A/N – Sorry this took so long. And Harry is a little OOC here – I don't think he ever spoke this well in canon. The next two chapters are not done yet, but – the third one is. I'm having a hard time with the return to Hogwarts and to classes and wanted to wait to post this until I had something more concrete past this one. But, I decided I made you all wait too long for this, so I'm posting this one now, and hoping that by posting it, I can finally figure out how to get from here to the first Hogsmeade weekend already written.

Enjoy! Kelly

Chapter 18

"Let's just go to the Great Hall. I don't feel like walking around just yet," Hermione was the first to reply. Everyone nodded and they headed quietly to the Great Hall.

It was amazing – the castle looked as it always had. No one could tell that a great battle had occurred just over two months earlier. All the damage had been repaired, the castle completely rebuilt. They entered the Great Hall and easily found the rest of the Weasleys. They joined their family and waited.

All too soon, lunch was over. Kingsley and McGonagall approached. McGonagall simply said, "It's time."The group started out to the Great Lake. The crowd had started to follow the group of heroes and people slowly filled in the area around the memorial. There was a large row of chairs marked reserved in the front, and Kinglsey motioned for Harry to take his place there.

It seemed only a few minutes had passed when the area was crowded with what seemed like the entire Wizarding world. Harry recognized many, but there were many more he did not. Harry was happy when he saw Luna, Mr. Lovegood, Neville and Mrs. Longbottom take the seats directly behind him. It seemed seconds had passed and everyone was sitting, waiting, anxious. Whispers and silent tears could be heard.

Harry wasn't sure how much time had passed, but all too soon, silence descended upon the crowd and Kingsley approached the podium near the Great Lake. Harry watched as Kingsley addressed the crowd, but he wasn't listening – his mind had wondered back to the last time he was at Hogwarts, to the final battle. Harry felt Ginny's hand squeeze his harder. Looking around, he saw Ron and Hermione on the other side of Ginny, with the rest of the Weasleys, Andromeda and Teddy sitting beyond them. He smiled slightly as he suddenly knew what he had to say today. He saw that McGonagall had taken Kingsley's place and was now speaking. Harry wished he had listened to McGonagall's speech as she called him to the stand, introducing him by saying, "…and now for the young man who symbolized the power of innocence throughout our struggle, our hope for the triumph of good, and the young man who finally triumphed over Voldemort, Mr. Harry Potter."

Harry stood, one last squeeze of Ginny's hand and walked down the row and up to the podium. Part of him wished he had listened to what the others had said and part wished he had listened to Hermione and written a speech. He looked out at those gathered, the sound of soft crying in the air. He refused to look at his family and friends as he started – he knew that one look towards them and he would loose all control himself.

"Those of you who know me know that I don't like speaking in front of large groups. And I didn't listen to Hermione and write a speech before I came – but then, it wasn't until a few minutes ago that I really knew what to say." Soft chuckling was heard scattered throughout the crowd. "That day when Hermione, Ron and I arrived at Hogwarts, we weren't planning on having the final battle here at Hogwarts. In my worse dreams, I couldn't have imagined having that battle here, but looking back, I know that it had to be here. Our goal that day was to find the last object of Dark Magic that Tom Riddle had created to keep him immortal and destroy it. He had hidden it here in the castle because as a young child, this was the first place he had felt a home, where he belonged. It symbolized not just a place to learn, but a place of power, of security. Many of us here today feel the same way about Hogwarts – it was the place where we spread our wings and grew into the person we could only dream of at eleven. So many of you responded to the call Neville sent to the DA to come and defend Hogwarts because it was your home as well. For seven years, this place protected us, and inside its walls, we learned more than magic – we discovered friends and family. This was home. "

"This past year, our world was threatened. It was threatened by evil that had slept for thirteen years. The battle just over two months ago ended a war that we have been fighting for the past three years. The people who died here during the final battle died defending not only our world and our way of life, they fought to protect our home and our memories. It is those people we pause today to remember, their lives, their hopes and dreams."

Harry took a deep breath and looked towards the front row. George nodded slightly before looking away, tears in his eyes. As Harry read the first name of those fifty some people who lost their lives in the final battle, the first Weasley firework exploded, forming into the young face of Colin Creevey. As Harry continued to read the names in front of him on the podium, faces exploded in the air above him. Harry felt himself struggling to finish as he read the last name on the list, "Fred Weasley." Harry looked into the sky and saw the faces of those lost smiling down. Somehow George had been able to make a firework for every one. Harry watched until the faces started fading to continue.

"For six years Hogwarts has been my home. It is where I learned about the magical world that was hidden from me until I was eleven. All of my best memories have taken place right here on the grounds or inside the castle. I have been wondering these past few days how I will be able to tell my godson about the wonders I've known here and yet still be able to explain that this is where his parents died, the horrors of the final battle. I know I'm not the only one wondering. Many of us are struggling with how we are to return to school here in a few short days. I don't have any answers. But, I do know this. If we don't return to school, to our lives, then they will have died for nothing. As hard as it will be, I know that we can do this. As we return to school in the next few days, we must bring with us all that has made Hogwarts great. We must remember everything that Hogwarts has been and is. Hogwarts is the home of students as we grow into our powers, discover who we are and who we are to be. By returning to school, or sending your children, sending the future generations here – that's how we truly memorialize those who died here. By continuing to live, by moving forward, we can heal and we can make sure that the sacrifices made that day are for a better world – a happier world."

Harry walked back to his seat, taking Teddy from his Grandmother's arms. As he sat down, McGonagall and Kinglsey went to the front. As McGonagall talked, Kingsley waved his wand and the marble memorial appeared. And as suddenly as the service had started, it was over. People were standing and leaving. Harry looked at Teddy, then at Ron and Hermione. "Let's go – I want to show Teddy something before we leave." And the four of them plus Teddy walked off towards the castle.

"Where are we going?" Hermione asked.

Harry just smiled and continued walking towards the castle. They entered the castle and Harry led the way. He stopped in front of the door to the DADA classroom.

"This was your Dad's room when I was thirteen," Harry told Teddy. He opened the door and they walked in. "We had lots of talks here and in his office up there. This was where I first started to get to know him. He was amazing Teddy. I know he will be so proud of the person you will be and excited for you when it's your turn to come to Hogwarts. Hopefully you won't need Defense as much as we did, and hopefully you'll have a teacher as great as your dad – he was the best."

Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny looked around the classroom. As they remembered the past teachers, the past classes they spent in this room, suddenly they knew it was possible – they could return and get on with their lives. They were even looking forward to it. Slowly, they walked out of the classroom, looking forward to returning to Hogwarts for the first time that summer.