Progress Notes: A/N: Due to my writing style, I write the chapters first for which the mood takes me. As a result, I have chapters 1 and 2 posted and 5, 6, and 7 written. Chapters 3 and 4 are coming, but unfortunately school commands a lot of my time. I will get them up as quickly as possible.
Harry walked over to where the Weasley family lay huddled over Fred’s body, hastily at first and then slowing down, as if the quickness of his approach would prevent the family from grieving properly. He stopped several feet away behind Molly, Ginny and George Weasley. George was crouched to his mother’s left, while Ginny was holding tightly onto her mother’s right arm. As if alerted by his presence, Mrs. Weasley suddenly turned around, looking at Harry slowly from top to bottom, her tear-stained cheeks glistening in the sunlight issuing from the holes through the castle wall. Harry felt as though he and Mrs. Weasley would stare at each other for years before her face decided on one of the thousands of emotions she felt that moment. Stretching out her arms and crying harder than Harry had seen her cry in the six years that he had known her, Molly took Harry into her arms, hugging the young man so hard that Harry thought he would have permanent imprints of her hands on his shoulders.
Looking first at Fred’s body, with his last joke etched across his face, Harry then turned his gaze to the rest of the Weasleys. Arthur was looking straight down, holding his son’s lifeless hand in his. George was wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt, his shiny cheeks betraying the tears he had shed over his twin. Percy had taken off his jacket and folded it neatly before placing it under his brother’s head. Bill and Charlie sat on either side of their father, not saying anything, both keeping their hands firmly on Arthur’s shoulders.
Ron had just entered the Great Hall with Hermione, their arms around each other’s shoulders, a look of exhaustion with the not-so-faint hint of jubilation playing on their faces. Was it that they finally had each other now or the outcome of the early morning that made them so clearly happy? Whatever the reason was, what seemed definite was that there was finally time—time for so many things, for so many people, things that seemed so bleak and faraway before this morning.
Stopping short several feet away from his family, Ron’s smile faded when he saw his family huddled on the floor. Then he saw him—his brother’s smiling, lifeless face. Ron had been there when Fred was killed, but had driven it from his mind temporarily as the battle progressed. The suddenness of this scene struck him as if he had fallen onto a Blast-Ended Skrewt in his sleep. As his eyes widened, he turned to Hermione, her eyes now full of tears.
“Oh, Ron,” she managed to squeak out as the two of them hugged each other fiercely, sobbing unashamedly, Hermione into Ron’s chest, and he into her hair.
Taking Harry’s shoulders and pushing them gently away from her body, Molly Weasley had stopped her heaving sobs. “Come then,” said Mrs. Weasley. “Let me have a look at you,” she said, a small smile creeping unto her face.
Harry looked exhausted and a bit disheveled. Bits of hair all over his head were pointing in all directions. This was, of course, how his hair had always looked, but perhaps it was the backdrop of the surrounding mess and hullabaloo in the Great Hall that made it seem particularly untidy. Dried blood stained an uneven line from his temple where the hinge of his glasses had cut, not but an hour before. His robes were tattered and shredded in places; his knee was stained red with blood, a result of his fall from the air after Voldemort’s Cruciatus Curse. Under his robes, his body was making a thousand promises of pain to come, once he’d settle down a bit and really let his pains wash over him. His friend and, as of the day before, the last remaining survivor of The Marauders, Remus Lupin, along with his wife, Nymphadora Tonks, were lying together several yards away, dead. And yet, with all of this, looking into Mrs. Weasley’s face and knowing that she was safe—that Arthur and Bill and Charlie and Percy and George and Ron and… and Ginny were safe—that there were survivors, that the battle was won, and that there was a tremendous bit to be thankful for, Harry couldn’t hide a grateful smile from the corners of his mouth and a watery look in his eyes.
Normally, had Molly Weasley seen Harry in this state, she would have fussed about him with the persnickety air of a parent who wanted nothing but her child to look his best, as always. But not now. Taking Harry’s face in both her hands, Molly looked at the young man and said, “Well done, my dear. You were… Harry, you were wonderful! Absolutely wonderful!” This last bit was echoed with rebounding chants of “Hear, hear!” from everyone in close proximity. Arthur and the boys were nodding their heads approvingly, and Ginny was simply looking at him with detached eyes.
“Harry… Oh, my dear Harry!” cried Mrs. Weasley. “We all owe you so much!”
“NO!” bellowed Harry quickly, fiercely. “You all fought this fight! You all did your part, and a tremendous part at that,” he said as he looked around, surveying the bodies of several dead Death Eaters and some unconscious others who were being bound with Binding Charms by Kingsley and Professors McGonagall and Flitwick. Behind him, students were conjuring stretchers, bringing the injured to one side of the Hall where Madam Pomfrey had set up a makeshift hospital ward, replete with beds and curtains. As the injured were moved from one side of the Hall to the other, Harry noticed the occasional strong kick aimed at the still bodies of Death Eaters splayed on the marble floor, the dead among them being pushed rather unceremoniously onto the front steps of the castle.
Molly didn’t argue with him. She simply looked at Harry with a mixed expression of wonder and pride. Harry had felt like another son to her, ever since that early morning almost six years ago when the boys had returned to the Burrow in the flying Ford Anglia. Now, this ‘extra son’ of hers seemed so extraordinary, so special…
Moments went by with nobody saying anything. All that could be heard was the din of “He’s gone! He’s gone!” issuing from countless people all around the Great Hall. Cho Chang walked toward Harry, no doubt to congratulate him, but never made it after she caught a reproachful stare from Ginny. Harry caught this out of the corner of his eye, but pretended he didn’t see anything. He only looked at Ginny with more intent than he had ever done. Sensing she was being watched, Ginny lifted her head; for a moment, their gazes locked, and Harry had the distinct feeling that everything in the universe—every answer to any question that he could ever want was locked behind those eyes. Every pang of emotion, every feeling of lust and longing flooded through Harry so quickly that he felt dizzy. Falling back a step from his kneeling position, Harry chocked it up to tiredness when everyone around him took notice, and seemed to jump to the conclusion that he had been severely hurt and needed medical attention.
“I’m fine, really. Just a bit tired,” Harry said in an effort to quell Mrs. Weasley’s insistence that he go straightaway to Madam Pomfrey.
“Harry, no more dawdling with us while you’re battered and bruised. We’re fine; you go take care of yourself for once, dear.” She said the last part with such kindness that Harry was almost ready to obey blindly when he suddenly remembered just how tired he really was.
“Erm—I’ll go to Madam Pomfrey, I promise, but—” Harry began.
“Oh, deary me,” cried Mrs. Weasley. “What am I thinking?! You’ll have to go to St. Mungo’s right away! They should be able to heal you quickly, I hope! Oh dear, oh dear. George—Bill—Charlie, help bring Harry to the gate where he can Apparate to St. Mungo’s. Wait! What am I thinking, Side-Along with him, will you dears? He needs all the strength he can—”
“Mrs. Weasley, really, I promise you I’m fine,” cut in Harry. “Just a bit scraped is all. Please, all I need is a little sleep. I’d really just like to go up to Gryffindor Tower and find my bed—” Harry stopped suddenly. His bed. His four-poster in his bedroom—the room he’d shared for six years with Ron, Dean, Seamus and Neville—he’d been away from it for so long. He missed it, in a way, almost as he missed Hedwig. Hedwig.
“Oh, all right,” said Mrs. Weasley. “But boys—go with Harry, won’t you? Bill—Charlie—take Harry by each shoulder—and Ron, dear, stay with him? In case he needs anything.” Harry knew there were some battles he just couldn’t win.
“I was fighting too, Mum!” Ron said emphatically. “I could be hurt, too, but you’re not ordering me off to St. Mungo’s, ‘cause I didn’t fight with old Moldyshorts back there!”
The first bit of laughter in some time broke out among the group of redheads all huddled together.
“No, no, of course dear, I didn’t mean to insinuate that you put up any less of a fight than— it’s just that, well—”
Ron looked expectantly at his mother for an answer and then at Harry, who couldn’t help but give a small smirk at the situation. Ron, who was not as pleased, frowned whole-heartedly.
“Well—” began Mrs. Weasley. “…Hermione, dear, won’t you go with them both? See to it that they rest properly, and—and—” she trailed off.
“Of course, Mrs. Weasley,” said Hermione. “I’ll see to it that both of them get their rest.” She looked at the two of them while saying this, the last word ringing with such a sense of urgency that both Ron and Harry straightened up and sauntered to her side at once, Ron’s expression noticeably more impish at the prospect of Hermione putting him to bed.
The three of them began walking away, amidst cheers and claps to the back from fellow survivors. They caught a smile and an approving thumbs-up from Professor McGonagall between shouts of “Incarcerous!” from her and Kingsley and Flitwick. Neville passed them, carrying a hurt Parvati Patil on a stretcher.
“Neville! You were brilliant,” said Parvati to a now-glowing Neville. He was turning pink. “He’s gone! He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone!” repeated Parvati.
“Yes, Miss Patil, Lord Voldemort is gone,” said Madam Pomfrey, relishing the opportunity to speak Voldemort’s name without fear. “But save your voice and lie down. Proper rest is of primary importance.” Harry couldn’t help but give a small laugh at this. Even after a year away from Hogwarts, some things, he knew, would never change.
They walked up one staircase, and then another, careful to jump one of the steps that was no longer there, having been blown apart during the battle. Going down one long hallway and then turning at the end, they reached the familiar portrait of the Fat Lady. She seemed inattentive, however, as she was engrossed in a conversation she was having with Sir Cadogan. At once, all three of them came to a sudden halt, all realising the same thing.
“None of us know the password,” said Hermione.
“Bugger,” said Ron. “I was right looking forward to seeing the common room again.”
“I don’t know about you two, but I could sleep right here in the hall,” said Harry. “I think I’d sleep just fine.”
“Deary me, Harry Potter!” said a voice. All three of them turned on the spot. The Fat Lady was looking at them, her hand clapped to her cheek, a dumbstruck look across her face. “I was wondering when I’d see you again.”
“Us too, I can assure you,” said Hermione. The Fat Lady beamed at her.
“I’m sorry,” said Harry. “But... none of us knows the password to get in.”
The Fat Lady chuckled.
“Oh, please, as if I would ask you to give the password, after all that you’ve done!”
“Um, excuse me,” said Hermione, “but how do you know? I mean, you were all the way up here, weren’t you?”
Another voice answered her. This time, it was the voice of Sir Cadogan.
“My dear witch, I daresay I was in the Great Hall when Mr. Potter here vanquished the worm. Put up a bloody good fight, he did—gave him a what-for if I ever did see one,” said Sir Cadogan. “Good show, my dear sir, good show!”
“Um,” said Harry. “Thanks.”
With a hearty smile from the Fat Lady, the portrait frame swung open, revealing the short tunnel leading to the Gryffindor common room. The common room felt thoroughly deserted and devoid of human presence. A good portion of the Gryffindors had, after all, migrated to the Room of Requirement, heading the cause against Snape and the Carrows. Harry ran his hands longingly over the back of the squishy chair where he’d spent so many evenings staring into the fireplace or talking with his friends. Nostalgia for this place—his first true home—was flooding his senses. Ron collapsed on a sofa facing the window that looked out over the grounds. Harry took this cue to collapse into the squishy chair while Hermione remained standing. None of them said anything, soaking up the scene of this beloved place. Hermione walked over to the window and peered outside. Sunlight was now pouring over the grounds, illuminating the full and terrible extent of the damage caused by the battle. The grass was singed in places, where wayward spells and hexes missed their mark. Patches of red stained the ground and steps, a red that Hermione could only assume was blood. The stairs were crumbled in places, and there was a great hole in the front wall that Hermione couldn’t see from her position in the room, but that she knew was there nonetheless. Witches and wizards, students, teachers, and parents alike were operating as a team, making repairs and separating the survivors from the dead, the good from the Death Eaters. From where she stood, Hermione could see Professor McGonagall leading the operation of piling the bodies of Death Eaters. She was giving orders to some students, pointing this way and that.
“Professor McGonagall is out there,” said Hermione after a long silence. “I think she’s leading a search party, looking for the other students and staff.” At this Harry jerked his head up from his chest. He had begun to get woozy.
“Snape,” he said. “His body is still in the Shrieking Shack. They have to know. They have to take him out.” A tear had found its way from his eye and was marking a zigzag down his cheek. Thinking for a moment about how he could notify them about Snape, Harry got up from the chair and walked over to the window, taking out his wand as he walked. Pointing it down at McGonagall, Harry cast a Patronus. The stag ran in a circle around the Deputy Headmistress before raising its head and muttering something Ron and Hermione couldn’t make out over the ruckus coming from below. Upon hearing the stag’s message, McGonagall looked up at the common room and gave Harry a low nod. She then called for Kingsley and the two of them spoke briefly before Kingsley walked off toward the Whomping Willow. Before he got there, he looked up at Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and he too nodded.
“You told them where Snape was, didn’t you,” said Ron.
“Yeah,” Harry choked out. It was about all he could say. He was overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of Snape’s body in the Shrieking Shack—all alone now, even in death.
Harry stood by the window for a bit, taking in the sight of the morning for himself before Hermione made her presence known. “Come on, let’s get to bed.”
“Yeah,” yawned Ron. “I’m going to fall asleep standing up if I don’t go soon.”
“We wouldn’t want that, would we?” laughed Hermione. Ron began to give a frown, which quickly turned to a boyish grin when Hermione put her hand on his arm and started to pull him toward the staircase leading up to the boys’ dormitory. “Are you coming, Harry?” asked Hermione, compassion in her voice.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll be up in a minute.” Relishing the chance to be alone for a moment, Ron and Hermione put their arms around each other and headed merrily up towards the boys’ dormitory. Harry wanted to sit in his favourite chair a minute more and take in the sight of this room with his sore eyes—and Merlin, they were sore. Sore. His whole body ached, and he was now fully aware of it with nothing to distract him from the pain that washed over his body. Essence of murtlap, Harry thought, and without thinking, he got up and trod the stairs leading up to the boys’ dormitory to ask Hermione if she had any essence of murtlap in the sack she’d been carrying with them for their whole journey.
Harry found the door to his old room ajar and heard Ron and Hermione bickering. At least that was what it sounded like at first. Not wanting to intrude, he decided to stay put at the door.
“Ron, I will not sleep in your bed with you!” said Hermione, half laughing as she swatted Ron’s outstretched arms. Ron was reclining on his bed, his back against the wall, his arms outstretched in Hermione’s direction. Hermione was sitting on the edge of his bed, not far from him.
“Come on,” pressed Ron. “I won’t do anything, I promise. Let’s just have a good lie in, shall we?”
“After everything we’ve been through, Ronald, I think I quite deserve a whole bed to myself, thank you very much. There are five beds in this room, I could have Dean’s bed, or Seamus’, or Neville’s—”
“Or Ron’s,” said Ron, a wry smile on his face.
Hermione looked exasperated; Ron maintained his smile, not breaking eye contact with the bushy-haired girl sitting opposite him. Hermione rose, opening her mouth as if to say something then closing it again after a short moment. Ron looked at her intently, and was caught completely off guard when she reached over and placed a soft kiss on his half-open mouth. His eyes, wide at first, began to relax and then close as he took in the entirety of his fortunate situation with unrelenting attention. He ran his hands over Hermione’s back as her body fell limp against his. Her hands found their way to his neck, and she was there, on top of him, kissing him hard.
What seemed like several long minutes went by before Hermione stood up, tearing herself away from the red-haired wizard lying beneath her. “Well,” she said, “sleep well Ronald.” Hermione then walked over to Neville’s bed and sat down, beginning to take off her shoes whilst never taking her gaze away from Ron, lying several feet away, a look of horror and utter confusion on his face.
After staring at him a moment, Hermione got off Neville’s bed and sauntered over to where Ron was lying. He was looking up at her with wide eyes and mouth agape, but he said nothing. “Oh, shove over, you silly sod,” said Hermione, laughter in her voice. Ron moved himself over on the bed, but continued to look at her as if he’d been Confunded.
“You really are pathetic, Ronald,” said Hermione, not bothering to hide the large smile firmly fixed on her face. Ron then smiled and let out a large sigh.
“I know,” he said, his eyes twinkling.
With the two of them no longer ‘bickering,’ Harry took this as his cue to enter. “Ahem,” he cleared his throat. Hermione jumped with a start, turning a deep shade of pink. “Uh, Hermione, do you have any essence of murtlap in your bag?”
Hermione looked positively flustered at first, but then after a moment, she got her bearings. “Murtlap—yes, of course,” she said. Her pink hue had changed to a most lovely shade of lilac. She bent down and rummaged through her bag for a few seconds, looking for that tiny bottle. Harry took the opportunity to shoot a glance at Ron. He had his hands crossed behind his head and was staring up at the ceiling dreamily. Harry smiled to himself as Hermione pulled out a small bottle and a sponge. “Use this to dab your wounds with Harry,” she said, emphasizing the sponge in her hand.
“Thanks a lot, Hermione.” Fully aware he had walked in on something, Harry wanted to leave the room as soon as possible. With a quick nod, he was on his way back out of the room to sit on the squishy chair and anoint his wounds. He would fall asleep in the chair as soon as he finished.
Upstairs, Hermione walked slowly back to Ron’s bed. Hesitant at first, she climbed in beside him, draping her arm over Ron’s stomach. Turning to her, Ron took her hand and kissed it. Now it was Hermione who wore a goofy grin.
“Hi,” said Ron, Hermione’s face reflected in his twinkling eyes. He took her hands in his and stared at her as if she was the only thing in the world that could possibly command his attention.