The Last Year

A/N: This takes place immediately after the penultimate chapter, before the epilogue. Obviously, spoilers for the last book. Watch out, they bite!

Chapter One: The Morning After

After the defeat of Voldemort and his discussion with Dumbledore's portrait, there was a part of Harry that didn't want to rest until every last body was buried. Equally though, however, there was a part of him that wanted to sleep, and sleep forever. Exhaustion won. Harry figured, having at last truly defeated the most powerful wizard of all time, he was entitled to go to bed before he collapsed. He excused himself from Ron and Hermione, who were heading back down to the Great Hall in spirits so gloomy they could have been standing under a rain cloud, and tottered up to the Gryffindor common room, which was of course completely empty. Harry didn't know where all the remaining students were congregating, likely under the supervision of Professor McGonagall, but he couldn't quite find the strength to care. They were safe, and that was enough. When he at last reached his old, familiar bed, and flung off his cloak, the thought that filled his mind was not of the losses, but of the victory.

"The battle is won. It's finally over."

And then Ginny's face, that ecstatic smile on her face when she saw him back in the Room of Requirement after all that time, filled his mind. "Then again," he thought, beaming dreamily, "maybe not."

Harry slept like a log, better than he could ever remember doing. His bed was soft and comfortable, exactly as he remembered it, even though it hadn't been slept in for nearly a year. When he finally woke, it was well into midday, and the dormitory was still empty apart from Ron's bed, where a tuft of red hair poked out from the covers.

Forgetting that Ron had just lost a brother and savouring the warmth of reminiscence, Harry fumbled for his pillow and threw it at him.

"Wakey-wakey, sleepy head!" He yelled. It was like their Christmases together, when they were the only ones in the dorm.

"Muuhhhh…"

Harry gulped. That wasn't Ron's voice, that was-

"Ginny?" He asked gingerly, leaping out of bed.

"Whaaat?"

Harry hurried round to the bed and stammered as he saw her facing peering back at him, tired and red, probably from crying. "W-what are you doing here?"

"Sleeping..."

"B-but… in Ron's bed! In a boy's dorm!"

She yawned and sat up, rubbing her eyes of sleep. "I was tired," she explained, "So I came up to my dorm- but no one was there so I thought I come here instead."

"I'm the only one here?" Harry suddenly felt a wave of guilt. "Where'd everyone else sleep?"

"Classrooms, mainly. Nobody wanted to be alone and be separated from their surviving friends and family- I told Mum I was leaving, don't worry."

Harry frowned. "But why this room, this room."

Ginny grinned. "Because you were in it." she said. "Anyway. Just be glad I wasn't in your bed!"

As Ginny lifted herself out of the covers, Harry mumbled beneath his breath, "That wouldn't have been too bad." and hoped she couldn't hear him. He tried not look as she pulled on her jeans and jacket, but it was hard.

"'Spose we better go back down and see what's happening, then." she said, going for the door.

"Wait!" Harry caught up to her, throwing the invisibility cloak over her shoulders. "Wear this- if anyone saw us…"

Ginny leaned up and Harry felt a light kiss on his cheek. "Whatever, Harry." she said, and took his hand down the stairs.

The common room was empty except for two figures curled up in a single armchair, covered by a blanket. Ron's arms were wrapped around Hermione's, hers around his neck. Her head rested on his chest, while his leaned to the side with a typical open-mouthed Ron face. It would had been a nice image had it not been for the fact it was like finding your brother and your sister kissing. Then he nervously thought back to him and Ginny and decided he better get used to it.

He felt Ginny's hand drop away from his to cover her giggles.

"Morning, sleepyheads." he said, trying not to laugh.

Instantly, the two of them were roused. Rather than jumping apart like every other time they were caught doing something that even remotely implied that they liked each other, the two simply raised their heads and acknowledged Harry's presence.

"Yeah, good morning too, Boy-who-lived-again." Ron yawned sleepily, taking his arm back from Hermione. "And isn't it just? Smell that? That's the scent of freedom."

Hermione and Harry looked at reach other; neither saw fit to remind Ron of everything that had been lost in the process.

"Where's Ginny, by the way?" Ron frowned. "I thought she came up here?"

The door to the girls' dormitories opened slowly. Ginny slipped in invisibly, dumped the cloak behind the door, and stepped out again.

"Here," –yawn- "Sorry, must have slept in."

"You're not the only one!" Ron checked his watch. "Blimey, 2 o'clock! Where is everyone?"

"Maybe we should go down to the Great Hall?" Harry suggested, forgetting what was down there.

Ron shivered, thinking of Fred, Lupin and Tonks, and all the other countless bodies.

"How about we go to the Room of Requirement then?" Hermione cut in cleverly, "Someone in the DA is bound to be come up there sooner or later- it's probably the best option."

Ron, Harry and Ginny all nodded their heads, and made there way there. Life was creeping out of the classrooms, some students were cleaning the hallways, wands spraying foam over the floors, shouts of 'Repairo!' echoing down the corridors. Others were crying, in more private locations or in the arms of friends, and a great deal of noise came from the Great Hall. They elected to take a back route, lest anyone try and talk to them.

Near the end of their journey, Ron spotted a couple of students hugging their friends goodbye with tears in their eyes, trailing their trunks behind them. He pointed them out to the rest of them.

"They are going home." explained a soft ghostly voice from behind them, "Many students are- those that are left."

The group spun around. "Nick." nodded Harry.

Nearly headless Nick, his head not dropping comically to the side, bobbed down in greeting. "Glad to see you four all well." he said. "And I suppose congratulations are in order! Well done, all- it should be a happy day, yet somehow I don't feel much like smiling." he pointed to one of the girls who was leaving, Harry recognised her as a Hufflepuff in his year. "Her little sister died last night," he told them, "I was with her when it happened, trying to get them out. Little sister wouldn't leave her behind to fight, wasn't of age of course... so she's going home along and probably won't be back- muggle parents see, can't understand. So sad, so sad that I, an old but undead creature, should see such small things die."

This was not the sort of thing Harry wanted to hear right now. He felt Ron and Ginny cringe beside him, heard Hermione sigh tearfully, and saw the faces of the dead flash in his mind.

"Anyway, Nick," he said, "We've got to be going- stuff to do, you know."

"Of course, of course!" Nick clapped his hands half-heartedly. "So you would, so you would. Well then, be seeing you…" he glided off down the hall.

The Room of Requirement appeared afar unscathed and unburned, despite the magically fire that had raged within into not twenty-four hours previously. However, they braced themselves upon entering, and all drew a private sigh of relief to find it exactly as it was, in it's rich, common room state.

"I guess the magic of this room must be even stronger than the fire." reasoned Hermione wisely, "We don't require it to be burnt, so it isn't."

The three of them agreed (they did little else when it came to Hermione) and sat down, two to a sofa. Hermione and Ron sat together, his arm around her, while Harry, feeling awkward, kept to himself, not wanting to upset or offend anyone. Nevertheless, maybe it was the merry atmosphere of the room, or the bright prospects of the future, but the four of them forgot the dead for a moment, forgot the sorrow, and chatted eagerly about what to do next.

"Well, I'm going to find Mum and Dad, first thing I can." said Hermione brightly. "I'll get them to come back to England first, then I'll reverse the spell... I'll have to explain everything to them I suppose, but it doesn't matter- I can't wait to see them again!"

Harry smiled at her, wishing once more that he had family to return to. But it must have been hard for her, he realised, not having seen them in nearly a year- and she'd be worried. The Dursleys were hardly a promising prospect.

Ron looked at Hermione expectantly. "Can I come with you?" he asked.

The look on her face implied that she needed to do it alone, but didn't want to tell him this, but Ginny cut in. "We'll have to go back to the burrow Ron."

"Have to?" moaned Ron irritably, "I'm eighteen, Ginny! I'm more than of age! I don't have to do anything!"

Ginny scowled at him, but all the same understood his anger. Back at the Burrow there would be a constant reminder of loss, while being with Hermione was a much more promising idea. "Mum will need, and want us there, Ron. And then there's the funeral…" her voice trailed off, and Harry, who'd been trying to behave himself in front of Ron and their grief, placed an arm around her nonetheless and squeezed her reassuringly.

"Ginny's right, Ron." replied Hermione, "You're needed at home."

"Yeah…" he murmured miserably, "I 'spose…"

"What about you, Harry?" asked Hermione, tactfully changing the subject, "What are you going to do next? With no Voldemort –don't cringe, Ron, we can say his name now!- to defeat? And no anything? What-" she mimicked Rita Skeeter and her all-too-ready quill, "-will you do next?"

At that very moment, the door clicked open.

.o0o.

A/N Four reviews for the next chapter, if it's any good, of course. Not sure how long it'll be, depends on demand. Hopefully, it'll cover the next year at Hogwarts (the threesome are forced to return to obtain their N.E.W.T.s- come on, it'd happen- nobody's even mentioned the fact they've missed their whole last year!) But where will Harry go next? When will he get together with Ginny? Are there any other couples on the horizon? Review to find out!