Disclaimer: Get this. I don't own Harry Potter. No, seriously. It's true.
Chapter 1: Dawn of a New Day
Harry was awoken by the incessant but peaceful chirps of songbirds, the serenade associated with early morning. He opened his eyes blearily and, after taking his glasses from the nightstand, slipped them onto his nose. The ceiling of the Gryffindor common room glided lucidly into view, instantly reminding him of not only his presence at Hogwarts, but consequently the events of the previous day.
For a brief moment Harry couldn't help but smile to himself, feelings of warmth flooding his body as a deep sigh escaped him; he was home, and the burden of being the world's savior had finally, after so many years, been lifted from his shoulders.
He lay this way, content and groggy on his four-poster, for a few more moments before his stomach suddenly gave a loud growl—a reminder that he had eaten almost nothing over the previous days. The past few months, really. After returning the Elder Wand to Dumbledore's tomb, he, Hermione, and Ron had returned almost immediately to the castle and collapsed fully dressed onto their respective four-posters.
Considering that Hermione had abandoned Harry and Ron (albeit reluctantly) for her and Ginny's currently shared dormitory, Harry was a bit surprised when he rolled onto his side and saw that Hermione was now enveloped in Ron's arms.
Harry watched them for a moment, hoping that they would awaken, but they continued to lie quietly on the still-made bed, breathing (or in Ron's case, snoring) steadily, oblivious to his presence. He then averted his eyes, feeling a bit awkward for being witness to the display.
This is going to take a while to get used to, he mused. But at least something good came out of all this. But as Harry reflected on that thought— the small bits of happiness that came out of the war— he was forced to remember the more prominent grief that came as well. He couldn't help but feel that the good paled in comparison.
The contentment Harry had felt as he woke up was now all but vanished, and he felt an intense desire to roll over and fall back into blissful, ignorant sleep. But his stomach seemed to disagree with this idea and gave another loud, protesting growl. Unable to ignore the gnawing hunger, Harry threw his sheets from him and stood up from the bed. He winced as he did so, for sudden and considerable pain went shooting through his body, pounding against the forgotten aches he hadn't allowed himself to feel before.
He rolled a shoulder slowly, experimenting to see where the pain was worse. Fortunately nothing appeared to be in too bad of a condition, and he quickly acclimated to the soreness as his muscles loosened up.
He was just about to make his way over to the door when he glanced back over at Ron's bed, and was pleased when he saw that Hermione was now watching him through half-open eyes. He flashed her a small smile, and she wearily returned it.
Motioning slightly towards Ron, Harry raised an eyebrow and smirked mischievously. Hermione responded to Harry's gesture with a simple roll of the eyes, but she couldn't quite hide the blush that had crept to her cheeks. Harry continued to smirk, but, not wishing to cause her further embarrassment, he jerked his thumb towards the door and looked back at her expectantly.
Without hesitation, Hermione gave a small nod and proceeded to slowly extricate herself from Ron's lanky arms so she wouldn't wake him. He gave a particularly loud snore as she stood up, but then settled once more into his deep slumber. Once this had been accomplished, Hermione made her way towards Harry, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. This minuscule action apparently reminded Hermione of something, as she pointed apologetically towards the bathroom door. Harry shrugged nonchalantly, and she scurried through the door, touching her hair distastefully.
This display suddenly reminded Harry of his own ragged appearance. He ran his hand through his almost shoulder-length, shaggy hair, and then rubbed the slight stubble covering his jaw. His clothing was similarly haggard: his T-shirt was ripped in numerous locations, his jeans were frayed, and both were covered with dirt and dust from the battle. He had almost convinced himself to wash up after Hermione, but thought better of it as his stomach rumbled yet again. The bath would have to wait…besides, a nice, long soak in the tub sounded vastly more satisfying than a couple-minute shower. Instead he settled for a change of clothes, exchanging his filthy shirt and jeans for a clean set from his trunk that had somehow managed to return to the foot of his bed.
He had just finished lacing up his ratty trainers (which had probably taken more of a beating than any of his other attire) when Hermione exited the bathroom, her hair somewhat more tame than before. Harry stood up and gallantly offered her his arm.
"Shall we, Miss Granger?" he said quietly, not wishing to disturb Ron.
"Why, Mr. Potter, it would be my honor," Hermione replied in a whisper, and looped her arm through Harry's. They then exited the dormitory, Ron's snoring becoming muffled as the door shut gently behind them.
They had only descended a few steps when the sound of voices reached them. To Hermione's surprise, Harry froze in his tracks. After a moment Hermione knew why; despite how faint the voices were, the soft cries of Mrs. Weasley could be discerned from what she assumed to be the whispered comforts of her husband. Hermione's glanced up at Harry, who met her gaze with slightly panicked eyes.
"Hermione, I don't think I can do this…" he said, swallowing. "Not right now."
Hermione was about to object, but the look of dread in his eyes cut her off. She looked away, and after a moment blew a breath upwards, causing her hair to flutter. She didn't appear exasperated, just relenting.
"Alright…" she sighed, defeated. "Go get your invisibility cloak—we can speak to them later."
Harry seemed to sag in relief before he dashed back into his dormitory, returning within seconds with the cloak tucked under his arm.
Harry pulled the cloak off of himself and Hermione once they had snuck from the common room. They had thankfully managed to get through the portrait-hole without causing any interruption to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Hermione couldn't help but feel a new awe for Harry's magical cloak now that she knew its origins, and subsequently felt slightly bewildered when he stored it behind a large statue in an alcove close to the portrait-hole.
"Harry, don't you think that you should…well…keep the cloak with you?" she asked.
"Why?" Harry laughed. "Just because we found out the cloak's pretty much an ancient wizarding artifact doesn't mean I'm going to tote it around with me all the time. Besides, it's not like anyone's going to take it; from the looks of it, everyone's already gone home."
"It still makes me nervous," she muttered, but nonetheless fell into step beside Harry as they made their way to the staircase.
As they descended towards the ground floor, Harry glanced over at Hermione, looking rather ashamed. "Sorry about all that back there," he said. "Some Gryffindor, huh?"
Hermione couldn't help but laugh at this. "Harry, you just dueled and defeated Lord Voldemort—probably the most feared wizard in all of history—and you're doubting your bravery now?"
"Hmm…didn't really think of it that way. I guess that does sound kind of ridiculous."
They reached the large painting that concealed the kitchens, and Harry stopped once more, staring at the fruit as though trying to see through it. "This is going to be kind of weird."
"What will be?" Hermione asked, curious at his strange expression.
Harry turned his head to look at her with a small frown on his face. "Dobby's not going to be here."
"Oh…" Hermione felt tears prick at the corners of her eyes at the mention of the house-elf, but managed to stop them from flowing. Now wasn't the time. "Harry, why don't you wait here?"
Before Harry could reply, Hermione had tickled the pear and entered the kitchen. Harry stood obediently at the portrait for only a few moments before she reappeared, holding a napkin laden with a stack of toast. "Do you want to go for a walk?"