Ron and Hermione had gone off somewhere after they'd left the Headmaster's office, and Harry wasn't inclined to look for them. Neville was still in the Great Hall, at least as far as Harry knew, and Seamus and Dean might well be on Mars. It didn't seem important.
The real cost of the battle was starting to settle on him. Physically, the rush that had come when he'd come back from wherever he'd been between life and death was fading, leaving a kind of full body pain, a remnant of the curse that had killed him, or maybe a ghost of the part of himself that had been--thankfully--ripped away. He searched his mind for any difference in himself, any change in his personality, but he couldn't think of anything.
But the issue of what had happened to him seemed far away. The idea that Fred was gone, that Tonks was gone, and Lupin... all the questions he'd never had a chance to ask, and all the things they'd never see, were trying to crowd in, even around his weariness. He tried to sleep to shut all of it out, but sleep hadn't come. He lay in the dormitory in Gryffindor tower, in his four-poster bed, a sandwich Kreacher had brought him weighing heavily in his stomach, and simply tried not to think. He was home, but home had been changed, defiled somehow, and as noon approached, the battle seemed both less real and less effective. Voldemort was gone, but the damage was done, and nothing could ever really be repaired.
There was a soft knock at the door. "Harry?"
He blinked and sat up. "Ginny, is that you?"
The door opened and she came in, slowly but not tentatively. "I took a guess that you were here."
"I did tell Ron."
"No one's seen Ron and Hermione since they happened past the doors two hours ago."
Harry nodded. "I'm glad to hear that."
"Me, too," Ginny said. Her face was streaked with dirt and tears. She pulled a chair over and took Harry's hand. "I think it'll hit Ron later, that he walked past Fred."
"I think so, too," Harry said. "Taking a step back and really thinking about it... might have been a mistake." He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed them under his glasses. "I'm sorry about Fred, Ginny. I'm so sorry."
"What on earth are you sorry for? You took out the ones responsible for it."
"I don't mean sorry that way," Harry said. "I mean, I'm sorry that something painful happened to you. I should go down and be with your family."
"Don't," Ginny said. "We love you, and Mum and Dad know you're thinking of Fred, but if you went down there, it would be a mob, and you know it. Luna did a good job distracting everyone once, but they won't fall for it again. Let them batten on Neville for a bit. He didn't lose anyone he loved today, and he can handle it."
"Neville was brilliant."
"He's been brilliant all year," Ginny said.
"Oh. You and Neville... er..."
"What? No." Ginny rolled her eyes. "If I weren't bone tired and heartsick, I'd bother to be angry that you'd even imagine I'd leave you for anyone else, but I am, so I won't." She sighed and took his hands, pressing them against her face. Her skin was warm and when she pressed her lips against the heel of Harry's palm, some sort of peace began to settle in on him. "Neville and Luna and I have been working together all year, but that was never a question. I love you, Harry."
"I love you, too." He kissed her. "I thought of you all the time. I watched the Marauder's Map for you, just to see what you were doing. Just to see your name, and see you moving around."
"Well, I didn't have a map, but I promise I was thinking of you. And worrying about you. God, I'm glad I don't have to worry about you anymore, and you don't have to worry about me. We'll just be together. It'll be nice."
"That sounds so good."
"It does," Ginny said. "I think we should have a date. I'd like to walk along a beach with you, look up at the stars."
"I'd like to have a picnic."
"Or take in a show."
"Or have dinner at some fancy place. I never really wanted to do that, but it seems appealing right now."
"I'll wear a dress. Maybe some jewelry."
"I'd best scare up some clothes that fit, then."
She smiled and laughed softly. "We can do all of it now, Harry. And we will do all of it, when..." She looked over her shoulder and shuddered, and Harry thought--and guessed she was thinking--of the bodies lined up downstairs. They'd do it all, but not when death was still hovering around them, and everything would be tinged with grief. Ginny looked back at him. "I told Mum I'd get you back to the Burrow, if you want to go. You can get cleaned up. It might be easier to sleep if you clean up."
"Maybe. But it's not me being dirty. It's just... It's hard to be here. I half expected my bed not to even have appeared this year, with them owning Hogwarts."
"They never owned Hogwarts," Ginny said fiercely. "Not for a fraction of an instant. Everything that's truly Hogwarts rebelled against them. Hogwarts was always yours, Harry. And it always will be. Yours, and everyone's who fights for... for..." She hissed in a frustrated way. "I don't even have the word for what we fought for."
"Dumbledore would say it's 'love.'"
"Everyone thinks they're the ones who love, and the other side hates." She bit her lip. "I think it is love, but real love, not the sort of... oh, I can't think how to say it."
"Me, neither," Harry said, though he thought he knew what she was getting at. Every word sounded too high-flung--love, good, hope, perhaps even faith--but in the end, they were all the same, unnameable thing. It was a kind of simplicity and kindness that would never sound like a cause to fight for, but was the only one worth fighting for in the end.
"Home," he said.
She nodded. "Home." She reached out and took his hand, pulling him up from the bed. "We'll use the Gryffindor fireplace for a Floo. Most of the defenses have been knocked away, but I think the anti-Disapparition ones are probably still up. Come on. Let's get you cleaned up."
Maybe something soon after Harry moves in with Andromeda? for cheesy_romantic
Harry was sitting by the pond, Teddy in his arms, looking out across a low rise. Andromeda considered going inside--it had been a long day at work, her first since the funerals--but decided to go out to him instead. He looked up nervously when she approached (he was still a bit skittish about moving in with a near stranger), but said nothing.
She sat down beside him. "Did you and Teddy have a good day?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I can't remember the last time I took a whole day off. No Dark wizards, just dirty nappies." He smiled proudly. "I think I've got quite good at changing them."
Andromeda tipped her head to inspect the baby and said, "Yes, you're a pro. Quite handy. But do you mind...?" She held out her arms. "I need to hold him."
Harry passed the baby over (Teddy opened his eyes sleepily, then closed them again once he was safely in Andromeda's arms), then planted his elbows on his knees. "It's pretty here," he said.
"I've always liked it," Andromeda said. "Mother Tonks bought the house. When old Uncle Alphard left money to Sirius and to me, I used it to buy up some of the land around it. A buffer zone. It's often wise for us--for witches and wizards--to live in the country. No need for the sorts of security around Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place." She smiled faintly. "Of course, Dora always liked the city. She had a flat in Diagon Alley for a while, and of course, the Kensington flat she used when Remus was at Smeltings..."
"I don't know any of this. Not really. Dudley mentioned knowing him, but I really don't know the story."
"I suppose you wouldn't. I'll tell you all of it, eventually. I imagine Remus and Dora would have."
"I wish I'd made more time to talk to them."
"You had one very important talk with Remus," Andromeda said. "He credited you with getting him back on the road to being a human being rather than cringing away from his responsibilities."
"It wasn't a very pleasant conversation," Harry said.
"No, but it was a necessary one. He loved and respected you for it."
"He gave me the same sort of kick once when I was a third year. Told me I was throwing away my parents' sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks."
Andromeda smiled. "Well, your kick was more effective in getting him back to his wife than his was in keeping you out of trouble."
"I didn't want to stay out of trouble. He did want to go back to Tonks; he just needed a reason."
A twist of the grief-knife silenced Andromeda for a moment, and she waited for it to pass. As the weeks had gone on, the blade had become duller, the twists less frequent, but they were still incapacitating. She sat still until her stomach stopped churning, then said, "You know, Harry, the newspapers and magazines have spent a lot of ink talking about how bright your friend Hermione is."
"Yes, she is. But you'd think from them that you're just madly brave and willing to run into trouble. None of them mention that you're also quite wise."
"I'm not wise."
"You are, though. Of course, not believing yourself wise may well be the key to being wise. Certainly puts off the tendency to assume you're right about everything, which may make you more likely to be right."
Harry opened his mouth to say something, then shook his head. "Well, I can't argue with that. If I say I'm wise, it's silly. If I protest, it proves your point."
Andromeda grinned. "It's a Slytherin argument. No way out."
"Gryffindors aren't great debaters anyway, except for Dumbledore."
"I know. Neither are Hufflepuffs; they always try to find a compromise."
Harry looked out across the pond again, then said, "What do you think we should do about Slytherin house? There's been talk of changing it entirely. I don't think we should, but it's sometimes hard to make the case."
"I don't think you can abolish a personality, Harry," Andromeda said. "And I wouldn't look to Slytherin for the next trouble, anyway. The smart Slytherin families are going to spend the next few decades bending over backward to prove themselves loyal and keep their places in society. They could be quite useful."
"But if they're just doing it to prove something--"
"--then they'll be doing the right thing for the wrong reason. But that's better than not doing the right thing at all, and once they're invested in it, it'll become important to them, part of their self definition. It'll be dishonorable not to do the right thing. Embarrassing. And they're quite embarassed enough right now. You'd be surprised how many of my old House-mates have suddenly appeared. None of them are Death Eaters, but they're making damned sure to put in appearances with as many survivors as they can."
"A lot of Slytherin students didn't stay for the battle. That's one of the arguments people are using."
"And one to which I'm quite sympathetic," Andromeda said. "Do you think I wouldn't have rather had the Parkinson girl risking her life than Dora?" She shook her head. "But what's done is done, and if anything, it's made them more embarrassed. And, for what it's worth, the adults in the battle weren't quite so lopsided, once you get out of Gryffindor. Ex-Ravenclaws, ex-Hufflepuffs, and ex-Slytherins all showed up. People have been careful to see that I know that, too. And I'm careful to make sure you know it."
"So you don't think anything needs to be done?"
"I think you already did it. You defeated the thing that was eating away at the core of Slytherin. Let the rest of the infection clear out, and they'll be their usual charming selves in a few years--sly and sneaky, but not hateful."
Harry nodded. "That's what I thought, but all I could do was bring up Snape and Regulus as good Slytherins, and everyone else pointed out that they wouldn't have had a chance to do what they did if they hadn't joined the Death Eaters in the first place."
"Thus proving that even Death Eaters are redeemable, if they have any sort of remorse. Which is a big consideration, as most of them don't." Andromeda shrugged. "If you have to have the argument again, let me know. I'm happy to make it."
They sat in silence for a while, and Andromeda shifted the baby in her arms. His nappy seemed bit heavy. She smiled at Harry and pointed at the nappy. "Now," she said, " think you'll need to give me a full demonstration of your expertise in this area..."