Progress Notes: Complete... arggg... it's been complete for a year now, in fact, the entire story has been complete for a year! I can't fault my wonderful beta, thekillerpie, he's been marvelous. But I'm "abandoning" the story on PS. If you would like to read it in its entirety, you can find it at MuggleNet Fan Fiction, Harry Potter Fan Fiction and Sink Into You Eyes. You can also find my other stories on those web sites. Thank you for all your wonderful comments. IHateSnakes
Authors Note: The leavers day ceremony which appears about half way through this chapter is not common in the British educational system. However, due to the significance of what has happened to the School over the past few years, this ceremony would very likely have occurred to honor those who played a vital role in the defeat of Voldemort.
It had been named the Lonely Hill at some point in the school's past, but even Hermione could not find a reference to it in Hogwarts: A History. Sitting atop the grassy hill on the far side of the lake, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione sat together, in silence, waiting for the sunrise. The predictable morning mist had filled the lowlands around the mountains making them appear as islands above an ocean of pale water; the grass around them wet with morning dew.
As dawn approached, silence abounded; not the oppressive silence you experiences in a cave or tunnel, rather a comfortable silence that wraps you in its arms and comforts by drawing close to you the souls of your friends. The Lonely Hill blanketed these four friends in this silence, and here and there, many more small groups of two or three or four could be seen huddled together in the cool morning air also awaiting the dawn.
On this, their last day together as students, they were lost in thoughts and memories of the past seven years. In the past, departing seventh year students shared the hill with only their classmates and friends; this year, however, almost the entire student body was present, including a number of teachers and staff. No one took offence at this, everyone was subdued and thoughtful, thinking over the events of their years at Hogwarts, and more so of the events the past few months.
It seemed impossible, but the Board of Governors had voted down the schools reconstruction until their annual finance meeting at the end of the month. Logically they understood the rationale; emotionally this awareness was tearing their hearts out. Seven years of their lives had been spent at Hogwarts, for all but Ginny, and she was just a year behind. The friends, the enemies, the joys and sorrows were blending together and saturating their senses to a breaking point. Yet through the confusion and pain and joy one thing remained constant, the friendship they shared which had become a rock-solid foundation that far too few people ever enjoy.
In the orange glow that preceded the dawn, Harry saw Hagrid in the distance sitting with McGonagall, both appeared to be lost in their thoughts, silently watching for the approaching sun. Further down the hill, a short distance away, Neville sat alone. Harry had worried about Neville ever since the final battle and the loss of his grandmother; they also shared another more personal link: both were now true orphans. Harry thought he should invite Neville up to join them, but the sun had just started to peek above the eastern horizon and everyone was momentarily frozen as they watched the spectacle.
Ginny remained quietly at Harry's side, gently holding his arm with one hand, the other around his back; her head leaning against his shoulder. She could tell that he was struggling with his thoughts and emotions. Heck, everyone was this morning. But Ginny could feel it in Harry. She herself was almost numb. The idea for not returning to Hogwarts seemed impossible: Where will I go? This is my life! No one had heard anything from the Board of Governors since they announced the closure, nothing at all. Ginny had sent her father an owl pleading with him to ask around the office, but her father replied that he could not contact anyone because everyone was in meetings and "still trying to put things back together." In frustration all Ginny could think was: What should I do?
Ron sat next to his sister, and occasionally patted or rubbed her back. He was aware that his sister's pain was far greater than his own; she was leaving Hogwarts and the man she loved. He looked over to Hermione, and when she looked back at him, there were tears streaming down her face. Ron wrapped Hermione in his arms and buried his face in her hair and shoulder to comfort them both.
Hermione was realizing once again, that when she got emotional like this, no amount of education or logic, no number of O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s could rescue her and calm her instinctive reactions. Perhaps she would be able to, some day, revel in emotion without a feeling of embarrassment. It was a struggle for her and Ron to be close, but she was determined to change; she desperately desired to feel more and rationalize less. Her close relationship with Ron over the past two years had blossomed into her first real love in the last few weeks, but Hermione still had to convince herself that what she felt was really love and not the anticipation of Ron's absence from her daily life.
Ron's recovery in the hospital, her daily vigil, helping in therapy, and tutoring him for the N.E.W.T.s had brought them side-by-side and face-to-face daily. She would dismiss holding his hand, telling herself that that was what he needed to recover faster, and nothing more. It wasn't until just two weeks ago when she spontaneously kissed him (and a real kiss too!) that she knew. Secretly she had dreaded Ron grabbing and pawing at her in fumbled passionate kisses, but when he gently returned the kiss and asked her if she meant it, she was hooked.
Holding Ron as the sun rose gave Hermione another piece to the puzzle that was their relationship. Looking up to the breaking dawn, Hermione held the man whom she had finally come to love.
Harry felt an odd combination of numbness and elation. As the last days approached, the reality of leaving the only home he ever truly knew depressed him and he sometimes withdrew into himself. Ginny tried to cheer him up but with N.E.W.T.s to study for, he really didn't have much time for sulking anyway. Harry also had mixed feelings about where to go after leaving Hogwarts. Since the start of the term, he, Ron, and Hermione had talked about renting a house in Hogsmeade for a year as they decided careers. But with the situation at Hogwarts, Harry didn't know where Ginny would be going and he wanted to be near her; the Hogsmeade plans didn't look promising.
In the last few days, their plans reversed themselves again and all three suddenly found themselves with a new selection of choices. They had wanted to put off career decisions until after exams, except Hermione; she had decided to apply for an internship in the Ancient Document Restoration Department of the Ministry of Historical Records. She told Ron and Harry that although she'd taken only a couple courses in Rune Translation the subject was fun, and she needed a break from any fulltime employment after the past few months. Ron and Harry found this amusing, Hermione take a break from anything? So Hermione was still game for the Hogsmeade house, or "Hog House" as Ron liked to call it.
Harry struggled with his decision to put off Auror training for a year. McGonagall had reminded him that her offer to work with him still stood, but Harry's heart just wasn't in it like it had once been. He wasn't sure if it was because of Ginny or the final struggles with Voldemort or something subconscious, he just didn't feel that was the way to go right now. He still liked the idea of working with Remus who, along with Tonks, had become something of a big brother/sister combination. Harry felt completely relaxed around them and could see why Sirius had been Remus's friend. One possible avenue Harry had looked into was trying out for a professional Quidditch team with Ron, (who had become an outstanding keeper his last two years.) They both knew scouts visited Hogwarts every year, but so far nothing had come of it.
The Tuesday before the leavers ceremony, Ron came into the temporary Gryffindor common room with wide eyes and a wacky smile. Seeing him, Ginny asked what was going on and he told her that he'd been offered a tryout for the second string keeper on the Chudley Cannons, his favourite professional Quidditch team; "it was a miracle," he said, "he couldn't believe it." When Harry heard the news, he whooped and gave Ron a bear hug and reminded him that it was he, Harry, who kept him in the game when Ron thought he was so terrible. Ron agreed and gave Harry a sincere and heartfelt thanks.
With that easy decision, Ron had become the second occupant of Hog House, though he told Harry and Hermione that his mother would never let him share a place with Hermione without Harry there. Hermione laughed and wrote Mrs. Weasley a long mysterious letter and a couple days later she sent a note to Ron "suggesting" that he get the house with Hermione, though still hinting that Harry would be a good housemate, too.
Harry was getting worried about his post-Hogwarts plans, he still didn't have anything concrete and there wasn't much time left. He wasn't too worried about money; he still had his parent's inheritance, but he did not want to just sit idly by while his best friends moved on; Harry knew it would drive him crazy.
Neville told Harry that he had been offered a job by Professor Sprout in the school's greenhouses, in preparation for moving the school's collection of flora to a temporary location if the school closed. Harry could tell Neville was pleased, and even mentioned Hog House as a possible option for Neville, but he was planning to stay at Hogwarts, if Filch could ever get his act together and find him a small room. Harry could tell that he just wasn't ready to leave, yet. Neville had not wholly recovered from his Grandmother's passing and he was moody and sulked too much. Harry reminded him at every opportunity that Ron and Hermione would be living in Hogsmeade for the next year and that seemed to give him some comfort.
Finally, the day before the leavers ceremony, as Harry was working on his introductory address, he received an owl from the Ministry of Sports and Games notifying him that there was a position available, possibly, for a seeker on the British National Team, and if Harry was interested he should plan to spend a month with the team in Glasgow, Scotland, for training and evaluation. With that note, Harry knew what he would do. He loved Quidditch and flying and it was time for a long break from anything serious, (except Ginny). As soon as he made the decision he felt better and wrote a quick acceptance note to the coach.
The next morning Harry told Ginny of his decision when he got her alone for a moment, after watching the sunrise. She seemed genuinely happy for him, but blasé overall. When Harry ran into Hermione a couple hours later, on the way to the leavers ceremony, he mentioned this to her.
"Well, Harry, how would you expect her to feel? You two have been attached at the hip for weeks and you just told her you would be gone a month!"
Cringing, Harry admitted to Hermione that this was a good point, and then mentally whacked himself for not catching on quicker. Hermione read his thoughts exactly and laughed. "Yes, Harry, you better knock yourself around a bit, then maybe Ginny won't be too hard on you." But the time had come for the ceremony and Harry made a mental note to speak with Ginny about this, first-thing after the day's activities were over.
_ _____ _
The Daily Prophet Friday, June 19, 1998
Hogwarts to Advance Final Class Today? School Governors Weighing Options Commencement Address by Minister Scrimgeour, page 2. Harry Potter to Open Leavers Ceremony, page 3. Head Girl, Hermione Granger, Closing Remarks, page 3. Headmistress McGonagall to Retire, page 4. Birmingham Bombers Bombed Again, Now 0-6, page 8. Clean Sweep Files for Bankruptcy after recall of all model 20.04 brooms. Business Section, page 1.
_ _____ _
Harry looked at the huge crowd that had gathered on the south lawn, the butterflies in his stomach made him feel like it was his first Quidditch game seven years ago; Ginny called it his "Quidditch butterflies." His knees were shaking, too. Harry asked himself why he ever consented doing the Introduction. I hate crowds, I hate crowds, I hate crowds… was the only thought going through Harry's mind until Ginny walked up behind him, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You'll do fine, Harry, just don't be sick in front of everyone."
"Oh, thanks!" Harry responded, but the humour had worked, he was distracted for a moment and calmer now watching Ginny run back to her seat with the other students. As he turned his eyes forward, Harry noticed that Hermione looked a bit ill, too. Reaching over Ron, who appeared to be in some sort of daze, Harry took Hermione's hand and squeezed it reassuringly. Her quick, jerky motions and wide eyes seemed to settle for a moment.
In short order Professor McGonagall stepped up to the platform and waited for the crowd to quiet, signalling the start of the ceremony.
"Ladies and gentlemen, witches and wizards, welcome to this years' Leavers Ceremony. We are happy, and yet at the same time saddened to see the departure of the class of 1998." After the applause died down the headmistress continued.
"Everyone here knows what this day means to our leavers and our school; a beginning and an end." Harry could tell that McGonagall had barely gulped out the word "end" and was struggling with her composure, but the professional teacher took over and she continued. "I would now like to invite Mr. Harry Potter on stage for the opening address. Mr. Potter?"
Climbing up the four steps from the lawn to the stage, Harry walked forward and shook McGonagall's hand and then surprised her by giving her a kiss on the cheek. For her part, McGonagall blushed so brightly that the students sitting up front who could see what happened clapped and whistled for her.
Then Harry began.
"Fellow students, parents, family and friends, teachers and distinguished guests; welcome. It's difficult to imagine myself seven years ago thinking I could be standing up here addressing you today. Those I know and those who know me see a person very different from the scared eleven year old child asking a Muggle Guard where platform 9¾ was located." Hearing laughter and clapping eased Harry's nerves even more.
"At that time I'd only known for a month that I was a wizard, and while that revelation had answered some of my question about why strange things happened to me, it presented me then, and more so later, with many more unanswered questions."
"Today I know the answers to those questions of my past, and now I am facing a number of new ones. I look forward to a future of questions and mysteries, assured that, having survived the past seven years, I will again survive, with the assistance of those I call my friends, and with the education I've received."
Harry stood for a moment, gathering his notes, which he didn't really use, and headed to the edge of the stage. He was breathing hard and it took a second for the applause to register. Approaching the stairs leading back down to the lawn Harry paused for a moment and looked out to the sea of people, all clapping and some cheering. Looking over his shoulder to the school staff he saw Hagrid standing and cheering as loudly as everyone else. Then, near the end of the row of staff, stood Severus Snape wearing his same scowl and his perpetual look of disgust with Harry. But even Snape was clapping. Their eyes met for a moment and Harry turned to leave the stage.
The presentation of awards and certificates ended after what seemed like hours to some, but it went all too fast for others. Of course Hermione won the Peak Achiever award in every subject but two. Harry and Ron would roll their eyes at each other with each award, and after Hermione's fourth trip up to the stage Professor McGonagall said to her "Ms. Granger, why don't you just stay up here?" Hermione blushed, but the crowd loved it, Ron most of all.
When presented with the potions award, Snape actually congratulated Hermione, though Ron swore that he did it through gritted teeth. Then Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout awarded the medal in Herbology to Neville, who solemnly walked forward to accept.
After Neville, and to no one's surprise, the award for Defence Against the Dark Arts was awarded to Harry. Minister Scrimgeour gave Harry the prize and, after a few words about Harry to the audience which made him feel very ill at ease, Scrimgeour opened a large flat box he'd taken with him to the podium and announced that Harry had been awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class.
Harry instantly knew why he had had no forewarning about the award, he would never have accepted it. Now he was stuck up on stage with the Minister of Magic and a few thousand people watching and cheering, standing, waving previously concealed signs and banners, and expected to say a few words.
"Uh, Minister Scrimgeour…thank you for this award. I guess, well I had some incentive to destroy (he still avoided the word kill) Voldemort, since it was either him or me."
Not intending it to come out as a joke, the crowd felt otherwise and cheered and applauded again. Harry's Quidditch butterflies had returned and he just wanted to get off the stage.
"But I do appreciate this honor and, well, there are a lot of others here who made important contributions to our victory, also, and they should be recognized." Thinking quickly, do I know the names of everyone in the DA? "I would like to ask all the members of Dumbledore's Army to rise." Harry wished Fudge and Umbridge were present to acknowledge those who had played such a vital role in Voldemort's defeat. The members, some a little annoyed with him for being dragging into this, stood and a few waved acknowledgement to the cheers. They all quickly sat down when the applause stopped.
"I would also like to acknowledge Professor Hagrid, Professor Flitwick and…" Harry knew he had to do this, though it made him sick, "…Professor Snape for their critical roles in the final battle. Thank you." Harry tried to exit, but Scrimgeour stopped Harry and positioned him at the front of the stage for pictures. Harry felt like vanishing but he had to stand there for an eternity while the press and then some students took picture after picture. Finally, Scrimgeour again thanked Harry and relinquished the proceedings back to McGonagall and Harry made a hasty departure, stage right.
Finally, it was nearly over, and Harry noticed that Ron was getting worried as the time approached for Hermione's final address.
Standing at the signal from McGonagall, Hermione clenched her fists as she walked to the stage using the same stairs Harry had used earlier. Her walk was slow and her eyes searching as she glanced from the stage to the audience. Positioning herself at the podium, Hermione took a few deep calming breaths and began.
"F-fellow students, faculty, friends, family, Professor McGonagall. Good afternoon. My classmates and I stand before you with thanks for the many sacrifices you have made to bring us to this day. In particular, we thank the many who gave their lives so that we might have the opportunity to be here at all. And I would like to thank the class of 1998 for the honor of selecting me to address you today."
"This morning, as I sat with so many of you watching the sunrise, I had to fight back a feeling of emptiness that threatened to overwhelm me. I know many of you felt the same way today as we watched our last day at Hogwarts begin, or perhaps over the years when you'd lost someone you loved dearly. This is a natural reaction to loss and it is a part of life. We might ask ourselves why we have to feel so empty, or lonely, or abandoned; it's a question I've faced many times, but the answer has eluded me…until just recently."
"I believe that this emptiness is there because we need to make way for something new and better. Maybe it's a friend, or a new love. Maybe it's something concrete that we need or desire. Perhaps it's a new school…" Hermione let this thought hang for a few seconds.
"We seventh years may be feeling the keenest sense of loss of all the students today, but maybe that's because we have to make room for so much more in our lives."
"Where do we look to fill emptiness such as this? What can we do to fill emptiness such as this? I believe the answer is much simpler than we sometimes think; I truly believe we just have to look around ourselves, and see it in the people we know as friends. I'd ask all you who are feeling this pain to embrace someone and maybe, just a little bit, the pain will ease, and you'll find the strength to go forward to another day."
"Over the past few years everyone here has been a part of the terrible tragedies cause by the person who called himself Lord Voldemort…" Hermione could see some students cringe, still, at his name. "…my best...one of my best friends lost two brothers, a loss we should all hope to avoid. When I see his parents I look into the eyes of emptiness and pain beyond words. To them I can only offer hope that the killing is finally over and ask that they accept me, in a small way, as part of their extended family so that I may help fill that seemingly endless void."
Hermione ventured a quick look to Ron who was staring into nothing with a sad look on his face.
"My fellow seventh year students, there will be no job and no opportunity you will face for the rest of your life that is more important than this one: to become a part of your wider community by sharing of yourself and becoming an active part in the lives of those around you."
"Traditionally, this closing address is a long pep-talk about careers and life in the future. If the events of the past few years offer us any lessons, let it be that our future is now, and everything else we do in our lives depends completely on how we address the present."
"Finally, on behalf of my classmates, I wish to thank Headmistress McGonagall and the wonderful staff of Hogwarts for a unique educational experience. I will always look back on these years with memories of life, and happiness, and f-friendship, and love.
As Hermione collected her notes she felt a hand on her shoulder that seemed to startle her. Turning, she saw Minerva McGonagall, her typically stern face having been replaced with the loving look of a proud mother. Quietly she said, "Thank you, Hermione, dear."
Then, approaching the podium, and waiting for Hermione to exit the stage, she spoke one last line. "This ceremony is complete, good luck class of 1998."
Ron, Harry, and Hermione sat together as the rest of their class moved around to find their families and guests. Hermione took Ron and Harry's hand and held them, perhaps shaking a little, but with no tears this time. Ginny had stepped away knowing that the three friends needed one last moment together. "The Trio", Ginny smile inwardly at the name they'd earned; her brother, the boy she loved, and her best friend.
Finally Hermione spoke. "Ron, Harry, I just wanted to say…um…" But she looked lost for words and seeing her apparent discomfort Ron stepped in.
"We know, Hermione, it's been a bloody insane seven years and we've been through so much. I know…we started off on the wrong foot but we…you know, it's gotten better and…um…I feel a lot…uh" Ron was getting tongue-tied and he looked to Harry who rolled his eyes and took over where Ron had left off.
"Yeah, Hermione, it's been really brilliant knowing you and being your friend. Um, all the homework you helped us with. Um, like Ron was saying…"
But Ron and Harry had noticed Hermione smiling and shaking her head. Then she pointed at each of them and burst out laughing. "You two are a pair! All I was going to say was thank you for saving me from that troll in our first year." And wrapping her arms around Ron and Harry's neck she gave them each a kiss on the cheek.
"Let's go!" Hermione said with genuine excitement, standing and pulling them by their hands into the mob of people surrounding their classmates.
Severus Snape stood on the stage after the ceremony ended, alone. A number of Slytherin students had come up to speak with him, some others waved from the lawn, but only a few students from the other houses even looked his way. Snape seethed at Potter's words, all fluffy and full of love and friendship. It was disgusting…and he got that award. After a few minutes, and with the crowd heading to the Great Hall for refreshments, Professor Flitwick walked up to him.
"Well, Severus, why are you looking so glum today? You finally have Potter out of your hair, eh?" Getting no reply other than his usual "go away" stare, Flitwick lit into Snape.
"Look Snape, you might imagine that Potter hates you, or this whole world hates you, I don't care. And if you are happy in your misery, I don't care. But if you can't get over a twenty year-old schoolboy grudge, you will be miserable the rest of your life."
"What concern is my happiness to you?" Snape shot back.
"More than you might imagine. We've worked together for years and the blackness on your soul and in your heart disgusts me. A man with your talents could do anything, but you choose to torment children. Albus Dumbledore should never have invited you to Hogwarts; it was the worse decision he ever made. If Hogwarts does return I hope the new headmaster fixes that situation. Good luck finding happiness with this misery you inflict on yourself. I for one am most happy that we are no longer working together. Good day."
Snape stood there for a few more minutes thinking about Flitwick's remarks. Then with a grunt, started toward the school to write a letter.
"Who's Fudge, Tiernan? And why do I have to see him? According to you he's not even in the industry." Liam Keane was hoping that the entire conversation, no, the entire week had been a bad dream and he would wake up laughing. But that didn't happen.
"Liam, he's the only person at the Ministry who has Scrimgeour's permission to negotiate with Muggles."
"Stop calling me that, it's offensive." Liam snarled.
"Please, brother, it's not a derogatory name, it just means non-magical." Liam swore that his head hurt more every time his brother said the word "magic or magical."
"Now, Fudge would like you to meet him in London tomorrow, so why don't you tell Marge that you have to go out of town for the day. I'm sure she won't mind."
As if on cue, Liam's wife, walked into the kitchen. "Hi Tiernan, back again? Did I hear you say something about going to London?"
"Err, yes dear, Tiernan wants me to speak to his boss about a possible contract."
"That's wonderful. Are you going?"
"Haven't made up my mind yet." Liam glared at his brother the leaned back into his chair.
"Of course he has, Marge. This is a once in a lifetime chance at riches, fame, and glory." Tiernan said dramatically, followed by a little laugh which Marge emulated as she left the kitchen.
"Oh, please Tiernan, if she knew a little more about the job she wouldn't be so happy." Tiernan's face gave his brother a stern warning but Liam would not have gone further.
"Very well, should we meet at the airport at 9am?"
Looking to see if Marge was out of earshot, Tiernan said quietly: "No need, I'll be here at 9:45, see you then." With that Tiernan disappeared out the front door and Liam heard the same CRACK he'd heard the other day when his brother appeared in his kitchen after being thrown out.
Why do I feel funny about being in London for a 10 AM meeting and leaving the house at 9:45?" Shaking his head Liam went off to have a bite to eat, and think about something that didn't give him a headache. Maybe I should brush up on my Calculus, was the first thought he had. That would relax me!
At 9:40 the next morning Liam was dressed in his best suit and ready to "go" where ever his brother had planned. He felt a little silly, and was thinking there might be a hidden camera someplace in the house with a bunch of strange people, probably dressed like Tiernan, ready to jump out and yell "Gotcha." But right on time Liam heard Tiernan's knock. Opening the door, Liam made a fuss about looking around for a helicopter exclaiming sardonically. "Tiernan, where's the lift? We only have 13 minutes to get to London." Tiernan resisted the desire to hex his brother and stepped into the house.
"Oh, we have plenty of time, want a stick?" Holding out a pack of pink colored gum to Liam, he took a piece hesitantly, and suddenly felt like he was being squashed and re-inflated at the same time, everything went totally black for an instant and when his eyes focused he had no idea where he was, except that there was a door in front of him with a sign saying:
Room 1313 Ministry of Magic Office of Muggle Relations Hon. William Battleworth, Secretary Cornelius Fudge, Asst. Secretary
"Tiernan, what the devil just happened? That was far worse than the new roller coaster at Seaside. And where am I?" Trying to keep some sense of his dignity, Liam set his briefcase down and started to straighten his clothing.
"We could have taken the Floo Network, but it's so hard to get permission, and it's dirtier, too. I am sorry for the deception, but most Muggles don't care for Portkeys, and we couldn't keep Fudge waiting, could we? Oh, and here's your pass." Tiernan's smile was getting to him, no one should be allowed to be that happy all the time.
"No, of course not." Liam responded absently. Liam thought for a moment he should ask what the "flew network" was but in the end determined he probably didn't want to know. And what the bloody hell is a "porky."
"So, we're here a bit early, brother, let's go in and have a seat while we wait for Fudge." Walking into the outer office they sat. Tiernan picked up a newspaper that reminded Liam of a tabloid, he couldn't see the whole title but it ended with "…ibbler". Looking for something else to read, Liam found a paper called The Daily Prophet. When he picked up the paper the first thing he noticed was that the pictures moved. Tiernan saw his brother looking on both sides of the front page and guessed what he was doing.
"Liam, the pictures in our world are more like your videos or motion pictures. You'll see many other…new…things today, just assume anything unusual is magical." Tiernan beamed at his older brother, enjoying the chance to one-up him. Liam just stared at his brother. A few seconds later a paper airplane soared by his head and around a corner.
"Inter-office mail." Tiernan announced and Liam just shook his head in growing wonder and amazement.
A few minutes later, after Liam had given up understanding the news in the Daily Prophet, an office door opened and a portly, well dressed man called for the brothers to enter.
"Well, Tiernan, this is your brother I assume?"
"Yes minister, I mean, secretary. Cornelius Fudge, Liam Keane of Bath." He watched his brother warily shake Fudge's hand as they all sat.
"Mr. Keane, I know your brother has told you a little bit about our world, first let me assure you that everything is safe now, there are hardly any Death Eaters remaining." Fudge was beaming as if he'd captured them all himself.
Liam, on the other hand, looked to his brother and yelled: "WHAT? What's a Death Eater, a cannibal?"
"So sorry, Liam. Mr. Fudge, Liam has not been cleared to be informed about all the recent…events."
"Ah, yes, I see. Well let me tell you a little about…"
Over the next thirty minutes, Fudge gave Liam a whirlwind rundown with some key names, places, and events of the past few years. Most of it went in one ear and out the other, the distractions in Fudge's office teased Liam to no end, especially a painting on his wall of an ugly old man with a big nose that would wave at him every few minutes. What he did gather is that the British magical community, not terribly large to begin with, had no experienced architects and engineers remaining after their losses in a recent "war."
"Well, Mr. Fudge, wh…"
"Please, call me Fudge, everyone else does." Another fawning smile.
"Very well…Fudge…But why me? There are many more prominent architects in England." Liam asked suspiciously.
"Well, Liam, may I call you Liam? Well, that is true but Minister Scrimgeour, he's the equivalent of your Prime Minister, he believes that since you have a brother as a wizard that you may be more…sensitive…to our peculiar situation."
"I see, and you are, of course, referring to magic, Fudge?" Liam thought that if this entire conversation wasn't so unbelievable it might be funny.
"Well, as I mentioned, the last battle of our war took place in a large cavern underneath our school for wizards and witches, Hogwarts is its name. When V-voldemort was destroyed there was some sort of explosion and the cave ceiling was seriously weakened. We were able to evacuate the school in time so no students were injured, but the east and west wings collapsed shortly thereafter into the cavern and we're left with this mess. So I've been authorized to see if we can employ someone with your skills to survey the site, recommend a course of action, and supervise reconstruction."
This much Liam could understand. "Very well, Fudge, I accept your offer pending an inspection of the site. Shall I have my office draw up a contract?"
"Heavens, no!" Fudge chuckled, "Your contracts are not binding in our world. Take a look here." Fudge removed a single sheet of white paper with just a few lines of writing. "This is our contract. Why don't you read it over and let me know what you think."
Liam could already tell he didn't like much about the contract. "What is this? Other punishment as deemed suitable"
"Not to worry yourself, Liam," Fudge replied, "those are penalties that apply to the wizarding world, not yours. Now, what do you say we go see…"
"Hang on a mo, let's talk about this 'sum to be determined'. Who determines that?"
"Why, Liam, you do, of course. We will be happy to pay a reasonable rate and exchange the funds at Gringott's…ah, haven't heard of that either, I take it? Gringotts is our bank, and we use gold and silver a lot more than in your world. I hope you don't feel put out by receiving wages in gold, do you, Liam?"
Hardly believing what Fudge had said, Liam shook his head like a greedy child. "No, gold is just fine, Fudge."
"Good, good. Now, let's go over and look at the project, shall we?" Fudge was heading for the fireplace, Tiernan saw.
"Secretary, I think Liam may be more comfortable with a Portkey, if that's alright with you."
"Certainly, let me see here. Ah, here we are." Fudge pulled a small box from his pocket and opened it to the page marked "H" then pointed to a spot on the page; Liam gritted his teeth in anticipation…
As the three men walked the grounds on the north side of Hogwarts Liam was amazed by the beauty and complexity of the Great Hall and north wing. He felt as if he were a child again, in a candy store. In front of his eyes were centuries of architectural styles he'd never seen close up. Some looked vaguely recognizable and some were totally unfamiliar. Here and there he noticed parts of the buildings appeared to be held up by nothing at all. Remembering his brother's comments about seeing the impossible, Liam thought it likely that his observation were true; magic again.
Circling the grounds, counter-clockwise towards the west wing, or the remains of it, Liam felt deep sadness for the loss he was observing, though he knew he would never appreciate the buildings as his companions did, both having attended the school. Virtually all the debris of the destroyed structures had fallen inward and down to a point about three meters below the ground level. Looking across the chasm toward the ruins of the east wing, he saw similar destruction. But what staggered Liam the most was the sheer magnitude of the work that needed to be done. Then he had an idea.
"Fudge, will I be able to use magic in helping with the assessment? Pardon me, not 'me' use magic, but may I have assistance from some of your construction workers?"
"Certainly, there will be some assistance from the guilds. The real problem there is that we simply do not have many skilled architects. We can lift and move adequately, but to actually rebuild takes skill and the artistic touch, wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes, I see your point. Well, let's worry about that when we get to it, I'll do the assessment first."
The tour continued for three more hours with a long break for lunch on the south lawn. Over an excellent steak and kidney pie Liam noticed Hogsmeade in the distance and asked his brother about it. Tiernan looked to Fudge who nodded ascent and he filled his brother in on the history of the village.
"Yes, yes, Tiernan, some of the greatest wizards of the past thousand years have lived in Hogsmeade, the Potter boy lives there now with some friends, I've heard." Fudge added, pleased with Liam's apparent ease in this unusual arrangement.
Liam had heard the name Potter earlier in the day, but not with the "boy" attached. He asked Tiernan and Fudge a few more questions then they set off to the school archives, the records repository of the school's original "blueprints" as well as changes and additions made to the school throughout the centuries. Liam was pleased that the records were well kept; he had dreaded the possibility of having nothing to work from.
As their business ended for the day all seemed content with the progress, and Liam had filled the better part of a new pad with notes, ideas, and names of assistants his brother could contact. Fudge bid Liam a good afternoon and Apparated directly back to his office. Liam lingered a bit with his brother on the north lawn asking questions about the school and his time there. As they talked on, Liam warmed to the idea of working at Hogwarts. The history, the majesty, and the magic held a strange appeal on him and gave him a feeling of satisfaction. But what gave him a jolt was how easily he had come to accept his brother's world, his seemingly incorrigible little brother had not been a pain all those years ago because he was a git, he was that way because he was coming to realize he really was very different. As Tiernan prepared to use the Portkey to take his brother home, he saw a warm smile on Liam's face and he knew his brother had finally accepted him for what he was.
Back in Bath, the brothers shook hands, and said goodnight. Before leaving Tiernan, Liam asked how long the work would take to repair Hogwarts.
"Oh, eighteen to twenty-four months minimum, if we have good weather and there is no significant damage to the foundation. Why?"
"Well, you see, Fudge was hoping to have it ready for the next term, in about nine weeks." Tiernan answered a little uncomfortably.
Liam shook his head at the joke and laughed, then caught himself thinking: It would take a magician to meet that goal.