Hello everybody! I haven't written anything in forever, and decided to come back with a horribly depressing and incredibly long deathfic. Don't try to understand the rationale behind that... I really have no idea why such sad ideas enter my mind. I wrote another take on Harry's death years ago, before DH had even come out, and wanted to write a more plausible version of my original idea - as well as one that really focused on Dudley. We know, from the beginning of Book 7, that Dudley feels differently about Harry than he did previously. Though Rowling has said in interviews that his and Harry's relationship is more greeting-card based than anything in the future, I think that - had Harry died - Dudley may have become even more interested in the life of his cousin.
And no, I will not be expanding upon this. It is just a oneshot... I won't have time! I go back to school soon from break, and my schedule will soon be dominated by all that comes with being a first-year Masters student. Oh, and I OWN NOTHING. The two small sections in the first part of this fic that arebolded and italicized are taken from the book. I hope you enjoy!
"So it all comes down to this, doesn't it?" whispered Harry. "Does the wand in your hand know its last master was Disarmed? Because if it does… I am the true master of the Elder Wand."
Harry was confident. The time had come. He was really going to win. He felt the adrenaline rising in his chest, the quick beats of his heart sending a cold rush through his veins. The curse was coming. He gripped his wand, preparing to match Voldemort's attack... the spells should connect, like before in the graveyard...
But Voldemort hadn't moved. Harry barely dared breathe, afraid to break the tension.
But then he did something unexpected. Something that completely took Harry by surprise.
Voldemort slowly began to place the Elder Wand back into his black robes, a thoughtful expression upon his snakelike face. Those in the Hall began to mutter. Had You-Know-Who given up? No, he would never... But perhaps he knew the wand was now not going to work... would he flee? Order a mass attack?
Harry felt a rising of fear, adding to his coursing adrenaline. He knew Voldemort was not going to simply surrender. His heart, by this point, was threatening to completely beat out of his chest. He considered casting the Killing Curse himself, but was quite unsure if it would even be effective... he lowered his wand slightly…
Before he could think of anything further, Voldemort had re-grasped the Elder Wand and slashed ferociously at the air, teeth bared and an animalistic growl escaping his mouth. A shock of orange was expelled, lighting the faces of the onlookers and seeming to sizzle and dissolve into Harry's very skin.
He barely registered the screams from his friends. Fellow students. Teachers.
He realized he had fallen to his knees. Pain, pain was everywhere. He was bathing in hot lava. Burning. His skin and organs were blistering, they must be. Brilliant white lights flickered in and out of his vision. Pretty... he thought deliriously. Were the inhuman screams echoing in his ears his own?
Voldemort, obviously wary of what would happen if he initiated another duel after the forest incident – and after hearing Harry's revelation about the wand – had instead chosen a spell of his own invention to ensure Harry's death... Harry had never heard of or seen a spell like this before, after all... Brilliant plan, really... of course he would have devised another strategy in case something went wrong... Avada Kedavra had failed him before... this must be the end...
No. NO. He was not just going to give in and die. Not with Voldemort still alive. The Horcruxes may have been destroyed, but Voldemort was still powerful. He may make more, continue his rise...
Harry was vaguely aware that Voldemort was laughing, enjoying the wails and sobs of his audience.
He sluggishly raised his wand arm, unsurprised to see blood flowing freely from an unknown source and dripping from the wood. His vision was blurry, and he realized that there was blood coming from his eyes, from his forehead... his blood was the hot lava he was bathing in.
A warm sensation, not at all unpleasant, then began to originate from somewhere in his chest. The blood was still there, he was still weak, could still feel the life draining out of him – but the all-consuming pain was beginning to dissipate. Harry knew, right then, that he must pretend to have been healed. The duel needed to happen. Voldemort needed to die. Whatever force had safeguarded him from the Cruciatus curse in the forest while feigning death was seemingly doing the same favor for him now...
Voldemort was not yet aware of this small miracle.
"You see, Harry Potter? You never had a chance," he sneered. "You did not believe me earlier when I claimed to possess magic your dear Dumbledore dared not dream of. But I daresay he did not dream of this.
"Do you like it? It is a curse of my own invention, and you have the immense privilege of being my guinea pig. It seems to be working quite beautifully. I had to leave my options open, did I not, what with your history of resistance to the only known Killing Curse? Now there are two, my dear boy, and I do admit that this one gives me a much greater sense of satisfaction."
Harry clenched his teeth, wiping the blood from his eyes. He looked at the terrified faces around him, taking even more strength from their presence. He slowly began to get up. His legs, it seemed, would support him – maybe not for long, but long enough – he slid in his own blood as he found a shaky footing –
Voldemort, not for the first time that night, looked stunned.
"–May have wanted to try it out a few times first, Tom," Harry managed to say. "Doesn't seem to be getting the job done. It doesn't even hurt anymore, you know. Good effort though." Then, just to add to Voldemort's frustration, he cracked a defiant smile.
"How about we do this the way we both know it has to end? Let's test that wand's loyalty, Riddle." Harry took a few tentative, shaking steps, doing his best to sound confident. I don't know how much longer I can stand...
Voldemort said nothing, too shocked to even speak. His curse hadn't worked, though it had been undoubtedly fun. Was it the Wand? Was it really unable to kill its master? Time must not be wasted. Chances must be taken. It had to end.
Harry heard the high voice shriek as he too yelled his best hope to the heavens, pointing Draco's wand:
The bang was like a cannon blast, and the golden flames that erupted between them, at the dead center of the circle they had been treading, marked the point where the spells collided. Harry saw Voldemort's green jet meet his own spell, saw the Elder Wand fly high, dark against the sunrise, spinning across the enchanted ceiling like the head of Nagini, spinning through the air toward the master it would not kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last. And Harry, with the unerring skill of the Seeker, caught the wand in his free hand as Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, the slit pupils of the scarlet eyes rolling upward. Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snakelike face vacant and unknowing. Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse, and Harry stood with two wands in his hand, staring down at his enemy's shell.
It was then that Harry collapsed, unable to register any initial cheers and whoops that surely followed Voldemort's death. That last act of magic had drained any life that remained out of him. He knew this was it. He was dying. Harry felt a spark of happiness at Voldemort's defeat, but knew that spark would soon die with him. The Elder Wand rolled out of his hand, along with Malfoy's, and onto the floor. He was dully surprised that he had been able to catch the slim stick of wood in the first place.
Ron and Hermione were the first to reach him, faces deathly pale. Ginny was right on their heels. He knew he didn't have a lot of time – he could barely move a finger, blackness was beginning to cloud his vision, and blood continued to steadily leave his body, adding to the already significant pool that he was lying in.
Harry realized then that all three of them were crying freely. Ron and Ginny already lost a brother tonight, thought Harry with a pang of regret... But they had each other, they would be okay...
Screams were again reverberating throughout the Great Hall as people realized what had happened, someone – McGonagall? – was telling everyone to keep their distance...
"Harry!" Hermione was repeating. "Harry, oh Harry, I thought it didn't work? How else did you stand and fight? It's over, see? You won! You're okay, you have to be, he hadn't tried this before, it could have failed... no other curse has successfully, well, killed other than... you know..." She was stroking his hair, not caring that his blood was seeping into her skin, her clothes...
"Mate, it's all okay now," said Ron, pulling Hermione in close and trying to smile through his sobs. "Madame Pomfrey's right over there, she'll cure you. She'll come up with something, y'know?" He gave a shaky, teary laugh.
Harry still couldn't speak. He gulped down blood, trying to find his voice, trying to keep the blackness from his vision, trying to stay conscious...
"No!" Ginny had reached the three of them, wailing in desperation. "No! Harry, this isn't fair, not right, you just beat him! We're supposed to get back together and live happily ever after, now that you're done being a noble git. I can't–" Her voice hitched, and she dissolved into fresh tears.
Harry coughed violently, painfully forcing his weak arm to raise and cover his mouth. When he pulled it away, it was covered in bright red. He could feel the blood coating his mouth and throat, but his airway was just clear enough now...
"Listen..." he croaked, surprised at how quiet his voice was. All three of them leaned in. Harry was sure the entire Hall had fallen silent. "I w-was the last H-Horcrux. The forest... it was d-destroyed. Killing Curse. T-that's why I had to go."
They all looked mortified. Shocked tears streamed down Hermione's cheeks.
"D-Dumbledore's Penseive. S-Snape... S-Snape's memories. Important." Harry found he no longer had the strength to even form complete sentences.
"Okay, Harry," said Hermione softly.
Harry smiled. He felt a wave of relaxation, of peace. Now they would know the truth about Snape... he deserved at least that...
It seemed the three of them could tell that Harry had started to let go. Harry had shut his eyes, but the loud, fresh sobs from all sides confirmed his suspicions.
"I love you all," he whispered. Then he succumbed to the blackness.
Somewhere quite far from Hogwarts was a small house in a small village. The occupants of this village were, of yet, unaware of the events that had transpired in the Final Battle. Very soon, The Daily Prophet would get wind of this story of the century – of centuries – and the newspaper would circulate freely among its mixed inhabitants. Wizards as well as Muggles, aware of the existence of the magical world, lived here together in hiding. Protected by remaining members of the Order, they were largely isolated from their respective communities and craving information.
The village waited for news of Voldemort. News from the Ministry, infiltrated or not. News from Aurors.
More than anything else, they waited for news of Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived.
No one was keener to hear such news than Dudley Dursley. He was currently sitting in his bedroom, on the top floor of the small house of the small village, pondering his situation. He had never expected to be living among magical people, to have Mum and Dad intermingling (however unhappily) with strange blokes in billowing robes and pointed hats, to see Mum screech on a daily basis at the owls that fluttered in the skies overhead, to see a newspaper with pictures that moved.
Most of all, he never expected to be in a position of worry for Harry. He had struggled initially with these feelings, as it was easier to be the uncaring bully he had always been. His parents certainly treated him better when he hadn't cared about his cousin – his newfound interest in magic, and in Harry, had caused their faces to drop unpleasantly whenever they looked at him.
Mum still called him her ridiculous pet names, and Dad still encouraged his "healthy" eating... but it was different. There was a disconnect. The more time went by, however, Dudley found he did not care much. Harry had saved his life. That was not something he could just brush off. Harry should have just let that Demetoid thing suck the life out of him... why didn't he? What had Dudley ever done for him?
He was excited when Hestia and Dedalus had told them that they would live with wizards. He would be able to find out more about Harry, more about his world, more about those Dementoids...
But Dad had effectively burned all bridges with their magical neighbors the very first day they had ventured out to the market. It was a few weeks after their arrival, and they could no longer avoid needing to buy groceries. Dad, with a stiff upper lip, had gripped the bag of wizard money they had been provided, dragged him outside, and instructed that he and Mum talk to no one.
Walking in the street, Dad – Vernon, Dudley found himself calling him in his head – had come face-to-face with a tiny, sallow-faced wizard proclaiming news of the war and of Harry Potter. Dudley had just craned his neck to listen – catching such tidbits as "Potterwatch" and "Whereabouts unknown" – when Vernon shouted loudly that he didn't give a damn about freaks, which is what the lot of them were; least of all his waste-of-space nephew.
Mum had given a small squeak, and Dudley's whole body had tensed. This would be bad. "It's all right son," Vernon had whispered to him, "They can't hurt us, remember? We're under protection from their Ministry!" His face had looked gloating, triumphant. In that moment, Dudley hated him.
Needless to say, no wizards had been very friendly with Dudley since that incident. He had snuck out of his room on multiple occasions, but had only been able to glean fragments of information from eavesdropped conversations and newspaper covers. He could never buy a full Prophet... his parents would surely notice the money was gone, and how could he ever bring it into the house? He had heard of an escape from Malfoy Manor, whatever that was, of a fantastic getaway on a dragon after a successful bank robbery... but he was still utterly confused. And lonely.
He had reason to believe that Mum was more worried about Harry than she let on, but it seemed she was too afraid of Vernon to speak up. He was always there. They were all always there. Working and life had been put on hold for almost a year now.
Dudley was sitting on his bed, considering the past months of his life and worrying for Harry, when he heard a loud Crack! from downstairs. A familiar crack, but one that he hadn't heard since they left Privet Drive... Appearate? Apparate? Was that what it was called? But Diggle had told him that nobody could do that in this house, it was protected until the war was over...
The war was over.
Harry. It was Harry, coming to get them.
Through the walls, Dudley could hear that Mum was shrieking, Dad yelling incoherently at whoever had just appeared in their living room. He rushed down the stairs, excited and anxious at what Harry would tell them – Voldie whoever was gone, right? He had to be.
His excitement was stemmed somewhat when he saw a lone Kingsley Shacklebolt standing in the center of the room. No Harry. But that was okay, Harry was probably busy... Dudley had been dense to think he would come in person for them, not after how they had treated him...
Since Mum and Dad had yet to utter another word – though Dad's face was still red from whatever yelling he had done – Dudley stepped cautiously into the room. Dad had calmed down, as Kingsley was the only one he ever seemed to, if grudgingly, respect. He was wearing deep purple robes rather than the tailored suit they had seen him wear on television while guarding the Prime Minister, and Dudley suspected that Dad had not initially recognized him. He looked like a real wizard.
"Mr. Shacklebolt?" It was then that Dudley noticed the sad look on Kingsley's face. His eyes were watery, face more lined than it had previously seemed.
Kingsley nodded back at him, a grim smile on his face. "Hello Dudley, Petunia... Vernon." Despite his appearance, his voice retained its deep, strong tenor. Dad's shoulder's instantly slumped.
"Hello Mr. Shacklebolt," said Mum somewhat stiffly, though politely. "May we offer you a seat? Some tea? I am surprised to see you come this way, after what we were told about Appa – Appa-"
Dudley was pleasantly surprised Mum had remembered such a thing.
"Apparation," supplied Kingsley. "Very true, Petunia. I will explain in a moment. Though, for now, I would suggest that you sit down."
"SIT DOWN? Sit- ugh." Dad let out a hefty sigh. Kingsley glared at him.
"Fine," he grunted unhappily, sinking deeply into the couch cushions. Mum scurried to sit next to him. Dudley elected to sit in the chair furthest away from the both of them, stomach sinking. Was this going to be bad news? But the war was over…
His thoughts were echoed immediately by Kingsley. "The war is over. Voldemort has been defeated. You may return to Privet Drive and resume your old lives. Grunnings has been under the impression that you, Vernon, have taken an extended leave, for personal reasons – aided by a Confundus charm, mind you – your job is waiting for you. The house is also intact."
"Well that's good news, now isn't it? WHY AM I SITTING DOWN, KINGSLEY? I WANT TO GET THE BLOODY HELL out of here, and DON'T YOU TRY TO STOP ME! You lot have put us all through ENOUGH, and evidently it was ENTIRELY NEEDLESS!" He was fuming now, about as angry as Dudley had ever seen him.
But Dudley's stomach had officially sunk. Kingsley's sadness was so apparent, there was something he wasn't telling them… and then again, why was Kingsley there at all? Wasn't he too important for this? They had only officially met him once, shortly after moving in, for safety regulations and an official rundown of the situation. Why didn't he send Hestia, or Diggle…
"Mr. Shacklebolt, what about – about – Harry?" Kingsley's face seemed to drop, but then turned kindly; though he directed this look only at Dudley.
"I don't know exactly how to say this," he replied, sighing. The man was close to losing his composure. Mum, and even Dad, seemed to be listening intently to what he was about to say.
"Harry was murdered yesterday by Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts," he said slowly, not waiting for their reactions to continue. "But not before defeating Voldemort himself. He demonstrated great bravery, fighting even after he had been hit with a devastating, lethal curse. He is the savior of the Wizarding world. And, I daresay, yourworld as well."
For once, Vernon was struck dumb. He was completely silent. Mum gave a few hiccoughs, aiding only in breaking Dudley's own floodgates. He started to cry, tears dropping onto his clenched hands. He didn't even know the last time he had really, truly cried. He had faked many times, sure, but this… it had to have been years. He had planned on reconciling with Harry once this was all over. Or at least trying to.
He couldn't believe it. Now Harry was dead. Gone forever. Harry, who lived in the spider-infested cupboard under the stairs until he was 11. Harry, who used to wear his glasses with tape in the middle because Dudley had punched him so many times. Skinny, scrawny Harry, who drowned in Dudley's huge clothes and made his meals without complaint. Harry, who never got a Christmas or birthday present, never came with him to an amusement park, who faced the wrath – and, occasionally, fists, of Vernon. Harry, who never was able to remember his parents, hearing only about what irresponsible freaks they were. Harry, who had no photo of himself in the house, though he was related to them by blood and lived there all his life. Harry, who endured Dudley's relentless taunts, most horribly about Cedric Diggory, who Dudley had recently discovered was murdered in front of him. Harry, who the entire neighborhood thought was an unstable delinquent. Harry, forced to hide in his room when company was over. Harry, who saved his life, and still seemed to forgive him with a smile when Dudley admitted that he did not consider Harry a waste of space last year.
Harry, the savior of the Wizarding world.
"Oh, Diddykums!" Mum had jumped out of her seat and was rushing towards him, arms outstretched. Dudley couldn't help himself. Though he resented the nickname, he melted into her, sobbing. Kingsley and Dad were, for the moment, remaining silent.
"We were so… so horrible," whispered Dudley.
"Such a sweet, caring boy, Diddy…" she crooned, ignoring his last statement completely. "It's okay…"
Dudley immediately pulled away. "IT'S OKAY?" he shouted. "IT'S OKAY? HOW IS ANYTHING BLOODY OKAY? DID YOU HEAR WHAT I SAID? WE WEREHORRIBLE! HE WAS YOUR NEPHEW! YOUR SISTER'S SON! AND WE TREATED HIM WORSE THAN A DOG! YOU RAISED ME THAT WAY, YOU RUINED ME! AND NOW HE'S DEAD!"
Kingsley had settled onto the couch in Petunia's vacated place, face expressionless. Vernon had scooted to the opposite end, placing as much distance between himself and the purple-robe clad man as possible. His features were unreadable; he seemed to be struggling with some internal conflict, unsure of how to respond to Harry's death or to his son's outburst.
"Diddy…" Mum's face was hurt, slow tears trickling from the corners of her eyes. "You can't mean that…"
"Son, apologize to your mother – now," said Vernon sternly. Dudley was surprised to hear his voice shaking slightly. His jaw was clenched, fat chin quivering.
"I'm sorry, MUM, for never telling you to treat Harry better," Dudley spit out.
Vernon opened his mouth stupidly, while Petunia began to cry into her handkerchief.
Kingsley chose this moment to interject. "I can see that this news may take a while to settle," he said carefully. But he couldn't quite hide the tone of disgust that laced each word. "As I am the temporarily instated Minister of Magic, I must go momentarily… the Ministry is in pandemonium, you must understand, we need to prevent chaos from ensuing, make sure that the remaining Death Eaters are suppressed. I needed to ensure that Mr. Potter's, erm, family" – this last word was said with some difficulty – "was notified before all others with the correct story. I have done that. Hestia Jones and Dedalus Diggle will be arriving within the hour to transport you back to Privet Drive. If you'll just excuse me–"
"I'm assuming we weren't left anything, then?" said Dad gruffly, effectively stopping Kingsley in his tracks. Dudley felt a surge of anger at his rudeness, clenching his fists tightly. I can't believe this man is my father…
"Harry left his sizable fortune to the Weasleys," Kingsley said shortly, with a tight smile of satisfaction. "A written will was discovered in his pocket, as Harry knew his death was a very real possibility. The house he had inherited from his godfather is to go to Miss Hermione Granger. She and Ronald Weasley will likely marry, and the house shall be theirs."
Dad looked positively lethal. Dudley himself was surprised, though not in a bad way. Sizable fortune? Harry?
Kingsley made a motion to leave, standing up and straightening his robes. He was shaking his head sadly, turning on his heel, about to Apparate…
"—Mr. Shacklebolt!" Dudley anxiously blurted. He couldn't believe he had almost forgotten to ask. "When's Harry's funeral? I would like to…" he glared at his parents, who were staring at him as if they did not recognize him. "I mean… WE would like to go." He spoke pointedly and defiantly. Vernon opened his mouth as if to angrily object, immediately shutting it upon seeing Dudley's fierce expression.
If Kingsley was initially surprised, he hid it well. His voice was professional. He was preparing to leave and resume his work at the Ministry, and was obviously trying to reign in his emotions.
"It will be in three days' time, this coming Saturday at 9am on Hogwarts grounds. We are temporarily lifting all enchantments on the castle itself so Muggles will be able to see it, though it remains in quite a state of disrepair. It is the place Harry held most dear, the place he called home. It is only fitting that he be buried there. Transportation is being arranged for Muggles – and any wizards in need of it – related to or acquainted with Harry. Even supporters of Harry who never met him in person are welcome. Be at Platform 9 of King's Cross station by midnight Friday. The train will be equipped for an overnight stay, and will arrive precisely in time for the service."
Vernon finally found his voice. "All of that planning for the boy?" he said nastily, ugly sneer adorning his face.
Kingsley narrowed his eyes in anger. "You underestimate the impact that Harry has had on each and every witch and wizard. He was, and is, the most famous and beloved person among us. But this service is being done for all of those we lost during the War. The train will take relatives from all across Britain to whichever location their loved one is being buried, and runs for the entirety of this month. We are all uniting as one, and Harry has proven the main unifying force."
No answer would justify such a beautifully eloquent response. Dad wisely fell silent. Mum clasped his hand. But something still nagged at Dudley.
"I'm sorry," he said. "Just one more thing. You mentioned that you needed to let Harry's family know of what happened before anyone else. What about the Weasleys? You just said he left his money to them… The ones with all the red hair, right? Do they know? They're more of a family to him than we have ever been, aren't they?"
"Quite right, Dudley," Kingsley answered, looking sadder than ever. "Mr. and Mrs. Weasley considered Harry their son, their children saw him as their brother. Tragically, they do know of his death. They were there to witness it. They lost another one of their own that night, as well as some very dear friends. Harry was godfather to an infant boy who is now orphaned. His parents were important members of the Order, wonderfully brave people who I will miss terribly. Losses have been great. Harry's is the first funeral, and many more, scattered across different locations, will soon follow. The Weasleys remain at Hogwarts, and are currently aiding with its reconstruction and preparations for the service. If that is all, I really must be going."
Dudley nodded, choking back a new lump forming in his throat. "Who did they lose?" he asked.
"A son, named Fred. I believe you have met him before? One of the twins?"
Dudley nodded again, remembering the two identical laughing redheads who had dropped a toffee for him to eat. It had ended up growing his tongue to a length of several meters. He recalled choking and sputtering, though still glimpsing them disappear amongst green flames into the fireplace. He didn't know which of them had been Fred, but he felt the loss more acutely than he would have thought.
Kingsley gave him a small, sad smile, then spun on his heel and disappeared.
For a few moments, the living room was quiet. No one seemed to know what to say. It seemed, however, that Vernon could not hide his feelings for long.
"WHY DID YOU VOLUNTEER US FOR THAT FUNERAL, BOY? " Vernon had gotten to his feet, face turning beet red in anger. He let out a deep sigh upon seeing Dudley's stricken face, visibly deflating. "You know full well that a bunch of… of his lot will be there, right? Glaring? Judging us? God knows what he has told them, what stories he's crafted about us!"
"Nothing he might have told them could be worse than the truth," said Dudley confidently. "And, knowing Harry, he probably didn't say much about it at all." Dudley knew that he was right. Harry was not the type to complain, to share anything too personal. He could have bragged to Dudley a million times about all the stuff he had done, but he never had.
Mum had walked slowly over to his side. Dudley received a small jolt upon seeing that she was actually crying. She kneeled next to his chair, taking his hand in hers. "Popkin, he wouldn't want us to be there," she said softly. Was that regret Dudley heard in her voice?
"Mum, you were his mother's sister. We're supposed to be his family. What kind of people are we if we don't go? I CARE that he died. I want to hear more about his life. I NEED to. And so do you. Dad…," Dudley shook his head, laughing in disbelief. "YOU need to realize how wrong you've been all these years. You need to see who your nephew was. I think that's the best punishment possible. You'll never get those 16 years he lived with us back. None of us will. And, I SWEAR, I will NEVER speak to you again if you don't come."
Petunia burst into fresh sobs, though Dudley was unsure whether or not her tears were for Harry or caused by what he had just said. Vernon must have realized that Dudley was serious, because he just nodded. He had never been threatened like that before – he did love his son, and did not want to chance never seeing him again. He would have to put up with the stupid thing.
"All right then," said Dudley with a great sniff, rising from his chair. "It's settled."
Dudley was in a strange state the entire journey to Hogwarts. He lay in his cushy bed, which jostled just slightly with the movement of the train, unable to sleep. Thoughts jumped around in his head like popping corn… he hardly knew what to think about first.
They had briefly returned to Privet Drive after Kingsley's visit, all three of them eerily silent in the car (driven by teary Hestia, with Diggle as an unnecessary chaperone) and equally so upon arriving back at their immaculate house. Mum generally avoided looking at Dad, and Dudley was sure that he saw the man's stern face flash with hurt each time she removed her hand from his. Dudley had barely said anything to either of them since leaving the village. They had left for King's Cross on Friday night, as instructed, and had been met by a diminutive, poorly dressed wizard at Platform 9 – he had apparently been attempting to disguise himself as a Muggle. Rain boots, a women's jumper, and khaki shorts garnered some stares from the few others in the station at midnight, but Dudley was in no mood to laugh.
The eccentric fellow had gathered them to the side, stating they were the only Muggles slated to attend Harry Potter's service, but that one 'squib' – which he explained was a non-magical wizard or witch – would also be a part of their group. The squib had turned out to be batty old Mrs. Figg, which seemed to give Dad quite an unpleasant shock. She was clearly averse to speaking to any of them, and kept blowing her nose into a dirty handkerchief. This is just going to get more and more awkward, Dudley had thought.
Before the man could even explain how their tiny group would board the train, many more people had begun to file into the station, obviously wizards. Quite a few were crying. One little girl clutched a photo of Harry to her chest, not even attempting to hide the fact that it was moving, most unlike a standard photograph. Some carried gold and maroon banners imprinted with a lion. Dudley was unsure what this particular offering meant, but it was sure to be connected to Harry in some way. Almost all had been carrying a tribute of some kind – flowers, letters, wreaths, cards, even broomsticks…
Dudley had felt his mouth drop open. All of these people, just for Harry? He knew by now that his cousin had been famous, but this was simply amazing. He felt a deep, sharp pang in his gut – grief kept sneaking up on him like that. One by one, the people had disappeared into the bricks that separated Platforms 9 and 10. Dudley's heart skipped a beat each time, expecting the next person to hurt themselves by running into the wall too hard. But no one did. This process was somewhat staggered to avoid suspicion, though there were not enough other people in the station to take notice. Dad looked scared – Dudley had long suspected that magic of any sort terrified him – while Mum simply let out a series of small gasps.
At about 5 minutes until the stroke of midnight, their tiny guide had cleared his throat. "Ahem, well then. I am going to take each of you individually by side-along apparition to the other side of the wall, where you will depart from Platform 9 ¾. Generally speaking, wizards are strictly forbidden from transporting Muggles in this way, but these are special conditions…" He had then looked hesitantly at Vernon and Dudley, as if sizing up how their hefty weights would affect the process. He had said nothing of any reservations he may have had, but raised his eyebrows a bit dubiously.
Apparition had been the weirdest sensation Dudley had ever felt. It was like being squeezed into a small tube. He couldn't breathe, couldn't move, his ears were popping, his sweaty hand was surely going to slip from that of the strange wizard's… He stumbled a bit when his feet hit solid ground, but then he was there. It was just a normal platform, with a normal steaming train. The sign really does say 9 ¾… How bizarre…
The man had simply walked back through the brick wall to get the next member of the group. Within the minute, Dad, Mum, and Mrs. Figg had appeared next to him. Dad's face was priceless. He had been sputtering, redness quickly coloring his cheeks, eyes wide open and mad looking. Dudley had almost laughed, but found he could not bring himself to.
They had then solemnly boarded the train. Each compartment was equipped with two beds, located where the padded benches must once have been on either side of the small space. A deep navy curtain separated each side for privacy. Dudley was sharing his compartment with a silent Mrs. Figg, which suited him fine. He changed into his nightclothes and settled down onto the mattress, discovering quite immediately that the bed was hardly large enough to support his weight or girth. Dudley felt a wave of shame, resolving to be healthier from there on out. It had been the second promise he had ever made to himself. The first had been to make things better with Harry.
The train gave a particularly violent lurch, startling Dudley out of his recollections. He hadn't been asleep, just absorbed in his thoughts. Suddenly, something occurred to him. "Mrs. Figg?" he whispered. "Mrs. Figg, are you awake?"
He heard the springs shift in the bed behind the curtain, an early indication that she had heard him. There was a pregnant, uncomfortable pause. Dudley was starting to regret saying anything at all. Then–
"–What is it, boy?" she replied, slightly brashly.
"Just… did you know Harry well? Did he know you were an, erm, squib?"
There was a deep sigh from the other side of the compartment. "He didn't know who I was until the night you were both attacked by the Dementors in Little Whinging," she said. "But I had been keeping an eye on him for years, as requested by Albus Dumbledore."
Dumbledore. Dudley remembered him coming to their house, the floating glasses nudging them all in the head, his thinly veiled insults directed towards their treatment of Harry, his white beard, his mysteriously black, shriveled hand… Dudley decided he would have liked the man, and felt another pang of sadness knowing that he, too, had died.
"But why didn't – I mean, why did–" Dudley was unsure of how to ask his next question without being excessively rude. He felt a small swell of pride that he now cared about people's feelings, inwardly thanking Harry for his transformation.
"Why did Harry detest coming to my house?" Mrs. Figg finished for him with a laugh. "I could hardly have him enjoy himself, or I doubt your lovely parents would have desired he ever return," she explained. "That poor boy."
So that was why. It made sense, but did nothing to quench Dudley's lingering feelings of guilt and shame. "Why did you reveal yourself that night?"
"As I'm sure you remember, Harry was in a mountain of trouble for using magic. I had to ensure he safely reached home and stayed there before things became any worse. You, boy, were no easy load for him to carry," she said with a snort.
Dudley decided to ignore that last jab at his weight. He really had no right to be offended. "Why were the Demen- Dementors there anyway?" he asked, shuddering at the memory. "They weren't supposed to be, right?"
"Harry was somewhat of a joke in the eyes of the Ministry at that time. Constantly ridiculed in the papers, he was, for saying that Voldemort had come back. Even though the Diggory boy had died, no one wanted to believe him. I can only guess it was someone's attempt to discredit him even more, make him look like a liar. That Umbridge woman I met at the trial… ugh. I wouldn't be surprised if it were her."
Dudley hardly knew what to ask next. He couldn't believe what Harry had gone through, being hated by so many people, called a liar… he had a feeling that this information only scratched the surface of what had happened… Instead of broaching this complicated subject, his brain landed simply on "What trial?"
"The damned Ministry held a full criminal inquiry. Unheard of for a trivial thing such as underage magic. I myself testified as a witness, and I admit I have never been so scared. Those people are snakes, I say. Snakes. Didn't listen to a word he had to say. Probably jealous he could produce a Patronus at such a young age, I understand it's a complicated bit of magic. He'd been able to conjure one for years, so he said. I suppose the Dementors had a particularly nasty impact on him, being that they make you relive your worst memory… can only imagine what that would have been. Dumbledore, of course, saved the day."
They make you relive your worst memory… Dudley remembered seeing the faces of all the younger kids he had bullied, their cries as he hit them, the feeling that he was worthless, would never be happy again… He was actually glad, looking back, for the horrifying experience. It had been another incentive for him to change. What had Harry seen?
"Is that enough for now, young man?" said Mrs. Figg. Her tone towards him had become much more kind. Dudley heard her yawn loudly. "I don't know much more than that."
"Yeah… yes. Thank you, Mrs. Figg."
Dudley rolled over on his side. He was now more awake than ever. What else would he discover about Harry tomorrow?
Dudley stepped out of the train next morning, squinting as his weary eyes met the bright light of day. His stomach was churning unpleasantly. Nerves, not hunger, were the culprit. Rich hot cocoa accompanied by succulent pastries had been served that morning to each compartment, and Dudley had surprised himself by not eating more than a few bites. Mum was similarly pecking at her breakfast, staring unhappily at Dad as he positively inhaled his food.
"Eat, son!" he had grunted. "A growing boy needs a healthy diet!"
"I think my diet has been quite healthy enough, Dad," Dudley had spat. He could have sworn he saw Mum smile a bit. Silence had befallen the three of them since that moment, which Dudley preferred anyway.
His feet met the crisp green grass alongside the tracks, the morning sunlight briefly blinding him. He couldn't believe he was at Hogwarts. Dudley had always been a bit jealous of Harry and this magical school, and couldn't help but wish he were visiting under different circumstances. He gasped as the castle came into view. Or what remained of it. It rested in the near distance, on top of a great hill and situated next to a wide, gleaming lake. Hogwarts must have been grand before the Battle – it still commanded a deep sense of respect. Wide, gaping holes marred some of the walls. A few turrets had fallen over completely. But it was clear that its previous glory could be restored, especially, he thought, with the aid of magic.
He couldn't believe Harry had lived here. With a sinking of his stomach, he realized that Harry had also died here. Along with many others.
There seemed to be more people getting off the train than he remembered getting on in the first place. The crowd was immense. He heard at least three languages being spoken – was that French? Bulgarian? Dudley couldn't even begin to guess how Harry had known people from different countries. Sobs echoed all around him, but Dudley also caught a couple of smiles out of the corner of his eye. Heard snippets of laughter. The war was over, which had to provide a huge sense of joy and relief to these witches and wizards, but their hero was also gone. Emotions resultant from such a situation would be complex. Dudley couldn't help but think that Harry would have liked everyone to be happy. Isn't that what he died to ensure?
Mrs. Figg caught his eye and nodded to the horseless carriages up ahead. "They'll take us to the castle," she said.
"How in bloody hell…" he heard Dad whisper behind him. The group in front of him had just been carted away, no visible source responsible for the movement.
As they waited for the next available carriage, Dudley turned again to Mrs. Figg. "There's so many people here, I didn't know Harry was this famous…"
"Oh yes," said Mrs. Figg with a wistful smile. "Yes, he has been legendary since the day he received that scar. He has only gotten more and more famous as time has gone by. Couldn't seem to stop vanquishing Voldemort or his Death Eaters every year, you see… Many more people are already at the castle, however. Those that fought and stayed. This funeral will be even larger than Dumbledore's, I am sure."
Dudley looked over at his parents for their reaction. Dad's face was indiscernable, and he avoided Dudley's gaze. Mum was staring unabashedly at their surroundings, mouth open wide in amazement. Had she been jealous of her sister, as he had been secretly jealous of Harry? Dudley wondered. Was she thinking of her now, of Harry's mum?
They were soon able to board a carriage. A couple of unfamiliar wizards came on with them, followed by a harried Diggle and Hestia. "Only just came from Hogsmeade," Dedalus explained. "Beginning to restore the shops, remove concealment jinxes, repair enchantments, search out hiding Death Eaters… it has taken longer than we thought…" He continued to prattle incessantly, only a few things actually understood by Dudley.
He settled into the ride, the drone of Diggle's voice a sort of comforting, steadying background noise. Dudley was getting more and more nervous as they approached the castle. Should he be there at all? Was Mum right? Would Harry not have wanted him to come? How was he going to face Harry's friends?
The carriage finally came to a halt. They were beside a sprawling, beautiful lawn, situated in front of the lake he had seen in the distance. Hundreds of chairs had been set up around a center aisle lined with a brilliant gold carpet. Crimson roses had been artfully placed upon the first chair of each row, tied with a black ribbon. Towards the front, Dudley could just make out a black casket in front of a large monument.
He felt tears start to trickle down his face as he saw what surrounded the casket – a large, moving photo of Harry smiled down at the crowd, surrounded by various others.Is he riding a broomstick? Is that a DRAGON? Under his center portrait was one of him standing, beaming, next to who Dudley knew to be Ron Weasley and who he assumed was Hermione Granger. He smiled through his tears, glad that Harry had enjoyed moments of happiness.
Hestia turned to face the Dursleys. "I have been told by Headmaster McGonagall that you three are to sit in the second row, behind the Weasley family, Miss Granger, and a few of Harry's dearest friends," she explained.
Before any of them had a chance to protest this place of honor – Dudley felt it was surely not deserved – they were being herded to their proper seats. The closer they came to the front, the more devastated the people in each chair appeared. Some were sporting slings and cuts, and Dudley realized that they must have fought alongside his cousin. He nodded solemnly at each person he saw. All returned the respectful gesture, though Dudley was sure they had no idea who he was. He looked back at his parents, dismayed – but not surprised – that they were ignoring everybody completely. The monument had now come into greater focus. It was black marble, speckled with emerald flakes that Dudley knew represented the color of Harry's eyes. He could not yet read the inscription upon it, but made a note to look more closely after the service.
Dudley could now see three vacant chairs, which he knew must be theirs. He sat stiffly. The seat was a bit too small for him, but he would have to make do. Dad was having similar difficulty – Mum was being forced to sit upon only half of her chair, pressed against her husband, jaw clenched in apparent frustration. There was a woman a few rows back larger than Dudley had ever seen, not big in the way that he was, but in an entirely magical way… she needed three whole seats to herself… and was that a full giant that had just left the woods?
A haunting, beautiful song had begun to reverberate throughout the air. Dudley looked up to see a large, dark red bird soaring through the sky.
"I've always loved Fawkes," sighed a voice next to him. Dudley turned to his right, gaze met by a pale face and large blue eyes. "Dumbledore's phoenix," the girl explained upon seeing Dudley's confused face. "Very magical and intelligent creatures."
"Oh," said Dudley. "Yes, it's quite beautiful."
"I'm Luna Lovegood," she said dreamily. "Who are you?"
"Ahem. Dudley. Dudley Dursley." Before Luna could reply, Dudley, to his horror, heard someone curse in the row in front of him. Someone with red hair. The person turned around, furious expression upon his face. His eyes were red-rimmed, making it apparent that he had just been crying.
"Why. Are. You. HERE?" Ron's eyebrows were raised, jaw clenched. His gaze moved from Dudley to Mum and Dad, fury written on his features.
Dudley opened his mouth, but found that no sound would come out.
"Ron, please," said the girl next to him, placing her arm on his shoulders. She turned to look at Dudley, her face only slightly apologetic. Her face was beautiful, though tear tracks glistened upon her cheeks.
"No, Hermione! I'm sorry, but he can't just pretend that he and Harry were chummy now that he's…" Ron gave a sniff, wiping a tear from his eye. He breathed in deep, struggling to regain his composure. "Harry hated it there. It wasn't his home. They hid away while we fought… they didn't have to watch him die, watch him get hit by that curse, screaming… the blood…"
Hermione looked stricken, gazing around her to see of anyone had heard Ron's description. Dudley's stomach was in knots, he felt a fresh lump in his throat… Screaming? Blood?
"Ron, your mum… Ginny…" Hermione nodded towards the end of the row. A plump, redheaded woman had just begun sobbing into her husband's shoulder – Dudley recognized him, as he had blasted through their fireplace once – the surviving twin, George, was hugging her tightly around the middle. A redheaded girl, who must have been Ginny, was leaning into her father's other arm, shoulders shaking with her cries. Three older Weasley men, who Dudley didn't recognize, were sitting beside her, looking down at their clenched hands. An incredibly beautiful blonde woman was rubbing the back of the one with the longer hair, cooing softly into his ear.
Dad was looking decidedly more uncomfortable, and not just from the imperfect size of his chair. He seemed to be trying to disappear, to escape notice. Not exactly an easy feat, but no one was paying him much attention.
Ron frowned, face contorting in sadness. "I… I didn't mean… Hermione, I just… I can't…" He started to cry softly, face buried in his hands. Hermione kissed the top of his head.
"Listen, I know that I treated Harry horribly," began Dudley, voice quivering. "But… but… Harry saved my life. And I never really got a chance to thank him, to tell him sorry… I don't have an excuse for how I behaved, except really…" He glanced over at his parents, who avoided his gaze. "I never really knew any different," he stated lamely. Tears again began to trickle from his eyes. "I just w-wanted to f-find out m-more… more about him," he finished.
"I think that's quite nice," said Luna unexpectedly. She clasped Dudley's hand. "Harry would like that."
Dudley's shoulders slumped in relief.
"Yes, Luna," said Hermione, with a small smile. She took Ron's hand in hers, though he still looked unconvinced. "It's quite nice indeed."
The service, Dudley knew, was about to start. His watch had mysteriously stopped working, but it was obvious that less and less people were making their way to their seats. The murmurs were quieting down some. Dudley glanced over to the right, taking in the scenery, and noticed a white, marble tomb not far from where they were all sitting.
"Is that…" Dudley asked, pointing to the beautiful casket.
"Professor Dumbledore's tomb, yes," answered Hermione. Dudley nodded, swallowing hard. He didn't know much about Dumbledore, but it seemed right somehow that he and Harry would both be buried on Hogwarts grounds.
Heads had started to turn back, looking towards the top of the aisle. Dudley couldn't suppress a gasp when he saw why. He had assumed that Harry was in the casket… Ginny moaned Harry's name, burying her face further into her father's arm…
It was Hagrid – Dudley could never forget that name, not after the giant man had burst through the door of the cabin six years ago and given him a pig's tail – and he was carrying a small bundle wrapped in crimson and gold.
"He did the same for Dumbledore's funeral," whispered Luna sadly. Dudley noticed that even Dad's chin was quivering a bit.
Hagrid was trying hard to remain stoic, but great tears were soaking themselves into the fabric surrounding Harry's body. He carried Harry gingerly, with reverence, face contorted in absolute devastation. Fawkes the phoenix was crying his tune louder and more beautifully than ever. Everyone had fallen completely silent, letting only their sobs free.
He finally reached the casket, carefully lowering Harry's body inside and replacing the lid. An older woman with her hair in a tight bun stood and raised her wand in the air, a mass of gold and crimson flowers appearing to adorn the black marble. Hagrid wiped his eyes, blowing his nose loudly. Ron and Hermione rose unexpectedly out of their seats to give him a hug, their eyes freshly red as they sat back down. Hagrid settled into the first three vacant seats at the other side of the aisle. As he sat, a tiny wizard rose out of his chair, brushed off his robes, and approached the platform.
The wizard introduced himself, and then began speaking about Harry. He called him "The Boy Who Lived," "The Chosen One," "The Savior." He spoke of bravery and sacrifice, what he meant to the Wizarding world, how he endured countless hardships but never gave up on his mission to destroy "He Who Must Not Be Named." Dudley wondered why he didn't just say Voldemort, and could only assume that the name was an object of fear for most people. He then spoke about death, the peace that was offered by the afterlife… but Dudley knew this man had never known Harry, perhaps never even met him…
Finally, the time came for those who knew Harry to say a few words. Dudley looked around curiously, trying to spot who would choose to speak. A young man a few seats down rose out of his chair, taking a bit of paper out of his pocket and smoothing it out.
"Thank you, Neville," Ron said quietly as the boy passed the front row. Neville smiled a bit, nodding seriously down at Ron. He stood on the platform and began to speak.
"My name is Neville Longbottom," he said, gulping nervously. He looked out at the crowd, finally seeming to focus his gaze on the Weasleys in the front row.
"…And I'm not the best at public speaking," he shakily admitted. "I've never been the best at anything, really. Except maybe Herbology. Anyone can tell you that. People made fun of me. Gave up on me, y'know? But Harry… he never… he made me think I could do anything. He was always there, a shoulder to lean on. I couldn't believe it when I first met him – he was so famous, and I was the bumbling kid who lost a toad… and Harry just helped me look for him. So did you lot," he added, looking pointedly at Ron and Hermione.
"He went through so much every year, becoming more and more inseparable from Ron and Hermione. We all called them the Golden Trio, but only because they really were. They were the heroes of the school. Harry was always sneaking out at night with them to go on mysterious adventures," he said, smiling. "In fact, the first points I ever earned were for trying to stop them from leaving one night – they had just been caught, something involving a baby dragon –"
Hagrid gave a surprising guffaw from the crowd, making Dudley smile, though he wasn't entirely sure why the story was humorous, "…And Gryffindor was really behind in House points. Harry had made me feel brave – that was still the best Body-Bind curse I've seen, Hermione, especially from a first-year," he said with a small smile. Hermione put her head in her hands. "Anyway. Harry just made me feel accepted. We both knew what it felt like not to have parents. He was the first to find out that mine had been tortured into insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange."
There were a few surprised murmurs from the crowd, but Neville held strong. "I had kept it from everybody," Neville explained, "…but Harry helped me realize that I should be nothing but proud of them. I can never thank him enough for that." He gulped down a few fresh tears.
"We all know that Hogwarts was not our own this past year. Death Eaters were running everything, trying to get us to torture innocent first years, teaching us the Dark Arts, punishing anyone who didn't go along… I had always been the weak one, but with Harry gone, on the run with Ron and Hermione and looking for ways to defeat Voldemort," (the name caused a few shuddered gasps), "I knew that it was time for me to step up. Harry – well, Hermione really – had started a secret Defense group when Umbridge wasn't teaching us anything in fifth year: The DA, Dumbledore's Army. Harry was our teacher. He taught me to do things I never thought I could do."
Dudley noticed that Luna was smiling. "That was the first time I made real friends," she said quietly. Dudley wasn't sure how to respond.
"And now," Neville continued, "The time had come when I needed to stand up for myself, for everyone. To use what he taught me, and try as be as brave as he was. Though I still don't think that's possible," he added. "I was punished for it, but I resisted the Carrows. Other students rallied around me – we did it for Harry, and all of those the Ministry was after. We hid out in our private room, planning stealth attacks, waiting for news… When Harry returned the day of the Final Battle, I knew we would win. The last thing he told me was to 'kill the snake' – Voldemort's giant snake, that is – and Harry gave me the courage to do it. I thought he had… died… another time that night. We all did. Hagrid carried him out of the forest, and Voldemort told us it was over. I knew that was the right time – Gryffindor's sword fell out of the Sorting Hat…"
"He forgot to mention that Voldemort had set the hat, and his head, on fire," whispered Ron, to Dudley's shock.
"And I just did it," stated Neville. "I did it because he knew I could. Because Harry's heart beat for all of us. I still don't know exactly why it was important, but I do know that I always trusted anything Harry said.
"He was the greatest person I ever knew, and there's no way to overstate how big an impact he had on my life. On all of our lives. I'm going to miss him more than anything. I hope you finally find peace, Harry. I really do."
With that, Neville wiped his eyes, blinking to clear his tears. He laid his hand on the casket, pausing a moment with his eyes shut. A few muffled cries could be heard among the audience. Mum had started sobbing quietly onto her handkerchief. Dudley sat, completely stunned by some of the things he had heard. Harry had taught a secret group? He had 'died' another time that night? Neville sat back down, receiving appreciative pats on the back from fellow students.
Hermione began to smooth down her skirt nervously, clearing her throat and pulling a crisp sheet of paper out of her own pocket. "You'll be okay, Hermione," whispered Ron into her ear. "I love you." They shared a brief kiss, and Dudley looked away respectfully. Hermione walked to the front platform, clenching Mrs. Weasley's hand briefly as she passed the first row of chairs.
Hermione cleared her throat again, placing the paper on the podium in front of her. "As I guess most of you know by now," she began, "…my name is Hermione Granger. I've known Harry since my first day on the Hogwarts Express. I had read all about him in my books at home – as a Muggle-born, I wanted to educate myself on everything about the magical world – and remember being surprised at his kindness and modesty when I finally did meet him; mainly because he had no idea who he was or why he was famous. I guess you can say that we didn't quite, erm, get along, right away–" Hermione smiled directly at Ron, then continued.
"–But we became inseparable after Halloween in first year. You know, when Harry and Ron took on a mountain troll and saved my life." A few chuckles were elicited from the crowd. Was she joking about that? How big was a mountain troll, anyway?
"I could continue all day about what an absolutely great friend Harry was. How incredibly brave. How loyal. How selfless. That is, actually, what I would prefer to do. But I feel that some things about Harry's life need to be cleared up before any of these things are addressed – and I'm sure they will be addressed beautifully – by Ron." Hermione breathed in deeply, letting a few tears fall. "I… I'm sorry, I just… I still can't get over the fact that he's gone. This is hard for me," she said tearily. "But it needs to be done… for Harry. So many lies have been written about him that I just want everyone to know the truth."
What Hermione said next had Dudley riveted, eyes glued to the front platform. Hermione described impossible feats, things that Harry had accomplished – how could they all possibly be true? She described how a weakened Voldemort had been possessing the body of a teacher, how he had been trying to obtain a stone hidden in the school that would provide eternal life, how the three of them had gotten past a giant three-headed dog and a series of subsequent obstacles, how Harry had ended up alone, managing to defeat Voldemort for the first time…
She described Harry and Ron's escape from giant spiders, a diary possessed with Voldemort's soul, attacks on students, and Harry's rescue of Ginny Weasley from the Chamber of Secrets, accomplished by killing a Basilisk – a 60-foot long serpent – with the same sword that Neville had used to kill Voldemort's own snake... how only true bravery could pull the sword out of the hat…
The stories were intense. Absorbing. Hermione kept saying that she was only scratching the surface, but Dudley found it hard to believe there could possibly be more. Mum started crying again when it was finally explained how Lily Potter's love had kept Harry alive as a baby. Even Dad gave a sniff, quickly looking down at his hands. Hermione further told of how Harry had been forced to relive the deaths of his parents whenever Dementors were near, which is why he learned to conjure a Patronus at the age of 13… how he repelled over one hundred of them single-handedly… Dudley felt awful upon hearing this. He thought his experience with the Dementors had been bad – he couldn't believe what Harry had to experience in his life.
The spectacular picture of Harry with the dragon that was posted above the casket was finally explained when Hermione discussed the Triwizard Tournament of Harry's fourth year, how Harry was entered by a Death Eater who had been disguised as a teacher and wanted to kill him, how the school had then turned against Harry, thinking he was a cheater… (Ron pinched his nose at this point, shaking his head in shame, though Dudley did not know for sure why)… how Harry still managed to excel in all the tasks, but ended up being transported to a graveyard with Cedric Diggory, witnessing his death and Voldemort's resurrection. Harry had been tortured, even resisting Voldemort's Imperius Curse (though Dudley was stumped by what this meant, he was still impressed) and then forced to duel… Somehow, he had escaped…
She discussed how no one believed Harry about Voldemort's return... how Dolores Umbridge had come to the school, and how she had punished him with the blood quill... how he had held strong to his convictions and integrity... the founding of Dumbledore's Army, the students gathering together right under her nose... disturbing dream visions Harry had of his godfather being tortured that led to a Battle, visions planted there purposefully by Voldemort to lure him in, leading to his godfather's murder at the Ministry… Neville, Ginny and Luna had been there too...
She described how the world had finally discovered Harry and Dumbledore were right all along, about how he was then called "The Chosen One", about a very real prophecy – the reason Voldemort had gone after a baby Harry in the first place – that meant this nickname was true, that Harry was destined to be the one to kill Voldemort from the beginning… about something called Horcruxes, which the diary had been, dark objects created by murder that kept Voldemort alive… Dumbledore's death at the hands of Severus Snape, though he was truly on the light side (which Harry had wanted to address with his dying breath) and how the school – and Ministry – had been infiltrated by Death Eaters…
She detailed a bleak year on the run, living in a tent, going after the Horcruxes, something called the Deathly Hallows… how they were captured, and she was tortured, at Malfoy Manor... how they had infiltrated the Wizarding bank Gringotts to obtain a Horcrux, escaping miraculously on the back of a dragon... how Harry, having discovered he was the final Horcrux through Snape's memories – which explained his visions, and why his scar hurt him whenever Voldemort was near or experienced a powerful emotion – had given himself up to Voldemort, sacrificing himself but managing to survive the Killing Curse a second time; faking death so he could come back to the school as part of the victory procession…
She paused upon coming to the final duel, composing herself a bit. Hermione had done this a few times during particularly difficult moments of the retelling. She had been speaking for almost an hour, after all; her voice, already trembling with tears, was now also quite hoarse. Dudley admired her courage.
Finally, she concluded the tale. Harry had surprised Voldemort with his survival, appearing from under his invisibility cloak and initiating a duel. He had scared Voldemort with how much he knew, with the knowledge that the Elder Wand would not work for him – scared him so much that he had hit Harry with a devastating curse of his own invention. Harry had pretended to be healed, getting to his feet and continuing to fight. The Killing Curse again rebounded when their two spells met, the Elder Wand flying to its real master, and Voldemort had finally been killed. For good.
Though this was a funeral, cheers erupted amongst the crowd nonetheless at the detailing of Voldemort's death, cheers that also seemed to honor Harry's entire life. He had been truly extraordinary. The phoenix song continued to echo around the grounds. "I love you, Harry," Hermione said, placing her hand on his casket as Neville had done. She left the stage with a smile, but could not hold in an eruption of sobs as she found her seat. She folded into Ron, clutching him tightly, muffling her cries in his shirt. Tears dripped silently from his eyes and onto her hair.
Dudley looked at the picture of Harry's beaming face. He still couldn't believe how he had returned every summer as if nothing was different, as if he hadn't done all of these amazing things…
"I never knew," said Mum softly.
"We never asked," replied Dudley bitterly. "Why would he want to tell us anything?"
Dad said nothing. He had been quieter this entire day than Dudley had ever seen him.
It seemed to be Ron's turn to give his eulogy. He stood up, gently untangling himself from Hermione, and walked to the platform. His mother blew him a kiss as he approached the stage, placing both of her hands over her heart.
"That sounded loads more impressive hearing it put that way by Hermione than it seemed in person," began Ron lightly. "At least the bits with me in them." A few people in the crowd gave a small laugh. "Harry was… well, he was much more than my best mate. He was my brother. I've l-lost two b-brothers in this war," he said, swallowing down a lump in his throat. "Harry and Fred." Mrs. Weasley pulled George in close, as he had dissolved into fresh sobs upon remembering his twin.
"I've also lost friends… baby Teddy Lupin, orphaned on May 2, the day of the Battle of Hogwarts, will now never know his incredible parents or how great a person his godfather Harry Potter was. But Harry, and everyone else, all died to save us. To ensure that we'd be able to live freely. I admit that I feel some guilt at being here when he's gone… I've been a git loads of times to him and Hermione both… but Harry always forgave me. We had this unbreakable bond, the bond of family. The last thing he said…" Ron started crying briefly, taking a deep, steadying breath… "The l-last thing he said was… was… 'I love you all.' And I loved him too."
Dudley was crying freely now.
"To me, he wasn't the famous Harry Potter. He was just Harry. I remember how excited he was to see my house, to meet my family, to be part of the magical world. I remember him jumping on the back of that mountain troll and sticking his wand up its nose. I remember taking Dad's flying car and crashing it into the Whomping Willow, and how Harry had laughed when I showed him my snapped wand. I remember how confused Harry was around girls – he was more scared to ask a date to the Yule Ball than he was to take on the Hungarian Horntail." The crowd laughed, appreciating the lighter tone of Ron's words.
"I remember making up predictions for Divination together, late at night, sure we were going to fail, only to have Professor Trelawney use our homework as an example for the class and telling us to write even more for the following week. We made them crazier and crazier. Sorry, Professor!" he said, looking at an unseen figure in the crowd and smiling. "I remember him snogging my sister after we won the Quidditch Cup in sixth year. I was trying to look angry, but was secretly thrilled that he might become an official part of our family."
Ron looked over at Ginny. Dudley couldn't see her face, as he was sitting behind her, but she had unburied herself from Mr. Weasley's arm, listening attentively. "To me, he was more a legend for his Quidditch skills than he ever was for anything else. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but… no, not really. He was a spectacular flier. He just had the natural ability, just like his father was said to have had. I remember how McGonagall caught a glimpse of him catching Neville's Remembrall during first-year flying class, after Malfoy had taken to the air and thrown it. We thought Harry'd be in it deep, but she immediately recommended he be placed on the Gryffindor team as the youngest Seeker in a century. I remember how he almost swallowed the first Snitch he ever caught, and how in second year Lockhart accidentally removed all the bones in his arm after he was hit by a rogue Bludger...
I remember being terrified when he fell off his broom in third year after the Dementors came onto the field – more than 50 feet in the worst rainstorm in years – and how, when he woke up, his biggest concern was that his Nimbus 2000 had been smashed. I remember his surprised face when he was made Quidditch captain, like he was unsure if he could handle that much responsibility, even though he had been handling so much for so many years. I remember how he had urged me to try out for the team as Keeper, encouraging me even though I was bloody awful from the start." More laughs emerged from the audience. Dudley was enjoying hearing this, more fun, side of Harry's life.
"Harry was an extraordinary person for so many reasons. He was a better person than I think any of us really are, always willing to find the best in everyone. He even saved Malfoy's life in the Room of Requirement after Crabbe accidentally set that Fiendfyre… it almost killed us, and I was bloody angry at Harry in that moment, but it was the right thing to do. Harry always did the right thing."
Dudley thought of how Harry had saved his own life and quietly agreed with Ron. Harry had never wanted anything back in return.
"Harry, mate… I just want to say thank you for coming into my life, and for everything you've done for all of us. I'll never find a friend like you again. I hope you've been able to finally to meet your parents. I know I'll see you again one day. Goodbye." As Neville and Hermione had done before him, Ron rested his hand on the marble tomb. Dudley saw a few tears drop from Ron's long nose and onto the surface.
The tiny wizard who had initiated the service replaced Ron on the platform, instructing any with gifts to leave them alongside the casket. A quiet, orderly line was formed, mostly composed of admirers who had been sitting in the back rows. There were the maroon and gold banners Dudley had noticed in the station, which he now recognized as being the colors of Gryffindor. Letters, flowers, wreaths, all of which he had seen. But as Dudley took a closer look, he saw hand-drawn pictures. A miniature model of a dragon that looked like the one Harry had faced. Many had cut out the Prophet article proclaiming Voldemort's defeat and Harry's victory, placing them delicately on the ground next to the black marble.
As the line cleared, Dudley nodded a goodbye to the Weasleys and to Hermione, receiving a few smiles in return. He hadn't really expected them to want to talk to him… they had been nicer than he ever could have hoped. They were all gathering around a weeping Hagrid, the older woman with a bun patting the huge man on the back as way of comfort. He supposed they had all already had the opportunity to see the monument behind Harry's tomb during the time they had been at Hogwarts, but Dudley wanted to take a closer look. Mum came with him, but Dad – predictably – hung back.
The monument was smooth, shaped like an obelisk and approximately ten feet tall. The green glints in the stone shone brilliantly in the sun, remarkably like Harry's own eyes. He walked around to the opposite end, as the front was still relatively crowded with people, and was surprised to see that this side was a dedication of the Battle itself, all the names of the fallen – including Harry's again – listed in alphabetical order.
THE BATTLE OF HOGWARTS
END OF THE SECOND WIZARDING WAR
MAY 2, 1998
GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN
…The top of the memorial proclaimed. Dozens of names were listed underneath, more than Dudley had ever expected. He peered around the great stone, seeing if the space in front of Harry's casket had cleared enough to pass through. It had. Dudley beckoned his mum, walking to the side on which Harry's epitaph would surely be found. Tears stung his eyes upon seeing his cousin's name inscribed on a headstone.
HARRY JAMES POTTER
JULY 31, 1980 – MAY 2, 1998
THE BOY WHO LOVED
"To the well-organized mind, death is
but the next great adventure." – Albus Dumbledore
Great adventure. The words rang in Dudley's mind. He smiled – from the stories he had just heard, this fit Harry to a tee. Perhaps Harry was having another of his famous adventures at this very moment… who knew what was possible? Dudley looked back at his parents. Mum had walked back over to stand next to Dad, though she hadn't grasped his hand. Maybe it was time that Dudley had his own adventure, did something new. Got away. Fawkes' cry echoed again overhead, and Dudley felt his heart lift. He wiped away his remaining tears.
Thank you for everything, Harry.
I think, as a whole (barring grad school papers, of course) this has been one of the longest things I have ever written. It took AGES. AGES, I say! And all I ask from you are some lovely reviews... just push the purple button and type asdklfhadklfhnlsdf for all I care, at least it's something. :) Or, you know, write something a bit more creative. Maybe. THANK YOU FOR READING!