A/N- Welcome to the story, hope you like it.
Harry was exhausted. Somehow he knew he was in the Gryffindor dorm, but wasn't sure how he had gotten there. He remembered leaving the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione helping him up the stairs. He'd been reliving the battle in his mind. Every time he drifted off to sleep some new nightmare, would return and knife through his soul waking him. He tried valiantly to put his mind to rest but each time he closed his eyes the visions pulled him back awake. He saw Remus, Tonks, Fred and even poor Colin lying dead on the stone floors of the castle. As much as those sights disturbed him, the memories of the dozens of dead students and adults that he did not know disturbed him more. He couldn't sleep, but he couldn't stay awake either. Finally, from sheer exhaustion he passed out.
He started as the newest nightmare disrupted his sleep and groggily turned over. The sudden flash of yellowish light in his eyes stirred him to the verge of waking. He recognized the invasion of light was sunlight streaming through a slit in the bed hangings, but wasn't clear on whether it was morning or evening, or for that matter even what day it was. The door to the dormitory clicked open and whoever it was entered the room quietly.
Harry knew a team of Aurors declared the castle secure after a thorough search of the premises and didn't feel threatened by the visitor. He felt safe in his bed and didn't bother to reach for his wand. Instead he lay as still as possible and didn't rise to see who it was, hoping the unidentified person would simply leave the room soon.
The footsteps padded closer to his bed, stopping at his bedside. He heard the hangings sliding back slowly and he could feel the warmth of someone standing close to him. The air near him smelled of blood, sweat and dirt. When the person came closer he could distinguish a slight flowery scent through the other odors. Soft lips kissed his forehead lightly and he could tell it was Ginny. He felt warm inside and started to move when she whispered softly, "I hate you, Harry Potter." He felt a warm teardrop land on his cheek, and heard Ginny quietly leave the room.
Harry rolled back over so the sunlight wouldn't bother him and tried to fall back asleep, but to no avail. He felt the warmth leave his body, his stomach turned and if he had eaten anything in the last two days, he would have vomited. Instead, he dry heaved over the side of the bed and then struggled to sit up.
"Ohhh," Harry muttered as he swung his legs off the side of the bed and tried to focus his eyes.
The blurry figures of Ron and Hermione were visible, Ron sitting in his bed his back against the headboard. Hermione was resting between Ron's knees, leaning back on him.
Harry grabbed what was left of his glasses from the nightstand. "Reparo, reparo, reparo!" he gasped. 'Three tries for a reparo,' he mused, 'I must be really tired.' He placed the glasses on his nose and the world came back into focus. Both Ron and Hermione had their wands in their fingertips, obviously having fallen asleep trying to protect Harry after the battle, in case any remaining Death Eaters happened by.
Harry struggled out of bed and trudged to the showers. Letting the hot water cascade over him was finally beginning to rouse him completely. He had to admit that he was feeling a bit better, at least until he looked in the mirror. A large purple and black bruise covered a full half of his chest. A large gash cut across his left chest and up into his shoulder and his right knee and thigh were swollen and raw. There were numerous other scrapes and bruises, but these were the worst of it. He limped back to the dorm feeling lousy in general.
"Whaaa!" Ron growled as he awoke and saw movement in the room. He whipped his head around wildly searching the room for an intruder. He trained his wand at Harry's chest while he tried to focus his still sleepy eyes.
Harry gently pushed Ron's wand down to his side. "Slow down mate, its okay. We're okay…all of us are just fine," Harry said putting an extra emphasis on 'all' and looking at Hermione. Harry rummaged through a couple of trunks belonging to the normal occupants of the dormitory, trying to find some clothes that would fit them. He tossed some clothes on the third bed for his friends and kept a set for himself
Hermione stirred, stretched up and kissed Ron on the neck. The immediate result being that Ron's ears turned a bright red that nearly matched his hair.
Hermione grinned sheepishly and looked at her feet as Harry returned her glance. "Harry, you're hurt!" she cried.
Harry was having some difficulty hiding the pain he was in as he pulled a clean shirt over his head. "It'll be alright," he lied. "We should get going though, see what's going on."
Ron and Hermione grabbed the clothes and left the room to get cleaned up, returning a bit later. All three went down to the Great Hall and noticed the tremendous amount of damage for the first time. Ron kept slowing Hermione's pace as they waited for Harry to keep up. He was limping quite noticeably. It was then that the trio noted the casualties from the battle lying in the anteroom off the main entry hall of the school. Their hearts sank at the sight of their friends, now gone.
The Weasley clan was sitting at the second table of the hall and looked up as the trio neared the doorway. Harry held back as the other two rushed to the family. Ginny looked at Harry and their eyes met for a brief moment before they both turned away. Harry felt his stomach turn again and left the hall. 'No use eating if I'm just gonna retch it back up,' he figured as he turned right and half-walked, half-stumbled out the doors and into the warm sunlight. He braced himself weakly against the wall and vomited violently. He continued to heave and gasp, trying to gain control of his body. After a few minutes he calmed and spat out the last of the bile left in his mouth.
He limped around the castle wall for a little while longer, thinking about Ginny. He'd not considered the fact that she would be mad at him for leaving her. He brushed a tear from his cheek. Her words haunted him, 'I hate you, Harry Potter.' His stomach cringed again. There it was, out in the open. 'I pushed her away, and now it's done.' He found a warm place to sit, where he passed out again from exhaustion.
His head screamed in pain and the nightmare began anew.
The Forbidden Forest lay engulfed in darkness. The still night enveloped the cold forest. Voldemort sneering at him with that high-pitched shrill voice rattled his ears, "Hellloooo Harry, I am so pleased that you have stopped by to visit with me again."
Harry watched the evil wizard before him carefully and tried to extract his wand without drawing attention to his movements. The search for his wand gained urgency as he realized he did not have his wand. He was, in a word, defenseless. In a flash Voldemort flicked his wand casting a binding hex. The eerie white bolt of light caught Harry full in the chest. He felt the invisible bonds wrap around his arms and legs. Struggling against the ever-tightening bonds was futile.
Voldemort lifted his wand to just above shoulder height, in response Harry's body lifted into the cold night air; then Voldemort 'swished' his wand towards the ground and Harry crashed back to earth, bouncing off the dirt and leaves. Voldemort's silky voice calmly wafted over to Harry, "My dear boy, do you actually believe you can resist me? I am all-powerful. Even within your own weak mind I am still in control of your life."
Voldemort flicked his wand again and again tossing Harry's limp body onto the forest floor repeatedly. The menacing tirade continued on, "Face it my young adversary, I will be in control forever. I hold all the cards. Your life and the lives of any person you hold dear can still be snuffed out."
Voldemort crashed Harry's body down one last time and snaked his long pale fingers forward. Harry squirmed across the forest floor backing up hastily. His fingers searched for his lost wand, searching desperately for his only defense. Voldemort glided ahead, advancing his position over Harry. Harry tried not to look into the blood red eyes of his nemesis. Quicker than lightning Voldemort had Harry by the shirt, shaking the young man violently. Voldemort's physical strength was surprising. Harry tried to battle back but Voldemort kept yanking on his shirt to drag him further into the forest.
Harry awoke to Ron tugging his shirt. "Damnit Harry! You gotta eat mate, come on." Ron lifted his best friend up and all but carried him into the castle.
"Not the hall," croaked Harry, "not the hall."
"Okay, how 'bout the kitchen?" said Ron and they turned down the steps to the kitchen below.
Ron set Harry into a chair at a side table as the house-elves all stared. Kreacher appeared at once. "Welcome to Harry Potter. How can I serve my master?" the elderly elf croaked with a smile for his master.
"F…F…Food please, Kreacher," stuttered Harry. Kreacher hurried away, and soon returned to him with soup and sandwiches, along with some water to drink. He felt better after eating, and Ron stopped looking so worried for a moment.
"You know Ron, I know Voldemort couldn't defeat love and all," Harry said weakly, "but is the middle of the greatest wizard battle in history the time to start snogging Hermione?"
"Well, ya know…I just, I mean. And then…after…and, and she was…" blubbered Ron.
"Don't strain yourself you git," interrupted Harry. "It's fine really, if nothing good ever comes from any of all this, you two together are good." He paused. "No, it's great." And with that, he mustered enough strength to throw feeble punch into Ron's arm.
"Okay pal, if we're getting into the whole 'relationship' thing," started Ron, making quotes in the air with his fingers.
"Not now, please…" Harry's voice trailed off, "I, I can't."
"Well, I think maybe you're the git now, huh. Just so you know, I'm not going to lay off. You owe me an explanation." Ron glowered at his friend, making the statement with enough determination that Harry knew it would be revisited. "But you owe Ginny one more," he said a bit softer, looking Harry directly in the eyes.
The rest of the next few days were even sadder than the first day. Even in victory there was a pallid calm over the castle grounds as mourners and friends passed from funeral to funeral. Everyone was depressed or mourning. Harry just stayed away from everyone, trying to sort himself out.
The Weasleys were distraught and for the most part he avoided them, he doubted they wanted to see the person responsible for their son's death. Twice he had to meet with Kingsley Shacklebolt about the ministry's efforts to rein in the last Death Eaters. Three times he found Ron and Hermione together and they were so close he didn't feel he should encroach on their privacy, they were a couple now. And of course, there were all the funerals and memorial services to be dealt with.
Harry initially wanted to go to all the funerals, but soon realized he couldn't possibly do so. He managed to get to Colin Creevey's service and made it almost half way through before he couldn't stand it anymore, stood behind a tree and emptied his stomach for the third time in two days. He felt so guilty, all this death, all this needless death, just to give him more time to vanquish Tom Riddle's twisted dream of immortality.
Harry saw Ginny a few times, but they were evidently trying their best to avoid each other, or at least he was. Several times they crossed paths and each time he turned away from her. It was easier to run than to face the fact that she didn't want him anymore. And so this afternoon, he was in the same circumstance. He saw her on the way to the next service, walking slowly between George and Charlie. Each brother had one arm around her shoulders, cradling her protectively. He caught her eyes, and like every other time the pair had met over the last few days, she was crying.
It disturbed Harry that she was crying. Ginny was tough, and for her to be crying meant she was not handling the grief at all. 'Now what?' he wondered as he watched her pass by. Ginny blinked rapidly trying to stop the tears. 'I'm supposed to be comforting her. I'm the one who should have my arms around her. Yet all I'm doing is making it worse.' He shifted his gaze away until she continued down the path to the funeral tent. His heart was knifed open again; he'd lost count of how many times he felt this same pain since the battle ended.
Remus' and Tonks' funeral was worse. Ron, Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys were in attendance, as were all of the surviving members of the Order. He got through to the benediction before the sight of Teddy, blissfully unaware of the situation, finally shook him to the point he had to leave. He managed to escape from the service without garnering much attention and ran behind a small bunch of trees. The small amount of food remaining in his stomach made its way back up his throat and once again, he retched. He hurried away from the mess behind the trees, disgusted with the world, and revolted with himself.
Harry sat against the castle wall beating his head back against the stone, crying and smelling the stench from the regurgitated food on his shirt. He wanted out. This wasn't a life. Ginny hated him. The only reason he wanted to live, what kept him going wasn't an option any longer. When he, Ron and Hermione started this journey he thought he would die in the process. He'd made peace with that in the forest. He didn't expect to die slowly from the inside out because of his grief and nightmares, which was happening now.
"Maybe I made the wrong choice coming back from King's Cross," he muttered to himself. "I should have stayed, I could be with Mum and Dad, or Sirius, or Dumbledore…people who actually cared." He beat his head against the stone wall three more times hoping the physical pain would drown out the emotional pain. A shadow loomed over and him he looked up into the eyes of Mrs. Weasley.
"Harry dear, what is going on with you?" Mrs. Weasley asked in her best motherly voice.
"I'm fine," Harry said, knowing he was lying to her.
"Don't you 'fine' me Mr. Potter," Molly scolded. "Harry, you can't keep doing this."
"Well, I know that!" said Harry angrily.
"You have to stop this, you should have stopped…"
"Don't you think I'd have stopped all this if I could? I've tried, I've tried so hard," he cried. "I should have been able to stop ALL of this!" he spat, sweeping his arms out gesturing towards the funerals and all the destruction. He got up and ran as best he could back into the school.
Molly shed tears as she choked out the words, "That's not what I meant dear, not what I meant." Words of forgiveness that Harry would never hear.
The next morning was Fred's funeral service. Harry hadn't spoken to anyone since Remus' funeral, and he didn't bother to eat breakfast that morning. He didn't want to give himself any ammunition for the ritual he knew would be forthcoming. All of Fred's family sat in one row; Ron and Hermione together, then Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Percy and George on the end, all devastated. Harry sat next to Ron. Harry managed to get through Fred's service in its entirety, but only by choking back and swallowing the vomit as it tried its hardest to exit his mouth.
With the service over Harry squeezed over to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, giving them each a hug.
"I…I'm so sorry, I never thought…I'm sorry," he stammered.
As he pulled away he saw Ginny leaning on George's shoulder. They exchanged looks again. He couldn't really discern her look other than the sadness. She turned away so he couldn't see her face. Harry broke loose and left the torn family.
"Harry!" Mrs. Weasley yelled after him.
He didn't turn or even slow his exit. He hurried down the hill to the edge of the forest where it met the lake and trudged into the darkness. It was easier to be alone.
A few hours later Ron and Hermione found Harry at the edge of the woods, down by the lake.
"Hi, how are you?" asked Hermione
"Okay, I'll be okay," Harry replied, lying once again.
"I'm going to find my Mum and Dad in Australia, and decompress at home for a bit. I'll send an owl when I find them,"
"You don't want help?" Harry questioned.
"No, I need to do this on my own. I want it to be just the three of us, just family. Once we have some time alone maybe I'll send for you two. And then, if all goes well, I can bring them back," Hermione said giving Harry and Ron each a hug. She then leaned over and gave Ron a soft kiss on the cheek. Ron slipped an arm around her waist.
Ron just plainly stated, "I'm goin' back home with Mum and Dad." He followed that statement with, "Where you going Harry? Back to Grimmauld Place I suppose, right? I don't suppose you'd want to go back to the muggles, would you?" Ron stared blankly at Harry, lost in thoughts of his now deceased brother.
"Yeah, back to twelve I suppose," Harry lied again. He was starting to get good at it.
"Mum says you need to come to The Burrow."
"Not today, I'm going to Grimmauld Place for now. Tell her I'm fine," Harry lied yet again. He was very good at it.
Ron shrugged it off, "Alright then, see you soon."
The group separated. Ron and Hermione walked up the path towards the gates. Harry walked slowly up the hill towards the school. A few minutes later he arrived at the front steps of the school and sat on the top step near the heavy front doors. He couldn't go back to Grimmauld Place. He had sent Kreacher to visit the previous day, and Kreacher had informed him that the building was intact but was cursed beyond recognition by the Death Eaters.
As the sun set on the school grounds and the last visitors and mourners trod out the gates, it dawned on Harry that sadly, after seventeen years and stopping the greatest dark wizard in history; The Chosen One, the Boy-Who-Lived, was still just an orphan with no one who loved him and nowhere to go. He lowered his head in sorrow, crying to himself.