Under the enduringly blue sky and the warm morning sun, Georges-Jacques wandered among the trees and flowers with the three or four hundred others who had come for the event, although he was also wandering alone. One somehow did not expect this sort of pleasant weather in England even in the springtime, but then again, he had not been to Britain for many years and, in any case, Devon was different from the north.
He had never visited Burrow Park before; France had its own heroes' cemeteries and he was not the sort who went looking for such things. Still, had he come to England during the last twenty years he might have made a point of coming here. The variations among the colors of the flowers were breathtaking, if somewhat over-exuberant, and their arrangements around and about the gravesites wove a complex, recurring pattern he could not quite interpret. And there were other reasons.
He had tried introducing himself a few times, but ran into the same maddening phenomenon he had seen before with the English (and also the Americans): when they heard his accent they immediately began to speak more loudly, as if (1) he had trouble understanding the language, and (2) shouting would somehow remedy this. The third time, when a Muggle woman (but the English were no longer using that term, he corrected himself) bellowed into his ear, "Georges-Jacques Delacour? What a charmingly foreign name! My husband and I went to Paris last year!" he gave up and decided to enjoy the ceremony on his own.
Others were stopping at each stone, reading the epitaphs and checking them against guidebooks, which they held in their hands along with the program for the ceremony. Some appeared to be giving each other history lessons. Georges-Jacques strolled slowly in the gardens, giving most of the graves only cursory looks until he found the slightly larger stone he was seeking:
WILLIAM ARTHUR WEASLEY 29 November 1970 3 March 1999
FLEUR DELACOUR-WEASLEY 3 February 1977 3 March 1999
PHILIPPE DELACOUR-WEASLEY 22 August 1998 3 March 1999
Love is stronger than Death.
Georges-Jacques smiled sadly. He knew that the grave contained not three, but only two bodies.
Philippe Delacour had already been a grandfather before he discovered that he was a Weasley. Not until the death of his "sister" Gabrielle, who turned out to be his aunt, did he find the letters and the Weasley family photograph album she had kept. These, it seemed, had been in the Delacours' possession at the time of his parents' deaths. From them, he was able to piece together the truth: that his mother and father had hurriedly sent their infant son to his grandparents in France just before the disaster that destroyed the Burrow. As to why his grandparents had withheld his parentage from him, no one was left alive to say. Perhaps it was because they believed, as Philippe himself did after reading the documents, that all of the other Weasleys had been killed by Death Eaters. Neither they nor he knew that his aunt Ginny had survived. Philippe himself died in an accident not too long afterwards, but he left the letters and the album to his grandson.
Georges-Jacques, after he came of age, began to research this mysterious branch of his family, and discovered, just a few months too late, his connection to the famous Mother Ginevra of Manchester. His infuriating failure to find her before her death spurred his desire to learn as much as he could about her. Working exhaustively and alone, sitting in dusty libraries, Ministry offices and newspaper file rooms, he slowly fleshed out the story: how Ginny Weasley had lost both the boy she loved and her whole family in the war against Voldemort; how Ginny and The Seventeen had destroyed the Dark Lord, but Ginny had blamed herself for the deaths of her family; how Ginny had become Mother Ginevra, that icon of compassion and ceaseless devotion, ministering to the poor and sick for a lifetime.
Georges-Jacques had studied the faces in the family album as one studies a book of prayer or a treasure map, but no face more carefully than that of his great-grandaunt, in the pictures still a girl and full of mirth and hope. As a young man he had mused to himself, pondering how the energetic, mischievous face in the faded, torn photograph had become the grim, sorrowful, endlessly strong face of the figure everyone knew. Two decades later, in his many moments of solitude, he still took that album out from time to time and pondered it.
All of the Weasley stones were relatively close together. He strolled on and found another:
HARRY JAMES POTTER 31 July 1980 21 June 1998 "The Boy Who Lived"
It pleased him that Harry Potter was buried beside the Weasleys rather than among the other heroes of the war. From what he had learned in his researches, he felt sure that Harry would have wanted to be counted among them.
Right next to Harry's grave, he found a somewhat newer stone:
GINEVRA MOLLY WEASLEY 11 August 1981 31 July 2070 No longer left behind.
Georges-Jacques wondered how many would understand the inscription as he did. It troubled him, just a bit, that after today most visitors would ignore this small stone in favor of the grand monument about to be dedicated.
He continued his slow circumnavigation of the cemetery, stopping at the graves of each of the Weasleys, of The Seventeen, of the other heroes of the Dark Wars who rested in this enchanting place. He marveled, even after all this time, at the unremarked mingling of wizards and witches in robes with non-magical people in their flowered dresses and loud ties. So many. He wondered how they had learned of this dedication and elected to come to it. He himself had received an engraved invitation; the English Ministry of Magic, which had learned of his existence during his research, insisted that the last of the Weasleys be present at this event.
The crowd was now beginning to move towards the fan-shaped array of seats that surrounded the speaker's platform and its lectern, which were immediately next to the new, ten-foot-tall monument, covered in a brilliant green cloth. Georges-Jacques found a seat close to the front where he would be able to see the monument clearly when it was unveiled. A few rows ahead of him, in the first row, he saw a tall, raven-haired, muscular witch; from this angle he couldn't really see her face, but nevertheless his eye was drawn to her for some reason.
After about fifteen minutes of people laughing, chattering, and sitting down noisily in the wooden chairs, a hush fell over the crowd; a plump, cheerful witch in scarlet robes stood from her chair and moved behind the lectern.
"Ladies and gentlemen, witches and wizards, I am Diana Fitzroy, Director of Burrow Park Memorial Cemetery. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome so many wizard and non-wizard folk to witness the unveiling and dedication of this wonderful memorial to one of the heroes who made our world what it is. Before introducing the main speaker, let me simply express our sense of gratitude and delight for the work of Petra White, the sculptor whose creation you will all be seeing today. Petra, will you stand and let everyone see you?"
To George-Jacques's surprise, the tall woman he had noted before stood and waved shyly to the crowd applauding affectionately behind her. The black hair he had already seen was curly and a bit wild; her eyes were dark too, but her skin was unusually pale, like cream; she was about thirty. Her nose was long and straight, and (he saw when she smiled) she had a slight overbite. He found it mildly ridiculous that he was cataloguing her features in this way; what was wrong with him today? Apparently she had noticed his look, for she caught his eye as she sat back down, smiling slightly as if they shared some private joke.
The Director continued, "It is a measure of the place in history of Mother Ginevra of Manchester that so many of you, from such disparate backgrounds, are gathered in one place to honor her life and mission, even twenty years after her death. It is a further measure that no less a person than the Minister of Magic is here to dedicate this monument. Yet in another sense it is no surprise, because the Minister himself is the prime mover behind this memorial, and devoted personal attention to the selection of the sculptor and the details of the statues within." The Director gestured at the covered monument. "And so, with no further introduction, please welcome the Minister of Magic, Edward Mason."
The renewed applause as the Minister stood and approached the lectern was enthusiastic. He was a slim man of nearly sixty, dressed in dark gray robes that exactly matched the color of his hair. A sense of energy and intelligence radiated from him like an aroma. He looked fondly at the place where the monument stood, and cleared his throat.
"It is ironic," the Minister began, "that I first met Mother Ginevra, nearly thirty-five years ago, in my capacity as a young agent of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, to investigate a violation of the Statute of Secrecy." The crowd rippled with gentle, appreciative laughter. The Minister smiled.
"It was a rare moment, for indeed Mother Ginevra rarely used magic in any form, but ministered to the poor using the tools she had to hand. She inspired others to work with her, and through her efforts many hungry were fed, many homeless found roofs over their heads, many sick had their pain eased, and many dying their fears assuaged. Apart from the uncounted thousands she made whole or whose lives she improved, it can be fairly said that she directly saved the lives of nearly four thousand people." For some reason the Minister's voice caught for a moment and he had to clear his throat. Georges-Jacques agreed that the saving of so many lives was an awesome, moving accomplishment.
The Minister continued, "Through these many works, over so many years, she earned a reputation in the non-wizarding world as a benefactress and even a saint. In the last ten years of her life she was known to many thousands of those without magic and her opinion was widely sought on matters relating to the poor. She had a significant influence on policy among the non-magical, and effected many changes in government services that benefited tens or hundreds of thousands. When she died, a throng wished to attend her funeral and mourn at her graveside.
"But the woman who was born Ginevra Molly Weasley left instructions that she was to be buried here, at Burrow Park, in the grave beside her beloved Harry's and near her parents and her brothers. As she was the last of The Seventeen, the funeral was sure to be attended by many Aurors and the families of the other heroes of that war. The Ministry was presented with a dilemma: the only way a person without magic could attend the service would be if his memory were to be altered afterwards; but what merit is there in attending a solemn ritual of intense personal meaning, if one is not permitted to remember that it happened? Further, I knew that Mother Ginevra detested the Statute of Secrecy, and that it would be a poor tribute to apply that very statute to her own burial rites. I was then a department undersecretary, and prevailed upon my colleagues to find another way of handling the problem.
"The Ministry cautiously approached the Home Office and presented the difficulty. To our very great surprise, the officers of the Crown had little difficulty believing that Ginevra of Manchester was a magical person the response most often heard was, 'Well, if anyone in this world is magical, she was.' They had a somewhat harder time believing that there was a whole community of us." He grinned, and there was more appreciative laughter.
"Several different proposals were suggested, and none adopted, for trying to maintain secrecy at this event. Finally, we all made a completely irrational leap of faith we simply decided to hold the funeral, allowing to attend whoever wished to attend, and see what happened."
He beamed at the crowd. "What did happen was something none of us expected. The magical and non-magical, put face-to-face with no masks or lies or deceptions between them, accepted one another with no fuss, distrust or manipulation. Contrary to what had been feared for so long, there were no importunate pleas for magical assistance, no fear or superstition, nor any disdain or bigotry on the part of wizards that might have characterized some of us while the Dark Lord still lived.
"Then began the great work of our time, which is known to most of you. I that is, we repealed the Statute of Secrecy in England, and its counterparts are now in the process of being repealed worldwide. With increasing confidence, cooperation between wizards and non-magical scientists and technologists is remaking the world we share. Food and shelter are becoming increasingly available to all, and soon there will be no hungry or homeless in England. Healers and physicians, working together, have radically reduced the incidence of death by preventable disease. Non-magical geneticists have discovered the sources of the inheritability of magic, and someday soon they may have the ability to make it available to all. Arithmantic and Transfigurational theory have been applied to the problem of gravitation, generating a true Unified Field Theory that, among other things, makes cheap energy available to all and may bring the exploration of the stars themselves within our grasp. Without meaning to overstate the case or bring bad luck upon us, I think we may be on the verge of creating paradise."
His eyes lit with an infectious joy.
"All of this began with the life and death of one blessed woman. Could Mother Ginevra have known what would be wrought from her work when she made her choices, early in life? Surely not. Did she know of these marvelous consequences before she died? Sadly, I think she could not. But she would have wished for them with all her heart and welcomed them with open arms.
"One who thought she had done wrong, who thought she had cost lives, dedicated her own life to saving others. She succeeded beyond her wildest dreams not only did she save lives, she healed the rift between Wizard and Non-wizard that has existed for millennia. Because of her, tens or hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved. One person, one soul, working patiently and with dedication, changed the face of our world. It takes only one." The Minister quoted from the Psalms, his voice still strong but betraying the merest hint of a tremor, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the headstone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes."
The Minister flicked his wand at the memorial, and the cover vanished; there was a collective murmur from the crowd.
The monument was comprised of two statues. Unlike wizard paintings, wizard statues do not move; but under the influence of Petra White's marvelous gifts the marble seemed to breathe, and one could almost feel the warmth of the skin and the moisture of the eyes. An old woman, obviously Mother Ginevra, attired in her customary work-dress and her hair in its customary braid, stood behind a girl of perhaps twelve or thirteen, her hands resting on the young shoulders in a gesture of comfort and acceptance. The girl had apparently just ceased weeping, whether from loneliness, sorrow, anger or shame it was impossible to tell; the sculptor had managed to convey a lingering tear in her eye. But under the touch of Ginevra's loving hands, the younger face had calmed and quieted, and the girl now seemed to forgive the world, or to forgive herself, for whatever awful thing had happened. It was as if the older woman had opened her heart and drunk in the misery of the girl, soothing and consoling her.
Georges-Jacques's eyes widened and his breath caught. He saw something there that no one else, except perhaps the Minister or the sculptor herself, could see, and he thought his heart would break.
The girl was the young Ginny Weasley.
Through the sudden tears that none around him understood, Georges-Jacques prayed that it was so: that the patience and kindness of Ginevra had forgiven and finally consoled the anguish of Ginny.
As he wept, unable to keep his sobs inaudible, he did not notice the surprisingly light touch of the sculptor's strong hands on his own shoulders. Finally he lifted his head and turned around in his chair, looking into the blackest irises he had ever seen; in full sunlight he could not make out where Petra White's pupils began. Those eyes were full of concern and worry but also a sort of recognition, as if she knew why he was crying without being told.
It seemed that they might have some things to say to each other.
The pedestal of the monument bore the following inscription:
Our beginnings never know our ends. From the love of one heart, a new world can be born.
As always, I express my gratitude to my betas, Frelling and Ilovecats, whose input was crucial to the final shape this chapter took.
I named Georges-Jacques for Danton, the only leader of the French Revolution who ever had any fun. Of course it was St Margarets who originally named Bill and Fleur's son Philippe. The name Petra means "rock", so I thought it appropriate for a sculptor; only late in the writing process did I realize that "Petra White" is a translation of "Peter Weiss", the playwright who wrote Marat/Sade which happens to be about the French Revolution. It also was not until late that I realized that I had given Petra the features and demeanor of a Betazoid. Go figure. And before everyone starts asking me, I do recognize that wild black hair with an overbite makes a lot of people think of a weird hybrid of Harry and Hermione, but that was not my intention. ("Honestly," Hermione said irritably, "you'd think no one else in the world had an overbite!")
In case you're wondering, yes, Georges-Jacques has flaming red hair.