Hogwarts, September, Two months, Six Days, Twelve Hours AV (Apres Voldemort)
and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe.
-John Milton, Paradise Lost Book I
The last body was a young girl: too small, to have been fighting in a battle such as this. We find her tucked into a small alcove near the third floor corridor, her hands gently placed over her heart as if whoever hid her body could only afford the time to place them there and to close her eyes. I recognize the girl from one of my first year classes: she was a quiet Hufflepuff, shy, who would lower her eyes when spoken to. Her name, I recall, was Grace.
In her first months of Charms class, I remember Grace performed a perfect Aguamenti charm: the cool, clear water flowing in a splendid arc from her wand as she watched, round-eyed in shock. I buzzed over to congratulate her, as I try to do as frequently as possible.
“Oh, very well done!” I remember crying, and calling over some of the other students to watch Laura’s charm. “Very fine charmswork, indeed! Ten points to Hufflepuff, my dear.”
Little Grace had blushed deeply, but a small smile played across her timid face. She looked down at me, meeting my gaze. “Thank you so very much, Professor,” she had whispered, quietly thrilled with what magic had done.
We find her: body intact, but her heart stopped, so the cause of death is ruled as a Killing Curse. For several days, nobody comes forward to claim her: no family, not the person who had hidden her body from further harm. Perhaps her rescuer was also dead.
For months, her small face is etched against my eyelids. The dead were numerous, catastrophically so: we buried my students, their parents, those they had loved, had scorned, had ignored. Death does not discriminate. The graves, fresh mounds of earth scattered throughout England and covered with enchanted flowers, of generations fallen. I am one of the blessed survivors, but being alive is not without it’s curses. Flashes of deadly light play across my mind. When I sit in a place that is too silent for a moment, the wretched keening of mothers’ who lost their children in the war fills the silence. Grace’s small face peers out at me from the glass windows of Hogwarts in the night, the candlelight flickering so that I cannot tell if she is dead or alive, friendly or accusatory.
Thank you so very much, Professor.
Death has become a dreadful reality. I pronounce elegies at funerals, passionate and tearful speeches spoken from the podium as I perch on top of it to be seen by all assembled. It helps to look over their heads, to pretend that I am addressing a host of angels grieving from the sky. I imagine their faces: Grace, smiling slightly in wonder at her own pair of humming silver wings. Fred Weasley, most likely using his newfound afterlife to play tricks on his loved ones back on earth. Lavender Brown, her round face gleeful shining in the light of heaven. And the countless others: those I had taught to Summon objects and to swish and flick, my enchanting children.
We Levitated Grace’s body onto a stretcher, and lay her gently down with the others. We put her body down next to the centaur Firenze’s, whose body we found in the Forbidden Forest, his noble face still and rigid in death. Though he had been a friend and a colleague, Firenze’s death symbolized something much more ominous: the first casualty of the centaur revolts that spread with increasing severity throughout wizarding Britain.
I designate a day to mourn each death. It is logical, clinical, almost. August the 16th is dedicated to Anthony Goldstein, a bright young boy from my own house who had been felled fighting Rodolphus Lestrange. I remember Anthony as he was: a snarky, studious boy who was easily provoked into amusing debates, in which he became so riled up his face would turn red as a turnip. He was sharp, passionate and brave. He was a fine boy.
“I think you would have been a great man,” I whisper to Anthony, and plant a small bloom borrowed from his best friend’s grave, a few miles away. My hands dark with the fresh soil, I bow my head to my chest respectfully, feeling the tears settle into the curls of my silver beard. Too young, too young. For a moment, the summer sun seems to shine brighter. If any of the Muggles thought it strange to see a tiny man looking up into the brilliant light, dwarfed by the grave marker before him, they are silent. I am grateful for that.
I spare them each a day, but there is work to be done at the castle as well. Minerva insists vehemently that the castle be ready for the students make their home, that Hogwarts shall re-open in September as it always has, that the Muggleborns would return to Hogwarts and lessons would be taught, detentions given, and bright young witches and wizards nurtured. Slowly, the wounds suffered during the war would heal, and Hogwarts would be as it was meant to be: a refuge from the wicked world, a place to prepare, to learn and to love.
But Hogwarts housed the tower from which the broken body of Albus Dumbledore had fallen. Hogwarts was the site of the first of the centaur rebellions, arrows fletched with hate. Hogwarts was where the Dark Lord’s voice had echoed through the Great Hall, and where he had created and hidden his Horcruxes. Hogwarts was a place of death and destruction, where children like little Grace had been unceremoniously abandoned.
Minerva insisted that Dumbledore would have wanted Hogwarts to re-open, and I knew that she was right. So I volunteered myself as head of the restoration movement. It kept me busy, and within weeks Hogwarts was starting to look like it’s old self again. The castle breathed with a fresh light, as walls were re-constructed, stones carefully welded back into place, the great caverns in the ground torn by giants filled in so that nothing but a scar remained. Music filled the halls. I even started playing the violin again, it’s sorry tunes a sad funeral lament.
The first time the Dark Lord fell, there were festivities throughout Britain. So great was the joy of wizards that even Muggles couldn’t help but notice. Fireworks over Bristol. Flocks of owls turning the skies into speckled blue. But things had changed. We had all changed. The casualties were too great to ignore. Harry Potter had lost his parents, and we had lost our children, our innocence. I thought of Grace. Thank you so very much, Professor.
I have failed: I couldn’t protect them. Hogwarts itself couldn’t protect them. I think back now and wish that I had locked all of the students in one room, where they could have been safe, where adolescents wouldn’t have felt compelled to fight. Sometimes, I hate those who let them tumble through the cracks. I hate and hate, and I keep loving. My inner self is at war.
On August 31st, the day before the students returned, I mourn Severus Snape. I stand by his grave in Godric’s Hollow and wondered what to tell him, this old friend turned enemy turned hero. I think of Snape: his black, unreadable eyes, his billowing black cloak, his narrow face and his broken soul.
In the end, I tell Severus about the repairs going on in the castle. I tell him that Hestia Jones was taking on the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts, but she had refused to move into his old office.
There were some funny things, too, like how Mr. Filch had caught an old wizard who was participating in the restoration movement Levitating a pumpkin pasty towards Slughorn’s head. Filch snared the old coot and hung him from chains in the dungeons for several hours, and the poor man didn’t think to protest because back when he’d been at Hogwarts, physical punishment had been a common thing! I found Filch and gave him a strict lecture, but his glee was insatiable. Mrs. Norris seemed quite pleased, as well, and had even rubbed up against my legs, her grubby tail hitting me in the eye.
I bring Snape a small vial of Felix Felicis, tucked away behind some spare Gurdyroots in his office. Carefully, I sprinkle it over the earth before his headstone, watching the golden liquid soak into the ground. Rest now, Severus.
Tonight, my students arrive back at Hogwarts, and they find a castle transformed from the battlefield they abandoned. The suits of armor are gleaming proudly, and only a practiced eye could see the scratches upon their metal skins. Brilliant candles shine from the rooms that housed the dead after the battle of Hogwarts. The Sorting Hat has prepared a new song, a song of joy and anticipation, a song of remembrance and grief. But I know the students will remember, as I remember, as pounds against the sides of my skull, that some of their former classmates are in Azkaban, punished for picking the wrong side, or for siding with their pureblood parents. They will think of the lost, of the dead, of their friends, the hands that scribbled on parchments beside them fading into skeletons, the eyes that gleefully watched Quidditch games are now empty and stare at casket ceilings, flowers blooming over their graves. It is a glorious return, to Hogwarts. Jerusalem. You-Know-Who made a hell of our sanctuary, and we must find a way to return it to a haven. A heaven.
Perhaps little Grace is my own private specter. In the sea of swarming first years, I thought I saw her, frightened and thrilled, hands clasped together over her heart. Thank you so very much, Professor.
After the feast, I go outside to sit by the newly constructed marble memorial fountain. Soft footsteps chime behind me, and I look up to see Hermione Granger approaching me. She has lost weight since her earlier years, I notice: her eyes are a little darker, her face haunted with the odd expression I’ve looked up to see on many survivors.
“Lovely to see you, Ms. Granger,” I pipe up, hoping that she cannot hear the resignation of my voice.
Granger smiles. “And you, Professor. I have a question, however: I was wondering if you could teach me the exact encantation you used on those flying keys back in our first year, the keys guarding the Philosopher’s Stone. I’ve been thinking about it, you see.” She makes a swishing motion with her wand, and before I can help myself I’m shaking my head and clucking.
“No, no, dear, it’s this kind of motion.” I flicker my wand to the empty night air. “And I used the charm Wingardium Mobilita.”
“Wingardium Mobilita,” she repeats, flickering her wand. “Yes, I think I understand it now. Thank you, Professor.” She smiles kindly at me. “I’d been wondering about that. Brilliant.”
As she recedes, leaving me in the evening air, I think to myself that Hermione Granger, regaled in the Prophet as the brightest witch of her age, could not have possibly needed help with a spell. But her words have worked their magic and already I am feeling like myself again. I reach my hand to touch the smile on my face, wonderingly. Perhaps teaching will help to heal me.
In the memorial fountain set outside Hogwarts, inscribed with a list of the dead, I see the pure stream of water flowing from Grace’s wand all those lifetimes ago, washing the stone and running over the curled letters of her name. I watch it flow, uncorrupted, and imagined the flash of her silver wings through the sky, like a winged key flashing through the night, glowing in it’s eternal innocence.
A/N: I struggled with this! Originally it was written from Filch’s POV, but it wouldn’t come out right so I switched to Flitwick and like it a lot better. Anything you recognize belongs to the marvelous JK Rowling. Reviews are greatly appreciated! :)