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The Victors

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On June Twentieth, after he defeats the Dark Lord, Harry goes back to Hogwarts on the train.

He's tired. He's entirely, extremely, horribly tired. Neville Longbottom is dead; he's the only one of the old guard this time around. The rest are children, the young and the wretchedly young, too many to count.

He'd been eleven once, long ago, and his aunt would look at him every morning as though she was disappointed to find he was still alive. He'd once been fourteen and a boy had died in his place, been fifteen and watched the only thing close to a parent he'd ever have disappear. He'd once been seventeen and standing in a ruined, smoking field, and Voldemort was finally dead and the dead were few enough to count. He'd thought, time and time again, that he'd never feel more tired in his life.

He had thought once, too, that he knew what giving his life for the cause meant. He'd known for what felt like his entire life that he might die, and that some things were more important. But it's been his fiftieth birthday two years past, and his fifth defeated Dark Lord is being carried off the battle field (Dark Lord, though by the fourth one they'd already started calling themselves Heads of the Resistance instead – if there's one thing he's earned, he thinks, it's the right to be too old to change his ways.)

There aren't that many tired generals in the wizarding world's history, not that many wars, but Harry has learned some muggle history along the way, too. He knows: many before him had made their lives of this. But he never asked for any of it, and he's so tired.

He knows it's selfish to hope, each and every time he goes back, that Hermione has heard of a new prophecy. He knows it's selfish to want to pass the burden. Surely it's better on him than some thirteen years old child. He knows.

There won't be another prophecy. They'd had one, and they must make do with it. One savior of the wizarding world to who knows how many Slytherines straining up for power.

By the time of the third one, they'd already managed to convince the Ministry that the Camps would have to be put in place. People had cheered in the streets as though that was the answer, the miracle, salvation – people who'd lost sons and mothers and friends, who sent them off with pride until pride wasn't enough to live off anymore. They wanted to believe in the answer. But Harry has been fighting this war all his life, and he knows better.

You can't kill them all (even when they kill everyone you've ever cared about one by one, you can't kill them all, you're still human), and there'll never be an end to them. No camp can hold them all. One day Harry will be gone, and he doesn't know what will happen then.

The train is noisy and the beds in Hogwarts are too soft. He doesn't sleep until word comes of the next attack.