Harry's fist clenched around the burnt photograph, the moving images edging slowly away from the cindering corners of the frame, as Harry's tears fell onto the paper, hissing as they made contact with the scalding surface. The scene of destruction that surrounded him was the only remnant of the fierce battle that had taken place hours prior, fires still flaming sporadically throughout the walls of the Burrow. Broken furniture, shattered glass and smoking walls were all that remained of the house that had sheltered more than the broken boy from the cupboard. It was a place where he learned unconditional love, and that family can be chosen in the ones we care most for; becoming more of a home than number 4 Privet Drive ever threatened to be.
Harry placed down the waving photograph of the Weasley family who seemed blissfully ignorant of the horrors the war would bring upon them, the youthful face of a teenage Ginny Weasley smiled abashedly at the raven haired boy before hiding behind her mother, cheeks tinged red in the stained photograph. A flicker of a smile brushed Harry's face as he remembered that day from several years ago, his Fifteenth birthday, celebrated within the very walls of the building he currently stood in. A golden snitch flickered feebly in and out of view, exhausted after several family rounds of quidditch played out in the meadow in the grounds and a black haired dog sniffed the feet of the party dwellers, stopping only to jump and lick a laughing Harry. It seemed so daunting now, that they had not known what the future held in store for the Chosen One, and how their lives would warp from that day onwards.
Harry reluctantly tore his eyes away from the past and focused on the charred evidence of the present. The couch was upturned, holes burned into the upholstery that functioned as a shield during those fierce hours of battle. Ron's beloved chess set was scattered on the floor, pawns crumbled into a thousand shards, and a solitary King shouted abuse from underneath the table in the corner, apparently unharmed in the carnage. The game that had been suspended so unceremoniously mid battle earlier in the day hung as a cruel reminder of the move that Voldemort had played, check and mate.
A clock's edge could be seen emerging from underneath the sofa, all hands of the clock stationary and unmoving. Harry functioned on autopilot as he reached down and grabbed the contraption that had fascinated him ever since he was a mere child, absorbing the wonders of the Burrow for the first time after being rescued by the Weasley children from his prison. He blew away the dust that had settled, revealing the ten hands that lay beneath the mess. Harry remembered bursting with pride the day Molly presented him with his seventeenth birthday present; a metal hand of a clock with a smiling and waving portrait at the edge. His eyes narrowed with sadness as he located the hands on the clock, his solitary position declaring his location as 'home' contrasted with the other nine, faces mingled as the magic of the clock tried to single out each hand on its own. Dead. They were all gone. And it was Harry's fault. He'd got them into this mess, he was the reason that the Burrow was targeted and was the cause of all the death and destruction that seemed to follow Harry James Potter no matter where he went.
He was but nineteen years of age yet his eyes held the sadness of an old man as he closed them shut slowly, considering all those he had lost in the short years of his life. His parents had made the ultimate sacrifice to give him a chance to live, yet he has wasted that opportunity. There was so much he could have done, so much he could have changed, if he had just started preparing sooner. Tears began to escape unwillingly from the corners of his eyes as he pictured his last images of his Godfather, the ghost of his last laugh etched into his memory as he fell backwards, almost gracefully, into the veil. His one chance of freedom wasted as Harry ran so carelessly and hotheadedly into a battle he was ill prepared to face. The countless blurred names of all those who had sacrificed their lives in this last year since Harry had left Hogwarts merged into a mess inside his head, voices, screams and shouts becoming louder and unbearable until Harry sunk to his knees and held his aching head in his hands.
He knew it had been a mistake to return to the Burrow for his nineteenth birthday, he was being tracked and his every movement was sought after by the Death Eaters desperate to grant their Lord's wishes to deliver the boy to him to meet his just end. Little did Voldemort realise that the loss of those he held dear to him tore him up inside more than death ever could, the weight of the world and the blame of a hundred deaths tore him apart each and every day.
Immediately upon his return to the decaying building, he passed through several layers of wards, lowered slightly for the day to allow for new individuals to enter, those who had not been present for well over two years. The once filled out face of Molly Weasley looked gaunt and sick upon first inspection, the toils and toll of the war clear in her physique which had become skeletal over the course of their absence. Her greeting hug was more bone crushing than normal, the obvious jaunting of their bodies clashing painfully against one another. Arthur reached around his jittery wife who had begun to fuss over her youngest son and tut over his lack of eating habits, apparently oblivious to her own fierce loss of appetite. Harry grabbed the hand of his surrogate father firmly, trying to pass over his feelings of sorrow in his touch. Arthur's eyes glistened sadly in understanding, he had lived through the first war and knew the sacrifices that had to be made in order to defeat the enemy, despite wishing his two youngest sons and their muggleborn friend could stay under his wing once more.
"Welcome home, son". Arthur mumbled into Harry's ear as he briefly pulled him in for a hug, patting the tall boy on the shoulder.
"Molly's been waiting years to bake you a cake again, you should see the feast she's laid out today" Arthur whispered, "She's been locked in that kitchen all week, you'd think Lockhart was coming for tea".
Harry chuckled in mirth, happy to know he'd given the matriarch something positive to focus on in the light of the darkness that was suffocating them.
"She knows the way to my heart, with that fantastic treacle tart of hers".
Harry looked on past the Weasley elders, glimpsing at the lopsided levels and the angry gnomes stumbling their way back onto the property. If Harry closed his eyes it was almost as if nothing had changed. Yet Harry knew there was one person he yearned to see, who's presence was the riding factor in his agreement to visit today after his harsh refusal at Hermione's initial suggestion. He shoved his hands into his pockets as his made his way towards the door, leaving behind his two friends chatting eagerly to Molly and Arthur about the current state of affairs in the wizarding world. Information often became lost in translation with the limited degree of contact they were able to establish whilst on the run.
He smelled her before he saw her. The waft of perfumed flowers drifted delectably into his nose, a smell he thought he would never experience again. And there she was. The epitome of everything he ever desired, brown eyes burning into green with such a fierce smoldering of love that Harry nearly stepped backwards to regain himself. Ginny slowly rose from her chair at the table, leaving behind the napkin she was crafting into a lily. She flew at him faster than Harry was prepared for, and they both stumbled backwards as Harry's face burrowed into her red hair.
"Harry" was all he heard through the muffled sobbing into his shoulder, as he embraced her tighter and lowered them both onto the couch. Despite the years of turmoil and obstacles they had stuck together through thick and thin, although despite letters and broken conversations through a creaky modified wireless radio, nothing compared to the physical contact they had so long craved. A watery face lifted from his neck and cold fingers began to trace the sharp jawline that so yearned for this contact. Harry reached his hand and tangled it into Ginny's flowing locks, holding onto this moment like it was the last one he was ever going to get. As their lips touched, warm nostalgia flooded into Harry like blood through his veins, every sensation heightened as he took the feel of his girlfriend once again. They sprung apart as they heard the front door clash open, Ron bumbling in and heading straight for the table.
"Cor mum, you don't know how long I've been waiting for this" he exclaimed, slamming into his old place at the table.
"Ronald, don't be so rude. There's only an hour until dinner, don't spoil your appetite" Hermione reprimanded from the doorway as she stepped onto the threshold, yet the small smile on her lips gave away her amusement at the situation. Ginny smiled and ran into the arms of her remaining sibling, her joy at being reunited evident on her face. Her other brothers had already perished the year before protecting Diagon Alley from an insurgent of magical beast attacks. The twins' shop was torn apart as they sheltered the innocent shoppers from harm, Charlie burned to a crisp tackling a fierce Norwegian Ridgeback that was flaming the town from above. Bill spent his last moments fighting side by side with his goblin colleagues, a pact of trust against the dark forces that had taken years to forge.
It felt so unreal for them to all to be back, such a sense of normality in a time of complete and utter confusion. Despite searching for two years, one horcrux remained. The location of the last piece of the puzzle of Voldemort's mortality lay hidden, and out of reach, despite the effort of the three teens and Hermione's ruthless researching skills. The day they shared was one of laughter, a momentary relief from the war and a reminder of what Harry was fighting for, and what he had left to live for. His hand remained wrapped around Ginny's until that fateful moment.
"Check" Hermione declared smugly, arms crossed and a look of satisfaction upon her face. Ron scowled at the board before looking up to his girlfriend with a look of mirth on his face at her premature celebrations, believing she finally had the upper hand on her boyfriend who continually remained more skilled than her at the game. Ron shouted instructions to his remaining knight, who dutifully obeyed his orders, hopping over two pawns in the process.
The word died on Ron's lips as a shrieking wail pierced the darkening walls of the Burrow. Cups fell from Molly and Arthur's hands as they leaped to their feet, wands springing into their hands, as the teenagers rose from their seats.
"They're here," Arthur stated, his voice hoarse and cracked in fear. "They must have known"
"Can you run?" Harry quickly asked, "It's me they want. If I go it will distract them long enough for you to escape, take Ginny and get yourselves to Grimmauld place. It still has enough protections to keep you safe, and nobody can get in apart from us. We're the only ones left."
Molly glanced nervously at her husband, her hand gripped tighter on her weapon.
"Don't be silly Harry dear, we're going to stay right where we are. I might be getting old but I remember a trick or two with this old wand." The Weasley matriarch replied.
"Honestly Harry, we all knew it would come to this one day, you don't have to do this alone" Hermione smiled from across the room, a look of determination clear on her face as she mentally went over spells she had learned that could be utilised in battle.
Yet they didn't know it would come to how it would. Nobody did. Hermione's screams from the Cruciatus curse still rung in his ears, Ron's gurgled groans of pain as a cutting curse severed his neck as he leaped in front of the curse intended to hit Hermione. Molly and Arthur dropped like flies as the sharp light of the killing curse reverberated around the room. It had been just him and Ginny left, the heat of the battle stopped momentarily as they crouched behind the upturned sofa that provided brief respite from the duel.
Harry panted deeply as he tried to regain his breath, the remaining death eaters closing in on the two. He looked down into the eyes of the one girl who meant everything to him, and saw the pain and grief already marred on her face at losing the rest of her family.
"I'm sorry" He croaked, wiping away a tear from Ginny's face. He reached around his neck and pulled out the golden snitch that his headmaster had trusted upon to him in his death. The Hallow retrieved from it's interior months prior left behind a shell that acted merely as a sentimental reminder of the relationship he shared with his instructor. Yet Hermione had cleverly crafted each of them an emergency portkey to be activated only once in times of great need, the runes engraved on the surface held great power, capable of breaking through wards to ensure safety. He placed the pendant over Ginny's neck.
"Take it, it will take you somewhere safe, somewhere away from harm. When you get there, contact the remaining Order and tell them what happened. Do not come back for me, I'll come and find you. I promise."
Ginny understood the implications of the pendant around her neck, and knew that Harry would not be returning to her that night. The battering of the spell work was becoming more harsh against the weak shield they were huddling behind. Harry had spent his last years protecting her, and he would face death kindly knowing that she was alive and well.
"I love you more than anything in this world, Harry." Ginny whispered, "And I'm sorry too".
Their eyes met as she fiercely pressed her lips against his, every fibre of their beings clinging on to each other in that last moment. Ginny rose sharply from behind their solace, ripping the portkey from around her neck and throwing it onto the floor, near to the window of the approaching death eaters.
"Ginny, what are you doi-". Harry was cut off by Ginny's scream of INCENDIO.
The fire curse hit the enchanted ball and exploded with such ferocity that the south facing wall of the Burrow crumbled in resistance, the anguished screams of the enemies lasted only a second before they evaporated into thick piles of ash. Harry instinctively ducked for cover until the roar of the flames died down. He looked down into the face of Ginny, knowing he would never see that blazing look again in his lifetime.
The sun rose sharply against the remains of the family home that next morning, Harry remained curled around Ginny's body, eyes unmoving and brain unthinking. He did not know how he was going to go on, he had nobody left. He had nothing to fight for. What use was there in living if he had nobody, his mistakes had caused the death of everybody he loved. Oh he yearned for a chance to do it all again, there would be so much he'd change and so many lives he could save if he had just worked harder from the start.
He gripped his wand in his hand, laughing manically at the thought. After all this trying to escape from Voldemort's life attempts here he was, wand moving towards his face until the tip was pressed sharply into his forehead, directly above the scar that had taunted him his entire life. A flicker of guilt shot through his system remembering his father and mother's sacrifice to keep him in this world, but was quickly buried by his consuming grief at the loss of all he held dear. His mind flicked back to the feel of Ginny's lips on his, and the sound of her laugh, letting the feeling engulf him like he was about to cast the strongest patronus he could muster.
"AVADA KEDAVRA" Harry shouted into the empty room. A blinding green flash surrounded Harry, a momentary feeling of peace came over him before blackness took him, all feelings and emotions left behind in a world that had lost so much in such a short space of time.
The chosen one was dead.