Chapter Forty-Six: Phoenix From the Ashes
Harry's brain felt so numb that night, that in years to come, he still wouldn't remember how he'd managed to sleep after seeing such horrors. He couldn't even remember leaving the hall, getting to Gryffindor tower, or joining all his friends under duvets and pillows in the common room. He remembered vague details of getting hugged by Ginny, lots of people saying they were glad he was okay, Professor Lupin coming round at two in the morning with chocolate for everybody, Hermione being very upset and getting comforted by Ron, but it all seemed to be an incoherent bundle of facts. All he knew was that Percy Weasley was dead, Fred and George were missing, Dobby, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Kibbles, and many many people he'd known were all dead, Snape had gone running off into the forest, and he hadn't seen Peter or Jinx at all.
It was good to have his friends with him and around him, even though nobody mentioned the night's events, but he wanted a protector now. An adult, a parent, a guardian. Mr Weasley had gone to tell his wife they had lost a child, and perhaps two more. Snape and Peter were missing. Lupin couldn't stay. Alrister arrived with serenity candles at some point, but he had to go too. None of the adults seemed to want to stay. They were all busy, searching the castle and grounds for any hint of students who had survived. But luckily, his chance to talk came the next day.
He woke up the next morning, as though it was just any other morning. He sat up, reached out, put on his glasses, and it was only when he wondered about the crack down one of the lenses that he remembered the previous night. Suddenly, he wished he'd never woken up.
He looked around his friends huddled around him. Ginny, Luna and Neville were lying on the sofas, tucked up under blankets. Luna had been reluctant to come in at first, he remembered, vaguely, though McGonagall came past and bustled her in. Said something about houses not being important right now. Then went off to search the astronomy tower. Draco was sitting close to the fire, his eyes closed, sleeping where he sat. Ron and Hermione were cuddled up together. She had her head tucked under his chin. Harry felt a wash of mixed emotions at this. Sympathy, that they'd only realised their feelings in such a hard time. Longing, that he had somebody to comfort him like that. Hope, that Hermione wouldn't come to her senses all of a sudden and forget Ron's kindness.
"Morning," said a soft voice from nearby.
Harry looked around, wondering who it was that had spoken, until he realised that Draco was watching him, one eye ever so slightly open. "Morning," he replied. Neither of them used 'good'. It was not a good morning. It was a bad morning. The first day of the rest of Harry's life.
"Did you sleep?" asked Draco. Harry nodded numbly. Draco gave a little understanding nod. "I didn't," he said quietly. Seeing Harry's expression, he continued. "I wouldn't take the Dreamless Sleep Draught. I never trust mind altering potions anymore."
Harry didn't know what to say to this. He didn't know what to say to anything. He looked up at Draco, wondering how he'd helped the ministry, if he knew which Death Eaters were caught, wondering whether he could ask how he felt, but his thoughts were interrupted as a voice came down from the boy's dormitory staircase. "Boys?" It was Lupin, no longer wearing teacher's robes, but an old shirt and trousers, patched in the elbows, still carrying his bag full of chocolate. "Come now, awake so early? You need your rest..."
Harry shook his head, and mumbled, "I couldn't sleep... Professor..."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Likewise." He stretched just a little, and then asked, quietly, "Was she caught, Professor?"
Lupin looked confused for a moment, and then nodded. "Yes, we got her, just before she apparated away... she'll be in the cells under the ministry of magic by the time the sun rises."
"Who?" asked Harry, desperate to know who had been caught.
"Dolores Umbridge," said Lupin, quietly. He shuffled past one of the sofas and sat down cross-legged on the duvet before the two boys. "She was caught fleeing the grounds, along with Argus Filch."
"Filch was a Death Eater?" said Harry.
Lupin nodded. "We only found out last night. Because he can't perform magic, he was little more than a supporter. He was there last night though, acting as a sort of messenger."
"Were there any others caught?" asked Draco, quietly.
"I don't know," Lupin replied. "I'm sure that Professor Dumbledore will have the full story today... he wants you all down in the Great Hall as soon as you wake up. He needs to talk to you all." He stood up. "Come on... I'll take you down there now. Minerva will look after the other children..."
Harry and Draco both got up from under the duvet, and followed Lupin to the door, stopping to pull on their dressing gowns and slippers, then walking after him in near silence to the Great Hall. All the windows had been blacked out in the corridors, hiding the grounds from view. Harry could hear movement outside, people carrying things back and forth. Maybe it was Kibbles, maybe Dobby. Kingsley. All the other people who gave their lives to stop Voldemort.
Lupin, perhaps noticing the expression on Harry's face, slowed down to walk beside the two boys. After a moment, he said, quietly, "The ministry have come to search the grounds, just in case... but you won't have to worry about that."
He lead them across the entrance hall, and then in through the doors of the Great Hall. The house tables were gone, replaced by lots of smaller, round ones. There was hardly anybody here yet, just a few of the remaining Slytherins, sitting with Sinistra, and then Dumbledore at another table. Lupin lead Harry and Draco over to the headmaster's table and sat them down. "Are you hungry?" he asked, kindly. "Just tuck in if you are..."
He sat down in the seat between them and Dumbledore, while Harry and Draco reluctantly took some sausages from the plates in the middle of the table. It was hard to eat all of a sudden, as though there was a blockage in Harry's throat that didn't want to move. Draco seemed to be having just as much trouble as Harry. His hands didn't seem to want to hold his knife and fork. Twice, they clattered to the tabletop after an odd spasm had gone down his wrists.
"Harry?" Harry looked up to Dumbledore's bright blue gaze. The headmaster was wearing a kind, ultimately calm expression. "How do you feel this morning?"
Harry thought about this. He didn't really know how he felt. Devastated. Shocked to the core. Numb. After a moment, he said, "I... I don't know... just... lost." He tried to explain it better, putting down his knife and fork. "It's like... I don't know how to feel."
"I understand," said Dumbledore, quietly. He rested his hand on Harry's shoulder. "I promise that by the end of the day, you will understand and accept everything, Harry." He then turned to Draco, on Harry's left, and asked, kindly, "Draco? How are you?"
Draco looked very thoughtful for a moment, with a half-frown on his face, and then he said, "Oddly proud."
"Proud?" said Harry, amazed that Draco could even think, let alone admit, such a thing.
"Yes..." Dumbledore, to Harry's total surprise, was smiling. "I thought you would. Alastor told me what happened on the hill, Draco. That was a very brave thing you did. Far braver than I ever thought you capable of. There is no shame in feeling proud of your actions... I know that your father would be too."
"What did - " Harry begun.
Draco put down his knife and fork at last, giving up with trying to eat, glancing up at Harry. "I went to help the ministry fight against the Death Eaters. Umbridge and Lestrange recognised me as "Malfoy's son". They tried to lure me over to Voldemort's side. Told me that my father would have wanted it, and I was betraying his memory by fighting against the people he died for." He took a small sigh. "I told them no, that one of the last things my father ever did was give information about them to help the ministry. I don't know whether he wanted to denounce Voldemort or not. But if he risked and lost his life to get people like them incarcerated, I think I know what he would have wanted me to do." He delicately flicked a piece of dirt out from under his nails. "I slaughtered five Rookwoods and two Lestranges, one of which was real. I then stopped another Rookwood slicing off Mad-Eye Moody's head with a knife charm. Moody seemed rather grateful."
Harry saw him glance at the hour glasses showing the point totals. All the other glasses were half-full, and up until last night, Gryffindor had been in the lead, but Slytherin's hour glass was now so full that it had flowed over the top, and spilt into all the others and across the floor.
Dumbledore chuckled. "Moody's words, I believe, were half a million points to Slytherin, though Hogwarts does not possess that many emeralds, and we had to leave it at a measly two thousand."
People slowly filtered into the hall over the next hour or so. They tended to stick in big groups, Harry noticed, and if one or two arrived separately, they hung around in the corridor until more people arrived. Staff and student were sitting together on the tables, talking quietly, and the usual barrier of utmost respect for professors had been lowered. Professor Sprout looked more like a mother, sitting at her table across the hall with all the first years bunched around her, buttering toast for them and hugging anybody who looked a little teary. Sinistra and Andralyn were with the remaining Slytherins, taking over from Snape, who was still missing in the forest, and they were acting more like older sisters to the students than anything.
Harry, Draco, Dumbledore and Lupin were joined at their table by Alrister and McGonagall, all of Harry's friends, and a group of first years that had clung to Hermione for comfort. It was odd to see Hermione looking after them so well, and Ron was helping too. They looked like a family. Harry was suddenly struck by just how old he and his friends were becoming. Nearly adults. The war yesterday had shown him this more than anything. The fact that there were students defending the younger students, and fighting hand-to-hand with Death Eaters. He remembered what Draco had said on that night so long ago, about only trying the sorting hat on yesterday. It was so true.
The last people to arrive were Peter and Jinx. They blew in from the doors that the staff usually came through, and Harry was so relieved at seeing Peter that he felt a lump in his throat. Peter came right over to him, and grabbed him in a tight, watery hug. "You were so brave," he said in Harry's ear. "So brave... Harry, I'm sorry I wasn't there... I had to stay in the castle to protect the students hiding from the Death Eaters, all the ghosts did... and I wish I could have helped you..."
Harry closed his eyes. "It's okay," he said quietly. "It doesn't matter, Peter..."
"But what if you'd died?" said Peter, still holding him tight around the neck. "I'd never forgive myself. Never."
"But I didn't," said Harry. "I'm okay. Honestly... don't worry." After a moment, he asked, quietly, "Have you heard anything about Snape?"
Peter shook his head, letting Harry go and giving him a very watery-eyed look. "He's not been found yet... but he will be, don't worry. The ministry are in the forest now looking for him."
Harry nodded numbly, and went to ask Peter if there was any way he could help search, but Dumbledore was getting to his feet, and the hall was falling quiet. Everybody turned to look at him, wondering whether at last, they would be told that everything was okay, and at last, their worries would be soothed in a way that only Dumbledore could manage.
"Children..." he said, softly. "Children, friends, family... we are all here today, sitting divided as we are, missing friends, house members, brothers, sisters, cousins. Teachers... Professor Vector, Professor Trelawney. Professor Snape still has not been found. And even though my hopes and wishes lie in his safe return..." He looked down at the table. "The losses outweigh the remainder, children. I shall not conceal from you how many people have died, and it would be an insult to your maturity to try and tell you things will be okay. Because I never make promise that I cannot be sure I can keep... however... even though we sit here now, surrounded by the ashes of our lost loved ones, we must realise one very important thing...
"Yesterday, the beautiful gift of life was taken away from many, many people. The world could well have ended for the family and friends of those people who were lost. Yesterday, I tried to speak to you, but I could not. Because around me, I saw your tears, and what those tears meant, and the realisation of just what we are dealing with struck me.
"But today... today is another day. Today we wake up, missing friends, family, loved ones, and nothing could ever compensate for the loss of somebody who loves us. And the wounds are still fresh. The world still weeps for the children who were brutally killed yesterday. And there will be people out there who will have lost so much with this first strike, and they may want to just lie down where they are, and give up. If they have had such a beautiful part of their lives taken away, here at the start, what chance is there for the future?
"But the chance for the future is always there. If anything, we should not sit here and look around and see how hopeless things are for the wizarding world. We should stand up, and we should face the sun, united as one despite the people who cannot be here with us, and we should look out across the world. Even though there are tears in our eyes, and those tears will always fall, we should stand against Lord Voldemort. He thinks that by throwing such devastating blankets of loss over the world at the start, we will fall before him and just allow him to kill more. But look around you!
"Look at those empty chairs, and remember the people who sat there, children! If we closed our eyes now and fell, how would they feel? That they gave their lives in the fight against Voldemort, and the wizarding world's answer is to fall and grieve! And yes, we may have lost many wonderful people, but if we stand together and if we fight then we shall never lose another soul to Voldemort and his forces! Our loved ones would want us to be strong and to fight for their honour, fight and reclaim the souls they lost, and rise up higher and more powerful than Voldemort ever was or ever will be!"
Harry could feel prickles up and down his spine at Dumbledore's words. He saw Dobby, fighting to save him, saying that he would rather die than see Harry Potter killed. And he thought of Dobby now, wherever he was in the universe, and he knew that Dobby gave his life so that Harry could live and keep fighting. And Kibbles, Kibbles died defending Hagrid and Harry.
Dumbledore was carrying on, his fists clenched, his eyes scanning each and every face. "What could possibly be better justice brought to our fallen loved ones, than finally seeing their killer destroyed and for him to never cause another person to sit and weep alone in the dark? Life is a precious thing children, and of course when even just one is lost, nothing can make up for such a crime. But peace... peace, children, and love, peace and love are the beings that make life in this world possible! I look around... and I see people crying, I see people weeping for their lost love, but maybe that love isn't lost at all. Perhaps they're all just waiting. Waiting somewhere that we don't know, and watching us, looking over us, wanting us to lift our heads and say that we are grateful for what they gave us. Do not cry because something is over... but smile because it happened."
He raised his hand, and gestured to different people in the hall, his eyes sparkling sadly in the candlelight. "Miss Rose... you lost your little sister... do you remember when she was sorted? How she was so proud of being in the same house as you..." He smiled, his eyes welling with soft tears, as the young girl nodded. She was crying too, but she was smiling.
Dumbledore turned to Draco now, and rested his head on the Slytherin's head. "Draco... you lost your father. Not yesterday, but almost a year ago now... and it still hurts you. But yesterday, you didn't sit and weep for your lost family. You stood up and you fought for their honour. You deserve the respect of every single person in this hall."
And then, his light blue gaze turned onto Harry. He smiled gently. "Harry... your parents, Sirius, Kainda... Dobby the house-elf... they all loved you with every piece of their hearts. And they're not gone at all. They're just waiting for you, Harry."
Harry found himself smiling past his tears. He remembered the time Dobby had decorated the room of requirements for Christmas. All the letters that Sirius had sent him with reassurance. The day Kainda had told him she loved him. They all made his heart swell inside, as he looked up through one of the windows, into the sky. He knew they were there. Just beyond the reach of life, and someday, he would see them again.
"And..." Dumbledore's gaze turned onto Ron and Hermione, and he smiled, wiping some of his tears away from the corners of his eyes. "I do so hope that Mr Weasley and Miss Granger will forgive me for using them as an example... but where there are ashes, a phoenix can take flight. Love blossoms in the best and the worst times of our life. And if our loved ones were here, they would congratulate us and be happy. So we should be just as happy as when they are not here. Today is another day to yesterday, and tomorrow a further day still. Yesterday, we suffered a terrible tragedy, but today, we can sit here and say we are grateful for what our loved ones mean to us, and tomorrow, we will be able to look around and say that the tears may still hurt, yet the wounds are beginning to heal. Today is the day that the phoenix takes flight. And I hope that you can all rise up with it out of the flames left here, and soar through the skies, and do not let Voldemort crush your hopes and dreams. God bless you all, children. God bless you."
People were crying, and people were smiling, people were wiping away their tears and clapping Dumbledore with every ounce of their courage and their hearts. The hall rang with applause, so loud that it was as though the noise were trying to drive away the spirits of suffering and gloom, and light the world with joy and hope.
Tomorrow was another day.
They spent the rest of the day in the hall with everybody else, just talking to the professors about everything that had happened, sharing memories of the people they had loved and lost. It was good to just talk and listen. Harry felt all his problems and worries floating away as he shared them with other people, and he was even laughing by the end of the day after Professor Lupin's stories about some of Sirius and James's antics when they were sixteen. Draco was laughing at this too. After all, Draco was Sirius's cousin once removed, and had never even heard anything about Sirius. Tonks appeared halfway through the day and told yet more stories. They ate just as the sun was going down, and then returned to the Great Hall in their pajamas for cocoa and supper before bed. Tonks started up a game of dares, and Harry ended up singing The Birdy Song at top volume, dancing around on the table to cheers and laughter from all his friends.
By the time they all went back up to sleep in the Gryffindor Common Room, nobody was sad anymore. They still missed their lost friends and family of course, but now, they missed them in a different way. It was the sort of longing for somebody that came when they had gone on holiday, and you knew you would see them again. It was just a matter of time.
Harry woke up the next day to find Ron and Neville having a pillow fight over one of the sofas, while Draco and Hermione were working in the corner on something he couldn’t see. Luna was still asleep, though she was sleeping with her eyes wide open staring at the ceiling, looking very un-nerving indeed. Ginny was eating some sweets from a bag next to her in the armchair, and when Harry looked up at her, she grinned.
"Morning," he yawned, casually ducking a low flying pillow.
She picked something up from the floor, and threw it across to him with an even wider grin. "They found Fred and George this morning, just as the sun was coming up!"
Harry caught the copy of the Daily Prophet she had thrown to him. "Great! Where are they? What happened to the House of Fun after it flew off?"
"Read it," she giggled, her eyes twinkling.
He unfolded the paper, and was greeted with a large moving photograph of the fun house sailing across a patchwork quilt of fields far below. "FUNHOUSE HEROES CRASH DOWN", proclaimed the headline. Raising an eyebrow, Harry started to read.
Fred and George Weasley, the owners of the popular joke-shop chain Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, and their flying House of Fun came to land early this morning, after floating for two days uncontrollably across the British Isles. Upon hearing of the events uncurling at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry two nights ago, the heroic twins broke several property laws and took their flying funhouse out of the sky above Diagon Alley. They then flew it all the way to Scotland, and gave the ministry of magic a great advantage over the Dark Lord's forces, but half way through the battle, something went wrong on the steering charms controlling the fun house.
"We don't really know what it was," said a grinning Fred Weasley yesterday, speaking from an upstairs window of the fun house. "But it just broke and started floating off. We sort of glided across all the hills for a while, and over some water, and we were getting really worried we would end up going into orbit or something. But then there was this huge big hill just coming up ahead, and well, we hit it, to be blunt."
The Weasley twins' flying funhouse had in fact crashed into one of the largest hills on a remote Hebridean island off the north west coast of Scotland. Luckily, no laws were even broken by the journey of the flying building, as the whole house was charmed earlier by the twins to make it invisible to the muggle eye. Several witches and wizards in small towns over Scotland contacted the ministry of magic via floo powder all through the two days that the twins were flying, though none of the officials they spoke to would believe that a funhouse had just sailed over head belching purple bubbles and playing country and western music.
However, upon crashing, the invisibility charm over the house was broken. Luckily, the only witness to the crash was one Brian Brown, a muggle "sheepherd" (not a number of woolly creatures in a group, but the muggle word for the man who looks after the aforementioned group of woolly creatures), who told the ministry officials who arrived on the scene that it was a bloody silly place for Disney to site its next theme park, and he would be writing to the council to complain of unclear planning permission notices.
Mr and Mrs Weasley were unavailable for comment yesterday following the loss of another of their sons in the battle, Percy Weasley, but Mrs Weasley did tell our reporter through the kitchen window that Fred and George "are in big trouble the moment they get themselves home".
Harry finished reading the article, and found that he was laughing. Ginny grinned. "The muggle lives in one of the big dragon areas, and he's always telling his council that he keeps seeing them. So nobody believed him about Fred and George."
"Good," said Harry, grinning, folding up the newspaper and giving it back to her.
"There's more stuff in here too... a copy of Dumbledore's speech, something dedicated to Terry McClavity, Rita Skeeter's published a list of all the Death Eaters who have been caught." Ginny idly took another sweet, threw one to Harry, and scanned the back page of the Prophet. "It's getting to be a much better paper, wouldn't you say?"
"Daddy says the Prophet's just pandering to the public's needs," said Luna, eerily, and apparently, she wasn't asleep after all.
Ron "accidentally" threw a pillow that sailed past Neville, and landed on Luna's face. She made no effort to remove it, and just laid there until Ginny tutted and took it off.
Harry got up from under the duvet, yawning, and went to stumble over to the bathroom. On the way there, he saw that Hermione and Draco were kneeling on a huge piece of canvas, drawing something. "What's that?" he asked.
Draco sat back and smiled up at Harry. "It's going to be a new banner in the entrance hall... McGonagall asked us to do it this morning. What do you think?"
It was the Hogwarts crest, but with several alterations. The badger, lion, eagle and snake were gone from the four quarters of the badge, and in the middle instead, was a picture of Kibbles, standing up proudly. His tail was moving from side to side as Hermione dabbed photography potion onto the paint. The school motto, "Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus", was inscribed underneath in very fancy letters. Harry smiled. "Yeah, it's good."
"Want to help?" asked Hermione, smiling up at him.
"Oh, I can't paint," he said.
"Don't be so silly," she said, pulling him down, and handing him a brush. "You've just never tried. You can do the gold around the outside of the badge, if you like... there's the paint, just dip the brush in it and then put some photography potion on the canvas before you start painting. It's easy when you know how."
Harry sat back, and started to paint, but he'd barely done three strokes, when the portrait hole opened, and McGonagall clambered in. "Potter, Weasley? Professor Dumbledore wants to see you in his office, as soon as possible."
"Oh?" said Harry. "Why? What have we done?"
She smiled. Harry found himself surprised by how genuine and kind a smile it was. "Nothing, Potter. It's good news. Get dressed, and then hurry down to see him. Arthur and Molly are already here." And she smiled again. "I think you'll be very pleased, Potter."
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