All the silent witches and wizards made their way in to the candle lit, memory filled Great Hall, and thoughts about the battle were the only clear thoughts amongst all of them.
The ones that had been there, had fought for the world they loved so much, were revisited by memories as visions of that battle coursed through their heads like the visions children are supposed to get of sugarplums on Christmas Eve.
The Great Hall was decorated in grays and blacks, draped around the ceilings were banners saying things such as: Welcome Home Veterans or Thank you!
A few of the veterans were already brought to tears by being in the Great Hall and seeing all of the old friends who had risked their lives for each other. All the people currently flooding the room had fought for freedom and were glad to be able to say they did, however, nearly every single one of them had the thought 'why me?' run across their brain at one point or another. Friends and family died that day and there wasn't a single person who could escape survivor's guilt. Some of the survivors were still affected physically by the battle that stole too many lives.
Scars decorated a few cheeks and an assortment of arms. The pain visible in some of their eyes could have told any bystander, even a muggle one that they had been involved in a war. No one can fake that look. Their eyes were filled with pain from revisiting all these cold memories from 24 years ago, but more than that, their eyes gleamed of triumph and pride. They had won, there was no more evil, it was because of them and the people who had no opportunity to be there.
The Great Hall flooded with people who had seen it happen first hand, had seen the damage. Students were already seated at their respected House tables as their parents and other veterans made their way inside to the newly conjured up table designated for them.
The normally loud, rambunctious group of students was unusually quiet. Even James Potter and Fred Weasley were quiet.
That was a first.
All the students eventually were seated; Rose, Hugo, James, Lily, Fred and Al were seated together at the Gryffindor table, happy to see their family there, although if they had been there for another reason, any other reason, they would have all been mortified, but since they were there to talk about how they helped save the Wizarding World, they could slide this time.
When none of her cousins or brother was looking Rose could not help but glance around, her eyes slowing down as she reached the Slytherin table. Her eyes froze when she caught site of the blonde boy she was looking for. Scorpius winked at her and she felt her heart flutter. She smiled, giddily, and turned around before any one suspected a thing.
James was silently trying to get the attention of a sixth year Ravenclaw named Natalie Briscoe, although it was not affective as she was mid conversation with her friends Carolyn Hardy and Annie Sturridge and did not notice his attempts. Although, she probably wouldn't have paid him any mind seeing as ever since she transferred from Beauxbatons two years ago, he'd made attempts to 'woo' her, but to no avail. He did not know if she was 'too good' for him or what, but she never accepted.
Yeah, he knew she was crazy for not liking him. Every girl at Hogwarts ,or any other school where they could have heard his name, completely fancied him.
Elsewhere, Harry Potter pulled back the chair designated for his wife, Ginny, before taking a seat beside her, gripping her hand beneath the tablecloth. She saw the look in his eyes, a look that not many people had ever seen before, and gave him a faint smile, "I love you," she mouthed. He squeezed her hand, "I love you too, Gin."
They pulled their eyes away from each other's and were greeted by the site of a few ginger haired people coming their way. Harry waved, gathering their attention. The ginger haired family grinned and, suddenly, their pace was nearly twice as fast.
Hugs were exchanged by Harry and Ginny to each of the red heads as their reached them.
Ron, practically jumped Harry out of excitement while Hermione (one of only four non gingers in the group) was practically giddy with excitement herself as she held both of her dear friends to her. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were next, and while Mr. Weasley just hugged both of them, Mrs. Weasley (after not one, but three hugs each for her daughter and son-in-law) was quick to presume that they were not eating enough.
"I do not want my children going hungry, now! You need to come over," Mrs. Weasley began, while Ginny tried to stop her.
Mrs. Weasley took to notice.
I'll fix a nice, homemade meal, not any of that," she wrinkled her nose, "processed garbage they seem to think is fit for human consumption when I'd barely think about feeding it to the chickens!"
"Mum," Ginny sighed, still not getting her mother's attention, but not wanting to cause a huge scene.
"Look at you, you're skin and bones! You must come for dinner." Mrs. Weasley accused with a half-smile, as she took a seat next to Arthur.
"Yes, mum." Ginny relented, which was better than causing an argument she probably could not win. Moreover, Ginny Weasley did not like losing her arguments. Even though she was forty years old, her mother still treated her like a child.
Over the next few minutes they were greeted by Bill, his wife Fleur (another non-ginger), and their eldest daughter, Victoire, who had the silvery blonde hair of her mother hanging down to her shoulder blades in loose curls. George followed, with a grin on his face, although you could see that being back here was extremely hard on him. He came with his wife, Angelina, although she looked distraught too. What used to be a place solely, for girls, pranks, eating, more girls and even more pranks now brought back the painful memories of the battle, which lost him his twin.
They all took their respected seats and watched familiar faces flood in Seamus, Dean, Parvati and Padma, and even the still blonde hair of Draco Malfoy as he led his dark haired wife, Astoria, to their respected seats. It was obvious that neither of them felt extremely comfortable being there, with reason.
Eventually people stopped flooding in and the hall grew silent once more; they were ready to begin.
Ginny squeezed Harry's hand.
This was the 24th anniversary of the battle and everyone was invited to commemorate the day and those who lost their lives excessively early.
As Headmaster Flitwick (Professor McGonagall had retired seven years previous from being Head Mistress) took the podium, even the slightest chatter ceased. All eyes rested on the headmaster, ready to listen to his speech.
He opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted as there was a loud pop and a blue haired young man appeared in front of the podium. He looked wide-eyed when he saw he was in front of everyone.
"Teddy!" Harry hissed, "Over here."
Teddy smiled awkwardly and took his seat next to Victoire.
Count on Teddy to make an entrance.
"As I was about to say," Flitwick laughed, "Good to see you Teddy." he laughed.
Teddy gave him the American 'sup nod, "Sorry, Flitwick."
Harry rubbed his forehead, would the boy ever learn?
"First off, I would like you all to give a warm welcome to your parents, older siblings and friends who helped to defend, not just our beloved school, but the world we treasure so dearly. Please, give a round of applause to our veterans who helped shape the world be live in today, without whom, we might be in a very different place than we are now." He greeted as the entire student and staff bodies applauded wildly, some getting to their feet, others (like James, Fred and their good pal Luke Jordan) were placing two fingertips in their mouth and whistling loudly.
Their generally obnoxious behavior was appreciated today.
Once the louder-than-life applause subsided eventually, the students took their seats once more so that Flitwick would be able, once more, to continue.
"Now," he began, "I do not think any of those veterans will forget that day, no matter how hard some might try to. I am often reminded of those events myself; even doing the simplest of tasks can bring back memories, both good and bad. Just last week, I found myself jerking away in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, after having a dream so real, so vivid about what transpired on that day. In addition, while everyone's memories of that day are different, we all know the same feeling of one aspect. We all remember the triumph we felt when it ended. Triumph, pride and honor coursed through our veins as we came to together once He was gone. However, we are not gathered here today to talk about the fact that we remember what happened that day. Today, I want to let us focus on those who were there, but are not now. Many lives were robbed that day. Many left before they should of. Today, I want us to honor their memory, because even though they are not here, they made a difference. They helped save our world and hold a place forever in our hearts. Now, without further ado, I would like to welcome to the podium a man whom when I met was just a boy. Now, he is a man, and he is someone I am so proud to be able to say I watched grow up. Ladies and gentleman, Harry Potter."
Harry made his way to the podium, his heart filled with pride as everyone in the audience applauded, "Thank you, and "he said towards the audience," for the warm welcome. Moreover, thank you, Headmaster, for that wonderful introduction. Twenty-four years ago, we gained our freedom, but lost several ones we loved along the way. Friends, family...But they are not gone. They will never be gone. Maybe they physically aren't here...but they're here," he gestured to his heart, "with us. Always."
Everyone erupted in to applause as he left the podium and Ron Weasley took the podium.
"Hi...everyone," he said awkwardly, "Before we all separate and go to our loved ones' graves," he choked on the word, "I want to tell you all something. As many of you know, my brother Fred had his life stolen from him at battle." he had to stop for a moment as he was already choking up.
Mr. Weasley was holding Mrs. Weasley, who has already starting to tear up. Harry gripped Ginny's hard. Angelina patted the back of George's head.
Students were already crying, especially the girls in the Potter/Weasley clan. Even some of the teachers were crying.
"He was killed by a man named Augustus Rookwood's hands. I still think about him. Fred, that is. Daily. I think we all do," he gestured to his family. "When he was killed, I couldn't understand it. I was angry, with everyone. One moment he was there and the next...sometimes we can't make sense of why bad things happen. They just happen. If I could go back in time and stop it...I swear I would. Nevertheless, I can't. However, I am not here to talk about what could have been. After the battle, Rookwood was sentenced to a life in Azkaban." He paused, "I just got news today that he was killed in an escape attempt last week."
The crowd erupted in tear-filled applause.
"I feel like now, everything's as it should be. He can finally rest. He would not want us to celebrate an innocent person's death. Rookwood was not innocent. He stole many lives and now he can't steal anymore."
More applause. Mrs. Weasley was giddy with joy: her son was avenged for the last time.
"Now, enough of my babbling feel free to go to your loved ones graves or whatever you wish to do."
'Well, he always was a charmer' Hermione laughed to herself about her husband's ending to his speech.
He rejoined his family as the crowd slowly left.
All of the kids made their way to the platform their parents stood on, they gave good speeches, both of them.
Mrs. Weasley looked up at him through tear-filled eyes at her youngest son, "Really?"
Ron smiled, "I couldn't make that up."
Mrs. Weasley pulled him to her, this was wonderful news.
"Let's go visit him, shall we?" said Harry as he patted the top of Lily's head.
The large group started walked but stopped dead when they realized how quiet it was.
Where was James?
They glanced around when Al said, "There he is," with a smirk.
They spun around to where Al was pointing. On the opposite side of the room was James, leaning one arm on the wall that a blonde girl was standing against. They could not hear the conversation, only a couple loud laughs from the girl.
"Merlin, will the boy ever learn?" Ginny grumbled.
"I don't know, Gin." Harry said, still watching, "Looks like he's doing pretty well to me."
Ginny smacked his arm, "Ow...er...I mean, probably not."
Al smirked, "He's so stupid,"
"What?" Hermione asked, "that wasn't a very brotherly thing to say!"
Al laughed, "He still thinks he can make Nat jealous by flirting with other girls,"
"Who's Nat?" Hermione asked, with interest. She had looked forward to the time when her children started dating, but to the best of her knowledge, her son, Hugo, (a third year) had never asked out a girl and Rose, was too preoccupied with studies to acknowledge a guy.
Al grinned, "Her."
He pointed across the Hall, about 10 or so feet away from James and the girl Al knew was Mallory Brown. They followed his finger and saw a brunette girl with her parents, laughing and bending down to talk to a small child, whom Hermione presumed was her brother.
"Why is he so determined to go out with her? I'm sure there are plenty of other available girls." Hermione sighed.
Al smirked, knowing his brother; he did not want to date her at all. James did not date. Ever. He stopped dating after fourth year when he was dumped; now he just 'fraternized' as some called it., "Have you seen her? Besides, James isn't used to rejection....Which is why he apparently needs to flirt with Mallory Brown, although I can't figure out why"
"Well, why isn't she with her parents?" Hermione pushed, she would even risk her job (which was not a Hermione-ish thing to do) for her children.
"Her mom's working and couldn't make it until later."
"And her dad..." Hermione pushed again. It wasn't like Hermione to care so much, but for some reason the girl set her on edge.
"He's in Azkaban. Word is he killed some muggles or something. It's the one thing she doesn't talk about much, but her parents are divorced, her mum didn't want anything to do with him so she changed Mal's last name identical to hers and BAM, like he never existed."
He was laughing loudly at this point, James was so ignorant sometimes.
"Mione, not to be a bother, but I have to get back to work this afternoon. Can we..." Ron began, checking his watch.
"Let's go get him!" Ginny hissed, this was just like her eldest son.
"C'mon, Gin. Leave the poor boy alone." Ron laughed. He did not mind just going with out him.
Ginny raised her eyebrows, "No! We did not come all the way over here to see him from across the hall!"
Harry and Ron wished she would not fetch him, but knew not to mess with the Weasley daughter, especially when Hermione joined Ginny, "Come on!"
"Yes sweetie," they said together and then the whole, large group was marching down to James' side.
James, who was so intent to the girl he was with had no idea they were approaching, was mid sentence when he heard his name from behind him, "James Sirius Potter! We're waiting!" Ginny yelled. His face froze.
He and the girl looked over to see a foot-tapping Ginny Weasley, whose arms were crossed.
"Hey, mum," James, laughed nervously, "Fancy seeing you here."
"Hello, dear," Ginny said to the girl, who waved awkwardly and Harry could not help but be reminded of his mother-in-law when she said that.
"Right...well I guess I better be going," James said, and you could hear in his voice that he was hoping that they would let him stay solely because he was annoyed they had interrupted him.
"Do you have to?" she asked whinily, still holding on to one of his hands.
Hermione felt her stomach flip.
As in, probably daughter of Lavender Brown.
She had the same high pitched, shrilly laugh and whiny voice.
"Now, Valerie," he began, but then when she dropped her jaw he was sure he'd gotten it wrong, "err."
"Mallory." She corrected for him.
"I knew that," he laughed, "Mallory, you know I want to stay, but..." he looked over to his mum and then saw Al snickering. He would get that git later. "I have to go,"
He removed his hand from hers and she made a puppy dog pout, "Fine."
He was ready to go but then a sly smile creeped up her face and she pulled her face to his so she could whisper in to his ear, "I stay up late. Feel free to come on over, although I can't guarantee I'll be wearing this. Hope that won't disappoint." she kissed right below his earlobe and when he pulled away, he was wearing a cocky smile.
He walked over to his awaiting family, "I'll keep that in mind," he winked.
Lily was disgusted as she saw Mallory twirling her hair.
Sometimes she wished she could pick her family because, if she could, James' last name would be different. It was so embarrassing sometimes.
They were nearly out the door when she screamed, "I'll wait for you Jamsie!"
He flinched. He hated that name.
"Good to know." He yelled back.
He probably wouldn't show up now...oh who was he kidding. He would and he knew it.
Ron made the connection to in that instant and pulled his nephew back by the elbow so he could say something quietly, "You don't wanna go near her. Apparently the laugh's hereditary."
Ron laughed, he got off lucky by not marrying Mallory's mother and he knew it.
The large Potter/Weasley clan silently made their way across the grounds to the quiet spot where their loved one had been laid to rest. Seeing his name on the gray plaque brought back memories of him from their childhood, days at Hogwarts, and even that fateful day that Rookwood's explosion would occur. Mrs. Weasley was reminded of the funeral that had broken her down her months.
Mr. Weasley held his wife close to his chest, just as Harry did with Ginny who was trying to fight back tears.
George found himself succumbing and falling to his knees beside the plaque with his twins' name on it, "Freddie...." he sobbed.
Fleur wrapped her arms around Bill's waist and Angelina placed a hand on her husband's shoulder.
All the kids were standing awkwardly around the adults. Rose, Molly, Lucy, Roxanne, and even Lily had she a number of tears. As much as all the guys wanted to be 'tough' their hearts ached seeing the tombstone of the beloved relative they'd never know who was robbed of his life when he's barely begun living.
All of his opportunities for a wife and family were gone.
He had no future now; Rookwood had made sure of that.
Lily, who was the youngest girl of the bunch being a fifth year, was overcome by the pain and had to look away.
She turned around, wiping her eyes, "Lil, you alright?" the surprisingly concerned voice of her cousin Louis said from behind them.
She nodded, "I just need a minute."
He respected her wishes and turned away.
'Breath in. Breathe out. In. Out. In. Out' Lily was instructing herself on how to breath.
'In. Out. In. Ou-' she stopped when her eyes reached the large maple to the side of where she stood.
Her breath caught in her throat and her heart skipped a beat. Or two. When she started breathing, it was staggered. She wanted to say something, but no words came to her mind.
She looked in to his eyes, thinking it was a trick of the mind. He gave a sly smile, the smile of a jokester.
She looked back over her shoulder and saw that George was still no his knees in front of the grave, still grieving.
Slowly, she brought her eyes back to the tree, where she saw his trying not contain laughter, but failing.
This was not possible, was it? He was...he was dead!
"I don't believe this," she whispered at a volume meant only for her as the wind blew her red hair out of the bobby pins which had kept it from escaping the hairdo she had spent two hours on until this moment
Surely, she was crazy. Whatever the reason though, he was there. She could see him.
She was looking in to the brown eyes of her late uncle.