„We should dispose of the body," Kingsley said, casually, nodding towards a desolate side chamber of the Great Hall.
„You are right, Royal," Minerva McGonagall replied, with a warm smile on her face, as if fond feelings to those still alive could expel the bitterness and grief caused by the one wizard whose body they were discussing.
Two days had passed since the Battle of Hogwarts, two days during which the bodies of heroes and foes had been taken back to their families so that they could be buried. Harry remembered meeting the Creevey parents, he had to bear a hero's treatment from them despite he failed to protect their eldest son. Dennis, the surviving younger one, had insisted that he come to the muggle meeting ground so that the parents could at last (at least) see the one for whom Colin had fought to the death. Harry had never liked the fame that went with "The Boy Who Lived", but that particular hour, he had desperately wished he could just wrap himself in his father's cloak and escape, unnoticed.
Fred Weasley's funeral was something he just wished he could avoid, as well, but running away would have been rude on a completely different and personal level. And the same day, holding little Teddy during Remus and Tonks' service broke his heart yet again.
Hermione had left immediately after, as she had to find her parents in Australia. She had borrowed the Elder Wand for restoring their memories, understandably she wouldn't do it with the one that had once belonged to Bellatrix, but the Hallow being out of his reach also meant that Harry would later have to visit Dumbledore's grave so that he could put it back to its final resting place. At least, in the forest after taking his second Killing Curse, he got to say a proper goodbye to the Headmaster. He had lost too many people with whom he should have spent more time with. And the losses of other survivors around him also reminded him of the words 'you let your friends die for you'. Despite finally being rid of the soul fragment of the most evil wizard of the century, he feared that line would stay with him just like the lightning scar from their first encounter. (The time when his mother had died for him. At least she had a choice after Wormtail betraying the family.)
He ate his lunch quietly at one of the few tables that had remained after the battle. Houses no longer had their own, Hall-long tables, nor did the teachers have their own in the far side of the room. There wasn't need, either, as many students had fled (some under the Carrows, some during the fight) and some had been killed.
It was in this new mixture of children, students and ministry officials that he caught the dialogue between the freshly appointed Minister of Magic and the freshly appointed Headmistress of Hogwarts. It was easy to realise just whose corpse they wanted to dispose of. The fallen Death Eaters, mostly purebloods, had a family of some sort. Even that little that remained of Bellatrix Lestrange had been claimed by her sister Andromeda Tonks, and been laid to rest somewhere with the ancient Blacks. The only body nobody was inclined to display any relation to was that of the last Slytherin descendant, Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Harry put his spoon down.
"Professor... ehm, Headmistress. Sorry, this will take some getting used to."
"Please, call me Minerva," the lady offered.
"Thank you, Headmi... Minerva. Hi, Kingsley."
"What is it, Mr Potter?"
"I think, through Cadmus Perevell," (and through a now-gone soul connection) "I am Tom's only known relative."
"Tom's?" Kingsley frowned.
"Voldemort's," Harry corrected himself. "I have already faced him when he was alive, professor. If somebody has to bury him, that should be me."
Shock was written on their faces.
"We don't want his grave to work as any sort of a memorial, or a gathering place," Shacklebolt pointed out. "Dead as he may be, that could still give us trouble."
"Maybe in the forest," the Headmistress (no, Minerva) suggested.
Harry nodded. That would be matching, to bury Voldemort somewhere near the place where he had unknowingly killed the horcrux in his opponent, the one 'marked as his equal'. "Neither can live while the other survives.'
"Thank you, Professor McGonagall."
It was a quiet, unremarkable act of final mercy. Harry used his wand (one and only brother of Tom's) to dig a grave, then he ended the levitating charm and slipped the lifeless body into the hole. There was no coffin, it would have been too obvious, and they all wanted to avoid attention. A piece of simple black wool fabric was used, with Slytherin's coat of arms embroidered in one corner.
"I know I have said it before, but I am sorry for you," Harry finally muttered. "You were a victim like so many of us, never known love, never received its real comfort." The young man took down his glasses so that he could wipe his face. "You were scared of death, because loved ones stay with us but you never had anybody to stay with... and never had anybody to stay with you. Not that it would be an excuse for all you've done," he added.
In the end, Voldemort had every right to fear his own death, Harry had seen and remembered the wretched form of an oversize baby that had been covered in nothing but blood at King's Cross, or whatever that place had truly been. "May you find some sort of peace," he added, as he started covering the plain black textile with the soil he had previously removed from the ground. "Sirius says it's quicker and easier than falling asleep. Or that's what it could have been; I know it was a struggle for you. Rest in peace, Tom. Rest in peace, Voldemort." He didn't suppose that forgiveness would mean anything to his archnemesis, not when even love had no meaning to the man, but magic was all about intent. And he wished he could have at least spared his opponent's soul.
After a few more minutes, when the grave was almost completely filled up, Harry paused again. Kingsley had made it very clear to him that Voldemort's final resting place should be unmarked, but then again, a wizard was supposed to be buried with his wand, and the yew piece had been given up for the Hallow that had served him no better. So Harry had brought a yew sapling instead.
When the tree was in place and the soil properly covered the roots, Harry watered it with an Aguamenti spell, watching as the flood of water from his wand shimmered in the rays of the setting sun. When he was done, he turned around and walked away, determined not to look back. The lights of the damaged castle were already glowing in the distance when he spotted something on top of last year's fallen dead leaves. It was an ugly black stone, with an eye-like carving on one surface.
Aware that it would only show loved ones and never return them properly, Harry grabbed the Stone of Resurrection, and buried it near the last known descendant of Cadmus Perevell. That tiny pebble had helped him gain strength to go down the path when it was necessary, so he had a faint glimmer of hope it would do the same for Tom who had feared death more than anything. If not, it was still fitting to bury a part of an empty horcrux along with Voldemort's body; the rest of those had already been destroyed and he had seen Hagrid burying the decapitated snake.
With that last task done, Harry lit his wand and left the forest for good.