After the Battle
Hogwarts, Immediately After the Fall of Lord Voldemort…
Harry, Ron and Hermione left the Headmaster's office, closing the door, with its griffin knocker, behind them. Harry carried the Elder Wand and his newly repaired holly and phoenix feather wand in his hand as they rode the spiral staircase to where the gargoyle lay toppled across the doorway.
Wandering the familiar stairwells and passageways, they soon found themselves in front of the Fat Lady's portrait; she swung open without a word. The common room was deserted as everyone was still gathered in the Great Hall. The three of them climbed the staircase to Harry and Ron's old dormitory. Harry climbed into his old bed as Hermione, not wanting to be alone in the girl's dorm, fell asleep in one of the others. Ron quietly shut the door and fell asleep himself. There would be a brief ceremony to reseal Dumbledore's tomb tomorrow evening, when the Elder Wand would be returned to its home, and a memorial for all of Voldemort's victims at the end of the week, but for now they could rest at last.
But Harry couldn't sleep. It was strange, he was dead tired (a couple of hours ago he had been dead literally). The last time he had slept was at Shell Cottage before their adventure at Gringotts. He should be falling asleep, but he couldn't. No matter how he tried, he could not sleep. Then he realized what it was.
Climbing out of bed, Harry pulled on his robes, the only item of clothing he had removed. He quietly opened the door and went down the stairs, leaving Ron and Hermione where they lay, they needed their sleep and he had to do this alone. Going out the portrait hole, he travelled slowly through the castle. The damage was almost too much to bear. As he reached the hallway where Fred had died, Harry felt the pain like a knife through his heart, but he kept going until he reached the doors of the Great Hall.
People's heads began to turn as they noticed him standing in the doorway. It didn't take long; Ginny was always quick to notice things like that. Their eyes met across the hall. Ginny sat up, causing her mother to look around as well. Slowly, the entire hall was looking at him. He took a step towards the Weasleys.
Mrs. Weasley looked at her daughter and gently nudged her. Seeming to come out of a daze, Ginny got to her feet. They walked slowly toward each other; then faster; and faster. Then they were running. Ginny leapt the last few feet into Harry's arms. She was crying. They swayed on the spot, not saying a word.
Over Ginny's shoulder, Harry could see Mrs. Weasley's watery smile, Mr. Weasley was walking towards them. Harry stood there for what seemed like ages. The whole hall was watching, but he didn't care…he had been waiting, praying for this moment for nearly a year…hoping against all odds that they would both make it through the war alive. Mr. Weasley finally reached where they were standing; he and Ginny broke apart. The fact that this situation would have been awkward under different circumstances was not lost on Harry.
"Harry," Mr. Weasley said softly. "You should be resting."
"I know, Mr. Weasley," Harry said. "But I couldn't just…after everything that's happened…"
Mr. Weasley held up a hand. "It's alright Harry, but you should go to bed…" he looked at his daughter and saw the pained look in her eyes. "You too Ginny, go on, we'll be fine…Fred would have wanted you to …" his voice broke as the tears broke out again. He wrapped them both in a tight hug. "Go on…," he whispered.
Harry and Ginny walked towards the hall. At the door Harry hesitated, he turned to look at Mrs. Weasley. Ginny stopped beside him, and followed his gaze. He didn't want to remove a source of comfort for the woman who had been, for all intents and purposes, his mother over the past seventeen years. He considered going back, asking Ginny to stay, telling her they'd talk later…but the thought of that filled him with so much pain that he stood as though paralyzed. His dilemma was solved when Mrs. Weasley, though her eyes brimmed with tears, nodded slightly towards the door. Ginny took his hand and led him gently into the battered Great Hall and up the great staircase, just as she had led him from Dumbledore's side almost exactly one year before.
They climbed in silence up the first few floors. Harry let Ginny lead him. It felt so right to be with her, to be next to her…even after so much had happened, it still felt like where he was meant to be. Yet something was off.
When Ginny stopped, Harry suddenly snapped from his reflections. We can't have reached the tower yet, he thought. A quick scan of his surroundings confirmed this, they were in an empty classroom. Ginny had released his hand and was standing in front of him. Her eyes were red and puffy, their brown depths brimmed with sadness…but Harry saw something else…simmering just below the surface was anger.
She turned and made her way to one of the windows on the other side of the room. Harry's tired brain was in overdrive, trying to figure out what he should do.
"Ginny…?" he began tentatively, walking slowly closer to him. She rounded on him and began pummeling every inch of him that she could reach.
"You!...You!... absolute…arse…how could you? !"she yelled. "Do you know what it's been like for all of us! With you on the run! Not knowing if you were alive or dead or even having the slightest idea where you had gone! The world was falling apart…and you, you … you could have been dead! And you left me in that Room of Requirement, sided with my mother to keep me from helping while my family risked their lives! Left me to wonder in agony if you all were dead or … or…And then tonight! How could you go into that forest? After everyone had fought for you! Had DIED for you! He brought you back and I thought…I thought…" her voice trembled; the blows stopped as her knees gave way. Harry barely caught her, but in his tired state they were both driven to the ground.
Ginny was sobbing now as Harry held her close. "Fred was already gone…and I … and then you were laying there… and I just wanted to be dead with both of you…if they…if Ron and Hermione hadn't held me back…I would have rushed at him…or to you…but…" Her voice seemed to fail her as she sobbed all the harder.
Harry had never seen Ginny cry, not like this. And to know that it was his fault…that it was all because of him…
"I'm sorry Ginny…"he whispered, feeling the tears begin to run down his own cheeks. "Don't you see? That's why I had to go…I couldn't let any more people die, not while I had the power to stop it. Not for my sake…"
She sat up slightly, looking at him with eyes that still swam with tears. "Is that what you think?" she asked. "That all of this is your fault? That my brother wouldn't have died if not for you? This war wasn't about you, Harry."
Her last words stung him. That wasn't what he had meant. "Don't you think I know that?" he asked, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks. "But what did you expect me to do? Let more people die? Not when I had the power to stop it, not when I had to face him…to let him…to die."
She saw the pain in his eyes. She had hurt him…after all he had given for all of them. Why did I say that? She berated herself. That wasn't what she had meant to say.
"Harry, I'm sorry," she said quietly. "That's … that's not what I meant to say. I just…It wasn't your fault Harry! Voldemort did this…not you."
"I'm sorry too, Gin," he said. "I don't think any of us really know what we're saying anymore. Not after last night. The sun was reaching its late morning height, and was beginning to spread through the windows. "And I'm sorry I couldn't tell you…and that I left you in that room…I just wanted you to be safe…but I guess…I shouldn't have treated you like a child, I…I always used to hate it when people did that to me…you're not one…it won't happen again."
"Is that a promise?" she asked, looking straight into his eyes.
He looked back at her. He hated the thought of letting her be in harm's way, the implications of those words. But, Harry knew, she would never leave his side again…nor would he want her to.
"Yes, Ginny," he said. "But I can't promise I won't try to protect you."
She laid her head back against his chest and they stayed there for a long while.
"Come on," she heard him say, we should go. This time it was his turn to lead the way. When they reached the common room, he collapsed on the couch. She collapsed next to him, leaning against his side. The warmth from him made her feel a little better, as if everything would be alright. He put his arm around her.
Harry felt Ginny against his side. He knew now….he had known for a long time, even if he only realized it as he faced death in the Forbidden Forest…that he loved Ginny and that there would never be anyone else for him. He would tell her about that, all of it…but he was tired, so for now:
"I love you, Ginny Weasley," he said.
Harry's words struck her like a clap of lightning. Had he really just said…? She had known, since they had parted, that she loved Harry Potter, but neither of them had ever spoken it, not like this.
"I love you, too, Harry Potter," she replied, it felt like they had been saying it forever.
"Leaving you was the worst good decision I ever made," she heard him say, both of their eyes had closed.
"Little slow for the Chosen One aren't you?" she teased, catching even herself off-guard. She felt him start to laugh silently and felt herself start to laugh, too.
Harry felt a slight pang of guilt, before a thought struck him. This is what all of them, what Tonks, Lupin, Dumbledore, Sirius, Fred and all of the others, had died for…love and laughter and happiness…and all of the things that Voldemort would never understand. And, even this small, silent laugh…wracked by pain and sadness and with the wreckage of the castle all around them was a testament to the fact that they had won…a tribute to their memory.
"Harry," Ginny said, her voice that of a person just on the edge of sleep. "Promise me something…"
"What Ginny?" he asked, barely conscious.
"Promise me you'll never leave me again."
"Never," he whispered, pulling his arm a little tighter around her as they both drifted off to sleep. The last thing Harry thought before he fell asleep was that, with Ginny, he finally had the chance at the normal life he had always wanted. Ron and Hermione found them there the next morning, still asleep in each other's arms.
There was grim work to be done when they awoke. Hogwarts had to be repaired enough for the memorial service to take place on the grounds. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny assisted the others with the painful task of repairing the castle and thereby revisiting the sites where so many had been lost. Wherever they went, people were grim and silent. In the midst of repairing the banister of the staircase in the great hall, Harry saw a family leave, taking with them a family member who hadn't made it. The Great Hall was slowly being emptied of the bodies of the lost as they were removed.
Several families had asked him to attend the funerals of their loved ones, he had agreed to most, but declined to speak. It just didn't seem right.
They had just finished replacing the gems in the giant house hourglasses when they saw Kingsley enter through the newly repaired front doors. He had been appointed acting Minister of Magic and had been absent since the battle ended, regaining control of the ministry and beginning the hunt for Death Eaters who had escaped.
He approached them grimly. "How are you all holding up?" He asked, his deep slow voice carrying the weight of grief and fatigue.
The looks on their faces must have answered his question, because they stood in a sad silence for a few minutes, before he said. "Harry, can I have a word please?"
"Of course, Minister," Harry answered.
"Kingsley," he corrected as they made their way a short distance away from the others.
"Right," Harry replied.
"Harry…I can't begin to understand what you've been through this past year, this past night…"
"It's nothing everyone else hasn't been through as well."
"Yes," Kingsley replied, "perhaps, but I'm afraid that I must ask one more thing from you."
"Anything, after the Order risked their lives … anything."
"Don't be so quick to agree, Harry," Kingsley said. "What I have to ask of you is not going to be easy for you."
Harry felt a tinge of unease as he waited for Kingsley to continue.
"Harry, I am here to ask you to speak at the memorial…" he paused as if waiting for Harry to protest, but he was too stunned to speak. "…They will look to you Harry, the families…you were the one to defeat Voldemort. They will want to hear from you."
Harry felt all the color drain from his face. Kingsley's face was full of concern. He knew what he was asking. It was the hardest thing Harry had ever been asked to do. He wasn't over his own pain, still a raw and open wound in his chest, what could he possibly say to ease the pain of others. It was like walking into the forest all over again but he knew now, as he had known then, that it was the right thing to do.
"I…I don't know what I'll say Kingsley," he replied. "But I'll try…"
"Thank you, Harry," Kingsley replied, still looking concerned. "I'm sorry…I wish I could ask someone…anybody else…but…"
"I know," Harry said solemnly.
Kingsley guided him back over to the others.
"Have any of you seen Professor McGonagall?" he asked. "I need to speak with her about arrangements for the service."
"I think she's upstairs, near Dumbledore's office," Ginny replied. No one thought it strange that she still called it that.
When Kingsley had left, Harry told them all what he had asked.
"What will you say?" Hermione said, her face almost as concerned as Kingsley's.
"I don't know," Harry said. He was almost consumed by doubt. Why had he agreed to this? He was no speaker. He barely knew how to cope with what he felt himself. Ginny silently took his hand. Harry's thoughts drifted to the night before and the thoughts he had just before he fell asleep. Suddenly, knowing what to say wasn't hard, it was saying it that would be difficult.
Harry stood before Dumbledore's portrait in the headmaster's office. The Elder Wand had been returned to its proper place, the tomb resealed a few days previously.
"I don't know if I can do it," he said quietly to his old headmaster. "It's just not good enough, not after all that they, that you all, gave." He had just started to tell Dumbledore's portrait what he planned to say at the service the next day, but the portrait had stopped him.
"Does it come from your heart, Harry?"
"I…yes, I suppose," he answered
"You have a strong heart, a good heart, you would do well to trust it."
"Couldn't you just listen, and you know…let me know what you think?"
"Harry, the dead are not meant to counsel the living. I have left this world, Harry, it is no longer my place to interfere…My task is done. This world belongs to you now, my knowledge…that which resides in this portrait anyway, will fade soon. I'm afraid, that for now Harry, this is good bye."
Harry felt the tears in his eyes as he retorted, "You spoke more plainly in my head."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled behind his frames, but he said nothing.
"Thank you, sir," Harry continued. "For everything…and...good bye." Harry began to cry harder, his body shook.
"No," Dumbledore said. "Thank you." A tear was leaking down his face, into his long silver beard as his voice began to sound more distant. "Remember Harry, that however much it hurts, what you feel now is and always will be your greatest strength. Farewell, Harry….never fear, I have no doubt that we shall meet again…I wish you a long life, one far happier than my own. It was a pleasure to be your…headmaster and your …"
"Friend," Harry finished for him, placing his hand on his old headmaster's portrait. Dumbledore's tear filled face nodded. Suddenly the figure looked around, as if gaining a glimpse of his surroundings for the first time.
"Well, hello young man!" called Dumbledore's voice as he would have to a scared young first year. "How is your year going?"
Dumbledore was gone.
The sun was shining across the lawn and sparkling off the lake on the castle grounds. Ginny watched from the front row. Harry was standing before a gathering of people outnumbering even that which had come for Dumbledore's funeral. They all were looking at him expectantly. The Weasleys, Hermione, Neville, Luna, and what was left of the Order sat with her in the front row.
He took a deep breath and began to speak; his voice seemed to gain strength as he talked:
"I…I know that there has been a lot of talk about how I was the Chosen One over the last few years. The truthis that I was chosen, but not by fate; not because of anything that was special about me. I was chosen by Voldemort…
The crowd recoiled briefly as he said the name.
"… He chose me to be the one who destroy him by murdering my parents. He armed me with an impenetrable defense against the Dark Arts. A defense so strong that if he had been able to understand its power he may never have acted upon that prophecy: love and the grief for those I had lost."
"And in that sense, I was not the only chosen one. I was not alone. Voldemort created far more enemies than he destroyed. He brought about his own destruction, because he could not comprehend the one thing that would truly defeat him: love. It was love, when people went to fight Voldemort in the face of insurmountable odds, that drove them to lay down their lives for the hope of a better future. It was love, when these brave men and women we honor today, and many of you here, refused to allow evil to dominate the face of this earth. And it was love, which finally washed Voldemort's evil away. We were all chosen for this task by the traits and experiences that made us who we are. I may have been the one to strike the final blow, but it was not I who killed Voldemort. It was all of those who laid down their lives, all of those who sacrificed and fought, and all those with the courage to stand up and say no to those who would have us submit to the darkness. That is the lesson that we can take from this tragedy: that it was love…not fate, nor power, nor wands…that defeated Lord Voldemort. Those we have lost died so that we could learn the power of love, it is time we used that power to rebuild what has been lost, to maintain the togetherness we now feel, and to move forward into the future they created for us. We owe our future to those who will not experience it. I will now read the names of those we have lost."
"Albus Percval Wolfrick Bryan Dumbledore," he began.
Hermione listened to Harry as he spoke and began to read the names of those who had died. As she felt the tears flow down her cheeks, she looked around. No one was dry eyed, not even Harry. She felt moved by the power of his words and could not help but remember another figure whose voice had been the light in the darkness, before he fell from a lighting struck tower. She squeezed Ron's hand. The wizarding world had found its new lantern. Hermione felt for Harry, his life would never be as normal as he had hoped. But she knew that, in his heart, he had always known that it wouldn't be.
Ron heard Harry's voice falter when he spoke Fred's name. Ron had known that Harry was strong, but it was only now that he fully appreciated all the strength that his friend had. Harry would never admit it, but he had lost and given far more in the struggle against Voldemort than anyone else.
He looked over at Ginny. She was focused on Harry, he saw in her face that she was feeling everything that he felt with him as he spoke. Harry was lucky to have found her…and she was lucky to have found him. He could see the bond between them and he was happy to know that his sister would be well taken care of.
He looked at Hermione. She seemed to be deep in thought, not unusual for Hermione. He felt her hand squeeze his. He wondered if people saw the same bond between the two of them that he saw between Harry and Ginny. He loved Hermione. He hadn't told her yet, but he would. He would.
Harry saw the crowd dissolve into harder tears as he read the last name.
He gathered the list of names and left the podium. As he did, the audience began to clap. Mr. Weasley stood and then Hagrid, then Ginny, Ron, Mrs. Weasley, Hermione, Kingsley…Slowly the whole crowd had risen to its feet. Harry didn't acknowledge the applause, in his mind they rose to honor those for whom he spoke. He would never understand that it was as much his sacrifice as theirs that moved the crowd.
Kingsley and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix made their way forward. None of them spoke. They simply raised their wands and, in the center of the grounds, and a white, marble obelisk engraved with the names that Harry had just read rose from the earth.
NOTE TO THE READER:
So I know I said that I was going to save this revision for later, but it has been growing on my mind…and I felt like I couldn't go on in the story until I had rewritten this first portion of the story that occurs right after the Battle of Hogwarts. I have never really liked the interaction between Harry and Ginny that occurred in the first version and much of the dialogue and actions were very awkward.
Thus, this is almost an entire re-write, though the core of the sequence of events remains the same. Harry and Ginny's reunion is now both more emotional and, I hope, better in line with the personalities of both of their characters. The scene between them on the tower has been removed, because I didn't think it really worked.
The scene in which Harry talks to Dumbledore's portrait has been expanded to be more emotional and meaningful. It also sheds some light on what happens when the subject of a portrait dies. I have always wondered why they don't just go and talk to say, a portrait of Merlin, when they have a problem that requires the assistance of a great wizard, so this is my explanation. That a portrait, after a while, when the earthly affairs of the subject have been settled (much someone who chooses not to go on, often feels that something has been left undone…Myrtle for example) the portrait retains their personality, but their soul…and much of their knowledge and wisdom…is gone. I would be interested to know your opinions of my version.
Harry's speech remains largely untouched, it was always one of my favorite parts, but it has been revised slightly and is now heard from Ginny's POV. The conversation between Kingsley and Harry has been completely redone.
So, in other words, the entire section has basically been rewritten. This should go up with Chapter 27, so I will post a note their telling you all to come look at this. Please let me know what you think of my revisions. Personally, I really like the new version. I actually was strongly affected by it as I wrote it (I almost cried a little during the Dumbledore part … that's right, I'm not scared to admit it.)
Thank you for your thoughts, your time and your kind words, and now: