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Chapter 5 : Remembering the Dead.
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About an hour outside London, Rasmus entered the compartment.
“I’ve been looking all over for you. All right if I come in?”
“Of course.” She grinned at him. “Did you have a good time in America?”
“I did actually. I told you Dad was researching magical traditions there, right?”
“It’s really interesting. There’s such a mix of cultures, all with their own magical traditions. It must be fascinating to attend one of their magical schools. So many different influences.”
Derek stared at him. “Don’t tell me you two are going to start talking about history and ‘magical traditions’ before we even reach Hogwarts!”
“You don’t think it’s interesting?” Rose was incredulous. “Some of the schools in America have amazing reputations. I’d love to spend a year at one of them sometime.”
“But you wouldn’t know anybody there,” Albus said. “You’d be miles from your family and friends, surrounded by complete strangers.” He shuddered.
“Everyone’s a stranger until you get to know them,” she pointed out.
“Well, yes, but at least when we started Hogwarts, we knew some people. Each other and Lucy and James and Robin and Neville and Victoire and Dominique and Louis. It wasn’t like…like…just being dropped into a completely different world.”
“It was for me,” Derek said quietly. “And having done it once, I’m not too anxious to do it again. Not that I don’t like Hogwarts,” he added hastily. “I do. But it’s not easy. And getting used to a whole new country and different systems of magic when I’m still getting used to the fact magic exists at all. No thank you!”
They all laughed.
“I guess it must have been hard,” Rose admitted. “And I know the idea of going to school in America isn’t very realistic. I just think it’d be fun to experience another culture, that’s all. You’ll have to tell me everything you learnt, Rasmus.”
“Not right now, though,” Derek interrupted. “Tell Rasmus about that woman you saw at the station instead.”
“Oh, yes. Rasmus, you should have seen her. What the Muggles must have made of her, I don’t know. Bright blue cloak and this phoenix chain, flashing different colours.”
The continued talking and laughing until the train pulled into Hogsmeade station, where the coaches awaited them.
“Hey, what pulls these things anyway?” Derek asked. “Magic?”
“Thestrals,” Rose said. “And believe me, if you can’t see them, that’s something to be grateful for.”
“Because the only people who can are those who’ve seen someone die.”
He shuddered. “Creepy.”
“Oh, come on,” Rose said. “Get in. What do you think’s going to happen?”
“Nothing, I suppose, but invisible creatures that can only be seen by those who’ve watched somebody die? Don’t you think that’s a little creepy?”
“Well, yeah,” Albus admitted, “but my dad says they don’t harm anybody, so…” He shrugged and didn’t finish the sentence.
The coach carried them right into the ground of Hogwarts and they followed the crowd of other students up the steps into the school.
In the Great Hall, Rose, Albus, Rasmus and Derek took their seats at the Ravenclaw table, where they were joined by Nathan, Angie and Fionnuala. Dora sat alone at the other side of the table, surrounded by older students.
Rose glared at her and she glared back, but before either of them could say anything, the Sorting Hat began its song.
“To sort students I was bidden,
By the Founders who’re now dead.
I know exactly where you’ll fit
For I look inside your head.
If you are daring, brave and bold,
Then Gryffindor’s for you,
But don’t forget there is a place
For care and caution too.
Ravenclaw’s the house for those
Intelligent and bright,
But just make sure you use those brains
In causes that are right.
Slytherin you’ll fit if you believe
That means are judged by ends.
Remember though to maintain still,
Some loyalty to friends.
And Hufflepuff is filled with students
Hard-working and kind,
But there are times to argue
And to show how much you mind.
For though the house you’ll join
Will prove just right for you,
It’s important to remember
You have other virtues too.
So place me on your head to learn
Where your greatest strengths lie.
Then use those strengths to gain success
In everything you try.”
Once the song finished, Flitwick stepped forward.
The sorting was really boring when you didn’t even know most of those being sorted and it was clear that many around the table were rapidly losing interest. Dora actually had her head down on the table, which Rose thought pretty rude. She could at least pretend some interest in the first years joining them.
Lucy, on the other hand, seemed to be making a point of greeting all new Ravenclaws.
The girl Rose had noticed on the platform at King’s Cross stepped up and placed the hat on her head, looking extremely nervous.
A few moments passed before it called out “RAVENCLAW.”
Lucy got up to greet her and to Rose’s surprise, Dora actually looked up from the table and appeared to smile at her.
Felicity didn’t appear to notice. Or maybe she just knew what Dora was like, Rose thought. She might have older siblings who’d filled her in on what had happened the previous year. She rather doubted it though. Her mother’d seemed to be the only person with her at King’s Cross.
The sorting finally came to an end, with Young, Peter being sorted into Gryffindor and McGonagall stood up at the staff table.
It was only then that Rose noticed the curtain hanging on the wall behind McGonagall.
“Today, there’s going to be a change from our usual Start-of-Term feast,” she began. “I’d like to welcome Harry Potter who will address you after you’ve eaten.”
The doors of the Great Hall opened and he walked towards the staff table, hampered by students who were calling to him and holding out things for him to sign.
McGonagall clapped her hands for silence, but it was a few moments before she was obeyed. A stern look crossed her face. She was used to students doing as she said immediately
“As we have quite a bit to do after you’ve eaten, I’ll keep these announcements to a minimum. Firstly, I’d like to remind you that the Forbidden Forest has ‘Forbidden’ in its name for a reason. Any student found entering will receive a week of detentions and will lose their house twenty points. Is that understood?”
She paused for a moment to allow her words to sink in.
“Mr. Filch also asked me to remind you that the list of items banned at Hogwarts can be viewed in his office and I would ask that you all do so. It includes most products which can be purchased at Weasleys’, apart from those, such as quills, which actually belong in a school.
“And finally, I’d like to welcome our new Professor of Potions, Professor Fairfax.”
A slim, sandy haired young man stood up at the staff table. A greater contrast to Slughorn would have been hard to imagine.
There was a polite smattering of applause, but most students seemed more interested in Harry than in a new teacher. The Ravenclaws took more interest than most.
“He looks fairly competent,” Rose heard Lucy mutter.
She was inclined to agree, though she wasn’t sure that necessarily meant anything.
Food appeared on the tables, but even that didn’t seem to distract students from the talk Harry was about to give them.
“Did you know your dad was going to be here?” Nathan asked Albus.
“Will you introduce me?” an older student asked.
Albus looked about to sink under the table. He hated being the centre of attention.
Rose couldn’t help suspecting James was handling the situation with a good deal more aplomb.
A number of students had risen from their seats and began to head towards the staff table.
McGonagall stood up again.
“Could everybody remain seated please? I realise our guest is causing a great deal of excitement, but please maintain some decorum.”
Defeated, the students returned to their seats, but the excitement in the Hall showed no sign of abating. The buzz of chatter was louder than usual and many plates remained practically untouched, as students discussed their visitor.
“What’s he here for?” Rasmus asked.
Albus paused for a moment, clearly unsure how much he was allowed tell.
“He’s going to unveil something.”
“Some kind of memorial. I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to say about it.”
“Ah, come on. Sure we’ll find out soon enough,” Fionnuala said.
“Like he said, it’s just a memorial,” Rose said. “Can’t you all wait a few moments?”
“No.” Angie grinned. “I mean, if you’re not supposed to say, I suppose that’s fair enough, but I am curious. McGonagall said this isn’t a usual occurrence,”
“It’s not,” Rose said. “Most years, the feast is just like last year’s. The sorting takes place, McGonagall makes a speech, reminding us of the rules and introducing any new teachers, we eat and then that’s it. This year, there should be a little more.”
Once all the dishes had disappeared from the tables, McGonagall stood up again.
“As most of you are aware, this year is the twentieth anniversary of the defeat of You-Know-Who. For the benefit of our incoming first years, particularly those from a Muggle background, he was an evil wizard who seized control of the Ministry just over twenty-one years ago. He was defeated largely by the efforts of Harry Potter here.”
She paused and there was an eruption of clapping and cheering.
“However, there were many who gave their lives in the struggle against him, including some staff members of this very school and it is those we are about to commemorate today. I invite Harry Potter to perform the unveiling.”
He stood up.
“Thank you, Professor McGonagall. There’s quite a lot I want to say, but I think I should firstly unveil those I’m talking about, and so without further ado…”
He grinned and pulled the curtain from the wall, revealing a series of bronze heads.
“As some of you are sitting quite a distance away, I’ll read this out to you,” he said. “Above the heads, it says ‘in memory of the Hogwarts teachers who died opposing the regime of the Death Eaters’ and below each head, the person’s name is engraved, along with any titles and honours they have receieved. Charity Burbage, Severus Snape, Order of Merlin First Class, Albus Dumbledore, Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorcerer, served as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and as Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, Remus Lupin, Order of Merlin, First Class and Alastor (Mad-Eye) Moody, Order of Merlin, First Class.
“I’d like to say a few words about each of them.
“Charity Burbage, I’m afraid, I didn’t know well. Her subject was Muggle Studies, which I didn’t take, but I do know, how passionately she spoke on behalf of Muggles and Muggleborns at a time when it was extremely dangerous to do so.
“She may not have fought in the Battle of Hogwarts. She might not have duelled any Death Eaters or been an Auror or a member of the Order of the Phoenix but the work she did, teaching young witches and wizards to respect Muggles and writing articles criticising Death Eater ideology were so significant that it’s believed Voldemort may have killed her himself.
“Severus Snape taught Potions and eventually, Defence Against the Dark Arts, before being appointed as Headmaster. His part in the war, like Charity Burbage’s, was not a typical one. In fact, for the last year of his life, everybody believed him to be a Death Eater. He played the part very convincingly, but he was really a spy for the Order and absolutely instrumental to our ultimate success.
“I’m not going to deny the fact he made some mistakes in his life. There was a time when he had indeed been a Death Eater and this was part of the reason he could play his part so believably.
“He was a very young man, barely out of Hogwarts, when he joined and he quickly came to realise his mistake. At this point, he turned to Dumbeldore and to the Order, placing himself in great danger in order to act as a spy. Not only was Voldemort absolutely ruthless in his pursuit of those who betrayed him, but he was also a highly accomplished Legilimens. It is a testament to Snape’s brilliance at Occlumency that Voldemort never realised he’d betrayed him. Even when he finally killed him, he did so believing it would gain him certain power, not because he mistrusted him.
“Snape must have been aware just how dangerous his role was. Yet he never faltered, never refused a task, no matter how distasteful it was to him and when he died, Hogwarts lost a brave, talented and cunning Headmaster.
“He was the second Headmaster Hogwarts lost during that war. The first, of course, was Albus Dumbledore, probably the greatest man I ever met or am ever likely to meet.
“Many of you, particularly those of you from wizarding families, will already know that Professor Dumbledore was the leader of the Order of the Phoenix. You will also know just how much he was loved by his students and his colleagues.”
McGonagall, Hagrid and Flitwick nodded in agreement.
“But Professor Dumbledore was more than just the national hero you learn about in your History of Magic classes.”
Rose couldn’t help grinning. She suspected most people didn’t learn much at all in History of Magic classes and she was quite sure Harry knew that too, but she supposed he could hardly say so with Binns sitting at the staff table, listening to him.
“My memories of Professor Dumbledore,” he continued, “are of a man who, despite his many commitments, was always there for his students and, I’m sure, for his staff too, a man who didn’t make rash judgements and was always willing to think the best of people.
“He didn’t judge people by the house they were placed in or the families they came from or whether they were pureblood or Muggleborn, wizard or Muggle. As far as Professor Dumbledore was concerned what mattered was not how a person was born or what magical or other talents they might have. What mattered to him was the decisions they made and the type of person they were.
“As some of you doubtlessly read in the Daily Prophet, some of his appointments to the staff here were controversial. This is because he ignored the typical prejudices of our world and chose staff other people might not have been willing to give an opportunity to.
“Some of his controversial appointments, however, were among those we’re commemorating today. I think that’s a testament to his judgement.
“One of these was Remus Lupin, who Dumbledore appointed as teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts. As some of you may know, he suffered from lycanthropy.”
Rose turned to look at Professor Blackburn, but she was looking down at the table in front of her and it was impossible to gauge her reaction.
Rose tried to think whether she’d looked up since the feast had began. She couldn’t remember her having done so.
“When he was growing up,” Harry said, “there was even more prejudice against werewolves than there is today and he was not only the first werewolf to teach at Hogwarts, but also the first to attend as a student.”
“What has this to do with the Battle of Hogwarts?” Dora whispered loudly.
“We’re commemorating the teachers who died,” Rasmus told her. “Anything about them is relevant.”
McGonagall folded her arms and glared in the direction of the Ravenclaw table.
Harry, on the other hand, gave no indication he’d even noticed the disruption.
“Like Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, and Alastor Moody, who I’ll come to in a moment, Remus was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. He’d joined shortly after leaving school and remained a member until his death. His loyalty should have been beyond question, but because of his lycanthropy, it came into question more than once.
“But that didn’t deter him. He continued the fight against Voldemort right up to the end and in doing so, left his baby son orphaned.
“He must have known this was a possibility, especially as his wife was an Auror and therefore, likely to be in the front line in any battle, but it was a risk he was willing to take so that his son, and all of you, would grow up in a world where Muggleborns were not rounded up and killed, a world where you’re free to express your opinions openly without fear of retaliation, a world where misbehaviour at school is not punished by Unforgiveables.”
There was an audible gasp at this.
“Yes, the Death Eaters who were appointed to teach at Hogwarts at that time were authorised to use the Unforgiveables on students. Severus Snape was Headmaster at the time and he, and most of the rest of the staff, tried to ensure this happened as rarely as possible, but it did happen.
“Another controversial appointment was that of Alastor Moody. He’d been an Auror and a very successful one, but in his later life, he gained a reputation for…let’s say anticipating attacks. Many people considered him paranoid. Perhaps they had a point. He was certainly very wary and suspicious. His experiences as an Auror gave him good reason to be.
“Unlike the other faces you see here, Moody never actually taught at Hogwarts. He was hired to do so, but a Death Eater took his place, keeping him in captivity for most of the year.
“Moody was an elderly man at this stage, already retired. I don’t think anybody would have blamed him had he dropped out of active duty after his ordeal, but he didn’t do so. Instead he continued to fight. That alone should earn him our admiration, even without his stellar record of capturing Death Eaters.
“There is far more I could say on each of these people. They were among the most impressive people I’ve known and all had interesting lives and much to teach us.
“I’m aware, though, that you have classes tomorrow, so I’ll leave it at that, but I would urge you all to go to the library and read up on their legacies.” He laughed. “Not that I was ever too inclined to spend much time in the library as a student, myself, if I could have been out on the Quidditch pitch, but in this case, I think you’ll find it well worth it.
The Great Hall again erupted in applause and cheers, not because his speech had been all that riveting, but simply because he was the great Harry Potter, the Chosen One who’d defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and a living legend.
Students once again bustled forward, carrying napkins and spare pieces of parchment for him to sign.
Dora lounged back, looking disdainful.
“The great Harry Potter,” she muttered sarcastically. “Talk about overrated.”
“Don’t you dare insult my uncle.” Rose jumped at the opportunity to argue with her. She’d been waiting for a chance practically all summer.
“What did I say?” Dora grinned. “Just that he was overrated. Is anybody really as impressive as this bunch of idiots think him?”
“You meant a whole lot more than that and you know it!”
“Leave it, Rose,” Rasmus muttered. “Why bother?”
“Easy for you to say. I’m the one who has to share a dormitory with her.”
“I know and I know it was you and Albus she tried to get blamed for that graffiti last year, but she’s just trying to bait you. Don’t rise to it.”
He was right. She knew that. She also knew Dora’s words wouldn’t have annoyed her half as much had anybody else said them. But the truth was there was a very large part of her that would have loved to hex her and she wasn’t sure she’d get through the year without giving in to the temptation to do so.
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