I just gotten word, and I needed to see my wife. I quickly rushed back to the Minister’s office suite from the canteen where I was sitting with James and Tonks. She was just back to work this week, from her medical leave, and we were killing time, waiting for court. We’d both left our robes in his office, hoping that in street clothes we’d draw less attention to ourselves.
“Go on in, she’s been in there since she got here this morning,” Cedric said to me, sounding a bit concerned. I opened the door to Anwen’s office, and I found her, sitting at the end of the table she used as a desk, with a small wooden box in front of her. The case was ornately carved and lined in deep purple velvet, cushioning and containing small phials, which appeared to contain memories. I slowed my footsteps as I neared her, not wanting to disturb her; as she appeared deep in thought.
“I take it you heard the news?” she asked me, not taking her eyes from the box.
“I did, we were sitting downstairs, waiting to see what would happen. Did he really take a plea?” I asked her, still somewhat shocked and surprised.
“Yes,” she said as she nodded. “150 years, no chance for parole. If he doesn’t die in prison, he will be near death when he gets out.”
“You don’t seem happy, Anwen,” I questioned her, and I could hear her stop and take a deep cleaning breath.
“Happy, no. Thankful, relieved, overwhelmed and more, yes. I’ve been trying to put him into prison for 15 years, Sirius. I can’t...” she faltered, her voice cracking as she spoke. “I can’t believe that it’s over.”
I watched as my usually strong wife just started weeping, her shoulders rolling forward as she wept. I was immediately at her side, picking her up and holding her as she cried, settling us down on the couch. Lucius Malfoy had entered into a plea agreement this morning, clearly unhappy with the way that his trial was progressing, and able to see the writing on the wall. In response, my Anwen just cried and cried, cleansing her body of the memories and pain that she had carried for years. When she finally stopped, I asked her about the box.
“Those are the memories of the girls that I had interviewed, after he had attacked them. I’ve kept them all these years, one set in my office and another in the family vault. Targnof was under strict orders that if I were to die, he was to get them to the Auror office immediately, preferably to Kingsley or Tonks. I didn’t want what they had gone through to be forgotten,” she explained to me. “I never forgot them, Sirius.”
“I know you didn’t love, I know you didn’t,” I told her, remembering the nights that she had awoken in a cold sweat, terrified; I too, not forgetting how hard it was for her after Ginny was attacked and after watching Harry being cursed by Voldemort. She never had to tell me, but I always knew it was there. These girls were never far from my Winnie’s mind and heart. “What happens now?”
“The Minister is personally handling his plea arrangements, that’s why he called me in so early this morning. I asked him to make Malfoy have to sit in the court room, and listen while all of his crimes are read aloud. Then the victims or the families of his victims will get to present a statement about what he did to their lives. He has to sit there and listen to them,” she told me, sounding hard and angry. This may indeed be justice, but I couldn’t help but think that she was exacting a small amount of vengeance in there as well. “He will also have to clear his son’s name, taking responsibility for those things that he forced Draco to do.”
“That’s good, I never got the feeling that he was as bad as his father,” I told her and I could feel Anwen nod against me.
“I don’t believe that he is; in fact, we’ve got evidence that last year, at Hogwarts, he tried to stop the abuses that were going on. More than one student has come forward to say that he rescued them from the Carrows or from the other junior Death Eaters within the building. I think that they’re going to add him to the awards ceremony for this weekend,” she whispered to me.
“Really?” I questioned her, somewhat shocked. “I didn’t know that he had it in him,” I stammered out, shocked by this turn of events.
“I think that it might have been the influence of Severus on him. The Minister was going to call on Ginny and Neville, see if they can corroborate the stories that we’ve gotten, but the students whose accounts they’re going on have nothing to gain from telling us anything but the truth, so...Andromeda was right, there was someone worth saving in that family, she just had the wrong generation,” Anwen whispered. She sounded so hollow and weak right now, I just wanted to take her away from all of this.
“Do you need to stay?” I asked her and she nodded.
“I have to sign off on the plea when King is done with it, and then I need to sign the orders that we will be suspending open court until September 14. The Minister wants to give us a couple of weeks to get settled into teaching at Hogwarts before we resume the trials. We’re moving through them quite quickly,” she said what I already knew to be true.
I looked at my wife, and she was staring at the box again, her face wistful and contemplative. “Anwen, love, you never gave up on those girls. You remembered them, and you did everything that you could to bring him to justice, and you’ve done it. What he did to them will be remembered and no one will ever get away with it again,” I told her.
“Sirius, I want to believe you...” she started, but I knew that there was a ‘but’ in there. “I feel like we’ve been in this dark forest, and it was so overgrown that we’d lost the path and the thicket had grown up and nearly swallowed us; and we’re finally moving from it, and I can see the edge, but I don’t know that we’re going to make it. I keep waiting for something to appear and drag us back there, into the darkness and the terror. I’m so afraid to believe that it’s really over,” she confessed, although I had suspected this for a while.
“Anwen, my sweet, sweet little one, there’s nothing left lurking in the dark; I promise. You’ve been haunted by this since you were seventeen. You’ve been fighting the darkness your whole life, but I swear that there is nothing left to go bump in the night. We go home, and our little children and their bright smiles are all that is left to greet us. You’re overwhelmed by it all, why don’t you rest, and when Kingsley gets here, I’ll wake you. I’ll hold you and guard you so that the monsters of your nightmares can’t get to you, all right?” I told her, caressing her back as I spoke to her. She nodded her head at me and stood up, removing her formal robes, revealing the soft, loose sundress that she had on underneath them. I was again struck at just how thin she was still looking, and I wondered if she would ever look healthy again.
I settled myself against the arm of the couch, stretching out my legs. Anwen sat down and I heard the hiss as she released her leg from the attachments. “It’s really very uncomfortable,” she told me. Then, using her arms and good leg, settled herself between my legs, and laid herself down, using my lap as a pillow. I wrapped my arms around her, and brought my leg over her, completely surrounding her little body with mine. I felt as she succumbed to sleep, and I prayed that it would be her first of many, that would be completely free of nightmares about girls being attacked and bitten by snakes.
“I can’t believe that there are robes this small,” Lily said, as she was helping to dress Stella. It was nine-fifteen in the morning and everyone was at their house and getting ready for the ceremony today. The Weasleys had come over and spent the night, as well as Andromeda. We’d had a wonderful family dinner, the table having to be stretched and enchanted to fit us all. The flaw in the plan, was that there would now be many, many people trying to get ready and out of the house by eleven.
“They are awfully tiny,” I commented. “I couldn’t believe that we had to go and buy six itty bitty sets of dress robes, but...well you know,” I told her. It was requested that all the family members of the people receiving awards be dressed formally. That meant that the ten small Potter, Black and Lupin children would be in dress robes.
“Will Bastien be there?” she asked me and I nodded at her. I was sitting watching Lily, still somewhat lightheaded from my morning potions. I don’t think that my body will ever get used to these...
“He will. Sirius had dinner with him about a week ago, and he and Draco are coming together. I got the feeling from talking with him that it hasn’t been very enjoyable at Malfoy Manor. Draco doesn’t really like Pansy, but they’re being forced into a marriage due to his betrothal to her, and her being pregnant. I think that Bastien is looking forward to school starting,” I told her and she smiled at me, lifting little Stella up and handing her to me. My little girl had gone through her second change recently, and I had handled it better this time. “Lil, where is Sirius? For that matter, has anyone seen my father?”
“They’re around here somewhere. I bet he went running through the forest to clear his head, it’s quite something to know that you’re going to receive the Order of Merlin, as is your wife and, oh yeah, your wife is being knighted by the Queen for services to the crown,” she teased me. Harry and I were both receiving special awards from the Queen, as well as several international delegations before the formal ceremony this afternoon. This was why everyone had stayed at Potter Manor last night. The only floo that would be open this morning into the Ministry of Magic was the one into the Executive Suite. It was a very private ceremony and luncheon this morning; the more public affair was at 2:30 this afternoon.
“Well, give me that little girl, and you finish getting yourself ready. You and Harry need to be at the Ministry in twenty minutes. There are enough women here to make sure that your husband and children are presentable, Anwen. Don’t worry about it,” she said, reaching for Stella. I kissed my littlest daughter on the forehead, and watched as she was whisked away by my best friend. I suddenly felt very alone in such a large and busy house.
I pulled my wand from my pocket, and summoned the small mirror that I kept on my dresser so that I could check myself one final time. I had purchased dark blue dress robes to wear for the ceremony this afternoon, complete with the Black family crest on one arm and the Minister’s personal crest on the other; but for the one this morning, I had on a simple black dress with the ornate red stole for the Order of the British Empire. My wedding necklace fit perfectly with the dress and stole, and the only other jewelry that I had worn were my rings, my bracelet and a pair of tear drop ruby earrings that I had found in the family vault a few years ago.
I heard a gentle knock at the door, and I lifted my head to see my nephew standing there, also in a well fitting black suit and the ornate red stole. He looked about as comfortable as I felt. “Mum’s pestering me about leaving. She doesn’t want us to be late, even though we have to be there an hour before everyone else. You ready to go?”
“I guess,” I told him honestly. “I had hoped to see my husband before I left. Have you seen him?”
Harry shook his head at me. “He and Dad headed off somewhere this morning,” he told me, and I guessed that Lily was right, that he had gone off for a run.
“He’s not really open to me right now,” I told him, trying to reach my husband through our binding. “Oh well, I guess that we should be heading out then. Hand up here, young man?” I asked him, and Harry walked into the room and offered me both of his hands, and I gingerly stood up. I wobbled once I was on my feet, and had to fight off the wave of nausea and dizziness that attacked me.
“You okay there Aunt Winnie?”
“Fine, fine, Harry,” I brushed him off. I was resigning myself to the state that my body would be in as a result of my injuries. It would appear that this was as good as it was going to get. “I don’t recommend using your body as a conduit for magic, and then having a tower fall on it. Tends to leave you a little weak and unstable,” I joked, hoping that he would take the bait.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he joked back, and I was happy he didn’t press me any further. We stepped from what was once the Potter ballroom into the hallway, and were surprised that there was no one there to see us off. “How are there this many people in this house, and there’s not a single sound?”
“Because they’re up to something. Come on, let’s leave the house so they can continue on whatever plan they’ve cooked up,” I told him, resigned to the fact that I would have a fuss made over me today, whether I wanted it or not.
Harry offered me his elbow and together, we flooed into the private area that contained the floo in the Executive Offices suite. There wasn’t anyone there to greet us, I hadn’t expected any. We stepped from the hallway into the outer offices, and I could hear voices from King’s office.
“I can’t believe what a nightmare this is?” his booming voice escaped from his office. “Never again will there be another ceremony while I’m Minister,” he joked and I had to stifle a laugh.
“Now, sir,” a female voice responded, sounding familiar. “We knew that this was going to be difficult, but we’re nearly done. Let’s finish your lesson before the Queen and her entourage gets here.”
“I worked for the Muggle Prime Minister for several years, how much more protocol do I need to know?” King complained.
“Just because you can comport yourself around the Prime Minister doesn’t mean that you know what to do in the presence of the Queen. I have been the Protocol Secretary for five Ministers of Magic. I know what I’m doing,” the voice said and I motioned with my hands that we needed to get to my office, a horrified look was plastered on my face. We got to my office, closed the door and I started to laugh.
“I hope that she doesn’t try to talk with Sirius today. He nearly hexed her when we got married,” I said between laughs, Harry just stood there looking at me. “That was Prudence Thomas-Roberts, she helped to plan our wedding for the Ministry, and she drove your godfather barmy in the process,” I explained. “Come on, let’s sit down, we’ve got an hour to kill,” I told Harry, reaching up and removing cloak and draping it over one of the chairs at the table in my office. Harry followed suit and we both sat on the comfortable couch; I brought my leg up to rest on the space between us.
“How does it feel?” Harry asked, indicating my leg.
“If I tell you the truth, are you going to run and tell your Mum or my husband?” I asked him and he shook his head, realizing that I’d given him my answer already. “I keep waiting for the pain to completely abate, but it doesn’t. There are days that I swear my real leg is still there, and it itches or tingles, and I’ll absentmindedly reach down and be surprised that it’s the prosthetic. My back still hurts, most of the time, because the scars just don’t bend and give, it hurts to breath, I can’t eat much at any time because my digestive system still doesn’t work right, and I’m exhausted, all of the time,” I sort of rambled, realizing that it was the first time that I’d been honest with anyone about how I really felt. I looked up at Harry, horrified. What are you doing? You just unloaded on your 18 year old nephew. “Harry, I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have dumped all of that on you,” I apologized.
“It’s fine, Aunt Winnie. I didn’t think that you were doing as well as you were letting everyone believe,” he told me honestly and I tilted my head to the side, staring at him. “You stop and close your eyes all the time and you clench your face; I think it’s to shove down the pain. Also, you don’t ever look at my Mum or Uncle Remus in the face. They read you too well, you’ll stand to their side or sit next to them. It’s only been that way since the battle, so I figured that you were just trying to hide stuff from them,” he told me and I shook my head slightly at him.
“When did you get so good at reading people?”
“Needed to, a year on the run, you have to learn to read people and see when they’re trying to hide things from you. Hermione can’t pull anything over on me anymore, I can read her moods like a book. Too bad Ron can’t, it would make his life so much easier,” Harry quipped and I let a little chuckle escape me as I smiled. We lapsed back into a comfortable silence.
“You’re not excited about this today, are you?” he asked me, and I brought my head up to look at him. I had to decide, I could try and lie to him, or I could treat him like an adult.
“Not at all,” I confessed. “We make a pretty unlikely set of heroes here, don’t we Harry? Neither of us wants to be honored for things we had no choice in.”
“I didn’t fight Voldemort because of some desire to save people, or because I’m this all–powerful wizard. I did it because I was the only one who could,” he explained to me. “Sure, I would have been on the Light side, fighting with Dumbledore and the Order; because all of my family was doing that; but to be the one who was sacrificed in the forest? To give my life to save people, I don’t know. I did it because it was the only way that this war was going to end.”
“I understand. You’re being recognized because a choice was made for you when you were a baby, and there was nothing else that you could do. I’m being recognized for something that I was born with. I couldn’t let people die in the castle, not when I could shield them. That would have just been...we both did what we had to do,” I responded to him.
“You know, you and Ginny are the only people who don’t look at me like I’m some sort of a superhero. My parents and uncles, they’re always looking at me like they’re so proud of me. You look at me like I’m, normal.”
“Harry, that’s probably because Ginny and I are the only ones who really know what that trip into the forest cost you. I assume you told her about what Voldemort did to you, what you endured while you were lying ‘dead’ on the forest floor?” He nodded at me, but remained silent. “Harry, your family isn’t proud of you because you sacrificed yourself, they’re proud of you for the young man that you became. They look at you that way because they love you so very much, and they only want you to have what you desire and what will make you happy.”
“You know what I wish?” he asked me, and I shook my head at him. “I wish that I had a time turner, and I could go back and just stop the attack on the house in Godric’s Hollow. If I’d never had stopped him when I was a baby, I might have had a normal life.”
“Maybe, or things might have turned out worse than they are now. That’s the funky thing about time travel, you mess with one little thing, and it has huge ripples in everything else. Drop a pebble in the wrong place in the ocean, and you could cause a tsunami on the other side of the world. Don’t mess with the space/time continuum,” I joked and Harry laughed.
“That’s from that show that you got Dad and Uncle Remus hooked on, the one with the British guy who plays the French space captain, but he speaks like he’s from London. Star Hike or something?” Harry said, and I laughed, really laughed at him. It felt good to not have to pretend, until something must have caught in my back and the stabbing pain was overwhelming.
“I will be, just another example of how my body doesn’t work right anymore,” I told him as the pain abated. “So how many times today am I going to be asked how I’m feeling?”
“About as many as I’ll be asked what I’m going to do next. No one seems impressed with the idea that I want to finish my schooling. I couldn’t go on and start Auror school anyway, it’s not open!” he told me, sounding frustrated. “People want two things from me, to see my scar and then to have me go into politics. From watching you and Dad these last few months, I want nothing to do with it.”
“I don’t blame you. Know what I want?” I asked and he shook his head. “I want people to look at my face today when they meet me today, not look down and try to figure out which leg is real and which one is the fake. I swear, I think I should get a tattoo on the real one that says “The Real Deal” on it,” I told him, and Harry started belly laughing.
“That would be too funny; and your Mum would have a fit. Oh, I didn’t tell you, but the one you helped Ginny pick out, it’s...wow,” Harry said, sounding very impressed. I had taken Ginny the day after her seventeenth birthday to get a tattoo. She had a very beautiful white mare that would shake it’s head and gallop across the small of her back.
“It fits her, the Mare is an animal of great strength and beauty and will protect those that they care about. A white horse is a symbol of victory and it is also said that they love life, so, I think you might be stuck with her,” I teased him but he just smiled.
“That is absolutely fine with me,” he confessed as he blushed and I smiled at him. “I understand that yours has quite a bit of meaning too.”
“It’s not just that it’s my Animagus form, falcons are harbingers of prosperity and strength. They are fierce in the protection of their young and they often lead one on a spiritual journey. They’re also symbols of strength, which is why I put it on the thigh of my damaged leg,” I explained to him. “Most people won’t ever see it, but I know that it’s there.”
“I think that’s probably all that matters, Aunt Winnie. So, are you ready for school?” he asked and I smiled at him, ready to change the subject as well.
“I think we are. Sirius is doing a much more conventional set of lessons with the first through fourth years; I’m planning on working the older sections a little harder than they’ve been used to. The goal isn’t just to get everyone to pass their OWL or NEWT; I really want to train them; plus these are the kids that you had in the DA, some of them already are well versed in rather advanced Defensive spells,” I explained.
“Okay, so what’s going to be different?” he asked.
“Well, each age level will have one double class period with me each week, but they will also be required to participate in, well for lack of a better word, dueling practice. It will be real–life dueling, much like I did with my students at the Auror school; just limiting the types and severity of the spells that can be used. Plus, all three years are going to do a single period of elemental magic each week,” I explained to him.
“You’re going to teach witches and wizards who are near the age of adulthood how to do magic that’s usually taught to toddlers and preschoolers? Are you daft?” he asked me.
“No. I don’t think that most of your classmates are as well taught in it as you are, and any that were Muggle–born won’t know it at all,” I reminded him. “If you lose your wand, being able to manipulate an element may be enough for you to get out of a situation, and that’s the first goal of Defense.”
“Wow, sounds like it’s going to be an interesting year. You going to duel Uncle Sirius?”
“Probably at some point,” I smiled at him, understanding that he loved watching me bring down men twice my size. Well, at least you used to be able to. “You have a choice to make, my boy.”
“What?” he asked, looking at me puzzled.
“I happen to know that you could pass your Defense NEWT right now, I’ve taught you things that are far beyond what you’ll be learning this year. If you wanted to, you could take the exam now, get your Outstanding NEWT, and then spend the time in private study this year. I’m making the same offer to Ron and Hermione. There are much more advanced things that I could teach you,” I explained to him. Sirius and I had already discussed what we could work with him on, and it was quite a list.
“LIke what?” he asked, sounding very interested.
“Well, your godfather could teach you about advanced Warding and Curse Breaking, and there are a myriad of things that I could work with you on: you’re not a Master in either of your elemental magics -- so you could choose to work for that level, we could work on a mastery of Legilimency and Occlumency; you could start working on your Master of Defense work or, your godfather and I could together teach you Animagus transformations,” I told him, and I watched as his eyes lit up.
“Really, do you think that I could do it?” he asked and I nodded at him.
“I do. Your father was exceptionally young when he undertook it, and then he taught both your godfather and Wormtail. Sirius was already remarkable at Charms, even when he was in his first year, but it was your Dad that taught him how to be an Animagus. I think that your grandfather tutored your Dad, the summer after his first year, when they learned what Moony was. It took another couple of years after that to finally master it. Your Dad is exceptional at Transfigurations,” I explained to him. Conversations with James over the years had helped me put the pieces of this puzzle together.
“Granddad was an Animagus? I didn’t know that? What form did he take?” Harry asked me.
“He was an owl, a huge barn owl. I got to see him change over, and flew with him once before he died. He was a remarkable man, and he would have been so very proud of you,” I explained to him.
“I would have liked to have known him and my Grandmum. Dad tells such interesting stories...” he sort of trailed off, thinking about something. “Is my Dad better at Transfigurations than you?”
“Well, no,” I blushed at him, “but comparing my ability to do Transfigurations with his isn’t fair. That’s like saying a butterfly is more beautiful than a moth. One is designed to be something to look at, the other is designed to hide on a branch. I can do that magic easily because of skills that I was born with,” I explained to him. “But it doesn’t change the fact that your father is amazing.” Harry had opened his mouth to say something, but a rather noisy commotion in the outer office led me to suspect that our families had arrived. “I think that the families have arrived.”
“Sounds that way. Need a hand up there old lady?” Harry asked me as he stood, offering me his hand.
“Thank you young man,” I told him as I stood and hobbled over to the table, where I picked up a cape and began fastening it around my neck, and then realized that it was about a foot too long, while the one that Harry had only came to his knees. “I think I grabbed yours there, Harry,” I laughed, handing it back to him. He was well over six feet now, but still lanky and lean. I had a feeling that he would always be built more like Sirius than James. We each fastened our capes, and I straightened out my dress and then opened the door, and nearly fell over at the faces that greeted me.
“Liddy, Stephen, Wyn, Haf, what are you doing here?” I said, looking at my siblings and my little niece and nephews in their arms.
“Sis, you’re being knighted by the Queen, do you think I’d miss the chance to eat the meal that goes with that?” Wyn teased and I threw my arms around my little brother. Thankfully he bent down and let me reach his neck, because I wouldn’t have made it otherwise. He hugged me and picked me up off the ground. “Dang, girl. Do you eat? You weight less than my gear bag,” he said, referring to his hockey bag. I had crawled inside of it once, just to prove that he could indeed lift me and carry me about.
“I’ve had a rough spring,” I told me him in a mockingly serious voice. He put me down, and I hugged my littlest brother, my brother–in–law, my niece, Madison and her twin, Tyler and then the baby, little Robert who was not quite a year old. I finally threw my arms around my remaining sister and didn’t say anything, just relishing having her here, and realizing that I missed the comfort that a sister could bring. She said nothing, just leaned her forehead into mine, touching them together like we did when we were sharing secrets as children.
I broke away from my sister and took a shuddering breath to get myself together. I met eyes with my husband and father, both of whom looked rather proud of themselves. “This is what you were up to this morning?” Sirius shook his head at me, still holding Edmund in his arms.
“You needed them to be here,” he said, walking around to put an arm around me. “You need everyone that can be here, to be here and to celebrate with you.”
I looked at his scarred face and short hair, but for a moment none of that mattered, all I saw was the beautiful man that I fell in love with as a girl. I was lost in his eyes, and it didn’t matter that the room was full of people who were looking at us. “I love you so,” I told him, feeling myself struggling for breath.
“Anwen, now isn’t the time to hyperventilate, come on, calm down,” he said, rubbing my back but I realized that I couldn’t pull in enough breath and the world started getting fuzzy around the edges.
“Potion...in my...office...”I told him and I heard him hand Edmund over to one of my brothers.
“Lily, they’re in the top drawer of the secretary,” I heard him yell, still struggling for breath.
“I’ve got the case from home right here,” I heard my mother say, and then Sirius had lifted me up and was carrying me over to the small settee that was in the outer office for people to relax upon as they waited to see one of us. Sirius tipped my head back and poured the potion down my throat, and held me to him as we all waited for the potion to take effect.
“Well, she doesn’t need all of us watching her, come on now, let’s get downstairs. There’s only one lift from this floor, so it’s going to take a while,” Molly Weasley said, taking charge. I could feel my breathing slow and more air was getting into my lungs, but there was still a horrible high wheezing noise as I breathed in and my heart was still racing. I looked up at Sirius.
“You can’t do anything easy, can you Winnie?” he asked me and I shook my head at him.
“That’s why you love me. Need a strengthening potion,” I whispered to him, and my mother handed him the right bottle. He helped me swallow this one as well, and I immediately felt it’s warm strength spread through my body. I opened my eyes fully and looked at the office. James, Lily, Remus, Tonks and Teddy, Harry, Ginny and King were standing looking at us; my mother was crouched next to me and Sirius was holding me.
“You should have just let me pass out, maybe I could have gotten out of this damned charade,” I joked and everyone laughed. I looked at Harry, and his eyes conveyed that he knew it wasn’t a joke.
The morning ceremony was beautiful, and even with everything that I had been through with Winnie, there was nothing like the pride of watching her and Harry receive their awards. Harry wouldn’t let her shy away from the press, even though Anwen had tried hard to make the day about him, rather than both of them. He finally set the press straight when he announced to them, “I became who I am because my parents, my uncle and my godfather and godmother here,” he said, putting his arm around Anwen and giving her a squeeze, “taught me how to be a good man. I had my Aunt Winnie’s example to follow.”
The meal after was pleasant enough, although the food was rather fussy. Who in their right mind plans a meal that will be eaten by children to include crab–stuffed pheasant? About the only thing that the children ate was the Leek soup, and even then they complained that it wasn’t as good as their Mummy’s. It was true though, Anwen makes an awesome Leek Soup. I finally called Kreacher, and had him make some peanut butter sandwiches and cheese sandwiches and had him bring them over. I wasn’t surprised when many of the teens ended up eating them as well.
By the time we were done with the press for the ceremony and then the luncheon, there was only an hour before the second ceremony would start. People were already lining up to get in, so our family and Anwen’s retreated upstairs. The Weasleys, with the exception of Ginny, stayed downstairs, as did Andromeda. The youngest children napped in James’ office, while the adults gathered in the conference room. Harry went to change his robes in Kingsley’s office, and I convinced Anwen that there was time for her to rest before the ceremony would begin. She removed the heavy red stole and shimmied out of the black dress, leaving her only in her slip. I helped her release her artificial leg, and had her settle down, once again lying between my legs. I set the alarm on my watch and rubbed her head and back until she was asleep. While she lay there, I looked at the scars on her back, and was horrified at them. She so rarely let me see them, now that we weren’t applying the salve four times a day, and I understood why. They were still red and quite raw and swollen. I wondered how she ever tolerated having clothing rubbing on them. As she lay there, I noticed that she was paler than usual, and I hoped that it was only due to her wearing the black slip.
I was able to give her about 20 minutes to sleep before she had to get up and change into her dress robes. Madame Malkin had designed special robes for her, in the most beautiful dark blue. The back of the robes was created from a thin, gauzy like material that was completely opaque, but still lightweight. The trim on the robes was in red, and Anwen asked for the cut of the bodice to accommodate her wedding necklace. I helped her get into them, and then watched as she waved her hand over her head, and her hair flew up into an intricate set of curls that was pulled away from her face, but still hung over her neck to cover her scars.
“You are simply stunning,” I told her, and pulled her to me and snogged her madly.
“So,” she said, when we were done, “are you going to start calling me Dame Hodgson-Black?”
“Don’t be daft, Winnie,” I joked back with her, knowing full well that she’d never use the term in her life.
We met up with the rest of the family, and we went back downstairs. There was a special section for our families to sit in. The Potters were in the first row, with Hermione, Ginny and Ron. We were behind with all of Anwen’s family in the row just behind us. It was a good thing too, since we needed several hands to help with all of the little kids. The Lupins and Andromeda were behind them, with Ewan and Anelle duChamp and then the Weasleys were in the last row of our section. Anwen sat on the edge of the row, and I was next to her, since we both needed to get up and receive our awards. It was only minutes before the ceremony was to start, when I was surprised by Bastien and Draco, standing in the row, next to where Anwen was sitting.
“We don’t have any other family,” Draco said quietly; both his parents were in jail. I looked up at him, and wasn’t at all shocked to find Andromeda coming to stand by her nephew.
“You will always have family, Draco. Come and sit with Dora, her family and me,” she told him, gently putting a hand on his shoulder.
“Bastien, you are always welcome with us, and in our home,” Anwen said gently to the boy, and he looked at her, surprised. “I believe that you know all the children, except little Stella,” she told him, pointing to the small infant that her mother was holding in the row behind us.
“I do,” my son said quietly. “Thank you.”
“Hey, you can come and sit with me, you’ll make me taller,” John said, and everyone chuckled at him. Bastien walked down the row, and John hopped from the chair, let his big half–brother sit down in it climbed up in his lap, and then proceeded to begin talking a mile a minute about the ceremony this morning. The teen just looked at the three year old in the most peculiar way. I couldn’t help but smile at them.
“See, there’s always hope,” Anwen whispered to me.
The ceremony began, and Kingsley opened it, talking about why we were here, and what had happened to our world. He talked about the darkness that Voldemort had brought to all of our lives, and how things had changed because of him and his ideas. Then he started talking about how people had begun to fight back. He spoke of Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix from the first war, and how Voldemort had been removed from his corporeal body, and how we had a decade of peace, but not real happiness, because there were those of us who knew that he would one day be back.
He then read the ‘Roll of the Honored Dead’ from what was being called “The Great Wizarding War.” It began with the very first deaths, back in 1970. As the roll was read, the family members of those people would stand. They were read in chronological order.
Remus stood, with his wife and mother–in–law at his side when his father’s name was read, quite early on in the list. I remembered that horrible day, and the weeks that followed. We thought that we knew darkness, it was nothing compare to what would come.
Anwen struggled to hold back fresh tears when each of the seven names of the girls who she had advocated for all those years were read. I put my arm around her and kissed her head.
Kingsley choked up as he read Amelia’s name, and when young Susan stood. When they read Eira’s name, I watched as our family, Anwen’s family and the Weasleys all stood. It was too late when I realized that Bastien wouldn’t know what was going on, but Ethan took matters into his own hands.
“My Auntie Eira was killed by some Death Eaters. She gave her life to save mine,” he told his half brother. “Stand up for Auntie Eira!” Bastien complied to his command.
I smiled at my young son, but wondered how I was ever going to explain to Bastien that it was his “Aunt Bella” that had killed my wife’s sister. It was hard to witness when there was no one to stand as Albus Dumbledore’s name was read out, so finally Harry stood, claiming the man as his family. The rest of the Potters soon stood as well, and soon the Blacks, Lupins and Weasleys all followed suit. I could see other members of the Order stand as well. It came as no surprise that the same treatment followed for both Mad–Eye Moody and Severus Snape. We stood for Ted Tonks, and I could hear my cousin sob at this. I turned around to see Draco putting an arm around her shoulders.
When the list was read, the Minister pointed to a veil that was covering something on the far wall of the Atrium. With a flick of his wrist, the veil fell, and uncovered a beautiful marble monolith, with the names of the honored dead carved into the smooth rock face. At the top, a simple statement of “Never Forget” had been inscribed and an ever burning flame provided light from the base.
After the reading of the names, the program progressed to the awarding of the Order of Merlin awards. Anwen was surprised when her sister’s name was read to receive a Third class award. Charlie Weasley stood and escorted Anwen, and after Charlie spoke about how proud he was to have been engaged to her, and how he still missed her deeply, the Minister indicated that Anwen should speak. Anwen stood at the podium, and looked out over the crowd.
“My sister didn’t have to fight in this war. While she had been born in Britain, she had lived most of her life in Canada, with my family, who were whisked away for their own safety during the first war,” Anwen started. “She chose to come back. Her choice was partly made because she had fallen in love with a wonderful man, who loved her dearly,” she said, turning and looking at Charlie. “But she also came back because she believed in what we were fighting for. My sister and I did not come from a magical family, in fact, we are the only ones who can do magic in all of our family tree; but Eira loved this world so. In her school in Canada, she learned all about the first half of the war, and was quite indignant with me when she learned that I had played a role. She believed that every child born with magical ability should be treated the same, and have the chance to develop their skills. She heroically saved her niece and nephew, as well as our family friends, but gave her life that cold January morning,” Anwen said, tears overtaking her, and I watched as she started breathing deeply again. I was fearful that she’d have another breathing attack, but the Minister came over and put a steadying arm around her and whispered in her ear, and Anwen seemed to calm herself down.
“Not a day goes by that I do not miss my little sister, I miss her smile and the goofy way that she danced around the house to music that was only in her head,” she commented, and all of our extended family laughed, as we’d all witnessed this behavior. “I would only ask that you remember Eira whenever you find someone being beaten down or discarded because of who they are, or the situation that they were born to. Do what my sister did, and stand up for what’s right.”
Anwen leaned against Charlie as she came back down from the stage area, and the ceremony continued with the rest of the Third Class awards. I wrapped my wife in my arms and held her tightly, openly afraid that she wouldn’t make it through the rest of the ceremony. Her breathing was thready and weak and I could feel her heart racing in her back. Her mother handed me the potions box, and I gave Anwen another of her Breathing Potions as well as a Draught of Peace. I only let go of her long enough to stand and applaud as Draco received his own Third Class award, for the way he had fought against the Death Eaters and helped save students while at Hogwarts last year.
When the Second class awards were given out, Ginny, Neville and Luna all went up together to receive theirs, not only for their courageous work at Hogwarts during the last school year, but for their valiant battling in the Department of Mysteries battle in 1996 and the Battles of Hogwarts the following years. Cedric Diggory was recognized for his battling of Voldemort in the graveyard in Little Hangelton, and for recovering from his wounds. We all chuckled when he said that “battling Voldemort was easier than battling the inter-department memos that he now dealt with daily in the Minister’s offices.”
We were waiting to be called forward, all of the members of our family were slated to receive Second Class Awards. Ewan and Anelle had been thanked for their creation of the Binding Potion, and I assumed that we would be next. We were surprised when Kingsley went on to call Ron and Hermione forward to receive their awards, which they did with very short words of thanks. Then the Minister called forward, “Sir Harry James Potter”. He rose and received his award and was urged to speak. Puzzled looks passed between James, Remus and me, Anwen was too weak to have noticed anything. I turned and looked at her mother, hoping she might have some encouragement for me. She simply looked worried.
“I know that you’re all expecting me to say something remarkable, about how this was a hard fought fight, but that it was worth it in the end; but I can’t tell you that,” Harry stated and I could feel Anwen tense under me at his words. “I know that you want me to claim the title of savior and hero, but I can’t and I won’t; but before you get upset at me, please let me explain why. I have lived my life surrounded by real heroes. I watched as five, and then six adults put their very lives at stake to teach and train me. They were honest with me, and loved me in a way that no one else could have, and when it was time to fulfill a destiny that I didn’t want and couldn’t control, they were there to tell me that I was capable of doing it, and no matter what would happen, they would love and support me,” he said. I could feel Anwen weeping in my arms again, and Lily’s shoulders were shaking as well. James had wrapped an arm around her, but he was puffed out like a prideful peacock showing it’s plumage at his son. I could feel both the pride for my godson, as well as hot tears pricking at my eyes.
“My parents, my Aunts and my Uncles have sacrificed so much for me, they have all been put in mortal danger more times than I care to count to keep me safe, and used every opportunity to not only teach me about life, but to help me live it, fully. Love is what helped me defeat Voldemort, but I knew what it was because of these extraordinary people and how much they loved me. It is my most humble pleasure to present to you my family: Mr. James Andrew Potter, Mrs. Lily Rose Evans Potter, Mr. Remus John Lupin, Mrs. Nymphadora Louise Tonks Lupin, Mr. Sirius Black and Dame Anwen Llyn Hodgson-Black,” Harry said proudly and we all stood. The room erupted in applause, people cheering and clapping. Anwen stumbled as we approached the stage, so I lifted her and cradled her to me.
When we were on the stage, I tried to set Anwen down, but she shook her head at me. I knew that it must be very, very bad if Anwen was willing to let me hold her through this. There were flash bulbs going off and I knew that tomorrow morning the paper would contain a picture of me, cradling my wife to me; and that Anwen would hate it. I made eye contact with Fleur, and she seemed to understand that Anwen was getting worse, very quickly. She whispered something in her husband’s ear, and then slipped from the row. When we were situated in the area near the podium, Harry approached it to speak again.
“They are all receiving the Order of Merlin, First Class, for services to the Wizarding World, please join me in again thanking them for their unending service to the Ministry of Magic and to us all,” Harry commanded and I watched as the room was again on their feet clapping. I continued to hold Anwen against me, her body feeling so weak and her pulse again racing. The Minister came to each of us, and pinned the medals on our dress robes. When he got to Anwen and me, he angled himself so that his back was partially to the crowd, so that he could speak to us without anyone being able to see what was being said in the crowd.
“Do you need to get Anwen out of here?” he asked, clearly concerned about my wife. Her color was getting poorer, and she felt frail in my arms.
“She can’t take much more, it’s just been too much and I’ve given her all the potions I can,” I told him and he nodded at me. He quickly pinned the awards on each of us, and then turned and whispered something in Harry’s ear. Harry in turn nodded to him and Kingsley returned to the podium.
“Another round of applause for all of Order of Merlin First Class Recipients,” he said, and Harry came to stand between his father and me.
“Take Aunt Anwen out of here right away and get her up to her office. They’ve got enough pictures of us from earlier, and we can take a family photo later. Dad and I can get the rest of the family upstairs, or even back to the Manor,” Harry told me, and I couldn’t help but smile at him; it was the first time that he was taking charge of a situation, even with all of us around.
We started to leave the stage, and I watched as a line of Auror’s came, and shielded our exit from the rest of the crowd. Fleur was standing behind them, holding Anwen’s potions case. “Zey are going to block ‘er exit from ze rest of ze room,” Fleur told me. “ Ze ‘ealer will be in ‘er office.”
“Go on, we’ll be up as soon as we can,” James told me and I cradled Anwen tighter. As I did, I felt her start coughing. I looked down, and there was bright red blood all over the sleeve of my dress robes. I wouldn’t be taking her to her office or home. I was taking her to the hospital.