It's so quiet.
Moonlight floods through the glass free window, glinting off of the few jagged stained edges that remain attached to the stone's frame. It casts shadows underneath and around the rubble, highlights the dust, and makes the blood on his arms shine. A warm breeze, tinged with the frost that lingers from the winter, rustles the rags that used to be his shirt and tickles his split lip. His hair is burned, singed at the tips - he can smell it when the wind shifts the other way. Fresh grass, dust, and the metallic tang of blood. That's how he'll always remember the month of May.
He's just fought in a war.
The fact makes his head spin, almost as unexpected and surreal as the time he first learned he was a wizard. He was born to create magic. The same magic he uses to develop photos that can literally say a thousand words, and to mix potions, and to fly on a broomstick. The same magic he used tonight, to hurt. To kill. To protect.
It's a little overwhelming. But it's over. There are no more screams of agony, or the pounding of giant's feet, or the sickening, gut roiling terror that comes with You Know Who's voice echoing inside of your head. The dust, at least up here in this broken tower, is settled. The bodies of his classmates and friends lie in crooked rows downstairs, his brother is probably worried about him just wandering off, and his entire life has just been shifted entirely off of its axis, but as the wind fingers through his hair Colin can't help but give into the need to just tilt his head back, breathe in deeply, and let the moonlight press gently against his eyelids.
It's so quiet and he's alive.
"Oh- Hullo, Colin. I didn't know anyone was up here…"
His stomach clenches automatically before it does the customary swoop up, then down, knocking into his heart on the way – it's signal to start beating double time.
If it were any other time he'd start blabbering. Stuttering and blushing, brain too focused on his rushing heart to get anything right. But he's exhausted. So tired, and dirty, and bloody. Things like love and hopeless crushes don't belong here.
He opens his eyes slowly and looks away from the moon to the young man outlined in the doorway. He shifts in his seat on the cracked window ledge.
"Yeah. It's just me."
"I'm sure you'd rather be alone right now." His hair is a mess, even more than usual. It looks like he's gotten electrocuted, or just woke up from a nap in the common room. He's dirtier than Colin, dried mud smudges all along his cheek bone and down the column of his neck. There's a thumb print in the corner of his glasses lens, on the right side. Colin feels his fingers twitch to wipe it off. He looks away.
He feels Harry staring at him and Colin knows the other young man can see the changes. He's not much bigger than he was when they first met, but he's filled out some, grown up more. No more eagerness to wake up earlier than needed to watch Quidditch practices, or to beg for autographs, or not so subtle hints that they should spend more time together. It's been a while, he thinks almost bitterly. It must be a surprise to look at a person one moment and see a gibbering mess of an eleven year old and in what seems like a blink of an eye they're ready to take their N.E.W.T.S and suddenly so war weary.
After a few moments Harry beings to move across the room, toeing over fallen stone, and any fleeting grudges melt away as Colin drinks him in with quick glances. Not counting the Wanted posters he hasn't laid eyes him for a year. He's taller too, broader. The muscles in his arms flex under smooth, pale flesh, and from the gash in his shirt Colin can make out his lean torso. He looks away again, eyes darting to the side when the other boy sits beside him. Silently, they both watch the few stragglers out on the grounds. Dotted around the lake families and friends embrace while two others carry away what looks like a dead Death Eater.
"You stayed. To fight for me." Harry says after a few moments, voice quiet. "Thank you."
The words hit Colin as absurd – as if he would have gone and let his home for the last six years go under without at least trying to prevent it. "I stayed to fight for me too. And for Dennis, and Ginny, and Dumbledore..."
Harry stays silent, still gazing onto the grounds.
"I wanted to stay."
Broken sobs echo on the air, floating up towards the highest tower.
"It was my fight," Harry says finally.
"It was our fight," Colin replies dully. He closes his eyes and leans his head against the wall behind him. Something expands in his chest; it takes a few moments for him to realize that it is the truth, not seeing any point in staying buried. What does it matter now, really? He could have died tonight with so many unspoken words that were begging to bust out… Pointless. "But I was always going to stay… Don't even think it was ever a question." The small laugh bubbles in his chest and falls out over his lips, hallow. He feels old. Older than his sixteen years. "Everyone knows I'd fight for you, Harry… die for you…" And suddenly it's too much. The shock from what he's just witnessed and done washes away, swept out of his body to be replaced with something that burns at the base of his ribs. He swallows hard, but the lump doesn't go away. The tears still burn at his eyes and cut a track down his left cheek.
Flayed open. That's how he feels now. Surrounded by dirt, and blood, and death there's no room for secrets, no matter how badly kept they are. He would have died for this man in front of him. He realizes in a rush he would have died at the age of sixteen for Harry Potter, the boy who only grudgingly gave him the time of day. The burn in his eyes redoubles, hot tears spilling over the edges when a rush of hopelessness tries to overtake him.
He feels Harry shift beside him, the warm space that was his body replaced by the nippy wind. The familiarity of the action rips another cut across his heart and he squeezes his eyes together briefly. He'd much rather be alone right now, turns out.
Colin expects the vacated space but not the warm, gentle palm against his cheek. He jumps, startled, and when his eyes fly open Harry is standing right in front of him, viridian eyes angry, and sad, and burning. The smudge is still on the edge of his glasses, and Colin is so close he can see the ridges of the finger print.
"Don't." His lips are trembling as Harry wipes away cold tears with a rough thumb. "Don't- you don't have to…"
Harry's mouth tastes like ash, and salt, and fresh water. Then he just tastes like Harry. Sweet and warm and Colin feels like he's going to fly apart. Another hand on his face, pulling him closer, holds him together, but only barely. His hands are trembling, everywhere is trembling as he grabs onto Harry's shirt, fingers tangling in the rip and brushing against hot skin. "I want to," is breathed into his mouth, smothered by another press of lips. "I just- I want to…"
Surreal. It's all so surreal. Surreal, and tragic, and happening right now, Harry's body heat seeping into his own where their chests are connected. He wants to think more about it, quiet his rushing brain so he can just think but then he feels a warm, thick tongue slide in beside his tangling and tasting and he's useless.
The war is over, and above the mingled sobs of pain and cries of joy, the wind tumbling over the shards of glass, and their beating hearts it's so quiet.