After that he didn’t get up immediately, but pressed his face into the pillow and raised his eyes to stare at the curtains for a minute or two. He remembered climbing into this bed that first night back for his second year, still made light by the admiration of their dormmates even if the evening in general hadn’t been the pleasantest of experiences, and letting the relief too sink, in that a rather difficult day was over, that they hadn’t been expelled, and they were here and all in one piece. It was the first time he’d become aware of how the dorm spoke of home to him, how this was the bed he wanted to sleep in every night. He wished he still had now the feeling of safety it had given him then.
He heard Ron getting up, heard him hastily shuffling around, because not for the first time, he’d left his packing for the last minute. Hermione had even hinted she’d come up there to help him. She hadn’t come up the other boys had been there before, but somehow Harry doubted they’d try to say anything to her about it.
But she wasn’t really needed; by the time Harry forced himself up and pushed his curtains aside Ron was locking up the overstuffed trunk Mrs. Weasley had brought him from the Burrow; she’d brought Harry’s and Hermione’s too. “Hadn’t had much to pack,” he noted. “I didn’t take much out.” Though he still looked under the bed, just to make sure he hadn’t missed anything.
Harry’s own trunk had been packed the night before; he too hadn’t taken much out. He looked over the dormitory as the nostaglia hit him harder. He thought of the early years, the talk and laughter, the late nights hastily doing last-minute homework. They all seemed pretty far in the past already, almost as if they had happened to another person. He sat there trying to recapture that feeling, from when he had been happy. He had the feeling he was going to need it that day.
Hermione had apparently decided against coming up in the end; she was waiting for them down in the common room. Ginny was with her, which Harry supposed shouldn’t surprise him, but he hadn’t been prepared for her. She didn’t look up as they came in, but he saw how red her face was, the paleness of her hands a sharp contrast as she rested them just beneath the soft cleft of her chin. He wanted to hug her and tell her it would be all right, because surely it had to be, eventually. It was all right for him now, with Sirius, though of course he’d known Sirius only two years.
“They’ve already started the vigil by the lake,” said Hermione. “There’s no hurry, though. They’ll be there all morning. I thought it might be better to go to breakfast early. We’ll have people staring at us, so the less people there, the better.”
He had to talk to Ginny on the way down. No matter how hard it was, no matter how much he wasn’t ready yet, no matter how much he still had no idea what to say, he had to do it. Especially since by the time they got out of the common room, Ron and Hermione were walking in front of the two of them hand in hand, and giving Harry that feeling that he’d be an interloper if he tried to talk to them just then. He could not walk next to Ginny the entire way down without saying anything; that was just absolutely out of the question; he’d go crazy.
“How are you doing?” he asked. He wished he’d known already.
“Okay,” she said, though she didn’t sound that okay. “What about you?”
If this had been a year ago, and if Ron and Hermione hadn’t been there, he would’ve been able to tell her the truth. He would’ve been able to tell her about the nightmares and the nervousness that he shouldn’t still have but wasn’t going away. He wondered if this had ever happened to her after the whole thing with the diary.
And that brought up a sudden new question, and one that was pretty important too. Important enough that even with Ron and Hermione able to hear them he found himself asking it straight away: “Do you know the truth about the diary? What it really was?”
“An enchanted diary?” she asked, sounding very confused, as if it had never occurred to her it might be anything more, and then he felt a little ashamed that he hadn’t thought to tell her this earlier, because of course it had been a secret, but all the same she ought to have learned already just what had happened to her five years ago, what it was that she’d suffered at the hands of that year, and just what she’d faced and lived to tell the tale. She had been a victim of Voldemort’s in a way even he hadn’t been, and she had the right to know these things.
“Okay,” he said. “Ron and Hermione here already know, so I can tell you right now, or I can tell you later, if you want. Or,” he thought another second, and he didn’t like it but he shouldn’t force his company on her just for her to learn this, “Ron or Hermione can tell you instead. Maybe Hermione should; she’s read about these things, so she knows some things about them even I don’t.”
“Still,” said Hermione, “There’s a sort of way you can really explain it, Harry, that I can’t.”
“Why not?” said Ron. “You destroyed one same as he did.”
“One what?” Ginny asked. “One diary? One memory? Wait a minute...” He saw it in her face when her brain made the connection; how often this past year had he thought of that expression of hers, when her cleverness was working. “Did this have anything to do with the diadem? No, you know what?” She came to a full stop; the three of them had to too. “Why don’t all three of you tell me? Right here, right now. If someone comes by we can start walking again.”
“Okay,” said Harry, and then realized he didn’t know where to start with the explanation. With the diary? With what horcruxes were? With the diadem?
Ron did instead: “The diary was a horcrux,” he said.
“A horcrux,” Ginny repeated it, then said, “Wait a minute, I heard you use that word, Harry. You told...him they’d all been destroyed.”
“They had,” said Harry. “Neville destroyed the last one when he killed the snake.”
“The snake?” That made Ginny look more confused. “I thought these things were objects. I mean, Ron said the diary was one, and, well, you said an object of Ravenclaw’s...”
So Harry heard himself launch into the basic explanation of what horcruxes were, with Hermione chiming in with details from her books, including details about animal horcruxes Harry hadn’t known about, and historical details, such as that the most famous, another book horcrux, had been created by Morgause, King Arthur’s half sister and Mordred’s mother, who hadn’t really been wicked in the end, though she had done ill, and had eventually undergone the agonizing reunion process through her remorse, though centuries after her body had been destroyed so she had fully died in the process.
Ginny listened silent and still. When the three of them had all finished talking, she said, “Harry, did it ever occur to you that I was always perfectly capable of getting attacked on my own?”
“Sure,” said Harry, because of course it had. “But still, the risk seemed greater...”
“Bugger greater,” she snapped, and stalked off. Hermione took Harry’s arm, though she didn’t have to; he knew better than to try to follow her when she was in that kind of temper.
What the rain would do to the vigil was hard to say, but when Harry, Ron, and Hermione approached the lake, the crowd they saw was huge. Too big, in fact, to organize themselves; clutching their candles, they were spread out over the lake’s edge, a few circles trying to form. Next to him, Harry heard Ron try to choke back a sob.
Several people noticed them, and told the people next to them, who told the people next to them. Most of the crowd was turned towards them by the time they got within speaking distance. Hermione nudged Ron a little bit forward of the other two. He halted, as did Harry and Hermione.
Lisa Turpin emerged from the group and walked up to the group. “I’m glad all three of you came,” she said. “It means a lot to all of us.”
“Thanks,” said Ron awkwardly, glancing over the group, maybe counting up familiar faces. The other Gryffindors from their year were all there, Neville prominent amoung them, with Dennis Creevey almost pressed up against him. “I’m, um, glad you cared enough about Fred to hold this kind of thing for him.” He needed to say more, but Harry doubted he knew what else to say.
Hermione whispered something to him Harry couldn’t quite catch, and he added, “We all appreciate it, my family and me. I mean, my mum wrote to me last night and said so, and that she wishes she could thank you all individually,” but now he really couldn’t go on, because his voice was getting too tight.
Then Neville looked past them, and called out, “Ginny!”
She had arrived, looking much taller from higher up with her traveling cloak fallen lightly around her. Her expression was almost elegant in its solemnity. She did not acknowledge Harry as she joined them, simply reached out to take her brother’s hand and lead him further forward, down to Neville, whom she gave a tight hug, before saying, “Thank you especially. I know how much of this is because of you.” He nodded, but looked far more embarrassed than was called for; it made Harry kind of sad to see that.
Then she kept on walking, taking Ron with her, all the way to the lake’s shore, as Harry and Hermione made to follow her and properly join the group. Someone handed the two of them candles, and she lit then. When Dennis ventured up to Harry and Hermione holding up another pair of candles, they took them, and Hermione too lit them both with a single flick of her wand.
For a minute or so Ginny just stood there, over the water. Harry wasn’t even sure when she started levitating the candle, though it rose fairly far above her, before a fountain of sparks from her wand followed in its path. Other candles followed, they too showering sparks. “Just focus on the flame,” Hermione whispered to him. Harry obeyed as he sent his candle up, and as he too sent out a trail of scarlet and gold sparks, he felt almost a fusion between his body and his beloved wand, which he had only recently realized had truly become just an extension of his arm. In that moment, the feeling was more of a relief than he could describe.
“Tell us about Fred,” said Lisa, and everyone looked at Ron and Ginny; they definitely wanted the two of them to talk while they were there.
Ron scrunched his face up and shook his head; he couldn’t talk about it. But Ginny spoke: “Fred, along with George, was the part of our family that made us smile and laugh; even when the joke was on us we often would laugh with everyone else. He was especially good at it in these recent, harder times. I remember at the beginning of this year, when I had to go back to Hogwarts, knowing how much trouble there would be here with the Death Eaters in charge, he got me out of bed that morning with a chorus of foghorns that led me out of my bedroom and all around the house, up to the attic, where I found a pile of Skiving Snackboxes as a parting gift, and when he and George weren’t too into offering the family too many freebies either. I believe they all found use here this autumn too.” There was actually a giggle or two at that; Harry supposed they had. “Without him,” Ginny concluded, “there will be a lot less laughter in my life, in all our lives. Our days will be a little less brighter, a little less cheerful.”
She had walked a little more forward as she had spoken, until she stood on the very edge of the lake, so much so it looked like she might fall in at any moment. The wind played with the bright whisps of her hair, brushed them against her pale face. She seemed older then than Harry had ever seen her.
Again the attention was on Ron, but still he couldn’t speak, and then Hermione said, “I am terribly sorry, but we must go catch our train.”
“Thank you for coming,” said Neville simply, and he too added, “It means a lot to us.”
Indeed Harry had no doubt it did, but idly he wondered how much of that was because it honored Fred, and how much of it was because who the four of them and especially the three of them were. Still, considering how life was still weighing heavily on so many people, especially considering how many of them had lost friends and families of their own, he found he didn’t mind that much.
“That means you’re not going to be able to bury him today, I think,” said Hermione.
“No,” said Charlie. “They’re going to carry him up special to London tomorrow morning; they have a graveyard for famous wizards and witches there. We can accompany them up there if we want to, of course, though there may be a limit to the number of people. Since I suspect we’ll all end up being buried there, we probably should go see it.”
“But there are a lot of wizards buried in the Muggle churchyard at Godric’s Hollow,” Harry couldn’t help but point out. “Including my parents, and Dumbledore’s mum and sister.” Of course Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore had only been famous as Albus Dumbledore’s family, but well, Charlie was talking as if he would be too famous too. That made Harry feel a little bad, because he was quick to realize they’d all be displaced from their graveyard mostly because of their association with him.
“Enough wizards live there to make it easier,” explained Charlie. “At one point we even hoped...but four families in the area simply isn’t enough, especially when the Diggorys are talking about moving. They haven’t been happy here since...”
Something else occurred to Harry, though it took him a moment to get himself to ask. “Is Cedric buried in the area?”
“Yes,” said Charlie. “He’s in the local churchyard.”
“Do you think there’ll be time for us to go there?” He felt guilty for not thinking of it before, the summer before their sixth year. His head had been so full of so many other thoughts then.
“We can stop there while going through the village, actually,” said Charlie. “If you want.”
“Yes, let’s,” said Harry, and Hermione echoed it. Ron and Ginny didn’t look as happy, but made no protest.
Charlie did not do the best parking job; he ended up in a space halfway across the church carpark from the one he’d meant to park in, and any car wanting to use the space next to it would’ve had to have been very thin. But the small carpark was almost empty anyway; there was no one outside the church.
Cedric Diggory’s gravestone was certainly a grand one, taller than the ones around it and topped by a cherubic figure in robes-no wings, but the robes had a pair of knots around the shoulders that Muggles might mistake for the ends of wings broken off. On it was inscribed:
Cedric Myrddin Diggory
October 20, 1977-June 24, 1994
“His father had a big fight with the Ministry over that last bit,” said Charlie. “He wanted to write out the whole title, the Ministry didn’t want anything about it in a Muggle graveyard. I think he accused to Ministry of trying to erase Cedric’s position as tournament winner and recognize only you, Harry.”
“Not very likely, given how the Ministry was treating Harry then,” scoffed Ron.
“They weren’t really paying attention at the time,” shrugged Charlie. “In the end they compromised.”
Harry knelt and traced the words. Seeing Cedric recognized for such a thing couldn’t help but make him glad, but it felt kind of pitiful too.
“How many relatives do you have buried here, Charlie?” he heard Hermione ask.
“A lot,” he said. “A handful of mum’s relatives too; though her brothers are actually up in the London graveyard; we’re hoping Fred can be put next to them.”
He ended up leading toward to the large collection of gravestones, though on the way they paused for a moment when Ginny spotted the named of Lovegood as well; when Harry told them Luna’s mother had died when Luna had been nine they managed to identify her as Ciara Rose Lovegood. On her tombstone below Beloved Wife and Mother was written His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.
Harry was still absorbing that quote, wondering if Hermione might know where it came from, when Ginny cried, “Oh!” and they all looked to where she was pointing at a new arrival. Amos Diggory, too, had decided that day to visit the yard where his son was buried.
He looked over at them upon hearing her, and for a moment Harry thought they should turn away and leave him in peace. But then he started walking over. Charlie went out to greet him. Their first words were too quiet for the others to hear, but then he joined the rest of them. “Old Mrs. Lovegood’s stone, eh?” was how he greeted them. “Well, maybe not that old in the end.” He spoke absently, as if he had something on his mind even beyond his deceased child.
“I was just about to show them our own relations,” said Charlie. “But if you want to be alone, we can always come back another day.”
“No, that’s all right,” said Mr. Diggory. There were several moments’ silence, during which he oddly just stood there and stared at Mrs. Lovegood’s grave. Then he said, “This may sound strange, but I wanted someone to talk to when I came here. I shouldn’t bother you about this kind of thing, but...”
“It’s all right,” said Hermione. “You can talk to us if you want to.”
“Well,” he said, slowly, as if he was having trouble coming out with it, “Victoria and I are thinking about having another baby.”
“I see,” said Hermione, which summed it up.
“We’re not trying to replace him,” Mr. Diggory added hastily. “Not really.”
“I think,” said Harry cautiously, “that if it made you happy to have another child, Cedric would want you to.”
“Yes, he would,” Mr. Diggory agreed. His voice was very soft. “Though would we move if we had one?”
“You could,” said Ginny.
“I know,” he said. “It’s too much to think about. Thanks anyway, though.” He walked off to his son’s gravestone. Ginny moved to follow him, but Charlie gently took her arm, and she stopped, leaving him to himself.
“Let’s go,” Harry whispered to the others, and slowly they walked the other way, Charlie leading them at last to the Weasley gravestones, comfortably crowded together in one corner. “All our Uncles,” said Ron. “And Great-Uncles and Great-Great-Uncles. No Aunts on father’s side, actually, not since early last century. And there are our grandparents. Grandmum was blasted off the Black family tapestry; mum actually found on it where her name had been and showed us once.”
When they reached the pair of stones, Harry noted they’d both died during the late 1970s. “Do you know if they were killed by Voldemort?” he asked.
Ron, Ginny, and Charlie looked at each other. “I got the impression once they might have been,” said Charlie. “Certainly Fred isn’t the first casualty of our family. I think I heard mum say once when I was younger, after he fell the first time, that the Death Eaters hated no family more than us.”
“I do believe that,” said Hermione. Harry did too.
They looked at some more gravestones after that, ones dating back to the 19th century and beyond. Harry tried to pay attention to the names enough to remember them, but there were too many. Finally Charlie cited the time, and they piled back into the car.
It was probably something of a miracle that the Burrow still stood. In her letter to Ron, Mrs. Weasley wrote that she, Mr. Weasley, and the older brothers had returned there the afternoon after the battle to discover parts of the property had been burnt, as had been the garage, and the broomshed and chicken coop had also both been damaged, and the house itself had been ransacked and amoung other items half the furniture removed. But for whatever reason those dark wizards who had taken it hadn’t destroyed it; it was still standing and still eminently habitable.
And while the earth around it was scorched in places and covered with debris in others, it even looked pretty much the same from the outside as Harry remembered. Some of the flutterby bushes were even still there, though they looked pretty gnarled and weren’t moving around that much.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Bill, Fleur, and Percy all came out to greet them as Charlie parked, which, when they got out, immediately had Ron asking, “Where’s George?
“Upstairs,” said Mrs. Weasley, very softly. “Don’t...” she added as Ron immediately went running towards the house, but that just caused Hermione to run after him, and when she reached him it was clear that she was accompanying rather than stopping him. Harry and Ginny both went to follow them, but Bill grabbed them both. “You two can go in later if you want, if they can’t get him downstairs,” he said softly. “But all four of you will probably overwhelm him and cause him to shut in. We’ve made that mistake already.”
So instead Harry and Ginny, with her pointedly not looking at him so he didn’t try to talk to her, followed her mother in, and on her instruction started helping out with the cleaning. All the furniture and large items still in the house had been put back into place, and the kitchen and about half of the living room were completely in order, but the corners of the latter room still had broken glass and loose rubble, and the other rooms and the stairs were in much worse shape. Harry threw himself into the cleaning with a zeal that he could tell impressed Mrs. Weasley, but he was glad to; it was like cleaning out the greenhouses that way.
George did come down with his brother and Hermione in the end, said hello to Harry and even hugged Ginny. But his presence seemed to make it impossible for anyone to really talk; he was saying as little as possible and everyone seemed to feel awkward trying to talk with him there. By the time dinner was served, and Harry’s level of respect for Mrs. Weasley, though already extremely high, went up higher still with how she managed when he knew she didn’t have much in the kitchen, everyone had fallen almost completely silent.
But when the meal was half complete, Mrs. Weasley asked him, “George, are you going to be able to get through tomorrow?”
It took George a few seconds to answer, which felt like much longer to everyone else. Harry wondered if he might never be able to answer that question at all. Then he said, “Just don’t ask me to talk. Please.”
“We won’t, then,” said his mother. “I promise.”
Somehow, when going upstairs, Harry ended up standing in front of the door to Ginny’s room just after she’d gone in. He thought of that day a year ago when she’d brought him in there, what had happened then, and what he had long realized would probably have also happened had they not been interrupted. He hadn’t even thought about it much back then; he knew people thought it was weird that a boy his age wouldn’t, but he’d had way too much else to think about. But now, when he looked at that door, he thought about how it might be nice, just to have her in his arms again, to have that kind of contact with her body; to find some warmth and comfort in a cold and hard night. The thought of it raised a deep ache within him.
But then Ron and Hermione came up the stairs behind him, and found him there. Ron narrowed his eyes, for obvious reasons, but before he could say anything Hermione said, “Come on. Your room, Ron. All three of us tonight. Just to sleep.”
Had he been less worn Harry might have protested; he didn’t want to impose on their relationship. But when they both even took one of his arms and they three of them walked on together, all he could feel was relief, that that night he would not be alone.
Like most of the bedrooms, Ron’s room had a bed intact, clean, and made up, but was everywhere else a mess. Hermione pulled out her wand, flicked it to send various pieces of debris swishing out of the way, and muttered a charm that increased the size of the bed until it would comfortably hold three. “I’ll go change and come back in,” she said, and left them to change themselves.
It was really awkward then, without her resolve to blunt their embarrassment. Ron didn’t look at Harry as they changed, and Harry didn’t feel much like looking at him either. But he really was tired, so he went and lay himself down on the bed. Ron sat down next to him, not touching, which was how Hermione found them when she returned in a long nightgown.
“It really does help to have someone with you,” she said to them, very matter-of-factly. “Ron and I have napped a bit in the Room of Requirement together, and we’ve both slept better that way. It’ll be better once Ginny forgives you, but until she does, this is the best we can do. Up, both of you; we should unmake the bed.”
“This is still weird,” said Ron, but the both got up, and when Hermione pulled the blankets up, they both got in, not touching, but lying very close. She settled herself then on Ron’s other side, sighed as his arms wrapped around her. Harry let himself turn to face them, until he could feel the warmth of Ron’s body on his face. Then Hermione managed to aim a pointed look at him even over Ron, and, very hesitantly, Harry found himself moving forward and reaching out with his arms, and Ron made no protest, until Harry’s hands reached Hermione’s shoulders, and he let himself relax, and let himself lay against the two of them.
It worked; he fell asleep much more quickly than he had, and he didn’t dream at all.