Who Will Fill A Coward's Grave
A/N Thanks for sticking with this story, told you we'd get there in the end...
Chapter 22 - Ripples and Reflections
Looking out from his office window, as his students headed down to Hogsmeade in the warm summer sunshine to catch the express home, Albus thought it was much more than the last Weasley leaving Hogwarts that signified the end of an era. His eyes were drawn to today's issue of the Prophet, laying on his desk.
Arthur, as Minister of Magic, had been a special guest at yesterday's leaving feast, and was pictured on the front page with his arm around Ginny. His daughter's Head Girl and Quidditch Captain badges were prominently displayed on the soon to be eighteen year old witch's Gryffindor robes. The accompanying article was also quick to point out that Ginny had played a big part in her house retaining both the Quidditch and House cups, and that she had just signed a professional quidditch contract with the Holyhead Harpies.
A picture of Arthur appearing in the Prophet was hardly a surprise, it happened at least a couple of times every week, but Albus couldn't think of any other previously published picture where the current Minister of Magic had looked so proud.
When Albus had recommended Arthur as his replacement for the vacant position of Minister, he'd expected the newly encumbered wizard to not only be grateful, but also constantly seeking him out - desperately looking for his advice and wisdom. Instead, both the Ministry and the Wizengamot had taken his rather anecdotal resigning remarks about him being 'too old and set in his ways' as a statement of complete retirement - certainly not what he had intended at the time. Albus now needed to read the Prophet in order to discover what was happening in a country he'd previously practically presided over.
Albus had repeatedly attempted to 'talk shop' with the Minister of Magic last night, on every occasion Arthur had held tightly onto the official ministerial line that he was attending Hogwarts simply as a very proud father. With no more Weasleys inside the castle, Albus had lost his last legitimate reason for contacting the family that had once almost worshipped the ground he walked upon.
It wasn't just the Weasley family though that had, very politely but firmly nonetheless, deliberately frozen Albus out. Other than the occasional picture in the press, Albus had never set eyes on Harry or Hermione since that fateful day in Hogsmeade. He wasn't even invited to their wedding, and Severus was - that was a black day for Albus Dumbledore. Again it was only when he, like the rest of the country, saw their pictures and read the details in the Quibbler that Albus actually knew they had gotten married.
They'd held the ceremony on Lord Black's private island, with the current Minister of Magic performing the wedding ceremony. The pictures taken by Colin Creevey, and the article written by Luna Lovegood, were the only coverage of the wedding - both Colin and Luna being invited guests.
Having his picture published marrying the young couple was an unbelievable coup for Arthur, especially as there were some serious grumblings about changes he was trying to push through the Wizengamot at the time. Here was indisputable proof though that Harry Potter backed their current Minister of Magic, and both Harry and Hermione were shrewd enough to understand exactly the message they were putting out there by releasing this picture for publication.
Unfortunately for Albus, him not being there also sent out a powerful message, an entirely different one to that of Arthur's oh so positive inclusion. Albus of course knew there were trust issues between him and the young couple, he thought seeing Voldemort finally defeated would resolve all of those issues. By them not returning to Hogwarts, they very publicly and clearly showed that was not the case. That message of mistrust was reinforced a hundredfold when Minerva, Poppy, Hagrid and Severus were all invited to their wedding - and Albus wasn't.
Albus had spent the last few years thinking things were slipping away from him, even within the very walls of Hogwarts. Breakfast time was simply unrecognisable compared to what it was even in Ginny Weasley's first year. Now it was becoming rarer and rarer to see an owl delivering a letter from home. Owls were still in use for packages and newspaper deliveries but the entire hall appeared to have been taken over by those blasted mobile phones. Since this was the usual time Hogwarts students read communications from their families, Albus couldn't really object when the muggle-born started using phones to carry out that task. Being able to instantly talk with your parents soon caught on, with pure-bloods not wanting their children disadvantaged.
Arthur had pushed for these devices, and others like them, to be available for use not only within the Ministry, but by witches and wizards throughout the country. With the Minister of Magic lighting a large fire under their backsides, it didn't take too long for the Ministry's researchers to solve the problem. It would be hard to dispute the discovery of a runes scheme that could be used to protect the delicate parts of these muggle devices had caused a technological revolution within magical Britain. Since the addition of protection runes merely allowed these muggle devices to operate normally within areas of high magical concentration, they didn't break any Ministerial Laws currently in place - unlike the current Minister's old flying car experiment.
They were simply working exactly as they had been designed to do, and therefore posed no danger to the Statute of Secrecy should one of these protected phones fall into the hands of a muggle. By placing another complex set of runes on the batteries, a simple spell could now almost instantly recharge these devices - really kickstarting the revolution. These new runes worked not only on mobile phones, and more items were being added to an ever growing catalog of electronic devices now available to witches and wizards.
Sensing the revolution that was clearly coming, Lord Black opened a business in Diagon Alley that was soon right at the very forefront of these changes - with Remus actually running the store. The muggle-born could have protective and charging runes carved into their current phones or other devices, for a charge, or buy a new one already converted to work within Hogwarts. The first morning they had been used in the great hall almost started a riot, with over half the people sitting there never having seen one of these devices before. Albus turned to complain to Minerva, only to find she was using her own mobile phone and currently describing to Remus exactly what was happening.
Minerva then stood and laid out the new Hogwarts policy on the use of these devices within the castle. They could be used at breakfast time, not lunch nor dinner. Other than that, these devices could only be used within their respective common rooms or dorms - but again restricted to not after lights out. Minerva's stern gaze travelled the hall as she announced anyone using a phone in the corridors, or even taking it with them into a classroom or the library, would see that phone being confiscated for a set period of time. More rules would follow if necessary, though students were asked to use a common sense approach while the school got to grips with this new technology.
When the Minister of Magic's children had these devices, and were using them to keep in touch with the rest of their family, Albus knew the writing was on the wall. The need for a new 'Muggle Studies' course and professor couldn't have been more graphically illustrated than that first morning when the phones made an appearance.
The person who Albus had hired for the post highlighted the need for the course to be constantly evolving, as technology changed at an unbelievable rate. Albus had nodded in agreement, silently thinking he would be long gone before any other changes would need to be made. He was already doubting that assumption.
Watching as Minerva would take out her device after breakfast, decide who she wanted to talk to, then speak to that person as she drank her morning tea left Albus rather jealous. Kneeling in a fireplace to talk with someone was becoming so old hat, at least he hoped that was the reason people weren't returning his floocalls.
Albus was well aware all it would take for him to acquire one of these devices was a trip to Diagon Alley but there was a rather good reason that was stopping him doing so. He well remembered Emma Granger introducing these devices to the Order, and one thing had stuck in his mind. To talk with someone, you needed their number to call. Outside of the castle, he couldn't think of one person who would want Albus Dumbledore to call them - and would therefore give him their number.
While he had seen some students from different houses talking to each other using these devices while both were in the great hall for breakfast, he didn't want to purchase one just to chat with Minerva or Severus at the staff table.
As the last students left the castle, Albus sat back down at his desk. As bad as things were for him personally, he couldn't see them improving any time soon. It had been made abundantly clear to Albus there was no place left for him in the governing of their country as they embraced a different future. It was also becoming clearer every year that there was really nothing for him to do at Hogwarts either.
He'd spent years leaving the running of the school to Minerva, and she was very good at it, so there was now nothing left for him to do. The defence curse seemed to have died with Voldemort so there was no new staff needing recruited this summer. Albus sat and picked up the paper again, hoping to discover something he's missed the first time he'd read it. Popping a lemon drop in his mouth, Albus was left thinking that even the last day of term had become just another day to him. Another day filled with banality and boredom, with a large helping of tedium on the side.
He glanced at the envelope sitting on his desk, waiting to be opened, and smiled for the first time today. While Albus hadn't purchased a phone from the store in Diagon Alley, he was the proud owner of the rather large and shiny boombox that took up the space once occupied by the instruments he previously used to monitor Harry and the wards on Privet Drive.
Albus now had music in his life, particularly loving those songs that told a story. If there was a moral to that story too, then he tended to like it even more. It was easy to see then how he became fascinated with country music. The envelope on his desk was Albus' window into that world, and the reason there were now racks of CD's in his office too. It contained a catalogue of the latest music available for him to buy, and his music club membership only required him to purchase a few CD's annually - something Albus did practically every month the catalogue was delivered.
He was saving opening the envelope until lunchtime, where Severus and Minerva could get a look at this month's latest offerings too. He was expecting Filius to once again petition for Hogwarts to have a music department, he'd done so every month since Albus had joined the music club. Pressing the play button on his beloved box, he hummed along to one of his favourite artists. Albus couldn't help but sing along when the chorus was reached.
'If you're gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run...'
Something he'd missed in the paper suddenly emphasised to Albus how much their world had changed, and the words he'd just sang focused his mind on what had kicked off every one of those changes.
Lucius Malfoy had gambled that taking Miss Granger to his master would see Lady Luck once more smile down upon him. Instead he found himself facing an opponent he didn't even know was there, one who didn't care about his wealth, position or supposed purity of his blood. Harry Potter had ended Lucius' life without even announcing his presence, letting the spell he'd just cast do that for him. That was not the reason for all the changes though, it was actually another Malfoy who was responsible for that.
Draco wanted to follow in his father's footsteps so badly, he very deliberately murdered a muggle in cold blood while still only fifteen years old. That this muggle was Hermione Granger's father, and Harry Potter was present at the time, meant Draco immediately got his greatest wish granted. He followed in his father's footsteps by being face down dead on the grass mere seconds later. It may be ironic that the death of a muggle man ultimately lead to all the changes currently occurring in their world. Ironic or not though, that strange but true fact was indisputable.
There was no doubt in Albus' mind that incident alone was responsible for the change in Harry's attitude, an attitude that began to be adopted by just about everyone Harry spoke with. The battle on the quay that night might not have included Harry but his new attitude was certainly prevalent in the Order members who were there that evening. Fully embracing that new attitude saw the Order unbelievably hand Voldemort his biggest ever defeat. After a stunning success like that, Albus found himself helpless to stop the juggernaut of optimism these tactics had provided. He used to think that love was the most powerful force in the world, but Albus now conceded hope should be placed right up there too when any comparisons were being made. Giving hope to those who didn't think there was any caused a transformation in people he hadn't seen before or since.
As the song was reaching the end, Albus found an ace he could keep.
'You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done'
Too many people, himself included, thought they were in control of the game, only to discover when the cards fell they had been outplayed. Unlike the Malfoys, Voldemort, Fudge and Umbridge however, he had at least lived to tell the tale.
It was a couple of years later before a picture of Arthur appeared in the Prophet where the Minister of Magic looked even prouder than on Ginny's graduation day. The picture might not have made the front page this time buy Arthur wasn't too bothered abut that, he already had that particular picture fitted in a frame and sitting on his desk. It was a picture he loved, and Arthur wasn't even looking at the camera when it was taken.
The reason for that though was in the picture with him, cradled in the crook of his arm, little Edgar Arthur Weasley. With Ron and Susan as parents, the little tyke was always going to have red hair but already possessed a smile that could melt hearts. That Ron was standing beside him in the picture, resplendent in his auror robes, just added to Arthur's pride - and love of the picture.
Of all his offspring, Ron was the one Arthur had worried most about. All that worry had been for naught however as, thanks to his friends and the wonderful woman who was on Arthur's other side in the picture, Susan Weasley, Ron had finally discovered something he was really good at. When hard work was required, Ron would now be the first one to buckle down and get the task done - which was already earning him plaudits in his chosen career. He'd blitzed his way through Amelia's auror academy, finishing so far ahead of everyone else the fact that he was the Minister of Magic's son - or married to Amelia's niece - wasn't even mentioned when Ron received the award as top cadet.
The twins were also hard workers, having the same friends demonstrate the benefits that could be achieved from embracing such a trait. Fred and George might have embraced that trait in a different direction but the hard work was there nonetheless. This had led Arthur to giving his blessing for both leaving Hogwarts before their NEWTs and opening their dream shop. They had the unit next to Remus in Diagon Alley and there was always good-natured bantering between both these establishments about who was the busiest.
While there was room for debate over that, there was absolutely no doubt that these two shops were easily the busiest in Diagon Alley. Arthur suspected that either Sirius or Harry had provided the start-up cash for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Whoever it was though had spotted a potential in his sons that hadn't been visible to either of their parents. Possibly years spent dealing with the mayhem their twins had caused growing up had blinded Molly and him to any fun or financial gains to be made from their antics.
With Ginny, Percy, Charlie and Bill all also excelling in their chosen professions - and Fleur about to present them with another grandchild, things were looking good for the Weasley family. It was also only eighteen months ago Arthur had stood unopposed for re-election, that no one even considered running against him a sure sign of just how popular a Minister of Magic he'd become. It hadn't been all plain sailing however.
Some of the Death Eaters who left the country before Voldemort was finally defeated had soon began trickling back into Britain. That trickle soon came to an abrupt halt though when these people found themselves being arrested and questioned under truth serum about their past crimes. A few of the clever ones though had played the long game - waiting until their sons were of age to return and attempting to act as an unmarked 'proxy' for their families.
These sons however soon found magical Britain was an entirely different place under this Minister of Magic. In attempting to take any family seats on the Wizengamot, they were now faced with having to take a magical oath designed to prevent any support for potential future Dark Lords. They also discovered their family name and blood status offered no guarantee whatsoever of a position within the Ministry. Strict new guidelines would swing into place when any vacancies or promotions were available. These positions would now be filled solely based on the successful candidate's abilities, and suitability for the role.
This was where Arthur had faced the most resistance but, eventually, everyone could see the Ministry was running more effectively than any time before. Wizards and witches weren't slow to pick up on the fact that these new rules meant the top positions would now be open to everyone, rather than an elite few. Arthur's popularity as Minister of Magic had grown in direct proportion to the number of people who realised this wasn't just the latest piece of rhetoric from a new Minister. Their Minister not only meant what he said but put it into practice too. Arthur thought it was rather ironic that, as the Minister who'd introduced compulsory elections for that position every five years, he'd then stood unopposed when that time for re-election was reached.
He thought those musings would be worth mentioning to Emma at their monthly meeting, after they had brought each other up to date on what was happening with their families of course. With Harry and Hermione attending university there was usually plenty to catch up on, and Arthur suspected they were working for the muggle government between their studies too. He'd heard whispers Harry had been involved in foiling a kidnap attempt on the Queen's eldest son last year.
Theodore Nott, Vincent Crabbe and Marcus Flint were all young men who had fled the country with their parents, only to return years later and discover everything within magical Britain had changed. With neither their family names nor bloodlines opening any doors for them, the three wizards had soon gravitated toward each other's company. They had quickly reached the conclusion that the only avenue left open to them to make their fortunes was skulduggery - and that muggles were the easiest targets around. They then began hatching what was an incredibly stupid plan. The trio apparated into Highgrove House and were promptly struck down. They were each sentenced to thirty years in Azkaban, and would be in their fifties before leaving that island.
Arthur was left smiling with the pleasant thought that he was sure to be seeing Harry and Hermione soon, both were of course named as godparents to Edgar Arthur Weasley. This would further cement the ties between their families, something they were all pleased about.
It was a beautiful summer's day as Emma made her way down a well-worn and extremely familiar garden path. Reaching the garden bench that had become a permanent fixture in the garden, and had been for over a decade now, she found a bouquet of flowers waiting on her there.
"Thanks guys, you really are the best."
Emma wasn't just thanking Dobby, Winky and Kreature for the flowers, the area around Dan's headstone was kept immaculate by the family's elves. It was any combination of those three elves that were responsible for placing the stone bench here too, and applying permanent cushioning and heating charms to it. Lifting the flowers, Emma placed them on her husband's grave. She completed her normal ritual by kissing the tips of her fingers and then resting her hand on Dan's headstone. She spent a few quiet moments kneeling there before sitting on the bench, it was now time to bring Dan up to date with the happenings in their family.
"Sorry it's been a while, love. Life has been pretty hectic recently. I also don't like to impose on Sirius and Hestia too much, though both would have a fit if they heard me saying that. They give Remus a hard enough time because he now stays in the flat above their shop more nights than he does here. I spend some time at my flat, though I mostly stay with the kids. Even when staying at the flat however, the elves still look after me - I simply find my mug of coffee waiting on me when I want one.
I need to tell you something important. Dan, - there's now another man in my life, and his name's Daniel too. I only met him two days ago but already I know I'm going to love him for the rest of my life. He has Harry's green eyes but brown hair just like you and Hermione, and both his parents are over the moon with his arrival. I always knew they would make great parents, you just have to watch them with their godsons - Teddy MacLean and Eddie Weasley.
They'll all be by later to introduce your grandson to you, he woke them up a few times last night so were still sleeping when I left. I couldn't wait to bring you Daniel's picture, and spend the day with you.
Twelve years ago today you were cruelty taken from us, a day I thought that my life had ended too. Harry said at the time you would have gladly given your life to protect Hermione and me, I remember feeling so angry and guilty then. I was angry that you had been taken yet felt terribly guilty that I had survived.
I've thrown myself into supporting our children, even working for Prime Ministers came second to that. As we both suspected very early on, Hermione and Harry are just made for each other. They also seem to grow closer all the time - which I didn't think was possible. Watching their journey from teens to adulthood has slowly erased those negative feelings, holding little Daniel in my arms for the first time banished the last of them. While Sirius and Remus will certainly be considered by everyone as honorary grandfathers, Daniel is going to be raised with his grandmother in close attendance.
They may have married young but our two had their heads screwed on the right way. Both are still incredibly driven and waited until they were ready before starting their family. Harry's used his family money to open his own law practice, dealing with both sides of the magical divide. Hermione too just completed her healer training, adding it to the medical degree she already has. With the connections they are making through their involvement in the unit, absolutely nothing is outwith their grasp or ambitions.
They actually got a card from The Queen, congratulating them on the birth of their son. I could see she was impressed with Hermione and Harry when we met for our awards all those years ago, and their part in foiling that kidnap attempt on Prince Charles didn't do them any harm either. It's amazing to think Her Majesty has kept in touch with their lives. When Her Majesty is keeping her eye on your careers and family, only good things can come of it."
Emma sat and chatted away, casually lifting the cup of coffee that appeared on the bench beside her just as she'd wanted one.
Harry and Hermione were of course acutely aware of the significance of today's date. That Daniel had been born exactly twelve years after his parents had shared their first kiss in King's Cross station brought back some happy memories. The downside to that was her father being murdered a mere two days later. They were getting Daniel ready for travelling to Grimmauld Place, where they would introduce him to his late grandfather for the first time.
If today followed the usual pattern for this anniversary, and they saw no reason to suggest otherwise, the rest of their extended family would be there at some point. Sirius, Hestia and Remus would certainly be there - since it was their home. Ron, Susan, Ginny the twins, Tonks and Ian were also certain to turn up sometime today, jobs and real life permitting. There was also a very good chance some of the Hogwarts teaching contingent might visit today too, since school had just finished for the summer.
Harry had sent Minerva a picture of their newborn son to her phone but was certain she would take this opportunity to see Daniel in person, and of course hold the baby in her arms. All their friends and family knew where they would be today, and there was no danger of them being pulled away for anything else. Both were on stand-down from the unit, Hermione for at least six months. They would still train though, Hermione as soon as she felt up to it.
The unit had a designated base and full time staff. There was the protection unit, providing cover to some of the country's top targets, but most operatives - after passing the initial training - returned to their units and were merely on call if required until their next training rotation. Harry mainly worked in intelligence gathering and threat recognition while Hermione had become the unit's healer/doctor. That intel, and Harry's instincts, had been instrumental in foiling a plot to kidnap Prince Charles.
While the unit's involvement was known to very few, those three morons had been under observation from almost the minute they had started planning to break the law. Their careers in crime were very short-lived, all three were downed within seconds of them apparating into Prince Charles' home. That story hadn't made the muggle press, but featured heavily in the magical side. The terrible trio were plastered over the front page of the Prophet for attempting to kidnap one of the most prominent muggles in the country. It also laid another marker down that you don't mess with the muggles, they were no longer being considered easy targets by the magical community within Britain.
Harry had gotten himself ready while Hermione dealt with Daniel, they were still absolute beginners at this parenting lark. She now passed their son off to his father so Hermione could go and get herself prepared to face the day. They weren't planning anything elaborate today so slipping into a little summer frock didn't take too long. She came back into their living room to find Harry cradling their son in his arms, and staring at him in something resembling awe.
"I always thought you were perfect and I have the proof right here in my arms. Only someone who was as perfect as you could produce our beautiful little wonder here."
"I'll remind you of that in the middle of the night when our son wants changed and fed. I have to agree, he is gorgeous though - just like his daddy. I had intended we would be up earlier, rather than letting mum go by herself."
"She's been bubbling with excitement ever since her grandson here made an appearance. For some strange reason, I now feel closer to my parents too - simply by holding Daniel. I understand better now why my parents did what they did that Halloween, I would do the same for Daniel in an instant."
"Love, our work with the unit ensures days like that will never happen again."
"Holding our son, today of all days, has me remembering something too. The night the Malfoys came for you, your father saw me curse Lucius an instant before Draco cast at him. Our eyes met for a fraction of a second but, having our own child, I now recognise what he was trying to convey. I was to protect those he loved, you and your mother."
Hermione wrapped both her men in a loving embrace. "You have nothing to worry about then, because mum and I think you're still doing a fantastic job of that."
Harry kissed his wife, before gently kissing his son's forehead. "Three of our parents faced death with honour, their only thoughts were of their loved ones. The Malfoys lived their lives as cowards, using their money and power to destroy those who stood against them, and died the same way - as cowards."
"Harry, today of all days, this would not be the time to mention any of this to mum."
"I'll never be mentioning it again, love, to anyone. That's in the past, a past we worked bloody hard to ensure will never be repeated. This little one here is the future, a future where he'll grow up loved by our crazy extended family."
Kissing her husband once more, Hermione then took Daniel into her arms. "Go get the car ready. If things get too crazy at Sirius', and half the world shows up to meet Daniel, we can just spend the night there."
Harry hadn't left before there was a pop beside Hermione. "Dobby can take little Master to Dogfather's house. Dobby would be so gentle, little Master wouldn't even wake."
"I know, Dobby, but taking this little one for a drive in the car is something we've been looking forward to for months. We want Daniel to grow up and go to school with other muggle five year olds, so we need to behave with him as normal as possible right from the start. We'll see you at Sirius' and will definitely need your help if we decide to stay there."
This brought a wide smile to the elf's face. "Dobby will have all little master's things in your room waiting on you."
As Dobby popped away, Hermione walked out the door to find some of their neighbours desperate to see their new baby. Staying in a muggle neighbourhood definitely had advantages, and what new parents were going to object if their friendly neighbours wanted to tell them how beautiful their new baby was. Both had a feeling they were going to have to get used to this reaction today, but that was hardly a burden.
Today was a day for family and friends to be together and support one another, tomorrow would take care of itself.