The day after the battle, Hermione Granger got up before the sun did. The Lake was covered in fog, and she was used to having somewhere urgent to go, to be, to fight.
She closed the tent flap up behind her. Hogwarts had something like enough beds, but Hermione hadn’t had it in her to climb those moving staircases, to step through the painting’s open frame and make her way to the Gryffindor girls’ seventh year dormitory. Her bed would have been there, months untouched except for the bras and scarves and bottles of sparkly purple nail polish Parvati and Lavender had strewn onto every open surface.
The fog rolled in off the Lake and Hermione stood at the damp shore and shivered until the sun rose and burned it all away.
The day after the battle, they buried their dead out on an island in the Lake, the day after the battle. Madame Pomfrey fretted and hovered, but every injured witch, wizard, and squib made it out to those conjured chairs. They might sit with assistance– with spells, with braces, with a friend’s shoulder– but they sat quiet and they listened to Flitwick read out the names.
The day after the battle, Ron Weasley stood on tiptoe when he stepped back into the Great Hall, looking over a sea of bent heads to find a cluster of red. They’d brought the tables back.
The cluster was only a tiny blip of three– Bill and their parents were flitting about, helping Flitwick float steaming bowls of pasta down onto each table. But Ginny and Percy were sitting on either side of George, keeping up a lively conversation about Gilderoy Lockhart’s hair.
Ginny was sitting half in Harry’s lap, like if she didn’t he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from getting up to help, or to pace the castle, or to walk out to the Forest and not come back. She was holding his hand, her freckled thumb running over the words written into his skin.
Ron thought about sitting with Luna, instead. Percy tried to laugh at one of Ginny’s jokes, and Ron didn’t know how to be kind like that. Ginny held Harry’s hand. Ron had thought for a long terrible stretch of heartbeats that he had lost two brothers yesterday.
He could sit with Dean. He could walk out to the Forest and punch Aragog in his ugly eyes, because normally when he walked away from everyone he loved it was because he was scared and maybe change was good for the soul.
Ron pushed his hands through his hair. He crossed the Great Hall, swung into a seat next to Harry, and filled his plate with lukewarm pasta.
The day after the battle, Luna Lovegood climbed up to the Astronomy Tower, because it was the furthest she could get away from everything. She laid on her back on the cold stone and cast balls of light and enchanted birds to chase each other across the ceiling until she felt like descending down to the ground again.
The day after the battle, Neville Longbottom went down to the greenhouses to see what the damage was there. He had sat all night and all morning in the infirmary, fetching water for Anthony Goldstein and holding Dennis Creevey’s hand and folding extra blankets down over Professor Sprout’s cold feet. Madame Pomfrey had banished him to go get a spot to eat and some sleep, so he walked down to the greenhouses to see what was salvageable.
Whole panes of greenish glass stood jagged and shattered. Protective spells had put out any fires, but stray blasts of magic had killed beds of vegetables and flowers and taken almost all the silver-green leaves off an olive tree that twisted in the corner of Greenhouse 4.
Neville went in through the door, even though there as a broken hole in the glass wall big enough for him, and almost fell back through it when Hannah Abbott stood up from the row of pots she’d been crouching behind. Dirt streaked every crease of her hands. “Hey,” he said, and let the door click shut behind him.
“Hey.” When she saw where he was heading, she added, “The olive’s still alive.”
The bark was rough under his hand, gnarled from decades of slow growth. He could hear the green magic whispering down its xylem.
“I was thinking I’d try to mend up the walls, close this place up again,” said Hannah. “But I wasn’t sure I could do it alone."
"Alright,” said Neville. When Professor Sprout argued her way out of the infirmary and thumped downhill with the wind throwing her cloudy hair in her face, she found every pane of glass healed and Neville and Hannah asleep on the softest patch of moss in Greenhouse 2.
The day after the battle, Parvati Patil sent an owl to Lavender Brown’s parents.
The day after the end of it all, Hermione skipped lunch and found her favorite secluded corner of the library instead. The chairs stood silent and sober, all gouged dark wood. The high windows threw light gleaming across the polished table, catching on the dust motes drifting through the air above it.
She dumped her carry-all down on it and reached inside– up to her elbows, her shoulders. She tried not to feel like it was eating her alive and she pulled out protein bars and unicorn horn and crumpled wanted flyers.
She wasn’t sure when it had gotten so cluttered– sometime before the night in the ditch outside the little Scottish village with the awesome curry shop. Sometime after the time they hid out from a storm in an unknowing Muggle’s barn, wrinkling their noses at the itch of hay as they ate their dinner. Hermione had taken first watch, listening to the thunder roll over the shallow hills outside, and she’d gone through her bag pouch by endless pouch. Harry had twitched in his sleep with every flash of lightning, but everything in her bag had been where it was supposed to be.
She summoned a wastepaper bin to hover beside her and got to work. Quills and ballpoint pens went in a neat heap to her left. Books she stacked by subject matter around her, except for the ones she flew back to their homes on Hogwarts shelves. She checked potions ingredients for decay, tossed the bad ones and wrapped the good ones back up in their oiled cloth and ziplock bags.
She ate a protein bar while she piled duct tape and the radio and a travel-sized magnetic foldable Muggle chess set and a depleted first aid kit all up around her. She threw the wrapper away and wondered if the smell would ever come out of the bag’s insides, or if she should just buy another one.
The day after the battle, they started putting the stones of the castle back into place. They put bones back together, first, skin and knit muscle and tendons. McGonagall escorted every statue and suit of armor back to where it belonged.
Sue Li sat atop a pile of rubble and ate the biggest chocolate bar she’d ever seen her life. She thought she could still taste a film of Polyjuice on her tongue, but she told herself that was dumb. She dropped little pebbles down the ragged tumble of stones, counting their bounces and calculating averages, until Astoria Greengrass showed up with a glass of water and a pasty and put them down beside her.
Astoria got her hands dirty every chance she got, put her back into sweeping up glass shards or hauling bandages or Wingardium Leviosa-ing stone blocks the size of a horseless carriage. She would stay in the castle as long as she could, finding odd tasks and errands and corners to lurk in. When she finally went back to the Greengrass family estate, it would be to pack her bags, kiss the old house elf on the cheek, and steal her dog away with her.
The day after the battle, Ron went out to Hagrid’s cabin in the stubborn chill of the afternoon and sat in his pumpkin patch. He didn’t go knock on the rough-hewn door, and Hagrid didn’t come out, but after twenty minutes Fang trotted into the yard and patiently got slobber all over his shirt.
Ron watched the sway of the shadows beyond the Forest’s edge. Buckbeak’s old tying post stood among the twining squash vines and their giant fuzzy leaves, the metal ring hanging empty against weathered wood. He thought about Ginny brushing her thumb over Harry’s scars and wrapped
his hands over the pale marks that curled around his wrists.
When the air started biting and the sky started darkening, Ron pulled himself back to his feet and climbed up to the library. He had never lived there, never really liked its labyrinth of stacks and dusty air, but he knew the way there better than he knew the way to the Quidditch pitch or the Room of Requirement or all those other places he liked so much more.
It was empty, except for Hermione, and he was glad. She squeezed her last book into her bag and looked up at him, shoving her hair back off her forehead.
“They doing dinner down there?” she said, her dry throat rasping on it.
He shrugged. “Mum’s organizing, I think. It– helps, I think."
She nodded, looking down to do the clasps up slowly, one by one.
"I just wanted to go back to the tent,” said Ron. “Be alone. It’s quiet."
"I won’t get in your way,” she said. “It’s still pitched down there."
"I know,” he said. “With you, I meant.”
“That’s not alone,” she said. “I’m not quiet,” she said. She clasped and unclasped the bag.
“Words. Accuracy. I never claimed to be the clever one."
"But you are, Ron–"
"Hermione,” he said. “Come with me? You shouldn’t be sitting here alone. Come home.”
They went down the grass through chilling air. Ron could hear his mother in his head, telling him to take her bag and carry it for her, but he just reached out for her hand.
The day after the end of it all, Ron laid on the floor of the tent, counting stitches in the canvas, while Hermione read Hogwarts, A History like she didn’t have it memorized. She read her favorite parts aloud, stopping mid-sentence when the tent flap rustled and opened.
“Ginny’s sitting on Neville until he agrees to sleep in a real bed and not a pile of shrubbery,” Harry said, stepping inside and shutting it up behind him. “She got Luna to help because she says otherwise Luna will just fade into a corner and not come out for food.” He hunched his shoulders. “I’m not intruding, right?"
"Don’t be daft,” said Ron and patted a bit of floor next to him. “C'mon, join in, Hermione’s trying to bore me to sleep. I suspect it’s an act of caring concern.” Hermione threw a pillow at his head without looking up from the pages.
The day after the battle, they fell asleep in a tangle in the center of the tent that they had lugged across their country, across these long, cold days of the war. They had danced here to the radio, had chewed protein bars, played chess and bled and yelled at each other.
But the war was over and they were growing into it, slow, staying up too late as they leaned into each other and whispered on this threadbare rug. They meant to wobble to their feet and get to bed, but Harry was clinging to Hermione’s hand and none of them wanted to go.
They would get too old for this– hard floors and the way Harry’s neck was cricked up on Ron’s bony shoulder. Hermione’s snoring would get worse and Ron would have to sleep with four carefully arranged pillows to stop his back from aching in the mornings, but Harry would always have a place here. He had slept on Ron’s bedroom floor at fourteen, leaned on Hermione outside his parents’ broken home.
In the weeks after the battle, Hermione would track down her parents and move back home, and they would all help the Weasleys rebuild the Burrow. Harry would move in Andromeda Tonks’s spare room. “We’re almost like family, after all,” she’d say briskly, shooing him into the house and showing him where she kept the tea, Teddy’s diapers, and the whiskey. They’d come for visits and talk through the night in each of those homes, curled up under Molly’s quilts or out on the Granger’s back porch swing or over fingers of firewhiskey with Andromeda.
In the months after the war, he and Ron would get a flat while they went through Auror training and Hermione would crash there five nights out of seven. Her university textbooks would take over their countertops, shelves, tables, and floor and Harry wouldn’t tease them (too much) for how hilariously long they tried to pretend it was the couch Hermione slept on.
Every home Ron and Hermione lived in, for the rest of their lives, would have a place for Harry– a spare room or a patch of floor or an old sofa. He would know how Hermione took her coffee, and his favorite cereal and Ginny’s favorite oatmeal would always been in the cupboard, and their children would have giggly cousin-sleepovers in magical tents they pitched on the living room rug.
When the kids came shrieking in to wake them at absolutely unacceptable, ugly hours, Ginny would groan curse words they’d repeat gleefully among themselves, but Harry would let them grab his hands in their little sticky ones and pull him barefoot and messy-haired out into the morning.