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Chapter 20 : Chapter 20
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The sun was shining in a clear blue sky. People were gathering now for the ceremonies. Harry turned and saw Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood and Katie Bell all talking together. Another group consisted of Cho Chang, Romilda Vale, Dean Thomas and surprisingly Pansy Parkinson. Harry let out a gasp and said,
“Look over there will you,” Their eyes followed Harry’s pointing finger, “what the hell is she doing here?” Eyes opened wide and jaws dropped when they saw that Harry was pointing at Narcissa Malfoy.
“You’ve got to admire her nerve.” muttered Ron.
“Just ignore her.” Hermione added.
Harry, Hermione and the Weasley’s moved to a row of seats about halfway up the centre aisle and sat down. Once everybody was seated, a wizard in dress robes stood behind a lectern on the small raised dais.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began, “I will start these proceedings with a brief outline of the events to come. First the Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt will give the opening address, after which the Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall will respond. The Minister will then declare the school open. When this is completed we will all adjourn to the foyer of the great hall where a memorial will be unveiled by Cosimo Collet, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. So without further ado I will invite Kingsley Shacklebolt to come to the stage. Minister, if you please?” The impressive figure of the Minister rose from his seat and took his place on the stand.
“Ladies and Gentleman, we are gathered here today for three reasons. To celebrate, to re-dedicate and to commemorate. To celebrate the re-opening of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. To commemorate the sacrifice of those who fell in its defence and finally to re-dedicate the school to maintaining the standards of education with which the history of this place is replete.”
“I need not dwell at length on the events that occurred here just over a year ago, except to say that here in this castle and in these grounds a conflict ended that had threatened our world. Had Tom Riddle or Voldemort, and yes we can speak the name, succeeded, the things we know and love would have disappeared forever. The price we paid was terrible and to the fallen we owe a debt we can never repay. The best we can do is to live our lives in a manner which honours them.”
“What better place to begin that process than right here, in a place where young minds are guided to maturity. Yet we must remain vigilant. The forces that were ranged against us have been defeated, but they still exist and they must, and will, be guarded against. To finish I would like to extend to the school, the teachers and students, past and present, the congratulations, and the best wishes of everyone that I represent as Minister of Magic. Thank you.” Applause ran through the audience as he returned to his seat in the front row.
The applause continued as Professor McGonagall took her place at the lectern. She looked around and cleared her throat and began.
“Thank you for those kind words Minister. Ladies and Gentlemen, tomorrow is the first day of a new term for students who have attended this school before, and for a new intake of first years it is the beginning of their magical education. We also welcome the second year students who spent their first year at Beauxbatons. I wish to put on record our appreciation of that fine school for their invaluable assistance, to us and to those students. On behalf of my staff and myself I pledge that no corners will be cut or stones left unturned in order to provide the standard of education which you have rightly come to expect from this school.”
“Tomorrow we start afresh, looking ever forward. We will not forget the past, but we will not permit those memories to deflect us from our duty to the future. Every day the students will pass the memorial which is shortly to be unveiled. It will remind them of the high standards that we will demand of them in both their academic and personal lives. The new batch of students will be no different to any others. There will be the clever ones, the sporty ones, the shy ones, the cheeky ones,” her eyes lighted on Harry, “and the rule breakers.” Harry gave an embarrassed grin and a slight nod of his head. “But in time they will all come to realise that in this school they are all equal and very much valued. They will be aided by the extended family of the House system which despite representations to the contrary will remain unchanged.”
“As to what they can achieve, well they need only look to the precedents that have been set for them. In the last NEWT examinations before the troubles, the school attained a record number of passes. Even in non-academic subjects we have excelled, indeed a student who left last year has joined the Holyhead Harpies as a professional Quidditch player.” Ginny blushed furiously. “These are the high standards that the staff and I will strive to maintain. At this point I wish to ask two of our students, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom, to join me here on the podium.” Hermione and Neville, looking puzzled, went to stand next to Professor McGonagall. “I am happy to announce the appointment of these two NEWT students as Head Boy and Head Girl.” She presented them with their badges of office, Hermione beamed while Neville just looked dumbfounded. “Finally, I wish to thank all of you for your attendance here today, and hope that is indicative of your continued support for the school. Thank you and enjoy the rest of the day.” Kingsley returned to the lectern.
“I have the greatest of pleasure in declaring that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is once again open for business.”
The audience rose and applauded enthusiastically and began to disperse into various groups. Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione moved towards their old friends Neville, Luna, Katie, Cho and Romilda. Hermione and Neville were congratulated by everyone. They started to make their way back to the castle when a ginger blur shot out of the undergrowth and headed for Hermione who crouched down calling out excitedly,
“Crookshanks there you are,” A large cat leapt into her arms, “Oh I’ve missed you. Has Hagrid been looking after you alright?”
“Of course he has. Look at the bloody size of it.” Ron had never quite forgotten the animal’s attempts to kill his rat Scabbers even though the rat had not been what he seemed. Hermione carried the cat, who was purring contentedly, and they resumed walking. As the groups came together Ginny was scratching the back of her left hand,
“What’s up Ginny? said Neville.
“I think I’ve been bitten.” Ginny replied holding out her hand.
“What’s that?” said Katie loudly.
“Probably a Nargle bite. They can be quite itchy.” stated Luna.
“No, not that,” said Katie, “that thing on her finger. Is that an engagement ring?”
“Yes, actually it is.” Ginny said casually.
“But who… I mean when…” Harry spoke up,
“I’m afraid it’s me Katie, and Ginny that was not subtle, not subtle at all.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been known for subtlety, and anyway I’m allowed, so there.” Katie gave a subdued yell of excitement, and squeezed Ginny in hug that would have done Hagrid proud; she then threw her arms around Harry’s neck and kissed him full on the lips. Harry embraced the moment… and Katie.
“Hey… hey,” Ginny said, “that’s my fiancé you’re kissing. Cut it out.” Katie pulled away,
“Spoilsport.” she said with a grin.
“Yeah, spoilsport.” Harry agreed, laughing.
“Actually Katie, I’m looking for a bridesmaid. Do you know anyone who might be fit the bill?”
“Yes, I think I might. As long as kissing your boyfriend doesn’t disqualify her.”
“As long as it doesn’t happen again that will be fine. You got the job.” Ginny said. They all set off for the castle, the girls in front chattering excitedly, all clamouring to get a good look at the ring, the boys followed behind.
“Congratulations Harry.” said Neville, “I think you’re a lucky guy.”
“Me too.” Harry replied. They were joined by a breathless Dean Thomas.
“Did you see where Ginny went?” he asked.
“She’s just up ahead there with the girls.” said Harry, imagining what Dean would look like with a broken nose.
“Thanks Harry.” Dean replied; as he loped on to catch her up. “Hey Ginny!” he called. She stopped and turned towards Dean. Harry couldn’t hear their conversation, but registered with pleasure Dean’s look of utter amazement as Ginny showed him her left hand. Dean stood and waited for Harry and the others to catch up to him. “Well, I never expected that,” he said, “I suppose that means she is off the market.”
“You’d better believe it, Dean.” Harry said.
“Who’s the guy?” he asked, although he had a pretty good idea of the answer.
“Didn’t she tell you?”
“It’s Harry.” Neville replied.
“Yeah, I should have known,” Dean said, “there were times when she wouldn’t shut up about you. Oh well, congratulations Harry. See you around.”
“Thanks, see you Dean” Harry replied with a little smile of satisfaction.
As they entered the foyer, Harry looked in amazement at the wall that Dolores Umbridge had once covered in educational decrees as she called them. They were long gone of course, and the entire side of the wall to the left of the door to the great hall was covered by a hanging tapestry adorned with the Hogwarts crest. Harry guessed that it was covering the new memorial. Another voice called out to them. They turned to see Seamus Finnigan heading their way.
“Hi guys, what’s this rumour I’m hearing about somebody being engaged?”
“Yeah, that would be me.” Harry said, wishing that Seamus would keep his voice down.
“Congratulations Harry, I can’t believe it, but I think it’s brilliant.”
“Thanks Seamus.” Harry said. Hermione checked her watch, she had thought it best to leave Crookshanks outside.
“We still have plenty of time, shall we go up to the common room for a moment.” They all agreed and set off. They arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady, who flatly refused to let them in without the password.
“We don’t know the password. Term doesn’t start until tomorrow.” said Neville.
“No password, no entry.” The Fat Lady replied haughtily.
“Well I’m the Head Boy and I’m telling you to let us in!”
“Oh well, if you’re going to get snotty about it…” the Fat Lady said as the portrait swung open.
“That’s it Neville, you have to be firm with these women,” said Harry, “don’t take any nonsense from them.”
“You don’t take any nonsense from Ginny, do you Harry. Oh no, not much you don’t.” Hermione chimed in sarcastically.
They filed into the common room and stood gazing around. Harry looked at the empty fireplace where the head of Sirius had appeared to him. Everywhere he looked brought its own memory. He followed Ron, Neville and Seamus up to their dormitory. He sat on what had been his bed and looked around him, memories no matter where he looked. The others seemed to be going through the same emotions. Harry stood and looked out of the window. Far below was the quadrangle and off to his right the Dark Forest lurked. In the distance he could see the goal hoops of the Quidditch field. The talking started inevitably with, ‘Do you remember the time…” Soon the laughter followed. They spent a good few minutes in such reminiscing before gathering again in the common room. They came out of the common room and met up with Luna and Cho Chang,
“We’re just going up to see if we can still open the Room of Requirement,” said Luna, “it’ll be fun to see it again.”
“I suppose a quick visit won’t hurt, will it?” said Ron. The rest of the crowd agreed. They stood in the corridor looking at the blank wall and sure enough, in no time at all, a large door appeared. The inside of the room looked the same as the first time they had gathered there as Dumbledore’s Army. Shelves of books on the subject of fighting the Dark Arts. Cushions scattered around the floor that were used to protect backsides from the many falls they had taken. They wandered around laughing and joking, recalling the good times they had enjoyed in the room, despite the bad things that had been happening outside. Luna surprised everyone by suddenly producing her wand and exclaiming,
“Expecto Patronum!” A white mist materialised from her wand and formed into a rabbit. The others swiftly followed suit and soon the room was alive with various misty forms large and small. Ginny’s horse, Hermione’s otter, Ron’s dog and of course, Harry’s stag. Seamus produced a fox, Neville a leopard, but most impressive was Cho’s swan gliding imperiously around the room. The patronuses seemed to be enjoying themselves, as if happy to have been summoned without actually having to fight anything. Ron’s dog approached the leopard cockily, the leopard bared it’s teeth and the dog took off. The horse and the stag stood facing each other in mutual admiration or so it seemed.
“Look Harry, even our patronuses are in love.” Ginny whispered, just as Hermione called out,
“Time to go everyone.” Wands were put away and the patronuses dissolved.
Professor Minerva McGonagall stood in front of the large Hogwarts tapestry, “Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Cosimo Collet.” Cosimo Collet stepped forward resplendent in the full regalia of his high office. There were a few seconds of polite applause before he spoke.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please rest assured that I will be brief in my remarks. First I shall unveil the memorial.” He drew his wand from the depths of his robes and waved it in front of the tapestry. The covering dissolved from view and revealed a dark, slate grey, stone covered in golden writing.
This stone is placed here in recognition of the ultimate
sacrifice made by those whose names are here inscribed.
They gave their lives that those who come after may live
their lives in peace and love.
May their memories endure for as long as this stone exists.
The Chief Warlock spoke again. “No words of mine can express the sentiments that I, and I’m sure all of us, feel at this moment, better than those words. Thank you all.” He stepped aside and people shuffled forwards to get a better view. Ginny was back at Harry’s side and they grasped hands as they scanned the list. Ginny pointed,
“There he is.” she gazed at the name Fred Weasley. “I’m glad they didn’t use Frederick, he would have hated that.” They scanned the list all over, pointing out to each other the names of those they had known well. Lupin, Tonks, Colin Creevey. Harry gave a little gasp as he saw the name Ernie McMillan. He hadn’t known that Ernie had died that night. He turned to Neville,
“I didn’t know about Ernie,” he said “how could I not have known?” He felt awful even though they had not been what could be called close friends; Harry felt that somehow he had betrayed Ernie. Further thought was cut off by the Chief Warlock once again.
“I have one further matter to take care of and then I will leave you in peace. I am proud and honoured to announce that the persons named on this stone have all been inducted, posthumously, into the second class of the Order of Merlin. Additionally the following people have also been awarded the third class of the Order: Katherine Bell, Cho Chang, Seamus Finnigan, Filius Flitwick, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Minerva McGonagall, Horace Slughorn, Pomona Sprout, Dean Thomas, George Weasley, Ginevra Weasley, Molly Weasley, and Ronald Weasley.
The final awards are the Order of Merlin First Class to Harry Potter and Professor Severus Snape. The relevant insignia of the Order will be dispatched in the next few weeks. The insignia for Professor Snape will be placed here in the foyer, below the memorial stone.”
Spontaneous applause broke out. People started to mingle, greeting old friends. Everybody wanting to speak to Harry, just to be able to say they had. He was starting to get seriously pissed off when the deep mellifluous voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt caused Harry and Ginny to turn.
“Congratulations on your awards everybody.”
“Thank you, Minister,” said Ginny “may I ask you why there was no award for my dad?”
“He was liaising between the Ministry and the award committee of the Order of Merlin and when they got to his name he, respectfully of course, declined the award.”
“He never said anything to us.”
“Very modest man is Arthur, very modest.”
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