He sat on a bench by the duck pond, half a loaf of stale bread in a paper bag. Even the hungriest ducks had given up on him ever getting around to throwing them any.

He couldn't say quite when it had started. Actually, that was a lie. He could tell you exactly when it started; it started the day they were standing beside each other at Madam Malkin's, being measured for their Hogwarts robes; it had started the day he had sided with Ron against him; it had started the day he was left for the Dursleys, the day his parents had died, the day that Lucius had sided with Voldemort, the day the world began. Maybe he couldn't tell you when it had started. But he could tell you when it had ended, to the second. Presuming his wristwatch had been accurate, of course. It was hard to keep the things running around so much magic, even the simple clockwork types.

He could tell you when it had ended, and where it had ended. When he had woken up, scar burning... the dream he'd had... the end had not been graceful, and Voldemort must have known that he would be watching, watching helpless in his sleep, so many miles away and the place Unplottable; even if he had been awake, he could not have made any difference. Viciously, he tore chunks out of the bread and hurled it at the unsuspecting ducks, who wisely cowered from the onslaught; they could eat the bread out of the water later, when the deadly hail of dense stale chunks had subsided. He was just about to tear the paper bag in two when he suddenly ran out of energy, and sat there looking at his hands, wondering what he'd just done. Once, these fits of temper could truly be deadly, but he had long since broken his wand in two and forced Hermione to lock up his innate talent behind powerful wards, to make him safe once again.

The ducks cautiously moved in on the bread, but he paid them no heed. Hermione. He'd practically thrown her at Ron, of course; he knew that she would one day choose between them, and he knew that he could never give her the love she deserved, because his heart was... elsewhere. But even though they were happily married, somewhere off in the land of magic which he had left well behind, she had always insisted on visiting him, of reminding him of what he had lost. She could never resist fixing things, his glasses where he'd snapped them again, the hole he'd punched in his door, the screen of his television even though he didn't really want to watch the thing. He hated her for caring. His true love had known what he wanted, take it or leave it, none of this stupid emotional baggage that everyone else seemed to insist on carrying around. But of course, he'd carried it, hadn't he? That's how they caught up with him, in the end, caught up with the fact that all the plans to kill Harry, the ones they made later that should have worked, failed when a certain blonde-haired someone was in the vicinity. He just hadn't admitted it. And neither, Harry admitted to himself, had he; neither of them had admitted just how much the other meant to them.

Without noticing it, he'd constructed a paper boat from the bag in which he'd been carrying the bread. Shrugging his shoulders to the world, he gently placed it on the water, to see if it would float. It did. The little boat, product of all his emotional burdens and misery, gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't. It seemed incongruous that something born of such heaviness could be so light, so very carefree.

Harry picked up a medium-sized stone from the ground by his feet, took careful aim, and with one decisive motion pitched the stone through the air. It described a perfect curve and hit the boat dead centre. The pathetic little thing crumpled in on itself, and sank slowly to the bottom of the pond. It was about time, decided Harry, that his feelings for Draco did the same. He brushed a few stray breadcrumbs from his clothes and turned to leave.

The next time Hermione paid a visit, he'd tell her that he was ready to return to the world he thought he'd turned his back on forever.