At the Burrow.
The day was opressively hot and muggy at the Burrow. The Weasleys were lethargic and exhausted by the heat, lying about the crowded house like so many toppled pins. Magicked fans blew warm air around the house and cooling charms tried their best to drop the sweltering temperatures.
Harry felt a bit restricted in the house. He had grown to love the ramshackle nature of the Burrow, but now it felt oddly constricting, the presence of too many people, the hot heavy air, and the clutter everywhere. There were times he missed the simple tent he had stayed in for weeks on end or the cottage by the sea that Bill and Fleur lived in.
He needed to get out of the house.
The war was over, Voldemort was dead and the Ministry was putting itself back together again. There was the usual, trials, blame, counter blame, people proclaiming innocence, and the funerals. Oh, God, all the funerals.
Harry ran a hand through his head as he walked across the Burrow's drying yellowed lawn, side stepping garden gnomes and jumping over the fence. The only real funeral he had ever been to had been Dumbledore's, they hadn't even had one for Sirius or Mad Eye, beyond a few simple words. Yet in the space of two weeks every day had been packed with mourning the dead, weeping over as their coffins were laid to rest, and constantly having the knowledge that these people had died because of him rammed into him.
It had been a stressful time, to say the least. He still hadn't seen his aunt and uncle, though he had been told that they returned to their home. He still didn't know what he was going to do now; missing a year of school was not a minor thing. And he still hadn't officially paid his respect to Tonk's surviving mother and her grandson. That one hurt most of all. He had been to the funeral, he had said pleasant words, but it still didn't seem enough. He wanted to say more, he wanted to explain things, but with all those people gathered around, hanging on every word he was saying, he couldn't truly say what he wanted to say.
He crested a small hill, looking down toward the Burrow. The sun was beginning to head toward the west, the shadows growing longer and the air losing some of it's heat and oppressiveness. Harry wiped the sweat from his brow and sat down at the base of a tree, leaning his back against it's trunk.
He hadn't been alone in the last few weeks, every night he was surrounded by the Weasleys, everyday he was surrounded by the witches and wizards that praised him for winning the war, and the only time he got a bit of time to himself, to think or to feel something was at night when he slept. Most nights that sleep was interrupted by Ginny tapping lightly at his door.
Harry sighed, rubbing his temples. He didn't know how to handle that situation. He couldn't talk to Ron or he'd freak. He couldn't talk to much of anyone anymore. He knew that the continued pretending that he was deep asleep was going to wear thin on her. He had been avoiding her as much as possible during the day, at night when the family was gathered, and at night when everyone was asleep. She had patience, but she didn't have eternal patience.
Ginny was a lovely girl and she had incredible spirit and strength. He remembered what she had done that night in Hogwarts and he still felt the pounding of pride and amazement. He was in awe of what she had managed to accomplish, not only during that battle, but also during the year he had not been at Hogwarts. Yet for all that, it just ended at awe, respect, amazement and pride that he knew someone who had done so much.
There was love there, but it was not the love he had felt the year before. The intense wanting to be with her, the burning desire to hold her in his arms, the almost maddening draw to be near her. There was still love there, but it was the love of a sister, the love of a younger sibling, not the love of a woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
Maybe too much had happened in the intervening year. Maybe the months living on the run, the scores of people he knew dying, and the fact that the biggest terrifying threat in his life had been expunged changed them all. He knew he was not the same Harry Potter he was a year ago. Then he had been scared, he had wanted to fight Voldemort, to end it all.
Now… Harry didn't know where he was.
Everything that his life seemed built around had been changed. He no longer was the Boy Who Lived, the boy who was supposed to kill the Dark Lord, which had happened. Now he was the Man Who Won. The people liked heroes, but they had a lot of things to do to rebuild. To fix all that Voldemort had broken. They needed to move on with their lives and so did he.
Harry looked down at the Burrow, a house full of love and happiness, even with the loss of one of their own, it was still a house full of love and joy. He knew he could stay there as long as he wanted and he knew that he could stay there and be with a girl who loved him.
But Harry knew that love would not be reciprocated and he knew it would eventually lead to dislike and anger. He knew that he would poison that house of love and happiness if he stayed there for too long. If he didn't confront Ginny about his feeling and if he didn't explain to her why he loved her, but didn't Love her.
He dreaded telling them all bout his change in feelings for Ginny.
That didn't compare to the dread of telling them about his own change in feelings for Hermione…