Chapter 30: Ab Amore Fortitudo Infinitum
Nothing can prepare a person unaccustomed to the tumult of the Burrow for a meal with everyone in attendance. Well, almost everyone, as Enid thought while the noise surrounded her. She sat between Jack Weasley and Dora Potter, wishing at times that she would have remembered the Dictaspool sitting in Ron's office, but then realised that it would have been almost impossible to decipher anything specific due to the multiple conversations happening simulateously. The Weasley children were mostly behaved, with only the youngest boy getting in trouble for talking with his mouth full, and for some reason that made almost everyone laugh except for his father. Ron chided his son, glanced at his wife and then rolled his eyes at Hermione across the table. When she had been given the assignment Enid knew that she would be interviewing the people around the table, but never thought she would be in this specific situation.
"I'm sorry." Jack sighed. "I would like to say it's never like this but unfortunately it is. Not the best impression. Hopefully you can leave this out. Not like those scenes from the entertaining magazines."
Enid smiled. "No, it's fine. Reminds me of home. My brothers..." She took a deep breath. "It's wonderful, actually. After everything..." The rest of her sentence caught in her throat as her eyes lit upon Molly Weasley's face, her infant granddaughter in her arms, and chastised herself for thinking about everything that had come before. Bringing those sad stories to the forefront, whilst everyone was enjoying a meal, was almost cruel.
"Here." Jack reached out and poured some more wine into Enid's glass. "It's fine. We all know. It's why you're here. We know what tomorrow brings."
After taking a sip of the newly poured wine Enid's ears sharpened, as all of the adult voices had stilled; only the chatter of the small ones continued. Her stomach seemed to turn over, the delicious manicotti remaining on her plate destined to go unfinished. It felt as every eye was staring at her, daring her to bring it up, and the air seemed to vanish from the room. "I'm sorry. So sorry. I..." She stood up suddenly, the chair screeching slightly against the floor, and with a quick movement she sat the napkin on the chair and walked across the room, her hand on the doorknob and out into the heavy air of the Burrow's garden.
The light was dying outside, rimming the trees at the border of the Burrow in a haze of bluish purple. The small bench at the edge of the pond looked out over the water and Enid sat there wondering if she could ever do the story justice. The people that she had just shared a meal with had endured so much, yet they seemed so...normal. She had wanted nothing more than to interview them when she had arrived in England, but now? Now she wasn't sure if she could ask the questions, could make them remember those terrible events again, with the ceremony taking place tomorrow. There would be so many people there, so much...
"Mind if I join you?"
Enid's head snapped up and there, with a sympathetic look upon his face, was Harry Potter. She had no idea he was even going to be at the Burrow, but now he was there. The interview she had been so nervous to conduct, the one she had hoped to build herself up to conducting was there but there was no time to prepare. Harry Potter was there. He looked just like the file photos, with the greying temples and tortioseshell glasses, but somehow the clothes made him look...ordinary. As she couldn't find her voice she simply nodded. He sat down next to her and extended his legs, crossing them at the ankles. For some reason seeing his trainers made her give a small laugh.
"That's not the usual response I get from interviewers."
"Sorry, it's just...I never expected to see an ambassador, let alone a member of the Noble House of the Wizangamot wearing Chuck Taylors."
"Dora picked them out for me years ago. Just comfortable." He turned slightly to her. "It's ok, you know. I'm just like anybody else."
She shifted in her seat and looked over to him, locking eyes. "But you're not like everybody else. Not even close."
"Yes...and no." He shrugged and turned out towards the pond. With a flick of his wand he summoned a small lantern and levitated it above them, surrounding them in a pale, warm light. "Getting a bit dark." He sat silently for a while, the only sound the insects in the trees and the occasional frog. "But you're right. Things have happened to me that nobody could have ever anticipated. I know I didn't." He turned back to her. "You know I haven't done a personal interview in years. Especially not about...what happened back then. I suppose it's time."
Enid wished she would have brought the Dictaspool out with her, but she had left the Burrow in a hurry, needing air. But then, after looking at the expression on his face, the stare that seemed to hover over the pond but not focusing on anything, she was glad that she hadn't.
"So much has happened, so many people should be here, but there's no way to change the past, as much as we'd like to have that happen." Harry turned to her. "There are days that I wake up and it doesn't seem real. That Arthur Weasley's gone. That Percy's a ghost at Hogwarts." He laughed, but it sounded sad. "Arthur would be so happy, seeing all his grandchildren...and Jack's family, Merlin. What that would have been like. But then I think of the kids, of Dora, and how much my life has changed. If you would have told me all those years ago that a letter from Gringotts would have done all this...well, I don't have the imagination for that. Hermione, maybe, would have come up with something like this, but I doubt it. Too level-headed. At times it still doesn't seem real. To go from sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs to a Lord and an ambassador for the ICWW..."
"A cupboard?" Enid looked at him oddly. "What?"
He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Hesitating a moment, he replaced his glasses and looked at the reporter. "It's true. I suppose it really should be told. Everything. Dora keeps telling me that I should, but...it's hard enough for the kids, having me and Dora as parents, all that entails, but my father-in-law says..." He paused. "You know I work for the ICWW but..."
Enid waited for him to finish the sentence but he didn't; instead the words seemed to hang upon the air. Somehow finding her voice she began. "After the war you worked with Gringotts, helping rebuild all the damage. From Madra Dubh to the other wizarding villages, helping legislation go through the Wizangamot in the House of Nobles. The rebuilding of Hogwarts...and there's the charity work. The Potter Foundation is the leading charity for all magical beings, especially children. Muggleborns have..." She paused. "When the war broke out in Russia you were there, helping after it ended, visiting the hospitals, at the orphanages..."
"I hoped that our war would be the last. We all did."
"But there hasn't been any more wars since then. Fifteen years. It only lasted a year." Immediately she regretted her words. "Only. Sorry."
"I understand." He turned to her for a moment and then looked out at the pond. "Sometimes I don't think it makes a difference, sitting there talking to someone, and then I get a letter later. It may have only been a moment, a quick word to somone, but it gave them hope. We all need hope. There were times when I didn't have much hope, back then, but then I would see Dora and...somehow we made it through. Somehow...even though people like Colin Creevey should be here to see what the world is like now. I think of him quite often lately. How he would have been absolutely thrilled to see what the world is like now, how Muggleborns are treated so differently than when he entered the wizarding world. I have one of his photos in my Wizangamot office. Dennis gave it to me. When things are difficult, when they're frustrating and I wish that politicians weren't so damn thick-headed and I just want to hex them I'll look at that photo. It's good to keep things in perspective."
The quiet enveloped them for a moment and then, slowly, he continued. "I want to remember him like that photo, sitting there in the Gryffindor common room. He'd had the camera on a timer spell, and he'd been waiting for me to come in...and then I walk into the frame and sit next to him and he waves to the camera in that way of his. Goddamn, he was so young. We all were."
Her voice was soft, almost inaudible, as the question came to her lips without thinking. "How do you do it?"
"One day after the other." His tone was flat, almost emotionless, but a hint of wavering betrayed his emotions. "Life goes on, whether you want it to or not. And it never goes exactly how you want, even if it goes better than you had ever hoped. If we didn't live our lives to the fullest, given the chance we've been gifted, they would have all..." He paused. "Sometimes Dora says I'm too lenient with the kids, that I let them get away with too much, which her mum thinks is hilarious. But it's always at the back, sitting there. Thank Merlin Ted's been easy, always has been, but when Maggie gets caught pinching alcohol from the cabinet or sneaks out to see her boyfriend, when it comes time for punishment I can't help but think that this is what's supposed to happen, stuff like that. Not fighting a war against Death Eaters and watching your classmates die." Harry stood up and took a few steps away, clasping his hands behind his back. Without looking at Enid he continued. "I should have died so many times. We all should have. Tomorrow we're going to remember all those that died, but we have to remember that they died so we could live. And when I'm sitting in the owner's box at Chudley with Ron, nothing in the world seeming to happen except the match that's being played...I'm grateful. Because that's what we should be doing, living. Even if Ron thinks we're playing like shite."
She couldn't help it. Enid laughed.
Harry turned to her, a wistful smile on his face. "Sorry. That got a bit heavy."
"It's going to be a heavy day tomorrow." Enid clasped her hands together for a moment, unsure of what to say next. But then an urge came over her, one that years later she would never be able to fully explain. She stood, walked over to Harry, and looking him in the eyes she hugged him. He stiffened for a brief moment and then encircled her with his arms. As she felt his breath rise and fall her voice was quiet. "Thank you."
The Burrow was quieter, subdued, when Enid and Harry returned. Enid watched as Harry and Dora, seated on the sofa with Ron, shared a look between them. As Harry went into the sitting room and took a chair next to the sofa Enid stood there, unsure of what to do next.
Sensing her unease Hermione stood up and went to the kitchen, returning shortly with a cup of tea. "Thought you might need this."
"Thank you." Enid took the tea automatically. "I..."
"Come on." Hermione's voice was soft. "Let's go to Ron's office."
Once again Enid found herself in Ron's office, the shock of being there lessened, but still present. As Hermione sat in one of the chairs next to the bookcase Enid followed suit, her emotions still swirling. As she needed to something, anything, she took a sip of tea, not really noticing that it was definitely not to her taste.
"So sorry, not a tea drinker?"
"Then just sit it on the table. It's fine." Hermione brushed her hair back and sighed. "If it's any consolation I understand how you're feeling. It's bringing it all back for me, and I've been to the Burrow so many times over the years, but now..." She raised up and tucked a leg underneath her, settling into the chair. "From my experience when talking to those who weren't here it all seems to be an adventure. An adventure with horrible things that happened, something out of a book or a movie. In those things when the story is over the 'happily ever after' part happens, but nobody ever tells you how to live 'happily ever after.' They just assume it happens."
Enid nodded. "I'm realizing that."
"It hasn't been easy. There are days...but there's still so much to do."
At that moment it snapped into place for Enid, the fact that she was sitting with a woman who she had studied in school, a woman she had written a paper upon, a woman who has a personal inspiration. Even though she had been in the robe shop with her earlier, it suddenly became very intimidating. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the Dictaspool on the desk, causing her to take a steadying breath. She remembered her job. She had been chosen to write the article. An article that she hoped she could come close to doing justice to the subjects. "I'm sorry. I should start the Dictaspool and..."
"Please. Not tonight." Hermione shook her head. "I'll be more than happy to tell you about my work, but not tonight. Let's talk about anything except that. Charlie told me that if I started in on that you'd write a horribly boring story but I don't believe you'd find...well, perhaps. It can get somewhat tedious. According to Johnny it's horribly boring. We're horribly boring."
"Everyone thinks their parents are boring. I know mine are."
"I doubt that." Hermione took a sip of tea. "Well, dragons are certainly not boring to the unitiated, but after so many years..." Sitting her teacup down on the side table Hermione tilted her head at Enid and raised an eyebrow. "So I understand you and Reggie have a bet."
Whatever Enid had been expecting it certainly wasn't that question. "What? How did you know?"
Hermione's laugh was deep. "Oh sweetie, you have no idea how fast the Weasley grapevine is, all of us know. We're just waiting to see what happens. If you want my opinion I think you'll win that bet." Leaning forward she smirked. "I got an owl from Grace the other day. I can't wait to see everyone's reaction. I think tomorrow you should look for another dress at Daphne's. You'll need it."
The morning of the rememberance ceremony for the Battle of the Many was slightly cloudy, as the sun fought to break through Enid's curtains at the hotel. She stretched as the alarm went off, and reaching over she calmed it before falling back into the duvet. It had been a late night at the Burrow, ending over what seemed like another full meal. Right as she had been ready to head back to the hotel the Lupins had arrived and the house had breathed into life, some of the children coming out in their bedclothes to welcome the Lupins before being shuffled off to bed by Ron. Remus had sat in the chair by the fireplace with Ron and Jack's infant daughter and the stories began. This time, though, instead of the intense conversations of earlier that evening it was the humorous stories. While sitting on the sofa next to the elegant Grace, as the stories unspooled, Enid felt her emotions begin to settle. Dora sat on a chair, her feet on Harry's lap, and instead of feeling the weight of all that happened to Harry she saw the interplay of two people who were still in love with each other as much as they were thirty years ago. People who were family to each other, gathered around a fire, telling stories. Laughing.
It was as she was finally preparing to use the Floo, as she was saying her goodbyes, that Enid realised what had happened. Grace had given her a smile as she clasped her hand, promising that they would do an official interview a few days after the ceremony owing to their schedules. Before she threw down the Floo powder her research returned to her memory, the fact that Grace was an empathic healer.
After a final stretch Enid pushed off the duvet and swung her legs over the bed. Of course the Lupins had waited until the last moment to arrive, of course they would not be available until after the ceremony. With all the emotions out in the open it would be monumentally draining for an empath. It was while wondering when would be the best time to interview the Lupins that Enid looked at the clock and realised that she didn't have much time left before she was due at Intent. Normally she wouldn't fuss about getting ready to go shopping, but this was altogether different.
Somehow she managed to get through a shower, drying her hair, wondering if the bangs really were a good idea and made it down to the hotel's Floo a little before eight. Her instructions were to Floo at exactly eight, not before, not after. Adjusting her glasses she stepped into the Floo, checked her watch and threw down the powder, stating 'Intent' in a clear voice.
As soon as she appeared in the Floo she heard their voices. Straightening up she smiled and stepped out, feeling as if she was late even if she was on time as the three witches before her sat at a small table with tea before them.
"Told ya. Right on time. You owe me a Galleon." Dora held out her hand to Daphne.
"You are annoyingly correct." Daphne reached out and tapped her fingers on Dora's outstretched palm. "Put it on my account." Standing up she took a breath and then began appraising Enid. "I think I can find something appropriate, perhaps..." She paused and then pointed to Enid. "Sit, I'll be back."
Enid watched as Lady Greengrass, this time in an elegant pencil skirt and simple blouse, walked away. Her heels clicked echoed slightly through the quiet store as she complied, sitting at the table.
Hermione cupped a hand to her mouth. "Daphne, look for something posh as well." She turned to Dora and shrugged. "You never know when she could use something like that."
Dora rolled her eyes. "When did you turn into a fashion witch?"
Hermione tried to look innocent. "Oh, it's just being here. So many wonderful things."
Thankfully for Enid she didn't have to respond as Daphne returned with what seemed like an armful of dresses and robes. It was a blur after that as she stood in the dressing room being handed dress after dress, robe after robe. She would change, step out and then the three witches would say that the robe was too formal, the dress was the wrong colour, the style not suited. During this process Enid heard Hermione asking Dora about Teddy, chatting about Moon Rose Lupin, wondering why she had not come with her parents, verifying that Rosie would be arriving this morning, all with a hint of teasing in her voice.
"That's it." Daphne waved the others quiet. "Perfect."
Enid looked down at the deep blue robe, how the material almost shimmered if it caught the light just right, the front and collar bound with elegant silk. It was almost formal, but not quite, the pattern woven into the fabric was discreet, a series of vines and flowers a shade lighter than the background. She looked in the mirror and saw only a single colour, but inspecting a sleeve saw the vines and flowers move and grow, blossoming ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly. It was light on her body, ever so comfortable, and as she moved her peripheral vision caught the yellow of a tag hanging from a sleeve.
"Holy shit!" Enid's eyes were wide as she glanced from the tag to Daphne. "I can't afford this."
"Ehhhhh." Dora waved her off. "She owes me."
"I can't take this." Enid quickly moved towards the dressing room. "It's..."
"Yours." Daphne stood there and looked at her, cocking a head to the side, and then turned to Hermione. "Shoes? And what was that about a posh dress?"
"That one's on me." Hermione smiled, glanced at Dora, and then winked at Enid. "Black. One can always use a little black dress."
"This isn't happening." Still wearing the blue robe Enid sat down at the table. "This is like one of those unbelievable romance stories where some woman just wanders into crazy situations, one of those stupid romcoms where a background character all the sudden becomes...I don't know, Cinderella or something. I'm wearing a Daphne Wood robe. Merlin's balls."
Dora leaned across the table, ignoring Enid and stage-whispered to Hermione. "Is this a good time to tell her about the hair and makeup witches coming in?"
"Give her a moment." Hermione's tone was serious, but a tone of humour undercut it. "Or two."
"I can't believe this." Enid shook her head. "I'm going to the ceremony in this?" Almost as soon as the words left her mouth she realised that all the levity had left the room. She quickly scanned the expressions of each witch, hoping that she hadn't gone too far.
"It's ok." Dora patted her on the arm. "We know. And yeah, you're wearing that. After all, Daphne owes me."
"A Galleon." Daphne took pity on the poor girl. "It's fine. Now." She put her hands on her hips. "A black dress. I'm sure I have one of those."
Harry stood and looked into the mirror. Some days he didn't feel his age, but today as he ran his hands over the stubble on his chin he felt every single year. It had been a long night, even with Grace's help before he left the Burrow, as the conversation with the young reporter had brought everything so close to the surface. It was something that he and Dora had spoken about ever since the rememberance ceremony had been announced; they had both struggled with the enormity of it all, the fact that it would be a public event and that everyone would relive it all. He had come to terms with it over the years, but now, now it felt as if it had just happened yesterday.
As he slathered on the shaving cream he began second guessing the decision to stay at the Lodge, but as the house in Madra Dubh didn't have the privacy of the Lodge he had to agree with Dromeda's suggestion. Once the ceremony was over there would be no escaping the press, the worldwide press, as they had purposely built the house as simply a part of the village, not the house of a Lord and Lady. The Lodge provided privacy but it brought all those memories swimming back, the discovery of the library, his family tree tracing all the way back to Hereweald, that horrible moment when the horcrux in his head...
Harry paused, one hand full of shaving cream as the enchanted razor hovered and waited. He listened, hoping that they would sort it, but then he heard footsteps rapidly approaching. Taking a towel and wiping the shaving cream from his face he turned and leaned against the sink, waiting as the razor returned to its resting place.
He watched as his youngest daughter barreled into the room, closely followed by her older sister. As his nine year old stood there clutching something in her hands she looked to him for help. A glance up to her sister made him sigh. They were at it again. "What's the problem, Cassie?"
"She..." Cassie pointed to her sister. "She's being mean! She said..."
"Lyra?" Harry watched as his middle daughter's face began turning an even redder shade, looking just like her mother when she was angry. "What is it now?"
With folded arms Lyra huffed. "She took my hairpin, the one that Aunt Daphne gave me, she knows I'm wearing it today. It goes perfectly with my dress. I did not say she could wear it."
Harry shook his head. "Not today, Cass. Give it back."
"No buts about it. Do you have Lyra's pin?"
"Give it back." He pointed from daughter to daughter. "I don't want to hear it today." Seeing the triumphant smirk of Lyra he watched as the pin exchanged possession, and after Lyra left he motioned Cass closer. "Hey." He pulled her closer and put a hand on her shoulder. "Go look in your mum's jewelry box, the little one. I'm sure you can find something in there, ok?" As that seemed a suitable replacement, as she never got to look through her mum's jewelry, Cassie nodded and hurried off.
With a sigh Harry turned back to the sink, this time his heart much lighter. As the shaving cream went back on, and the razor returned to air in anticipation, he had just about covered his whiskers when he saw another face in the mirror. This time he didn't wipe off the shaving cream and simply looked at her in the mirror. "What is it?"
"Ted's being weird."
"And that's different because..." He watched his oldest daughter as she shook her head. "Maggie?"
"He was talking to someone over the Floo this morning. Someone female."
"He's allowed to talk to women." Finishing the shaving cream Harry watched as the razor began it's work. As he couldn't speak while the razor was in motion he gestured with his hands for her to continue.
"Well..." The word drawled out, as it was apparent she was enjoying the topic. "Apparently your proper, perfect son did not stay at his flat last night, if what I heard was right. And he had company. So maybe all those talks from you and mum about how you aren't ready to be grandparents should be directed at Theodore, not me."
It was all Harry could do to keep still while the razor did it's work, as he wanted to shake his head. Ted and Maggie had always been at each other, even when they were young. Dora had told him that they'd work it out eventually but at that moment he wondered if it would ever happen.
Her smirk was blatant. "So when I asked him about it he was really evasive, saying I should mind my own business, but you know how the press is, especially right now. How would it look if it makes the papers, 'Peebee Son Shags..."
"Magdalene." Harry was thankful that the razor moved away in response to his movement. All that was left was his upper lip, but he turned to his daughter, watching her hair began to shift from the honeyed blond she favoured to the unmistakable beginnings of the Black hair. Just at the ends. "Your brother is...Ted knows better than that. Leave it. For today. For me. Please."
"Great Gorznuk." Her tone was dripping sarcasm. She stood there for a moment. "I'm sure Gran will love to hear about it. I think she and Grandad are having breakfast in one of the dead animal rooms, I'll go see what she says. Bet if it was me, you and mum would be apoplectic. It's because he's..."
"Go talk to Dromeda. You're being difficult. I don't care, I need to shave and then..." He watched as she rolled her eyes and left. "Goddamn it." He turned back to the mirror and watched as the razor finished up shaving, settling back to it's place. After putting on his glasses he ran a hand through his hair. Of course this had happened when Dora was out of the house for the morning. Of course this had happened on this day, of all days.
And then he laughed. Watching the lines around his eyes, running his hands through the grey in his hair, he laughed.
They all arrived at Hogwarts. From every seeming corner of the globe, they all arrived at Hogwarts. The grounds were covered with witches, wizards, goblins, house elves, centaurs...so many magical beings in one location. Ever since the war Britain had held many magical events, but there had never been such a concentration in one single place.
It had been a conscious decision by those who had planned the rememberance ceremony that it was not to be a solemn occasion, as Hogwarts was in full flower. The herbology department had been contacted by other magical institutions; all had lent their expertise. A row of flowering trees led from the entrance, a winding path with stone pillars interspersed, each with the name of one of the fallen. As the guests made their way down the path some stopped by certain pillars, some touching the stone, others taking pictures, families together. Eventually the path led to a large open part of the grounds, now filled with stands that made the World Cup Quidditch stand seem small in comparison.
Harry stood with his family, watching as the stands began to fill. They had arrived early, before the grounds had officially opened, and he had taken his time making his way through the entrance. As they came around one of the bends it was obvious that they weren't the only ones who had been granted early admission; the Weasley family, all of them, were standing next to two stones. Molly knelt next the stones he knew must be Arthur and Percy's, two folded jumpers at the base, her white hair shining in the sun. When they got close no words were said, no words were needed. They each knew.
When they arrived at the platform Harry directed his children to their seats close to the edge, watching as Remus and Grace motioned them over. In some part of his mind he realised that when Ted got close to Moon Rose she pulled him into a tight hug, but then he put it out of his mind. He had to prepare. Taking Dora's hand he made his way onto the platform and then through the curtains to the waiting area, glad that there was a small refreshments table seemingly full of every conceivable option.
"Firewhiskey." Dora's voice was halting. "Two."
"I don't want any."
"I wasn't talking about you." Dora smiled weakly. "Sorry."
"Don't worry. Not today." He nodded and headed over, happy to see that someone else had decided to avail themselves of the options. "Hello, Effie."
"Harry." She nodded. "Decided to be formal, then?"
He glanced down at his robes, the livery collar glinting. "The full Lord Potter. I almost wore a Muggle suit, but..." He shrugged. "Seemed appropriate. Looks like you did the same."
She nodded. "I am representing not only Goblin Nation but...as you said. Appropriate." She poured out a small dram of firewhiskey, looked at Harry and gestured with the bottle.
"Two. Both for Dora." He saw her glance. "I need to keep a clear head."
"Makes sense." She glanced over his shoulder and then poured the liquid into two small glasses. "I'll take them to her, it looks as if someone wants to speak to you."
Turning, Harry saw the reporter standing nearby, her blue robe shimmering in the light. As Effie left with the firewhiskey he turned to Enid. "Sorry, I doubt I'll..."
She shook her head. "No, it's fine. Not now." She paused. "About the other night...it's all off the record. If you want. I won't..."
"It's fine." He gave her a sad smile. "It's fine."
"I just wanted you to know. Thank you." She sighed deeply. "I won't bother you, I know you..." She stopped seeing his expression. Without saying a word she began walking away but stopped, putting her hand on his arm for a moment, and then left, disappearing through the curtain out into the crowd.
As the sound outside the curtain began to swell, a somwhat muted murmur, Harry sat down off to the side. The moment would be there soon, the moment he would stand out there on the stage and speak to all the assembled throng. He had written a speech at one point, had sat down and laboured over it for one very long night, but in the end he'd picked up the parchment and had thrown it into the fireplace, watching the edges turn and curl as the flame seeped through, ash falling into dust. He knew there was no way he could ever do it justice, no possible way he could ever say all that he wanted to say, and as he sat there he looked down at his hands. The Potter ring felt heavy on his hand, clicking slightly against his plain wedding ring.
And then it was quiet. So quiet. He didn't know exactly how long he'd been there, staring at his rings, as only Dora remained behind the curtain. She stood next to him, a hand on his shoulder, but then she was kneeling in front of him, face close.
"Wotcher." As he smiled she leaned closer. "I love you, Harry Potter. Remember that. Sure, it may have taken a stupid fucking contract to get it all started, and a bunch of shite from crazy dreams but..."
He kissed her, threading a hand through her hair. When they broke apart she put her forehead against his, stood up, then leaned forward and kissed him again. Trailing a hand on his head she walked away, through the curtain and to the stage, resplendant in her finery. Lady Black.
And then he truly was alone. He heard the Minister for Magic begin speaking, voice magically amplified, and felt his heart begin to slightly race. He couldn't help himself, he walked towards the curtain. With hesitant fingers he pulled the fabric apart, looking out towards the assembled.
So many, many were there. Hagrid, gone white, his silver peg leg bright and shiny. The Weasleys, Jack's family interspersed along with Seamus Finnegan and Crystal. Neville and Gabrielle, the Creevey family. Ginny and Dean Thomas, Ginny's daughter sitting between Ginny and Viktor Krum. House elves, centaurs off to the side...so many, many that he knew. So many that were not there. Arthur, Percy, Albus Dumbledore...
He let the curtains fall back into place and turned, intending to resume his seat, but stopped. The laugh almost morphed into a cry. "Percy."
"Hello, Harry." The ghostly form of Percy drifted over to him, gliding up over the stairs until it hovered close by. "They remember. We all do."
"I have no idea what the hell I'm going to say." Harry's shoulders bounced as his emotions began to bounce. "What do I say to them, Percy? I thought I knew, but now...seeing everyone?"
With a warm smile that generations of Gryffindor students would come to know well, the bespectacled ghost shook his head. "Harry, because of you, and many of those here and not here, we have a future. Remember that. Say what's in your heart and the words will come."
Harry watched as Percy waved and the ghostly form dissipated, fading into a beam of light falling between the opening of the curtains. With a deep breath, Harry turned, then stepped out onto the platform. With Percy's words echoing in his ears, and Dora's kiss still lingering on his lips, he put his hands on the podium and looked out at everyone. The future would be uncertain, as it always is, but there would be a future. That much was certain.
A/N: The final chapter, after so long. I'm not sure why there seemed to be a block in writing this, but unfortunately there was. I often thought that I would leave this last chapter hanging forever, as so many Lord Potter stories are unfinished, but somewhere in the back of my mind this was always hanging around.
Hopefully I tied off most of the important loose ends, as it took so long to get back to this story that I'd re-read it and think of something, then life got in the way. If there's something blatant that I left out, well, it wasn't intended.
Thank you for all of the response, I have to say it was definitely surprising. To everyone who has read, favorited and reviewed, thank you very much. Now I feel as if I can work on the other WIPs and not feel too guilty.
As always, thank you for reading and review if you wish.