Disclaimer: I do not own Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, or any other character or element from the Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling does, and I'm thankful she is allowing me and other writers to play in her sandbox.
"Harry!" The voice, thick with badly hidden worry, started to bring him around. A light slap or two to his cheek to finish the job followed, causing him to groan as he tried to open his eyes. The unnaturally bright light hurt his eyes and made him suddenly, painfully, aware of his pounding headache. Someday, Harry thought, I'll have to learn to not get knocked out.
Oh. Ginny. "Head hurts."
Ginny muffled a sob, which could have been from sadness or relief, he wasn't sure which. "It worked, it all worked, just stay awake…"
Slowly, he managed to recall how he'd wound up unconscious. He and his friends had located the last Horcrux. They'd used taking their N.E.W.T. exams as a pretext to return to Hogwarts and then, once the students returned home, brought it there. That drew Voldemort out, but for once to a time and place of their choosing. He waited until the last possible moment to destroy it, then began a duel to keep Voldemort from escaping and making more. That, however, was as much as he could remember. Someone – probably Ginny – had brought him away. It was quiet now, making him wonder if the battle was over.
The sickening thought that perhaps it wasn't made him try to open his eyes again. The light was still too bright to him, but the headache was letting up. He eased himself onto his side, and Ginny gave him back his glasses. Once he got them back on he saw that they were at the front of an empty classroom. She was kneeling beside him, hair and robes askew and both their wands in her hand. "Is it over?"
Ginny gave a small nod. "We're still finishing up, but… Harry, You-Know-Who, he…"
"He what, Ginny?"
"He's still alive." She swallowed. "They're keeping him in some sort of coma until they decide what to do with him."
Harry's mind roiled at that. He'd waited seven years to hear that sort of news, and wasn't too keen on becoming a killer, but it would be so much simpler if Voldemort hadn't survived. The situation wasn't over. Yet, what was left was far less likely to land him or his friends in the infirmary, or worse. He had to be grateful for that.
"And what about Ron and Hermione, and everyone else?" Harry pushed himself to sitting and felt his stomach clench with worry as he waited for an answer.
"They're all right, dear." Mrs. Weasley was at the doorway, eyes wet with tears. "Just on watch." She could move remarkably quickly when she wanted, and almost before he knew what was happening she had him wrapped in a tight hug. "And what about you? Any injuries Poppy should see to? Oh, I just can't believe it all…"
He allowed himself to just enjoy the comfort of her hug, which was the closest to a mother's he really knew, for a moment before he replied. "I'm fine, just a couple bruises." He paused. "What about everyone else?" Even as he said it, his heart sank. It was impossible that everyone survived.
She released him, and didn't speak for a long moment. "Moody, Hagrid, and the Longbottom boy didn't make it, and Tonks - well, they're doing everything they can for her. We'll just have to see."
Harry spent the next several hours seeing for himself that Ron and Hermione were all right, visiting friends in the infirmary who had taken more significant injuries, and helping clear away debris. He wanted to see Lupin as well, but – as Harry suspected – he had accompanied Tonks to St. Mungo's. Ginny handed Harry a plate of food at about 10 'o' clock, which he ate mechanically under her watchful eyes. Finally, when he couldn't help it anymore, he dragged himself up to his old dormitory and fell into an exhausted sleep.
The next morning after breakfast, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny made their way up to the boys' dormitory in order to talk privately. The main floors of the castle still resembled an armed camp – and a crowded one at that – more than anything else. They settled themselves on Ron's bed and Hermione, her hair still mussed from sleeping on it, tossed the morning's Daily Prophet onto the bedcovers. "It didn't take them long, did it?" she said flatly.
Harry slid the paper around so that he could read the headline.
POTTER PREVAILS AGAIN!
The article that followed didn't give many details of the battle itself, despite taking up most of the front page. While it acknowledged the efforts of the others who had fought, especially the Aurors and other Ministry personnel, the overall slant of it was such that it gave the impression Harry single-handedly defeated Voldemort and locked him away.
Ron, who'd leaned closer to read it himself, swore under his breath. "Now they'll really be calling you the Chosen One."
Harry sighed, knowing Ron was right and at a loss to do anything about it. For the last two years the press had been outright encouraging people to see him as a potential savior, and now – or so the story went– he was one. Proven and anointed. It seemed so easy for the public to forget all the help he'd had, even when people had died giving that help. If he tried to explain that to a reporter though they would take it as an instance of becoming modesty in a hero rather than the simple truth.
Continuing on down the page, he found that the battle's casualties – Hagrid, Neville, Mad-Eye, and a couple of Aurors Harry didn't know – were listed in a separate article in smaller print. Although he'd been more sad than angry earlier, the casual dismissal of their sacrifice brought him to a boil. "Looks as though they don't think Hagrid and Neville and the rest merited much notice," he said sharply.
Ginny, who'd seated herself next to him, slid a hand onto his back and started making slow circles with it. Her vivid red hair slipped forward over her shoulders with the movement. "We'll let people know differently."
He was still angry, a few words not enough to end that, but as usual she'd known the right thing to say. No plans came immediately to mind, but there had to be something they could do. They'd managed to make the press work for them before, after all. He gave Ginny a tiny smile to acknowledge her point.
"I talked with Professor McGonagall for a few minutes during breakfast." Hermione hesitated. "She heard from Professor Lupin. Tonks is still in bad shape, but she made it through the night and seems a little stronger."
"That's great news," Harry said, meaning it. The relationship between his former teacher and an Auror nearly fifteen years his junior surprised Harry at first, and wasn't always smooth, but they had managed to carve out a certain amount of happiness despite the war. They deserved time to really be together, not losing each other just when things were getting better.
Hermione resettled herself on the bed. "It is, isn't it?" she said, more confidently. Then, she glanced at her watch. "Ginny – we're supposed to relieve Luna and Professor Sprout in five minutes!"
Ginny scrambled off the bed. "It can't be that late already."
"It is." Hermione groaned, sliding off. She gave Ron a quick kiss goodbye, and moments later both girls were out the door.
Once they were gone, Ron gave Harry a long look. "So, what happens now?"
"I don't know. I suppose it depends on how long it takes to round up the rest of the Death Eaters," Harry replied. Most lost their will to fight when Voldemort was defeated, but 'most' was far from 'all'.
"I meant between you and my sister, Harry." It had taken a very large amount of Firewhisky, but Harry eventually confessed late last summer why he and Ginny were no longer going out. Harry was also rather sure that the only reason Ron hadn't killed him that night was he'd been too drunk to manage it.
For nearly a year, from after Bill and Fleur's wedding to just over a week ago when he returned to Hogwarts, Harry had no contact with Ginny. To avoid the Death Eaters, he, Ron, and Hermione stayed away from places – like the Burrow – they might be expected at and sent no messages. He had longed to let someone back home know they were all right, but any message could be traced. The separation might have allowed his feelings for her to fade, but they hadn't. When he was away he had thought of her every day, and now that he was back he still found himself staring whenever she entered the room. He couldn't, however, say all that to her brother. "I still fancy her, Ron… a lot… but we haven't even caught our breaths yet and I don't know for certain if she still wants me."
Ron grabbed the newspaper and refolded it. "Well, I would say that backrub she was giving you was a clue."
Harry's heart leapt at that. Two days before Ginny had still kept her hands to herself with him. "Let's say you're right – you probably are. It's still been a year since we went out, and I don't want to force things."
"Fair enough," Ron agreed. "Just don't wait too long."
No, he wouldn't do that, Harry decided as the images of Michael Corner and Dean Thomas, Ginny's ex-boyfriends, came vividly to mind. Fate was giving him another chance with Ginny, free and clear as never before, and he was damned if he was going to screw that up.