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"Always the innocent are the first victems. So it has been for ages past, so it is now."

More funerals. Harry found himself becoming weary, the pain seeming to engulf him to points where he could neither speak nor breathe. Ron, Ginny, Hermione, and Luna had become constant companions, and Harry felt that they were his life-lines, now that he felt he was drowning in a sea of his own loss and guilt.

And still, at every funeral he went to, every place that he went, Harry was surrounded by praise, cheers, happy, smiling people who seemed to have no idea at how high the price for this victory was. Harry tried to smile at these times, tried to recapture the happiness he had felt with his friends by the lake, but the feeling had once again escaped him, remaining elusive even when he attempted to grasp at it.

On the third morning ― Harry honestly couldn't say what day it was ― he and Ron both woke early, up before the sun and all three girls. Harry didn't look at Ron as they dressed simultaneously and went outside the Burrow.

The Weasleys had invited Harry and Hermione and anyone else to stay, but currently it was only the five of them, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and Percy. Harry found the quietness before dawn both disturbing and comforting.

Picking their way across the over-grown, patchy lawn, still not looking at each other, Harry and Ron sat down on the large rock near the entrance to the woods where they had so often played Quidditch. Them against the twins. Them against Hermione and Ginny. Them against the world.

The pre-dawn sky was a beautiful lavender. Harry picked out his favorite constellations from the ones showing in the sky. Pegasus, Andromeda, Hercules. He remembered summers at the Dursleys, staying out as late as he could, his stars his only companions.

Ron found his voice first, looking up at the moon and the morning star. Mourning star. "Who's..." his unused voice cracked. "Who's today?"

Harry shrugged, unwilling to bring his mind back from the Heavens. "Angelina's is at twilight. I haven't looked at the rest of the list since...since I don't know when. Hermione has it."

Ron nodded, accepting the half-answer. "Do you sometimes wish you could just leave it all, and sink into this?"

Harry glanced sharply at his friend. "What're you talking about Ron?" His down-to-Earth, blunt best friend rarely talked like this. Only when his mind was really somewhere else.

"I...I don't know. Forget it." The first real rays of sunlight peaked over the trees. Watching for a few more minutes, it was Ron again who spoke first. "It's going to be weird, though. It's like, the entire time we were at Hogwarts, we were just thinking about getting rid of Voldemort, and, you know, living through it." Harry snorted against his will. This was more like Ron.

"But now...it's really different now. No Voldemort. No horcruxes or riddles or prophesies." He paused for a moment, watching as the morning star gave into the sunlight, then, almost too silently for Harry to hear. "No Fred."

Harry pretended he didn't hear the last part, but felt a deep, swelling sadness again envelope his chest. Ron continued, words spilling out as if a dam had been opened.

"I think...I think I'll stay with George this summer." He said it quietly, as if trying to keep his emotions in check as he said the words. "He'll need help with the shop and...other stuff." Harry had pretended, over the last couple of days, that he didn't notice how far Ron's grief for his brother went, but now he couldn't ignore it.

"It's okay to miss him, Ron." He said quietly, his hand laying over his friends larger, freckled one. "I miss him too. You can let it out now." The words brought back a memory of the very boy ― man ― they were talking about. You shouldn't keep all those emotions bottled up inside, Harry, let them all out. There might be some people fifty miles away who didn't hear you.

Harry relayed this remembered sentence to Ron, who let out a strangled half-laugh. The sun, now fully presenting itself, made the tears dripping down Ron's cheeks sparkle.

Harry felt a presence behind him and turned around. It was only when Ginny wiped them away that Harry realize that there were tears on his own face.

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