Chapter 1 : Bonfire Night
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The wizarding world was in a state of jubilation - even now five days after the news had broken there was still dancing in the streets and normally respectable people were partying all day and all night. While only a week before people would go straight home after work - avoiding the streets for fear of attack - now they lingered, unconcernedly enjoying the new-found security that a young boy had provided the world.
“You-Know-Who is Dead!” The Daily Prophet celebrated.
“Wonderchild kills He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!” Witch Weekly exclaimed.
“Good Triumphs Over Evil!” cried the Millicent Bagnold, the Minister for Magic in her interview with reporters the day after the defeat of Lord Voldemort. “Your Ministry has won the war!”
The press was uncharacteristically full of joy, conveying a sense of new dawn for the magical world after so many dark days of terror. “The cloud that has been over us has lifted,” was the first line in the Daily Prophet’s editorial. “The most evil wizard of our time has been defeated, but what is most astonishing is that the one that defeated him was not a great duelist or a powerful Auror: it was a young boy. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived has saved us all.”
What was particularly strange was that Muggles themselves seemed to be aware that something was different. In the past few days and particularly this night, a huge number of fireworks had been exploding all over the country, exploding colourful flashes across the sky. Minerva had seen hundreds Muggles gathered around large fires, some holding some very odd looking candles which sparkled in their gloved hands. Some of them were even burning effigies in their fires, but of what significance that was Minerva had no idea. Muggles of course were ignorant of Lord Voldemort’s reign of terror, so what they were actually celebrating was a mystery to the Transfiguration teacher, but it could not be denied that they were jubilant about something.
Ever since she had returned from Little Whinging on that fateful Hallowe'en night, Minerva McGonagall had made a conscious effort to avoid all of this hype and celebration. She did not begrudge her kin the chance to celebrate, after all they had had very little to shout about for decades but she could not help but feel a sense of anger amid all of this joy; anger because in all the countless words written and spoken since the defeat of Lord Voldemort, nothing much had been said about the tragedy of that night. If you had not read the coverage very closely, you would have got the impression that there had only been one death that night in Godric’s Hollow. Column 3 of page 17 of the Daily Prophet, however, told a different tale:
“... the reign of terror brought about by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named cost the lives of wizards and muggles alike. Although we may never truly know the real number that were killed by him and his Death-Eaters, we do know the identities of their final victims: Peter Pettigrew, killed by Sirius Black as he tried to escape, and Lily and James Potter, the parents of the Boy-Who-Lived who were killed by You-Know-Who in the attack on Godric’s Hollow”
That was it. In all the coverage of the greatest event since the defeat of Grindelwald in 1945, the fact that two brave parents had died in a vain yet gallant attempt to save their young son had passed almost without comment. To Minerva McGonagall, a woman who had taught them for seven years and mentored them on their induction to the Order of the Phoenix, this lack of recognition was almost more than she could bear. Lily and James Potter were heroes, deserving of the greatest recognition that the wizarding world could bestow. Instead they got a sentence on page 17.
But maybe that was more fitting, she thought, turning into the graveyard, her black tartan robes wafting round as she opened the rusty gate. Although James Potter had always been a bit of a show-off, he had always hated the Daily Prophet and the Ministry. He preferred to place his trust in those whom he had known for a long time, those who had earned his respect. That had been the founding principle of the Order, and the reason why he and his wife had been inducted at such a young age. It was also the reason why they were so respected by the Order members. Minerva had felt a great swell of pride on their admission, because they had been Gryffindors. They had put their faith in the Order and in their friends within it, and that of course was the reason why they had died.
Sirius Black. There had been many betrayals in the war, but this one seemed more heinous than any other. To sell out a fellow Order member was one thing; to sell out a best friend another, but to sell out your best friend, his wife and his son? She still could not quite believe it, indeed she had refused to accept it for a long time after she had heard the news but the evidence was incontrovertible. Sirius Black had sold out Lily and James Potter. Sirius had killed them as surely as if he had cast the curse himself. There was no fate that Minerva McGonagall could wish upon a man that could fit that crime. She caught herself thinking through every moment that she had spent in the company of him, all through his time at Hogwarts and beyond trying to see if there was some sign she had missed, some indication of the man that he really was. There had always been some mutterings about admitting a Black to the Order with the history that that family had with Voldemort, yet no one had seriously thought that he would betray the Order, let alone the Potters. She had never been a vengeful person, but she found herself wishing to be in a locked room with him, to make him feel the pain that she felt.
She was now very close to the small gathering of people that huddled from the November cold around a twin coffin that hovered opposite a large white marble tombstone. She took her place between Remus Lupin and Horace Slughorn. Opposite her stood some members of the Order of the Pheonix, including Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, Elphias Doge, Emmeline Vance and Frank and Alice Longbottom. There were also some of her colleagues from Hogwarts, including Filius Flitwick along with some people from the St Mungo’s who had known Lily from her time as a trainee Healer there. By the tombstone, dressed in purple and looking uncharacteristically sombre stood the Order’s founder and leader: Albus Dumbledore. He had none of the restless energy that normally permeated every pore of his body - today was not the day.
The congregation waited for a few minutes in silence, reflecting on the tragedy that was being commemorated in marble before them. It seemed so very sad to Minerva that so few people had turned up. Other than Remus Lupin, Emmeline Vance and the Longbottoms, the rest of the group were not of Lily and James’s generation; they were mentors rather than friends. Particularly conspicuous by their absence were either of the deceased’s families. James had no brothers or sisters and his parents had died two years previously of Scrofungulus infection. The Evans’s, Lily’s parents, had also predeceased them, dying during Lily’s sixth year at Hogwarts but she did have a living sister, Petunia. Petunia and her husband Vernon Dursley had adopted the Potter’s son Harry though not through choice.Though Minerva had known that Lily and Petunia had not been close as sisters, it seemed extraordinary and monstrous to her that she would not come to mourn her own sister’s death. Though of course not in the same league as Sirius’s betrayal, this dereliction of familial duties caused her to shake with fury.
Fury was of course not a particularly appropriate emotion to be displaying during a funeral, so Minerva distracted herself by staring at the tombstone itself. It was quite a simple affair: the white marble shone in the moonlight and the light that it emitted allowed her to read the inscription.
James Potter, born 27 March 1960, died 31 October 1981
Lily Potter, born 30 January 1960, died 31 October 1981
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...” Minerva repeated, not to anyone in particular.
“As if we didn’t have enough to be getting on with now we have to kill Death as well. Thought now Voldemort was dead we could at least have a rest,” muttered Alastor Moody, hearing her words.
Despite the sombre nature of the occasion, Minerva couldn’t help but raise the tiniest of smiles at that. Mad-Eye had always been legendary for his black humour at funerals though, as Head of the Auror Department, this was probably because he had attended far too many.
Much of the service itself passed in a blur of tearful speeches and sombre stares. Lupin stood up first and said a few words about how he had first met James at Hogwarts, and through him got to know Lily. He related stories of their jaunts around Hogwarts in their school years, though Minerva noticed that Sirius Black was not mentioned at all in his five minute address. Next Horace Slughorn, spoke about how Lily had been his favourite student; his most hard-working potioneer and a true pleasure to teach. Alastor Moody said a few words about how brave James had been as a member of his Auror Department after having been fast-tracked after his graduation from Hogwarts, putting more Death Eaters in Azkaban in his brief tenure than many of his colleagues had managed in their careers. Finally, once Moody had fallen into silence, it was Minerva’s turn to speak. This was the moment she had been dreading for days but she knew it was her duty to perform this last rite for James and Lily.
“I remember the first time I met James Potter and Lily Evans,” Minerva said, her voice wavering slightly as she fought back a tear. “They had just arrived at the castle and were getting ready to be sorted. I have been the master of ceremonies for the Sorting Ceremony now for twenty years, and I can tell with relative certainty which house most students will be sorted into as soon as they arrive. If they walk into the hall with their noses in the air, with pristine robes and an air of arrogance, they will be Slytherins. If they enter wearing thick glasses, looking like they have spent half their lives in a library, they will be Ravenclaws. If they come already accompanied with lots of new friends and a caring attitude, they will be Hufflepuffs. When Lily Evans walked into Hogwarts, she saw one of the boys, Garrett Hobbs I think it was, trip and fall, spraining his wrist in the process. The rest of the students walked on by, too preoccupied with their own thoughts and worries, not Lily Evans. Not only did she immediately come to his aid, but she helped carry him into the Hall while all the other students were too preoccupied to nelp, that was of course until James, who had been the last to get off the boats, grabbed Hobbs’s other arm and helped him to the Sorting ceremony. They were Gryffindors from the moment they entered the castle until the day they died, and I was proud of them from the moment I first clapped my eyes on them.”
Feeling the emotion well up inside her again, she paused to gather herself. She was not the only one struggling, Remus Lupin, on this recounting of what was of course the day that he first met James and Lily had his hand over his eyes, attempting to force away the tears. “James and Lily were both very bright students,” she continued, grim but determined, “earning the admiration, and in James’s case an element of exasperation, of all of their teachers. They were brilliant and popular, not just within their own house but across the others as well. Their contribution to Gryffindor House and the school was recognised by them becoming the first Gryffindors to be named Head Boy and Head Girl in the same year for two hundred and fifty years.
"James was clearly besotted with Lily from their earliest times at school, and when she finally bowed to his advances, Lily was equally attached to him. These were two people who loved and trusted many people, yet their devotion to each other was unmistakable and unbreakable. I like to think they were drawn together because together they embodied everything that it means to be a Gryffindor: courageous, loyal and full of nerve and kindness.”
Once again Minerva took a pause and a long sniff into her patterned handkerchief to steady herself. She saw her words were having very different effects on the group. Lupin had recovered himself a little at her words and seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, perhaps reminiscing about his time at Hogwarts. Emmeline Vance, was in floods of silent tears, clasping Elphias Doge as a drowning sailor would clasp the mast of a sinking ship. Looking at the mourners was only serving to make everything much harder, so she decided to look directly at the tombstone instead. “James and Lily are irreplaceable people, lost in the most tragic circumstances but who died for a cause they believed it, for a cause that was right and a cause that was, thanks to their sacrifice, ultimately victorious. Their deaths have gone almost unnoticed in the Wizarding World and yet their contribution to it is priceless. They leave behind a son who will never know his parents and a world that may never truly know just how brilliant they were. Yet we are all here proof that they did not die in vain and I for one promise that, once Harry is old enough, he will know of James and Lily Potter: the bravest and most valiant people that I have ever known. It was a privilege to know them, to have taught them, and to have seen them grow. Goodbye Lily and James, and thank you for the world that you died to help create.”
As Minerva finished her speech, a firework display began a few miles away. The flashes illuminated the graveyard, causing the tears on everyone’s faces to sparkle and twinkle.
“Why are the Muggles celebrating?” Minerva asked Dumbledore quietly.
“Don’t you know?Oh of course you normally spend your November’s at Hogwarts,” Dumbledore said, the twinkle back in his eyes for a moment. “This is their night to celebrate the thwarting of an overthrow of their government back in the Sixteenth Century. A man called Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament but failed. They call it Bonfire Night.