Harry didn't know what to do. He didn't know if he should feel relief or sadness. His mind told him to embrace the moment, Voldemort was gone. A larger part of Harry felt an overwhelming guilt and sadness that seemed to rock him to his very core. The battle was over, and while the war had been waged, all Harry could think of was all that was lost: Fred, Tonks, Lupin. Harry also felt a new loss for Snape—a man he never got to really appreciate while he was living. Harry felt the loss of Dumbledore and his parents all over again.
It's over. Harry was the center of attention in the Great Hall, but all he could really think about was his overwhelming grief and to be honest, how exhausted he was. Harry nudged Ron in the side, as he tried to dodge yet another person trying to congratulate him. There was little to celebrate, surrounded by the bodies of the people who laid themselves down for Harry. "Yeah, mate?" Ron asks.
"I need you to help me slip out," Harry whispers, his voice trying to hide his shame.
Ron nodded and turned to Hermione, whispering something to her. "So, I take it you all want to hear what happened in our nine-month absence?" Ron announced to the assembly of people gathered at the Gryffindor table. While Ron and Hermione had the table's attention as they told their tale about breaking into the ministry, Harry caught Ginny's eyes briefly as he pulled out his invisibility cloak; her eyes looked at him with sadness, and perhaps anger. Ginny was owed more than Harry could ever begin to explain, but her brother was taken away from her last night. Now was not the time.
Harry put on the cloak and without a word, slipped out of the Great Hall. When he arrived at the Fat Lady's portrait, he took off the cloak and the Fat Lady looked at the boy, who had suddenly seemed to become a man overnight, with sadness. "I don't know the password," Harry announces with exhaustion in his voice.
"It's alright, my dear. Sleep," the Fat Lady directs.
Harry pulls himself into the Gryffindor common room—this was one place that previously felt like home to him. Now, he felt a stranger, he felt like he was a different person now. Harry pushed aside his feelings and headed upstairs for a shower. Harry stood in the water for nearly an hour, watching the water change from red with blood, to brown with dirt, and finally clear. Harry noticed he acquired a new scar, a lightning blot, above his heart; along with various others across his eyebrow and arms. He didn't care. A scar is a scar. A burden he has bared his entire life.
Harry then takes a moment to shave properly for the first time in nine months. He decides to do it the muggle way. It just seems to dawn on Harry how unruly he truly looked. His hair was long, and wild, and he almost had a proper beard. He looked unrecognizable in comparison to the boy who stood in Gryffindor tower two years ago. Harry trimmed his hair, as best he could and shaved. Harry silently wished there was a way he could have washed the night away—a way to erase everything that has happened.
Harry finally dressed in clothes that were laid out for him, probably curtesy of the House Elves, and he crawled into bed. Harry falls instantly to sleep.
When Harry wakes up again, the sun is shining through the draperies. Harry rolls over to see the bed next to him has indeed been slept in. Harry wonders how long he's been asleep and he wishes he could have stayed that way. Harry feels an overwhelming dread of facing what is to come. He dresses in clothes set out for him slowly, as he realizes how sore he really is. Harry feels comfortable in his own grey t-shirt and jeans; he knows that Hermione must have laid out the clothes for him. Sometimes, he doesn't know what he did to deserve Ron and Hermione.
Harry slowly wanders down the staircase, almost afraid of the day that awaits him. Harry is surprised to see Ginny, Ron, and Hermione sitting in the common room. Ginny sits next to the fireplace, her hair seemingly dancing among the shadows of the flames. Harry notices a scar across her forehead, and his heart aches to rub a finger along it. Ginny is there in the flesh, more than just a dot on a map, and all Harry can think of is all that she's lost. All that seems impossible for them now.
Harry turns to Ron and Hermione, who have locked hands, but look to him with kindness. "Harry," Hermione greets, her tone polite, kind.
"How long was I asleep?" Harry asks as he makes his way across the room.
"Two days," Ron answers.
Harry is taken aback by this and remembers the sinking feelings of the events that took place nights ago.
"Listen, mate, everyone is waiting for you downstairs, but w-we wanted to make sure you were alright," Ron begins.
"Harry, we understand that you must have some mixed emotions right now, but you have got to understand, no one blames you for anything that has transpired," Hermione says, she stands up to make her way over to Harry, who is now sitting alone in an armchair.
Hermione leans in front of Harry, and Harry thinks of all the things she's sacrificed—her parents, her sanity, friends. "I don't know how to walk down there, and pretend. Pretend that they aren't dead because of me, pretend that I haven't caused anyone any pain or grief," Harry whispers.
Hermione drops to the floor and looks to Ron and Ginny for guidance. It is a long time before anyone speaks, but it is Ginny who does. "How dare you, Harry? How dare you act like they didn't have a choice. In case you haven't noticed, my brother was fighting for something so much bigger than you or even Voldemort. Tonks, Lupin, Fred, they went out fighting for this life that we can have now," Ginny insists. Harry finally makes eye contact with her, and sees that there are tears in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," Harry whispers.
Ginny crosses the room and sits next to Harry. "You don't get it, do you? Harry, you aren't to blame. For any of this. You ended it last night. But this is all so much bigger than you or me or Ron or Hermione, and they all knew that. They all knew what they wanted out of life, and what they wanted was a life without Death Eaters or fear. They believed in you and now you have to believe that they did this for all of us to live a more peaceful life," Ginny explains, as she moves closer to Harry. There is a tone of anger in Ginny's speech that makes Harry want to scream.
"What do you want me to do?" Harry asks, as he turns to Ron, who has been the most silent.
Ron looks to Harry with tears in his eyes. "Mate, I want you for the first time in your life to quit blaming yourself," Ron says earnestly.
"We will get through this, together," Hermione whispers to Harry. Hermione catches Harry's eye and he is reminded of all those nights they spent pouring themselves over research of Horcruxes and Voldemort. There will never come a day where Harry doesn't owe Hermione anymore.
Ginny puts her arm around Harry, and this seems to be the last straw because Harry finally cries. He cries for his parents, for Fred, for Tonks and for Lupin, he cries for a little boy who will never know his parents, he cries for Snape, and for Dumbledore. He cries for the little boy he once was, living under the stairs, an orphan. It's all come to an end. Ginny holds Harry tightly as Ron and Hermione just sit with Harry as well, knowing that he needs this moment.
"It's okay," Ginny mutters into Harry's ear over and over again.
It is then that Ron, Harry, and Hermione aren't simply a trio anymore. Ginny was now a permanent fixture in Harry's life, as she sat wiping his tears; for Harry loved Ginny in many inexplicable ways he was yet to discover.