Touch makes things realer. The magical world has been fooled too many times and they are desperate not to be fooled again. Many people don’t even seem to realize that they are reaching out towards the Boy-Who-Lived and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, to feel for themselves that Harry Potter is alive and Voldemort is truly dead.
Well... most do not dare to truly go anywhere near Voldemort’s corpse, even as their eyes reach towards the fallen body. But they look, they stare, and they watch and watch and watch. As though Voldemort’s mortality will cease being real the moment all eyes leave him.
They definitely dare come near Harry, however, to reassure themselves this is real. They take his hand and shake it for far too long, holding on too tightly, shaking it too quickly or not at all. They snatch him up in tight hugs before he can protest, squeezing tightly. They slap him on the back as he goes by, pat him on the shoulder as he passes, and latch onto his arm as they repeat their endless thanks for what he’s done.
And they look too, they stare, and they watch and watch and watch. People’s eyes follow Harry wherever he goes, fixed to his scar and face and self, enough to make his skin prickle at the feeling. He should be used to the staring by now, but it’s never been anything like this before.
He can hear whispers all around him, as he stands in the Great Hall and talks with the other Order members about what to do with the dead, the injured, the captured, and so on. He should be used to the whispers too, following him wherever he goes, but... it’s really never been anything like this before and... he thinks that it’s more than the fact that he’s finally defeated Voldemort for good and apparently survived certain death for a second time.
Because when Kingsley took his hand and shook it, the man... trembled. He didn’t frown or cower, too busy being utterly relieved that the fight seemed to be over, but when they touched... Kingsley shuddered like he’d been overtaken by a sudden chill.
But then again, maybe that’s not too strange. Harry has to repress trembling hands and a painful shudder every time he glances towards the bodies of the fallen. When his mind involuntarily flickers back to the Pensieve, to the walk, to the Forest, to King’s Cross Station... Harry often fights and fails to contain a terrible tremble. He can still see flashes of green light behind his eyes.
But then again... the same sort of thing has been happening to more or less everyone of the many people who have sought him out and touched him. None of them say anything about it, too busy thanking Harry profusely, but their first brush of physical contact with Harry has them all shuddering or flinching like they just walked through a ghost. Some of them have even sneezed or coughed like they did just that, oddly enough.
Mrs. Weasley, when she hugged him, declared that he was freezing! She demanded he put on a sweater immediately. Harry was already wearing a sweater and didn’t at all feel like he needed one, so he just promised he’d use a warming charm. He still hasn’t used that warming charm, though, because he feels fine.
A little bruised, yeah. A little shaky, definitely. But cold? Not really.
After he’s had his fill of discussing the technicalities of clean-up, of being surrounded by admirers, Harry wanders off with McGonagall’s encouragement to get some much-needed rest. He doesn’t know where to go to get some rest, though, so he ends up walking about under his Invisibility Cloak until he finds Ron and Hermione off in a corner off of the Hall, on a bench against a wall. Ron is sitting upright with his eyes closed, long legs stretched out and head back against the wall, and Hermione is sleeping, curled up into a ball with her head in Ron’s lap, only frowning a little. They look as exhausted as he feels.
Ron’s eyes open, blearily, at the rustling of the Invisibility Cloak as Harry removes it. He gives Harry a tired sort of smile and opens his mouth to say something but ends up yawning instead.
Harry takes the opportunity to drop down next to Ron and lean into his best friend’s side. It is a fact universally acknowledged and already being put into use by Hermione that Ron makes an excellent pillow - always has. Besides, Harry could do with some physical contact with his best friends, somewhere quiet and isolated, away from the eyes and hands of people he doesn’t know, barely knows, and isn’t comfortable being touched by.
Ron goes stiff as Harry leans into him, though. At this reaction, Harry also goes stiff and frowns up at his best friend.
“Fuck, mate, you’re freezing,” Ron says.
Harry frowns, because he’s heard that a lot and he’s not cold. “Sorry,” he says, wondering what on earth is going on.
He makes to lean away, but Ron’s already lifted an arm up, wrapped it around Harry’s shoulders to pull him close, and closed his eyes again. Harry ends up with his head on Ron’s shoulder, tucked comfortably under his best friend’s arm, with his Invisibility Cloak strewn over his lap. Ron is definitely noticeably warmer than he is and Harry sinks into the warmth, despite still not feeling all that cold.
“Nah, it’s fine,” Ron says.
Harry closes his eyes too and drifts off into sleep for the first time in over a day. Sleep comes curiously fast, seemingly within seconds. The last thing he remembers is Ron giving a shiver like someone had walked over his grave.