Summary: After the war, reconciliation between enemies is necessary to create a better future, one that is only possible if one embraces the past.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling.
Chapters Posted: 22
Words Posted: 150,536
Thanks: Badgerlady and Crescent did an amazing job beta reading this chapter - catching my wildly breeding commas, britpicking, and generally making this a better chapter. Thanks!
On to the chapter!
Chapter 22 Part 3 - Ceremonies of Celebration
Harry Apparated to the Weasleys’ to meet up with Ron and Hermione, planning to Apparate together to the stretch of land that had been set aside for the celebration. He wondered how long the instinct to travel in groups when going to unknown locations would last.
Mr and Mrs Weasley were already at the site of the celebration—Mr Weasley in an official capacity. Ginny would be going with Neville (and that would have to be okay). Harry didn’t know where Bill, Charlie, Percy and George were, only that they would be there.
The three of them had new dress robes and looked mostly as if they had not spent almost a year living rough. Harry could still see the hollows in his friends’ cheeks from not enough food, and he suspected he had the same gaunt appearance, but all signs of battle had been healed away. He looked at Hermione and Ron. Maybe it was the robes, but they looked like—like they knew what they were doing, as they stood tall and adult. He wondered if he looked confident like that.
He didn’t feel like it. He would rather stay at Hogwarts, working on the repairs. He wanted to have a year at Hogwarts, one last year, where everything was the way he had imagined it when he was eleven. No dark lord. No mortal danger at the end of the year. No mysteries that led to mortal danger. Just classes and homework, and sitting around the common room, and playing Quidditch, and walking around the castle. He wanted to find his own life.
If he did that, though, when the time came to leave Hogwarts, what would the wizarding world be like? His conversation with McGonagall kept niggling in his mind. Shacklebolt would be great as Minister of Magic, and he trusted Mr Weasley, but there were too many others who could move in and change things. Once was enough. It had happened more than once, even in his lifetime.
McGonagall was right. He couldn’t keep letting others choose his path for him for the rest of his life. It would feel like hiding. He couldn’t keep just reacting to what was thrown at him as he had in the past. It had worked, but it hadn’t been fun. He felt as if going to this stupid celebration was the first step in choosing the direction in his own life, even if he was only going because others had told him he should.
Still, after weeks of the trio working on three separate projects, they stood together, ready to Apparate to the big celebration.
He’d acquired his own dress robes a few days before. McGonagall had given him a pouch of galleons and ordered him to go to Hogsmeade and purchase some. It had been strange. Hogsmeade was still somewhat ragged, with some shops standing dark, what remained of their wares—if anything—still on display through broken windows. In others, it was as if the shopkeepers were trying to make up for the gaping holes in the town with ebullient greetings and windows showing off their finest wares. Too many of them thanked him, but it was the ones who avoided meeting his gaze that made Harry uncertain. Had they sided with Voldemort? Had they lost friends? Did they blame him for not doing away with Voldemort sooner, or for winning the war at all?
Fortunately, the shopkeeper at Twilfit and Tattings was cordial, keeping himself to a brief nod that could have been a greeting to a customer, or a brief thanks. Harry was just grateful it wasn’t overly effusive. Of course, this store provided clothes to the well-to-do, and Harry suspected that such courtesy and discretion was to be expected of a clothier that served ministers and members of old pureblood families.
The tailor had brought out robes of Gryffindor red and gold, and robes of green—to match his eyes, the man said. The green looked too close to Slytherin green to Harry, and they both looked too gaudy for his comfort. With the tailor’s help, he finally chose robes of black velvet and silk, with gold piping and accents. The velvet looked as if it might be hot in the summer. When Harry made that comment, the man looked shocked, and commented that that was what cooling charms were for. The tailor went on to describe how the matte of the velvet interlaced with the shine of the satiny silk. Harry was just glad that the robes were not overly bright. He thought they looked good, and they reminded him a bit of the Hogwarts uniform, only nicer.
* * *
The area set aside for the celebration could only be described as an arena. How many people did they expect to turn up to this bloody thing?
Harry turned to Ron. “Do we really have to do this? We could just leave...”
“They’re giving us Order of Merlins, Harry! After all we’ve been through, don’t you feel just the least bit vindicated?”
Hermione’s face took on a look as if she were repressing herself, then finally gave in. “Orders of Merlin, Ron. And yes, we earned them, Harry most of all. That doesn’t mean Harry has to enjoy it. Harry, if you really don’t want to...”
“No, McGonagall is right. I don’t have to like it, but I can’t—I’ve seen the way things can—I don’t want another situation like fifth year. Or fourth year, or...” Harry trailed off helplessly. He shrugged. “We won, and nobody better mess it up.”
Hermione smiled, but laughter danced in her eyes.
“I was wondering when your ‘saving people thing’ would pop up again.”
Hermione grinned and Ron gave an exaggerated nod. “If you say so,” he said.
Stands had been set up in a huge oval, not as tall as Quidditch stands but much wider. The centre of the field had a mound on it. It looked natural, with a gradual slope upwards, and a flat, grassy top. Flowers grew in two arcs on either side. Why haul a stage out to the middle of a field, when you can shape the field to your needs? Harry thought that he would never quite take magic for granted, and would always be surprised when he discovered how it was used. Even after seven years, and even after seeing the dark side of magic, with it being used for torture and murder, Harry still found himself as giddy at seeing a new use for magic as Mr Weasley was with a new plug.
Mrs Tonks approached, pushing month-old Teddy Lupin in a pram. Well, it looked like a pram, except it had no wheels. Instead, it hovered in the air, just at the right height. He imagined a wheeled pram would have been difficult to push over the lush grass of the plain.
“I wanted to catch you before the celebration.” She looked at his attire and gave a firm nod. “Those robes suit you.”
Harry looked down at the robes and gave an awkward shrug.
“I wondered if you would like to come by for Sunday brunch tomorrow, around ten. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have in your reading so far.”
Harry suddenly remembered that he was supposed to be reading the Black family biographies. He had started and gotten about halfway through, but then he’d been assigned to Malfoy’s team, and he had gotten distracted. It occurred to him that Mrs Tonks would be a good person to ask about what Malfoy was doing. He wondered if she had ever seen the dance of dark and pale lights that he had now seen several times.
“That would be great!”
He hoped he had enough time to read the rest of the biographies before then.
“Oh, here comes the beadle. I’ll leave you to it. Congratulations, to all three of you. Harry, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
A squat little wizard Harry did not know bustled up to them. His blue and green robes stretched tight across his middle. “Good, you’re here. You’ll be sitting with the other special guests, but of course you know that. Come with me, I’ll show you to your seats. There are a few things to go over before the ceremony, and then you will have some time to socialize with the other winners.” As they walked, the little wizard went on to describe what would happen, and explained what Harry should do and when.
* * *
“Harry!” Ahead of them, on a stand behind the centre mound, Neville called to him. He and Ginny were standing in a box with several comfortable chairs placed in an arc at the back and some cushioned straight-backed chairs lined across the front. A table with fruit and pastries stood amidst the overstuffed chairs in the back. Harry looked around. Another box next to theirs had several members of Dumbledore’s Army. McGonagall had done as he asked. He told her he would accept an award, but so should others who had done too much, had given their time and risked their lives for the sake of defeating Voldemort. They were all there. Seamus came up to lean on the divider between their boxes. “There were bets on about whether you’d show up, Harry. Thanks, you just earned me a small bundle of galleons.”
Harry snorted. Some things never changed. Seamus and betting was one of them. Harry was willing to bet that Seamus had spiked the bowl of some fruity drink in the box for Dumbledore’s Army. Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones sat toward the back, and Dean Thomas grinned at him from next to Seamus. “Can you believe it, Harry? Dumbledore’s Army is going to get an award, as a group. All of us!”
“You deserve it. All of you. You kept going at Hogwarts, despite—well, despite everything.”
Ron grabbed a chocolate-covered pastry and took a bite. Powdered sugar dusted down onto his new robes, but with a wave of Hermione’s wand the sugar dissipated. “Hold still, you two. I’m going to cast a dirt repelling charm on your robes.”
Ron and Harry exchanged glances. “But this was food, not dirt!” Ron protested.
“The spell was created for parents. Food, dirt, dust, even spills. It all counts.” She flicked her wand out in a spiral, casting the charm.
"Thanks, Mum," Ron teased.
Harry glanced around. The stands were filling up around them witches and wizards. Harry hadn’t been around that many people in... not since the Quidditch World Cup, he thought. They would all be watching him. Why was he doing this, again? Even the number of volunteers at Hogwarts sometimes felt a bit overwhelming, after a year with only Ron and Hermione, and this was many times worse.
A small orchestra had started to play on one side of the mound. The music was quiet, but it could be heard as if they were softly playing right nearby. This was different than the Sonorus charm. The volume of the music was always just below the volume of conversation, never quite getting in the way, but always present as a backdrop.
The neighbouring box was filling up. Luna had arrived, as had Lee Jordan. Harry crossed the gated opening into the group’s box and greeted them. Many of them he hadn’t seen since that brief stint in the Room of Requirement, and several of them had not been there. “Luna! Lee!”
Luna looked up. “You’re looking much better, Harry.”
“Thanks, Luna. Lee, I wanted to tell you... Thanks for Potterwatch. It really helped, knowing you were out there.”
"It was just talking, Harry. I do it all the time. You were the one who won us the war!"
“You kept us going, Lee. All of Potterwatch did. I can't tell you how good it was to hear your voices when we were on our search, to know that others were still with us.” Harry felt joy swelling in his chest, almost stopping his breath with the intensity of it. It was over. He was surrounded by people who had stood by him, even when he wasn't around to see it.
“Yeah, mate!” Ron chimed in. “Without you, we wouldn’t have known what else was going on. We could've lost the war, and we wouldn't have known.”
Harry laughed, his sudden giddiness bursting out of him. It was over! It was really over.
“We had to do something. We didn’t know what you were doing—we still don’t, but I’m sure you’ll tell us sometime.” Lee grinned at Harry.
Harry grinned back. His smile faded slightly as he remembered Ron listening to the lists of dead, captured, injured, and how angry he had been. Harry had been angry, too, but mostly he remembered the bit of joy he felt knowing that Remus, Lee, Shacklebolt and Fred were there, spreading the truth, when all that the Prophet was selling was lies.
That was something that he hoped Shacklebolt could fix, although he wasn’t sure if the Minister had the power to direct editorial policy at the Prophet. He wasn’t even sure it was a good idea, knowing how previous ministers had used that kind of power. He knew so little about how the wizarding world operated. Was it any wonder he was constantly blindsided by it?
“Maybe. But probably not enough to satisfy your curiosity.”
“When I asked Ron, he said you went camping. Daft git.”
Harry smiled. “We did, you know.”
“Come on, Harry, I know you had to have been doing some super secret mission to destroy You-Know-Who. Can you even give us a hint?”
“We were collecting memorabilia from Voldemort’s past.”
“Of course you were. You were such fans, after all.”
The orchestra stopped playing and Minister Shacklebolt walked to the top of the mound. Harry heard his quiet Sonorus, and then the man’s voice boomed around the clearing. “Welcome to the end of the war!”
A cheer roared.
“We have all suffered over the last few years, some more than others. We have seen what can happen to our world if we are less than diligent. But we persevered. Today, we stand free of the tyranny of an evil man. Today, we gather to honour those who worked tirelessly for the freedom we now enjoy. While I know that there is one person in particular you all want to see—” the crowd roared again, “overcoming evil is not the work of one person alone. Freedom is the work of many people, each making small, courageous choices. Choosing not to speak, when asked to betray a friend. Choosing to say a truth, when a lie would be easier. Risking imprisonment or worse, for the sake of what is right. Today, we honour those who chose to go beyond small actions, who sacrificed their time, and risked their freedom and their lives to bring about the end of this war.
“I speak today as Acting Minister of the Ministry of Magic, but I have known many of those who will be honoured today, and I am proud to call many of them friends.
“Before I bring any of them up to receive their honours, I would like to talk about where we go from here. Voldemort—” A susurration echoed through the crowd. “Voldemort,” Shacklebolt emphasized the name, “could not have succeeded if our Ministry had been healthier. The job of the Ministry is to protect and enhance our world. There are those who have used jobs in the Ministry for selfish goals, or to promote criminal activity and perpetuate dangerous ideas. This cannot be allowed to continue.
“We are in the process of examining the laws and the structure of our Ministry, to identify the weaknesses. However, we will not persecute those who have done no wrong. This is not about beliefs, but about actions."
Harry watched as the crowds listened to Shacklebolt’s words, watching the faces of the ones close to him. Some were full of hope, some of doubt. He saw, amused, as Hermione watched intently. He could see her hand twitch a few times, as if she wanted to grab a pen and take notes. Ron was squirming a bit, but then seemed to catch himself and sat still and tall for a bit, then started fidgeting again. Harry could tell that all of the DA members were aware that people were watching them.
A sudden burst of applause brought Harry’s attention back to Shacklebolt, as he waited for the applause to die down.
“Thank you. I know you didn’t come here to hear long speeches about the Ministry, but to honour those who helped secure our freedom.
“To start with, I would like to honour those who cannot be here today. They are individuals who have persisted, fighting for what is right in every way they knew, even laying down their lives.
"First, I want to honour Albus Dumbledore. While he already has an Order of Merlin for his efforts against the Dark Lord Grindelwald, he did not stop there. He worked through the years for the betterment of the wizarding world, protecting people and villages targeted by Voldemort. His death was a tragedy, and his absence opened the way for Voldemort to take power."
Harry almost didn’t want to hear the details, but couldn't keep from listening as Shacklebolt continued to name people who had fought and died. There were so many. Some he knew. Hearing some names caused grief to stab into his heart. Others he knew only because he saw their deaths, or read about them, or heard about them. He was glad they were being honoured, but it hurt to hear the list. McGonagall had told Harry that the Order of the Phoenix would not be named as an organization, but some of its members would be honoured. He wished that there weren’t so many being honoured for dying.
“In Harry Potter’s fifth year at Hogwarts, he and his friends decided that the students needed to know more about how to defend themselves. Rather than complain about the situation, they acted. They created a student organization known as the Defence Association. It had other names but in general, to those who were part of it, it went by its initials: the DA. Its leaders researched magic beyond what was being taught at the time and taught it to its members. I will tell you that their work did not go unnoticed. Members who had a chance to take these exams had higher scores in both OWLs and NEWTs than their classmates.
"Members of the Defence Association did not just learn, they used their knowledge and fought against those who would destroy our society whenever given the chance. When Hogwarts was taken over by Voldemort’s Death Eaters, the Defence Association resisted. Some of them are no longer here, having fought bravely in the Battle for Hogwarts. Most are here with us. I ask that the members of the Defence Association stand."
Harry looked around with pride as his friends stood, to the sound of applause. They deserved this honour. When they were all standing, Harry noticed that Hermione and Ron were also standing, and were gesturing for him to stand.
He stood, smiling at them. The applause rose in volume.
“While Orders of Merlin are typically given to individuals, this group has shown us what working together against a common enemy can do. This plaque, listing the names of the members of the Defence Association, will be placed in the Hogwarts Trophy room; however, since their work aided all of us, a duplicate plaque will be placed in a prominent location in the Ministry of Magic to remind us that we need not accept evil when confronted with it.”
Harry had been consulted regarding the names. He had sent them to Hermione, whose list found use once again as she relayed them, minus one name, for the plaque.
“Another, much smaller, organization kept our spirits alive during the darkest of days—the members of Potterwatch. While half of the members are no longer with us, I’d like to acknowledge them. If they so choose, I would like to invite the members to stand as I say the code names. River.” Harry smiled as Lee Jordan stood and gave an elaborate bow. “Royal.” Shacklebolt winked at Lee, and grinned at Harry, but did not otherwise acknowledge his role. “Romulus and Rapier are no longer here, but will be greatly missed.
“Individuals throughout our society resisted in a variety of ways.” Shacklebolt went on to name people that Harry did not know, or knew only vaguely, describing the actions each had taken. He listened, wishing he had a better head for names. He had so often felt that he was alone. He, Hermione and Ron had been alone on their search, but they had not been alone in the fight. It was good to keep in mind.
"And now, for the moment you have been waiting for. The Orders of Merlin."
The crowd cheered and clapped as an aide brought up a wooden box draped with satiny fabric. Harry knew the names that would be read. There were others he would have liked to see honoured. Dobby deserved recognition, for example. Severus Snape, as well. Harry surprised himself with the thought, but it was true. No one else would have been able to accomplish what Snape did.
“First, I’d like to honour one who resisted in the face of tyranny, at great cost to himself. It is perhaps to be expected that one with aims of domination would target the ministry. When Hogwarts School was taken over by dark forces, however, we were horrified. Disheartened students and teachers kept their heads down, fearing the consequences of resistance, not only to themselves but especially to others. Still, some students resisted. It was not without consequence, but they accepted that. One among them soon became a leader of students, proving that age is no barrier to doing what is right. When Voldemort himself came to Hogwarts, intent on his final victory, Neville Longbottom was among the first to say no. Showing more courage than wizards twice his age, Neville Longbottom stood up to Voldemort and defied him, facing what seemed like certain pain and death. His courage allowed him to draw the Sword of Gryffindor, which he used to great effect, killing Voldemort's familiar and weakening the dark wizard."
Harry couldn't keep the grin off of his face as Shacklebolt went on to describe Neville's acts of heroism. Neville had not needed a prophecy to stand against Voldemort. When he concluded, calling Neville up to the mound, Harry glanced away from Neville's flushed, grinning face to catch a glance of his gran's, alight with fierce pride.
When Shacklebolt described Hermione and Ron’s actions, it was in terms of loyalty, bravery, and perseverance. Harry wished the man could have talked about how Ron overcame his fears and jealousy, returning to destroy a horcrux, or Hermione’s intelligence and planning, without which they would have been lost. Her beaded bag alone should have won an award. Of course they couldn't talk about the horcruxes, but their contributions to Voldemort’s defeat were described in terms of supporting him, and while he knew that’s how everyone else saw it, he knew that they were heroes in their own right. Still, they were a team, and at least Shacklebolt was making sure that everyone saw that he had not won alone. Judging by Ron's brilliant grin and the happiness that suffused Hermione's face, they didn't mind at all.
When Shacklebolt beckoned Hermione and Ron forward to receive their medals, Harry found himself sweating. He was next. They'd expect him to say something. He had tried to write something, but he just couldn't make it work. He'd thought about asking Hermione to help him, but he knew that what she wrote would not sound like it came from him. If he were to actually take McGonagall's advice, he'd need to start as he meant to go on and tell people what he thought. He could just accept the Order of Merlin, say thanks, and sit down. He really wanted to do just that. But then he'd give other people the chance to decide for him what he was thinking.
"Next I'd like to present someone who needs no introduction." Shacklebolt paused as cheers and applause drowned out what he would have said next. "I won't reiterate his story. You know it. Harry Potter was the target of one of the darkest, most powerful wizards of our time, and he not only survived, he defeated him, and ended the tyranny that had fallen over wizarding Britain. We owe him a great debt, and our thanks. Harry Potter!"
The crowd roared and a loud boom exploded from a short distance. Harry spun in that direction, wand drawn, searching for the source of the sound.
A second burst of sound overhead made him feel a bit sheepish, as he realized that it was just fireworks. Dandelions of fire burst overhead, followed by his face, burning in vivid colour against the sky, bright enough to be seen in daytime. Harry had never seen black fireworks, but his glasses, hair and scar glowed black, and his eyes green, in the huge face that was slowly dissipating.
A whoop nearby brought Harry's attention to the DA box, where Harry saw a sight he'd not thought to see any time soon: George Weasley, grinning at the successful execution of a prank. The sight washed away Harry's embarrassment. Even if only for a moment, George was back to normal. That was worth it, he thought, even as he vowed to get revenge.
The distance between his chair and where Shacklebolt stood seemed to lengthen as he walked it. When he finally faced the crowd, he realized he had been avoiding looking at just how many people were there. He had been focussing on Shacklebolt, on his friends in the DA box, and on individuals close by. The sheer number of witches and wizards surrounding him made his stomach drop.
Kingsley draped the ribbon with the medal hanging from it around his neck. It felt heavy. Harry waited, staring at the crowd as they roared their approval.
He took a breath.
"Hi." Kinglsey's quick Sonorus had caught the end of it, and "i" echoed around the space. "Hi," Harry repeated, and then swallowed. The sound of the gulp echoed. "Minister Shacklebolt mentioned a lot of names, people who have helped to get us here. I know I could not have made it without masses of people. Hermione, Ron, the Weasley family, everyone in the Defence Association, Minister Shacklebolt, Alastair Moody, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, so many people I can't name them all. There are some people who aren't going to show up on anyone's hero list that helped as well. Dobby the house-elf gave his life to get me and my friends away from captivity by Death Eaters. Most surprising of all, Professor Snape, at great cost to himself, gave me information needed to win the war."
The explosion of noise at that was so loud that Harry wanted to cast a silencing charm at the entire crowd. Shouts of confusion and denial roared, and Harry waited for it to die down.
“Well, sometimes people are more than they seem. I think that’s a lesson we all need to learn. I know I did. It’s not about blood status, or Hogwarts House affiliation, or—any number of things we use to divide ourselves. It’s what we do when it matters.” He paused, wishing he had some water. He was sure he would be croaking by the end.
"What I wanted to say is that each and every one of those named by Minister Shacklebolt and myself took it upon themselves to fight back. They did something. They contributed to our freedom. I want to thank them for that." He paused, waiting for the noise to die down.
"I've been thinking recently, and have realized I have a future."
Another cheer. "I want us all to have a future, one without the corruption and prejudice that opened the way for Voldemort. I hope we can all work to make that happen.
"I don't know what I'll do with this future I have, but I am glad that we all have it. We have a chance. Thank you."
Harry started back to his seat as the applause thundered around him.
When the noise died down again, Shacklebolt spoke again. “Thank you, Harry Potter.
"I would like to say I am amazed by the quality of those witches and wizards new to adulthood. If these standing here with me are an example of our future, I would say we are in good hands.”
* * *