The dust had settled on the ruins of the castle.
Funerals had happened, with mothers and fathers clutching each other and siblings wailing over the gravestones.
The sky had turned blue, as if the sun could wash away a world of fear, as if the death of Voldemort had taken away all the storms.
But it had not.
For storms left scars on the land, and the battle had left them on the people. Storm damage could be fixed with money. The scars on the children who had fought alongside each other would not be taken away that easily.
Harry and Hermione had moved in with the Weasleys, not having anywhere else to go. But the once loud and busy house had turned into a ghost, silent and strange.
No one mentioned the cries at night- they didn’t need to, not when each of them had their own nightmares. It was easier to pretend that each of them had slept, than question the bags under the eyes, the scorch marks by the doors from when they woke up, convinced an enemy was chasing them once more.
But that did not mean they did not talk.
Harry had loved Ginny before. Every time he saw her, his heart stumbled, and he wondered if his ears turned pink like Ron’s had started to with Hermione. But only a few weeks after the war, he was looking out the window at the full moon, when he saw her sitting in the garden below.
He was dressed and downstairs within seconds, walking up behind her a heartbeat later.
‘Its never going to be the same again, is it?’ She asked him quietly, and he wondered how many nights she had been out here, watching the stars. Waiting for Fred to walk back into the Burrow.
‘No.’ He sat down beside her. ‘But is that a bad thing?’ His hand went up to his scar as he spoke, a habit he had picked up after it had stopped hurting. Checking it was still there, checking it was not hurting.
‘I keep seeing him.’ A pause. ‘Tom. Riddle. I mean. It’s been years, but everywhere I look, I see him. Why, out of everyone, is he the one that won’t let me go? I want Fred back. I want George back, and instead I just get…him.’
‘He’s not real.’
‘I didn’t think he was back then, either.’
‘That was different.’ Harry reached out to her, curling her up in his arms as he stared at the moon, imagining a werewolf somewhere, one that would no longer have power over the man.
‘But what if he comes back and it’s my fault?’
‘He’s gone, Ginny. I promise you that.’ He closed his eyes. ‘I understand- Sometimes I think this is all a lie. Sometimes I think I walked into the forest and he did kill me, and maybe this is all in my head. Sometimes I think that maybe this is all a trap. That he is waiting around the corner. Sometimes I can still feel Bellatrix’s laugh. But then I look at you, and Hermione, and your mum, and Ron… and I realise…This is real. This is now. Voldemort has gone, and he will not take anything- I will not let him take anything else from us again.’
She didn’t say anything for a while. Not until he heard a sniff, then ‘I’m sorry.’
‘You lost Sirius. And Lupin.’ He had long ago told her who they were to his father.
‘We all lost people. But they are still with us. And at least they are together again. And one day, we will be there too.’ He had to believe that, especially after talking to Dumbledore, in the train station that was not a train station.
‘I miss him so much, Harry.’
‘I know.’ There was nothing else he could say. He remembered how she was so close to the twins, closer to them than any other of her brothers. So Harry held her, until the sun came up and the rest of her family found them out there.
Time passed. Summer turned golden. Christmas came and went, forgotten. Snow melted and flowers started blooming.
Harry had finally been able to face Sirius’ old house- his house- again, and had spent time cleaning it up and making it liveable. Sometimes, others would go with him, once or twice, people came from the Ministry and started clearing things that Harry couldn’t get off. The screaming portrait of Mrs Black was taken, after four wizards from different parts of the ministry pulled together to find a spell to remove it; getting it out of the house had taken all of them, and three memory charms on passing Muggles.
Nine months after the Battle and Harry was still with the Weasleys. He was ready to leave, but had never quite been able to. Not when he saw Ginny outside George’s door every day, trying to get him to talk. Trying to get him to do anything. Not when Mrs Weasley’s hands sometimes shook so much that her spells would go wrong.
Not when he looked at their clock to see each of their hands still stuck on ‘lost’.
But nine months, two weeks and a day after the Battle, something changed.
They were all sat around the table eating, a gentle mummer of voices as they spoke in whispers.
But then George said something. It took seconds to register his voice, one they had barely heard in so long, but everyone turned to stare at him. And Molly burst into tears.
A joke. He had said a joke, the first funny thing he had said since he had lost his brother.
His face paled and he stood from the table, muttering an apology before fleeing the room.
Harry walked past his room later that night, to hear quite crying, and Ginny whispering.
‘You think it would make him happy to see you like this? Fred would hate this. He would be throwing fake wands at you, he would be dragging you down to the shop if he could. That was your dream, that was his dream, and you should stick with it, because that is what you are good at. God, George, I think we all need a laugh now. We need you, we need the shop. Please.’
Two days later, and George when back to the shop for the first time, Ron and Ginny by his side. Six days after that, and it reopened.
Everyone turned up sometime throughout the day. Hogwarts students and teachers, Hogsmeade villagers, each with a story of the Twins, of how they had brought a smile to their faces.
Harry was sure each of the Weasleys ended up crying that day, but it was for the good memories, not the bad.
Two months later, and Harry moved out, along with Ginny. He didn’t ask her to come- he wanted to, but he didn’t know what she would say. He didn’t want to force her before she and the Weasleys were ready.
But when he came down with his bags, it was to see her by the door, her own bags behind her, a smile on her face.
‘Life goes on.’ She said to him quietly.
And it did.
Ginny became a quidditch player, something that Harry loved about her, and he would often practice with her in the evenings, though he never played in front of people. He had had enough of people talking about him, having his photos in the newspaper.
He was offered a job at the ministry, one he had turned down more than once in the last year and a half.
It wasn’t time back then. He was still angry at them for everything they had done while he was in school. He still couldn’t get past Umbridge, and their hunt for him that ended in so many deaths.
But it was time now, and Harry knew that he could help change the Ministry for the better. Change the Auror’s way of thinking, of doing things- so people like Sirius never had to rot away their lives behind bars for nothing.
The day he asked Ginny to marry him, he knew, would become the new memory for if he ever needed a patronus again.
Until, that was, the day of his wedding, where she looked so radiant, so happy, so perfect walking down the aisle.
Yet he still felt so helpless when her eyes filled up with tears, watching the empty space next to George. The ghost that would always be around, no matter how much time had passed. Just like the missing spaces on his own side, where Dudley stood awkwardly next to Hagrid. None of his family were there, but he hoped they, with Fred, were watching from somewhere.
They both still had nightmares. As, he knew, Hermione and Ron did. As most still would.
The scars would take forever to heal, and could be cut open with just a single word.
But they lived.
The day Ginny went running up to him while he was at work, he panicked. He was scared, for a second, that something had happened. The few Death Eaters still on the run had done something.
But when she jumped into his arms, a smile on her face, tears running down her cheeks, he knew it was not bad.
‘I’m pregnant.’ She said to him, not caring for the faces staring at them, Ron’s laugh as he overheard. ‘Harry… We’re going to be parents.’
Nine months later, a screaming child in her arms at Mungos, Ginny looked up at him.
‘I have a name.’ She said quietly. ‘He’s going to be called James. James Sirius.’
Harry couldn’t hide his smile, or his tears from her. And he didn’t want to.
All was not well.
But it was getting there.