Dumbledore's eyes trailed their way across the Great Hall. The students were talking and laughing as usual, first years huddled in front of a daunting and yet subdued Professor McGonagall, and all the Prefects were sitting up slightly straighter than they had the year before.
However, if he examined the crowed closely, there were subtle differences. The Slytherin house was not sneering and being their usual selves—they were mostly slumped over in apparent grief over the absence of their Head's—Professor Snape—pride. Speaking of Snape, he had his head buried in his hands tiredly, immobile.
At the Ravenclaw table, a small group of students—mostly DA—were huddled together looking frantic. And a small group at Hufflepuff was the same.
All of the Professor's, of course, were subdued and tired. They had bags under their eyes and no smiles or scowls to award the students with.
But perhaps the greatest difference to speak of was at the Gryffindor table. Usually the loudest, most raucous, and generally in-good-spirits of all four, it was completely quiet from fifth year and up. All of the students—boys, girls, prefects—were slouched over and mildly pushing their food around on their plates. A redheaded girl had her head buried in her arms, not crying, simply too grieved to move or speak or eat. Her brother was much the same, clinging to the bushy-haired girl with all his might. The brunette was weeping silently on his shoulder, and the entirety of the sixth year was silent.
The younger students, bless them, didn't understand what was wrong.
McGonagall coughed loudly, and with the slightly less loud crown, instant quiet fell. In a passive voice, his Deputy Headmistress announced that the Headmaster would like to make an announcement.
The brushy-haired witch hiccupped and bravely tried to stifle her tears. Ronald Weasley slowly shut his eyes and slumped down and his sister tried to burrow into the table.
"We have lost a member of this school," Dumbledore began. His eyes did not twinkle, his face was not merry, and he had to grip to the table to remain standing. It suddenly seemed unimportant that Voldemort was gone, never to return. It was trivial. "He…he was a selfless boy. A brave, selfless boy who gave himself up for his friends…for the rest of the wizarding world…"
All eyes immediately shot to the empty space at the Ravenclaw table where Cedric Diggory had once sat. Dumbledore shook his head slowly. "No, I do not mean Cedric," he said, almost mumbling. He could read the confusion on all faces. "I am referring to a boy who has gone through life with very little to keep him happy. His…greatest wish was for a family all his own—a mother, a father…maybe a sister or brother…"
He tried to shut himself up, but found that he couldn't. He seemed to have an inner, irresistible urge to tell the world of this boy, of his heart, of his goodness. "This boy was someone who everyone knew, who many of you loved. If you glance at the Gryffindor table, you will see that he is not there."
Every head turned to glance at the table. They fell immediately on the Golden Trio—the Golden Trio that was missing one of its members.
Gasps rippled through the Great Hall. Hermione could no longer hold in her sobs and threw her arms around Ron. He gently rubbed her back, burying his head in her shoulder.
Dumbledore noted, with considerable sadness, that Ginevra Weasley was left to grieve alone.
"Harry Potter has…he has been…" his voice cracked and he tried to cover it up with a cough. "Harry Potter has been killed."
Severus Snape groaned loudly, burying his head in his arms. It was not grief, Dumbledore knew, but guilt. It had been his job to get Harry out, his mission to save the boy's life. Minerva covered her face in her hands, a rare gesture of emotion, and sat down with a plop on the Sorting seat. The first years looked around wildly, unsure of what to do.
"He…he was a…he was an amazing person in life," Dumbledore croaked. "He was constantly being watched over, guarded, often kept from being just a normal boy—the one thing Harry longed for more than anything else in the world. He became frustrated with all of the mollycoddling—" He allowed himself here an inward chuckle, because he knew that the word 'Molly' and 'coddling' was exactly was what Mother Weasley wanted to do, "—But he always put up with it."
He paused, frowning. "I think…what Harry would want…would be recognition not as the Boy-Who-Lived, not as the Famous Harry Potter, not even as the Hero-Who-Conquered-The-Dark-Lord, but simply as Harry. Gryffindor sixth-year, best friend to Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, adopted Weasley, Quidditch Seeker and Captain, mischief maker extraordinaire…"
His voice broke again and he did not bother to hide it. A tear dripped down his beard and landed with a loud splash! on the table. It felt like the whole Hall could hear it, the silence was so great.
"He—he loved Charms but was dismal at Potions."
The voice was soft, broken, but it rang through the hall with surprising calm. Dumbledore's eyes darted in surprise to Ginny, whose eyes were red but she was bravely blinking back tears. Her voice was steady and she didn't have that about-to-cry look about her; no, she had the tired-acceptance-but-still-grieving look, the one that was perhaps more haunting than the former.
She sniffed. "And…he always kept his quills under his pillow so that Ron wouldn't steal them."
A soft twitter was sad laughter filtered through the tables. All of them—every Slytherin—every Slytherin—looked upset over the news of Harry's death. In their own way, perhaps, but sad nonetheless.
Hermione wiped her eyes. "He would stay up really, really late on school nights, rushing to finish his Potions homework," she said, a small tear running down her cheek. "I'd always revise them in the morning, but…" she winced in apology at her Potions professor. He allowed a small, bitter smile to flit across his face before it became blank again.
"He always wore his socks inside out." It had been Ron—he was smiling at little, but his eyes were nevertheless red. "He would never tell me why, but there it is."
"He blushed when girls looked too hard at him." Ginny grinned, as she knew from personal experience.
"He was terribly girl-shy. He hadn't any experience at all…it was endearing." Cho Chang smiled sadly and looked down at her lap. Dumbledore realized with a pang that it was the second boy that she'd lost.
"He didn't originally want to teach the DA…he only did it because it was benefiting others." Hermione chuckled. "But he liked it in the end. He was glad he'd done it."
Ron gave a weak little grin. "And he was really modest. About everything. Quidditch, talent, hell, eating competitions. He would always mumble something about 'having a lot of help' or 'getting lucky'."
"He was the best of both his father and his mother."
All heads turned in surprise as the Potions Master spoke up. He smiled, a little sarcastically, and shrugged. Dumbledore sent his employee—and dear friend—a grateful, bitter nod.
Hermione sniffed again and Ginny petted her head. "His favorite color was green, not because of his eyes, but because of his mother's."
Ron looked up in surprise at his sister. "I didn't know that," he interjected.
Ginny shrugged. "Well, it was. And his favorite food was mashed potatoes and chicken, I think. Like Mum makes it."
Hermione sighed. "He loved your Mum," she murmured, and yet it sliced through the air smoothly. "He loved her like his own."
The three seemed to loose their calm, then, and buried their faces so that no one could see their tears.
Dumbledore slowly shut his eyes and cleared his throat again. He had let them get too emotional publicly…it would be hard now to recuperate. "Harry was brave and selfless, as I mentioned before, but now you all see him as he truly was. Just a normal boy…a normal boy…"
He cleared his throat. "So—So raise your glasses…raise your glass to…to…" He took a deep breath. "Raise your glasses to Harry Potter."
Everyone, every single one, raised their goblets.
"To Harry Potter," they murmured.