A/N: I do not own any of this, as I have stated in my profile - this is for entertainment only - no profit is being made off of this or any other fan fiction I have written - and no animals were injured in the writing of this story...
May 2, 1998
The light from the wands faded. The screaming stopped. Voldemort collapsed to the ground, and then the remains of his body burst into flames. Harry stares at the spot where his nemesis had occupied unto the fateful exchange of curse and spells. He stared for a moment. He could hardly believe he had done it, he had defeated Riddle, he had survived. Once again he was the Boy-Who-Lived, and once again he had defeated Voldemort, this time he was sure that the Dark Lord had been vanquished for good. There was a hush around the great hall as everyone, Order members, Aurors and Death Eaters all stopped and stared at the site before them. The war was over. The Death Eaters witnessed their leaders demise, the Order witnessed their hero do the unthinkable again.
The Order members quickly took the advantage on the remaining Death Eaters who were in utter shock at the site before them. Harry sunk to his knees in exhaustion and relief. Harry's friends all wanted to come to his side, but they knew there was important work to do as they had to deal with their captured foes and clean up from the destruction, gather the dead and heal the injured. Harry slowly rose to his feet and looked around and he was amazed at how quickly the Order had taken over the situation and how quickly things were professing. He knew he had done his job, he had done everything that was asked of him. He felt he had nothing more to give. He took the Elder Wand and the wand he had obtained from Draco Malfoy and he placed them both in his pocket.
Slowly he started to leave ad walk out of the hall. He paused as he glanced at the growing pile of dead, and particularly the bodies of Remus, Tonks and Fred. He glanced to one side and he saw Ron holding Hermione in his arms. He noted Neville standing with Luna and Ginny. He kept walking out of the hall. Harry continued to walk alone, allowing tears of exhaustion and tears of anguish to flow freely, as he headed towards the lake.
Harry sat himself down under a tree looking at the lake, alone in his thoughts as he let all of the emotions he was feeling wash over him. Anger at the those who supported Riddle, guilt over the deaths of so many, especially those who were close to him, relief that everything was over, But mostly he felt alone.
Harry thought about the Weasley family, how much they must be hurting with the loss of Fred. The closest thing he had to a family and now that family would never be the same. Harry began to blame himself for the loss and pain that they must be feeling. He knew deep down that Hermione would tell him he was being foolish to have such thoughts, but he still remembered Voldemort's renouncement to everyone before he entered the Forbidden Forest to "turn himself in, that all who had died had done so for Harry Potter. The war wasn't just about Harry Potter and Voldemort but Harry still felt that he had to shoulder some of the blame for those that lost their lives. He considered the possibilities. If only he had figured out the horcruxes and their locations sooner. If only he had found a different way to confront Voldemort. If only he had been smarter then so many of his friends would not have died. Friends, he seemed to be losing even the few friends he had. He felt he had lost all sense of family, of belonging. He never felt at home with the Dursleys, they hated him, the resident freak. He had no idea what became of his aunt and uncle and cousin after members of the Order spirited them away last July. He wasn't sure that he even cared at this point. The closest thing he had to a real family was his godfather, Sirius Black, who was taken from him by Voldemort's psychopathic aide, Bellatrix Lestrange. Then there was the Weasleys. Ron was his first real friend. They had been the closest thing to a true family for him, and now that family was torn apart by the death of Fred. And Harry could nobly blame himself for this.
And then there was his friends. His two closest friends who had each other. He noted how they were holding each other when he left the great hall. He tried to be happy for them, but the more he thought about it, the more he realised that he would no longer have much place in their lives. He would obviously be the odd man out. He sighed as he thought about Ron. Ron who was the first to be friends with him, but who also was quick to abandon their friendship, whether it be at the beginning of the Tri-Wizard Tournament or even this past year when they were hunting horcruxes. Ron was not always a faithful friend. A not so faithful friend who had his arms wrapped around the one person who always stood by him thought everything. Hermione had always been there to support him. Never blindly, for he was sure that she would always let him know exactly what she thought about anything, as she had done so many times. He thought about the times she would get mad at he and Ron over the decisions they made, or even just Harry for what she referred to as his foolish need to always be right, to always take the problems of the world on by himself. She was honest and she was caring. He wondered how he could go in life without that support from his best friend. He considered the fact that he would have to learn how to cope with life without her, as she was with Ron. He tried to comfort himself with the thought that at least his future should be a whole lot less dangerous and a whole lot less eventful now that the war was over and Voldemort was defeated. Maybe he could get by without her. He shed a tear as he realised that he was lying to himself if he actually thought that would be the truth, that he could get along just fine without her.
Then he thought about Ginny, He had missed her during much of the past year. He was anxious about finally seeing her when he arrived at the Room of Requirement. But as the battle began and he knew he had to go to his death at the hands of Voldemort he thought about how much she had done during the past year, leading the DA with Neville and without him. She had grown up this past year, and he considered that she had proven that she was a strong and independent young woman who would not need to wait around for Harry or for any man. He knew she would move on in her life without him, and he started to wonder if she already did. His thoughts about Ginny were that of an approving older brother, and he concluded that he no longer had the desire for her that he had the year before. He contemplated if his desire for her was fuelled by the fear he had of the future, of the coming battle. Now that the battle was behind him had no longer felt the longing for her.
He considered the rest of his friends. Neville, Luna, Seamus. They had all fought together as the DA without Harry and Hermione to lead them. They had their family, or what was left, to go home to, but Harry still only had an empty dark house at Grimmauld place, with memories of his departed godfather and a grouchy old house elf. Harry stood up and stretched his arms and legs. He realised he was sore. He had never been this sore after the most gulling of Quidditch matches. He twisted form side to side to loosen his back. He turned and looked back at the castle. It was still majestic, despite the obvious damage caused by the war. It was the first place he felt he had a home. Now it was full of memories of pain and death. With everything he had been through over the past seven years, he doubted he could ever go back. The weight of the anguish and the sadness that everyone must be feeling became his new burden. He knew that no one, none of his friends and none of the survivors would understand the guilt and responsibility he felt. He knew he needed to rest and he knew he did not want to be disturbed, so there was only one place he could go.
Harry disapparated to 12 Grimmauld place. He was exhausted and he knew he did not want anyone to bother him. The last time he was here was when he and Ron and Hermione were escaping from the ministry and the fidelius charm was broken as Yaxley had arrived with them. Harry had no idea what he would find. He entered the home and briefly held his eyes closed not sure what to expect. He opened them and he was surprised by several things. One, there was no screaming portrait, two there was no horrible musty smell, and three there was no Dumbledore phantom charging at him. Harry looked more closely and he was surprised that the house was clean, and bright. He started to search the house, he found no evidence that anyone had been here recently, but it also looked completely different from when he was staying here last fall before they were forced to begin the prolonged camping trip. Harry went into the kitchen which was cleaner than he had ever seen a kitchen. Harry started to worry that someone had moved in and taken over his home.
A loud 'pop' startled Harry and he turned to see an old and weary Kreacher appear before him. "Master has returned," croaked the ageing house elf. "Yes, I have, Kreacher," replied a shocked Harry. "Could you tell me what happened? What is going on?"
"Master and the blood traitor and the mudblood didn't return. The protective charms were broken. The former friends of Master Regulus arrived. They blasted the house, looking for you and looking for something Master Regulus took. They were looking for the locket. Kreacher could not stop the filthy wizards from destroying the house. Master Regulus' room was destroyed. Master Harry's room was destroyed. The furniture was destroyed." Harry noted that Kreacher had started to cry. "Kreacher is an old coward, and could not fight them all. Kreacher stayed hidden in the kitchen, which they also destroyed. Kreacher came out after they left and started to repair the house. Too much was damaged. Kreacher is sorry that the house could not be returned to its former glory. Kreacher could only do so much with the house."
Harry felt sympathy for the old elf, an odd emotion he thought as he remembered how horrible Kreacher had initially treated the three of them when they arrived last summer. Then Harry thought about how Kreacher started to treat them all better the more Harry showed kindness to Kreacher. Harry wasn't sure that it would be safe to give the old house elf a hug, so he just spoke as gently as he could. "Thank you Kreacher, the work you did, what I have seen so far, it is marvellous. I am very happy with what you have done."
Kreacher tried to give a smile to his master, but his aged and wrinkled face just made a hideous expression that would have made any child who had the misfortune to see it scream in terror. "Is master going to be staying long?" asked the tired elf.
"I don't know," Harry answered honestly. "I think I will be here for at least a little while and I will be able to come back more easily. Kreacher, the people who caused Master Regulus to suffer and die, they are dead. The war is over. Master Regulus is avenged. Ron and I, we were able to destroy the locket which helped us to kill the Dark Lord."
Kreacher looked up into Harry's eyes and reached forward and gave Harry a hug. "Thank you master Harry. You have made Kreacher a happy elf."
Once again Harry was amazed by the old elf. "Kreacher, I am very tired and I need to go sleep. Also, I don't want to be disturbed. Do we need to recast the protective wards?"
"Kreacher made the wards so only Master Harry can enter," he said softly. "Bad men will not come back and destroy the house. Crazy wicked lady will not come and destroy the house."
"That's very helpful, Kreacher," said Harry with genuine thanks. "Can you change the wards to allow anyone to whom I choose to give permission to be able to enter?"
"Does master want the mud-blood," Kreacher started to say and then stopped himself. "Does master want the Herme girl and the red headed slob to be able to enter like before?"
Harry was again surprised to hear the bigoted old elf correct himself and stop referring to his friends as "the mud-blood and the blood traitor." Harry thought for a moment and then he added, "You can allow Hermione to enter, but don't change that until tomorrow. Otherwise, for now, please do not change the wards. I think it will be best for now to keep it this way."
With that, Harry trudged upstairs to his room, and found a clean room, a large bed with covers that were actually in Gryffindor colours of red and gold. Harry wondered if Kreacher could ever stop surprising him. Harry climbed into the bed after stripping down to his underwear. He was asleep within minutes as the sheer exhaustion of the past days, the entire year even, overwhelmed him.
At Hogwarts castle, the school staff, the Aurors and the Order members were working together to straighten up. The mourning families and friends knew that they had to prepare a place for everyone to be able to share meals and begin the work of recovering from the ravages of the war. The dead bodies were paladin stasis, to be able to be retrieved by family and loved ones to arrange for funerals. The Aurors and Order members who were able to work with rounding up the Death Eaters who had surrendered and tried to find a way to deal with them.
The Weasley family as a whole seemed to be in a daze as they dealt with the loss of Fred. George was not speaking to anyone, acknowledging any questions only with a simple nod yes or no. Ginny had tried to comfort him and was glued to his side. Ron and tried to talk with Hermione Granger as she had gone of in search for Harry. She had just found Harry sitting under a tree by the lake and she was about to go to him when Ron grabbed her by the arm.
"Let him be, Hermione," he said, "he needs time to be alone." Ron then stepped forward and embraced Hermione to giver her a kiss. Hermione noted out of the corner of her eye that Harry had just apparated away. Then she pushed Ron away from her, realising that she had no desire to be embraced by him.
"Not now Ron," she snapped, "I can't handle that right now." She then turned away form Ron and stared at the now empty spot under the tree where Harry had just been. She wondered where he may have gone to and if she should try and find him.