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Chapter 15: Memorials
The predawn sky was clear, pinkening and still scattered with stars, but the wind off the lake was cold. McGonagall's body was laid out in a flat-bottomed boat, looking not asleep but very, very dead.
Madeleine Aerie, face wet with tears, picked up the wand that lay on McGonagall's chest and used it to set the boat alight, then tossed the wand into the flames and gave the boat a shove with her foot. "Vale, Minerva," she said.
The boat floated slowly out into the lake, catching light as it went, and they watched it out of sight in silence.
Hagrid, who had come back in great haste for the funeral, blew his nose into a large dotted handkerchief. "Still can't believe she's gone," he said damply. "It can't ever be th' same withou' her."
"I wonder if she'll come back," Hermione sniffled. "To keep Dumbledore company."
"She was forever complaining about the cold," Malfoy said. "I shouldn't wonder if she decided to haunt a nice hotel in Cote d'Azur." He blew his nose in a handkerchief that precisely matched his white funeral robe.
Harry's eyes stung, but only from staring at the burning boat. He hadn't cried for any of them, he realized. Not for Cedric, and not once since. And now -- well, he owed them more than an afterthought, didn't he.
Besides, he didn't want to start crying without being sure he'd be able to stop.
"It's a bit irregular," Madeleine said, "but I believe we'll postpone the choosing of the new Head until tomorrow before breakfast. Michelle and I are within hours of completing the Nervalitum potion, and I believe Harry and Hermione and Draco are investigating a possible breakthrough in the unmining process?"
"I imagine you'll be needin' a hand wi' the cleanup?" Hagrid asked Ron. "I can stay a bit now that I've got me stren'th back."
And they all began to move slowly up the lawn.
"We mustn't get our hopes up," Hermione was saying, though judging from how fast she was walking, her own hopes were well ahead of her. "There mightn't be a single key to bring them all down."
"Of course there will be," Malfoy said. "Taking them all down would have been an exquisitely symbolic act of ownership on the part of Lucius Malfoy, Headmaster of Occupied Hogwarts. We just have to figure out how."
As they came to the staff common room, Hermione seemed to notice that Harry was lagging behind. "Harry?" she said.
"I need to -- I have some things I --"
She nodded. "Just come to the library when you're done."
Harry pulled Hedwig's cage aside and opened the wardrobe behind it. Suitcase -- trunk -- yes, there it was: Kat's bundle of letters. He laid them on the bed, pulled the curtains shut, propped a pillow against the headboard, and began to read.
I can't tell you how sad I was to hear about Albus. You must be ...
Rumor has it you were seriously injured in that duel, so I don't know if you'll be getting this, but I just wanted to wish you a quick recovery and to tell you to owl me if there's anything at all I can ...
You remember Lavender Brown, don't you? Her oldest brother's little girl was going to start Hogwarts this year, but ...
I'm very sorry to tell you that Sirius ...
We're off to Romania next week. Charlie's marrying a doctor named Sofia -- seems appropriate, as he spends most of his time in the infirmary with ...
You've probably already heard it from Ron, but I'm afraid Lee Jordan ...
You won't believe it, but I've been promoted. One more step up the ladder and I'll be Deputy Minister of ...
I'm sure you already know how much Colin admired you, and I think he would want you to have ...
I'm meeting the rest of them in Egypt to see Keket turn six. First birthday since Bill died, so it won't be much of a party, but she's a brave little kid -- 'brave as a Kobalin,' her godmother says ...
I'm writing a history of the war, and I was wondering if you could write me a page or two on exactly what you ...
I miss you, Harry, and I try to be patient, but you haven't sent one word since that two-sentence owl to tell me you were in America so I'd know you weren't dead. I don't even know if you're ever coming back or if Voldemort really destroyed you after all ...
All the deferred emotions were still there, waiting for him. All the guilt and the grief, all the small joys he hadn't felt he had the right to share.
For a moment he felt that same icy paralysis that had gripped him when the fat little ward matron in St. Mungo's had gently told him that Dumbledore was dead -- that feeling that the only safe thing to do was to walk away and leave his real life standing absolutely still, because every step he took into his future was a step away from a debt he owed in blood.
But only a child thought that blood could be owed and repaid like a borrowed quill. Blood just was, wasn't it; the living had it, and the dead didn't, and the only thing it was good for was being alive.
He looked at the pile of letters for a moment more, then shouldered his Firebolt and took off.
The little Weasley family graveyard was in a clearing just over the hill from the family Quidditch grounds. It was easy to recognize the small Egyptian cat statue that marked Bill's grave -- it was the only statue in the yard that looked less than a century old. It narrowed its eyes at Harry in a friendly way when he brushed away the leaves at its feet to uncover the name and the dates, but otherwise made no remark.
Harry was still Muggle enough that when he conjured a flower to leave behind, it was a red poppy. The cat sniffed it, then tasted it politely.
Just over the hill from Ottery St. Catchpole was the village of Kettlewick, where Cedric Diggory was interred in a neatly kept churchyard on the wizarding side of town. His stone, a badger, was again the only new one in sight.
It suddenly occurred to Harry what a shock it must be when wizards died in their teens and twenties, before they'd lived out a tenth of their lifespans. He remembered hiding in the Muggle graveyard behind Grimbridge Junior School, between the rows of stones for children killed in an epidemic. Martha Elizabeth, 1916-1919. Beloved daughter.
After a moment he laid a poppy at the badger's feet and took to his broomstick again.
Sirius was buried at Ravenscarp in a splendid wizard graveyard where even the topiaries were animated. Harry stood for a long time looking at the simple, unadorned stone. They'd hardly known each other, really. He'd meant to change that, to come back from America and really get to know the man as something other than a protector and a link to his parents. Not enough time. There was never enough time.
He brushed his hand gently over the name carved in the stone, then walked slowly back to the broomstick. He had many miles to go before nightfall.
Like Farnwinning, where Lee Jordan's parents had had to tell their Muggle neighbors that their son had died in an auto accident rather than name him a hero in a war they'd never heard of. Like Maryskip, where a tiny stone bird fluttered and sang on the tiny grave of Lark Brown.
And then to London and Diagon Alley.
"Ah, Mr. Potter," said Ollivander out of the darkness. "I was wondering when I'd see you here." He didn't say "What can I do for you?" or anything else shopkeeperly. He simply clasped his hands behind his back and waited.
Harry let the wand drop from its loop inside his sleeve into his hand. It didn't feel like holding a wand that belonged to someone else. He laid it on the counter.
"Ah," Ollivander said. "It has come into your hands at last."
Harry looked at the dark wood. "It was my father's, wasn't it."
Ollivander nodded. "Mahogany, dragon heartstring." He ran a proprietary finger over the handle. Harry would have sworn that the wand rose a little to his hand, like a stroked cat. "Not exactly what I would have predicted for Harry Potter. But perhaps now the time has come when you can give over being the other half of Voldemort and become merely yourself, eh?"
Harry was surprised at the strength of the anger that washed over him. He pushed it down again and said nothing.
"And it's possible," Ollivander went on, "that the wand may have ... matured a little during its years of dormancy -- yes, young Potter, a wand is a living creature, though not precisely a sentient one, and is as capable of growing and changing as you are yourself."
"Is this -- usual? For a wizard's wand to be handed down when he's dead?"
"It's not uncommon," Ollivander said, "and a fine mark of respect, in my opinion. Some families, of course, keep to the oldest tradition and burn the wand with the body. And for the sentimental, shops such as Willow and Wombly's will transfigure a loved one's wand into a sword or a quill or something of the sort. Terribly wasteful, if you ask me. I remember a witch from Coventry who had her late husband's wand transfigured into a cane -- a most unfortunate choice, as the deceased had in life been passionately fond of a dance called the Jolly Hare ..." He smiled. "And a few find their way back to me."
"Should I leave you this one, then?"
"Whatever for? No, no, keep it, boy. If it is ever inadequate to the task of working as your partner, believe me that it will find a way to let you know."
Twilight was falling when he arrived, cold and tired, at Godric's Hollow.
His parents had been living as Muggles, and they'd been buried as Muggles, under a simple, unmoving stone marked POTTER. He stood in the little village graveyard for a long time trying to feel anything at all.
For as long as he could remember, he'd been telling himself stories about his real parents, and the truth, when he'd learned it, had been beyond his wildest tales. Handsome, clever, talented. Magical. But however he tried -- however he examined the photos Hagrid had collected for him, read the letters Sirius had shared, stared at their tombstone -- he couldn't make them real in his mind.
A breeze blew a shower of white petals down on his head, and he shivered. What on earth was he trying to do, anyway? There was no sense in this. He hadn't known them. They were part of a life he couldn't get back.
He flew above the graveyard and headed north ... and then swung south again. He couldn't come this far without going back to where it all started.
If Harry hadn't known exactly where to look, he would have walked right past the ruins of the little cottage, convinced that he'd seen nothing but the back gardens of the houses in the next street over. The whole area was laced with Ministry spells -- not just an Inconspicuus to distract passing Muggles, but a multisensory array of illusions convincing enough to hide the spot from wizards as well.
Harry wondered what sort of magical visitors the spells were aimed at. Tourists? Vandals? Death Eaters bent on revenge?
But Remus' letter had told him how to find the spot, and with the help of Remus' spells, he walked right past the barrier of illusion and saw the place as it was.
This many years after the fire, there wasn't much left. A weed-choked foundation, a crumbling chimney, a few roses struggling to bloom among the thistles in what had once been the front garden. Harry stepped through a gap -- it might have been the remains of the front door, or only a spot where the stone had weakened and crumbled -- and walked through the weeds and rubble where the inside of the house had been.
The back wall had been of stone. It had survived the fire, only to be partly pulled down in the intervening years by some sort of vine, which now wrapped among the stones and bound them to the ground. Paper and cloth and litter were piled in a corner where a bit of surviving wall met the chimney. Harry knelt to poke at the mess with the tip of his wand, but found only nests from generations of mice.
He stared at the rain-bleached rags and bits of newspaper and felt a terrible emptiness. Of course it was a ruin -- a ruin was what you got when you burned a cottage to the ground and then left it untouched for more than twenty years. He hadn't expected to find anything recognizable.
But somehow he'd thought he'd be able to feel them.
Stupid, when you really thought about it. But he'd wanted something to come home to.
He knuckled his burning eyes and gave the litter a kick. There wasn't really so much of it; in a few moments he'd used the side of his foot to herd most of it out of the corner, where the wind caught it and swept it away.
Now there were two waist-high fragments of crumbling stone wall, at right angles to each other. Since he already had his wand in his hand, he gave it a flick and transfigured them into a stone bench. He smoothed the walls enough to stop loose rocks from tumbling onto someone's head, but left the top edge as jagged as nature had made it.
It was interesting-looking. He rather liked it.
If someone sat on the bench, they'd want something to look at right about where he was standing. A fountain, perhaps. Harry conjured a bubbling pool of water; then, thinking of Sunday, he added the little water spider, Kananeskey Amai'yehi, bringing the first fire across the water in a bowl on her back.
A little grass now? Yes, that made everything more pleasant. A scatter of violets -- he seemed to remember Sirius saying his mother had been especially fond of those. "On the other hand, she never liked lilies that much," he'd added, and Harry closed his eyes so he could see again his godfather's smile.
When he opened them, the whole project looked silly to him -- a bench, a fountain, a few square feet of grass, entirely surrounded by weeds and ruined masonry. Really, who did he think he was fooling? It wasn't even worth doing at all.
Or else it was worth doing exquisitely.
And surely they deserved that. He rolled up his sleeves and began transfiguring in earnest.
A clump of dandelions into a cluster of pear trees, just coming into blossom. Another into a bed of firebird achillea, with a little statue of Fawkes on a perch above the flowers. Another into night-blooming heartsease -- no, wait. A twist of his hand took them out of the bed and put them instead into a planter shaped like a large stone cauldron.
He felt his exhaustion lifting a little, and realized he was singing the manito chant. He went on singing as he transfigured bare spots into stony paths, crumbling dirt into terraces, sticks into bushes. Bits of the foundation into more benches, more statues, low stone walls. Weeds into tiny hidden beds of trilliums in the shade of overhanging trees, clusters of butterfly bushes like the ones Kat had coaxed into blooming in the Coven courtyard. With a little microclimate in every corner, just enough for aloe to grow across the walkway from ferns.
He was out of breath, and his face was damp with sweat, and there was something vibrant and sweet and beautiful everywhere he looked. And let Malfoy laugh if he wanted to, but it was exquisite. It was, he thought with a warm feeling of pride, worthy of them all.
Harry stepped back onto the sidewalk and studied it, a lush little world of secrets hidden away between two cottages. It seemed only proper to invite everyone, Muggle and wizard, to come in.
He took down the Ministry illusions. Then he enlarged the last fallen stone and carved letters in it: Potter Memorial Park.
No, that wasn't quite it.
He smoothed the words out of the stone again. And then he put an Incisium charm on his wand, and stroke by clumsy stroke, in his own messy handwriting, he carved:
In memory of
Lily Evans Potter
and all who ...
It didn't even have a name yet, this war. And he was not about to put Voldemort's stupid, made-up name on a stone in honor of his victims. At last he wiped his wet cheeks and wrote:
and all who died fighting the Dark.
That wasn't quite it, was it? Because Goyle hadn't fought the Dark, but it had killed him anyway. And Remus and Malfoy -- they were still alive, but nobody could ever give back what had been stolen from them.
He wiped his face with his hands, then wiped his hands on his robe. He'd have to ask Malfoy, or maybe Hermione. Penelope -- she was good with words. Maybe she'd --
No, no. No procrastinating. He shook himself. It would have to be good enough.
Except that it wasn't, because it was too anonymous. He bent over one last time, and smoothed out a new space in the stone, and wrote his own name:
That looked stupid. Egotistical. He wiped it out and flung his wand down in the dirt.
No. This wasn't some official memorial put up by a Ministry subcommittee. It was his gift to them, and he wanted everyone to know, even if it made him look like an idiot. He found his wand and put his name back in again.
His hand was cramping and the letters were misshapen. The P looked like a D. He erased it and wrote it again. The wand slipped in his sweaty hand and left a big gouge in the stem of the letter. He threw down the wand again.
He couldn't make it right.
He hauled in a great sob of breath. People he'd loved were dead. People he cared about were hurt and grieving. He'd been robbed of his family and his childhood. Nothing could make it right, not ever.
He knelt on the mossy path, and the white petals of the blooming pear trees fell on the carved stone, and he cried.
Twilight gave way to night as he flew north. Weary and cold as he was, he felt something inside him relax when the bulk of the castle reared up black against the blue-black sky.
He hovered beside the Astronomy tower for a moment, and then, giving in to impulse, he laid his hand on the damp wall. A bit of stone crumbled off beneath his fingers and dropped away into the darkness, and his laugh had some tears behind it. Good old Hogwarts, one half stone and the other half spells.
He laid his other hand against the wall, too. Inside there, like the heart in a human body, were Malfoy and Hermione still working away at their research, and Ron and Charlie and Oliver and the rest cleaning up after the battle, and Remus sleeping in the infirmary while Sofia walked softly between the rows of curtained beds. And in the dormitories the children were living out their own ambitions and intrigues and romances and disappointments ...
His family, he thought. This must be what people meant when they used that word.
Sirius' cane hung at a jaunty angle above the grand entry. Inside, the suit of armor nodded to him as he passed, and Usher the Untidy looked up to greet him before going back to trying to disentangle his lace sleeves from his waistcoat buttons.
The letters were still scattered over his bed, but he didn't feel like sleeping anyway. He flung his cloak and his Firebolt on the couch and headed up to the hospital wing. If everybody had gone to bed, he could sit with Remus for a while.
But when he opened the door, the first thing he saw was Madeleine clutching Sofia, and when she raised her face to look over Sofia's dark hair, Harry saw that her beaky face was wet with tears.
"What's happened?" His stomach plummeted.
" 'Arry!" Sofia let go and ran over, laughing and crying at the same time. "Oh, 'Arry, the sleeperss wake!"
Madeleine wiped her face. "Hermione and Draco took down the last mines this afternoon, and we've just finished the Nervalitum potion and begun to administer it --"
"Charlotte iss awake, and Ursa, and Rose iss stirring --"
"Here," said a hoarse voice. He was very pale and he needed a haircut, but on the whole he looked no worse than he usually did after the moon. Sofia ran to him, scolding: "You should not be tryink to walk!"
"You forget that I'm used to periodic bouts of unconsciousness." Remus turned to Harry, and whatever he saw on Harry's face made him smile a little.
He'd been the one who'd written to tell Harry of Sirius' death. Harry had read the letter this afternoon for the first time. As his executor, I'll be going through the house over the coming year. I promise I won't throw away anything of James and Lily's I find, no matter how small, he'd written. I certainly never expected to be the last of us, nor to have to mourn him twice, but nature seems to repeat the pattern: two dead, one in Azkaban, and me alone remaining as carrier of all those memories ...
Harry flung his arms around him. It seemed to take Remus by surprise, and his arms hung for a moment before coming up to return the embrace fiercely.
"Remus," Harry said. "God, I was so scared."
"Me too," Remus said into his hair.
"Listen," Harry said when they finally separated. "Are you up to visitors? Because I know Michelle will want to see you, if she's still up --"
"She'll be down at the wake," Madeleine called.
"Wake?" Remus said. Sofia put her hand on his shoulder.
"Staff common room," Madeleine said. "We'll head down after we're done here. Tell Oliver to save a drink for me."
A roar of voices met him at the common room fireplace. "Harry!" called Oliver. "Come'n have a drink."
"I will in a minute, Oliver -- seen Michelle?"
"Michelle!" Oliver cried, and every hand in the room shot into the air. "To Michelle! For the hip -- the hepatica!"
Michelle blushed fiercely and raised a glass of some russet liquid. Harry leaned close to be heard over the tumult. "Remus is awake. He'd like to see you." She turned surprised blue eyes on him, then hurried to the fireplace.
"Another toast!" Oliver shouted. "Penol -- Penep -- Penny! She got hold of a flying carpet!"
"Penelope!" they all shouted.
Hagrid pushed a drink at Harry. He took a sip and gasped -- it was like a hit of alcohol directly to the bloodstream. "What is this?"
"Oliver's making claymores," Charlie said. "Caledonian Dew, sugar, lemon, and an effervescing charm. In the Headmistress's honor, dinna ye ken." His accent was atrocious.
"So called," Penelope added cheerfully, "because they're deadly weapons."
"Harry!" Oliver cried. "Harry Potter! Our leerless feeder!"
"Harry!" they all roared, and before half of them finished drinking, Oliver was on his feet again: "Hemi -- Hermy! The brains of the outfit!"
When she heard his name, Hermione hurried over. Her eyes were red, but she was beaming. "Harry," she said, and pulled him into a long, tight hug. "Where on earth have you been?" she said as she released him. "Did you hear? Draco took them all down, every last one of them, it was his father's cane --"
"You'll have to tell me everything," Harry said. "And I've just been to the infirmary -- Remus is awake and they're giving the Nervalitum to all of them --"
"Sofia!" shouted Oliver, and they all cheered.
"Where's Malfoy?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Over there somewhere --"
Harry spotted him under the portmap with Ron and Phoenix and an empty seat where Hermione must have been, eating fruit from a bowl. He had on that same plum-colored robe he'd worn at the opening feast, and as Harry watched, he met his eyes with the same look -- recognition, attraction, a sort of cautious, well-guarded hope --
Harry edged around the crowds and took Hermione's seat. "You have food? God, I'm famished." He took a handful of grapes off Malfoy's plate.
"Ron!" Oliver cried. "For a 'lectric torch when you need it most!"
Harry grinned at him and raised his glass.
"Draco," Ron suggested, and Oliver repeated: "Draco! Still a Seeker!"
Harry looked at Malfoy, who was looking at him with a wry smile, and shouted, "Draco!" with the rest. He clicked glasses with Malfoy, and then he leaned right over both glasses and kissed him.
There was a choking sound behind him, and then a roar of laughter and applause and a whistle from Hagrid, and then someone took his glass out of his hand and he wrapped Malfoy up in a hug so tight he squeaked.
"I hear you're a hero," he said into Malfoy's ear.
"We're all heroes," Malfoy said roughly. "Every damned one of us."
Oliver proposed so many toasts that eventually he was reduced to drinking in honor of inanimate objects --"Ropeladder! Ra -- wa -- wand!" In the midst of proposing a toast to fireplaces, he fell silent, and presently from that corner of the room, over Penelope's giggles, they heard a definite sound of snoring.
Remus, who had arrived in time to be well toasted, had fallen asleep as well, his head in Michelle's lap. Hermione and Ron, eyes heavy, were crowded into a chair that was only big enough for one, but neither of them seemed to mind the close quarters.
Over by the door there was a burst of giggles; Harry looked and saw Phoenix Skye bent over Cypherus Summs' palm, and both of them were laughing helplessly until tears rolled down their faces.
"Let's get out of here," he whispered, and Malfoy nodded and stood to follow him.
Harry felt Malfoy's eyes on him as he flung the coverlet to the floor, along with all the letters that had been piled on it. He looked up and found Malfoy standing in the doorway between the sitting room and the bedroom.
After a moment Harry held out his hand. Malfoy took three steps into the room and took it, and Harry pulled him close and buried his face in Malfoy's satiny hair.
"I never asked if you forgave me," he said, relieved that he couldn't see Malfoy's face. "For freezing you. For taking off the Mark without your consent."
"For being a Gryffindor, you mean." There was a smile in Malfoy's voice. "I don't suppose you can help it."
"I wanted --" Harry began, and Malfoy raised his head.
"Sh. I know." And he kissed him softly until the desire to explain himself was gone.
When Harry moved to shake off his robe, Malfoy stopped his hands. "Let me."
Malfoy pushed the robe off his shoulders, unknotted his tie, worked the buttons of his shirt, looking at his hands rather than at Harry's face, with a curious concentration that made Harry's throat tight. The shirt fell open, and Malfoy picked up his hands one at a time to undo the buttons at the cuffs, then started on his trouser buttons as the shirt dropped to the floor.
Harry toed off his shoes, stepped on his socks to pull them off, shook his feet free of trousers and pants, and looked up into Malfoy's serious face. He reached for Malfoy's robe, but before he made contact, Malfoy had removed all his own clothes with a single spell, so that Harry's fingertips brushed the warm skin under his collarbone. Malfoy shuddered.
His eyes never left Harry's as he pulled him down to the bed.
It had never seemed as though Malfoy was holding back before, but now he worked over Harry's body with a slow fierceness that was new and paralyzingly good. Harry felt he should reciprocate -- should do something other than shake and whimper. But by the time Malfoy returned to Harry's mouth, Harry's hands felt so heavy that he could barely lift them from the fine, humid skin of Malfoy's back.
"Let me," Malfoy said again, and Harry nodded wordlessly and let himself be touched and tasted and opened and owned.
Malfoy, braced above him on his elbows, pinned him with eyes gone dark in his pale face. Harry struggled to keep his own eyes open against the demands of his senses as Malfoy moved in with slow intensity, all his usual playfulness burned away.
"Yes," Harry said, and it felt good, so he said it again: "Yes -- yes -- Draco!"
On to Chapter 16
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April 25, 2003