Chapter 11 : Why we Fight.
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For Ron, it had been surreal. He and Hermione had already attended five funerals that week including that of Colin Creevey and a joint funeral for Tonks and Lupin. The pain and grief at each one was real but all the fine words had begun to merge one into another till they had almost lost meaning. He had heard too many times of noble sacrifice and of young lives cut off far too soon.
At Fred's funeral they seemed to be going through the motions, too numb to feel anything more. George did what he had to do. The right things were done, the right words were said, but the real grieving, the real celebration of Fred had taken place elsewhere in the quiet and the not so quiet gatherings of his family and of his friends at the Burrow and the many other places where Fred had been known and loved. Just one funeral among many did not seem sufficient to mark the end of such as vibrant and compelling life.
Ron was in a state of quiet melancholy reviewing some of the times he and Fred had shared, thankful for the support that Hermione had provided to him all week. He was roused from this contemplation by Luna's frantic attempts to get Harry's attention.
“You listen to me Harry Potter!” demanded Luna, “there is a large disturbance out there and it is moving towards us.”
Harry, Ron and Hermione whipped out their wands.
“Homenum Revelio." Hermione quickly cast the spell in the direction Luna was pointing. Immediately, about fifty indistinct figures were revealed, moving towards them in battle line. They were still about 300 meters away.
Realising their presence had been revealed, the attackers instantly fired volley after volley of stunning spells into the assembled mourners at Fred Weasley’s funeral. More lethal spells were, fortunately, not effective at this range. All the same the battle was almost lost in the first few seconds. Fully two thirds of those attending the funeral were down or incapacitated. Of the rest, many were simply too shocked to provide useful resistance. People were screaming and running in all directions. Quite a few disapparated on the spot. The remainder were totally on the defensive, effectively outnumbered, projecting protective shields.
Those who had been standing near Harry and Luna, including fortunately quite a few of the DA, had that split second warning and many had managed to defend themselves just in time.
“Ron, Hermione,” commanded Harry, “we’ll get some people and come down behind them.”
“NO!” insisted Ron. He had quickly surveyed the situation and, just as if it were a chess position, he immediately understood how nearly impossible their situation was. He saw a way, though, they could retrieve the situation but it had to be done right, it had to be done fast and they needed some luck.
“Trust me Harry, I know what we need to do, OK”
Harry nodded and Ron immediately took on the air of command.
Ron called Neville, who was fortunately still on his feet and nearby.
“Neville I need you to take seven good fighters. Apparate just behind that hill there just to the right of these bastards. Come over the crest in battle line and roll them up from the side. You have to be totally offensive, don’t hold back, and don’t worry about defence. We’ll give you defence from here. Got it!
“Then go now, and don’t let them see you, disapparate from behind that hedge. GO!” Neville moved with surprising purposefulness and speed to execute the mission.
Ginny went to follow when Harry called her back, “Ginny, where are you going?”
“You’re our leader and my love Harry, but Neville is my battle captain.” She turned and ran after Neville.
Ron turned to his eldest brother. “Bill, Hermione, Fleur. See those shrubs over there?” Ron pointed to a spot a hundred meters behind them and off to their left. I want you to set up a position over there.
“Ron, you can’t protect me like that. I’m staying in the battle,” Hermione sharply protested as she parried another hex.
“You will be in the thick of if I’m right. They will try and flank us on that side if they can’t get past our defensive shields. You’ll be in a position to ambush them and protect our flank if they do. Now go. There’s no time to argue. Bill take care of our girls, and hit them hard when they come. GO!”
Bill felt a moment’s resentment being given orders by his youngest brother but he quickly came to a decision. Without further argument, Bill, Fleur and Hermione moved stealthily to the positions indicated
“Harry, you have to stay here. As long as the enemy can see you they won’t be looking around for where you may have gone or at what the rest of us are doing. Concentrate on giving us protection. And Harry, use the effing Elder wand. We’re going to need all the power we have. This isn’t the time for noble sentiments.” With that Ron left him, running among the various defenders, trying to bringing order out of the chaos.
The stench of fear and ozone filled his nostrils. Many of the defenders who were still fighting were close to joining the panic; others were using spells ineffective at this range. He gave encouragement and reassurance. He got most of the defenders using defensive spells. He switched some to offensive stunning spells. “We have to give them some reason to pause,” he explained. He was taking a big risk; defenders were still dropping under the heavy barrage from attackers. He hoped he hadn’t sent too many potential defenders with Neville… or too few.
The attackers were advancing again. Within a couple of minutes they would be in lethal range.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw George, Charlie and his father trying to rally the confused and the frightened and bring them into the battle all the while protecting them.
Ron soon found McGonagall and Filius Flitwick.
“Thank Merlin you two are still OK,” said Ron
“Nice to see you too Mr Weasley!” said McGonagall sarcastically as she fended of waves of attacks.
“Professors, in about 30 seconds, Neville and a small force are going to swoop over that hill and come down hard on the enemy. I need some special magic from the Professors of Hogwarts. It would be great if we could do something about the disillusionment charms they’re using; the enemy are still hard to see. Can one of you take care of that? I also want to make sure that none of them escape, I need one of you project an anti disapparition field.
“Consider it done, Mr Weasley,” replied Flitwick. Before Ron could respond he was distracted by bright flashes off to their left. A small group of the enemy had appeared there, just as he had predicted. Bill, Fleur and Hermione had sprung the trap; they were all soon down.
Just a few moments later Neville came over the hill, creating absolute confusion and havoc among the enemy who were now being attacked from two directions. Bill, Hermione and Fleur moved quickly from their ambush position and attacked from a third direction. More and more fighters in the main group of mourners were now able to go on the offensive. The tide of battle swiftly changed. The enemy position completely collapsed and they broke. One by one they tried to disapparate, but they couldn’t. Soon every single one of them was down.
The whole battle lasted seven minutes.
It had almost been a total disaster. In the end it was a total and complete victory. There were no fatal casualties on either side. The entire attacking force had been captured.
Now that they were down, their disillusionment dissipated, the enemy could be clearly seen. Many were in death eater masks which were soon ripped off by the victors. The catch included most of the Death eaters who had escaped the battle of Hogwarts including Thorfinn Rowle, Crabbe and Goyle senior, and the Lestranges, Rodolphus and Rabastan. It included a number of Death Eater wannabes too including Gregory Goyle and Blaise Zabini.
The defenders were shocked when they discovered two aurors among the attackers. They were part of a team of five assigned to protect the sector from which the attack had come. Their colleagues were later found bound and gagged but otherwise unharmed.
After the battle Harry slumped. He had done wonders providing protection but now the danger had passed he became distraught. Once again those he loved had been in terrible danger and he was at the centre of it. He saw Ron approach him and he pulled him into despairing hug.
“Will it never end?” he asked.
“No,” replied Ron thoughtfully, concerned for his friend, “but it will get better. The Death Eaters will never be able to mount an attack like this again. Today, no one died. It doesn’t get better than that.” Harry had been growing more and more despondent as funeral followed funeral. Ron was thankful that his sister had been able to support Harry through the ordeal and that in turn Harry had done the same for Ginny.
Ron separated from Harry, only to be almost knocked over by Hermione who had thrown herself into his arms.
“That was brilliant Ron, absolutely brilliant!” she squealed.
They were soon joined by Ginny and Neville who were as pumped as Hermione. They were all high on adrenaline.
“Did you see that! Did you see that!” Ginny shrieked. “They just fell before us. We ripped through them. Brilliant plan, brother mine.”
“It’s Luna we should be thanking. If it wasn’t for her they would have been on top of us and using lethal curses before we knew what hit us. It would have been very, very bad,” replied Ron.
Ironically Luna was one of the many stunned during the early seconds of the battle. Most of these were now being revived. Many had ben conscious throughout the battle but unable to move. One such was Kingsley who, once again, had to take charge of the aftermath. Ron didn’t envy him.
Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny were soon joined by the rest of the Weasleys.
“Well George, what do you think?” asked Ron, “a battle won, no casualties and fifty captured Death Eaters; a fitting tribute to our brother don’t you think?”
“Very fitting,” replied George with bravado neither of them really felt. “It makes the fireworks I was planning seem a bit tame really.”
The wake for Fred Weasley took on the air of both a celebration and a healing session for what was beginning to be called the Battle of Ottery St Catchpole. Despite the bloodless victory, people were aware how close they had all come to disaster. Rather than being on the run, as everyone had thought, the remaining Death Eaters had gambled all on an attack that nearly took out the core of the supposed victors of the war.
Fred’s funeral had been the last of all the funeral’s held that week. By informal consensus no other funeral clashed with it. As a member of both the Order of the Phoenix and the DA and, with his brother, the instigator of Potterwatch Fred’s funeral was seen as symbolically important. The fact that he was a member of the Weasley family was also significant.
The one remaining event after Fred’s funeral would be a memorial ceremony to be held at Hogwarts on Sunday in two days’ time. It was rumoured that the muggle Prime Minister, Tony Blair, would be attending.
Prior to the memorial service there was to be an information session for Hogwarts students whose studies had been interrupted by the war and the premature closure of the school after the Battle of Hogwarts; principally Newt and Owl students and those unable to attend last year.
Now the wake for Fred was down to a hard core comprising the family, his close friends and more than a few of the DA. There were a few other hardy stayers including, surprisingly Minerva McGonagall.
McGonagall was saying in her Scottish brogue “people such as Fred are vital to the emotional health of a school; people who are not malicious in the least but whose irreverence and capacity for mayhem remind us all not to take ourselves too seriously. Fred and George, though, were in a class of their own.”
“I’ll remind you that you said that next year, Professor, when I get in trouble for causing mayhem,” quipped Ginny cheekily.
“Said what, Miss Weasley? I don’t believe I said anything,” replied McGonagall trying hard to hide a smile behind a disapproving look. “Did you hear me say anything, Mr Potter?”
“Of course not Professor, I don’t know what Ginny is talking about?” replied Harry trying to keep a straight face. This earned him a mock glare, hands on hips, from Ginny, who then burst out laughing.
“Next year won’t be anything like last year at Hogwarts, thank Merlin,” McGonagall continued, “ and that’s thanks more to the people in this room than perhaps anyone else. The school will need a lot of healing and it will be hard for all of us to get back to normal. I hope many of you can help with that.”
Before McGonagall could take these thoughts further she was interrupted by the arrival of a much harried looking Kingsley. No one had seen him since they had left the graveyard, the scene of the battle. He collapsed into a chair and gratefully accepted the fire whiskey that was floated towards him and downed it in one go.
“What a disaster!” he said.
“What’s the story?” asked Arthur.
“The good news is that all but about 5 of the hard core Death Eaters are now either dead or in custody. The attack was organised by the Lestranges. They managed to rally most of the remaining Death Eaters and recruited many of their fellow travellers and a few malcontents as well. Their aim was revenge for Voldemort and Bellatrix and to establish themselves as the leaders of a new Death Eater movement that could once more take over the government. If they had succeeded today they would have made significant progress towards that goal.”
“The disaster is the extraordinarily weak position of the ministry and the Auror department in the wake of this attack.” continued Kingsley. “What really hits me hard is that the senior Auror in charge of security for Fred’s funeral, Carl Wydcombe, betrayed us. He has apparently been a long time sympathiser. Kidnapping his family cemented his loyalty to the Death Eaters. He either incapacitated his fellow Aurors or sent them away on false missions. McGruder, the other auror who joined the attack was imperiused. This new betrayal is going to further paralyse the ministry It’s impossible to know who can be trusted.”
“Surely after today the Wizengamot can no longer drag their feet on your proposal to use veritaserum to establish the loyalty of all key personnel and all those in security positions?” insisted Percy.
“I don’t think people will be taking much heed to my views after today. My hold on my job has become very shaky indeed. There were three Wizengamot members present at the funeral and they are furious. They are demanding answers. In particular they want to know why, once again, it was the ‘children’ who had to save the day while the people under my command only made matters worse. ”
“That’s not fair!” said Ginny with vehemence.
“It’s totally fair. If I can’t come up with an answer, and more importantly a plan of action to fix it, I don’t deserve my job.” Kingsley insisted. “By the way what you all did today was astounding. I was paralysed, but was still conscious throughout the battle. I witnessed the whole thing. Ron, I watched as you took command. I have to tell you that I know very few experienced aurors who could have come up with such an appropriate and well-balanced plan in the heat of battle then executed it so well. I was very, very impressed. I am just as impressed with the way you all handled yourself in battle.”
“If I still have a job on Sunday I intend to offer all of you position’s as Aurors. After today, I have more need of you than ever. I need people whose loyalties and skills I can trust. Of course, Minerva here has her own plans for you. We will both presenting some formal proposals to you on Sunday morning.”
“You mean we would be full Aurors straight up, no training?” asked an incredulous Neville.
“There would be training, but you would be fully fledged Aurors from day one. You would be operational from day one. I can’t say any more about it at the moment. You’ll have to wait till Sunday,” explained Kingsley.
Everyone was quite for a while, taking in what Kingsley had just said.
It was Hermione who first spoke. She had long since come down from the high of the battle and had soon been flooded with fear for all the things that might have happened, the people she loved who could have been killed or badly injured. She also hated using violence and what it cost her spirit.
“I hope I have fought my last battle,” she said simply. “I still want to work to help people, to help bring about change. I just don’t want to use violence anymore. I hate it. I hate what it does to me. Sorry Kingsley.”
“You have nothing to apologise for, Hermione, nothing whatsoever. You have already done far more than anyone could ever ask,” replied Kingsley. “I think I know the answer to this question, but Hermione, if you felt this way why did you fight at all.”
“Because I had to,” she answered simply, “because Harry had to win and he needed me, because if I didn’t there would be no place for me in this world, or for those like me, because if I didn’t there would be no place for justice or compassion in this world. I will fight again if I have to, like I did today, but it is never something I would seek to do.”
Heads nodded around the room as people contemplated what Hermione had said.
“I fought to protect the people I care about,” said Ron taking up the general question that was before the room. “I fought to protect my best friend, the woman I love and my family and the rest of you too. I fought because I hated the people who would deny Hermione a place in our world or treat her like scum because her parents are muggles. I fought because I hated the people who casually inflict pain, injury or death on innocent people. For me it is personal. I want to go on protecting people too by whatever means I best can.”
“To me it was about bullies,” said Neville, “people who abuse power and act cruelly. I couldn’t stand by why the Carrows turned Hogwarts into a horror camp. People like them tortured my parents to the point of insanity. If I can, I will always fight people like that. Like Hermione, I don’t like it. I hate violence. There are other things I would far rather be doing, but if I’m needed, I will be there. What Hermione said about compassion and justice is also important for me too. Without those things the bullies soon take over the world.”
Arthur now took up the theme. “For me it’s like Ron said, its personal. I fight to protect my family. There’s a bigger picture though. In the end, I believe my family is better off living in a world that is free, just and compassionate and where every human, wizard or muggle is respected. Molly and my activities in the Order, pursuing those goals actually brought danger to my family. In the end, though it is still for my family I fight.”
“I fought because my friends asked me too,” contributed Luna. ”That’s very important I think because my friends are very good people. I also fought to push back the darkness and live in the light. People like Alecto carried the darkness with them everywhere and were filling the world with it. You can’t live in the dark.”
Around the room it went. It was soon clear that most were fighting for personal reasons, rather than abstract causes, principally to protect people they cared about. All the same they understood those principles were important because they in turn protected people. It was Kingsley who summed it up;
“We all fought for each other and we also fought for justice, fairness and freedom. They are inseparable in the end. Unfortunately we could never fully protect each other. Fighting costs. Many of us were hurt. Some of us died. Those of us who died did so protecting our freedom and our happiness. Now we have to make that work.”
“Yeah, well that’s all very well and good, but what do we actually do?” asked Seamus.
“What I want to do,” said Kingsley, “is change the way our government works. In my experience, commitment to justice and the rule of law must be at the heart of any good government. When that breaks down, as it has in our society over many years, you get government by winks and nods. Injustice and prejudice thrives, compassion goes out the door. The privileged become more powerful and greedy and more desperate to maintain their position. It is a situation ripe for the plucking by men such as Voldemort. Changing that will mean overcoming a lot of entrenched opposition though.”
“You must retain your position, Kingsley,” said Harry passionately. “We need you there. If there’s anything Ron, Hermione or I can do or say to help let us know, OK. It’s no use winning the war if we lose the peace. We also need to change attitudes in the wider community as well; attitudes such as the blood prejudice that helped Voldemort come to power. I think there might be a role for both the Order and the DA in this and I think we should all think about how that might happen.”
“That’s an excellent idea, Harry,” said Arthur. “We Weasleys, and I include Harry and Hermione in that description, we decided several days ago that we would do what we could to help win the peace. That may mean supporting, even driving necessary reforms and working to change social attitudes. If we older one’s had done that after the last war we may have avoided this one. No one who has fought in a war could want to fight in another so I would ask you all to think about Harry’s suggestion. Maybe we could all meet back here next week or so and discuss it further.”
There was general consent around the room. In years to come, historians would talk of tonight’s events as the beginning of the Phoenix justice reform movement. No one there, of course, had any inkling of that.
“I’m sorry, George,” apologised Kingsley, ”that we seem to have hijacked your brother’s funeral for a different purpose.”
“Don’t apologise. Fred would approve. It is a fitting monument. However if you would all like to join me outside we can say one final farewell.”
Once they had all assembled at the rear of the Burrow fireworks lit the sky. They all raised the glasses that had magically appeared in their hands.
“To Fred!” toasted George,
“To Fred!” they all boomed in response.
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