Harry closed the door to Dumbledore’s office and stepped onto the spiral staircase, which automatically sprang into action and started to drift down, Ron and Hermione at his heels. Thoughts swarmed through his head. He had died tonight, but here he stood, still breathing, while his lifelong enemy and so many others did not. No more running, no more hiding; it was all finally over.
The usually long ride down to the foot of the stairs came to an end sooner than he expected. As he took his first step off the staircase as a free man, without a prophecy looming over his head, the adrenaline that had powered him throughout the night suddenly ceased and the overwhelming fatigue that had built up over the past year overtook him. With his remaining strength, he walked over to a window and hoisted himself up on the sill, his bruised and worn body deciding that enough was enough.
“Mate, are you all right?” Ron asked. Harry smiled; he may not have done well in Divination, but he knew without a doubt what was going to happen next.
“Are you all right?” Hermione mocked, slapping Ron on the shoulder. “Honestly, Ron. We’ve been through the battle of our lives and Harry died last night. Of course he’s not all right.”
“Sorry that I care about how my best mate’s doing,” Ron retorted as two splotches of red appeared on his cheeks.
Harry couldn’t help it. A weak but true laugh escaped from his mouth. Some things would never change. Hermione and Ron stopped their bickering and turned to look at him, small, sheepish smiles on their faces.
“Go on you two; get some rest,” he said, shooting Ron a knowing look.
“No, we’re staying with you,” Ron adamantly stated, oblivious to the fact that Harry was trying to give him and Hermione some alone time. Harry looked at Hermione, who rolled her eyes. Honestly, she thought, Ron can be quite incredibly dense.
“Come on, Ronald,” she said, tugging at his right arm. Still, Ron refused to leave; he had stuck by Harry through thick and thin and wasn’t about to abandon him now. Exasperated, she sighed and whispered something in his ear. Ron’s eyes lit up.
“Oh!” he exclaimed and turned back to Harry. “We’ll see you later, mate,” he added. The two linked arms and walked down the hall towards Gryffindor Tower. Hermione turned her head around and mouthed ‘thank you’ to Harry before turning back around to plant a kiss on Ron’s cheek.
Harry looked out the window at the sun rising over the lake. Amidst the rubble, it remained untouched, or so it seemed, by the destruction and chaos of the past several hours. Hermione’s voice crept into his head and said that was impossible, that every part of the castle had been damaged by the battle. His eyelids were getting heavy and right before he drifted off to sleep he told Hermione’s voice that it was possible: the lake was a symbol of their future, a symbol of hope.
Ginny lifted her head from her mother’s shoulder. It had been an hour since her brother, his girlfriend, and the boy she loved most in the world had left the Great Hall to do Merlin knows what. She had watched Harry disappear in a shimmery haze as Luna, bless her heart, shouted out something unintelligible and pointed to a corner of the Great Hall, where everyone turned to look. Half a minute later, Ron and Hermione rose from their seats and walked out of the Great Hall with the invisible Harry. One hour, Ginny had thought. After everything that’s happened this year, an hour is all I have left to give. After that, I will find him. I will find him. Now that hour was gone. She rose from her seat, turned to her mother, and started to open her mouth.
“Go ahead, dear,” Mrs. Weasley interrupted her before Ginny had a chance to speak. “I know you’ve missed him.” Amber and dark brown eyes locked. They both knew about which ‘him’ she was talking.
“Thanks, Mum.” She leaned over, placed a kiss on her mum’s cheek, and then left the Great Hall. Without conscious thought, her legs carried her up the winding, changing stairs to Gryffindor Tower. The Fat Lady was missing from her frame, no doubt celebrating with the other paintings, but the entrance was slightly ajar, so she walked in.
Only two people were in the common room and neither was the one for whom she was searching. Ron and Hermione were curled up together on a scarlet sofa in front of a dying fire. They looked so peaceful and content. Ron’s arm was wrapped around Hermione’s waist, while Hermione’s fingers were interlaced with his. A loud snore left Ron’s mouth and Hermione removed her head from his shoulder, opening her eyes with a yawn. Ginny turned to leave, but tripped over a chair.
Tonks must be rubbing off on me, she thought with a smile, but then stopped. Rubbed off, not rubbing, she mentally corrected with a frown on her face. A wave of sadness ripped through her body, but she pushed it down. Later, she told herself; I’ll think about this later.
“Ginny,” Hermione softly called. “Is that you?” Ginny turned around and walked back toward the two.
Only one word came from the redhead’s mouth: “Where?”
Hermione smiled. “Last time we saw him he was sitting on the windowsill in the hallway outside of the Headmaster’s office.”
“Thank you,” she replied and started to walk away, past Hermione and Ron, towards the door. Hermione grabbed her arm.
“Ginny…” she started to say, but stopped.
“What?” Ginny asked impatiently.
“Nothing.” Hermione leaned her head back on Ron’s shoulder. She obviously wasn’t going to tell Ginny anything now.
Ginny left the Tower and rushed as fast as she could to the location Hermione had specified. When she got there, she stopped. Curled up in a little ball, fast asleep, with his knees touching his chin was Harry, her Harry. His robes hung around him in shreds. His ebony locks were more tousled than usual and his right glasses lens had a long narrow crack in it. Bruises and scrapes plastered his arms and face. However, what stood out the most was the faint but visible smile across his face. Never had he looked as serene and at ease as he did at that moment.
She crossed over to the window and lifted herself onto the window next to Harry, trying her hardest not to wake him. Imitating her raven-tressed love, she curled up in a little ball and allowed herself to relax and fall asleep; she knew he was alive; he was still here with her.
A soft snuffling sound woke Harry from his slumber. Seizing his wand from his pocket, he jerked his eyes open and wielded it straight in front of him. Once he realised the source of the noise, he re-pocketed his wand. Sitting, and snoring, next to him was the girl of his dreams. Her red hair was pulled back in a messy bun. Scratches adorned her body, while dirt and grime clung to her clothing. Another soft snore flew from her mouth.
Like brother, like sister, he thought with a grin. Ron’s snoring was legendary in Gryffindor. After a particularly loud night, where no one in the dormitory but Ron got any sleep, Hermione had taught Ron a somewhat complicated Silencing Charm. It worked… well, like a charm. The next night, everyone slept in an easy slumber… almost everyone. Harry woke up in a cold sweat from a nightmare, but that had nothing to do with Ron. He had gone down to the common room to relax and found Ginny there; she had also had a nightmare and, like Harry, had gone down to the common room to seek some solace from the fire. She had fallen asleep on the couch and Harry merely watched from a squishy armchair. She snored too, he’d discovered. Ginny’s snores were much quieter than Ron’s, but still similar in the snuffling way they came out.
This is why I did it, he reminded himself, so that I could spend my life with this amazing girl, so I could watch her sleep and listen to her snore. He reached over to stroke her arm. Slowly tracing the scars on them, he wondered how she got them. There was so much he didn’t know about what had happened to her in the last year, in the same way that there was so much she didn’t know about what had happened to him. However, they had plenty of time to talk now. For the moment, he just wanted to hold her in his arms. He pulled her towards him and wrapped his arms around her. She blinked and looked up at him. A sleepy smile appeared on her face, one that he knew matched the smile on his own face.
As he brushed a lock of her hair out of her face, she shivered.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered.
“You’re really here, right? This isn’t some dream I’m going wake up from and you’ll be gone?” she asked, a trace of worry lacing her amber eyes.
His emerald eyes met hers. “No, it’s not a dream. I’m really here,” he promised.
He bent down and kissed her. It was a soft and gentle kiss but it was full of reassurance, love, and hope. He broke it off after a few moments and she leaned her head against his chest. His arms wrapped around her once more and they both sat there, soaking up each other’s presence before going back to sleep. And that’s exactly how Bill and Fleur, who on Molly’s orders were rounding up the family to return to the Burrow, found them some hours later, neither one having the heart to wake them. Instead, with a swish of their wands and a non-verbal spell, they floated the duo up to Gryffindor Tower, where the rest of the family was waiting.
Author’s Note: The title of this chapter was inspired by this quote: