Chapter 11 : Time for Goodbye
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Nestled in her arm was two year old Hugo, his face buried in his mother's jacket. Neither of their children would ever know just how precious Molly Weasley's life had really been. Hermione gazed over to her daughter, dancing with a toy wand in her hand. In an instant it turned to a chicken and she giggled hysterically. “Mum look!” she cried, showing the chicken to her mother as evidence of the astounding magic.
“Very funny Rosie,” Hermione told her softly, patting her on the head.
She looked over to the corner, where stood Ron, his back turned to face them, staring blankly out the window beyond. “Ron darling, it's time to go.” Hermione's voice was so soft that she was surprised when Ron turned around, pale as a ghost and wearing a vacant expression. He lifted Rose up onto his hip and grasped his wife's hand. Together they made their way to King's Cross station.
For a Saturday it was chillingly quiet at the station. The platform was silent as they hurtled through the barrier. It had been so long, yet not long enough since Hermione had seen the scarlet steam engine before her, the smoke billowing in the wind. How long had it truly been?
She calculated in her head rather quickly and realised it had been just over thirteen years since she had last seen this beautiful magnificent magical train. She took in every single detail, the dents and the marks, the wheels on the narrow tracks. The family made their way up onto the nearest carriage.
They weren't the first to have arrived on the train. As they entered the carriage they saw that some compartments were full with people, some she recognised and some she didn't. As they made their way along the corridor they saw Neville, Luna, Dean and Seamus, huddled together, Luna with her husband and the boys with their wives by their side. Hermione saw the easy picking of Luna's husband. He wore strange jewels all over him and his bedraggled brown hair gave the indication that he was some sort of explorer.
Hermione recognised Hannah Abbott beside Neville, wearing a sombre expression. Neville smiled sheepishly at them as if to say “Yeah I know, I actually found someone” and Hermione couldn't have been fonder of the awkward boy before her. Dean and Seamus sat with two girls, traipsing their long silver hair and Hermione deduced that the two were at least part Veela.
“Hey guys,” Hermione said, entering the carriage and greeting each one in turn.
“It's so good to see you all!” Neville exclaimed, beaming as he shook Ron's hand. “These are your kids I'm taking?”
“I'm Rose!” squealed the little flaming head just below Hermione. She darted forward and jumped up onto Neville.
“Yeah, that's Rose,” Hermione said unhelpfully, laughing as Rose sat on Neville's lap and his legs vibrated her up and down. “And this is Hugo.” Hermione indicated the shy little boy hiding behind his father's legs.
Neville's face turned downwards. “I'm sorry about Molly Ron, I truly am.”
Ron turned, if possible, even paler. “She's looking after Fred now, like she's supposed to,” Ron said, his voice staggering.
“You have beautiful children,” Luna said dreamily, The Quibbler nestled upside-down in her lap.
“Yes we're very lucky,” Hermione said as Rose scurried back to her and she threw her up into her arms.
“Looks like you guys really lucked out,” Dean said, smiling at the both of them. Hermione scoffed at him and turned her eyebrows up.
“Well we'd better get going, have to find Harry,” Ron said as the whistle blew and the train began to pick up speed.
“Oh yeah they're a few compartments up! Good to see you all!” Seamus called as they closed the compartment door behind them.
They made their way up the carriage and found Harry a few away from the others. He sat, James running around the carriage like a lunatic. Ginny held their youngest son, Albus in her arms, him staring plainly at the roof of the carriage above him and their youngest, Lily sat with her head rested against her father's, dozing.
They smiled as the Weasley's entered the carriage, taking seats across from the others. Rose ran over to her aunt and uncle, hugging them in turn and went over to sit next to Albus. They immediately were immersed in conversation.
It was a long train trip to Hogwarts and there was little conversation. It was unlike any other trip they'd had. Hermione missed the games of Exploding Snap, the trolley lady coming down to bathe them in rich sweets marking lunch or even, she thought with a twinge, Draco Malfoy coming to create his renowned conflict.
“You all right?” Ron asked her when he saw she was tearing up. She nodded absent-mindedly. In fact she wasn't right at all. She was quite the contrary. If she could, she would go back to first year. When she was small and insignificant to the world. Everything about now was different. They weren't on the Hogwart's Express to school where they'd explore another realm of magic. No, they were on the way to a funeral Hermione wished she'd never have to attend. Her stomach tied in knots.
They heard a knock on the compartment door. Hermione let Ron get up beside her and open the door, believing it was someone like Neville or Dean, coming to check up on them. When she heard Ginny gasp she looked up and was momentarily stunned. Before her stood Draco Malfoy.
Malfoy nodded curtly at them all and Hermione stood paralysed. She couldn't believe Malfoy would have the indecency to come over to them, to come to this funeral. She didn't care how much he'd changed his attitudes. Some scars run deeper than on top of the skin.
It was clear that Malfoy had been living on the rougher side of life. He wore an old suit that was too short for him and his eyes looked deep and sunken. In his arms he held a boy around the same age as Rose with chillingly identical features to his father.
“What are you doing here?” Ron said sourly.
“Ron don't be rude!” Ginny gasped, grabbling for her brother's arm. Ron tugged it away.
Draco let his boy down on the ground and he scurried over to go sit down on a seat next to Rose.
“I just wished to send my condolences,” he said curtly, surveying the room at large. “No need to be so sour Weasley.” The ghost of a smile played upon his lips.
“Malfoy what are you doing here?” Hermione asked him politely because if she was honest, she was curious herself.
“If you must know I am distantly related to this family.” Malfoy paused staring at his feet. “No,” he muttered, “No it's not the reason. I wanted to come to say I'm sorry.” Everyone stared at him in apparent shock. In the corner Rose, Albus and Draco's son were having an animated conversation about different potions. “I'm sorry for who I was.”
Hermione and Ron looked at each other and then at Harry and Ginny.
“Thank you,” Hermione said to him. He nodded.
“Come on Scorpius we have to go, Mum's got lunch.” The little boy looked at his father in confusion but reluctantly left his seat and made his way over to his father. They left the corridor in silence.
“Blimey,” Ron said, running his hand through his flaming red hair.
“Just leave it at that,” Ginny said, returning to a magazine in her hands. Her own picture featured on the cover.
“Do you miss it?” Hermione asked her, indicating the magazine which featured her life after resigning from the Harpies.
“I don't like the way I had to resign. I would have preferred it on my own terms not because I had to.” It was a statement; as though that was how it was and there was no opinion on the matter. Hermione resigned to staring at her hands the rest of the trip.
The train rolled into the station late at night. Standing at the gates to greet them was none other than Minerva McGonagall, her hair in a tight knot above her head, a lantern waving in it. Hermione beamed at her old Head of House with fondness.
“I must say I'm saddened to have to greet you all again on these terms but I'm very pleased to see you all,” she said crisply, hugging each of them in turn and even – Hermione was shocked to see – knelt down to let little Rose give her a cuddle.
“It's great to see you Professor,” Hermione said, gathering Hugo in her arms.
“Much the same to you Miss Granger,” McGonagall said, “Now let me show you to your rooms.” They followed the lantern all the way up to the great glittering castle ahead. Hermione could see the dorm lights from here, the students getting ready for the gruelling days of school ahead. She wished so desperately she could explore the realms of the castle again, to sleep in her old dorm bed but that would be impossible.
They were led into the magnificent Entrance Hall and a flood of memories from the battle entered Hermione's brain. She saw dust and debris instead of the gleaming identical staircase and hourglasses in the Hall now. She noticed that Gryffindor was coming first on the House Points and beamed. It truly was something she took pride in.
McGonagall brought them up two floors and through a narrow corridor lined with portraits. Through them they heard things like “It's Harry Potter and his companions!” and “They're back … at Hogwarts! Oh great Scott I can't believe it!” Hermione yearned for a shower and beds, to simply fall asleep and forget all her worries. To ignore the world would be blissful right now.
McGonagall waved her wand and from what Hermione took as a dead end turned into a dorm room unlike any other. It wasn't a normal dorm room. It was filled with plain furniture and off it were rooms she supposed were bedrooms and bathrooms. The fire crackled merrily in the grate and Hermione felt more at home than she had in years.
“Breakfast is at nine and then it's off to the ceremony at ten,” McGonagall told them. “Good night all of you.”
“Thank,” Hermione said. “For everything you've done for us.”
“It's been my pleasure,” she said, beaming as she left them behind.
The next morning was chaotic. Hermione had to redress Rose in her black dress and she herself had to sort an outfit appropriate for a funeral. They all packed quickly and quietly. They hadn't seen the other members of the Weasley family for a whole day. They hadn't even been able to share sympathy towards each other.
When they left the corridor for the Great Hall Hermione felt a sense for foreboding, as though she wasn't meant to be in the castle. It was as though it wasn't the castle she had known. Maybe it was for the reasons she was here but she wasn't sure because in this place she never felt abandoned or alone.
At breakfast they found the other Weasleys and their children. Bill and Fleur sat with their children all together. Victoire sat, prompt and important, eating food in her delicate hands; Dominque was copying her sister in admiration and Fleur held little Louis in her arms, softly rocking him back forth. Hermione then saw Percy and Audrey, Molly and Lucy neat and presentable as always, copying in their parents footsteps. George and Angelina sat with their children. George's face was pale and Hermione understood only too well. It may have been twelve years since the battle but the memory of standing in this hall, with his dead twin by his side must have been too much for poor George. Fred was sitting still next to his father, clearly understanding his pain and Roxanne was in conversation with her mother.
Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and their children all sat next to Mr Weasley who was in the midst of a conversation about the Ministry with Percy.
“Good Morning,” he said as cheerfully as he could. Hermione could hear the dying happiness in his voice. The empty hollow voice that says they've given up. Hermione went up to him and have him a hug and he burst into tears.
“Dad, why is Grandpa Weasley crying?” Rose asked. When her father gave her a harsh look she ran over to her grandfather and have him a hug also. She was a big hugger, Rose. Soon all the grandchildren were over, huddled over their grandfather, somehow understanding his pain.
When breakfast had finished the ceremony came and Hermione felt knots form in her stomach. A feeling that in this moment nothing more could be made happy. As though this was the end of the road.
As they made their way to the spot where countless funerals had been made they met Hagrid, tears already dribbling down his face.
“Oh, it's you lot,” he said but his faced beamed of the joy of seeing them once again. The trio were swallowed into a great hug and just before Hermione thought she would pass out from suffocating Hagrid let go, wiping his tears away.
“We've missed you Hagrid!” Ron said, gazing up at the half-giant.
“Oh you look like you've been busy yourselves,” Hagrid said, indicating all the children running around them.
“Yeah … a bit,” Harry laughed. They left Hagrid for the small pew at the front indicated for family. They stared around at familiar faces and Hermione was overcome with nostalgia. All the memories this placed held, to be marred by a funeral.
As the song similar to that of phoenix song began to play Hermione saw the coffin being carried up the aisle. She gripped Ron's hand tightly in her's, scared that if she let go, this horrifying sadness would overcome her and she would finally lose everything she'd ever loved.
A thud could be heard as the coffin was lain in the middle of the lawn.
"How much more pain do we have to endure?" Ron whispered, "until it's over?"
And for once Hermione didn't have the answer. She shook her head. "I don't know, I just don't know."
The funeral was beautiful. Everyone, including Ron was choking back horrific tears as Molly Weasley's funeral unfolded. Hagrid's trumpet tears could be heard from a mile away.
When it had finished, many people left. But the others stayed back to admire the beauty of Hogwarts castle, to spend this shining glorious day in its beauty and happiness. They visited the graves of their dead and said a silent prayer for those who had died before their time. The tombstones were as though they had been left untouched. Hermione laid flowers down on Remus, Tonks, and Fred's tombstones. She felt a pang as she realised how very young they were.
She travelled through the castle that day. Arthur had said he'd look after the kids, saying they would be great company to him considering the day he was having. Hermione, Harry and Ron and taken the opportunity to travel the castle.
Everything came back to her as though a painting was being created. As she went to each room more memories popped up, bright as day. She imagined she was sitting in Transfiguration, learning how to turn a beetle into a button. She saw the third floor where they had saved the Philosopher's Stone. She gazed dreamily at the library where she'd spent so much of her time and at the lake where she could still see the Giant Squid lazing around.
In the distance she saw Hagrid's Hut, the smoke billowing from its chimney and the frightening trees of the Forbidden Forest. She even went up to the Gryffindor common room amongst all the confused and starstruck students and visited her dorm where she'd spent countless nights of her life.
And in that moment Hermione thought to herself that despite everything, despite what happens in this life, her memories of this place could not be diminished. It was as though they were in print form in front of her eyes, as though they were permanently written inside her skull. She couldn't erase them and she never would because this was home. This was where she'd really begun her life. This was where she'd felt accepted and important. This was the place she loved the most.
Here, at Hogwarts rested the whole meaning of home and she would never ever forget it for as long as she lived.
A/N: Thank you so much to all you patient and dedicated readers! You have kept me going for so long and I'm so proud to have finally finished this story! I feel like I've really accomplished something and hope you've found this story a worthwhile read. I hope this story has really filled in the blanks between the end of the Battle and Nineteen Years Later! Once again thank you so much! :')