Ringing in Twelve, or There WILL Be Snogging
"They want me to do what? No way. You know I hate stuff like that." Harry was adamant.
"But Harry, this is different. It's not a bunch of Ministry officials wanting to parade you around or something. Almost all the students voted for you – even a couple of Slytherins, I think." Ginny spoke beseechingly to her boyfriend as they sat together on a couch in the Gryffindor common room, while she lightly slid her fingers up and down his arm.
"Well, if the Slytherins think it is a good idea, then I am definitely not doing it. And nice try with the tickling thing, but it's not going to work."
"Oh no? Well, how about this. . . ."
Sound of intense snogging.
"Oi!! I am sitting right here, or have you forgotten?" Ron was trying to talk and shield his eyes and ears at the same time.
"We . . . haven't . . . mmmmm . . . forgotten you . . . uh, Ron. . . . we are just . . . oh, yeah, right there . . . ignoring you." Ron was distressed that he couldn't actually tell which of the pair had responded to him, so tightly were they bound together at the lips, and neck, and . . . oh, hell not there. Hadn't Harry mentioned needing an Obliviation spell?
"Fine," Ron huffed. "I will just respond 'yes' to McGonagall on behalf of Harry then, telling her that, of course, he would be delighted to be the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony in two weeks. Okay?"
One or two of Harry's brain cells must have been focused on something other than Ginny's . . . "oh, for pete's sake, did I have to see that?" because he pulled his lips away from her so fast that Ron was forcibly reminded of the sound the Giant Squid made every time it pulled one of its tentacles off the backside of an errant swimmer in the lake.
"Shouldn't Hermione be the one giving the speech? I mean, she's graduating with what, the highest grade average Hogwarts has ever seen, right?" Harry looked longingly back at Ginny's lips, but refused to give in to temptation until he was sure Ron wasn't going to sign him up for something behind his back.
Ron smirked. "Yep, that's my 'Mione. Her average is so high that she actually got a letter from the publishers of Hogwarts, A History, letting her know that she is going to be added as a footnote from now on in the section on notable students. I haven't seen her that happy since . . . well, you told me never to mention it again, but it was that time that . . ."
"All right, all right, I get it," said Harry irritably. "All the more reason that she should be the one to give the graduation speech."
To Harry's surprise, Ginny opened her eyes and sat up too. "That's just it, Harry. Hermione is giving a speech. On 'The Importance of Careful Preparation to Insure Success in Life.'"
"Exactly, mate," said Ron. "I love her and all, but please, 'The Importance of Careful Preparation?' If I needed to hear something that boring, I'd take an extra class with Binns."
"Not to mention that it sounds like the exact same speech she's been giving us since first year, with the addition this time of hot, itchy dress robes and lots of sobbing parents," agreed Harry. "I mean, I could practically give that speech myself." He straightened up, a wicked look on his face, and began speaking in the voice Hermione reserved for berating Ron and Harry every time they tried to skive off of studying:
"If you don't carefully prepare for an exam, you might find yourself surprised and shocked, did you hear that, Ronald? Surprised and shocked, come exam time."
Picking up Harry's cue, Ron grinned, "This material is quite tricky, even for someone like me, who memorized the entire course book during the first week of school. How you ever expect to get a passing grade when you and Harry waste all your time talking about Quidditch, I have no idea."
And in unison, the two boys looked at each other and sang out, "If you aren't going to take this seriously, then don't expect any help from me!!"
Harry, Ron and Ginny were so busy giggling, they unfortunately didn't notice that the portrait hole had opened a few minutes before, until a voice, sounding eerily like the one Harry had just been imitating, said crossly:
"Hmmph. Well it's only taken eight years but at least some of what I have to say finally sunk in. And I will have you know that my speech only mentions the repercussions of wasting one's time discussing Quidditch instead of studying, once, in passing."
Ron sat up quickly. "I listen to everything you say, 'Mione. And I'm sure it is going to be a lovely speech. In fact, why don't we go up to my room and you can practice it on me while I, umm, practice on you?"
Blushing but agreeable, Hermione allowed Ron to lead her towards the boys dorm. Harry sighed and looked at his girlfriend.
"Well, I guess that means I can't go up there for about five minutes. Ten, if Ron is in rare form. What should we do?" He waggled his eyebrows at Ginny.
Ginny sighed. "We can start working on your graduation speech. You know, the one that will keep the entire audience from falling into a drugged stupor."
Harry put his head in his hands. "Let me guess, they want me to reenact my final showdown with Tom, don't they?"
"Either that, or tell them about everything you learned in Chapter Ten of Twelve Fail-Safe Ways," Ginny smirked. "After you forgot the silencing charm last time there has been a lot of renewed interest in the book."
"Well, at least it would keep everyone awake. Although, I kind of like your parents, you know? I would hate to have to Obliviate them after the speech."
Ginny sighed. "It was an idea, anyway." She gave Harry a kiss. "I actually have to go meet Luna. She wants me to listen to the song she wrote to sing at graduation."
"You're kidding, right?"
"Nope. Last I talked to her, she was trying to figure out what rhymes with Crumpled Horned Snorkack."
Harry gave her a look. "I don't even want to think about what she's going to come up with. See you later."
Harry was out of sorts. Now what was he supposed to do with himself? No, not that, that was back in Chapter Ten. He looked down at the blank parchment in front of him. He was supposed to be using it to take a practice NEWT for Charms. Yeah, like that was going to happen now.
He sighed. Fine. He would write a bloody speech. Maybe if he made it lame enough he could get out of giving it. Now there was an idea. Hmmm.
Pulling the parchment towards him and dipping his quill into a pot of ink, Harry was struck with another thought. What if . . . no, there was no way he could pull that off.
If it was done very delicately.
At least, somewhat tastefully. So as not to upset the parents.
Although, considering that he was The Boy Who Lived – Twice, he could probably get away with a bit more, shall we say, shenanigans than the ordinary bloke.
Hmmmm. This could be fun.
He hoped Ginny would have a sense of humor about it.
Rummaging through his bag, he pulled out his copy of Twelve Fail Safe Ways to Charm Witches and began flipping through it, reminding himself about each chapter's lesson. One through Eleven – no problem. Been there, done that.
But he hadn't yet made it to Chapter Twelve. There hadn't really seemed to be a need for it, given that a single go through Chapter Ten had been enough – more than enough, really – to charm Ginny.
Not that she needed charming from him in the first place. She was already his.
Yikes, did he really just think that?
He might as well just pull out his wand and hex himself, save her the trouble, if she ever learned to read his thoughts.
Okay, back to business.
Harry flipped to Chapter Twelve and began to read its typical, overly self-congratulatory introduction.
And then he read it again.
Hmmm, just maybe.
Well, if that's the way they want it . . .
Picking up his quill again, he began to write.
The day of graduation dawned bright and clear, the way most June days around Hogwarts seemed to be. Although for the first time, Harry was able to enjoy it, having actually gotten through the year without a single incident of peril, war, attempted or actual murder, dark wizards disguised as animals, power-hungry ministry officials, three-headed dogs, possession by dark wizards, or any of the other end-of-term activities that had made his years in school seem like something out of one of those crazy Muggle books Mr. Weasley collected. "Boy Wizard Saves the Day!" or something like that. No, this year he had nothing to worry about.
Except his speech.
Which, he had to admit, was kind of a big something.
But he had brought it on himself. If he went down in flames it was all his own doing. No blaming Tom Riddle or the Death Eaters for this one.
But, on the other hand, if he pulled it off . . .
Graduation was larger than usual. Not surprising, since there were two classes of students who had just completed their Seventh Year. It was also the first ceremony since Harry's third year that did not have the threat of death or war surrounding it, and the previous two years had not had any sort of commencement event at all.
So, there were a lot of people sitting in rows of chairs, overlooking the dais that had been erected in front of the lake.
The graduating students sat right in the front; Harry was between Hermione and Ginny. He would have been more interested in his girlfriend in any situation, but given that Hermione was in full "about to walk into an exam" mode – muttering to herself, shuffling feverishly through her notes, scribbling out a word here and there, he was more than happy to give Ron a sympathetic grimace and let him bear the full brunt of her stress.
He was stressed enough himself, anyway. Speaking in front of crowds ranked only slightly higher on his list of least favorite activities than fighting off a crowd of dementors. And it was definitely worse than going for a walk with a Blast-Ended Skrewt.
Professor McGonagall was sitting on the dais with the other Hogwarts professors, Minister Kingsley, a few other Ministry officials (including Aurors – can't be too complacent you know, not with The Boy Who Lived giving a speech), and, Merlin help him, the press.
He hadn't counted on the press.
Oh well, no turning back now. And, he tried to console himself. It he bollocksed this up or made a fool of himself they would have one hell of a story.
His old Transfiguration teacher rose to her feet and approached the podium.
She gave a brief speech about how much this graduating class meant to her.
Note: As this piece is supposed to be mostly humorous and definitely not too dramatic, and completely lacking in angst, we will skip her words here, lovely and heartfelt though they were. They may appear in a later epic by this same author.
Next, Hermione rose and strode purposefully to the stage. Standing and facing the audience, she began to speak:
"As we, the Hogwarts graduating class of 1998, stand here on the cusp of our future, the possibilities open to us are almost endless. But nothing we have done up to this day will have any meaning if we don't take it upon ourselves to engage in careful thought and planning about just what our futures should bring."
What does she mean, nothing will have any meaning? Defeating Voldemort certainly had meaning. Hell, as far as he was concerned, snogging Ginny had plenty of meaning too, and he never had to plan for that!
Harry made a mistake then and looked over at Ron. By the glazed look on his face as he gazed up at his girlfriend, Harry deduced (correctly, it turned out), that Ron had charmed his eyes to stay open and focused forward on a location right above Hermione's left breast.
Smart boy, that Ron. Harry tried his hardest not to laugh.
Hermione was droning on, and next to him, Ginny, also having caught sight of her brother's face, begin to quietly giggle as well.
Harry squeezed her hand. It was all over if she started laughing. Luckily, Ginny gave one more snort and pulled herself together, arranging her face into the proper expression of bemused interest that Hermione's speech commanded.
Harry started going over his own speech in his head. He patted his robes, making sure the book was still there. It had seemed like a really good idea at the time. Now he was definitely having doubts. And, oh Merlin, Hermione seemed to be coming to an end.
After the polite applause had died down, an aura of expectation rustled over the crowd. Harry took a deep breath and stood up, walking with what he hoped was confidence up to the stage. All around him, applause and cheers broke out.
Wow, he had really set himself up this time.
Taking a deep breath, he began.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, students of Hogwarts, professors, honored guests, and most importantly, the graduating class of 1998," Oh Merlin, he sounded just like Hermione.
He took another breath and grinned at the audience. "You all voted for me, so it's me you are going to get. And I can promise, this will not be your typical graduation speech."
Wild applause from the students, amused glances from most of the adults.
Somewhat narrowed eyes from McGonnagall, who was suddenly remembering another graduation speech given by a red-haired Head Girl and messy-haired Head Boy twenty years earlier, that had to be stopped in the middle because they had begun snogging. Right there up on the stage.
McGonagall looked around and noted with relief that Ginny Weasley was still sitting quite firmly in her seat, laughing and clapping with the rest of the student body.
Harry raised his hands for quiet, grinned, and began again.
"There are a lot of words that could be used to describe the Hogwarts experience of this graduating class. Boring is definitely not one of them."
"How about death-defying!" someone yelled out.
"Well, yes, there is that," agreed Harry. "But I think a better term might be 'Death Eater defying.' Huge cheers. But I think we have all had enough of people talking about how brave beyond our years we all are, and how we represent what it best about our generation, and how we secured a future for all wizardkind." Harry grinned dryly at the crowd. "At least, I know I have."
He had their attention now. Time to go for it.
"For, despite all of the, shall we say, excitement of the past eight years, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Hogwarts is, first and foremost, a school. And it is a school that has been witness to the activities, both good and bad, funny and embarrassing, legal, and, well, otherwise, of a large group of underage wizards. Of both genders. Who, on occasion, have been known to, uhh, have some fun. With each other.
"Yeah, how much time have you spent in a broom closet, Potter?" yelled out a voice that sounded suspiciously like George.
"Do you really want me to answer that?" Harry peered in the direction of the Weasley family, firmly ignoring the fact that Ginny had turned around in her seat and had her wand trained on her brother. He also decided, wisely, to ignore Professor McGonagall, who was quietly groaning to herself.
"Now, as I was saying, we, as a graduating class, have a lot to be thankful for. A lot to appreciate. And, a lot of it is a result of the building that stands behind us, the Hogwarts castle. This castle has seen a lot over the years. And it has kept our secrets. Well, it has kept my secrets . . ."
"And Ginny's!" someone yelled out.
"Yes. And Ginny's," said Harry firmly, determined not to be embarrassed, as around him more chuckles broke out. He grinned down at his girlfriend, who unabashedly grinned back. She could tell he was actually starting to enjoy himself.
"Furthermore, now that I am of age, and actually graduating, and beyond being able to lose any more points for Gryffindor, (Big cheers from one-fourth of the assembled guests), and, for that matter, the Savior of the Wizarding World . . ." he smirked, feeling like this might be fun, after all, "I can admit that there are a lot worse things to do around the castle than snog one's girlfriend, wouldn't you agree?"
Before things could get out of hand again, Harry plunged on. "And that what this speech is about. Hogwarts. It's secrets, it's memories, it's stories, it's surprises, and . . ." Harry reached into his robes and took out the book, ". . . how all of it relates to this spectacular book, Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches!"
The audience, at least the first four rows of students, exploded. McGonagall looked like she was about to rise from her seat. On either side of her, Professors Flitwick and Sprout held her down.
I knew they had senses of humor.
Harry glanced at Ginny. She was staring at him with an amused look on her face. Hermione seemed rather put out that Harry's speech was getting a better reception than hers had. Ron was almost falling off his chair with laughter.
"I know you may not believe it, but this book is more, much more, than simply a manual to get those lovely witches to give us clueless blokes the time of day. In fact, in reading through the chapters, I realized that Hogwarts itself, or at least its founders, may have had something very similar in mind when they founded the school. Well, three of them at least."
Cheers from ¾ of the student body.
"Think about it. Hogwarts has, quite simply, charmed all of us. And it was so subtle about it that we may have missed it at times." Harry paused, and smiled out over the crowd. "Shall I prove my point?"
Applause, and a few cat-calls. Well, the time for total decorum was in the past. Let them have fun.
Harry looked down at his notes.
"Chapter One," he began. "Compliments." He grinned wryly at the crowd. "When I tried this one the first time, I messed up pretty bad." From the first row, he heard Ginny snort.
"And what I learned from that mistake, is that compliments have to be heartfelt. You have to mean them. And with Hogwarts, that is not hard at all. I mean, what is there bad to say? Okay, well, there is the occasional three-headed dog living in the random corridor, and, well, yes, there was that whole unfortunate incident with the snake crawling through the walls, but hey,
what other building in all of Britain has such a lovely supply of nice sized broom cupboards, secret passages, and hidden rooms?"
"All of which we know you have put to good use!"
George again. This time, Harry did not even bother to look at Ginny. From the yelp that came from George's direction, he knew her wand had found its mark.
"And then there is Chapter Two," said Harry firmly. "Showing interest in their interests."
Predictably, there was more shouting, although from a different direction this time:
"I'm interested in snogging!!"
Ron. Harry could feel Hermione roll her eyes at her boyfriend as everyone started laughing anew.
"Well," said Harry, "I am as interested in snogging as the next bloke, more so, probably, but what I was talking about here is showing interest in what Hogwarts has to offer, particularly to those of us who grew up knowing nothing about the wizarding world." He held his hands out wide. "I mean, come on, Quidditch? Can you think of anything better than that??"
"Snogging!" Ron yelled again helpfully.
"Yeah, well, for those of you who insist on rooting for Quidditch teams that will live perpetually in the basement of the league, snogging is not a bad idea. But seriously, I want each of you to close your eyes for a moment and think about one thing you did for the first time at Hogwarts that you could not have done without being here."
Here, Harry raised his hands quickly to silence the inevitable yells, "And the first person who yells 'snogging' is going to be forced to stand, at wand-point, and announce to the assembled crowd exactly where in the castle he or she first learned about that particular activity."
The threat worked, but just barely. It appeared that Seamus, among several other graduating males looked torn between bragging about their conquests to their fellow students and enduring the wrath of the parents and others who sat further back in the crowd. Harry smiled and continued.
"The next section of the book is, in my opinion, quite important." Harry looked particularly over at Hermione, this one was for her. "I never thought I would see the day when my good friend Ron could actually be beaten by a table full of food. But the House-elves here at Hogwarts manage to do just that, every single day."
"And without giving anyone food poisoning!"
Hey, wasn't Ginny supposed to be on his side?
Everyone stood to applaud the house-elves, who were ever busy, scurrying around behind the dais and setting up for the after-graduation reception. Harry looked over at his friends. Not surprisingly, Hermione seemed to have gotten over her annoyance at Harry's popularity and was cheering the loudest of anyone.
"Chapter Four – Shower her with Flowers!" Harry continued. "Hogwarts is a truly beautiful place, never more than in the late spring!" He grinned at the audience and subtly waved his wand behind the dais. Suddenly, beautiful bouquets of flowers sprung up all around, and the women in the audience found roses in their laps. Everyone oohed and ahhed until George yelled out, "Blimey Harry, isn't my sister enough? Do you have to charm every witch here?"
"Just for that, George, you are getting Devil's Snare instead," laughed Harry.
"Chapter Five . . ." Harry continued, but was interrupted by Seamus, in the front row.
"Come on mate, can't you just skip to Chapter Ten??"
Harry smirked at his roommate. "Just because you are apparently getting to Chapter Ten right now with . . . wait, is that Padma or Parvati? I can't tell them apart from that side. . ." Harry trailed off as a very red . . . Padma . . . yes, Padma, sat up and straightened her robes, glaring at Harry. Seamus and Dean high-fived each other.
"As I was saying," continued Harry. "Chapter Five encourages all of us to move just a little deeper into our relationship with the school, to let Hogwarts 'touch' us, so to speak. And as our years at Hogwarts went by, that is just what we did. Of course, not all the 'touches' were welcome. How many other schools in Britain trap students in disappearing steps, get them lost with moving staircases, and keep them from going to bed because an ornery portrait decides not to let them in their common room?"
"Hey, it's not my fault I was too drunk to pronounce Mim . . . Mim . . . oh, what's the name of your bloody plant, Neville?" protested Seamus. He gulped. "Did I just say that out loud?"
"Moving on," said Harry hurriedly. "But there are a lot of wonderful things that Hogwarts has done to touch us as well. I don't know about you all, but my bed in Gryffindor Tower beats sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs any day, even after I found Ron and Hermione snogging . . . I mean, studying on it."
"Ronald Weasley!" Mrs. Weasley's voice echoed clearly across the crowd. "I hoped you showed that girl some respect!"
Ron turned bright red, but that didn't stop him from turning around and yelling back, "Don't worry, mum, I showed Hermione as much respect as Harry shows Ginny. Every. Single. Night."
Harry wanted to hide under the dais.
Instead, he firmly avoided looking at the sea of red in the fifth row and moved on.
"Chapter Six – Getting Out of a Jam." He paused and looked over everyone. "Actually, to tell the truth, I blame Hogwarts for getting me into most of my jams, not out of them. I mean, let's think about it. We can't go to the loo for fear that we are either going to get bashed over the head by a troll or, worse, peered at by a cranky, 13-year-old ghost who haunts to toilet!"
Good thing Myrtle doesn't leave the U-bend much.
"And what about those antiquated rules that keep us blokes from spending quality time with our female friends in their rooms? It's terribly old-fashioned of the school, don't you think? Why should they always have to come to our rooms?"
"Ronald Weasley!" His mum again. "I have seen the state you keep your room at home, and I can only hope that you have better cleaning habits here. I cannot imagine any girl wanting to study in a pigsty!"
Oh, Merlin, was she serious? Studying?? Harry chanced a peek at Mrs. Weasley. Her voice had sounded serious and Howler-worthy, but he was certain he glimpsed the hint of a smile around her mouth as she berated her youngest son. She didn't raise six sons without learning a thing or two. And I am dating her only daughter. Gulp.
"So, maybe Hogwarts is not so great at getting us out of jams. It is a champion, however, at the next way to charm: Teaching us to Use Our Wands!" Harry grinned at the crowd. "Okay, blokes, on my count, One, Two, Three!"
In unison, all the assembled graduating males (and, Harry noticed, some of the older gents too), called out, "NOT THAT WAND!"
"But seriously," Harry continued over the chuckles and what sounded suspiciously like another groan from the direction of Professor McGonagall, Hogwarts has taught us a lot of useful spells. Let's consider a few of them. There is the infamous 'Wingardium Leviosa', most useful for killing trolls with their own clubs, 'Alohamora', which can nearly always get you into places you are not supposed to be, 'Expecto Patronum', for those dementor-filled days, and of, course, who can forget, 'Expelliarmus' – dead useful when you have a dark wizard to kill." He paused. "I am not trying to be flip, or make fun of our education. Every spell I named has saved my life, more than once, in some cases. Quite frankly, I cannot imagine a better learning experience than my years here at school."
"Don't forget the contraception spell!" someone yelled out.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Ginny blush. He forced himself to put on a blank face. "I have no idea what you are talking about," he said to the unseen voice. "Although, I do agree, that particular charm could be quite lifesaving, particularly if the object of your affections has a number of older brothers."
"And we are all watching you, Potter!"
Gulp. Bill. Better get off this subject. Fast.
"Chapter Eight! Showing off your bravery and importance to impress!" Harry looked at the crowd. "From personal experience, this one does not work. At all. However, when we are talking about Hogwarts . . ." Just then, Ron interrupted.
"Oi, don't be modest Harry! Tell us, when is the Hogwarts chapter of the Harry Potter fan club starting? What's their motto going to be again? 'Brave Gryffindor, who liked to score?'" Ron smirked.
"On the Quidditch pitch, they meant," said Harry hastily, as the crowd laughed. He put his head in his hands for a second and steeled himself. After all, Chapter Ten was coming up soon.
"No more bragging about me," Harry said. "But Hogwarts is quite brag-worthy on its own. From paintings that keep undesirables out of our dorms, to rooms that appear just when we need them, to secret passages that lead, quite conveniently, right into Hogsmeade . . ." he stopped and looked back at the professors behind him. "Ooops, probably shouldn't have mentioned that last one."
"Indeed, Mr. Potter." Professor McGonagall had her trademark strict look on her face, but Harry was sure he detected a smile underneath the tight line of her lips.
"Anyway," Harry continued, "the castle and its grounds have certainly done their part in the fight against evil these past years. Maybe its time we start a Hogwarts fan club, what do you think? Anyone have a good motto?"
"How about, 'Hogwarts Schoo – Where you get the 'L' out of learning every day!'"
Massive groaning. Several conjured tomatoes and shoes chucked in the direction of George
"Okay," said Harry. "Maybe we'll leave the motto for another day. But that brings us to Chapter Nine, which is, as most of you know . . ."
"Only one away from Chapter Ten!!"
Oi. He had created a monster. Or monsters.
Harry sighed and listened to the bantering back and forth by the audience. Various people were still yelling things out, and someone had conjured an enormous silvery bubble which the graduates were now batting back and forth. He looked down at his notes, nodded, and made a decision.
"You're right," he said suddenly. "I think it's time to take things out of order a bit. On to Chapter Ten!"
Down in the audience, Ginny gave him a quick look and then a nod. She knew what Chapters Nine and Eleven entailed, and obviously agreed with his decision to get the frivolity out of the way first.
"So," Harry continued amongst the cheers. "Chapter Ten. The money chapter. What can I say about Chapter Ten and Hogwarts? Quite a lot, actually. But those of you who have seen, or worse, been on the receiving end of my lovely girlfriend's Bat Bogey Hex will understand why I am going to be uncharacteristically quiet about my own relationship to Chapter Ten and the school. Instead, let's reflect on how much the castle really does want us to, umm, enjoy ourselves:
One, did you know that there are forty-two separate broom cupboards at Hogwarts? And yet, who has ever seen a broom in one of them? Do house elves even use brooms?"
"They wouldn't have to if we just set them all free!"
"Thank you, Hermione, the mouthpiece of SPEW. For a recap of her treatise on reasons to set the house-elves free, see Madame Pince in the library. Moving on . . .
Two, why is it that the Prefects, both male and female, all get to share a single bathroom? With one, large, open air bathtub? I don't know about you, but it kind of makes me wish I had behaved enough to get one of those badges myself, huh?"
"Go Ronniekins! Now we get it!"
George, Bill, Charlie and even Percy were all cheering at their younger brother, who had turned red but looked pleased nonetheless.
"And the dormitories! Those lovely, co-ed, dormitories! How often have you ever seen a professor in one of them? Once? Maybe twice? Do they think that puberty doesn't exist at Hogwarts?"
"Hey, shut it, Potter! You're ruining it for the rest of us!"
A group of boys Harry vaguely recognized as fourth year Gryffindors had risen in their seats. He smiled ruefully at them.
"Sorry blokes. Got a bit carried away there. But never fear. The broom closets aren't going anywhere. As for the rest of Chapter Ten's importance, I will each of you discover just why the school should actually be known as 'Snogwarts' on your own."
Harry sighed. A nice snog with Ginny would be great, about now. But he had more to say. And it was important. Somewhere along the way the speech had become real to him, not just something to make the crowd laugh and joke. He wasn't laughing anymore. "And back to Chapter Nine." He smiled down at his friends.
"Chapter Nine actually asks us to reflect on what is really important to us, to show our feelings without embarrassment." Harry's voice had taken on a serious tone. This was something he actually felt strongly about. Down in the front row, Ginny had stopped laughing too. He should have known she would be the first to understand. He saw her poke her brother and shush him, and slowly the assembled group quieted.
"When I look out at all of you, I see more than a group of wizards and witches, more than families, more than friends. I see history. Our collective history as wizards. And my parents are a part of that history, and even though I never knew them, I can see them in my mind's eye when I imagine them walking the same halls, sleeping in Gryffindor Tower, learning the same spells. There are going to be others . . . who come later, who are going to need to rely on the history of the place as I do, because . . ." Even before he looked in the direction of Teddy, now fifteen months and sitting in Andromeda's lap, Harry had to stop, emotion washing over him. He swiped at his eyes and looked out over the audience, quiet now. It felt right, this solemnity in the face of his words and Harry was grateful for their attention, given what he was going to do.
He cleared his throat a bit. "Chapter Eleven – Getting Out of Perilous Situations. Umm, yeah. If neither I, nor this castle, see another perilous situation as long as I live, that is just fine with me."
There was a bit of quiet chuckling, but mostly people were still. Waiting. Harry picked up the book again.
"When I was trying to charm Ginny, I never made it to Chapter Twelve. And in talking to most of the blokes here, I discovered that most of them couldn't tell me what was in the chapter either." He smiled wryly. "It just didn't seem that important after Chapter Ten. But when I was writing this speech, I finally turned to those pages and read what they had to say. And I think you will all agree that there is no better place or time than here and now to share the wonders of Chapter Twelve with all of you, and with Hogwarts. Because each of us here is more than we were because of this school."
Harry swallowed, and looked out at the sea of faces, picking out the most important.
"If it wasn't for Hogwarts, I would never have met my two best friends, to whom I owe my life, and more, many times over. I would never have played Quidditch, or done a single magical prank. I would never have known a thing about my parents." His eyes met the Weasleys. "I would never have found my surrogate family."
It was so quiet Harry could hear the breeze rustling distant trees in the Forbidden Forest.
"I never would have learned to laugh, or had people to cry with, and those to cry for. And I would never have found my Gryffindor courage, my Ravenclaw intelligence, my Hufflepuff decency, and yes, even my Slytherin self-preservation. I would never have found myself, something I didn't fully realize until I had to leave these grounds for a year to go on a journey of discovery that was as tough as any I could have ever imagined. But Hogwarts was here, waiting, when I got back. A little battered and battle-scarred, but steady and familiar just the same. I hope as the rest of you think about your years here, you can find these same things within yourselves."
It had become very quiet as Harry spoke, stepping off the dais to walk in front of the students. He saw reflection and recognition in the eyes of all the graduates sitting before him. Ron was grinning and nodding at him and Hermione was both smiling and wiping a tear away from her cheek, but it was Ginny's face that Harry sought. She gave him a warm, approving smile, recognizing how much of himself he was revealing, but not yet understanding the moment.
Harry continued speaking to the crowd as a whole, but his eyes stayed on Ginny, and despite the Sonorous charm that was still cast, his voice dropped and wavered a bit as he told the world what else Hogwarts meant to him.
"And without . . . without Hogwarts, I would never have learned the most important lesson of all. The lesson that teaches that what is in your heart is meant to be cherished and nurtured and, above all, shared. It was here at Hogwarts that found someone to share my heart with, and without her, nothing I have done in my entire life, and especially nothing I had to do a year ago, would have mattered. And I don't think it would have been possible for me to succeed without . . . without knowing that she was here. Waiting for me. Fighting for all of us. Being . . . just being.
Ginny's eyes had gotten very wide as she stared at Harry, who stopped his pacing right in front of her.
"I love you, Ginny. Being in love with you, and knowing that you love me back, is, quite simply, the best thing I could ever imagine. It is all I really need, and all I want. I could not think of a more perfect place to tell you that I want to spend my future with you than here, where the possibility of that future became a reality."
He dropped to one knee, only vaguely aware of the gasps and shouts that went up around him, as he took her hands in his, ignoring the tears that were slipping down both their cheeks.
It was not for nothing that Hermione was not only the brightest witch Hogwarts had ever known but also keenly in-tune with matters of the heart. As soon as she saw Harry kneel in front of Ginny, she had pulled out her wand and cast a number of privacy charms around the pair. Although everyone could still see the couple clearly, no one could approach them or hear what was being said. It was only when the crowd saw Harry slip a sparkling diamond on Ginny's finger and watched as her eyes blazed and she launched herself into his arms that the spell lifted and they were engulfed in the well wishes of family and friends.
Harry found out much later that part of the roar he remembered hearing as he had kneeled in front of Ginny was not, in fact, the excited cheers of those around him who could see exactly what was going on. For although most of the graduating students could see Harry on one knee in front of her chair, to those further back, including, unfortunately, Ginny's parents, it looked as though he had suddenly collapsed, as if from nerves. Luckily, by that time, Harry and Ginny were locked in their own world, and so neither of them had to hear the various comments of the Weasleys as they rushed to the pair.
"Blimey, do you think she hexed him?"
"Nah, Bill, I don't see any bats. I think he fainted."
"Amazing, he can kill Voldemort but passes out trying to propose to our sister."
"Well think about it, Charlie, who would you rather face down?"
"Good point, Percy."
"Oh Arthur, that poor boy. He must not have had enough to eat this morning."
"I am sure he is fine, Molly, and once he wakes up it looks like he's going to be around a while longer for you to feed."
"Arthur, have you given him and Ron the talk?"
"After what I heard here today, I think it may be a little late for that."
"So what exactly is in Chapter Twelve anyway?"
"What do you mean, what is in Chapter Twelve? Are you telling me, Ronald, that you never finished reading the book??"
"Umm, I love you, 'Mione."
"Not enough to get to Chapter Twelve, it seems." Hermione looked over at the ring sparkling on Ginny's finger. "Apparently, that is the real money chapter."
Harry and Ginny heard none of this, however. Even after the privacy spells lifted, they were too caught up in each other to take notice of anything going on around them. Apparently, Harry's speech was over.
Professor McGonagall sighed. She should have known there would be snogging.