It was like watching a movie, but there was no happy ending. The big finish was bitter sweet, and the harshness of the reality of the war was crippling. The one place that had been home to all of them at one point in their lives was in ruins. The world they had fought so hard to preserve in one form or another was broken even if only for a moment. On both sides there were the fallen, some who would be remembered by all and some who would be mostly forgotten. After all, it was the living, those that survived, that had to endure the glorification of the victors and the vilification of the defeated. It was those left standing that had to struggle on after all was said and done in the aftermath. The fallen…either Light or Dark…were gone. Their struggle in all this chaos, pain, fear, and death was over.
Perhaps they were the lucky ones...he thought bitterly, as he looked around the battlefield realizing he couldn't remember which side anyone was on at the moment and wondering if it even mattered anymore. Everyone looked defeated, broken, and utterly worn out. Some standing like he was taking it all in, processing that it was done. Others cradled fallen loved ones as if they could wake them or maybe provide some belated comfort; he was willing to bet it was the later. Today, at this moment they were all the same; no one was Light, no one was Dark. Today they were all survivors in the aftermath; soldiers wounded and left bleeding in the battlefield. In a sick kind of way both sides had succeeded; they were now united as one. But the price was high, unfair, unreasonable, and in end when it was all said and done unwanted.
For a few moments all was silent, for which he was grateful for. He couldn't take the cheering and celebratory joy that was sure to come sooner rather than later. The silence, he felt, was appropriate after all that was lost in this battle and all those that came before it. When all was said and done they'd all faced off against someone that they had known in some way or another, whether it was friend or foe. Each and every one of them have had to perform terrible acts, things that they might not have done otherwise, in the name of one cause or another; for either the Light or the Dark. No one was innocent. But, in the aftermath of the final battle, of the war they all found comfort from someone that cares. None of them knew what he was feeling. None of them bothered to look his way even for a moment. Some part of him could understand, after all they had families to rush to. But, he had to do what none of them could or would do. After all, he was the chosen one, it was what they had all placed on his shoulders from the time he was a year old.
None of them had to face him...he thought brokenly as he looked down at the pile of dust at his feet, which even now was blowing away with the wind as if he’d never been there. He knew they expected him to be happy, to savor his final victory that was seventeen years in the making. But he couldn't in the aftermath. He didn't just defeat or kill the man, he'd literally obliterated him mind, body and soul. He’d made him nothing; he’d destroyed the only purpose he’d ever known and in the end of it all he thought maybe he’d killed a part of himself along with him. In the aftermath of war he had not only grown and matured, he’d somehow lost the curious wonder filled child who had entered this world in the first place. He’d missed his childhood and lost it forever. So how did he feel? If he were honest with himself, he would admit he felt very little. For the moment he was hollow, and blissfully numb. This was a blessing in the moment, because he knew what came next. All too soon he would feel, and then, only then would he give into the inevitable pain and tears that would follow in the aftermath. What happened now? What was expected of him now?
Because he was really gone this time...he briefly reminded himself. Not letting it really sink in. Because he wasn’t ready, in the moment for the unknown of the future he never thought he had; he wasn’t ready to break where they could all see him. He may not know what they expected next of him in the aftermath, but he knew there was something. After all, he was the Boy-Who-Lived to kill him…to save them. When he was alone, he'd face the reality of what this all meant, and he would hate himself for being the only one to bring an end to it all. Because in the end of it all, he was alone, like he was in the beginning, like he would be later.
Suddenly the silence ended when the pile of dust that had once been a powerful dark lord blew away from the battlefield, taking apart of his soul away with it, as the victors let out yells of joy. The moment of silence in the direct aftermath was over and the celebration was beginning. With their screams, he felt rage and anger like he had never felt before. He hated them in that moment, for feeling happy in the immediate aftermath. As if, the reality of the death and destruction that now surrounded them didn’t matter at the end of it all. They celebrated while he was breaking inside piece by piece every moment he stood with them. Even as he knew they had every right, because when all was said and done they had won. The war that had been brewing and waging with the constant feeling of fear was finally over. They could all move on, they could rebuild and heal. They had a right to celebrate, but in that moment the walls he had built up over the years were crumbling, others were mourning or realizing that they had lost and their punishment wasn’t over, and still so many others lay dead or dying and they were celebrating. In the moment, unlike the last, he couldn’t stay. He couldn’t stay because at the end he was alone and none of them could understand.
No, they didn’t want to understand… his bitter inner voice reminded him. The inner voice had a hiss, and sounded suspiciously like Tom; because that’s who he was at the beginning and that’s really who he always was, even if he denied it to himself and the rest of their world. Like the Dark Lord, he was alone in the aftermath. So he ran away from them, it had all became too much and he was alone; the golden trio and the order had finally broken. In the moment they had all moved on to celebration and left him behind. The pain and loss he was feeling threatening to bring him to his knees in front of everyone. He wouldn’t and couldn’t break here, in front of them all. The moment he heard them calling him, was the moment he realized that the show was beginning again and he was meant to act like the good hero he always was. But he couldn't, he wouldn't stop, not until he was forced to from exhaustion. He couldn’t and wouldn’t perform for them now in this moment. There was time for that later, but now, for the first time in his life he was beginning selfish…taking a moment for himself.
Finally, he stopped. Finally he found himself curled into a ball against a large tree, alone in the forest. Alone, in the moment, just like he always was when all was said and done. Finally he broke as it all hit him at once. All the moments over the last seventeen years that had made him who he had become. Everything he had lost and gained. For the first time, at the end of it all, he saw everything clearer than he ever had. He remembered everything that had come between them before, and he mourned the loss of a great man, as no one else could. The Dark Lord may have been evil; the man had tortured and killed countless. But some, not all, of his ideas were not terrible. In fact with work, rewording, and a new proper presentation they could really help to change their world for the better. So, at the end of it all, even the most evil wizard of all time was a great man in some ways. He thought, maybe, in the moment he was only one who could see it. He cried and screamed in broken pain and rage for what seemed like eternity. He was empty and hollow, and it hurt because in the aftermath he was alone in a deeper way then he ever had been before.
After all he’d been through so far in his young life, he was lost. If he was honest he’d never expected to survive the final battle in the end. The Wizarding world has placed their faith solely on him and he’d finally done what was expected of him. But now that it was done, what was he supposed to do now? Was there always going to be one thing expected of him? All of these questions all boiled down to one answer…yes. They expected him to smile and tell the story in complete detail all the way to the end. He was expected to marry and have children, but more than that…he was expected to marry Ginny Weasley, the one time girlfriend and sister of his best friend; thus keeping the golden trio together perfect, and golden. He was expected to tow the party line of the light and keep their ideals alive, after all they had war. In the aftermath he wasn’t meant to make a decision and have his own thoughts and opinions, as ever only theirs.
It was all one sided and unfair… his inner Dark Lord spoke up. Unfair to those that had been with the Dark and lived, unfair to those that died because they wanted change in either direction or simply got caught in the middle. Could he go back to being their puppet? Could he really not make changes now that he had the power and the name to do so? Dumbledore, Lord of light had died and left his only heir; everyone else had made him their savior. At the end of it all he was the Light itself. So why not give them what they always asked, him? Could he do it? Go against their expectations and be the man he had become? If the last year, when he was calling the shots and thinking on his own, had lead to that final confrontation with the Dark itself. He’d been victorious in the end and the man himself had left him his sole heir, if his inner voice was and remaining ideas were anything to go by. Just as one answer connected to one event, one other man that was now defeated connected to his future in this moment and many others to come, the aftermath be damned. Because…
He's truly well and gone this time, and it's all my doing...he thought as the blackness and oblivion of exhaustion overcame him, and for at least a moment he knew nothing more. Nothing of the thoughts still flowing in the back of his unconscious mind about what came next; about whom he needed on his side. Even fallen, the name held power. Power though diminished, he and he alone could give the Blonde Lord back. There would be time for that later, but for now; in the moment at the end of it all he needed rest. He needed rest, to heal, and to rebuild his strength and magic in the aftermath.