Disclaimer: Neither Harry Potter (and all the other characters the great JK Rowling has created) nor the denizens of Callahan's Place (created by the equally gifted Spider Robinson) belong to me. Pity, that...
An exhausted Harry Potter disapparated from the scene of the final bloody battle with Lord Voldemort, relieved that it was finally over. He reappeared at the very edge of the apparation wards surrounding Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As he made his way up the path leading from Hogsmeade, he looked forward to a shower and a very long sleep. Weeks, if possible. He thought back over the past seven years, remembering everything that had led up to this point. He passed by the remains of Hagrid's hut, blasted almost to the ground, wondering how the huge groundskeeper was faring now. He had been taken to St Mungos fairly late the previous day, after having been teamed up on by no less than six Death Eaters, all casting Crucio simultaneously. Harry shook his head, still amazed at the amount of punishment the half-giant could withstand. From the last report he'd had from those at the hospital, a couple of vials of post-cruciatus potion was all Hagrid needed to be back up and around. Apparently, when he was told he wasn't going to be allowed to rejoin the fighting for at least 24 hours, the huge man had torn apart the room he was in, quite effectively convincing the medical staff of the fact that there was no further need for recovery.
Harry also remembered all those he knew who had been lost. Sirius, Dean, Percy, Kinglsley, Moody, the list was too long to think about for long. As many as had been lost, however, those closest to him had come through, though not completely unscathed. This was one thing he was utterly grateful for, as he felt enough guilt to carry with him, as it was. It had been a long hard war, and he didn't like to think about some of the things he had been forced to do, both for his own survival and to protect the lives of those close to him. There was a reason some spells were called Unforgivables.
As he passed by the Quidditch pitch, inspiration struck. He didn't want to face the Gryffindor tower room at the moment, with both the celebrations and the remembrances that were sure to be going on, but badly needed to wash away the stench of battle. Harry made a quick detour to the locker rooms near the pitch, after a quick Accio, to summon his trunk. After a luxurious shower, he wrapped a thick towel around his waist and padded his way over to the mirrors over the sinks. As he made an effort to tame his unruly black hair, Harry surveyed himself in the looking glass. What he saw there reassured him, just a bit. During his time at school, he had grown a fair amount. He still wasn't quite as tall as Ron Weasley, but he wasn't exactly the 'shrimp' Ron had called him in third year either. He had also filled out quite nicely as well, if he did say so himself. No longer scrawny by any means, he had broad shoulders now, and a well-defined abdomen, narrowing to trim hips and muscular legs.
He shook his head bemusedly, thinking back to last year, when he was informed that there was actually a Harry Potter Fan Club. To make matters worse, he found out later that the Hogwarts Chapter (there were Chapters?) was merely the largest, closest, and most active one. He was both mortified and highly amused at this turn of events.
Mortified, because there were times when he couldn't go out in public without being mobbed by his admirers. One time in particular stood out in his mind. He had gone to Diagon Alley just before the start of term in order to pick up his supplies for the coming year. As he left Flourish & Blotts, he was surrounded by a horde of girls, as well as a few slightly older women, all wanting to touch him, all wanting some piece of him. The only thing that saved him was a combination of the intervention of Molly and Ginny Weasley and Hermione, and the twins deciding to take that moment to demonstrate their new line of No-Heat Waterproof WhizzBang fireworks. The fireworks provided a distraction, to allow the three women a chance to seize hold of the slightly abused young wizard, to whisk him away to a safe place. By the time it was all over with, Harry had only his trainers, his boxers, and part of his robe left. Molly was able to transfigure what was left of his robes to give him some privacy, much to Harry's relief. He saw the crimson wave that was starting to crash like high tide over Ginny's cheeks, and was confused, as she had insisted earlier, yet again, that she was over the crush she'd had on him. Something to file away for future pondering.
He was amused, because he still couldn't believe that anybody could actually be a 'fan' of Harry Potter. As far as he was concerned, he was still 'just Harry', seeing in his mind the ordinary child with poor vision, hair that wouldn't do anything he wanted it to, and a family that hated him. The young wizard was intensely gratified that he was now of the age of majority, and would never have to return to Privet Drive and the Dursleys. He had given a bit of thought to sending a last message to 'those people', as he now thought of them, just to let them know exactly what he thought of them, and how they had treated their young nephew as he grew up. He chuckled then, as he thought of a better idea. Maybe he would just have Moony, the last of the original Marauders, drop a word or two to Fred and George, to see what the three of them could come up with, as a final message to his 'family'. As he laughed, imagining the devious things those three would come up with, he almost felt sorry for the Dursleys. Almost.
Thinking of Moony reminded him of the family that he'd never had a chance to know. When he was younger, the only memories he'd had of his parents were just flashes, snippets really. Harry would see occasional scenes of a beautiful woman with intense green eyes, soft features, and long, incredibly red hair This was his mother, Lily. Sometimes she would be smiling down at him, or laughing at something someone (probably his dad or his godfather Sirius) had said. Other times, she would have a look of utter terror on her face, a look that was almost indescribable, and definitely unbearable. Those memories were always followed by the memory of an all-consuming green flash. He later came to realize that the green flash was associated with one of the Unforgiveables, usually Crucio, or Avada Kedavra, the killing curse.
His memories of his father, James, were similar. Most of the scenes were from a bit of a strange perspective, really. Usually, when he saw his father's face in memory, Harry was looking down on him. It took him a while to work it out, but he finally realized that it was because James was holding Harry above his head, and looking up at him. Strangely enough, Harry didn't have too many memories of his father in pain or frightened. This was probably because his father had attempted to hold off the dark lord long enough to allow his wife to take their son and get out. Harry had heard both of their voices, as well as Voldemort's, every time a Dementor came near him. It had haunted him for years. This was the reason he had rejoiced when he'd heard of the destruction of the last of the Dementors, just less than six months ago. It was the first time he had actually thrown a party in the common room. The side of the Light had needed something to celebrate at the time, and that certainly qualified.
Harry crouched to dig through his trunk, to find something clean and comfortable to wear. He finally settled on a pair of black jeans and a bottle green Weasley jumper with a design of a phoenix worked in reds and oranges. Dressed now, he shrunk his trunk and tucked it into a pocket. He wasn't sure where to go from here. He couldn't face the tower or the common room right now, although he did still need to retrieve a few items before anything else happened.
He walked up to the huge doors at the main entrance hesitantly. Slowly entering the castle, his memories threatened to overwhelm him. He stopped at the entrance to the Great Hall, taking in the sight of his friends sitting at the Gryffindor table, comforting each other, slowly looking around, seeing the ones who were no longer there. In addition to the normal house banners hanging from the enchanted ceiling, there were also stark black banners hanging there, listing the names of the dead. He sat down with Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, reaching for a piece of toast and a glass of pumpkin juice. No words were said, as there really wasn't a need to at this point. The four friends knew each other well enough that they each had a fairly good idea of what the others were thinking and what they were feeling.
Right now, it was too much for Harry. He gave each of them a hug, and said, "I need to get away from here for a while. I need to decide what to do next. My whole life has been building up to this time. I have no idea what comes next..."
Ron replied, "Harry, mate, you can come to the Burrow. You know Mum would welcome you. As far as she's concerned, you're another son to her. I'll owl her, and let her know we're on our way. Better yet, let's just surprise her."
At this, Hermione shot Ron a look. "Ron! With all the shocks this war has given all of us, do you really think it's a good idea to just spring another one on her? Honestly!" With this, the boyfriend and girlfriend were off again, arguing.
Harry and Ginny exchanged a small smile at this, both rolling their eyes at the couple. Ginny reached over and gave Harry's hand a gentle squeeze. "How are you doing with all of this, Harry? Really?" "I'm not really sure right now, Gin. Like I said, I think I need to get away from everything for a while. I need to take some time to get a proper perspective on everything that's happened."
Ginny looked him steadily, with a raised eyebrow and just the corner of her mouth turned up. "You know, if you do go away, it better not be for very long, and you'd better make sure we can all get ahold of you. Otherwise, I just might have to send you a Bat-Bogey Hex Howler."
Harry cringed a little bit too theatrically, and smirked. "Anything but that! Just as long as it doesn't sing to me about my...how did that go? Oh yes... "Eyes green as a fresh-pickled toad.""
He laughed as he saw the red start to move across Ginny's cheeks. "Harry Potter, you know the twins wrote that, and not me!" She gave him a light jab on the arm, but her expression turned softer, as she really looked at him and assessed the changes wrought in him, by what he, and everybody else around him had been through. She knew that he really did never have time to just sit and enjoy his life like most people would have. He had been forced, ever since his introduction to the wizarding world, to grow up much quicker than anybody should ever have to. Merlin! He had never really even had a childhood.
Ron and Hermione's argument had finally run out of steam. Chuckling to himself, Harry reflected that Ron had finally figured at out some point that there is a point in any argument where one or the other (usually the male) has to just say "Ok. You're right. I was wrong." At least if there's any hope of peace, as well as a healthy snogging session later. They had apparently reached this point a few minutes earlier, and were looking at him curiously.
Hermione asked him, "Just what do you mean by getting away from here? Are we talking about forever? A day? A week? And where are you thinking about going?" There was a look on her face that was fiercely protective of him, as well as genuinely curious. The idea of just going away was never one that had held a lot of appeal for her. She enjoyed traveling, as long as it gave her the opportunity to learn something new, but had never really thought seriously about just traveling for it's own sake.
Ron spoke up. "Yeah, Harry. Where ya gonna go?"
"I'm not really sure yet, Ron. As much as I love it around here, I don't know if I can stay in the UK at this point. I feel as if anywhere I might go in England is going to be filled with too many reminders of everything that's happened lately. Scotland is the same way, obviously.
"I think I may go across the pond. All of this really didn't hit the States too much, from what I've heard. Maybe that'll be enough to give me time to really think about all of this, and get a fresh perspective."
Hermione asked the question that was on everyone's minds. "I thought you wanted to be an Auror after everything was done with. What happened to that? Isn't that a huge ambition for you?"
"Truthfully, 'Mione, it isn't anymore. At least right now. For the moment at least, I've seen enough of violence and Dark Magic to last me a lifetime. To be honest, I don't really know what I want to do right now. I've had enough. Of everything.
"This is going to sound really strange, but all I can think of at the moment is getting Sirius' old motorcycle out of the basement at Grimmauld Place, and riding off down the road. Not for forever. certainly. But, at least for a while."
Ron and Hermione shared a look, and she spoke up. "Um...you do know that's an enchanted object, and not strictly legal, don't you?"
Harry laughed and raised his eyebrow a bit. "How vigorously do you think they're going to pursue the "Savior of The Wizarding World"?" he asked with just a little sarcasm in his voice.
"Good point." the bushy-haired girl replied.
Harry looked at the three people sitting around him, and realized once again how much these friends meant to him. He remembered back to the day he'd met them all. He never would have imagined how intertwined all of their lives would become, and how they would, in truth, come to be the family that he had never had. The family he never knew he needed. It wouldn't be easy to say goodbye, even for a little while. He just knew it was something he needed to do