The boy who lived could not live with himself. He didn't know if he could. After every life that had been lost, after all the families who would never see their loved ones again, after all the destruction he had caused. Harry Potter did not know how to live with himself.
Fred, Lupin, Tonks, Sirius, Dobby, Mad Eye, Snape, Dumbledore, these were just a handful of people who had sacrificed themselves for him, sacrificed their lives all because Voldemort created a horcrux that was never intended. Harry often wondered what would have happened if he had died when Voldemort cast the curse into him that night in Godric's Hollow. Even though some were lost maybe somebody would have been able to stop Voldemort sooner.
Harry stood at the quidditch field. It was the only place he could find that seemed to hold some sort of happy memory, in truth it was the only place he could truly be alone.
The sky was a bleak gray, and the air reeked of blood and ash. The towers of the stadium were collapsed into rubble and a single goal post remained. Harry slouched, Draco's wand clutched tightly in hand. He was still on edge from the battle. Who was he kidding; he had been like this ever since Voldemort had returned in his fourth year. So now that the war was over, what was he supposed to do? It was the uncertainty that had undone him in the last few years, the fear, the stress, the unknown. So now that the war was over, there was a new uncertainty in the air. What happened next?
Taking one last look at the quidditch field he turned heading back to the castle. Breathing in the musk of the cool air he dreaded the atmosphere that awaited him in the great hall. The bodies of the deceased in columns never ending, his friends muffled cries as they grieved the loss of many. It wasn't that Harry didn't want to be there, he felt he didn't deserve to feel loss and pain. He was convinced it was his fault and not a soul could change his mind.
As his feet became heavier with each step so did his heart as panic set in about what he would be walking in on and for a split second he was eleven again walking into Hogwarts for the first time.
He had robbed so many…
Baby Teddy would never know the love and bravery that his parents possessed. Even if people told him, he would never get to experience it firsthand.
The Weasleys had lost Fred. How could he ever look at any of them again? Especially Ron, he couldn't even think about Ron.
What about the simple dentists who had their memories wiped clean of their only daughter so that she could help him in his suicide quest.
Hermione and Ron had sacrificed everything for him and in the process lost family and friends. So yes you could say Harry Potter was feeling a little guilty for the damage done.
The great hall became larger and the pit in his stomach seemed to grow even deeper. Swallowing dryly he wiped dirt and blood from his cheek a spare tear mixed in. Sighing softly he nervously walked through the doors. Immediately his heart sunk.
On the steps sat the remainder of the Order, families and friends all around hugged each other, some laughing, others crying. The Weasley clan settled around the body of Fred, silent tears caking their cheeks. Hermione was with them her arms enveloped tightly around Ron his head in the crook of her neck as he lay intimately between her legs.
A knot formed in his abdomen as Harry watched them and for a split second he wished he was the one in Ron's position. He stared at Hermione's hands, the way they gripped Ron's chest tightly, the firm grasp promising to never waver.
Hermione had never wavered. She had always been there for Harry. She never stopped believing in him, she never judged him, she had never left. She was the constant he had always had and for a boy with no parents and an absentee family a constant was hard to come by.
As Harry stared longingly at the pair, Hermione glanced up a look of relief flooding her face. She didn't move right away, but gave Harry a melancholy smile. As she continued to grasp a crying Ron she leaned down and whispered in his ear and Ron's eyes shot up to see Harry. They murmured a few phrases back and forth and Ron nodded agreeably, leaning forward to free her from his body weight. Before she stood however, she pulled him back and met his lips in an affectionate kiss.
Harry's stomach sank and he turned his head away, but he saw Hermione rise out of the corner of his eye and he could feel her gaze strong upon him. He stared strangely at the ground unsure of what to do, but he didn't have enough time to decide as a pair of pale, lanky arms encased him. It startled him and he didn't like it at first. His heart beat picked up and his right hand tightened around his wand. It was Ginny and her unfamiliar grasp gripped him too strongly. He hadn't hugged her like this since the wedding of Bill and Fleur and a lot had happened since then. He adjusted after a few more uncomfortable seconds and his cramped hands slowly came up to meet her back.
"Harry," she breathed out into his neck, "where were you? Everybody was so worried about you! Where did you go? I went looking and I thought you might have left and I just, I just… I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I must sound like a bloody idiot."
Harry forced a dry chuckle and it sounded strange coming from his throat. Ginny pulled back attempting eye contact as Harry skillfully avoided it his eyes focused on the floor. She narrowed her gaze and grabbed his face raising his cheeks, forcing his green eyes to meet hers.
"Harry," she tried reassuringly, "It's going to be okay-"
"Stop," Harry spat out abruptly pushing her backwards gently.
Ginny's face fell in confusion and she stepped back pleading with him, "What did I say? Did I do something wrong?" Tears began to well up in her already bloodshot eyes and her voice cracked as she spoke. "Harry please…"
"Nothing," Harry insisted, "you didn't do anything. I just… I don't know… I can't… I just… I can't right now. I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry," Ginny muttered standing in front of him. I know it's going to take time Harry I just wanted so badly to…"
Harry gave her a tight lipped smile and awkwardly patted her shoulder, "We will get there." He did love Ginny, he just didn't know how to love her right now, and being bombarded by people wasn't going to help him figure it out.
She gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek and he leaned in savoring the brief comfort, but it was soon gone as she mumbled something about going to check on her mother.
So there he stood again rooted to the spot as he stared at the people around him, his curious green eyes lost in a sea of suffering. His legs began to wobble and he sank clumsily to the ground.
Hermione's heart lurched as she locked eyes with the broken boy in front of her. His hands clenched and jaw line tense he looked like he was twice his age. She slowly walked towards him and fell to her knees in front of him so she was level with him. She didn't force eye contact or even speak, but instead closed her hand around his and coaxed the wand out of Harry's hand.
"No magic right now," she quietly whispered as his long fingers fell limp without purpose. "Come," she stood slowly pulling him with her, "let's take a walk."
"I don't want to walk," he murmured distantly.
"We aren't going far."
"Where then," Harry sighed.
"To the food," she pointed about 20 feet away where several pots of stew were waiting, steamy and even Harry had to admit, somewhat inviting.
"Not hungry," he stubbornly toed at the ground with his beat up trainer.
"Well you can watch me eat," she muttered back defiantly and for a second it seemed like the bossy eleven year old Harry had met so many years ago.
20 minutes later and after a dead silence Harry had begrudgingly picked at his meal taking a few bites here or there so Hermione's piercing stare would lighten.
"So," she started breaking the silence. "Did you find any peace at the quidditch field?"
"What?" Harry was startled; he didn't think anybody knew where he was.
"I went to the lake," Hermione shrugged taking a bite of stew. "It didn't do much."
"How did you know?" Harry watched her intently.
"I found comfort knowing you'd be doing the same thing I was."
They locked eyes and Harry felt a comfort he hadn't felt in months. It was as if he was back in the tent in the woods, just the two of them against the world. Like all the other good things in Harry's life the comfort lasted briefly as Ron slumped into the bench next to Hermione shakily carrying a bowl that smelled oddly of cabbage.
"Hey mate," Ron smiled weakly across the table as he put his arm around Hermione who easily leaned into his embrace causing the pang to hit Harry once again. "How are you holding up?"
"Okay," Harry answered a little too quickly, "how about you?"
Ron shrugged, "I'm in shock, can't believe he's gone…" Tears welled up in Ron's blue eyes and his pale skin seemed even lighter as he mourned the loss of his brother. Hermione grabbed at the back of his head and pulled his forehead to hers as he stifled back a sob his hands shaking.
A lump formed in Harry's throat as he nervously shifted, he felt as if he was interrupting something, not the mention the guilt that was threatening to spill over and consume him at any moment. His throat began to close and he could feel the heat radiating in his cheeks as he tried to hold himself together.
"I have to go," he rapidly stood up from the table lamely grasping at anything to flee the scene.
"Harry, wait-" Hermione called after him.
"Mate, c'mon-" Ron echoed at the same time.
Harry stumbled quickly out of the hall ignoring his friend's pleas to stay and the concerned glances that followed him as he rounded into the empty corridor. He collapsed against the stone wall his breathing erratic and shallow his eyes glassy with unshed tears. He couldn't face the destruction, the loss, the pain he had caused. He couldn't face the people let alone his closest friends. He couldn't face the press; he couldn't face any of it. He couldn't face the fact that everybody had somebody, but him. A part of him longed for those simple months in the tent as he held back tears. The boy who lived could not live with himself.