“I see,” said Hermione, “in that case you’re probably too out of breath to kiss me. That’s a shame because I was really looking forward to a good morning kiss.”
“Perhaps if I close my eyes I can get my breath back.” Ron closed his eyes then pulled Hermione in for a long lingering kiss. The playful banter slowly transformed into passionate love making.
Later, they lay in each other’s arms sharing those quiet, intimate and poignant moments that follow physical love.
“I feel so safe here, Ron, so happy.”
“Same, so happy and so complete,” replied Ron cuddling Hermione even closer. “Having you in my arms feels so natural, so right; it’s like a part of me has always been missing and is now in place. I’m complete.”
“That’s beautiful, Ron, and I understand exactly what you mean. I feel exactly the same…I feel as if I’ve come back home, back to a home I never knew I had.”
“I couldn’t have survived this week without you, Hermione, without us. Two battles and all those funerals and Fred, I couldn’t have done it.”
“It’s been such an awful week in so many ways.”
“Yes,” agreed Ron but after a while he added, “but wonderful too.”
“I sometimes feel so guilty about being so happy. It has felt wrong in some ways; funerals during the day, then retreating to our own little oasis of joy at night. It feels disrespectful.”
“I know, I feel it too, but it isn’t though, disrespectful I mean. Fred, the others didn’t die so we could wallow in misery. They died because they believed life was important and should be joyful. Fred would be happy for us. George is. Anyway we should leave feeling guilty to Harry, he’s good at it.”
“Ho, Ho,” replied Hermione. “Actually I’m worried about Harry. He’s been trying to stay strong for everyone else all week, but I’m afraid after he gets through today’s memorial service it’s going to hit him hard. We’ll have to be there for him.”
“We always have been, we always will, just as he has always been there for us and for far too many others too if you ask me. At least he has Ginny now as well.”
Ron paused for a while, looking a little apprehensive. “Hermione,” said Ron in a querying tone, “what do you want to do next year? I assume you want to go back and finish school, get your Newts.” By now they were both sitting up in bed.
“I assume you don’t,” replied Hermione.
“Not really, we’re being offered positions as aurors without Newts. That was always my main motivation for gaining them. You know I’ve wanted to be an auror for some time.”
“Yes, of course. I suppose you’ll be taking up Kingsley’s offer, then?”
“Actually I’m thinking no, not straight away anyway.”
“Why not?” Hermione was surprised.
“George,” he replied watching Hermione closely, gaging her reaction. “I think he has been putting on a brave face all week, trying to be strong. I don’t think it can last; I think it’s all going to hit him very hard very soon. I want to be there to help him pick up the pieces, get his life and his business back on track. That isn’t going to happen quickly. It might take six months or more. Then, I can take up Kingsley’s offer.”
Tears appeared in the corners of Hermione’s eyes. “You are a good, good man Ronald Weasley. That’s why I love you.”
“And here I was thinking it was my stunning physique!”
“I do love the feel of your strong arms around me but we’re getting off the subject. Kingsley’s offer may not still be open in six months’ time.”
“We’ll see what he says today. What about you. I dread being separated from you. I’m going to hate every minute of it, but a Hermione Granger who never got her twenty Newts, that just isn’t right.”
“You know it’s only seven Newts I’m going for, Ron, but you’re right; it would feel wrong not getting my Newts. I’d regret it forever. Trouble is, it’s going to feel really wrong not being with you also. I will miss you so much.”
“Maybe McGonagall can give me a ‘saviour of Hogwarts’ pass so I can visit you whenever I want. If you’re Head Girl you even get your own room.”
Hermione was struck dumb. She was lost in thought for some time. Ron, who knew exactly what the expression on Hermione’s face meant, understood he had to wait till she had worked through the ideas churning in her wonderful mind.
She turned to him, beaming. “That’s brilliant, Ron, that’s exactly what we’ll do.” She then gave him an excited hug.
Before Ron could ask for clarification there was a bash on the door. Ginny yelled out “Mum says if you two aren’t down for breakfast within five minutes she’s going to put you in separate rooms.”
They both jumped out of bed grinning. As they got ready to go downstairs Ron said, “There’s one more thing we need to discuss. We need to make plans to go to Australia and get your parents.”
Ron noticed Hermione turn pale. “We can discuss it later,” she replied weakly.
“OK” replied Ron.
The information session at Hogwarts was to take place at 11:00 in the Great Hall, followed at 2:00pm by the memorial service to be held in the grounds. Harry was to be one of four speakers at the memorial service. He and Hermione had spent the best part of Saturday night preparing his speech. They were given dubious support by Ginny and Ron whose suggestions, while certainly highly entertaining, were likely to have given Molly heart failure and get Harry arrested for public libel.
As Harry, Ron and Ginny walked through the grounds of Hogwarts towards the Great Hall they realised that while most of the debris from the battle had been cleared away there was still significant damage to both castle and surrounds that needed to be repaired. One whole section of the castle had actually collapsed and would have to be rebuilt.
Hermione had come earlier for a special session for the muggle born who had been denied a place in the school this year. Although Hermione hadn’t attended the school for other reasons she still wanted to come.
Harry, Ron and Ginny saw Hermione near the entrance to the great Hall standing with Molly and Arthur who had accompanied Hermione. Both groups joined and entered the Great Hall together. Harry had rarely seen the hall so full. The usual house tables had been replaced with seats laid out auditorium style. They found a place where they could all sit together, about a third of the way back from the front. Students from all years were invited, along with their parents, including those who had missed most of the year for various reasons. Harry noticed, with mixed feelings, that there was also a large press contingent.
Harry turned his attention to the dais. Most of the school staff was there, as was Kingsley. There were quite a few people he didn’t know. He was surprised to see Elphias Doge, Dumbledore’s childhood friend there, until he recalled he was chair of the Hogwarts Board of Governors.
Kingsley strode to the lectern and an expectant hush fell over the hall. No matter how much he liked Kingsley, to Harry, it would always seem unnatural to see anyone other than Dumbledore at that lectern.
“Good morning.” Kingsley’s warm deep voice filled the hall without strain. “I would like to welcome you all here on behalf of both the Ministry and of Hogwarts. I am not going to beat about the bush; dreadful things have happened in the wizarding world this last year and our beloved Hogwarts and its students were not spared these troubles. Inexcusable things happened here, unacceptable things. As Minister of Magic I want to assure you all that the Ministry takes full responsibility for what happened here at Hogwarts and at the two other great wizarding schools of Britain, the Flammel Academy and the Ludus Magicus. The ministry, under Voldemort, took direct control of these three schools and appointed into positions of absolute authority creatures not fit for decent human society.”
“Earlier today I spoke to the muggle born students denied access to Hogwarts this year. While they were spared the troubles at this school, they had to endure their own special nightmares. Not all survived this last year. On behalf of the ministry, I unreservedly apologised to these students and their parents for the way they were treated. Now, I do the same for the rest of you.”
“This coming year must be one of healing. We must repair the damage that has been done to our minds, our hearts and our community. That is a task for society at large and, specifically, for this school. I will do everything I can to help. One of the first steps I have taken is to restore control of the school to its Board of Governors.” This was met with wholehearted applause.
“Today, each of you will be presented with various options that will help you get your education back on track. I will let Professor McGonagall tell you more about that. However, some of you will be receiving a special offer. It is no secret that the Auror’s office is mightily depleted and we are in urgent need of capable and trustworthy recruits. Nor is it a secret that members of Dumbledore’s Army, or the DA, have greatly impressed many of us both by their battle performance and the outstanding character they have displayed during this difficult year. DA members currently in their senior year are being offered the opportunity to join the Auror’s office as full-fledged aurors. If you take up this offer, and I hope many of you do, you will receive training on the job as well as formal education in subjects relevant to an auror’s work. By special arrangement, success in these courses will result in the award of Newts in the appropriate subjects. You will be given an opportunity to both serve and further your education at the same time.”
“Finally, I have an announcement that gives me great pleasure. Today, the Hogwarts Board of Governors has confirmed Minerva McGonagall in the position of Headmistress of Hogwarts, with Filius Flitwick as deputy.” Roars of approval filled the hall.
“I now present the 87th Head of Hogwarts,” boomed Kingsley with theatrical flourish.
McGonagall strode to the rostrum to continuous and loud applause. When the applause subsided she spoke.
“Let’s get straight down to it.” With a wave of her wand hundreds of thick envelopes began streaming from several baskets on the dais. They spiralled upwards then dashed off to different parts of the great hall, dropping gently in to the laps of each student. “I doubt that it is a surprise to any of you that it will not be possible to reopen the school this term. What each of you has received is a personalised set of options designed to remedy the damage to your education caused by recent circumstances. Those most affected are Owl and Newt students. You have all been given an option to transfer to either the Ludus Magicus or the Flammel Academy where you can complete this year and take your exams at the normal time. Alternatively, Hogwarts will be open one month early on the 1st of August for OWL and NEWT students with special make up exams held in the first week of October. School staff will be available during this week to help each of you decide.”
“We, as a school body, have a large task ahead of us; to restore Hogwarts as a place that both educates and nurtures. Above all, Hogwarts must once more become a place that is safe and caring. There will be no tolerance at Hogwarts for bullies or for those who fail to respect their fellow students, none whatsoever. You will perhaps be pleased to know that several students and, regrettably, several staff members, who were far too enthusiastic in their support of the foulness that afflicted this school this last year, have been asked to show cause why they should be allowed to return to Hogwarts. I do not believe any of them will succeed in doing so.” Loud cheers followed this announcement.
“In contrast to these wretched degenerates, there were students who at great personal cost pushed back against the foulness and did much to keep their fellow students safe. On rare occasions, Hogwarts recognizes an outstanding contribution to the school and gives a student the ‘Special Award for Services to the School’. It is my great honour to announce that the Board of governors has approved giving this award to every active member of the DA who attended school this year and five who did not.” This was met by overwhelming applause. When the applause died down, she continued, “Three of the five are well known to you and for good reason; Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and Harry. Potter. The other two are brothers, muggle born, not allowed to attend school this year. Though both were underage they fought for the school that wouldn’t have them. Dennis Creevey was the youngest person to fight at the battle of Hogwarts, Colin, the youngest to give his life. Both have earned a very special place of honour in the heart of this school.” McGonagall had a tear in her eye as she finished. Led by the DA the Hall rose and gave a standing ovation.
‘These awards will be presented at the opening feast when school resumes normally on September the first. We will now open to questions from the floor,” concluded McGonagall.
The questions started and they were very hostile. Parents, unable to vent their anger and disgust against the former regime took it out on the current one. This had been expected and McGonagall, Kingsley and the others on the dais took it with good grace and humility. Doing so was part of the healing process, even though it was very hard to take. Eventually, the hostility faded and questions reflected concerns and hopes for the future. The meeting broke up in good spirits.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were sitting on the lawn in the Hogwarts grounds. They had grabbed some of the refreshments that had been set out and were now eagerly opening their packages. The offers the trio received were much as outlined by McGonagall. They had also received offers to become aurors. Ginny was being offered a choice between completing the term at another school (starting in a week’s time) or doing remedial classes next year.
“Merlin, who wants to go to Ludus, they’re all so prim and proper and Flammel is full of retards,” exclaimed an exasperated Ginny.
“Ginny! Hasn’t this last year taught you anything about not being judgemental?” asked an equally exasperated Hermione.
“Yeah,” chimed in Ron, “Aunt Muriel went to Ludus and Cornelius Fudge went to Flammel, so there’s no truth to those stereotypes at all.”
They all burst out laughing.
“Be serious, Ronald,” continued Hermione trying to stop smiling, “it would be a great opportunity for Ginny to broaden her horizons.”
“Maybe,” replied Ginny, “but after this year I need a good long break and I want to spend some time with you guys. Are any of you going back to Hogwarts?”
“I am,” said Hermione.
“For me there doesn’t seem any point to going back to Hogwarts after Kingsley’s offer,” said Harry gingerly, watching Ginny closely. “I can start work as an auror and still get my Newts. After what happened at Fred’s funeral I would feel wrong, just sitting around at Hogwarts while there are people who want to hurt the people I care about still out there.” Conscious of his promise to include Ginny in his decision, he added, “I don’t have to make up my mind today though and I want to know what you think Ginny.” Ron and Hermione exchanged a quick glance of surprise at this addendum.
“What about you, Ron?” asked Ginny.
Ron explained what he was thinking. He added, “Kingsley has left me a personal note in my package saying he is happy to talk about his offer at any time. I think I’ll take him up on that and see if I can defer things for six months.”
“Have you talked to George yet?” asked Ginny.
“No, but I will soon.”
“You know,” started Ginny with a mischievous grin, “I’m going to find it really hard being separated from Harry next year but I don’t see how you and Hermione are going to cope at all. How long has it been since you’ve spent more than five minutes apart? You won’t be able to apparate home to Ron’s bed at night you know.”
Ron and Hermione both blushed, but the Hermione replied, “Oh I don’t know, Ginny, being heroes has to have some privileges. I’m working on a plan. McGonagall wants to have a private chat with me sometime this week, so I’ll just have to see what I can work out.”
Ginny was startled and then hopeful. “Well, see if you can work out a little together time for Harry and me in this plan of yours, OK.”
“Yes do!” added Harry.
“And Harry, don’t run off and join the aurors straight away. We all need a break, especially you,” said Ginny.
“Agreed,” said Harry.
Ron thought for a moment then made a decision. “We have to make plans to retrieve Hermione’s parents in Australia.”
Hermione gave Ron a momentary glare then bit her lower lip. Harry immediately understood that something was troubling Hermione and Ron wanted his support.
“What’s wrong Hermione?” Harry asked bluntly.
“What if I did the spell wrong and damaged their minds?” she blurted. “What if the Death Eaters found them? What if I can’t restore their memories? What if they hate me for what I have done to them?” Hermione burst into tears.
Ron put his arm around her. When she had settled down he turned to her, held both her hands in his and looked her into the eyes. “You didn’t get the spell wrong, the Death Eaters didn’t find them, you will be able to reverse the spell and Hermione no one could hate you especially not your parents. They may be angry at you for a while but they love you and they always will.”
“You can’t know that, Ron”
“Yes I can, but the only way you are going to be convinced is if we go to Australia and get them. That is what we should do.”
“Ron is right Hermione. You didn’t make a mistake and your parents are going to be just fine. Trust me Hermione; I know your worth as a witch and as your parents’ daughter. Everything will be fine,” said Harry.
“Thank you Harry.”
“If it’s OK with you Hermione, maybe all four of us could go to Australia,” suggested Harry. “We could find your parents, and then have the holiday we all so richly deserve. It would be on me. This is one time I won’t take no for an answer. What’s the point of being rich if you can’t do something for the three people closest to you, in the whole world, after we’ve all had the worst year of our lives? OK?”
“I think I would like that very much, Harry” replied Hermione. “I would like very much having you three with me.”
Ron looked at Harry and nodded. He decided to swallow his pride, as much for Hermione’s sake as anything else and accept Harry’s offer. “Thanks’ mate that’s very generous. I owe you one.”
“Not as many as I owe you, Ron.”
Ginny hugged Harry, “I can’t wait.”
“Well, unfortunately, you have to sit through a whole lot of boring speeches first, including one from your rich boyfriend,” joked Ron. They realised that time was getting on and they moved to join the rest of the Weasleys for the Memorial service.
Harry was one of eight people seated on the dais that had been erected for today’s memorial service. It was a very simple affair, a plain structure draped in black. The only adornments were the coat of arms of the Wizengamot and of Hogwarts. There was also a large golden pyramid in the centre, an ancient symbol of the triumph of life over death. Harry felt very much out of place. Everyone else there held very senior positions and the next youngest person, the muggle Prime Minister Tony Blair was more than twice his age.
The ceremony was being held in almost the same location as Dumbledore’s funeral, near the black lake. As Harry looked out over those assembled he was very much reminded of that day. As then, there were wizards and witches from all over the world, including the ministers of magic of France, Germany and Spain. The press were well represented also. Harry was beginning to feel sick in the stomach when he contemplated what he was about to say. His words had sounded fine and appropriate when he was writing them with Hermione last night. Now, he was afraid they were simply presumptuous in front of such an august audience. Still, he reminded himself, these august personages did not prevent Voldemort coming to power, nor did they remove him. His words were necessary and if they offended, so be it.
The little tufty haired wizard who always seemed to officiate at these important occasions, including Fred’s funeral, rose to his feet and marched with surprising vigour to the centre of the dais. Harry had learned this week that he was the Pontifex Wizen, the chief ceremonial officer of the Wizengamot. The Pontifex Wizen opened the memorial service and then gave a lengthy oration. It was a beautiful speech thought Harry, but it didn’t resonate. It contained none of the flesh and blood of the people they were honouring. When the speech was finished five students from Hogwarts, including Ginny, Neville and Luna strode onto the dais. Between them they read out the names of the 48 fallen. As each person’s name was spoken, a shimmery silver orb rose from the dais in which the deceased moving image was visible. The orbs joined to form a vibrant memorial tapestry in the sky above the dais then slowly faded to invisibility. A beautiful ethereal music, reminiscent of a phoenix’ lament accompanied the ceremony. Harry saw Colin Creevey’s parents break down as their son’s orb rose into the air.
Kingsley now got up to speak. He didn’t pull his punches. Although his language was polite, his meaning was unmistakably clear. He talked of rebuilding a ministry of magic that the wizarding community could trust and that would serve the community interest rather its own. Controversially, he called for people to be held accountable for their actions during Voldemort’s reign. “Let those who said they had no alternative, they were just following orders, admit what they did and justify themselves before a Truth and Reconciliation commission. Let those who claimed to be imperiused when they committed serious crimes against humanity prove that under veritaserum. We cannot allow serious criminals and people of bad intention to retain positions of influence in our community, as we did after Voldemort’s first reign. To do so would dishonour those who gave their lives here, on this battlefield.”
Kingsley’s speech was given a mixed reception. Some were wildly enthusiastic, while others sat stoney faced and unmoving. No doubt some thought it inappropriate, others saw it as a threat. Tony Blair gave him a quizzical look that seemed to say “I admire your courage but you have a lot to learn about politics.”
Next up was Gemalla Wenglespon, the chief Mugwump of the Wizengamot, and widely regarded as the most influential politician in Wizarding Britain. Harry was keen to see if she would support Kingsley. She spoke for seven minutes with words that sounded just right and of great import, but later Harry couldn’t remember a single meaningful thing she had said. Hermione later explained why. Wenglespon had perfected the art of the non-speech; great sounding words signifying nothing. Clearly, she had not yet been ready to commit herself for or against Kingsley.
Now it was Harry’s turn. He was extremely nervous. Then he saw Ginny in the third row waving at him and beside her, Molly giving an encouraging smile. Her motherly support strengthened him and he decided he would talk as if he was addressing only Molly, as if no one else was there. With renewed confidence, he began.
“I would like today to talk about respect. Respect, first of all, for those who have fallen, for that is why we are here today. However, we cannot show them true respect unless we talk of respect in a wider context.” Harry spoke slowly and clearly, trying to establish a steady rhythm as Hermione had shown him.
“It was lack of respect; respect for life, respect for liberty, respect for decency, respect for the dignity and value of every single human being that made this battle, this war necessary.”
“Every life lost here was valuable, we rightly grieve for them. This is not something abstract for me, I knew many of the dead well and their loss hurts. I grieve for Fred Weasley, brother of my closest friend. I grieve for Remus Lupin and his wife, Nymphadora Tonks, who both taught me so much and whose orphaned baby is my god child. I grieve for young Colin Creevey, only sixteen years old, a muggle born, whose infectious passion and enthusiasm for life makes his death all the harder to bear. Today, though, must be about something more than our own personal grief, our own personal pain. We must remember why so many fine witches and wizards sacrificed their life. We must always remember that they died in order to restore to us a society that values each and every one of its members.”
“Minister Shacklebolt has outlined a number of measures designed to restore integrity and decency to our government. I whole heartedly endorse these measures, as I do his position as Minister of Magic. All the same, these measures will not be enough.
The fight to restore justice and decency to our society will not be won through laws and administrative arrangements, necessary though they be. The fight will not be won on the battlefield. It can only be won in the hearts of each and every one of us.
“I therefore implore each of you firstly, to respect yourselves. Respect yourselves enough to be the best person you can be, to stand up and resist tyranny and injustice wherever you find them and to stand up for your own best values. I then implore you to extend that respect to all your fellow human beings and to the other members of our magical community and to understand that each and every one of us has value and an essential dignity.”
“Only then will the sacrifice of those who died here be imbued with true meaning. Only then will you have shown true respect to those you have come to honour today. Anything less is a betrayal of the supreme gift they have given you.”
With that, Harry returned to his seat and sat down. Silence followed. Then it started; a trickle of applause at first, building slowly into an overwhelming wall of sound. Soon, everyone was on their feet. The applause lasted for a whole minute. Harry was becoming very embarrassed by the response. At last, the tufty headed wizard rose to his feet and with a few more words and actions brought proceedings to a close. He then walked over to Harry and shook his hand.
“I believe you came closer to the true import of the occasion in two minutes than I did in twenty. Congratulations, young man!”
“You would not have been forgiven a short speech, nor I a long one,” replied Harry
Harry found himself being congratulated by the other people on the dais. He was warmly thanked for his endorsement by Kingsley. Gemalla Wenglespon came up to him and dragged him off to the side.
“I see I am going to have to watch you young man. You realise you have made it next to impossible for the Wizengamot not to support Shacklebolt for Minister of Magic.”
“Then, I would say I have done a good days work,” replied Harry.
“Easy for you to say, these measures he is pushing are going to make life very uncomfortable.”
“And why should life be comfortable for those who seek to exercise power over others?” asked Harry.
“Yes,” replied Gemalla with a smile, “I’m going to have to watch you closely.”
Again, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Thanks to those who have posted reviews. If you liked this chapter, hated it, disagreed or agreed with it please let me know. I would really appreciate your view. Thanks!