Chapter 1 : The Last Funeral
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Compared to most of the past year, the Burrow was crowded. It was also very quiet. Ginny was slumped over the kitchen table, nursing a mug of tea and trying not to think about Fred. Which was, of course, impossible. She always knew he was obnoxious, but she never realized how much noise he created until she found herself living in this odd silence. At that moment Ginny would have happily listened to Percy talk about Ministry regulations, just to have the distraction. She heard footsteps on the staircase and looked up to see Harry tiptoeing into the kitchen. He was still in his pajamas, his shirt askew, and she felt her eyes snag on the bits of skin that showed. No, she told herself sharply. She was supposed to be grieving. She was grieving. What would people think if she was seen snogging Harry Potter only a month after her brother’s death? We wouldn’t have to be seen, though. She shook the thought away.
“Morning,” he muttered, his voice thick with sleep. He poured himself a cup of tea, stirred in a generous spoonful of sugar, and sat down next to her. There was a large, half-eaten coffeecake on the table, but neither of them touched it. Mrs. Longbottom had brought it over a week ago, but nobody had any appetite and it was beginning to go stale.
“Sleep okay?” Ginny asked, absentmindedly reaching for his free hand. He took it, sending a little flutter though her chest. She ignored this, mentally rolling her eyes at her own girlishness.
Harry shook his head in response. His nightmares had lessened since the battle, but only slightly.
Ginny squeezed his fingers. “It will get better.”
“I know,” he answered, though his face was grim. She wondered what he’d dreamed about the previous night, but didn’t ask. It seemed like unnecessary cruelty to make him relive it. Her own nightmares were almost gone, though the Carrows still snuck in occasionally, and Fred’s ashen face would probably haunt the whole family until the day they shared his fate.
“Who is it today?” Ginny asked. The funerals had started only a few days after the battle, but with so many people fallen they trickled on for a while. Harry, the noble idiot, insisted on attending every single one. No one else was sadistic enough to attempt it, so she, Ron, and Hermione were taking it in turns to accompany him. Today was the last funeral, and Ginny’s turn.
“Half past nine. But we’ll have to floo to the Ministry and walk a good while to get there. So leave here at quarter till, I’d say.”
“Alright then.” Ginny reached toward the ceiling, enjoying the stretch. “I wish we could fly.”
“Me too.” Muggle funerals were always more complicated to get to, since magical methods would attract too much attention.
Harry stood from his chair, downing the last drops of tea, and reached over Ginny to clear her empty cup. As he did so, he fingered the ends of her hair, letting his fingers rest on her back. They weren’t dating, not officially anyway. But Ginny’s feelings for Harry had never really settled after he broke it off the year before. The emotions remained in full force, though perhaps altered in subtle ways, and they occasionally found themselves falling into their old small habits of affection.
Harry returned to his and Ron’s bedroom to dress. With a wave of her wand she set the dishes to washing and drying themselves, and then went to get ready.
Harry was waiting for Ginny when she came down. He looked rather dashing in his black dress robes, despite the dark circles under his eyes. For the second time that morning she shook her head to clear it. Right now she needed to focus on getting Harry through the funeral. This was not the time to notice how unbelievably attractive he was. Not. The. Time. She set her eyes determinedly on the fireplace.
“After you,” she said, gesturing to the flowerpot on the mantle. Harry took a pinch of powder, threw it into the flames, and ordered himself off to the Ministry. Ginny followed.
Compared to the subdued climate of the Burrow, the Ministry was absolute chaos. Their workforce had taken a hard hit during the war, but even with fewer employees the main hall was crowded with witches and wizards. Ginny and Harry turned toward the street-level exit, but were stopped by the sound of a deep, friendly voice at their backs.
“Harry! Ginny!” Kingsley Shacklebolt greeted them, shaking both their hands warmly. “Where are you off to?”
“A funeral,” Ginny said, a bit shortly. As much as she liked Kingsley, she didn’t really feel like talking at the moment. She just wanted to get through the morning.
The Minister for Magic gave them an understanding nod. “Yes, I heard you’ve been paying your full respects. I won’t keep you. But, Harry, I do have some important things to discuss with you. Perhaps next week?”
“Of course, Minister,” Harry agreed.
“Please, Harry, call me Kingsley. Expect an owl about the meeting. I’ll see you soon. And you as well, Miss Weasley.” He smiled kindly and disappeared into the crowd.
It was a rare sunny day in London, and the walk to the cathedral was pleasant. The sun was still low enough to keep the heat at bay, and the morning light lit everything up beautifully. Their destination was a lovely little church with a wide stained glass window on the eastern side that glowed perfectly. A Muggle woman at the door handed them both paper leaflets. The front showed a motionless black and white photograph of Colin holding a mug of hot chocolate, with his camera around his neck. Just the sight of it gave Ginny the chills. As usual, Harry selected seats at the back and sat down quietly. Colin’s parents sat at the front, alongside his brother Dennis. Many of the other attendees seemed to be Muggles, but there were some familiar faces. Professor McGonagall sat somberly on the far side of the church, and a dozen or so other Gryffindors were scattered around. These included Oliva Vesh and Rachel Sieger, Ginny’s year-mates.
Noticing her, Olivia smiled and waved. Ginny smiled back half-heartedly. Both Olivia and Rachel were shy, quiet types, and they had been each other’s constant companions throughout their years at Hogwarts. Ginny might have been included in their clique if her first year had been significantly less disastrous. As it was, she had scared them away pretty quickly. Olivia had long since forgiven this, but Rachel was the type to hold a grudge and, though she was never exactly rude, she had never been warm, either. They didn’t approach, and Ginny was glad of this.
After a few minutes, the service began. The Muggle minister gave no details at all about Colin’s life at Hogwarts, saying only that he had been accepted into a prestigious boarding school where he had done well. The situation of his death was described as “courageous resistance to a terrorist attack,” which, while true, seemed woefully lacking.
“What do you think they told his parents?” She whispered to Harry. With two wizard sons, surely Mr. and Mrs. Creevey knew about the war? Then again, it was hard to know exactly what the Statute of Secrecy would allow. She hoped they had the full story, or at least their son’s part in it. Colin had been no great dueler, and it was foolish of him to sneak back to the battle. But it was also very brave, the mark of a true Gryffindor. She wanted his parents to understand that, and to know what it meant.
“I don’t know. Hopefully not the same bullocks the priest said.”
“I suppose we could ask Hermione what her parents know about it.”
He turned to her in surprise. “No, we can’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“She didn’t tell you? She obliviated their memories to keep them from being targeted while we were on the run. They’re in Australia, and they have no idea she exists.”
The bottom fell out of Ginny’s stomach. “Bloody hell,” she whispered. She had always respected Hermione, but never more than now. Ginny tried to imagine her own parents in some far off place, completely unaware of her existence. It was unfathomable. The service ended. As she and Harry made their way toward the front, she felt tears for Hermione forming in her eyes.
When they reached Colin’s family, Harry introduced himself, adding, “I went to school with your son. He was very brave.” He shook the parent’s hands.
“Thank you.” Mrs. Creevey said.
“You said you’re name was Harry?” Her husband put in.
“Our boys talked about you quite a lot.” He paused to clap Dennis, mute at his side, on the shoulder. “Looked up to you.”
Harry’s face went beet red. “Oh, um, thanks. Thank you, sir,” he stuttered and looked anxiously at Ginny.
“Colin and I were the same year at school,” she explained.
“You must have been quite close,” said Mrs. Creevey. For a moment Ginny wondered why the woman would think this, then remembered her tearstained cheeks.
“Um. He was a good person. Very, um, very… enthusiastic.” Merlin, did she just say that? Harry had given her a strange look that bordered on amusement, and she felt a stream of utterly inappropriate laughter pooling inside her. “We are so sorry for your loss,” she finished, and led Harry forcibly out the door.
They walked a few blocks in silence, and then Harry burst out laughing. That set Ginny off, and soon they were both clutching their sides from lack of breath. Exactly why it was so funny she couldn’t have said. All she knew was that it was.
“Enthusiastic!” Harry roared. “I can’t believe you said that!”
“I panicked,” she laughed. They were gasping to calm themselves, but they couldn’t stop.
Finally, after some minutes, they calmed down enough to move on. As they headed back to the Ministry, Ginny wondered at the smile that was creeping onto her face. It seemed silly. After all, nothing had really changed. The facts remained: Dozens of people had died, including several very close to her heart; Hogwarts was a wreck; her family was broken, her education badly interrupted, and the boy she fancied terrorized by nightmares. And yet, despite it all, Ginny felt better than she had for months. Walking through a pleasant neighborhood on a sunny day, recently recovered from a fit of giggles, and with Harry’s strong arm draped over her shoulder – when did that happen? – it was hard to feel anything but good about the world.
Now that she felt content for the first time since the battle, the thought of returning to the Burrow, where everything she saw reminded her of Fred, was unbearable.
“Let’s not go back just yet,” said Harry.
“I was thinking the same thing,” she grinned at him. They were so alike it was almost funny. Not that he never annoyed her. Sometimes he made her crazy… Though, even then, their tempers were equally fierce. Imagine what their children would be like! The idea was almost frightening, and then she realized what she had just thought and her cheeks went bright red. Their children? Really, Ginny, get a grip!
“What is it?” Harry asked.
“What? Oh, nothing. I was just, um, remembering what I said to the Creeveys.”
“Don’t worry about it. They have no idea who you are anyway,” he said, egging her on.
Ginny swatted at him, but she was laughing. “We can’t all be Harry-effing-Potter, you know.”
“Well, thank goodness for that.”
“Finally, something we can agree on.”
They were still teasing as Harry pulled her into a shop. “Coffee?” he offered.
“I don’t like it. But I’d love another cup of tea.”
“Sure thing.” He went up to the register, rummaged in his pocket, and blushed. “Sorry, I, er… I must have left my wallet…” He pulled Ginny out and turned into an alleyway. “Sorry, Gin. Forgot I didn’t have any Muggle money.”
“Here, give me a sickle.” Ginny pulled her wand out from her pocket and pointed it at the silver coin. “Pecunia condicio.” The coin transfigured into a Muggle bank note. She looked at it skeptically, always baffled by the papery bills. “Is this right?”
“Yeah, it’s brilliant,” Harry said, taking it from her. “Where’d you learn that one?”
“Fred and George. As if you couldn’t guess.” A sharp pain ran through her at the name, but she forced it down.
“What did they need Muggle money for?”
“I never asked,” she said ruefully, and Harry laughed.
They went back into the shop, and Harry ordered a cappuccino and a cup of Earl Grey. It wasn’t a particularly nice café. The table legs were uneven, so that they kept spilling little splashes of their beverages every time one of them shifted an elbow. Even so, it was lovely. Lovely to pretend they hadn’t just attended a 17-year-old’s funeral. Lovely to forget they would be returning to a home in mourning. Lovely to sit there chatting about random things. But mostly, lovely because it was Harry, and their feet were sort of touching under the table, and he didn’t look away from her once, and they never ran out of words, and at one point he reached over and tucked her hair behind her ear. If he had realized what he’d done, she knew he would have pulled back and grown silent. But in the midst of conversation he did it without thinking, leaving Ginny breathlessly pretending not to notice.
It was almost noon by the time they returned to the Burrow. Ron and Hermione were sitting on the couch in their pajamas, sharing the Prophet and chatting quietly.
“How was it?” Ron asked, looking up as Ginny and Harry dusted themselves off.
“It was great,” Harry answered. Ginny felt a blush creeping up her cheeks. Ron was looking at Harry like he had just grown an extra arm. Realizing his mistake, Harry played it off as sarcasm. “How do you think it was? They couldn’t tell the real story, because of all the Muggles…”
Ginny wasn’t listening. She was caught up in a silent conversation with Hermione, who had grasped the situation immediately. Of course. Ginny squeezed in next to her on the sofa, and was about to whisper an explanation, but Hermione interrupted. Ron had just turned to the final page of the paper
“Oh no,” she said. “Oh, this is awful.”
Ron looked where Hermione pointed, and his face went white. That was a bad sign; Ginny knew her brother’s face was a reliable indicator of how bad something was, and white was even worse than purple.
Ginny craned over the edge of the paper to see. The headline read, “Battle of Hogwarts Hero Attacked. Death Eaters Avoid Capture.” Below this was a photo of Neville. Ginny’s hands flew to her face. She took a deep breath to calm herself, but didn’t succeed. In her sixth year, Neville had been her best friend. More than a friend… She didn’t share his feelings, but nevertheless she cared about him a great deal. “I can’t. I can’t read it. What does it say?” She muttered
“What? What’s wrong?” Harry asked.
Hermione read aloud: “Neville Longbottom was attacked by two masked Death Eaters while running errands in Diagon Alley on Tuesday. Sources say Longbottom was targeted because of his involvement with the student group known as Dumbledore’s Army. He was found unconscious after being hit in the back with three jinxes…”
At this point Hermione started crying and was unable to continue reading. Ginny, for her part, was having trouble breathing.
Ron took the paper and glanced through it. “He’s at St. Mungo’s. They say he should recover.”
“Good. That’s good,” Ginny said, trying to calm her breathing. At least her heartbeat was beginning to slow. She sort of dreaded seeing him again – the last time they’d seen each other had been less than comfortable – but she couldn’t pretend not to care. “When are we going to visit?”
“As soon as possible. Tomorrow,” Harry said forcefully. He had risen from his armchair and seemed on edge. “First thing in the morning. I need to apologize.”
“What are you talking about?” Ron asked, but Ginny knew.
“Harry, it’s not your fault Neville got attacked. You can’t go around taking responsibility for every bad thing that happens.” She reached over to put a hand on his arm, but he moved away.
“You don’t get it. You all want to act like I’m some savior, like I’m perfect and faultless and this, I don’t know, this hero. But I’m not! If it wasn’t for me, or if I made different choices, a lot of dead people would still be alive. I know you all keep saying it’s not true, but it is. And now even the people who survived are being attacked. IT’S NOT BLOODY FAIR.”
“It’s not fair. That’s true.” Hermione said. “But Ginny’s right, you have to stop beating yourself up.”
“Yeah, mate,” Ron agreed. “I’m sure Neville doesn’t blame you, and why would he? It’d be mad!”
Harry still looked uncertain. Forcing herself full of determination – she needed that steel in her veins to boss Harry around, though few others could stand up to her – Ginny walked over to him and took him by the shoulders.
“Look,” she said, “no matter how long you spend trying to convince us you’re a waste of space, we’re not going to believe it. We all know you never wanted anyone to die except Voldemort, and we all watched you defeat him. So calm the hell down.”
For a moment they were all quiet while Harry steadied his breathing. Then Hermione said tentatively, “So, we’re visiting tomorrow?”
“Yes,” said Harry. His voice was still rough, but he seemed steadier.
“Maybe we can go to the shop after,” Ron added, “to visit George.” They all agreed with this immediately. George had been sleeping at Bill’s – both the Burrow and his flat reminded him too much of Fred – which meant he hadn’t been dropping in as often as usual.
With that settled, Harry excused himself out the back door, probably in search of a broom. Merlin knew he needed to let off some steam.
The rest of the day passed in a haze. Ginny was trying to read Great Women Quidditch Players of the 20th Century, but she kept losing focus and rereading the same sentence. Her mind was tangled up with worry and sadness over the Creeveys, Neville, George, Fred, and Hermione’s parents. Plus, after such a nice morning with Harry her hopes had flooded back, and with them all her doubt. She understood why he’d dumped her, she really did, and she didn’t blame him for it. She just couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he’d been glad to do it. Eventually she gave up on her book, and planned to doze until dinner, but Hermione moved to sit beside her.
Not wanting to talk about either Harry or Neville, Ginny immediately brought up the other subject that had been most on her mind. “Harry told me about your parents.”
Hermione sent a scowl in Harry’s direction, though he was too engrossed in a game of chess to notice. “I know it was wrong, but”—
“That isn’t what I meant at all! I think it was really brave. When he told me, I kept imagining if it was my parents… I cried.”
“You cried?” Hermione knew that Ginny cried very rarely, even compared to her brothers.
Ginny nodded, and squeezed her friend’s hand. “We’ll find them. I promise.”
The girls were silent for several minutes. After some time, Hermione cleared her throat and wiped the wetness away from her eyes, finally releasing Ginny’s hand. “So,” she began, her voice low and shaky, but also mischievous, “what happened with you and Harry this morning?”
Considering her lingering doubts, Ginny had been hoping this would be forgotten. However, she sighed and resigned herself to telling about their outing. After all, truth be told, it had been rather marvelous.