On that Day of Remembrance, the sky was crystal blue and the sun shone brightly. All over wizarding Britain, there were celebrations that had lasted a week. Harry, Ron, Draco and the surviving Weasleys hardly noticed any of it. They made appearances towards the end of the week, at the Ministry dinner given in their honor, but they kept to themselves, not eating and hardly speaking to anyone.
On the morning of the funeral, Harry wandered up to the top of the Astronomy Tower, to get a better view of the preparations. And to be alone. Not simply with his thoughts, because he was always alone in his thoughts, but physically alone. He just wanted to think about what had happened. Nightmares of the battle haunted him night after night, scary in their intensity and now he hardly slept for fear of the intensity of their reccurance.
None of the nightmares were ever the same. In one, he and Voldemort died together. In another, Voldemort won, crushing all opposition before him. In some, the Hogwarts crest was never thrown up, and both Draco and Ginny ended up, alive, but in the custody of the Aurors. In others, Draco died, leaving Ginny alone with her grief. Anyway that the dreams recurred, in any combination, was hell. Harry woke up night after night, sweating as he had not done since Hermione's funeral.
Harry watched, perched on one of the windowsills, as the monument was polished for the final time, and the names of the fallen inscribed into it. He watched behind his trademark glasses as the cemetery was prepared and the number of graves astounded and saddened him. So many lives lost. Ginny Weasley-Malfoy...Neville Longbottom...Severus Snape...Denis Creevey...the names of the lost floated around in his head, threatening to overwhelm him once again. It was almost as if with Hermione's death a year ago, coupled with Ginny's exactly a year later, something vital within hm had been switched off. Whether it was the victory over Voldemort and thus the end of the war, or her death having been so senseless and tragic, Harry could no longer keep the walls up that had supported him for the last year.
His thoughts were interrupted by the distinct sound of footsteps coming up the stairs. Harry turned towards the doorway, and watched a figure step into the bright light of the Astronomy Tower.
Draco Malfoy was a wreck. His normally well groomed hair hung loosely in a ponytail, and his regular icy composure had been...disrupted. He had cried for her, but those tears had stopped running now that cold reality had set in.. His eyes had deep bags under them, and Harry's heart went out to Draco, for he understood what the other man was going through.
"Hello, Draco." Harry couldn't bring himself to use Draco's surname. It just seemed so...harsh.
"Harry." Draco's voice was hollow, as if he was a million miles away. Everything that was Draco was gone, it seemed. Draco moved to the window next to Harry's and opened it, looking at the ground speculatively
"I wouldn't, if I were you," Harry told the other man.
"Why not? What else do I have to live for? There's nothing left for me here."
"I wouldn't be so sure."
Draco turned on Harry. "What do you know? You're not the one who has the Ministry breathing down his neck because he was a Death Eater! I've lost everything, don't you understand? My life, my home...my wife." He choked back a sob, "I've nothing left to keep me here. Nothing." Draco put his foot on the windowsill.
"But that's not what it's really about, Draco, is it? I have been where you are." Harry climbed out of his seat and walked to the other man and embraced him from behind. "Hermione was my love. When he murdered her, I was broken inside. Outside, I put on a mask of indifference after a while, of cold hatred. But inside, the fires still burned and I cried myself to sleep for months afterwards. Sometimes I still do."
"What are you saying, Potter?" Draco quietly replied.
"What I'm saying is that you need to be strong for yourself. Give yourself a purpose. Don't forget about her, or let your love die, but make sure to live. Because I never did, and look where it's gotten me," Harry gently helped Draco down from the window.
"I don't know what to say to that." Draco sighed, took a handkerchief from his pocket, and blew his nose..
"Sometimes it's best not to say anything." Harry paused before leading the other man back down the stairs. "And Draco?"
"Don't worry about the Ministry. Everything will work out for the best. Arthur's got quite a bit of pull now, and your diversion won the battle for us. That fact, while the Ministry may not like it, cannot be ignored. You will be allowed back into the Manor, as well as your Gringotts account."
"But that doesn't help here." Draco put his hand over his heart.
"Nothing can. Only time can begin to do that. That is something that you will have to work out for yourself, Draco."
"Thank you." Draco's voice, normally so confident, was now little more than a whisper.
Harry smiled thinly. "You're welcome. Come on, we've got to get down to the Great Hall. It's almost eleven."
Harry sat next to Ron, both of them silent and unmoving as stuffed robe after stuffed robe stood and spoke on the heroism of the fallen and the hope of the wizarding world. There was only one thing that Harry had wanted to hear, and he had not heard it yet. In fact, the memorial was almost over, and the funeral would begin soon. Harry watched as Professor Dumbledore stood, looking much older than his one hundred and fifty years, and approach the small podium that had been set up at the front of the Great Hall.
The Headmaster cleared his throat, fixed his glasses, and took a quick look out over the crowd before beginning.
"Thank you all for being here on this Day of Remembrance. I am the last to speak today, before we lay our friends and colleagues to rest, so I will attempt to keep this simple. We've heard from various Ministers extolling the virtues of this person, or that fallen hero or celebrating their sacrifice. I will have none of that. Today is a day of grief. A day of sadness. Nothing else. Now is not the time to go around patting ourselves on the back." He paused, and glared at some of the officials who had spoken. Obviously they had not lost anyone. "How many of you have lost someone that you love? How many can sit there and say that no one in their family was affected?"
Harry took his eyes off Dumbledore for a moment to look around at the other officials. Cornelius Fudge was trying not to look unhappy at Dumbledore's speech, but was being fairly unsuccessful at it. Dumbledore continued.
"I can name a hundred wizards and witches that laid down their lives for our cause. And that does not even begin to adress the numbers we lost. They will be remembered forever by those present and by future generations. We cannot forget their sacrifice and allow our actions to waver. This must never happen again for us to retain our freedoms. But without responsibility, there is no freedom. All of us, both wizard and Muggle, have a responsibility to protect what is right and good in this world, lest the darkness overcome us all."
Harry closed his eyes and thought about those words. A responsibility to protect what is right and good. Hermione, I didn't do that, did I? I let you die. You died because I loved you. He thought to himself, tears gathered behind his eyelids. A similar funeral, just over a year ago, played out in his exhausted mind.
He stood beside the coffin in silence. No tears came, although they were simmering right below the thin wall that he had set up for himself. All of his family and friends had turned out for the double funeral. Words. Everything that they said were words, and nothing more.
"Let us remember these two souls in our grief, and hold them close to our hearts," Harry heard one of the speakers say. He had stopped listening to the words, those empty and cold phrases, a long time ago.
He watched as the coffins were lowered into their final resting places just outside of the Burrow's garden, protected by Gnome Repelling Charms. Under two shade trees that would give shelter to his love, as he was not able to.
A hand shook Harry out of his thoughts.
"Harry, are you all right?" Ron asked, standing up beside him
Harry wanted to scream 'No!', and try to explain what was running through his head, but he simply couldn't. His thoughts raged with renewed vigor over the circumstances of her death, and Harry was too exhausted to stop the lone tear from falling down his cheek. I need to get away, he thought to himself.
Instead he replied "I think so. Are they ready for us?"
"Yes," Ron said, and helped Harry out of his seat. The two men melted into the crowd, looking for Arthur and Molly Weasley.
They caught up with them just outside of the Great Hall, and fell in step with the rest of the family.
Everyone was there : Percy with Penelope, walking hand in hand, Penelope trying to calm Percy's uncharacteristic wailing; Fred with Katie Bell and George with Angelina Johnson, all four of them holding onto each other and quietly letting the tears fall; Charlie and Bill, each being still unmarried, walking side by side in silence. Arthur held Molly close as they walked, each wiping their eyes with a handkerchief when needed. Draco walked behind everyone else in the group, looking down as he walked.
The procession of wizards and witches trod down the road and into the green fields surrounding Hogwarts. Everyone wore black, even on that warm day. They walked to the monument, a great pillar of granite, and formed a circle around it.
Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, stood on a small platform and amplified his voice.
"Today, on this Day of Remembrance, we are gathered to honor both the living and the dead. This monument stands on the place where He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named fell. It commemorates our victory over this great evil, and the cost at which that victory was achieved. Inscribed upon this monument are the names of all of our heroes, both the living and the fallen. I would ask you for a moment of silence to remember those lost."
The crowd stopped moving, and bowed their heads in remembrance of those sacrificed. After the appropriate time, the Minister continued.
"We will now read the names of those wizards and witches who have left this world and gone on the next great adventure." Fudge switched papers and began to read the names, one by one. As each was read, there were exclamations of grief from the relatives of the deceased. "Charles Anton...Phillip Smith...Alicia Spinnet....Justin Flinch-Fletchly," In all, there were over five dozen names read. Except one.
The entire Weasley family was fuming. Arthur tried to calm everyone in his family down, even though he himself was wanting to put his hands around Fudge's neck. However it was Ron who spoke up first.
"You forgot someone." Ron cut into the next part of Fudge's speech.
"Excuse me, Mister Weasley, but this is an official function." Fudge said pompously.
"Cut it, Minister." Ron's voice was tense, and a few people in the crowd murmured assent.
"Mister Weasley, unless you step down this minute I will see to it that-"
"Why isn't my sister's name on that list?" There was a collective gasp from the wizards that had heard him. By now, everyone knew about the Weasley daughter who had turned against the Dark Lord and found herself sacrificing her life for the one she loved.
"I don't understand," Fudge said carefully.
Ron had had enough. He lost all sense of decorum at this point, and simply went for the jugular. "You don't understand? How could you not see that my entire family was grieving? Do you think we like this? And you don't have the decency to give my sister, who was a kind, decent human being, loving and -"
"A Death Eater." Fudge raised his eyebrows and crumpled his mouth into a small line.
"Is that all she was?" And Ron began to laugh. "Is that what this is about? Because she was a Death Eater? May I remind you that she also was part of the team that helped to save Diagon Alley? Not to mention the Ministry building itself? She was a spy, Minister. A spy for our side. And she died for it. Her husband is here only because you tolerate his presence. What happens after this? What does he get? What about the other Death Eaters who turned?"
"Nothing. The Cabinet voted last night."
"He gets nothing? No recognition? No reward for risking his life?"
"No. And this is neither the time nor the place for this type of discussion."
"You are correct, this is not the place. However, you will read my sister's name. She is to be buried here, after all," Ron said softly.
Fudge turned on Dumbledore. "Did you have anything to do with this, Headmaster?" Fudge's eyes blazed quiet murder.
Dumbledore stared back, and did not flinch. "I did."
"We will discuss this later." Fudge turned away from Dumbledore and faced the crowd once again. "Ginny Weasley," he spat finally.
Harry smiled in spite of himself. The Weasleys visibly relaxed as Fudge went on.
Finally it was time for each family to say goodbye. Arthur, Molly and the family made their way over to where Ginny's coffin lay. For a long while, no one said a word; instead they simply stood over the coffin and held onto each other. Finally Harry was the first to break the silence.
"Goodbye, Ginny. I am going to miss your laughter, your smiles, your words of comfort and support after Hermione's death, and the conversations that have affected us all. Be well, and watch over your family and friends as they grieve." He fell silent.
One by one each member of the family spoke on some aspect of Ginny's life. George and Fred spoke about the mischief that she would play with them, or Percy about sitting with his little sister and reading to her. Bill and Charlie were able to speak about Ginny being born, but neither Arthur nor Molly spoke, each too overwhelmed with grief to speak with much coherence, even though they tried. Ron could barely squeak out a "goodbye"; he being the brother that was closest to her.
Draco. however, tried to be strong. Tears were just below the surface during all that he said. "What can I say about such an amazing woman? My love, my wife, my life. You meant everything to me, and now you're gone. When I think back to that night that we first spent talking, really talking, I can only love you all the more. Watch over me, and keep me safe, for I cannot do this alone. I miss you. Love you lots, Gin."
Draco turned away from the coffin, and the Weasleys embraced their son-in-law.
For a week after the funeral, the Weasleys stayed at Hogwarts. Every day Harry escaped to the Astronomy Tower to look over the grounds, and to think about his future. He knew that he no longer wanted to be an Auror, that much was certain, but nothing else was.
"What am I going to do?" he asked himself out loud.
"I don't know, but whatever you do, don't jump," Draco drawled.
"What are you doing up here, Draco?"
"The same as you. Thinking."
"What am I going to do after this all settles down?" Harry asked again.
"Don't know. I know that I certainly don't have many career options."
"True." Harry chuckled lightly. It had been so long since he had laughed. "Draco, I need to leave." He said after a moment of silence.
"So leave. The stairway is right there, Potter."
"No, Draco, leave the wizarding world."
Draco's usually impassive face showed his shock. "Harry Potter, leave the wizarding world? You can't be serious, Harry."
"I am completely serious."
"I've been hiding behind these walls for too long. These inside walls. I need to be human again, Draco. Not some wizard who thinks about nothing but revenge."
"You have a responsibility to be here--" Draco cut himself off, aware of what he had just said.
"I have a responsibility?" Harry asked, his voice lowering dangerously. "I have a responsibility to be here? No, Draco, I do not have a responsibility to anyone. I've defeated Voldemort and saved the world not once but twice and you want to talk to me about bloody responsibility?" Harry's tone rose precipitously.
"I'm sorry, Potter. I didn't--"
"Don't say it. You did. You have a responsibility as well, Draco."
"Face it, Potter, not too many wizards are going to hire Draco Malfoy, former Death Eater."
"It's the 'former' that matters, though."
"Not to them."
"Draco, I've been the hero long enough. It's someone else's turn. Besides, I've done my life's work. And so the story ends with 'Our hero rode off into the sunset, never to return'." Harry replied sarcastically.
"But it doesn't work that way, does it?"
"Nope. I want to be a Muggle for a while; see the world."
"And forget your problems," Draco said cautiously.
"That too. I've been agonizing over her death for long enough. I've gotten my revenge. Now it's time to let her go." Harry's voice almost broke when he said this, but his resolve was quickly gaining strength.
"Easier said than done, I'm afraid. Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Yes." Harry voice was firm and confident, even though, deep inside he was still unsure.
"All right then, Harry. Leave. I will keep your secret for you."
"Are you offering to be my Secret Keeper?"
"Do you want to be hidden from all those that you love?"
"I need a fresh start, I think. Somewhere where this," and he pointed to his scar, "does not make for instant 'hero' qualifications. If I keep seeing Ron or anyone that I know, then I can't do that. So will you do it?"
Draco thought for a moment, and replied. "I will."
"Thank you." Harry and Draco shook hands. "When can we perform the Charm?"
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Anxious are we?"
"Give me three days to get what I need together, and then we can perform the charm."
"Thanks," Harry replied, and watched Draco walk down the stairs.
Three days later Ron was off visiting the Burrow, and so Harry had the flat to himself. Draco arrived just after lunch, and the pair got to work.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Draco asked tentatively.
"I am. Let's get this over with." Harry confirmed. He had gone to Gringotts and drawn out a substantial amount of galleons, converting them to Muggle money. He had also packed a few changes of clothes and a small atlas.
Draco nodded, and then pulled out his wand and began the Fidelius Charm. "Dissimulo Harry Potter," Draco said, and waived his wand in a complicated pattern of flicks. Harry could feel the shielding on him. "Custos Draco Malfoy." Draco turned his wand on himself and felt the knowledge of where Harry was bury itself deep into his soul. Before performing the second part of the Charm, Draco had been unable to see Harry, but now that he was his Secret Keeper, Draco could see Harry just as if there was no charm.
Harry sighed with relief. "Thank you. Now I've got to write a note to Ron explaining what I've done."
"Take care of yourself, Potter. You are now hidden from the rest of the wizarding world, save me and there's no turning back now."
"Be well, Malfoy. Here's my key to my parent's vault. I've taken a few thousand galleons and changed them into pounds, so I won't needing anymore for a long time. You have permission to use whatever you need to in the vault. Just please put it back."
"Understood. Now get out of here. I would hate for you to have to see Ron when he finds you've gone, and I don't want to have to deal with him."
"Thanks for your concern. I'll be going in a minute." Draco hesitated, then nodded, and let himself out of the flat. Harry found quill, ink and a parchment. He thought for a moment, and began to write.
Forgive me for this. I've decided to leave the wizarding world, and become a Muggle. Do not come after me, because I don't know where I'll end up, and I just need to get away. I've left all of my magical items in the bedroom. Take them and use them well. Also my account at Gringotts is yours to do with as you please. Draco has the key. Enjoy it. Be happy.
He folded the note in half, wrote Ron's name on the front of it, and walked out of the flat, closing the red door behind him. He closed his eyes, and took the first step into his new life.
A/N - Thanks to all who reviewed the 2nd chapter. Great thanks and praise goes to my incredible beta, Nancy, who, as always, has taken an unfinished table and turned it into something worthy of posting. Chapter 4 will be up at this time next Friday, so there you go.
Happy belated V-Day.
Sorry, no personal messages this time. Just want to get the story up. Next time, for both chapters. I promise.