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Harry Potter and the Secret Forest by Mariano_Pingitore
Chapter 2 : The giver of Hope is Born
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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                Harry wished he could attend everyone’s funeral. He felt it was only right, but knew it could not be done. It was because of that that he asked Professor McGonagall if he could address all the gathered Hogwarts fighters the next morning at the general service, before the Hogwarts Express took everyone home. This was intended as a ceremony when they would bury the ones who were to rest at the school grounds and farewell the ones who were to rest at different places.

                Colin Creevey was going be laid at Hogwarts. Being muggle-born, his parents thought it would be denying his identity to lay him in a muggle cemetery. Harry had arranged with Andromeda Tonks that both her daughter and her son-in-law be laid at Godric’s Hollow with Harry’s parents and a memorial plaque for Sirius was also to be set there. That way, the Marauders would rest together, except for Wormtail, the traitor.

                Arthur and Molly Weasley wished to bury Fred at The Burrow. A tear stricken George told them that he felt Fred would be happiest at Hogwarts. The rest of his siblings quietly agreed and the matter was settled, not without new outbursts of tears.

                Harry and Hermione felt like intruders in the midst of the Weasley family grief. They had of course loved Fred but as they had no family of theirs to mourn, they chose to be with Ron and Ginny. However, when the whole family gathered they went for a walk on the grounds, talking for hours on end about their past, their present and their future.

                ‘There’s an empty feeling right now, isn’t there?’ Hermione asked slowly while Harry revelled in the lightness of his heart, while feeding the Giant Squid at the edge of the Lake. He thought he knew where she was going.

                ‘Like an impasse. This present is just a break. Like the veil in the Department of Mysteries, just a moment that divides our hallowed past from our future.’ Harry agreed. ‘I feel the greatest darkness has passed. Still, wherever there is good, evil will appear. However, I feel we are up to the task, after all we’ve been through’ He completed.

                ‘You know Harry, I’ve been thinking about next year. Ron and I have just come clean to each other and you and Ginny have just reunited. A lot of time has been stolen from us, but it is ours to claim now. I would love to return to Hogwarts as a student. Not just for our N.E.W.T’s, but also to have a year of normal life as we haven’t had since first year, to get back what Riddle took from us. I think we are all rather shaken by everything that’s happened and I don’t want to rush any decision regarding my future. Still, I’d never come back without you or Ron, and I know you won’t come back without Ginny, so it’s the four of us or none. I just wanted to tell you this and maybe hear what you’re thinking.’ She finished hopefully.

                ‘Hermione, you never cease to amaze me. It’ like you are performing Legilimency on me. I had been thinking of becoming an Auror for almost the past four years, ever since Barty Crouch Jr. fired that up in my head. But now, with Riddle dead, though I believe Aurors will still be needed I don’t think I want to be one of them. They and all of the Magical Community will of course have my help should they need it, but that also holds true whatever I choose to do for a living. So, I’m pretty much in the dark about my future. A year with no worries but exams, homework and Quidditch could do me some good. However, I feel we’ve come a long way in independence to subject to school rules and the like.’ At this, Hermione interrupted him. ‘When were we ever subjected to rules anyway?’ Harry couldn’t suppress a grin. ‘You may be right. I still think we should talk to Minerva about special arrangements for our return. For starters, we’ll be ages ahead of the seventh years in Charms, Transfiguration and Defence, to say the least.’

                ‘Yeah, we could tackle the N.E.W.T’s right here right now.’ Hermione added. Harry couldn’t quite make his mind to decide if she was joking or not. So he settled for joke and ploughed on. ‘We’ll talk to Ron and Ginny and if they agree we could discuss a plan of studies with Minerva during the rebuilding of the castle.’ So it was settled.

                Ron and Ginny agreed almost instantly. Harry and Hermione addressed them after dinner, in the common room. Ginny had her trademark blazing look when she assured that she would follow Harry to the ends of the earth if it were necessary. She was adamant. One thing was sure, she said, they would never be apart again. At this point, Harry blushed furiously and Ron had made a heavy point of looking through the window when Ginny had finished talking and kissed Harry passionately. Hermione had looked at all this with a tearful smile in her face. Her little brother was at last free and in the arms of a remarkable girl, no, woman, she thought, that had such a forceful will and powerful love for him that made every foundation tremble. ‘All the pain, death and grief were worth it, if only to see this couple flourish’ thought Hermione. Witnessing that kiss, the first one since Harry’s birthday almost a year ago was all the proof she’d ever need. She could almost hear Albus Dumbledore stating that love is a force that beats every Dark Art. If everything they had ever sacrificed had been to see a love this big watering the flowers of everyone’s spirit, then nothing was ever in vain.

                Meanwhile, Harry was oblivious to all this. He had felt completely overwhelmed when Ginny was talking so decisively. He hadn’t decided yet what should he do regarding her, but she had decided for both. So, when he responded enthusiastically to her kiss, he felt that if he had casted a Patronus Charm right then, it would have eradicated every Dementor in the world.

                It was with this mood that Harry went to bed that night. He woke up the next morning and stared unbelievably at the canopy of his four poster bed, hearing Ron’s heavy snores coupled with Neville’s slow but loud breathing and realised that for the first time in a year he had slept a full night in a comfortable bed without a single nightmare. It was also the first time in almost four years that he didn’t feel the heavy tingling in his chest that he had come to associate with the fear of finding out a friend or family member was dead.

                At that last thought, he felt guilty. He remembered that he had to face Colin and Fred’s burial, among others, that same morning and hated himself for feeling so happy. Then he pictured in his mind Colin’s eagerness to fight despite being underage and Fred’s jovial smile whatever life threw at him and understood it at last. They wouldn’t have liked the fact that they have given their lives for everyone’s freedom and the subjects of his sacrifice spent their days in gloom and bitterness. They died so everyone who survived could live in peace and happiness.

                Harry expected to meet a subdued mood in the Great Hall when he went down for breakfast half an hour later, bathed and dressed. He was not to be disappointed. However, he felt something different in the air from the time nearly a year before when Albus Dumbledore had died. Mixed with the grief, there was peace, hope, relief. Back in the time of Dumbledore’s burial it had been very much the opposite. Upon entering the Hall, he glanced at the Gryffindor table. The Weasleys and Fleur were all there except Ron, and they looked brokehearted. Seeing that Hermione was nowhere to be found and that Harry was feeling quite cheerful and he didn’t want to seem disrespectful towards the red haired family, he took the risk of walking past the red and gold table towards the blue and silver one and sat beside Luna Lovegood, the only other person in the Hall that was truly smiling. When he sat, he saw George Weasley glancing at him and giving him a small nod, sensing what Harry was feeling.

                Luna gazed up from the bowl of porridge that she had been eating in and outrageously slow way and looked at Harry. Her dreamy, unreadable stare had the dubious honour of being one of the only looks that could make Harry feel uncomfortable, and it had achieved its goal one too many times in the past, but today it felt him with warmth. He beamed at her.

                ‘Hello Harry’ she said cheerfully. ‘It’s great to see you so relaxed and happy, I haven’t seen you like this since... well, I’ve never seen you like this before!’ she finished with her biggest smile.

                ‘I know Luna, it’s just that this is all over and I think we should all be happy and grateful, not teary and grieving. By the way, have you seen Hermione?’ Harry asked, somehow worried. She wasn’t one to sleep late.

                ‘Actually, I have. I had just come down here for breakfast, I was one of the first to seat at the Ravenclaw table and she had already finished and went outside. She seemed perfectly happy, though, not worried or tearful. Perhaps she was going to get some Gurdyroots, you know that they must be picked precisely at 7.28am for the infusion to be sweetest.’

                Harry choked over his cornflakes, tucked in as fast as he could, drained his tea and before Luna could even notice he had stood up and was about to go towards the great oak doors to look for Hermione when Luna stopped him, she looked really serious. ‘You know Harry, you shouldn’t eat so fast, it’s really bad for your health. Perhaps you’ve been bitten by a Gluttonbug, they are little insects whose saliva has a toxin that makes you eat at top speed. If you don’t drink the antidote, which is made out of Freshwater Plimpy blood mixed with powdered Firecrab shell, your intestines will turn to stone and you will die.’

                At this, Harry had to sprint towards the grounds at top speed to avoid laughing himself stupid in the Great Hall, an act that, given the circumstances, would have been the mood breaker of the century. Once in the grounds, he finally let his mirth have free rein and he laughed so hard that birds flew in panic out of the first line of trees in the Forbidden Forest.

                Just to mimic Harry’s spirits, and to be a blatant contrast from the dark mood of the Great Hall, the sky was outrageously blue and clear, the weather perfectly mild. It was a lovely spring morning and Harry couldn’t help being rooted to his spot, gazing longingly and drinking in the gorgeous view of the Lake, as a further contrast from the destruction of the castle. He longed to mount a broom and fly, for these were nearly perfect Quidditch conditions. He didn’t have to look for a long time to find Hermione. She was sitting at the edge of the lake, cross legged and deep in thought, the bright sunlight bathing her skin and hair and making her shine. The effect was mesmerising. Harry couldn’t help but notice it, his sister was breathtakingly beautiful. He had grown accustomed to see her dishevelled, carrying several bags full of books or lately, during the war, pale, badly nourished, with sunken eyes and dark shadows below them and often sporting various injuries, cuts and bruises. Now he saw her as she was: A fully grown woman, fit, curvy, with a mane of brown hair that she had finally learned to control, now pleasantly wavy and bright in the sunlight. She had a gorgeous face with a perfectly curved little nose; deep, twinkling brown eyes and a beautiful smile that showed white regular teeth (courtesy of Madam Pomfrey). He admired her beauty and thought that it was only surpassed, albeit by a little margin, by Ginny’s, but that was a comment he was not making anytime soon.

‘The early bird catches the worm, eh?’ said Harry. Hermione stared at his smile and grinned. It was difficult not to feel happy sitting in a glorious morning and staring at his little brother’s lopsided smile.

‘Oh Harry, I’m just so glad to see you smiling. The mood at breakfast was so dark’ she said. From this, Harry gathered that she had sat at the Gryffindor table, amidst the mourning Weasleys.

‘Yeah, it’s what they would have wanted, isn’t it? For us to be free and live happily. I mean, Fred and Dobby, Colin and Dumbledore. I been thinking too, now I have to take care of my Godson, don’t I? I can’t be a sulking, dark, brooding, grumpy old Godfather, can I? He has Great Grandfather Phineas Nigellus to fulfil that role, doesn’t he?’ he finished with a toothy grin.

‘Oh, I had forgotten about Teddy! You want him to live with you?’ Hermione frowned.

‘No, of course not. He still has Grandma Andromeda, but I’ll be around as much as I can, you can trust me on that one’ Hermione thought he could see where Harry was coming from. He was also an orphan, but his Godfather had been unfairly taken away from him, twice.

They went back to the Great Hall and were intercepted by Professor McGonagall on their way to Gryffindor table, where Ron was now sitting among his family, eating like he had not done such a thing since the Founder’s era. ‘Harry, do you know what you will be saying at the service?’ she asked. Harry smiled at Hermione’s bewildered expression; he had not told anyone that he would be speaking.

‘Hmmm, I have a general idea, but on the whole I think I’ll be just making it up as I go along, just someone’s favourite kind of plan.’ He said mischievously, paraphrasing the Great late Fred Weasley. Minerva couldn’t suppress a smile.

‘Typical Potter. And yet, typical Weasley too. I can hardly wait to have your and Ginny’s children run amok around here.’ She expected Harry to blush and be embarrassed but he replied on the spot, with twinkling eyes and all his wits about him.

‘Oh, Minerva, you are not yet through with me and her, you’ll have to hold your horses for a while, but eventually my children will come and you will be in their hands, not otherwise, so you’ve better be prepared.’ Harry winked at Hermione and left the Headmistress looking bewildered as he strode towards the Gryffindor table, where he was glad to see the Weasleys looking somewhat happier.

Ron, it transpired, had just told his parents that they were all going back to classes later that year and Mrs. Weasley was certainly glad to hear it. ‘I thought you would need more convincing’ she said. ‘Anyway, I would have had you all come back, even if you didn’t want to.’

Harry joined in while helping himself to Ginny’s breakfast leftovers, the former owner of them having hastily curled up and entwined around him. It was quite comfortable, Harry thought. ‘Convincing? This is where we’ve been the happiest; there was no chance that we would miss a last year of night time adventures, duels, dangerous Quidditch matches and the unending possibilities of siege and war. Plus, Ron has promised Hagrid to teach Grawp how to waltz, being so proficient at it. And that’s not to say that Hagrid himself has bred a new species that’s a cross between Blast-Ended Skrewts, Manticores and Chimaeras. Who on earth would want to miss that?’ The table erupted in laughter while Molly looked apprehensive.

‘Oh, it seems a certain someone has channelled my twin’s spirit’ said George unexpectedly. ‘Who would have thought that Fred would have that kind of hindsight when he said he didn’t want to be stuck as a specky, scrawny git forever? Alas, brother, your worst fear has come true’ he finished dramatically. And that really was all there was to it. As every member of the Weasley family, Fleur, Harry, Hermione and every bystander that had heard the conversation laughed the hardest; Harry realized that George’s mention of Fred was the breaking point between grief and acceptance. There was pain, of course, but the whole family had gotten past the line that divides suffering the departure from honouring the departed.

It was logical, however, that half an hour later, when people where sitting down in benches not unlike that had on Dumbledore’s funeral, Harry could see tears in all their eyes. He stood at the front facing the innumerable rows alongside Kingsley Shacklebolt and Minerva McGonagall. Everyone fell respectfully silent when the Minister for Magic cleared his throat purposefully.
                ‘Good day to everybody, we have gathered here to pay our last respects to everyone that has fallen in two nights ago. As you know, some will be laid to rest here, at the school grounds while some others will be laid elsewhere. However, we will hold this ceremony in honour of everyone, regardless where they will rest forever. The names of the deceased are as follows...’

Harry tuned out of Kingsley’s speech. He knew every name, plus much more other names of people that had died before the last battle and he didn’t feel like he was up for hearing it all again. However, he tuned in again when he heard his name spoken by the Minister’s deep, slow voice. ‘Mr. Harry James Potter will now address us all’

Harry took a step forward, breathed deeply and started speaking. ‘Less than a year ago, I sat among those same benches and witnessed in disbelief the funeral of the greatest wizard of our time, second only to Merlin himself. It was pain, despair and hopelessness as I had never experienced before. Albus Dumbledore was my mentor, my guide and the greatest and kindest Headmaster Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ever had.’ He paused for breath and then he felt it. He looked to his side and saw Fawkes, Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix perched on his shoulder. The magnificent red and gold bird started singing and Harry felt a rush of overwhelming calm and hope and found the courage to continue, once Fawkes had stopped singing and the crowd had let their gasp of surprise and awe. ‘Today the ceremony is similar, but the feeling is completely different. As I sat last year, I was faced with the hardest decision in my life. I chose to turn my back on my friends, family and school, I even decided to abandon the love of my life to pursue the dark task my mentor had bequested me with: To bring Tom Marvolo Riddle to his defeat’ the knot in his throat now completely dissolved, he ploughed on. ‘Have I doubted my decision? Yes. Have I felt like giving everything up? More than once. Have I been paralyzed by the sadness and strife for those gone? More than you could imagine. Have I felt heart stopping fear? More than I’d like to admit. But the presence of my loved ones and the task left for me by the ones lost weighed more. I could not have done anything without each and every one of you, especially not without my brother and sister, Ron and Hermione. So, my message is clear: Enjoy the company of your loved ones, honour the lives of those who gave them for our freedom and never lose hope. Our fallen’s sacrifice was to ensure our happiness and peace and the least we can do is fulfil their wish and be happy for them’ Harry steeled himself for the hardest part. ‘At last, I will ask you all a favour: Never, ever, forget Tom Marvolo Riddle. Never forget that he walked this earth like every one of us. Never forget what a loveless heart can cause. Never forget his followers, for they shoe what power hunger can do to a soul. Don’t deny this war, don’t deny its cause, and remember that it is in our hands not to let history repeat itself. Remember to love, remember, to teach love in a loving way, remember our dead and remember his name and his deeds. Tom Riddle is no more, and we are free of him. We will remain free as long as we do not bury his actions with his body.’

Harry counted a full ten seconds of the utmost, mesmerised silence before the whole crowd erupted in the loudest applause he’d ever heard. Relieved, he let his muscles relax only to have all the air knocked out from his lungs as he was trapped in a tight hug from Molly Weasley.

No words were spoken, but the message was the clearer for it.


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