“Thanks, Bill.” Harry took the piece of parchment, another blank one, and copied down:
Dear Mr. Griphook,
As you may recall, on the 9th of April of this year, we agreed that in return for a certain favor I would bestow upon you the sword of Godric Gryffindor, which was in my possession at the time, though as it happened we neglected to specify an exact time for the transfer. Unfortunately before I could follow through on my part of the agreement, the sword fell out of my hands, to my great regret.
Harry chuckled at this point. His regret had been great all right-that he hadn’t managed to keep a hold of the sword until all the Horcruxes were destroyed. Though that regret had diminished after things had worked themselves out and the Horcruxes had all been destroyed anyway. Which had happened when Neville had somehow pulled the sword out of the Sorting Hat. How it had gotten there Harry hadn’t had the slightest idea, nor had he cared much. Much later Hermione had said something about an Object-Binding, but Harry still hadn’t cared much, though he saw Percy had addressed it all in the letter:
However, through a set of surprising circumstances, I again found the sword to be in my possession, and therefore it gives me great pleasure to fulfill my promise and gift it to you now.
In all good conscience, however, I cannot do so without first warning you that it appears to be magically Bound to the Hogwarts Sorting Hat, kept at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, into which it is therefore vulnerable to transportation. This Object-Binding is breakable, and I would advise you to contact Hogwarts’ current Headmistress, Professor Minerva McGonagall, and arrange with her for this to be done.
Harry actually wasn’t sure whether or not Professor McGonagall would agree to help. But that was her decision, not his, and there was no need to mention that in the letter.
I hope you this will leave you satisfied on all accounts, and offer my deepest apologies for whatever inconveniences you may have suffered.
I beg to remain,
Your most affectionate friend,
Harry James Potter
He then did something he didn’t usually bother do: he took his wand and used it to curl the note into a tiny scroll. He still felt a physical thrill when he used it, as if his arm had missed its own companion wand. He even used it again to tie the scroll to the sword, then picked it up by the hilt. “I’ll just take this up to the owlery, then?” He felt a pang as he spoke, though, to be fair, he probably would’ve needed at least two owls to carry the sword in any case.
It was the second day after *that* night, as Harry was coming to think of it as, the night when everything had been resolved, when Voldemort had gone down, when people dear to him had been killed, when the most significant-and hopefully the most difficult-phase of his life had come to a close. Yet a great deal remained unresolved; besides this matter, and the question of what to do with the remains of Hufflepuff’s cup(the tiara hadn’t left significant remains, but the cup had), there were also repairs to the school to be made, teachers to be replaced, and most important to him, Ron, and Hermione, decisions to be made about what they were going to do with their lives now. All three had been declared honorary Aurors the previous day, but Hermione, at least, was insisting on coming back to Hogwarts next year and completing her schooling, and it was probably a good idea for all three of them. But first they were all going to go to Australia to retrieve her parents.
And probably most frustratingly, when he had talked to Ginny again, she had been vague about what she now wanted from him. She was angry for being left behind and taken for granted, and he didn’t know what he could do to make her not angry anymore besides apologizing, which he’d done already. “Give her time,” Hermione had said to him. “She’ll come round.”
He was going down the stairs into the Entrance Hall when much to his surprise he heard Professor McGonagall call, “Potter! Going to the owlery?”
“Yes, Professor,” he said. “I made the promise to the goblin, you know.” She’d left it up to him to decide what to do with the sword, and he’d told her what he intended to do, but he wasn’t sure if she truly approved of that.
“Mind if I walk with you?” she had now caught up with him, and was holding a letter of her own.
“No,” he said, though it felt strange as they walked down together and out towards the owlery. He wondered what would happen if he tried to talk to her; if she would address him as a student, or as an adult.
“Err, Professor,” he finally said, “if you don’t mind me asking, who’s the letter for?”
“No, I don’t mind,” she said. “It’s actually for a painter I know, one Daphnis Hollander. I’m going to see if he would be willing to make a portrait of Professor Snape.”
“Oh yeah,” said Harry. “There wasn’t one in the Headmaster’s Office, was there?” He hadn’t thought to look for it when he’d gone up there after the battle, but it had been long enough after Snape’s death that there should have been one. “Did something go wrong? A side-effect of the battle?”
“No, but the portraits refuse to acknowledge any decisions You-Know-Who made on behalf of the school as legitimate, so Snape cannot be formally recognized as having been Headmaster. Professor Nigellus isn’t happy about it, mind you, and several of the other portraits want Snape included, but most of them are against it; they see it as honoring the violation of Hogwarts. But I really think that even if he can’t have his portrait hung in the Headmaster’s Office, Professor Snape has done enough to have it hung somewhere, possibly the Great Hall. Hollander specializes in painting from Pensieve memories, so he’ll create a good likeness.”
He had thought, then, to ask her if she had ever owned an owl of her own, but perhaps that was going a little far. Yet when they stepped into the owlery together Harry found himself commenting, “Do you think any of them remember Hedwig anymore? She lived with them for six years, after all.”
“I don’t think we can know for sure,” said McGonagall. “There’s still much about owls we don’t know. But they recognize us, so why not? You should use two of the bigger brown owls for the sword.”
Two of them had already flown down to Harry. One of them easily hooked her talons around the sword hilt, but the other struggled to grasp the blade. “Needs a Gripping Charm, I should say,” said McGonagall, and she pointed her wand at the broom and muttered, “Tutus.”
“Thanks, Professor,” said Harry, hiding his embarrassment at actually not remembering how to do the Gripping Charm. He’d learnt it back in fourth year, he thought, and then never thought to find a use for it outside the classroom. Very foolish of him; he was lucky he hadn’t needed it.
They had watched the owls fly away with the sword and emerged from the owlery when another owl came flying right at them, and dropped a very official-looking letter into McGonagall’s hand. “It’s from the French Ministry,” she said in surprise.
“Have many foreign ministries been owling you?” Harry asked. “Maybe they want to know the details about Voldemort being gone.”
McGonagall was opening the letter and reading it, nodding as she read; at first Harry thought he’d been right about the letter’s contents. But then he saw her expression of surprise, and she shook her head and pocketed the letter.
“What did it say?” Harry asked before he could stop himself.
“School business, Mr. Potter,” she replied crisply, not looking at him; she was once again the strict authority figure whom he ought not to cross.
But Harry’s curiousity got the better of him, and he asked, “School business? What could they possibly be writing about?”
“Confidential, Mr. Potter,” she replied, and he asked no more after that, but spent the rest of the walk back still wondering what sort of confidential school business related to Hogwarts would come to its de facto Headmistress two days after Voldemort’s fall.
When he came into the Gryffindor common room he found Hermione working on Hufflepuff’s cup while Ron watched. She had managed to magically paste together the fragments into something that vaguely resembled the old cup, even though it was a little misshapen, had some holes in it, and was streaked with burns from the basilisk venom.
“What are we going to do with that?” sighed Harry. “Who would want it looking like that?”
“Oh, the Smiths still will,” said Hermione without looking up. “I know it’s very silly of them, but trust me, they’ll still want it, and good, because it’s theirs by right. Though Zacharias probably won’t be very nice to us as he takes it.”
“He’s got no right to not be,” said Ron. “I suppose he’d want the cup looking prettier but having a piece of You-Know-Who’s soul inside of it? And how many hours are you sitting here trying to make that thing look better? If that prat says anything, you should refuse to give him that cup.”
“But then what would we do with it?” Harry pointed out. “No, give him the cup, and as soon as he’s got it in his hands, we can interrupt any angry comments by telling him we did not come to argue about anything and leave. Just get it off our hands and know we’ve done a good deed.”
He, Ron, and Hermione sat down at a Gryffindor table that was largely, but by no means completely or even mostly, populated by Gryffindors. The previous night had been much like the aftermath of the final battle, with nobody paying much attention to what table they sat at, and the villagers attending and mingling freely with the students and teachers. The villagers were mostly gone now, but when they spotted Neville, he was sitting with not only Dean, but Luna, another Ravenclaw girl whom Harry thought was from her year, Padma Patil, Susan Bones, and even a boy that Harry could’ve sworn was a sixth-year Slytherin. He looked for Ginny, but she was surrounded by other girls from all four houses.
Luna and Neville separated a little bit and the group quickly settled the trio in between the two of them. The other Ravenclaw girl bent over Luna to introduce herself. “Silvia Garrick. And this is my boyfriend, Alexandros Fauston.” She gestured to the Slytherin. He smiled very politely.
“So,” Padma suddenly chirped, and Harry wondered why she sounded so nervous. “What’s everyone’s plans now? We didn’t get much of a seventh year, after all, did we? Any of us.”
“I didn’t get a seventh year at all,” said Dean. “Is it true, Hermione, that you’ve talked to McGonagall about coming back next year?”
“Yes,” she said, “I knew already, you see, that students who fail all of their O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s are allowed to repeat fifth or seventh year, so I thought we could do the same. She was for it in theory, though she was concerned about overcrowding, since she’s not sure we can even hold the N.E.W.T.s this year. After all, the curriculum was completely messed up, and they were trying to revamp the N.E.W.T.s to match all the horrible stuff they were teaching here, so they don’t have any proper tests prepared. The O.W.L.s haven’t been prepared at all; I don’t know what they were planning to do there...”
“But maybe not everyone will come back,” said Susan. “I think Ernie and I are just about the only ones from our own house who aren’t seriously considering going out to help rebuild.”
“Seamus said something similar,” said Dean. “His father committed suicide, you know, and his mum’s in a very bad way. I’m not sure what happened to her, exactly, but apparently she’s needed constant care. Various members of his family have been doing it.”
“Maybe we should make a list,” suggested Hermione, “of all the students who definitely want to come back, those who aren’t sure, and those who definitely won’t. Give Professor McGonagall some idea of how many she might be dealing with.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” said Padma. “How should we do this, though? Who’s going to do the asking?”
“Maybe have someone different ask each house,” said Ron. “Easier that way. You should do the Gryffindors, Harry.” Harry nervously nodded as Susan agreed to do the Hufflepuffs, Padma the Ravenclaws, and Alexandros Fauston the Slytherins.
“So to start the survey right here,” he said, “Are all of us coming back? Are you, Neville?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” said Neville, and Dean nodded too. “And I know the three of us are coming back...” He fished a spare piece of parchment and quill and scribbled on one side of it “Returning,” under which he wrote all of their names. “That’s all of us except Seamus, Lavender, and Parvati.”
“Parvati won’t be able to answer you right away,” said Padma immediately. “We have to hear from our parents.”
“So should I put her under Undecided?”
“No need to hurry; we’re just waiting for a letter from them now.”
“Okay, then,” said Harry, and he put the parchment away.
“I wonder,” said Silvia Garrick, “if they’ll let the sixth-years repeat as well. Many of us didn’t learn much last year either, after all.”
Harry noticed that as she said this, both Susan and Padma cast less than pleasant looks at the younger girl at this remark, and he wondered what they meant. But neither of them said a word.
Hermione spoke next instead. “It does take two years to really prepare for the N.E.W.T.s, and you would be at a disadvantage. But how many provisions can McGonagall make? And then again, maybe some of them won’t want to take the extra year; they might want to finish up as quickly as possible.” She considered it, then said, “Maybe we should do a survey of everyone above third-year. I think below that, it’s just basic skills, and everyone probably learned those. How intensive was all the things about the Dark Arts and the anti-Muggle propaganda?”
“Pretty strong in their classes,” said Padma. “But of course the others did try to carry on as normal. I think, too, Professor Flitwick tried to teach the younger years a few of the things that he might have otherwise left to a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, so that they learned how to deal with dark wizards as well as how to be dark wizards. Maybe the third years should have some exams over the next week?”
“Oh, the exams!” cried Hermione. “How are we to do the exams? Not even just the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, but for all the other years as well.”
“I don’t there’s going to be exams for everyone this year, Hermione,” laughed Ron. “If anyone.”
“After all these years,” she sighed, “you still don’t see anything wrong with that, do you?”
“We got through fine without having them in second year, right?”
“Maybe, but I still hope Professor McGonagall figures something out. How is anyone to know what to do if nobody knows what anybody learned?”
But it was then that the woman in question herself rose to her feet, and the Great Hall fell silent.
“I believe almost everybody has arrived,” she said, and as he had last night, Harry couldn’t help but observe how she still lacked Dumbledore’s command of the room, though she got everyone to listen to her fine. “So I believe I should deliver to you the latest news.
You will be pleased to hear that most known Death Eaters in the country are now accounted for as either dead or in Ministry hands. A few remain at large within Britain; also a few we believe to have escaped overseas.”
“What about the Malfoys?” Ron whispered. “Did anyone arrest them?” Harry shrugged. All he knew was they had left the morning after the battle, after Narcissa Malfoy had first stopped by to remind him that he owed her a favor, though it was pretty obvious where she planned to call that favor in.
“Although no dates have yet been sent for trials,” McGonagall continued, “I have been advised by the acting Minister that for all those captured here at Hogwarts, some of you may be called as witnesses against, especially if you engaged in direct combat against them. Also against the Carrows.”
“They’ll be hammering at the door to testify against the Carrows,” murmured Susan. Several of the other students who heard her nodded their agreement.
“Also, we have managed to make contact with some of the many Muggle-borns and others who were forced to go into hiding this year, whose location was unknown last night, enough, in fact, that I have compiled a list of them, which will be available for viewing in Entrance Hall and in each of the Common Rooms beginning at eight o’clock tonight, by which time, in fact, we hope to have even a few more names to add to it. Sadly, however, we have also confirmed a number of deaths, which will also be posted. I think, meanwhile, it will please most of you to hear that Theodore Nott has been reported as alive and well.”
Here she was cut off by cheers from all over the Hall, most from the Slytherin table, but there were too many for them all to be from Slytherins. But before Harry could ask anyone why this news made everyone happy, McGonagall waved for silence, and added, “Unfortunately, he reported to us the death of Conni Halagard, on March 31.” Harry remembered Conni as a Hufflepuff in their year, though he’d never really known her. But many of those around him, and not just the Hufflepuffs, looked very affected. “He also reported that Ruth Hemmings was in their company and that she was alive as of March 30, when they were separated from her. He held out hope that she survived, but for the moment, we don’t know. Other names, as I said, will be posted at eight tonight.”
Neville explained before Harry asked. “Theodore Nott was a Death Eater’s son who decided he didn’t really agree with his father. He made life a little more difficult for those of his fellow Slytherins who actively support the regime here, and I think he turned the minds of a few of them who were more neutral. Pity none of them still felt like doing anything...he also openly defied the Carrows on a couple of occasions in September, when he could get away with it. I think Conni Halagard was his girlfriend, though they might have just been friends. Ruth Hemmings was her best friend and a Muggle-born, and I’m sure their actions were partly driven by worry about her. Another thing they both did was help us receive Pottercast a few times; she displayed a knack for it. Late in November something happened between one of them and Amycus Carrow; noone’s sure what, but the last the two of them were seen they were racing out of the castle with the Carrows Stunned on the floor of the Entrance Hall. And now she’s dead.”
“They should have come back here,” said Hermione. “Too bad they didn’t know about the DA.”
“I don’t know,” said Susan. “I don’t know if they would have wanted to hide out here. I doubt Conni would have.”
“I hope for more news tomorrow morning,” McGonagall was finishing up. “Meanwhile, I hope you will all keep in your thoughts not only those who we know to be lost, but those who are still out there, hiding, unaware that the war has even ended, and those who are dead, but whose fate has not even been revealed to give their loved ones closure. I fear, in fact, that the full casualities of these past three years will not be known for possibly months.”
On Harry’s left side was Seamus, and he was continually shifting and tapping his foot. “C’mon...” he muttered. “They shouldn’t have made us wait this long. Half of my family’s still missing!”
“I’m sorry about your parents,” said Harry.
“You heard, huh?” Seamus sighed. “It’s just plain evil, what they did to my dad. Everyone from my family who could fled to Wexford. Not that Ireland’s been at all safe, but it’s been better, especially for my mam. Last I heard we’re not even sure who did what to her; her memory’s sketchy.”
“It’s eight,” said someone from the back. “Is it going to come up or not?”
But then, a moment later, there was a quick shimmer at the bulletin board, and two large pieces of parchment hung from its top.
The crowd of students, already bunched up against the wall, pressed in further, and Harry found himself shoved up against the bottom of one of the lists before he even had time to look at which was which, staring at a pair of names he didn’t recognize, left to wonder if they had been confirmed as alive, or as dead.
“Oh!” he heard Hermione exclaim. “Saul Moon is dead!”
“Who?” Harry asked; he thought he might have heard that name said a couple of times, but nowhere really important.
“He was Head Boy in our fifth year,” answered Ron. “Really cool guy, actually. Had a sister in our year; I forget which house.”
But meanwhile, Harry heard Seamus exclaim, relieved, “Uncle Aoife’s alive!”
Harry managed to spot the name of Aoife Mallory on the lower list, so now he knew which list was which. He still wasn’t able to see most of the names, or any names that he recognized.
But then he heard Ron say, “Jane Rivers is dead.”
He managed to look up towards the upper casuality list, eyes searching for the name of his Muggle-born classmate. This list was alphabetical, but names beginning with R were out of his sight; it was so long. He remembered McGonagall’s last words in her speech to them, and he was hit like never before with the impact of it all, how many lives in Britain alone had been in so much peril for so long, and just how much had been riding on his ability to defeat Voldemort, and the sooner he had done it, the better. He was glad he hadn’t thought of it before, because if he had, he would have been too overwhelmed and scared to move.
Someone was pushing at him; it was a girl who looked like she couldn’t have been beyond her first year, and Harry did his best to move and make room for her. He bumped into Seamus, who looked at him funny until he pointed.
On the girl’s other side, Ron was also trying to make room, and between the two of them, there was enough space for her to squeeze in. “I’m looking for my parents,” she announced. “Eric and Marlene Sarpan. They’ve been missing since January, but I don’t know why.” They were not on the lower list; all of them could see that clearly. She was straining to see up, but it was clearly a hopeless cause. “Let me lift you up,” Ron offered.
“Then everyone behind us won’t be able to see!” Hermione protested, but the girl was already eagerly moving to accept his offer. “I’ll only keep you up for a second, but while you’re up there, could you tell us if you see anyone with the last name of Prewett or Parrott?”
There were a couple of yells of indignation as she went up in the air, but she was back down quickly enough, and shaking her head sadly. “No parents, no Prewetts, no Parrotts.”
“I suspect your mum will know about her relatives before anyone else does, Ron,” Hermione said gently.
Eventually the crowd thinned enough that Ron and Harry were able to pry their way out. Hermione had always seemed to remember more names then the two of them, so they left her to find any more important ones. They ended up against the nearby wall, watching other students weaving their way in and out of the throng. It wasn’t the prettiest sight; there were far more tearful faces than relieved and happy ones. Harry spotted Ginny for a fleeting moment, but if she saw him, it probably only caused her to keep away.
Dean joined them, shaking his head. “I’m starting to think I’m really lucky,” he said.
“Not just lucky,” said Ron. “You had the ability to defend yourself, too, right?”
“I suppose, yeah,” said Dean. “Definitely wouldn’t have survived without that a couple of times. But even then I was lucky; all the training you gave us wouldn’t have done much good if he’d hit me first, you know?”
“I know,” said Harry. “Believe me, I know.” Ron too nodded; they all knew, now, exactly what Dean was talking about.
“And it’s really weird,” he continued, “but now…I’m not sure how I’m just going to return to normal life. Everything’s just…I can’t really explain it.”
“You don’t have to,” said Harry softly. “I think we all know what you mean there, too.” He himself was a little worried. Everything had been fine so far, but when it came to going back, to putting his nose to the grindstone for his N.E.W.T.s the following year and just carrying on with life as if he hadn’t suffered all the pain and loss he had…he didn’t know if he could do it.