Chapter summary: Dumbledore's funeral. Hermione is awesome. Harry hates himself.
A/N: This, I have realised, is the last chapter for arc 1.
I made it.
Which means that, hopefully soonish, I'll be uploading the 'full length' versions - we're sitting at three total chapters about 3k each at the moment. With numerous small adjustments that I've picked up over the last months.
The Great Hall was quiet. It wasn't the same choking silence as yesterday's: the kind that turned blood to ice and made it hard to breathe. It was just, quiet. It was the, now life has to go on, kind of quiet. The, we haven't adjusted yet but we will, kind of quiet. Harry hated it.
Dumbledore had just died, their leader was gone, and he was supposed to just accept it and move on. It was because of him, his fault and whatever happened because of it was going to be on his hands. Ours, safe, protect, comrade, strength. 'Askios shbaer.'
But even that just made him clench his fists, hidden in the folds of his robe, as he made his way to the pocket of Gryffindor sixth years. Harry tried to wipe his emotions off his face as he swung onto the bench, he didn't want it to catch Hermione's eye.
"Morning, Harry." Hermione said, pushing a goblet of pumpkin juice towards him. "How are feeling?"
"M'fine, Hermione." He replied, taking a sip for no other reason than to avoid having to say anything more.
"About what I said last night." Hermione's voice was low, but it still cut through the quiet sounds of silverware clinking on plates. "I want you to remember that. But I think you're still having trouble believing it, so I'm going to keep reminding you until you do." Her tone was off-handed, but Harry knew her well enough that he could see the fierce resolve in her eyes.
"Mate, what did you do to get 'Mione all fired up like that?"
"Honestly, Ronald, don't chew and speak at the same time, it's disgusting." And just like that it could have been any other morning. Hermione and Ron bickering beside him, and the rest of the sixth years rolling their eyes and hiding chuckles in their goblets.
But good things were a fleeting falsity to Harry Potter, and even as a spark of warmth grew in his chest, he looked up at McGonagall. At the Head Table, and the empty place in the centre. Dumbledore's throne like chair would never again hold an old man with a long silver beard, and a twinkle in his eye. Harry grit his teeth, and turned back to his breakfast, resolutely choking down a few more mouthfuls. Hermione was already interested enough, he didn't need her nagging any more, or finding out about the creature in sleeping in his body.
With no classes to occupy them, the students dispersed back to their Common Rooms or the Library after breakfast finished. There was a sombre cast over everything, and not even the Slytherin's broke it. Hogwarts' halls, usually filled with chatter, the sound of hurried footsteps and the general cacophony of children, were eerily quiet.
Lunch went much the same as breakfast had. When the last plates had been cleared McGonagall stood from her place at the Head Table and tapped once on her goblet.
"If you will follow me out to the Black Lake. There will be representatives of the British Ministry of Magic, and the International Confederation of Wizard, as well as Headmaster Dumbledore's personal friends and members of the general public. There will be an honour guard of elite Aurors and Hitwizards. I trust that you all will do your utmost to represent Hogwarts and our late Headmaster with pride." With that, she swept out of the Great Hall, and the figure she cut in the doorway was one the students of Hogwarts would never forget.
Even the first years were quiet as all the Houses filed off their tables in neat rows, the rest of the faculty vacating the Head Table after them. The walk from the Entrance Hall down to the Black Lake had never felt so long. To Harry, every step felt like a step closer to the gallows. 'It's my fault we're here. I wasn't strong enough. I let him die.' They followed McGonagall up to the front of the long rows of seats, and watched on as she sent the first years down the second row. Each successive year filling a row after that until it was the sixth years turn.
Harry found himself between Ron and Hermione, staring into the back of a fifth year Slytherin only identifiable by the green trim on his robe cuffs. He stared resolutely into the space just above the heads of the rows in front. Strength, love, shbaer. Harry shuddered. Askios shbaer.
Harry didn't hear the speeches, the rushing of his blood through his veins drowned out everything. His hands clenched and unclenched around the cuffs of his robes. He felt cold, so cold. Like the cold was a living thing, sucking away great lungfuls of his warmth. Strength, love, comrade. But even the warmth of emotion coming from the creature inside him wasn't enough. Harry still felt frozen.
He stayed like that, staring blankly above the crowd, until Hermione nudged him. He blinked quickly, and stood when he saw everyone rising. There was a low beat, and a high, sweet refrain that broke over the congregation as Dumbledore's coffin was carried by pallbearers through the crowd of seats to the ornate, white marble tomb on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. As the procession passed, witches and wizards took their hats and caps off their heads and placed them over their hearts, leaving a wake of heads bent in remembrance.
Hermione was sniffling slightly, and he could just hear the splash of her tears dripping onto her robe. Harry's eyes were bone dry, as if the lake in the Cave has sucked it out of him, like the chill had sucked out his warmth. His hands were clenched around his pointed hat now, the same one he'd thrown at the Leaving Feast in their First Year, after Dumbledore's last minute points had won them the House Cup. Dumbledore would never get to do that again, meddle, change the game right at the end. 'Because he's dead. And I all but killed him myself.'
As Dumbledore's body was laid into the tomb alongside the smaller coffin that held Fawkes, the stone grew up around the caskets, and the last strains of the song that had followed the procession faded out. Along with it, the hush faded too, as if now that Dumbledore's body had been laid to rest, it was time for the rest of the world to move on as well. 'How can they forget him so quickly? How can they move on? Don't they know what will happen now?' Harry couldn't help but feel disgusted, the Wizarding Public had proven themselves to be fickle and easily blinkered by propaganda, no doubt they would fall prey to whatever not so pretty words the Ministry decided would be the 'official' account of recent events. Much like Cedric Diggory's death had become not a tragedy but a tool. 'I won't let them do that to Dumbledore!'
Hermione's elbow found it's way to his ribs again, more gently than the last time, and when he looked at her he saw her mouth, "Remember. We stand with you."