This is set just following the end of the book just before the epilogue. I don't know about anyone else, but I cried my way through the whole part where it seemed like Harry was going to die.

I don't own these characters. I just like playing with them.

Harry, though feeling like a huge weight had been lifted, not just from his shoulders, but from his whole body, walked with Ron and Hermione from the headmaster's office. All through the hallways, he could hear the celebration taking place in the Great Hall. The voices of the survivors echoed happily, and the castle suddenly seemed lighter and happier. The light bounced off the walls merrily, despite the debris scattered all over the place. As they walked, Hermione used quick charmwork to repair what she could of the damage. Like he had many times over the past year, Harry marveled at how well her charms worked and how fast she could think of the appropriate one to use.

Ron walked at Harry's right, his hands in his pockets, looking down. It took Harry a moment to realize that, in all the confusion of triumph and death, a Weasley had been lost. He stopped walking and seized Ron's arm. Ron stopped, and so did Hermione, standing close to him.

"Listen, mate," Harry said as Ron wrapped his arm around Hermione. She leaned into him, wrapping her arms around his waist.

"I know," Ron said, looking up at him, "Everyone lost someone. I'm just going to miss him. But I can't mourn him now... its all over. Its time to be happy, and thats what he would have wanted."

Hermione shook her head, standing independently of Ron. He raised his eyebrows.

"No. You know what they would have all loved? Especially Fred and Remus?"

Harry was even more exhausted than before when he stood in front of the open doors to the Great Hall. Though he was the hero of the day, no one noticed he was there in all the hustle and bustle of celebrating and mourning.

A fitting tribute, they had decided, needed to be paid quickly to lift the spirits of those who had lost loved ones. Harry pulled out his newly repaired wand and tapped the end of the fireworks Hermione had lined up on the floor. As rapidly as they could in all their lethargy, the trio launched the whole store of the Weasley Twins' fireworks that they could find that had been confiscated by Filch.

Several people jumped with the first bang, but after a moment only laughter and "oooohs" and "aaaahs" could be heard. Harry smiled, scanning the tables as he leaned on the door frame. Ron and Hermione went to join the others at the Gryffindor table, but Harry prefered just to stand back and watch.

Families were huddled together and old friends were hugging. The dead had been moved quickly, apparently. Harry did not see the bodies against the wall anymore. Professor McGonagall was sitting in what Harry would always know as Dumbledore's seat at the high table, along with the old staff that still remained. Snape's chair, Harry noticed, was vacant. He wondered if it was out of respect. The truth, or what he could bear to tell of it, would be known as soon as things calmed down and his statements were made.

Harry decided, since only a few people seemed to have noticed his presence, that it was safe to put the Invisibility Cloak back on. He disappeared and wove his way along the tables expertly. For the first time he really noticed how well he maneuvered undetected while invisible. He made his way down the aisle toward the Gryffindor table where Ginny sat beside her mother. As stealthily as he could, Harry leaned down and slid his arm around her waist, holding her still. The small jolt she gave was, thankfully, not enough to alert her mother.

"Its me," he whispered to her. Ron to her right looked over, knowing why his sister had looked up, but didn't say anything. It seemed that he was having a very important conversation with Hermione.

"Harry..." she started, her voice quiet and full of something Harry didn't recognise.

"I'm going up to the Gryffindor Tower," he said, his lips only inches from her ear. The closeness was unbearable for Harry. He wanted nothing more than to kiss her and hold her, but he couldn't. He hoped she would understand that he wanted her to join her as soon as she could, if she wanted to. Slowly, he pulled away from her and strode out of the hall. After all he had been through in the past twenty-four hours, his head was pounding from all of the noise.

Once he was out of sight of the doors, Harry pulled off the cloak. He draped it over his arm as he made his way to the tower. Signs of the battle were written all over the castle, but Harry couldn't see them. He was too lost in his relief, happiness and grief.

There were so many people lost that night. Harry felt responsibility for their deaths, though he couldn't see how things could have been different. Not yet, at least. He knew eventually he would analyze every action he had made and decide how things could have been changed, but what was done was done.

He was relieved and happy because no more lives would be lost in his name and in the name of his safety. People could be happy now. They could live without fear for their own lives and for the lives of those they loved. Hogwarts would be repaired. In September, the students would return. Life would go on.

But for Harry, it would be an entirely new adventure. He had never known a normal life, whether it be in the Wizarding World or in the muggle world. This, he thought, was the start of what he had always wanted...

The Fat Lady squealed at the sight of him. Harry smiled at her and the sense of familiarity seeing her gave him. He crossed his arms in front of her, a quirky smile on his lips.

"Going to let me in?" he asked. She bowed a bit to him and swung open. Harry entered after thanking her.

The Gryffindor common room was just as he remembered it --- well used, crimson and untidy. Again, he marveled at how some things never changed. His stance weary and his eyes tired, he sank into the armchair that had once been deemed his before trying to climb the stairs to his dormitory. He wasn't so sure his legs could take it.

Harry turned a few moments later upon hearing the portrait swing open again. When he realized it was Ginny, he expected to see her grinning at him, happy that it was over, and willing to laugh with him a little before tucking him into bed. So he was a little startled to notice she was sobbing uncontrollably. He was downright shocked when she started yelling.

"What were you thinking?!" she shouted, her beautiful red hair falling into her face, "What were you thinking playing dead? Do you know what that felt like?! Seeing you there, lifeless in Hagrid's arms?! I thought I was never going to talk to you again or argue with you or... or..." she stammered to the end of her sentence through her sobs. Harry, with energy he truly did not possess, moved to her, placing his hands on her shoulders, bending down a bit so they were eye level.

"Fred had just died," she whimpered at him, "I watched Lupin fall. He was s-standing in front of Tonks and he shielded her... and then she was killed trying to avenge him.. then it stopped and finally it seemed like maybe someone had a plan or something and then that awful ---" she hiccuped, "voice came and there was Hagrid carrying you and they said you were dead, Harry."

"I had to," he said, his resolve to keep his eyes dry dissolving as he looked at her. Too much emotion, too much to say, and not enough words.

"You better have a damn good explanation, Harry James Potter, because I---"

Harry cut her off with a kiss. Just as he had imagined in the Forbidden Forest, her lips were soft and her hands were warm. A blissful sense of peace struck him, drowning all his emotions for just a moment, as she kissed him back, both weary and passionate.

"I had to, Ginny," he said, holding her close, feeling her grip him tight and not minding. Her arms were closed tight around him as his were around her. He kissed the top of her head, feeling her face turned against his chest as though he were shielding her.

He wasn't sure how long he stood there with her like that, quietly reliving the painful tale of why he had to pretend he was dead. They stood in the same spot where their relationship had started as he told her about Snape and his feelings for his mother, and how he was the seventh and final horcrux. She didn't interrupt him as he told her about how he felt walking into the forest and about seeing his mother, father, godfather and the man who was in essence, his favorite Uncle, stand beside him as he faced death in a more real way than he ever had before. He even told her about how she had been his last thought as he had died, though not really. He was sure he would never tell the tale as fluidly as he did then, to one of the only three people in the world that he knew would not laugh and who would have understood.

"I thought of you, Ginny," he concluded, his arms tightening around her, "I thought of you and how you kissed me on my birthday, and how safe and happy I was right then."

She had been rather still while he had talked, and when she stirred, Harry felt the cold air where her hands and her head had rested on him.

"You are such a suck-up, Harry," she said, a grin breaking out across her face. Harry grinned back and kissed her again, though with more of the strength and fire he had bottled up during their time apart.

"When you climbed through that tunnel into the Room of Requirement," Harry said, looking down at her, "seriously, I wanted to grab you right there. But we didn't have much time."

"We've got time now," she said, smiling the warm smile Harry loved, "We've got a lot of time, and its all ours. And the next time you plan an adventure or something really dangerous ---"
"I'll make sure you're included. But right now, the only adventure I have planned is a nap. And maybe a sandwich if Kreacher will bring it to me," he said as his stomach growled angrily. He couldn't remember the last time he ate.

Ginny looked puzzled for a moment as she looked up at him. "You walked out there... and you let.. you let Voldemort kill you?"

Harry nodded slowly. It seemed so much more real now that she had said it, now that someone knew. He didn't want to talk about it yet, though. He couldn't pretend that the experience had not been traumatic. Thankfully, she seemed to understand this.

"The food appeared a few minutes after you left, you know," Ginny said in quiet shock and respect, resting her head back against Harry's chest for the moment, "We could go back downstairs and get something there."

"My head couldn't take it," Harry said, adding dramatically, "I think having part of Voldemort's soul ripped from my body left a bit of an empty spot in my head and my brain has been rattling around in there."

"Your brain has always rattled," she said, releasing him, though keeping her arm around his waist. Though he would never admit it, Harry was indeed leaning on her for balance.

"Gee, thanks," Harry said. Ginny found a smile for him again, for which Harry was grateful. Together, they climbed the stairs up to the boy's dormitories. Harry pulled off his shirt, not self conscious in the least with Ginny.

"Wait for a moment," she said, turning towards the door. Harry started to follow her.

"Where are you going?" he asked. He was afraid she wasn't going to stay with him. Of all the things to be afraid of, he was scared that she was going to leave him to sleep in his familiar bed all by himself.

"I stole some of your clothes," she admitted, blushing a bit. "I did it over the summer. Just a pair of pajamas and that nice blue button up shirt that looks so good on you that you hate..."

Harry was confused. "Why?"

"Well, I realized I didn't have anything of yours --- and don't give me that you have my heart line, because its corny and its not going to get you anywhere ---" she said when he opened his mouth to say just that, "and so I took some of your clothes. When ever I missed my brothers when I was a kid and they were at school, I'd wear their clothes and it made me feel better. I thought that, when I missed you, if I just wore your shirt or something..."

Harry grinned. She was so fierce and passionate a personality sometimes, and then there were these adorable gestures she made that made him want to wrap her in his arms and shield her forever from anything that could change her in the slightest.

"Did it help?" he asked. He hoped the warmth he felt towards her translated into his eyes.

Ginny shook her head. "Not much. All it did was make me feel a little closer to you."

"Well, you don't have to steal my clothes for that anymore, thankfully," he said. She smiled at him for a moment, then left the dormitory for a moment.

Harry sat on his bed, which as made perfectly, as was Ron's, and looked around. He had spent so much time in this room... so much time in that bed and in this tower. It was hard to think that it was another lifetime. A lifetime where he had a parasitic part of an evil soul had been residing inside of him and now, though at the cost of many people he loved and many people he did not know, he was free.

Ginny returned, wearing the blue shirt she had mentioned only moments ago with a pair of cotton shorts, carrying Harry's pajama pants. Now didn't seem to be the time to mention that he usually slept in just his boxers if he could, so he changed into the pjs while she turned around.

"Okay, you can stop pretending you're not looking," Harry said. Ginny turned around as Harry turned down the covers on the bed. It was always so warm and inviting. He collapsed onto it, and, as though it was something they did every day, Ginny climbed into bed beside him, pulling the covers up around them both. Harry turned on his side and faced her, kissing her softly. The idle kissing and caresses faded slowly into a deep slumber for both teenagers, and all through the morning into the late afternoon, they held each other.