The second of May dawned bright and glorious, the sun peeking through the trees as it rose vivid and cheerful, much as it had done the previous year. A hint of summer warmth drifted in the breeze, and flowers and splashes of green dotted the landscape. The birdsong was peaceful and serene. It could have been a scene out of storybook.
Ginny hated it.
She felt as she had done that day one year ago, that the sunny weather and bright sky were mocking all their losses and the tragedy that had unfolded the night before. Harry had told her he saw it more as the future dawning, chasing away the darkness. She wished she could have his optimism, but she didn’t. She’d rather sleep through this day. She didn’t want to remember. She didn’t want the visions of scorched trees or trampled grass or the puddles of blood that were burned in her mind.
One year ago, she’d lost her brother, her roommate, one of her oldest friends, a woman who’d become something of an older sister, and a beloved teacher. She’d also seen the love of her life being carried from the forest as a lifeless shell. He’d died, too, and it was only through some bizarre blood ritual that she still didn’t even completely understand that she still had him.
She didn’t want to remember it. Wrapping her arms tightly around herself to ward off an imaginary chill, she stood at the window of her dormitory, watching the cruelly rising sun. She’d slept poorly, and even the thought of seeing Harry and her family didn’t cheer her. Since it was a weekend and no classes were being held, Professor McGonagall was hosting a ceremony here on the grounds before everyone strolled down to the soon-to-be-uncovered monument on the road to Hogsmeade.
She’d heard the Hogsmeade Inn was booked to capacity, even after it had been magically expanded. There had been a tent city erected on the outskirts of the village to house the overflow. The Minister was giving a speech, and Harry had also been asked to make a statement. He’d reluctantly agreed, but Ginny knew he was dreading it.
Her family, along with several high-ranking Ministry officials, were arriving through Professor McGonagall’s Floo. Being former members of the Order of the Phoenix definitely had its privileges. The remaining members of the Order and all of the DA had special seating down front, along with the families who’d lost loved ones. Ginny felt she was part of all three groups.
Her stomach rumbled despite the fact food was unappealing. She rubbed it irritably — stupid Weasley appetite.
“Had trouble sleeping, too, eh?” Liz asked, peering around the curtains on her bed. Her eyes were puffy and her hang-dog expression matched the way Ginny felt.
“I’m debating just staying up here all day,” Ginny replied, moving the curtain aside and sitting on the edge of Liz’s bed.
Liz snorted unbecomingly. “Your curiosity would never allow you to do that.”
Ginny shrugged, conceding the point. “My family is arriving this morning.”
“Mine’s already here,” Liz said, rolling her eyes. Her mother, brother and nephew were staying in Hogsmeade. Liz had gone into the village yesterday to visit with them, and she’d stayed through dinner.
“How are they?” Ginny asked.
“Mum looked tired, David still looks angry. He’s been on best behaviour since his arrest, though. His in-laws are still trying to seek custody, but they aren’t having a lot of luck. He’s turned all his attention to that,” Liz said, frowning.
“Well… that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Ginny asked.
“Yeah, I suppose. My nephew is adorable, but he looks like his mother, and whenever I see him, I remember how much she loved him. She would want her parents in his life. My mum keeps trying to tell David that, but he’s so angry, he’s not listening,” Liz said.
“Even though that means your nephew is the one losing the most of all?” Ginny asked. “You should have your brother talk to Harry. I think he might be able to convey your nephew’s future perspective better than anyone.”
“Maybe I will,” Liz said.
The curtains surrounding Siobhan’s bed were suddenly ripped back, and Siobhan stuck her face out, swiping her rumpled hair away irritably. “What in Merlin’s name do you find it necessary to discuss at the crack of dawn?”
Liz and Ginny burst into giggles, only causing Siobhan’s scowl to deepen. “Seriously, my parents will be here in a few hours, and I need a good night’s sleep to cope,” she said grumpily.
“Come on, Siobhan. We’re all facing our parents today. Let’s go see what they have to eat in the common room before Andrew, Dean and Ritchie eat it all,” Ginny said, tossing Liz’s pillow at Siobhan.
Professor McGonagall had informed them that a light breakfast would be served in the common rooms that morning as the Great Hall was being used for guests to gather before the ceremony.
“My parents aren’t coming,” Hermione said, pulling back her own bed hangings. Crookshanks lay curled up at the foot of her bed, and only opened one eye to glare at them all balefully for disturbing his nap. “I think something really needs to be done for the families of Muggle-borns.”
“I think they could come if they wanted, but… they wouldn’t be able to see anything, would they?” Siobhan asked.
“According to Hogwarts, A History, the castle appears as ruins with a warning sign that it’s unstable to scare anyone who stumbles upon it away. Still, I know that private homes that are charmed to keep Muggles away can be adjusted if the Muggle knows it’s there, and the owner accompanies them within the wards,” Hermione said. Ginny’s mind flashed on a teacher giving a lecture, and she had to stifle her grin.
“Is that what you plan on doing with your future, Hermione?” Parvati asked, pulling back her own bed hangings. “Are you going to work for the Ministry and fight for Muggle rights?”
“Actually, I have been offered a job at the Ministry,” Hermione said, beaming.
“You have? You didn’t tell me that,” Ginny yelped. “What job?”
“It’s in the Department for the Care of Magical Creatures, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I think your dad will speak up for Muggles, although I might give him a few ideas of things that could be made more accommodating here,” Hermione replied.
“Dad will be delighted to talk Muggles with you. You know that,” Ginny said, grinning.
“I’m more concerned about magical creatures. After listening to some of the stories both Ron and Harry told me about with the Dementors and giants, I think wizards need to re-educate themselves on a lot of species. The arrogance of the past has no place under the new world we’re trying to build. A large variety of creatures came to our aid during the Battle, and I hope they’ll be mentioned in the speeches today,” Hermione said fiercely.
“Well, if not today, then next anniversary,” Liz said, grinning at Hermione. “After all, you’re not there to whip them all into shape yet.”
Hermione’s cheeks turned pink, although she looked pleased nonetheless. “What about you, Liz? Have you decided what you’re going to do?”
Liz had always wanted to be some kind of Healer, although she kept fluctuating on where she wanted to enter that field. “I’ve taken a job with an apothecary in Diagon Alley. I’ve always liked Potions, so I’m going to direct my studies in that field.”
“What about you, Parvati?” Siobhan asked.
Parvati pulled her blankets up closer to her chest and clutched them there, her expression troubled and distant. “My parents want me to enter into a betrothal contract,” she said.
“What?” Hermione shouted, looking affronted. “I can’t believe that’s even still done.”
“It’s very common amongst pure-blood families,” Ginny said. Although her family had moved away from a lot of the old ways, she knew a lot of families hadn’t — and not just those members of the Sacred Twenty-Eight.
“But — surely witches have a say in whom they marry?” Hermione asked.
“Some do,” Parvati said, shrugging. “My parents have arranged marriages for both Padma and me. I know they won’t force us, but they’ll be most disappointed.”
“What is it you want to do?” Ginny asked quickly because Hermione looked as if she was ready to burst.
“Well, Lavender and I always talked about opening a dress shop. We think there’s a real market for something that blends both traditional robes with more Muggle-style clothing,” Parvati said, biting her lip.
“I’d shop there,” Ginny said.
“Thanks. My sister is the one with the business head, but I’m the creative one. The idea of opening our own place against our parents’ wishes is daunting, though,” Parvati said, flopping back down on her pillow.
“Why don’t you talk to George? He’ll be here today, and he can give you some idea of what it’s like to open a business from nothing,” Ginny said.
“Thanks, Ginny,” Parvati said uncertainly.
“And you, Siobhan?” Hermione asked, still looking rather disgruntled. “Still planning on joining the Irish branch of the Ministry?”
“Maybe. Seamus got me an interview with Ogden’s, so I’d like to see how that goes. He gets to do a lot of travelling and meets loads of people. I think I’d like that,” Siobhan said brightly.
“Oh, bollocks — you and Seamus selling Firewhisky together? We’re all doomed,” Ginny said, laughing.
The others joined in before they took turns showering and dressing to head down to the common room, all wearing their school robes. A table had been placed in the corner, loaded with toast and pastries. along with a coffee and tea service. At the early hour, the common room was still mostly empty, so the girls found plenty of food still available to eat their fill.
Ginny picked at a Chelsea bun while sipping some overly sweetened tea as she sat on one of the comfy chairs in front of the fire.
“Did Harry tell you what time he and Ron were arriving?” Hermione asked, sitting on another chair.
“No, just that he’d meet me in the Great Hall,” Ginny replied. “I have to admit, I’m not in any hurry to go down.”
“I know,” Hermione said, touching Ginny’s arm. “It’ll be a hard day, but hopeful, too, I expect.”
“I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday, but other times, it’s like it all happened another lifetime ago,” Ginny said in a low voice.
“I know exactly what you mean,” Hermione said. “I feel like it’s been ages since we were camping, yet I still never want to set foot inside another tent.”
“I thought you might like to see these,” a quiet voice said from behind them.
Ginny turned to see Dennis Creevey standing there, several photographs in his hand. Although they naturally didn’t share any classes, Ginny had made the effort to keep an eye on her lost friend’s younger brother, and she was happy to see him readjusting to life at Hogwarts throughout the year.
“Dennis!” she said happily. “What do you have there?”
“Hello, Dennis,” Hermione said at the same time. “Are your parents coming for the ceremony today?”
Dennis shook his head. “My dad wanted to, but not Mum. She’s still very anti-magic at the moment. They didn’t know much about our war until Colin died, and my mum resents it.”
Ginny and Hermione caught each other’s eye, neither certain what to say.
“I’m going to take a picture of the monument for them. These are some of the ones I found in Colin’s room when I fetched his camera over the Easter hols,” Dennis said, his voice rather flat through his smile.
Ginny took the offered photos and flipped through them, smiling through her suddenly watery eyes. There wasn’t anything significant, mostly just shots of various people in the common room, but it was so reminiscent of Colin that Ginny could actually feel him in the room as if he was standing right next to his brother.
“Parvati might like that one,” Hermione said, grimacing slightly as she pointed to a photo of Lavender sitting on Ron’s lap in the same chair Hermione now sat upon.
Ginny tactfully remained silent as she looked over the remaining photos. The last one was one of Harry. He was standing over by the window, gazing out with a pensive look that Ginny knew well. She wondered what he was thinking about. It looked like it might’ve been during his fifth year. The expression on his face wasn’t sad, but it was so familiar — so Harry — it made Ginny’s heart ache just looking at it. Much too much had been placed on the shoulders of somebody so young. He’d responded brilliantly, yet it had taken a toll.
“Thanks, Dennis,” she said gruffly. “These are lovely. Are you certain there aren’t any you want to keep?”
Dennis shook his head. “I have quite a collection of his. Mum made photo albums of a lot of his work. I thought I’d take one of the Memorial statue and put it on the last page. I think he’d like that.”
Ginny nodded solemnly, her throat tight. Hermione’s eyes sparkled as she said, “That’s a lovely idea, Dennis.”
The common room had filled and the breakfast spread disappeared, particularly after the sixth- and seventh-year boys joined the group. Once everyone was there and ready, the prefects gathered them all to walk as a solemn group down into the Great Hall. The House tables were gone and instead, they found a large, open room with a few chairs lining the edges. Already, several elderly witches and wizards were sitting in the chairs. Two buffet tables stocked with coffee and tea were arranged right inside the doors with several house-elves in crisp uniforms handing out cups upon request.
Ginny’s eyes searched the room, although she didn’t spot any of that familiar shock of red that usually indicated her family. Parvati found her sister right away, and Liz walked across the room to where another group that Ginny surmised were her family stood. Ginny, Hermione and Siobhan moved into the room, greeting others as they did, yet keeping an expectant eye toward the door. Siobhan’s family arrived first, and she scurried off to greet them. Ginny and Hermione looked at one another.
“They’re late,” Ginny said.
Hermione’s lips twitched. “Are you honestly surprised?”
A reluctant grin spread across Ginny’s face. “I suppose we deserve that. Remember how many times we nearly missed the Hogwarts Express?”
“Remember when Ron and Harry actually did?” Hermione asked, laughing.
“And naturally the only thing for them to do was fly a car all the way to Hogwarts. I can’t think of anything that might have been a more reasonable response,” Ginny said, raising an eyebrow.
Hermione actually snorted. “They were only twelve, and… well, let’s just say practicality was never a strong suit.”
“Are you certain you don’t want a job in International Magical Cooperation? They could use a diplomat like you,” Ginny replied.
“Actually, they did send me an offer,” Hermione said modestly.
“Of course they did. Oh, look! There they are,” Ginny said, pointing. A large group of redheads had just entered the Great Hall, one well-recognized raven-haired man amongst them. A loud murmuring broke out as heads swivelled and fingers pointed. The name ‘Harry Potter’ was very distinct amid the buzz.
Before the crowd could regain their wits and close in around the newcomers, Ginny grabbed Hermione’s hand and pulled her forward, reaching her family in a few quick strides. Her mum, looking pale and eyes already streaming, clung to her father’s arm as they watched the large crowd. Her dad also looked pale, yet he nodded jovially to other Ministry personnel as they greeted him. Charlie, Percy, George, Ron and Harry all stood around them, Harry in the centre with her parents, as her brothers acted as a human shield around them. She was surprised to see Charlie, as he hadn’t told her he was coming.
“Charlie,” she said, greeting him first.
“Ginny!” her mum shouted, pushing her way through to take Ginny in her arms. Ginny winced, fearing her mother’s shout had carried across the Great Hall. No one else had appeared to notice, however.
“Hi, Mum, Dad,” she said, disentangling herself to greet her father. Ron had scooped Hermione up in a bear hug, and Ginny felt Harry’s intense gaze upon her. Ignoring her other brothers, Ginny turned to him next and planted a searing kiss on his surprised lips.
“Oi!” Charlie said, actually taking a step back and looking horrified.
Ginny felt Harry’s grin against her lips. “I missed you,” she said, feeling the eyes of more than just her family upon her.
“I missed you, too,” he said easily, wrapping his arm around her. She knew he was worried about giving his speech, and she liked knowing he took comfort in her the same way she did him.
“What took you so long?” Hermione asked. “I thought you’d planned to be here earlier.”
“Most of us have been here for a while,” her dad said, glancing briefly at Ron. “We were with Professor McGonagall.”
“Bill still hasn’t arrived, so we finally came down without him. I do hope everything is all right,” her mum said, glancing nervously at the door.
“I’m certain they’re fine, Molly. Fleur simply might not have felt up to coming. Bill said they might not be here,” her dad said reassuringly.
“I almost didn’t make it, either,” Charlie said. “One of my favourite dragons began trying to attack any of the others that came too close to her nest, and that usually means the eggs are close to hatching. You lot might remember Norberta — Hagrid’s dragon.”
“Norberta is going to have babies?” Ron asked, goggling.
“Yep,” Charlie said, beaming. “First time for her, so I want to be there to make certain it goes all right.”
“Er… what exactly do you do if it doesn’t?” Harry asked, looking as if he wasn’t certain he really wanted to know.
“Mostly we just observe. Talk to them so they know they’re not alone. Norberta is one of mine, so she knows my voice. Sometimes the babies are crushed unintentionally by the movement of the mother when she’s sleeping, so we try to wake the mothers if they get too restless,” Charlie said.
“That’s awful,” Hermione said, aghast.
“Yes, well, human babies can be tricky as well, so I do hope Bill and Fleur are all right,” Mum said, shaking her head at Charlie.
“Shall we head outside to be certain we can all get seats together?” Dad asked, beginning to usher Mum toward the door.
The family all followed him outside into the dazzling sunlight. It glittered off the calm blue lake, and the white chairs set up on the blooming grass in rows looked serene and peaceful. It was nothing like it had been on that night one year ago, and Ginny felt that was fitting, somehow. They’d all grown during that time.
Their group took up most of two rows once Andromeda, Teddy and Kreacher joined them. Harry had insisted that Kreacher should be a part of the event since he had also been part of the war. Luna and her father were seated on the opposite side of the centre aisle. Luna waved merrily, but Xenophilius appeared most subdued, and he refused to meet Harry’s eyes. Luna had told Ginny that he was ashamed of his actions, even though she knew his goal had been Luna’s release. Angelina Johnson was also there, sitting with her family, although she and George kept looking over at one another. Aberforth Dumbledore arrived and took a seat next to Andromeda, greeting all the Weasleys as he did. The last to join their group was Neville and his grandmother, who strolled in on Neville’s arm, beaming with pride and acting as if she expected all eyes to be upon them.
The little group of first-years who’d been avidly pointing out her connection to Harry at every turn were nearly swooning trying to get a look at him. They craned their necks and shifted in their seats. One waved enthusiastically when she caught Ginny’s eye. They’d been too young to visit Hogsmeade, so this was their first real chance to get a look at the saviour of the wizarding world. Ginny decided not to point that out to him.
A group of centaurs lined the forest, their bows held at their sides, while along the edge of the castle wall, a row of tiny house-elves sat on miniscule stools, all dressed in their crisp aprons with the Hogwarts emblem emblazoned upon them.
A podium had been erected at the front of the rows of chairs. Professor McGonagall and the other Heads of House sat upon the small stage, along with the Minister and several high-ranking Ministry personnel. Professor McGonagall approached the podium, clearing her throat slightly to gain their attention. An expectant hush fell over the crowd.
Professor McGonagall stared at the parchment she’d placed on the podium, her glasses perched on her nose. Her hand pressed down upon the parchment repeatedly, smoothing out the creases. She opened her mouth several times, preparing to start, but closed it again, continuing to stare at the parchment and appearing displeased. Finally, she crumpled it up altogether and muttered,
“Oh, the hell with it.”
Laughter tittered across the crowd, though some, like her mum, tried to cover their amusement discreetly.
“As you can see,” Professor McGonagall began in her crisp tone, “I had my remarks prepared. Standing here in front of you all at our school, the place where it all happened… nothing about that night was planned. We improvised, and I daresay we did it well. So, I think it best if I improvise here today.”
The scattered laughter had been quelled, and the silence was heavy in the air. Ginny thought she could hear the rustle of the grass beneath the feet of the centaurs lining the forest edge.
“The night had begun typically when I received word that one of our Death Eater teachers,” she spat the word as if it left a foul taste in her mouth, “had made some concerning comments about Ravenclaw Tower. I decided it was prudent to head in that direction rather than taking the time to seek out Professor Flitwick. The atypical part of the evening arose when Harry Potter revealed himself to me once I was inside the Ravenclaw common room. The time had come. It was finally time to stand up for our school, our rights, our freedom, and our beliefs. I wanted to protect the students, desperately, but I knew that protecting them in the moment would do nothing to protect their futures. It was time to fight.
“Yes, we lost students, teachers, friends and neighbours that night, but we also gained something. They didn’t die in vain because we learned that together we are stronger than the Dark. All four Houses united in a way they hadn’t in centuries to fight a larger threat. Those we lost are directly responsible for the better life we’ve all been afforded. Let us not waste this opportunity.
“We shall promise those who perished that we will remember, and we will strive to never let our petty biases about our differences overshadow our shared belief in a peaceful existence for our future. We are more alike than we are different, as all the blood spilt that dreadful night, whether it came from witch, wizard, pure-blood, Muggle-born, centaur, house-elf or any of our magical creature brethren, was red.
“We shall never forget the sacrifices made on our behalf, nor the bravery of those who led us into the light,” Professor McGonagall said fiercely, her voice cracking. She dabbed a handkerchief at her nose before turning brusquely to Kingsley. “Minister Shacklebolt has a few words to share.”
Ginny glanced over at Harry, who caught her eye and squeezed her hand reassuringly before returning his eyes to the podium. His gaze revealed a resounding fondness as he watched his former Head of House, and Ginny’s own heart filled for this brave man sitting beside her. She could feel the sweat on his palms, and she knew without asking that he was thinking about his own speech, but she also knew he’d face it unwaveringly. They’d all learned that wishing away the inevitable only made it seem that time had sped up.
Professor McGonagall relinquished the podium as Minister Shacklebolt approached it, his gold earring glinting in the bright sunlight.
“Thank you, Minerva,” he said, his deep, calming voice reverberating across the clearing. “Well, talk about putting the pressure on. I suppose I’ll leave the notes I prepared in my pocket as improvisation appears to be the theme of the day.”
The audience tittered as Professor McGonagall’s cheeks turned pink. She smirked, however, nodding her head in his direction.
“One thing that struck me about the remarks here today, is the fact that at the basic root of things, we are all the same. When faced with such overwhelming despair, we drew strength from one another and fought side by side. Those heroes who gave their lives here that night in the culmination of our war, they all fought because they knew it was the right thing to do. They were not the first, nor will they ever be the last as evil has a way of resurfacing. It can never be eradicated, but I do believe it can be contained as long as there are those willing to stand up to it.
“This does not mean we turn our backs on our neighbours. The current rash of attacks against the families of known Death Eaters is not the way to rebuild our society. The Death Eaters were known to take out their aggression on the families of those they wanted to oppress. We must be the better people. We must not resort to their methods or we haven’t learned anything, and Darkness wins again.
“My goal in rebuilding the Ministry, is to repair the damage our seclusion has caused amongst our magical brethren. Listening is key to understanding the concerns and finding common ground. We can always find common ground. Personally, I learned a lot during our battle when the call to arms came from a group of teenage students who had stood up to tyranny all along. I learned that age and experience do not always trump youth and conviction, but when combined, the result is unstoppable.
“One of the kindest, bravest men I ever knew was part of the organization called the Order of the Phoenix. He was also once a teacher here at Hogwarts. Remus Lupin was a werewolf. His condition affected one night of each month, yet the ostracizing and disparity shown him throughout his entire life was the much heavier cross he had to bear. Still, when it came time to stand up to evil, Remus fought it from the very beginning, rather than joining in with a madman who promised an easier existence. He chose what was right over what was easy.
“This was a common theme promoted by the former Headmaster of Hogwarts and leader of the resistance, Albus Dumbledore. Professor Dumbledore saw the value and true merit of the man Remus Lupin was far before the rest of us. We owe it to both of them to change the way we look at people with this condition. The Wolfsbane potion can ease the one night of transformation — we need to ease the remainder of time. Remus left a son behind, and as a way of honouring his father and the changes for which we all fought, we need to ensure that his child never feels the isolation his father did simply for suffering an affliction.
“It’s all well and good to say we fought for change, but there are simple ways in which we can practice these changes. I need your help. Reach out to your neighbours — protect one another. Because the war is ended is no reason we need to stop keeping watch. Lend a helping hand where you can. Don’t judge others for what their relatives may have done, judge them for themselves. There might just be more going on than you know.
“Severus Snape was another former Headmaster here. While he may not have had an endearing personality,” Kingsley raised an eyebrow and paused at the grumblings that ran through the audience at the name, “he worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring about the fall of Voldemort. All was not as it seemed, and perception doesn’t always equate to reality.
“I’m going to close my remarks with a great hope for our future. I’m working to change the Ministry from within, I need your help to change society from without. We will always be stronger united than when we divide ourselves.”
Kingsley paused and acknowledged the applause that rippled across the crowd, nodding. “Before we all stroll down to the unveiling of the new war memorial, I’d like to call to the podium a young wizard who needs no introduction. Someone who was embroiled in this epic struggle of good and evil before he was old enough to even comprehend it. It didn’t stop him from taking up the mantle and leading us to victory. Without him — and without his good heart and decent spirit — we all would’ve been lost. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Harry Potter.”
Harry, who’d clutched Ginny’s hand very tightly when the Minister began speaking — and was now the colour of a tomato — looked as if he hoped the earth would open up and swallow him. He rose to his feet and approached the podium. His gaze remained fixed ahead, never looking from side to side as the audience rose as one to their feet and applauded him. These were the people who were there, the people who’d fought alongside him, the ones who knew all the lies and innuendo Rita Skeeter had published was rubbish.
Ginny only hoped that their support would last longer than the rumours she’d spread. All Harry had ever really wanted was some peace — a quiet life, he’d called it — and he very much deserved that.
He waited until the crowd had retaken their seats, his face still flushed, and he cleared his throat nervously.
“Hello,” he said, and his voice cracked with nerves. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I’d like to thank you all for coming here today. I know you probably found it as difficult as I did. Yes, we won the war, but we should never forget the cost. We lost a lot of good, decent people that day who chose to stand up and fight for what was right, no matter the personal cost. We need to ensure their sacrifice will never be forgotten. There were others, too, before the Battle, who rose up and said they would not lie quietly and let death and destruction rule. We all owe our lives to all of them.
“I was allowed a sneak peek at the war memorial, and I think you’ll all be pleased. As someone very wise once told me, there is no spell that can raise the dead, but we can honour them. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of one of them, and I’m certain you all feel the same.
“When I was thinking about what I was going to say today — I don’t really like giving speeches,” he said sheepishly, and the audience chuckled, “I thought we’d all be thinking about our losses, but I wanted to take a moment to tell all those who were there that’s it’s okay if you’re not quite okay yet, either.”
Harry cleared his throat again. “What I mean is… it’s okay to not be completely over all that happened here. Someone called the feeling Spell Shock, and I’ve seen a lot of people — myself included — that have been suffering from it. I see it in friends who are constantly counting heads, others who are frantic to change the world single-handedly, and still others who have flashbacks that bring them back to the battle. I know the nightmares can seem so real, you wake up uncertain if you’re still there. It’s okay. We’re all going through it, and I think… I’ve learned it helps to know others are feeling it, too. You are not alone.”
Harry’s voice was soft, yet it carried as if bellowing among the hushed audience. Ginny never expected him to reveal so much. He usually guarded his privacy quite fiercely. She thought that it might be due to his relatives ridiculing his emotions as weakness until he’d learned to hide them. Still, this had to be hard for him, and she was immensely proud of how far he’d come.
She knew first-hand that he was right about sharing making things better. Ginny had suffered her own bouts of Spell Shock, and knew she was one of the ones he’d meant. Having the support of her friends and family around her was the only thing that had made all the memories bearable.
“As we all went through the war together — because no one person could’ve done it on their own — we are all in the recovery together, too. Whether you were attempting to help Muggle-borns at the Ministry, fighting in the street, or resisting here at Hogwarts under the amazing leadership of Neville Longbottom, we were all in it together. If you see someone struggling, lend an ear or a helping hand. You never know when you still might be saving a life,” Harry said, at last looking over toward the Minister.
He looked rather desperate to be off the podium, and thankfully the Minister bailed him out. He rose, placing a comforting arm around Harry’s shoulders before speaking.
“The Hogwarts carriages are available for anyone needing assistance or who simply prefers not to walk. For the rest of us, we’ll be following the road toward Hogsmeade. The new memorial is placed directly before the descent into the village. Professor McGonagall, would you care to lead the way?”
Professor McGonagall rose regally and began leading a solemn line of professors through the rows of chairs and toward the winged boar gates. The crowd followed behind them, several of them stopping at the steps of the castle where a line of Thestral-drawn carriages awaited them. Several Aurors walked alongside the Minister, but Harry stopped at the row of Weasleys. He reached out his arms to Andromeda, who placed Teddy into them. The baby had awoken, and he squealed when he saw Harry. Harry snuggled him closely, and Ginny suspected he was drawing as much comfort from the baby as Teddy was from his godfather.
“You’re coming back to The Burrow afterwards, yeah?” Ginny asked. Although she’d still been here at school, she knew Andromeda had thrown a small first birthday party for Teddy that Harry and most of her own family had attended. Andromeda and Teddy had become part of the extended Weasley family.
Andromeda nodded, and though her face showed signs of strain, her lips curved upwards slightly. Ginny always thought that she looked less like Bellatrix when she smiled. “Yes, your mother kindly extended the invitation,” she said.
“It’s all ready for when we return, but I do hope everything is all right with Bill and Fleur,” her mum said, wiping her blotchy face.
“I’m certain they’d let us know if there was news, Molly,” her dad said, patting her mum’s arm. “Fleur wasn’t feeling well yesterday, either, and her mother is there with her. Bill will send a Patronus if the baby has decided to arrive.”
“D’you think she’s having the baby? Today?” Ginny asked, eyes wide. She didn’t know why it hadn’t occurred to her. It was only a few weeks away from her due date, and Mum had told her that babies could come earlier.
Harry, who held Teddy with one arm, wrapped his other arm around Ginny’s waist and squeezed gently. They’d begun walking to catch up with the rest of the Weasley clan who were now already at the gates.
“Maybe,” her mum said. “Fleur is at the end, and it gets uncomfortable. She may have simply not felt up to sitting in those chairs for so long.”
Teddy pulled off Harry’s glasses and began waving them in the air. Squinting, Harry removed his arm from Ginny’s waist and attempted to retrieve them. Ginny laughed at the delighted expression on the baby’s face.
“He’s getting so big, Andi,” a haughty voice spoke from behind them.
Ginny turned quickly to see Narcissa Malfoy approaching her sister. Lucius and Draco walked behind her, looking stiff and uncomfortable. Both still wore their familiar haughty expressions, yet the flickering of their eyes betrayed their discomfort. They were uncomfortable amongst all those who fought against them. Ginny thought it took a hell of a lot of nerve to even show up, but she suspected it was down to Narcissa and her determination to be seen with the right people.
Andromeda turned and leaned in towards her sister’s cheek. The two witches mimed a kiss on each cheek without ever actually coming into contact with the other. “I’m glad you decided to come today, Cissy,” Andromeda said sincerely.
Ginny felt Harry stiffen beside her, clutching Teddy to him and watching the Malfoys warily. Ginny eyed Draco coolly, refusing to be cowed. His lip curled slightly into his familiar sneer, though he remained silent. Whether it was an honest attempt at civility or because his parents were too close, Ginny didn’t know. She watched as her mother took her father’s arm and caught up with the rest of her brothers. Her dad and Mr. Malfoy had never seen eye to eye, even before the war. Ginny wanted very much to follow, but she knew Harry would never abandon Andromeda to the Malfoys, even if the elder witch did call them her family.
Narcissa had drawn Lucius into the conversation with Andromeda as the three walked along, leaving Draco with Harry and Ginny.
“Don’t you look domestic,” Draco said, his drawling voice neutral though his words still somehow held a sneer.
Harry had finally managed to wrest his glasses from Teddy’s grip, and he switched the baby into the arm further away from Draco, scowling. Oblivious, Teddy grasped some of Ginny’s hair, which he was now able to reach, and tugged it toward his mouth.
“I might have done a lot of things, Potter, but as of yet I haven’t eaten any children,” Draco said, clearly amused by Harry’s protectiveness. “You do realize the brat is my cousin, right?”
“Don’t call him a brat,” Harry said heatedly.
Ginny could tell by the way his eyes had widened that Harry hadn’t really considered the impact of Andromeda and Narcissa being sisters, although the slur had obviously incensed him.
“Harry,” Ginny said, resting a comforting hand on his after she’d untangled her hair from Teddy’s grip.
“He’s not going to grow up being called names — cousin or not,” Harry growled, and the memory of Harry referring to himself as a freak flashed through Ginny’s mind.
“He’s right, Draco. It might’ve been acceptable to call each other names at your house, but it’s not in Teddy’s. Don’t let him hear that again,” Ginny said fiercely.
“Relax, it’s not as if he even understands what I say. Besides, my mother is actually quite fond of him,” Draco said, sounding as if it cost him something to admit that.
Harry still wore a disgruntled expression, so Ginny asked, “Where’s Astoria? Has she ditched you already?”
This time it was Draco who scowled. “As I’m certain you are aware, she’s Head Girl. She’s supervising the students,” he said haughtily.
They’d reached a dip in the road where a massive statue had been erected directly alongside the road. It depicted a witch, wizard, centaur, house-elf, goblin, and merperson all holding hands, united. A scroll of names of those who’d made the ultimate sacrifice was interwoven amongst them. The Minister had begun speaking, but Ginny had missed the beginning. As they approached the monument, the names written in gold lettering briefly lit up as Kingsley said each name aloud.
Andromeda dropped back, reaching for Teddy and taking him from Harry’s arms. She walked slowly to the centre of the monument where the names Nymphadora Tonks Lupin and Remus Lupin appeared. Narcissa wrapped a slim arm around Andromeda’s waist, and although Andromeda remained stoic, she leaned toward her sister.
Ginny only had time to briefly acknowledge this. She’d barely glanced at Anna and Colin’s names because she was drawn to where her family stood huddled at the very end of the monument. She could hear her mother’s sobs, could see Ron and Percy supporting George, feel Harry’s arm still around her, but it all felt as if it were somewhere else. It was as if time had stopped and nature was silenced and she was somewhere else looking at the scene from a distance. She raised a trembling finger and traced the name of her brother, although her eyes were dry. She felt as if there were no tears left.
It had been a year since she’d seen Fred’s smiling face, that impish quirk of his lips while he denied mischief, or the mockingly contrite expression when Mum had scolded him. While George had these matching expressions, she could still somehow picture Fred. There were subtle differences if you’d taken the time to pay attention.
Her gaze found George. He, too, was dry-eyed, although he leaned heavily on Ron and Percy. In fact, Ginny suspected they were holding him up much as Dad and Charlie were supporting Mum. Her mother was sobbing, alternatingly burying her face in her dad’s cloak and wrenching it away to stare at the name of her son etched into the cold stone.
This wasn’t Fred, however. A simple name printed on a marble statue could never catch the essence of her fun-loving brother. Apparently, George thought so, too, for he raised his wand and the lettering on Fred’s name no longer remained gold. Instead, it flashed in loud, lurid colours. Ginny couldn’t help herself — she snorted.
“George,” Mum said, aghast, though she looked sharply at Dad when he, too, began laughing. Soon, all the Weasleys were grinning at the flashing letters, and even her mother’s lips began to twitch.
Ginny turned to catch Harry’s eye, and only now became aware of his distraction. Although he’d remained by her side, he stared at all the names, not just Fred’s, with an expression of such agony it took her breath away. He’d come a long way in coping with all the horror in his past, but Ginny suspected the deaths would always haunt him. It was simply who he was. She wrapped her arm around him, this time being the one to give strength.
“I think Fred would approve of that,” she said, giving him a light squeeze.
“I do, too,” he said, his voice cracking.
Most of the other families were too caught up in their own grief to pay attention to the Weasleys. Andromeda, however, had walked over and noticed the change. “Oh, could you make Dora’s pink, like that hair colour she loved so? I think she did it because she knew I hated it, but now… I can’t see it without thinking of her.”
“Of course,” Hermione said, walking over to Tonks’s name and changing the gold lettering to bubble-gum pink.
“That’s better,” Andromeda said, beaming.
Harry raised his own wand and lightly tapped Professor Lupin’s name, although the colour remained gold.
“What did you do?” Andromeda asked curiously.
“Touch it,” Harry said.
As she did, Andromeda’s eyes widened. “It’s warm.”
Harry swallowed thickly. “That’s how I remember Professor Lupin,” he said.
Ginny reached out and traced her fingers over the letters. They weren’t hot to the touch, but definitely warmed the cold stone surrounding them — warm, comforting, welcoming — like the man himself.
“It’s perfect, Harry,” she said as her family all took it in turns to touch the statue.
The crowd had begun to thin as families drew into smaller groups or Disapparated from the spot. Before any of the Weasleys left, however, a Patronus appeared suddenly before them, causing exclamations from those still there at the glowing beauty of the cat Patronus. It was sleek and shiny and looked very much like a royal Egyptian feline. It turned its head toward the family and spoke in Bill’s voice, sounding buoyant and overjoyed.
“Victoire Elizabeth Weasley arrived this morning. Party has been moved to Shell Cottage. Please join us here.”
Bill’s announcement had caused chaos amongst the Weasley family, and a day that had started with shared sorrow, soon turned to one of shared joy. With Kreacher’s help, all the food had been moved from The Burrow to Shell Cottage, and a table had been set up outside in the lovely spring breeze coming off the water. A beaming Bill had greeted them as they arrived, looking both overjoyed and overwhelmed. He told them how Fleur had gone into labour during the night, and Victoire Elizabeth Weasley, named to commemorate the date of their victory, had been born in the wee hours of the morning.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had immediately rushed upstairs to meet their new grandchild, and a jubilant Mrs. Weasley returned a short time later carrying a swaddled pink bundle. There was no trace of the tears that had covered her face only an hour earlier, she was now grinning ear to ear.
“Fleur is asleep, but I thought you’d want to meet your new niece,” she said, tilting the baby so they could all see. She made it clear with her stance that no one should attempt to take the baby from her just yet.
“Is Fleur all right?” Hermione asked, looking rather startled.
“She’s fine, dear. Her mother and her cousin are with her, she’s just tired,” Mrs. Weasley said gently.
“Bringing new life into the world is hard work,” Bill said, descending the stairs with Mr. Weasley. “She was magnificent.” He beamed at his new daughter, whose face was barely visible amidst the blankets. Harry could see a tiny red face with a tuft of very fine, very fair hair.
“Muggles usually have babies in hospital,” Hermione said, her voice high-pitched and most odd.
“Do they?” Mr. Weasley asked eagerly. “I suppose they have some sort of ekletric baby birthing machine, do they?”
“Er… no,” Hermione said, startled.
Harry had the mad desire to laugh at the combination of Hermione’s expression and Mr. Weasley’s eagerness. He’d never given having a baby much thought, but now that he did, he hadn’t remembered there being a maternity ward at St. Mungo’s.
“I think we should have a toast,” Charlie said, emerging from the kitchen with a bottle of Firewhisky and several glasses. He poured a round and distributed them to everyone.
“To the newest Weasley,” he said, as they all tipped back their drinks.
It felt warm sliding into Harry’s stomach, and along with the festive atmosphere, it helped to relieve some of the coldness that had filled his insides since he’d stared at the memorial. So many names, so many losses…
“You have allowed your friends to die for you.”
Lost in his own vivid memories, he’d missed George taking the bottle from Charlie and refilling all the glasses, Harry’s included. Harry only came back to the present when George, who was still very pale, raised his glass and said, “And to the missing Weasley.”
This gulp didn’t warm him the same, and Harry felt the coldness creeping back into his soul. If he’d only acted sooner… If he’d only insisted to the DA that it wasn’t time to fight… He’d never meant for any of them to die. The hand holding the empty glass trembled slightly, and Ginny, who always seemed to notice his distress, wrapped her slim but sturdy arm around his waist.
“None of it was your fault, Harry. In fact, because you ended it, Victoire and Teddy are now able to grow up in a world without the shadow of Voldemort. I think Fred would feel that was worthy,” she said softly.
“Yeah, well, he’d also take the mickey out of Bill because his kid looks more like a Veela than a Weasley,” George said, attempting to smile. “Looks like Fleur is stronger than him.”
“She certainly is,” Bill said, unabashed. “My wife is not only a Triwizard champion, but she just brought a new life into this world. As if any of you sods can do better."
“You tell them, son,” Mr. Weasley said, smiling at his eldest son.
There was a knock at the door. Andromeda and Teddy had arrived, bringing Professor McGonagall along with them. They’d remained at the memorial to say their farewells to the Malfoys. Harry suspected it was Andromeda’s tactful way of allowing the family some time with their newest member.
Andromeda placed Teddy on the floor, and he toddled directly for Harry, holding his arms up once he’d reached him. Harry scooped the boy up, tossing him in the air and earning delighted squeals. Andromeda and Professor McGonagall walked over to Molly and admired the bundle in her arms.
Charlie offered the two women a drink.
“Absolutely,” Professor McGonagall said, grasping the Firewhisky. “It’s been a very long day, and I daresay, I’m glad it’s over.”
She tossed the drink back like a pro, earning grins from the various Weasleys. Her cheeks turned slightly pink and she looked far less stern than Harry ever remembered seeing her.
“The memorial is beautiful, Minerva,” Molly said, finally looking up from her granddaughter.
The Headmistress nodded. “Yes, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. Placing it along the road still keeps in in sight of the battle, but allows visitors to view it whilst school is in session and the gates are locked.”
“That should help the businesses in Hogsmeade, as well,” Percy said.
“That was the idea,” Professor McGonagall said, smiling demurely.
“Professor,” Hermione said tentatively, “I was wondering about a name I saw on the monument.”
“Yes?” Professor McGonagall asked, although Harry suspected she already knew what Hermione was going to say.
“Er… well, you see, I noticed that Vincent Crabbe’s name appeared on the memorial,” Hermione said, her voice soft, but her eyes were curious.
“What?” Ron said, looking up sharply. “I didn’t see that. Why would he be on a memorial honouring the dead? He was bloody well on the other side.”
“Kingsley and I discussed this long and hard. He was a student, not a Death Eater,” Professor McGonagall replied.
“Yeah, a student who cast the Killing Curse at us,” Ron said, his ears growing red.
Harry hadn’t noticed Crabbe’s name. He’d been more focused on the sheer number of names there, and he wasn’t certain how he felt about it. Crabbe was hoping Voldemort would win. He would’ve turned Harry over to Voldemort without a second’s hesitation if he were able. There was also the loads of stories Ginny had shared about how he’d taken to the Carrows’ cruelty, even enjoyed dishing it out.
“But there was still time,” Professor McGonagall said quietly, as if answering Harry’s thoughts. “He hadn’t as yet killed anyone, and had he lived, I like to believe there would’ve been time away from his father and the Carrows to save him. Albus always believed in second chances. His name there was our chance to give him one. The memorial is not only a remembrance of those we lost, but a reminder not to let it happen again. With all the vigilante-style justice being meted out against the families of former Death Eaters, we feared we’re heading down the same path. Vincent Crabbe made the wrong choices, and I firmly believe there should be consequences for our choices, but I also believe in redemption.”
“Even a choice between two awful outcomes is still a choice,” Charlie said, his fingers white from gripping his glass so tightly. “It doesn’t mean he should be excused for any actions resulting from his choices.”
“And I agree with that,” Professor McGonagall said. “But if he’d lived, he wouldn’t have been sent to Azkaban because he hadn’t killed anyone. We’d strive for redemption, the same way we’re trying with some of the other students who followed the Carrows. I need to believe that redemption is possible, or we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes.”
“I suppose,” Ron said grudgingly, looping his arm around Hermione protectively.
“It is possible,” Harry said, handing Teddy to Kreacher. “I’ve spoken with both Theo Nott and Draco Malfoy, and although I don’t think I’ll ever like either of them, they’re trying to put their lives back together. Even my bully of a cousin has changed, and he was barely touched by the war, so it can happen.”
“I saw Draco staring at Crabbe’s name today, that’s what drew my attention to it,” Hermione said.
“And I hope seeing it there amongst all those we lost will make an impression,” Mr. Weasley said. “I hope he’ll tell some of his friends in the same situation, and it will give them something to think about.”
“Because none of our names would be honoured had things gone the other way,” Bill said, staring at his new daughter.
“Mum,” Ginny said, finally breaking the silence, “you’ve had her long enough. It’s my turn.” She held out her arms and Mrs. Weasley reluctantly placed Victoire in her outstretched arms.
“I’m next,” Mr. Weasley said.
“You must all be starving. The food is ready, let me just put it out,” Molly said, bustling into action.
“I’ll help you, but I want a turn with that baby after Arthur,” Andromeda said.
“And I’m after that,” Professor McGonagall said, helping the other two witches in bringing the food outside.
Harry took a large hamper filled with sandwiches and placed it on the heaping table. His attention was drawn to the back of the garden where a clump of bushes grew. He silently slipped away from the party and strolled across the grass towards Dobby’s grave. The breeze off the sea was chillier than the air, and it ruffled through Harry’s hair. He could smell salt in the breeze and hear the crashing of the waves against the distant shore below. He sat on the ground next to the white stone bearing Dobby’s name, running his hand in circles through the grass.
Although the names of house-elves who’d died during the Battle of Hogwarts appeared on the memorial, Dobby’s wasn’t there. He’d died before that famous battle — like Cedric, Moody, Sirius and so many others. He supposed his parents and those in the Order during the first war were all missing, as well. They’d all died to stop Voldemort. How could one man cause so much damage? Where had his wiring gone so wrong?
Despite all the changes and improvements being made, Harry’s heart felt heavy. He didn’t know how to shake off the melancholy that had overcome him, but he didn’t want to spoil the Weasleys’ joy over the new birth. They deserved so much more happiness than he could ever give them. They’d lost so much already.
He wasn’t certain how long he’d sat there hidden by the bushes and twirling his fingers in the grass, but he looked up when a shadow crossed the bright sunlight beaming down upon him. Ginny stood there, her hair blazing in the sun. She’d removed her robes but still wore her school uniform. She pulled the skirt taut as she lowered herself onto his lap rather than sitting on the ground, melting into him.
Harry wrapped his arms around her and breathed deeply. Her wonderful floral scent blended nicely with the salt and the sea, and he shut his eyes, soaking in the comfort her presence offered.
“I remember being so angry when Bill told us you were all here with Luna and Dean, and they wouldn’t let me come back here, too,” Ginny said at last, settling her head on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he said automatically.
“Don’t be. I would’ve just slowed you down,” she said, sounding sad.
He wrapped his arms around her more tightly. “You don’t slow me down, you give me the strength to go forward, but I couldn’t have focused if you were here. I would’ve wanted to stay and hide with you forever.”
“You’ve never been one to hide, Harry,” she said, scoffing. “Besides, it all turned out how it was supposed to, and we’re together now.”
“You were always the hope of what things could be. Did I ever tell you that you were the last thing I thought about before Voldemort cast his Killing Curse? You’re what I was giving up. You’re my happily ever after,” Harry said, eternally grateful that the sound of the wind and waves crashing below ensured that none of Ginny’s brothers could hear him being so soppy.
“Your what?” Ginny asked, laughing. Apparently, she thought he sounded soppy, too.
“Muggle fairy tale,” Harry muttered. “The stories always end with the characters finding a happily ever after.”
Ginny snorted. “With your hot head and my quick temper, there’s no way it’ll always be peaceful.”
Harry nodded, conceding the point. “I haven’t even been hit by your famous Bat-Bogey Hex, yet.”
“D’you want to?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Not particularly, but I reckon it’s inevitable,” he replied.
“I dunno. You’ve been known to dodge a curse or two,” she said, leaning into him. His lips had found that spot right below her ear that always drove her mad.
Ginny stood up, straightening her skirt and reaching her hand down to him. He looked at her questioningly.
“Let’s take a walk along the cliff. I noticed a path leading down to the beach, and sitting still only makes you brood,” she said, the wind whipping her hair.
Harry grinned, taking her hand. Ginny’s path was steep, though not difficult, and soon sea grass had sprouted in patches of sand. They walked a short distance, listening to the waves and the sound of gulls competing to find fish just off the shore. Harry had to admit it was peaceful, and it did make him feel better.
“I love you, Ginny,” he said suddenly, his heart swelling.
“Kiss me then,” she replied impishly.
Harry didn’t make her wait, wrapping her in his arms and kissing her soundly. When he once again found that spot on her neck, she pushed him back into the dunes where the sand cushioned his landing. She straddled him, grinning at his shocked expression.
“It’s been weeks since I had a proper snogging,” she said, resuming their kiss.
“Are you cold?” he asked eventually. The skin on her bare leg, though tantalizing, felt chilled in the sea air.
Ginny shook her head, pressing her neck back toward him impatiently. Harry grinned. He could keep her warm if he put his mind to it. She’d certainly chased away the coldness he was feeling earlier. It was going to be okay. They were all moving on.
A/N: Timing of next week’s chapter is appropriate as my son graduates over the weekend. Review responses might be slow as it’s a busy RL week. I can’t believe he’s finished. He’ll be leaving for school in New York in the fall. He once promised me he’d stay five. He lied!