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Chapter 10 : Year 1: May 2nd, 1999
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The gates that led into the school grounds stood wide open and were guarded by Hagrid and Professor Flitwick, who greeted the guests with enthusiasm as they passed through on their way from Hogsmeade to the castle.
Inside the Great Hall, the tables had been removed. Rows and rows of chairs had taken their place, and a sea of flowers covered the elevated section of the hall where the teachers’ table would usually stand. A bunch of people – students, those who had fought in the Battle, residents of Hogsmeade and workers from the Ministry - were already filling the rows of seats. Madame Hooch, Professor Slughorn and Professor Sprout were busy conducting the arriving guests to their seats, accompanied by Peeves, who was whizzing around above their heads, singing at the top of his lungs.
Hermione, Ginny and Neville, who were just a week away from their graduation entered the Greath Hall and were instantly greeted by Professor Sprout smiled kindly at them, looking unusually clean and dressed up (Ginny could not remember ever seeing the Herbology professor without dirt in her face before).
“The three of you will be sitting in the front, of course,” said Sprout, making a gesture towards the empty chairs in the front row. They followed her instructions and went to sit down.
“It feels like a lifetime ago,” Neville said as his eyes roamed about the hall. “And at the same time, it might as well have been yesterday.”
Ginny, who was sitting next to him, stared at the flowerbed in front of them. “I can’t believe it’s been a whole year,” she said. “It’s been a year since… since Fred. I miss him so much.”
Hermione placed an arm around her shoulders and leaned her head against hers.
“I’m sure he’s with us today,” she said. “Maybe even more so than usual.”
Back at the entrance gates, Harry barely had time to set foot on the Hogwarts grounds before a pair of massive arms embraced him, almost lifting him off the ground in the process. He grunted in pain, and then sighed in relief as Hagrid sat him back down – he could breathe again. Hagrid smiled at him, his black eyes brimming with tears.
“Look at yeh!” he cried. “Yeh’re all grown up, Harry!”
Harry chuckled. “You just saw me, Hagrid. A month ago, when the Lestranges were here, remember?”
“Of course I do,” Hagrid said. “But I didn’t get to talk to yeh much. I hear they're gettin' life sentence, those bastards.”
“Yes, and they bloody well deserve it,” said Ron.
“Of course they do,” Hagrid agreed. “It’s been so strange, not havin' yeh boys around this year! Seeing Hermione walk 'round the hallways without the two of yeh… An' now that both she an' Ginny will graduate, yeh’ll never show yer faces here again, I imagine?”
“Of course we will,” Ron said. “Your our friend too, Hagrid.”
“Why don’t we decide to come visit you more often next year?” said Harry, who was feeling a bit guilty over neglecting his friend, even though he hadn’t done it on purpose.
Hagrid’s face lit up. He gave them the thumbs up before turning around to help Flitwick welcome the other guests.
Harry and Ron trotted towards the castle in an attempt to catch up with Ron’s parents, who had already reached the great entrance. They had almost succeeded when a fair-haired witch in her fifties, wearing a pair of silvery spectacles, blocked their way as she cracked a dazzling smile at them and reached out her hand.
“Betty Braithwaite, Witch Weekly,” she said, her voice dripping with obsequiousness. “Got time for a couple of questions?”
Harry and Ron exchanged a look. From their experience of Witch Weekly – which they both would claim was strictly delimited to accidental glances at Mrs Weasley’s copies of the magazine when she had left them open somewhere around the house and the headlines had caught their eyes – Betty Braithwaite’s readers would not be interested in questions that only concerned the Battle of Hogwarts or things related to it. They would both prefer not to answer questions like: “What famous witch would you rather date?”, “Do you respond to fan mail?” or “Describe to our readers the easiest way to win your heart!”
Betty Braithwaite waited patiently for their response, still with the same wide smile on her face. “It will only take you a few short minutes,” she coaxed. When neither one of them answered her, she pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill from her purse and adjusted her spectacles. “Brilliant! Mr Potter, let’s begin with you. Would you say that your love life has improved in any way since you became the man who defeated You-Know-Who?”
“Uhm,” Harry mumbled and glanced at Ron, who looked like he was trying to choke back laughter. “That’s a matter of definition, I suppose…”
“Rumour has it you’re dating a certain Miss Weasley,” Betty continued as she raised her eyebrows. “Do you have any comments about that?”
“No, no comments,” Harry said and blushed. He could think of a billion things he would rather do than showcasing details of his love life to of a group of gossipy, middle-aged women – sorry, Mrs Weasley, he thought – and he certainly didn’t want to force Ginny into the spotlight.
“Mr Weasley, any comments? Are you okay with the fact that you’re best friend is going out with your younger sister?”
Ron shook his head, grabbed Harry’s arm and dragged him away towards the castle. “Has it caused problems for your friendship?” Betty called after them.
Harry sighed. “Why did you shake your head? She’ll think you answered no to her question about whether or not you’re okay with me going out with Ginny!”
Ron socked his own forehead, as if he had just realized that he had made a big mistake. “No, but I didn’t! I meant that I didn’t have any comments!” he said as his ears went as red as a stop sign. “Bloody hell, I can picture the headlines tomorrow: Read all about Potter and Weasley’s feud: Leave my sister alone, you arse!”
Harry laughed. “Well, yes, if that woman is anything like Rita Skeeter…”
They reached the entrance to the school. Mr Filch grunted at them as he held the door open. As they walked through the hallways towards the Great Hall, they could hear the portraits on the walls whisper to each other: “It’s them, look, it’s them!” or “Harry Potter and Ron Weasley! Oh, if only my sister had lived to see this…” to which another one replied: “If only I had lived to see this! I would have loved to be able to shake their hands, wouldn’t you?”
Madame Hooch was the one who welcomed them into the Great Hall. She smiled from ear to ear when she saw them. “Mr Potter, Mr Weasley! It’s good to see you,” she said. “Wonderful news about your sister and the Harpies, isn't it?" Then, perhaps as she remembered that her task of the day was not to discuss Quidditch, she cleared her thorat and added, before Ron got the chance to reply: "Your parents, Mr Weasley, and your friends are waiting for you in the front row.”
“Good to see you too, Madame Hooch,” Harry said before hurrying after Ron along the narrow aisle that ran between the rows of chairs.
When they reached the front row, Hermione threw herself around Ron’s neck. Harry smiled and shook Neville’s hand before he turned to Ginny.
“Look,” he said. “There are reporters here asking me about my love life, so I completely understand it if you want to be discrete…”
He was interrupted when Ginny wrapped her arms around him and kissed him. When they let go of each other, he placed his hands on her shoulders, looked into her eyes and said: “All right?” Ever since the Lestranges’ visit at Hogwarts and her torture, he had worried constantly about her, despite the fact that she had insisted on being perfectly fine in all of her letters to him.
“I’ve told you not to worry about me. I am just glad you seem to be a bit happier now,” Ginny said and smiled. Her eyes swept past him and over to the large door that lead into the Great Hall. “What is he doing here?”
Harry turned around. The two people who had just entered the hall were two of the last ones he would have ever expected to show up – Narcissa and Draco Malfoy. After all, they had both fought for the other side in the Battle a year ago, even if they had most likely done it because of Lucius’ influence over them, or perhaps because of fear. But what truly surprised Harry was the fact that he wasn’t upset about them showing up – he didn’t want to see them get thrown out, nor did he want to go over there and yell at them. He was still grateful for the help they have given him the previous year – Narcissa had actually saved his life exactly one year ago. Harry wouldn’t stretch it as far as saying that he was happy to see them, but he could at least accept their presence.
“I wonder if the Dark Mark on his wrist has faded away,” said Ginny tartly.
“I think that everything will change for them,” Harry said, shrugging. “Now that Lucius is in Azkaban. It’s a chance to start over for them.”
“Yes, definitely,” Ginny said sarcastically. “I’m sure Malfoy will marry a Muggle, and we can have them over for dinner every week, and our children will probably be best friends with his!”
Harry smiled when his comment made Ginny blush. Sure, they were thousands of miles away from making plans like that, but he had to admit to himself that he had thought about it once or twice. It was nice to hear that she pictured their future the same way that he did – that they would always be together, get married and eventually start a family.
“I didn’t mean…” Ginny mumbled, staring at her own feet as if she was afraid to meet his eyes.
“It’s fine,” Harry said with a smile. “Did I mention that I love you, by the way?”
A little while later, the hall was filled with people. The murmur reminded Ginny of the atmosphere in there the first day of the school year during the feast, when you finally get to meet your friends again, and no one will shut up about their summers and the upcoming school year. Ginny felt a twinge of sadness inside when she realized that she would never experience that again – in just a few weeks, she would get her grades, and be thrown out into the real world, outside the comfort and safety that was Hogwarts. It was a scary thought.
Her thoughts changed direction as she turned her eyes back to the stage in the front to see the prefects in the middle of placing nine large photographs on its front. Ginny felt a little sick when she saw the moving face blinking down at all the people in the Great Hall. They were the students who had died in the fire at the Qudditch pitch just a few weeks earlier; how terrifying it was, she thought, that though there had been peace for an entire year, innocent people were still dying.
The Weird Sisters had taken the stage, which made the buzz die out and everyone turn their attention to the front of the hall. For once, the band members weren’t dressed in their regular, extravagant costumes – instead, they all wore simple, white robes, and Kirley Duke, Ginny’s favourite in the band, was sitting by a grand piano instead of holding his usual, flashy electric guitar. Ginny could hear her mother whisper: “It’s starting! Why are Bill and Fleur not here yet?” just as Kirley placed his hands on the keys and started playing.
It was a slow, glittery piece of music. According to Neville’s whisper, it had been composed for this special occasion. “It’s called Fallen Brother”, he announced before staring in shock at Ron and Ginny, as if he had just realized what had happened to their brother a year ago. Ginny turned her attention to the stage as the singer opened his mouth and began. Her heart ached from missing Fred.
I sing for you, my brother, to honour your name
You died to make a better world, you did not die in vain
But without you in it, brother, the world is not the same
Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand tightly as she felt Ron, who was sitting on her other side, lean his head against her shoulder. She closed her eyes. It was as if the song had been written just for them. She glanced over at George, who was sitting between Charlie and Mrs Weasley. Tears were streaming slowly down his face as he listened to the song.
The last chord faded out, and the entire audience stood up to clap their hands. Ginny dried her cheeks while joining the cheering. She could feel Harry pat her shoulder one last time before he followed Professor McGonnagall and Kingsley up on the stage to give his speech.
“My friends,” Kingsley said in his deep, authoritarian voice. “Let us remember this day as a day of freedom, a day of peace. A day when evil lost. But let us also remember that evil cannot be isolated to one person, one generation or one era. It is something that we will have to fight against forever more in order to maintain the peace that our friends, our fallen brothers and sisters, helped us create last year.”
When every speech had been held, medals had been awarded, tears had been shed and songs had been sung, everyone stood up to leave the Great Hall. Most of them would stay in the castle to attend the feast that would be held that same night. Hermione saw that Draco and his mother were among the first to sneak out when the doors opened, and she didn’t expect to see them again that night. They had spent the entire ceremony looking incredibly uncomfortable and awkward, as if they didn’t feel like they belonged there at all. And Hermione couldn’t blame them, considering the looks that people had shot at them as they passed by on the way to their seats.
“Wow, look at that!”
A few people had stopped in the middle of the aisle, and they were now pointing towards the entrance. When Hermione turned her head, she realized that a silver lion was jumping graciously through the air, heading towards the front where she, Harry, Neville, and the Weasley family were still waiting for the aisle to clear so that they would be able to get out. It was a Patronus, but she didn’t know to whom it belonged. Her initial thought was that it might be Fleur’s, because its flexible movements and smooth jumps reminded her of Fleur’s gracious way of moving. But when the lion stopped at the front row, it wasn’t Fleur’s voice that spoke to them, but Bill’s:
“Hi, everyone. Fleur and I are sorry that we missed the ceremony. We’re at St. Mungo’s, and Fleur has gone into labour. Come as soon as you can.”
Mrs Weasley gave out a delighted cry, clapped her hands together and started jumping up and down. Then she turned to her husband and threw her arms around his neck.
“We’re going to be grandparents, Arthur, can you believe it?”
Mr Weasley laughed and shook his head as he hugged her back. Ginny followed her mother’s lead and jumped with joy as she grabbed Ron’s arm. “And we’re going to have a little niece! Or a nephew…,” she added with a wide grin on her face – Hermione could only remember two times when her friend had ever looked so happy before. The first one was when Harry had kissed her for the first time, and the second one was when she had received her letter from Holyhead Harpies. “I’m going to be an auntie!”
The others laughed at Ginny’s enthusiasm and started moving towards the door, as there was finally enough room in the aisle for them to pass. “We’re going to St. Mungo’s!” Mrs Weasley called out to anyone who wanted to hear. “My son is having a baby!” Hermione, unsure if Bill's invitation had included her, walked slowly without attempting to catch up with the others, but Mr Weasley waved her doubts away when he turned around and realised what she was going.
“You do realise you’re a part of our family now, don’t you?” he said and winked at her. “That goes for you too,” he told Harry, Audrey and Angelina, who had lingered behind, just like Hermione.
When Hagrid was informed of the good news, he set up two carriages to take them to Hogsmeade. From there, they apparated to St. Mungo’s and stepped into the entrance hall. A healer – a bearded, bony man – greeted them and showed them into the waiting room at the maternity ward. “I will let Mr Weasley know that his family is here,” he said, bowed quickly and left the room. Everyone sat down in the baby blue couches, and Charlie started browsing through a copy of the Daily Prophet that lay on one of the side tables.
“Charlie, how can you even think about reading when your brother is becoming a father in this very instant?” asked Mrs Weasley, who was so exited that her eyes literally glowed and her cheeks were mottled red.
“Well, Mum,” Charlie said. “You’d think that you if anyone should know this, considering you’ve gone through it quite a few times, but this could take up to ten hours.”
“Are you serious?” Ron exclaimed in shock. “Then why did we rush here? We could have eaten something…”
“It can take hours,” Hermione said. “But it can be also be really quick. My parents barely made it to the hospital when I was born.”
Ron was just about to open his mouth to respond when the bearded healer returned, this time with Bill in tow. His face lit up when he saw his family gathered in the waiting room.
“How are you doing in there?” Mrs Weasley asked impatiently when he didn’t say anything.
“A mini-Bill?” George teased him.
“No,” Bill said. His voice cracked with emotion as he continued: “Fleur just gave birth to a little girl. To a Victoire.”
This caused quite the stir in the waiting room. Mrs Weasley burst into tears – “They’re tears of joy, Arthur!” she sobbed when her husband tried to comfort her – Ginny jumped forwards and threw her arms around her brother’s waist, and even Ron seemed to be moved. Everyone took turns in congratulating Bill, and then they followed him through a long corridor and into Fleur’s room. The new mother looked exhausted, but happy, and as beautiful as ever despite the fact that her blonde hair was dripping with sweat, and dark rings flanked her eyes. The child that was lying in her arms was so incredibly small, with only a few strays of fair hair on the top of her head, and a glow beneath her skin that could only be a result of her Veela genes.
“How did you pick her name?” Audrey asked.
“Victoire is French for victory,” Fleur explained and bent her head down to kiss her daughter’s forehead. “Because she was born on ze anniversary of our victory.”
“Charlie,” Bill said, placing a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “We wanted to ask you… we were hoping that you would want to be her godfather. Fleur’s sister is godmother, and I would be…”
Charlie responded by hugging him tightly. When they let go of each other, he wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand and said: “Of course I want to! I’d be honoured.”
“But that doesn’t give you the right to hold her first!” Mrs Weasley said and reached out her hands. “Fleur, may I?”
Her daughter-in-law smiled, straightened up and placed the baby in her arms. Mrs Weasley immediately began cooing and talking in a baby-voice while rocking her granddaughter gently back and forth.
“She’s so perfect,” said Percy in astonishment and reached out his finger to touch his niece’s little hand.
“Yes, and with that mother,” George told Bill, “she’s going to be a beauty. Which, of course, means that you’re going to have to fight hard to keep the boys away from this one, big brother!”
Harry and Ron laughed, and even though Bill joined them, he did look a bit worried. Hermione glanced at the baby again and smiled. George was probably right, she thought. Bill had got a tough job ahead.
A/N: First of all, about the Weird Sisters song: I completely made that up, and I realize that it's a bit lame, but it was the best I could do! Other than that, I hope that you liked this chapter. In the next one, Year 2 will begin. Only 18 more years to go, then ;)
Anyway, it makes me so happy when you take the time to leave a review after reading. I would really appreciate it if you would do it, because I want to know what you think. And thank you for reading my story!
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