For seven years, Hogwarts had been a sanctuary for Harry. Yes, the Dark Lord had managed to infiltrate the school on an almost yearly basis, but the formidable castle had become his home. It had been the one place he felt safe. And then the war had happened, and everything had been tore away. It wasn’t extraordinary; everyone returning to Hogwarts must’ve felt some sort of trepidation. Everyone had memories of the tragedies that occurred. Everyone had lost someone.
Still, most people probably didn’t have blood on their hands. At least, not as much blood as Harry. So much innocent blood… and there he went, feeling sorry for himself. Playing the victim.
Harry sighed inwardly, trying to school his features into a façade of nonchalance, as he leaned back against the cushioned seat of the train. Around him, his friends chatted. It was nothing like the exuberant, vibrant clamor that had been the trademark of previous train rides to Hogwarts; everyone was nervous, and Harry didn’t doubt that. But they all seemed… so relaxed. No, that wasn’t the right word. Prepared.
Hermione sat across from him, a book on advanced potions balanced precariously on her knees. She wasn’t reading, at least, not anymore; she was smiling – actually smiling – at the person next to Harry. Her lips were moving, but cocooned in his haze of thoughts, Harry couldn’t hear her. All his senses agreed to take in was the motion of her laughter, her chest shaking jubilantly, eyes crinkling up, before relaxing back into the grip of the arm around her waist. Ron’s arm. Harry knew that the two had been involved ever since the war, but he wasn’t sure to what extent. That was somewhat pathetic, he thought, as he had spent the summer at the Weasley’s, watching mutely as the red haired clan picked up their shattered remnants and pieced themselves back together. Hermione had been there too, sometimes. She technically had shared a room with Ginny, but she had spent a lot more time with Ron, in his Chudley Cannon themed attic room.
Ginny. Harry glanced around the compartment. She wasn’t there. Of course she wasn’t. They had been dating, Ginny and Harry, and now they weren’t. Harry still remembered the night, sitting out in the back garden together, staring at the stars. Ginny had looked at him, tried to catch his eye, but he had remained steadfast. He couldn’t let her catch sight of his tears as she told him that she couldn’t do this anymore, that it was hard enough to be there for her family and herself, that she couldn’t be there for him too. Not like she had been before.
They were still friends, to the extent that Harry was still friends with anyone anymore. Small talk was made, and he was not oblivious to the concerned and sympathetic glances that seemed to follow him around the Burrow. For the most part, however, Harry was left to grieve. Everyone was. The war had left the wizarding world in shambles. It was too soon to relive the atrocities or try to move on. Ron had tried once, cajoling Harry and Hermione into his room, and saying that they needed to talk. That was all that it had taken to shatter the illusion of normality that had been created. Hermione had burst into tears, burrowing into Ron’s side more than Harry had thought was possible, and Harry… well, he had ceased to be present. That happened a lot in recent days. He wasn’t disassociating, he didn’t think, just drifting. It was Harry’s way of coping, letting go of the present and detaching himself from the situation. If he was detached, there was nothing to worry about. If he wasn’t really there, then there was no reason to cry. If he let himself drift for long enough, the frigid reality of the war became more of a twisted day dream, something that Harry could banish from his mind in favor of a reality where no one died, where he lived with his parents in his home and Fred was back and no one was hurting and everything was okay.
The only problem with the daydreaming was that he had to come back.
Harry shook himself. He glanced around the compartment again, searching the faces of his friends for signs that they had noticed his movement. There were none. Harry allowed himself to relax as much as he ever did, and scanned the faces again, this time in hopes of catching a good memory.
Ron was laughing now, and at something that Seamus had said. Seamus was next to Harry, and his boisterous Irish commentary was almost enough to break through to Harry. Almost. But Dean was tucked into his side, mirroring Hermione, and that only served as a reminder that everyone was pairing up now, finding someone to lick their wounds, and that Harry was left with only his mind. At some other point, that might have been okay. At some other point, most, in fact, Harry had believed that his mind could get him through most things. Previously, his mind had been a resource, providing the potential opposing side to an argument or quandary Harry was puzzling through. Now, the only thing Harry’s mind wanted to bring up was the war, and the blood, and the fucking screams, and the fact that it had been all his fault. While debatable in truth, none of those things were very helpful, and that was why Harry very much wanted to be with someone; in fact, he wanted that almost as much as he wanted to be alone. Almost. That was the key word.
Harry glanced down. His hands were shaking. He fisted them in his robes, forcing his nerves to stop clattering like a bag of bones. An instinct prodded at his barriers, and he glanced up to find everyone’s gaze settled directly on him. Harry cleared his throat.
“Wh-what?” He managed, his voice crackling dryly against the roof of his mouth.
“Train’s stopped, mate”. Ron informed him, at the same time as Hermione asked if he was okay. Harry said that he was. He was very much okay. Hermione’s warm brown eyes filled with a sheen of pity, and Harry wrenched his eyes away to focus on rising and following Dean’s back out of the compartment. That was all he saw as he trudged off the train, and when Seamus teasingly asked if he was enjoying the view, Harry just stared at him blankly until everyone looked away. That was the one benefit of being the Saviour, Harry thought. People stopped asking questions.