lining the bridge of her nose, her eyes warm somehow, even while narrowed in anger. Her lips were full and unusually red, looking like she has just been biting them, a faint smudge of ink on her chin. She had probably just been doing homework. Harry was finding it difficult to look away from her face, his eyes darting back to her lips. He licked his.
"You can not be thinking of kissing me at this moment, Harry Potter," Ginny said, incredulous.
Harry snapped out of it. "Sorry, Ginny. Honestly, some part of my brain is thinking of kissing you at any given moment."
Ginny managed to look pleased and miffed at the same time. "Did you ask me over here for some snogging? Because, you know, you don't have to make up some excuse for that…"
Harry smiled fully, his eyes glinting. "I'm happy to hear that, sincerely. But I actually can't get any of these spells to work and it's driving me nuts. I think my head's going to explode if I sneeze one more time."
"Oh, and you assume I know cleaning spells. Why, because I'm a witch?" Ginny asked, her hands on her hips.
Harry rolled his eyes. "No, I assume you know cleaning spells because you are Molly Weasley's daughter."
Ginny bit her lip, her eyes narrowing further, "Fine, fair point. But watch closely, I'm not going to do your cleaning spells forever, you know. You have to keep up your half of the work."
Harry nodded, both confused and peculiarly pleased.
"Pulvis Peribit." Ginny spoke, jabbing her wand it two quick motions. All the dust rose in the air, shimmering once, then vanishing, leaving the air with a distinctly fresh scent.
Harry took a deep breath, smiling. "Thank you. You never really think about breathing until it hurts to do so."
Ginny grinned at him, gesturing towards the door. "Your turn."
In the next room, Harry tried the spell, the dust raising in the air, half of it shimmering, the other half falling back down to the ground.
Ginny frowned, looking over at Harry. "Wow, you weren't lying, you really are bad at dust cleaning spells."
Harry huffed and furrowed his brows, trying again. This time all the dust vanished, but there was a slight burnt plastic smell left in the air after.
Ginny scrunched her nose, "How did you manage that, there isn't even any plastic in here?"
Harry frowned at her. "Oh, and I bet the first time you did this spell, it went perfectly?"
Ginny smirked at him.
"Damn you, fine. So I'm not good at these kinds of spells." Harry felt overly frustrated, which he could tell Ginny could see.
"Harry, everyone has spells that take them a little while to get the hang of, you know that." Ginny touched his elbow, standing closer.
"I...I just wanted to be able to this, I guess. I mean, how am I supposed to be an normal adult, how am I supposed to have Teddy over, if I can't do cleaning spells?"
Ginny opened her mouth, hesitating. "I think this is showing that you're a normal adult, Harry. Because, as I've mentioned, everyone has spells that take them longer. And don't fret, maybe you're bad at cleaning dust, but perhaps amazing at toilet cleaning charms. Then I can dust, you can do the toilet, and Teddy won't catch the plague or dragon pox, or whatever thing you're worried about."
Harry squeezed her hand gently, feeling better. "Sorry, it's been a long day."
Ginny smirked at him again. "How, it's only seven, Hermione said you got up at two?"
Harry poked her in the side, grinning. "Then it has been a long five hours."
Ginny squirmed away, making a small squeaking sound as Harry poked her. He smiled, a touch evilly, as Ginny looked at him wearily. "I'm not ticklish, I'm not. You just surprised me. Harry Potter. Harry don't you dare start tickling…"
But it was too late, Harry moved forward, his hands at her sides as she laughed from her stomach, her hands slapping at his. Her face was slowly turning red, her eyes shining. "If you don't, ahahahaha, stop right now, haha, I'm going to knee you, ahaHAhaha, in the bollocks."
Harry stopped, his hands on her hips, watching her as she regained her breath, still giggling. He felt like his cheeks were going to split from his smile. Ginny looked up at him, her smile becoming more relaxed, more tender. Harry moved forward, one hand moving to her cheek.
Ginny whispered haltingly, "It was the first time you asked me for help, you know."
Harry paused, his face inches from hers. "What?"
Ginny frowned, her face thoughtful. "It was the first time you asked me for help and it just...It bothers me that it was for a dusting spell."
Harry moved back a little, standing straight, confused, "Ginny, you've helped me out loads of times. Getting into Umbridge's office, the Ministry, the various battles…"
"You didn't want my help in the battle at Hogwarts. I couldn't believe that you sided with my family about me not fighting, like I'm some little girl you have to protect…" As she spoke, her voice got lower, her anger coming out clearer.
Harry could tell that this had been something that had been bothering her for awhile. He wondered how much it had been eating at her, wondered if it had been responsible for the sudden beats of awkwardness, the occasional chill in her words.
"It wasn't because I thought you incapable. Not even a little."
Harry looked down at her, feeling clearly why he didn't want her to fight, but uncertain of how to say it. "I just wanted you safe."
Ginny shook her head, "No, see, you don't get to decide if I'm safe or not. It's a dangerous world, Harry, even without He-who-...V-Voldemort running around in it. What are you going to do, lock me in a tower? And what about Ron and Hermione, don't tell me you would have been fine with them being hurt, but you ran around everywhere with them."
Harry bit his lip, thinking. He knew this was important, he had to explain this right to her. "You had to stay safe, Ginny, because you are saftey."
Now it was Ginny's turn to look confused. "What?"
Harry shook his head, moving away from her, pacing a few steps, back and forth. "You see, in sixth year, being with you, it was like, 'Ah, so this is what it is like, being normal, being happy.' It felt like being in someone else's life. Being with you made me think, 'Hey, this is what it would be like if Voldemort wasn't here.' So, if something happened to you, then that hope, that idea of what it would be like without him would also be gone. Does that make sense?"
Ginny swallowed thickly, "So I became a symbol, a prize at the end of the road?"
Harry shook his head, frustrated. "Yes and no. In my mind, yes, you did become a symbol for what fighting Voldemort was about for me. And no, because you didn't just become a symbol, some prize to be won. Ginny, you were always a person. The only person, if fact, that made me feel safe, safe enough to picture a future for the first time in my life." Harry spoke with conviction, almost angrily. He turned to look at Ginny, whose crossed arms slowly moved down to her sides.
She glanced up at him, her eyes watery. "Oh. Well, that's...that kind of makes sense."
Harry sagged, relieved. "It does?"
Ginny nodded, giving him a small smile. "Kind of." She moved towards him, her arms circling his waist loosely, her head against his chest. She patted his bum twice.
Harry grinned, kissing her forehead, feeling like that last bit of awkwardness, that small layer of frost that had been there since the battle at Hogwarts, had finally, fully disappeared.