The castle complex had once been a grand and imposing feature of the landscape, but time and countless battles had taken their toll. The roof of the Great Hall was missing, several of the towers and buttresses had been reduced to piles of rubble, and one wing of the main building looked as if it had been cut in half; a huge scar ran through it where an entire section had collapsed into a chamber that ran deep under the foundations. Or at least, that was how it looked to ordinary people. Unfortunately, it didn’t look much better through a wizard’s eyes. Hogwarts Castle, once home to one of Europe’s oldest and most respected schools of magic, was now nothing but a cold and empty shell. The decision not to rebuild Hogwarts had been controversial at the time, but was now generally recognized as being right. The buildings had not changed in a thousand years, but wizardry had; experiments by Muggle-born witches and wizards had shown that electricity could be made to work in a magical environment, and so a new school featuring electric lighting and a proper heating system had been built on the other side of the village, whilst Hogwarts had been left to nature’s whims. But to those who had passed through its doors, Hogwarts would always be the real home of British magic.
All of these thoughts ran through the head of a cloaked and hooded figure that stood by a car parked beside the gates of the grounds. The figure had been there for some time, as if unsure of what to do next. Finally, a gloved hand reached into the cloak, produced a wand, and pointed it at one of the gates. The rusted hinges squealed in protest as the gate slowly swung open, allowing the figure to slip inside. As it moved slowly across the overgrown and weed-strewn grounds, a gust of wind blew the hood back, revealing the face of an adult woman. Muggles would have identified her as J.K. Rowling, one of the most successful authors of the twenty-first century. A witch or wizard, on the other hand, would have known her to be Doris Crockford: witch, former Ministry of Magic historian, and head of the Harry Potter Foundation.
Born out of the remnants of the Order of the Phoenix, the Foundation’s aim was simple: to keep the story of Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort in the public domain so as to use it as a warning of what could happen if Dark Magic was allowed to rise unchecked again. In addition to the story of Harry’s life, which had been extensively edited before being released in the Muggle world, the Foundation also funded a small group of wizards and witches, led by a still repentant Draco Malfoy, who investigated reports and rumours of Dark Magic all over the world.
As she walked carefully through the knee-high grass, Doris headed not for the castle itself, but instead went around the side of the buildings and over to the edge of the forest that bordered one side of the grounds. Here, a large bare patch of blackened and fire-scorched earth was all that was left to show where the Gamekeeper’s hut had once stood. Hagrid, the last person to hold the post, had passed away two years previously. The horrific injuries he had sustained in the final battle had eventually healed, but he had never been the same after learning of the terrible toll that the fight had taken. Against his wishes, Hagrid had not been buried at Hogwarts; his widow, Madame Maxime, had insisted on taking his body back to France, where her family had their own private graveyard.
Sighing heavily, Doris moved on, heading across the lawn towards the edge of the dark lake and the large, white marble tomb that was the last resting place of Albus Dumbledore. Just before she reached it, she turned and followed the edge of the lake. Unlike the rest of the grounds, there was still a distinct path here. The passage of many feet had worn away the undergrowth, and the trees showed signs of having had overhanging branches cut away. Doris considered the state of the path to be a good indication of the success of the Foundation’s work. The day it became indistinguishable from the rest of the grounds would be a very sad day for the wizarding world.
After several hundred yards, the path ended at a small semi-circle of beech trees that opened out onto the shore of the lake. The tree in the centre was clearly the oldest and most established; the others had only been saplings when they had been planted, but several growth charms and the constant attentions of Neville Longbottom and Susan Bones had resulted in their quick growth, and they now provided plenty of shade for the small, roughly-hewn wooden bench that sat on the water’s edge. Slowly, Doris lowered herself onto the bench, facing away from the lake. She spent several minutes trying to gather her thoughts, before finally raising her eyes. Trying to keep her voice steady, she began to speak, her words carrying across the empty clearing.
“Well, Harry,” she said, “your story has finally been told, just how you wanted it. You’re a hero all over the world now, not just to us. And we’ve made enough Galleons to keep the foundation going for decades, maybe longer. Hopefully no one will ever again have to go through what you did.”
As she spoke, her voice began to tremble, and she paused, choking back the tears that were threatening to overwhelm her, before carrying on.
“I just wish you were here to see it,” she sniffed. “It shouldn’t have ended like that. You didn’t deserve that. None of you did.”
She stopped, breaking down in tears as her emotions finally got the better of her. She fumbled in her pockets for a handkerchief and furiously dabbed at her eyes as she struggled to get her feelings back under control.
“Look at me,” she managed to gasp through her sobs. “Crying away, like a daft old woman.” She wiped her eyes again as her voice began to settle. “Ginny would go mad if she saw me like this. She offered to come with me, you know, but I just felt that I had to do this alone.”
It was then that it happened. As Doris wiped her eyes again, she could feel the sorrow draining out of her, almost as if someone was pulling it away. In its place came something else. Not happiness exactly, it felt more like...a sort of grim satisfaction. Emotional she might have been, but Doris was still a witch, and a pretty good one at that. Clearing her mind, she concentrated furiously on the sensations coursing through her.
There was something. Right out on the very limits of her senses, she could feel something: a presence. Or maybe it was more than one? She nodded her head slowly.
“Thank you,” she whispered quietly, “all of you.”
Wiping her eyes one last time, Doris picked herself up off of the bench and, without looking back, began the long walk back towards her car. As her footsteps faded away, a peaceful stillness descended once again upon the small clearing and the three graves that lay within it: three friends, together for eternity, identified only by the small plaque that lay in front of the central mound.
HERMIONE GRANGER RONALD WEASLEY
To well-organised minds, death is but the next great adventure.
A/N: If anyone is wondering where the JKR/Doris Crockford idea came from, after the release of the film version of Philosopher’s Stone, there was a rumour—later denied by both parties—that J.K. Rowling had been offered and had turned down the role of Doris Crockford.