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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 1: Year 1: The First Day
Dawn was coming. The first rays of morning light from the sun that was just rising at the horizon of the Black Lake could be spotted, and the sky above the Forbidden Forest had taken a a slightly pink colour. Everything was still on the grounds around Hogwarts. Given how early in the morning it was, that was not unusual, but it seemed to be a particularly quiet morning. No sound could be heard, not even from the Forbidden Forest. Hagrid's cabin, located in its outskirts, appeared to be empty. There were no signs of the light that would normally flicker from inside his windows.
If you would turn towards the Hogwarts castle instead, the word 'still' would not be the first one to enter your mind. The castle bore evidence of the horrible battle that had taken place there, and had ended just hours ago. The stone walls and towers that were so stately and grand in memory were half-ruined, damaged and full of holes in reality. The stairway leading up to the great entrance had almost been shot to pieces.
The inside of the castle was even worse. Apart from pieces of metal the floors were covered in what looked like a rockslide, dust, blood and shattered glass. The canvasses of many of the pantings that had hung on those walls for ages had been torn, and not a single one of the painted figures seemed to have stayed in their frames. Hence, it was as silent in the corridors as on the grounds outside.
The only thing breaking the silence was the muffled sound of voices, coming from the other side of the big door leading into the Great Hall. It was in there that the people had gathered.
Just inside the door was Madam Pomfrey, crouching beside a young woman whose face was so injured it was impossible to tell who she was. Two other girls were sitting next to her, holding her hands while tears streamed down their dirty, wounded cheeks. An old, white-haired woman was standing a few yards away with both her hands on her grandson's shoulders. The young man - Neville Longbottom - looked exhausted, but anyone could see the joy in his face as he listened to his grandmother's encouraging, proud words. He held one hand tightly around the arm of a blonde girl with a slightly muddled look on her face. A man with the same hair colour was just making his way through the crowd of people while calling her name: "Luna! My Luna, where are you?"
By the end of what had once been the Gryffindor table stood the Weasley family. Molly Weasley was bending over the lifeless body of her son Fred, still unable to make a sound. Her husband, Arthur, was kneeling next to Fred's head, with one hand on his son's cold forehead and the other on his wife's back. They were both crying silently.
George was holding his twin's hand while looking up at the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. Usually, it would be as pink as the sky outside, but that morning, it was pitch black. Charlie was holding both his arms around his little sister Ginny, who was sobbing with her face pressed against his chest. Percy held one arm around Ron's shoulder and the other was gripping his arm, and Bill and Fleur sought comfort in each other's embrace. All of their faces reflecred the same thing: grief. Grief over a lost family member, a lost son and a lost brother.
Harry and Hermione, trying not to intrude on this intimate family moment, stood a few yards away with Professor McGonnagall and Kingsley. Both McGonnagall and Hermione were crying, and Harry's eyes too were full of tears. Of course, he could not help but feel a twinge of guilt when he looked at the Weasley family and their painfully grieving faces. If only he could have done more. If only he could have stopped Voldemort earlier, incapacitate that one Death Eather whose explosion had killed Fred... Then, Harry thought, Ginny wouldn't have felt this pain. When she lifted her face from Charlie's chest, Harry felt as if someone had shot him in the stomach. He would have done anything to take away the pain that was reflected in her eyes; the pain, that was also in the shrunken, devastated position of the woman who was the closest thing he had ever had to a mother; and in the pale face of her husband, who had welcomed Harry into his family with open arms and always made him feel as though he belonged there.
Harry forced himself to look away, did not let his eyes pause on his best friend but still couldn't block out the thoughts: Ron, who had been his first friend in the world and been by his side ever since, had lost his brother, and somehow Harry couldn't help but feel it was his fault. But instead of looking at Ron and feeling all of it, which he knew would be too much to bear, he let his eyes sweep around the Great Hall and they found Andromeda Tonks, who was just walking through the doors. She was holding a blue-haired baby in her arms, and Harry felt another twinge of guilt at the sight of him. Tonks and Lupin, the child's parents, were both dead. The little boy was in the same position that Harry had been many years earlier: having lost both his parents at the hands of Lord Voldemort before he had even had the chance to get to know them. Harry wouldn't wish it on anyone, and he felt a wave of compassion when he saw the baby reaching for Andromeda's grey, lank locks with his tiny hand. Like Luna Lovegood's father had done just minutes ago, she instantly began looking for her daughter's face in the crowd, mumbling something to her grandson as her head turned from one side to another. Again, Harry looked away. He didn't think he would be able to watch when she learned that her daughter was not in the Great Hall, for some of the professors had started to bring the bodies into a nearby classroom, and Nymphadora Tonks had been placed in the front of Flitwick's old desk, side by side with her husband, together even in death.
Harry lifted his head at hearing his name. The boy standing in front of him was none other than Dennis Creevey, Colin's younger brother. The memory of Colin's tall, lanky body and empty stare made Harry shudder. Hermione, who managed to get herself together before him, quickly stepped forwards gave Dennis a hug.
"I'm so sorry about your brother," she told him, and Dennis nodded and turned to Harry. His lips were shaking as he opened them to speak.
"You were always his hero," he said, and even his voice was trembling. "I... I can see why. Th- thank you."
Harry teared up. He didn't feel as though he deserved any grattitude and didn't know how to respond. But Dennis kept looking at him, waiting for an answer. His eyes were red-rimmed and swollen from crying - that seemed to be the look of most people's eyes at the time.
"You... you want to thank me?" Harry finally said.
Dennis' eyes had begun to fill with tears again, and Hermione stepped forward to grab his arm, as if she was expecting him to fall. "I... er... I have to write to our parents," Dennis whispered. "I have to tell them about... about what happened..."
Harry could feel the tears well up in his own eyes as he reached out his arms and pulled the younger boy into a hug. "I wish I could have done more for Colin," he said. "I'm so sorry..."
"You ended it," Dennis said. "Colin always said you would."
They let go of each other, and he pushed the corners of his mouth up into some kind of encouraging smile before he turned and walked away, tears still streaming down his hollow cheeks. As he left Harry's now blurry visual field, Professor McGonnagall stepped into it.
"Is there anything you want to say?" she asked. "To everyone in here."
Harry hesitated for a moment before he nodded. He followed her up to the elevated section of the hall where the teachers' table usually stood. McGonnagall stopped on the spot where Dumbledore had stood in every single one of Harry's school years to welcome the students back. The memory felt blindingly bright, especially compared to the dark, enchanted sky that was the ceiling of the Great Hall.
Professor McGonnagall pointed her wand to her throat, which raised the volume of her voice to the point where it reached ever corner of the hall when she opened her mouth and said:
"I'm afraid I don't quite know what to say in a time like this." Her words made Mrs Weasley lift her head up for the first time in hours. "Many of us remember the end of the last war... But so many of you would have been too young to... I look around and I see that you're still too young. And I see that Hogwarts has taken its turns, but the dormitories are open for anyone who wishes to stay tonight. We will build this school up again, and any help we can get in reconstruction will be warmly welcome. With that said, I would like to leave the word to Harry Potter."
What little murmur might still have been heard when Professor McGonnagall spoke stopped abruptly when Harry stepped forward, took a deep breath and started speaking.
"I...Um - I would like to thank everyone here," he said. "And especially those who lost their lives. I don't want to make any of them more important than the others, but... Remus Lupin was the best teacher I ever had." He stopped and looked over at Professor McGonnagall. She waved her hand dismissivley and he continued: "He was also one of my parents' best friends. His wife, Tonks... she died too." His searched for a blue-haired little baby in the crowd but couldn't see it. Perhaps they were in the other classroom, kneeling down next to Lupin and Tonks. "She was a hero," Harry continued, "they both were. And that's what we will tell their son Teddy when he's old enough to understand it.
Fred Weasley... a good friend, a brother, a son... a troublemaker." Harrys made a paus and looked at Professor McGonnagall, who smiled. As did Fred's entire family, apart from Molly. She had got up on her feet and was now watching Harry, her lower lip shaking as she reached for Mr Weasley's hand.
"Their... we'll never forget the sacrifices they made," Harry said. "None of this will ever be forgotten. And, er... we will rebuild Hogwarts again."
He didn't know what to say next. He had never been a great speaker, so much unlike the man who usually stood where Harry stood. Dumbledore had possessed both the gift of speaking and an incredible wisdom that Harry could only dream of.
"We will rebuild it," Harry finished off, "together."
Gryffindor's common room was almost completely intact. "It's not like the Death Eaters had the password, is it?" had the Fat Lady said when swinging open to let the Weasley family, Harry and Hermione in. After the house-elves, who had returned in the morning, had provided them all with food, most of the people had accepted Professor McGonnagall's offer to stay at the castle. Hence, the common room was crowded. Harry had just managed to escape a group of thankful parents who wanted to shake his hand and congratulate him, and he was now making his way towards Ginny. She was sitting on one of the armrests of the chair that Mr Weasley sat in, listening inattentivley to what her father was saying. Mr Weasley stopped talking when Harry approached them and Ginny looked up.
"Harry." Her voice didn't sound quite the way it used to.
"Excuse me, Mr Weasley," Harry said. "But do you think I could borrow Ginny for a moment?"
With her father's permission Ginny stood up and followed Harry. He hesitated before grabbing her arm and pulling her up the stairs to the boys' dormitory to get away from all the people downstairs. He thought he heard Charlie say: "Dad, did you really just give Harry permission to bring Ginny to his dormitory?", but ignored it. As soon as he had entered the room he had used to live in with Ron and their other roommates, he stopped and turned around.
Ginny had stopped in the doorway. She stood there in silence, just watching him.
"Ginny," he said and took a step in her direction.
She reached out and grabbed both his hands. "I thought you were dead," she mumbled while a wrinkle formed on her forehead, "and I could only think of all the things I wanted to tell you." She stopped and looked into his eyes - it seemed she would never get used to how intensely green they really were. "And now I just... I don't know what to say. I mean, what can we say about any of this? It's all too much." She paused and took a deep breath. "I love you."
"I love you too," Harry said.
The words had barely left his mouth before she kissed him. He wrapped both his arms around her, pulling her as close as he could, and it was in that moment that it finally hit him. The war was over. Voldemort was dead. And now he could have the future with Ginny that he had been able to imagine before, since he had never been able to see past his destiny of having to defeat Voldemort. He had never counted on surviving. But here he was, alive - very much so. He could feel the life in every cell of his body as Ginny kissed him, stronger than ever before.
Hermione was sitting in the common room, crawled up next to one of the windows that overlooked the lake. She was completely overwhelmed with feelings and had felt the need to just be alone for a while. Besides, Harry - the only one she felt like talking to right now - had disappeared with Ginny, and she couldn't help but feel alone. Ron had barely looked at her since learning the news about Fred, and she couldn't blame him. Merlin knew he had other things to worry about, and he had every right to. She didn't want to intrude on his family, whom she felt deserved to be alone with their grief. She mourned Fred's death as well, but she wasn't the one who had lost her brother, that was Ron and all of his siblings. Mr and Mrs Weasley were the ones who had lost their son.
Another thing that burdened Hermione was the thought of her own parents. All she knew was that they were somewhere in Australia, not even knowing that they had a daughter. They didn't even know their own names. She had managed to deal with this thought throughout the entire year that had just passed, but now that it was all over, she wanted nothing more than to lie in her mother's arms the way she had always done as a little girl. She longed to feel her father's soft hand stroaking her hair and hear him mumble that everything was going to be alright.
It was now, when it was all over, that it hit her all at once. The panic at Bill and Fleur's wedding, when it all started, the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic, the break-in at Gringotts and that horrible torture at Malfoy Manor. She shivered at the memory of Bellatrix Lestrange's scornful laughter as she watched Hermione writhe in agony. No, she thought to herself, don't even go there.
"Hermione, are you okay?"
She turned her eyes away from the blue sky and realized that Neville was standing next to her. He looked very concerned, and Hermione was suddenly filled with warmth.
"I was just thinking about everything that has happened this year," she said. "I guess it's just hitting me now."
Neville nodded, while making a gesture with his hand to the empty seat next to her. "Do you mind if I sit down?"
"Of course not!"
Hermione smiled, and Neville sat down next to her. He pulled his knees up to his chin and looked out at the lake, which was now bathing in sunlight.
"Can you believe that he's really gone?" he asked. "You-Know-Who."
"Barely," Hermione said. "But even with him gone, he still has some followers out there, right? I mean, they probably didn't capture them all. They probably don't even know all of them!" She couldn't help but shiver. At least she was dead, she thought to herself, thanks to Mrs Weasley. Hermione tried not to imagine Bellatrix's derisive laughter again.
"Probably not," Neville agreed.
Hermione looked over at his grandmother, who had fallen asleep in one of the scarlet red chairs nearby. "You did amazing, Neville. Not that I'm surprised, but if it hadn't been for you..."
She didn't have to finish the sentence for Neville's face to light up. He looked so happy that Hermione couldn't stop from grinning widely herself. It was nice to see pure joy in someone's eyes after seeing nothing but fear and grief for much too long.
As Ron entered the Great Hall that evening to have dinner he stopped, like many others around him, and looked at his surroundings with surprise. He was once again standing in a beautifully decorated hall, with four long tables full of food. The enchanted sky was now dark blue, and every visible sign of the battle was gone. The house-elves must have worked really hard all day, he thought, because a real feast had been laid out at the tables. Ron hadn't eaten a thing all day and it wasn't until he saw all the food that he realized just how hungry he was. Spotting Bill, Fleur, Seamus Finnigan and Percy at the Gryffindor table, he hurried over to sit with them. They made room for him, and he dived into the plates of delicious food without hesitating.
"Eet is nice to see that 'as not changed," Fleur said when she saw his appetite, making the others laugh.
Ron swallowed the chicken he had pressed into his mouth by taking a sip of pumpkin juice and rolled his eyes at his sister-in-law. Percy placed a hand on his little brother's shoulder.
"I have to agree with her," he said.
Ron chose not to comment on it and Percy let his eyes wander around the Great Hall. He stiffened when he saw a familiar face in the crowd. "Audrey?"
The woman - a skinny, brown-haired beauty dressed in what could have been a tent - turned her face to him. "Percy?" She smiled and walked over to him.
It wasn't until she had sat down next to him that Percy noticed the gaping wound on her lower arm. He reached over and grabbed it.
"Oh, God," he said, his voice streaked with worry.
"It's not that bad," Audrey assured him. "Madam Pomfrey told me that since it was caused by black magic, her potion won't work. It will heal in time. Who are these people? More Weasleys, I imagine."
"Oh, how rude of me!" Percy said. "My eldest brother, Bill, and his wife Fleur. My youngest brother, Ron. And Seamus, a friend of his. Everyone, meet Audrey. She's a colleague from the Ministry."
"I hope you're not the same as Perce was," Ron said as he shook her hand, completely ignoring Percy, who cleared his throat again and again. "I mean, brainwashed by Fudge and all that."
Much to Percy's relief, Audrey laughed. She then dove into an intense coversation with Ron and Fleur, and Percy leaned back and watched her in profile. She was even more beautiful now, with her hair in a loose braid and clothes that were too big for her, than at work where she would look both neater and more well-groomed. They had become good friends over the last month, and he really enjoyed her company.
"And then Percy told Umbridge to shut up?" said Ron doubtfully.
"It's true!" Audrey said. "He was very brave, went on and on about how every Muggle-born he had ever met was to prefer over her..."
"... the old toad," Percy filled in. "She really looks like one, don't you think?"
"You said that?" Ron still sounded doubtful and Percy laughed.
"I swear," he said.
Ron shook his head, as if he still couldn't believe it. "That's incredible," he said. "I guess you are a Weasley after all!"
"Reparo." With a wave of her wand Ginny made the pieces of shattered glass, which covered the classroom in which they used to have transfiguration class, fly up, put themselves together and rebuild the first window. She admired her work for a few seconds before moving on to the rest of them. She was alone - most of the others had gone to the Astronomy tower after dinner, since it had completely fallen apart and would need the most profound restoring. After being surrounded by her family, Harry and Hermione constantly for the last twenty four hours, she appreciated a moment to herself. The only sound that could be heard was the clinking of the glass as the pieces searched for their match. It was like a puzzle, she thought while following their quick, impregnable movements with her eyes. Outside the windows, it was darkening again. Ginny coudln't help but wish it wouldn't. She was more exhausted than she had been in her life, but the idea of lying down in the dark and trying to sleep terrified her. She didn't look forward to giving her thoughts that much time and space to spin around in her head, not this soon.
"Gin?" She looked up and realized that George was standing in the doorway to the classroom. "Would you mind if I join you?"
"Not at all!"
Ginny was surprised, but it was true. Just a few minutes earlier she had enjoyed her alone time, but George hadn't talked much at all that day, and she was happy to see him reaching out to her.
"Do you know what my first thought was?" George asked while casting spells around him that scrubbed the blood of the desks. "When I saw him?" He froze and looked at Ginny, who shook her head. "The first thing I thought of was the shop. The shop!" He shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he had just said.
Ginny put her wand in the inside pocket of her robes and walked over to her brother. She stopped in front of him, grabbed his shoulders and looked him in the eye.
"It doesn't mean anything," she told him. "It doesn't mean that you love him any less. It doesn't change the fact that you were closer to him than anyone else. And it wouldn't change how much he loves you back."
George watched her for a couple of seconds without reacting, letting her words sink in. Then he burst into tears. Ginny was pretty sure it was the first time she had cried since Fred's death, and she hugged him tightly. For some reason she had always been closer to the twins out of all her brothers. It was probably because she had appreciated their humor and pranks more than anyone, and they had spared her from their worst tricks and sprees - Ron and Percy had always had to suffer the most. Ginny remembered being around five years old and convincing Fred and George to let her fly on a broomstick for the first time. Mr Weasley had almost passed out when he had seen her broken nose, and Mrs Weasley had sent the boys to their room without dinner. But the twins had always been there for Ginny, no matter the consequences - not that they ever cared about the implications of breaking rules, but still.
"I don't... I can't imagine it," George whispered now, and they both sank to the floor, their backs against the cold stone wall. "Having to live without him."
Ginny closed her eyes, tears burning behind her eyelids as she grabbed her brother's hand and squeezed it tightly. "Me neither," she said. "I have absolutely no idea."
Author's Note: It would make me really happy if you reviewed this chapter! English is not my first language, but if there are any language errors, be sure to let me know!