Chapter 3: Saying Goodbye

Fleur stood beside the kitchen sink with a large bowl on the counter in front of her and wand in hand. Many different fresh vegetables and greens surrounded the bowl. The tip of her wand made short quick diagonal strokes in the air. A carrot, floating above the bowl, appeared to be cutting itself into bite size pieces. Molly sat at the kitchen table. Her face had an anguished and sullen expression with puffy red eyes. She held a well-worn hanky in her hand.

In a flash of green light, Ron and Hermione stepped into the kitchen of the Burrow. Molly's face brightened and she hurried toward them saying, "There you are. I was starting to wonder when you'd get here."

"Hi Mum," said Ron as she pulled him into a firm hug. With her eyes closed, she held him for a long moment.

Releasing Ron, Molly firmly embraced Hermione saying, "Hermione dear. I'm so happy you are here."

"It's good to be back," said Hermione, her voice mostly smothered by Molly's embrace.

As Ron and Hermione moved toward Fleur to greet her, there was another flash of green light from the fireplace. Harry and Ginny stepped into the kitchen.

Ginny moved toward her mother. As they embraced she said, "Hi Mum, sorry we missed you this afternoon."

"Nonsense. Your father and I were so very proud when we saw what you were doing. Goodness knows we'll need a lot more of that for a while."

Embracing Harry in a firm hug Molly said, "Harry dear, how are you? You look so thin."

"I'm good," said Harry. Molly released him and Harry moved to Fleur.

"Arry," said Fleur as she gave him a hug.

"Hi Fleur. Is everything okay at shell cottage?"

"Oui. We are hiding two families with young children. Now zat the war is over, they will be happy zay can go to their homes again."

"That's good to hear. Is there anything I can do to help you with supper preparations?"

"Non, eet ees a simple meal tonight."

"The Diggorys and Fawcetts, bless them, brought us supper," said Molly. "Ginny and Hermione will help. You two go into the parlor with Arthur and the others."

Molly herded Ron and Harry toward the door. Hermione grinned as Ron reached out and grabbed a bread roll from the tray on the table.

"We'll be eating soon enough," said Molly in a gentle scolding voice.

After Molly seated herself at the table Ginny said, "Mum, who's coming here tomorrow?"

"Your great Auntie Muriel of course. The Delacours and Gabrielle, the Diggorys, and the Fawcetts. I'm not sure if the Lovegoods are coming, their home was badly damaged. Many of Fred's friends and Quidditch team members from school ..."

As Ron and Harry entered the parlor, they saw Arthur sitting in his chair. Bill, Charlie, and Percy were sitting in the sofa and armchairs. Harry and Ron caught a few words about security before the conversation abruptly ended. George sat in a chair by the fire gazing absently into the low flames.

"Ron, Harry," said Arthur as he stood, "Good that you are both home safe and sound."

After greeting the others, Harry and Ron seated themselves.

"As I was saying," said Arthur, "the Ministry is concerned about the security of our home. An Auror will accompany Kingsley when he comes here tomorrow for the grave service."

Percy said in an authoritative voice, "There are active factions and splinter groups still struggling to hold onto power. Acting Minister of Magic Kingsley is reviewing all the current Ministry department personnel assignments."

Everyone smiled. Then Bill said, "Charlie and I walked the area around the Burrow checking on things and setting up security wards." Bill grinned. "We've got surprises for anyone who would try to break through. I've set some security measures we use at Gringotts."

Charlie said, "I added some very strong containment charms we use with the dragons in Romania. If someone tries to get in, they'll be immobilized and held."

"How will the guests arrive?" asked Ron.

Arthur said, "We've arranged a portkey transport corridor with the mortuary. The funeral director will be managing it from his end.

Okay. Now there is the matter of the funeral preparations to discuss. I received instructions from the funeral director this afternoon. He will bring Fred's body, and those who are at the mortuary, here tomorrow just before the service. Your mum and I think the gravesite should be by the old oak tree. We'll need to prepare it in the morning."

"I'd like to help with the grave preparations," said Harry.

"Yes, of course Harry. Bill told us what you did for Dobby at shell cottage. As a tribute to Fred, we have agreed to prepare the grave without using magic. The funeral director will bring the headstone that George, Molly, and I have selected."

The door to the kitchen opened and Molly said, "Supper is ready. It will be a tight fit around the table for all of us but we'll manage."

Everyone stood. George said, "I'm not hungry Mum. I'm going up to my room." Then he turned and walked toward the stairs.

Molly frowned at these words but did not say anything. They all made their way into the kitchen. Harry and Ginny sat side by side at the far end of the table across from Ron and Hermione.

Arthur took out his wand and tapped a bottle of champagne on the table. The wrappings fell away and the cork popped. The cork sailed through the air and landed neatly in Arthur's open hand. He tapped the bottle again with his wand. The glass in front of each person filled with champagne, as if being poured, even though the bottle remained in front of Arthur.

Taking his glass and raising it, Arthur said, "A toast to Fred and to all who fought to end this war. May their sacrifices never be forgotten."

"Hear hear!" they all said together with glasses raised.

The supper conversation was quiet by Weasley standards. Arthur talked with Percy about the Ministry. Molly worried about George and chatted with Bill, Fleur, and Charlie. Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione talked about their day spent in the hospital wing.

Much later, they sat quietly in the parlor. Bill and Fleur had gone back to shell cottage for the night accompanied by Percy. Charlie had gone to bed and George had not come out of his room. Arthur was reading the Daily Prophet in his chair and Molly sat next to him knitting. With a blanket wrapped around their shoulders, Ron and Hermione sipped hot apple cider by the fire. Harry and Ginny sat together, also sipping cider, in the love seat by the fire.

"I can't remember the last time we had a warm quiet evening like this," said Hermione leaning her head on Ron's shoulder. She let out a deep sigh, "This is so nice."

"Mum, Dad," said Ron, "we saw the castle mending itself today. How come you never told us about that?"

"Before today," said Molly as she continued to knit, "your father and I didn't know about that either. I wonder if there's anything written about it?"

Harry, Ron, and Ginny giggled. Hermione rolled her eyes and said, "Not in anything I've read recently."

After a moment, Ginny said, "Dad, how far back do our Weasley ancestors and Hogwarts go?"

Arthur laid the paper on his lap. "I'm not completely sure. Your Grandfather once mentioned to me that the Weasley clan helped defend Hogwarts back in the Middle Ages. He was very ill at the time and his memory was failing. He passed away before we could talk about it again."

Ginny said, "I dreamt about our Weasley ancestors being honored as defenders of Hogwarts."

"Yeah, I dreamed about that too," said Ron. "Wish I could remember the details about it."

"If recent events are any indication," said Arthur, "you have each lived up to the most revered and esteemed values of our family. We could not be more proud of you."

Molly put her knitting into the yarn bag and said, "It's been a very busy day and we'll have another busy day tomorrow. Arthur, I think it's time for us to turn in."

"Mister Weasley," said Harry, "Do you know when the funeral for Remus and Tonks will be held? I'd really like to attend." He looked at Ginny and she nodded her head.

"Day after tomorrow, Molly and I are also attending."

Hermione and Ron looked at each other and then Hermione said, "Ron and I would like to attend too."

"Very well," said Arthur. "I'll send word to Andromeda."

Arthur and Molly stood and after saying goodnight, left for their bedroom. After a long silence and growing sense of awkwardness, Hermione smiled knowingly.

"Given the need for our usual sleeping arrangements ... Ginny, why don't you and Harry go on up and say goodnight. I'll be along in about ... fifteen minutes?"

"That's an excellent suggestion," said Ginny. She stood, took Harry's hand, and pulled him along after her toward the stairs.

"I'm still getting used to that," said Ron in a quiet voice after Harry and Ginny were out of sight.

"Perhaps I can help," whispered Hermione with a grin.

"I'm sure you can," said Ron with a smile. "You are the smartest and most beautiful witch of our age."

The Burrow became very quiet and peaceful.

There was a loud knock on the bedroom door followed by Molly saying, "Wake up you two. We've a lot to do today."

Harry opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling as he lay on a cot in Ron's room. He only vaguely remembered lying down, likely due to being a bit boggled after saying goodnight to Ginny. His sleep had been unsettled and he had woken several times during the night. Though he still felt tired, he rubbed his face and then put on his glasses.

Yawning, Ron propped himself up on his elbows and sleepily looked at Harry. "Is it morning already?"

Later, Bill and Percy returned. After a brief breakfast, Arthur led them out to the tool shed. He slid open the door and Harry's jaw dropped. He had never seen so many rakes, shovels, and all manner of gardening tools. There had to be at least fifty. Most looked brand new and unused.

Arthur said, "I collected these tools when I worked in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. Do we have enough Harry?"

"Umm ... yeah ... I think we'll be able to get the job done."

"Very well," said Arthur. "Each of you select something and let's get started ... I think I fancy this red one."

Harry made sure each family member took a proper tool before selecting a sturdy shovel and following them to the oak tree. After picking a spot and marking the ground, they began digging. In some places, the ground was hard and in others, roots from the tree needed clearing. Percy kept measuring the size and depth pointing to where it needed changes to conform to Ministry specifications. The others just smiled and did as he suggested. It took them well over an hour to dig the vault to the proper depth and square up its shape to Percy's satisfaction.

George finished the digging and handed up the shovel he had used. As Ron and Arthur helped George climb out, Harry saw a faint hint of satisfaction on George's face. They all stood around the perimeter of the vault leaning on their garden tools. They complemented each other on a job well done, discussed the merits of the vault, and fine-tuned it for another ten minutes.

"This was a most fascinating experience," said Arthur with a smile. "I can't wait until Molly sees it. And all done without magic."

Harry and Ron grinned at each other. Charlie and Bill said they would check the security perimeter and then help Percy with the chairs. Harry and Ron put the tools away and then went in to wash up.

While the guys dug the grave, Fleur, Hermione, and Ginny helped Molly get the house ready and food prepared. They set up a small buffet with miniature sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres. They cut fruit and prepared trays of bread, sliced meats, and cheese. Different kinds of salads and drinks were also prepared. About mid-day, Auntie Muriel arrived and began to fuss about the preparations, telling them how things ought to be done. With a stern look from Molly, Arthur and Charlie took Auntie Muriel into the parlor and kept her busy talking with them.

Outside, the yard was now neat and presentable. A magical barrier confined the gnomes within the garden area. A portkey archway was visible about halfway between the house and the oak tree in the not too distant meadow. Rows of chairs, with an aisle down the middle, were set facing the oak tree. The grave was in front of the chairs on the right and a small podium was set in front and slightly to the left. Many flower bouquets were visible.

Just before midafternoon, the guests began to arrive. Weasley relatives, Monsieur, Apolline and Gabrielle Delacour, the Diggorys and Fawcetts, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Auror Sanders. Hogwarts Quidditch teammates Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson, Oliver Wood and Katie Bell arrived. Many D.A. members were present, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Lee Jordan, Ernie MacMillan, Seamus Finnigan, and Hannah Abbot. They all milled around greeting each other warmly and quietly talking.

Arthur had asked Harry to be a pallbearer. He stood with Ron and the other Weasley brothers by the portkey archway. They were all handsomely dressed in dark suits, white shirts, and ties. Arthur and Kingsley were quietly talking a short distance away while Auror Sanders kept looking around with a watchful eye.

Hermione and Ginny left the house and began walking toward Harry and Ron on their way to the seating area. Hermione wore a charcoal colored knee length skirt with open jacket over a white blouse. Ginny wore a black knee length pleated dress with high neckline and a belt around her waist. Each had done up their hair. Harry and Ron stared as they approached and this attention did not go unnoticed. Hermione and Ginny briefly glanced at each other with a smile.

"My word Hermione, you look great," said Ron. She smiled broadly.

Ginny stepped very close to Harry and reached up to straighten his tie. A familiar flowery scent greeted his senses. Smiling warmly he quietly said, "You look wonderful Ginny, and that fragrance is bewitching."

As she stepped back smiling at him, there was a loud CRACK! A casket, clergyman, and funeral director appeared under the portkey archway. The smile quickly disappeared from Ginny's face and her lips became pressed together. Hermione took Ginny's hand and led her to the seating area. The standing guests also seated themselves.

After a brief word from the director, the pallbearers positioned themselves three on each side of the casket. Then they solemnly carried the casket up the center aisle followed by the clergyman. As they reached the edge of the crypt, the director held up his hand and they stopped. Then the director waved his wand. The casket levitated and moved forward to float over the opening of the crypt. The pallbearers seated themselves. Ron sat between Ginny and Hermione. Harry sat on the other side of Ginny and took hold of her hand.

Kingsley stepped forward to the podium and after a brief look at the casket, faced the gathering. "We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to Fred Weasley, a beloved member of this family and of those who knew him well. It is indeed sad and heartbreaking to lose someone such as Fred. During these most trying of times, he was a beacon of hope and a source of laughter to each of us. He willingly fought against those who tried to take away what we hold most dear. He laid down his life so that justice in our magical world ..."

Harry glanced toward Ginny. Tears glistened on her face and there was deep sorrow and loss in her eyes. He looked past her to Ron who was holding Hermione's hand and staring with an empty and sorrowful expression at the casket. There were tears in his eyes also.

"... well known for their pranks and especially for a certain day at Hogwarts filled with fireworks and mayhem."

"Oh Merlin," said Molly as she rolled her teary eyes.

"Yes!" shouted Angelina Johnson and Lee Jordan as together they punched the air. Many of the guests laughed. A brief tapping sound, like that of a small hammer on wood, was heard.

Kingsley said, "A day that is fondly remembered by students and professors alike. From what I understand ..."

Harry felt a slight tingle in his hand. He glanced toward Ginny and saw that her teary eyes were looking up into the oak tree above them. She had a small smile on her face. He followed her line of sight but only saw the branches and leaves of the tree.

"... The best part of Fred's life will live on within us whenever we laugh."

Kingsley stepped from behind the podium and sat down. George stood and slowly walked toward the podium. The tapping sound was heard again. Ginny gently nudged Ron in the side with her elbow. As Ron looked at her, she discretely pointed up into the tree. Ron's eyes searched for a moment and then a smile came to his face. He looked back at Ginny and nodded. Then he turned and whispered to Hermione.

Upon reaching the podium, George took out a small parchment from his pocket and unrolled it on the podium. He turned toward the casket and looked at it for a moment. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he was about to turn back toward the gathering when a woodpecker flew down from the oak tree and landed on the casket. There were a few quiet gasps from the guests. The bird had red feathers on its head and held a large acorn in its beak. It took a few steps forward and then dropped the acorn onto the casket. George and the bird looked at each other for a moment. Then, with the eyes of everyone following it, the woodpecker flew off and disappeared into a nearby tree.

A warm smile came to George's face and he walked over to the casket. He picked up the acorn and examined it closely for a moment. Then, he put the acorn into his pocket and walked back to the podium. He carefully rolled up the parchment and put it back into his pocket.

George looked toward the nearby tree and called out in a raised voice, "Well Fred, dear brother, you've upstaged me again." Everyone present chuckled. "No need now for the words I was going to say about you. You've just said about everything that needs saying. ... And I appreciate you making good on our wager."

Looking at the questioning expressions of those seated George said, "Fred and I made a wager when we were about six years old ... Whoever died first ..." George's voice cracked, "had to pay the other. ... Whichever of us still living would know the other was okay. Up until a moment ago, we'd never worked out how payment would be done."

George was quiet for a moment. Then he said, "We've just been reminded, that while Fred is no longer here with us, he is free now and his spirit lives on. We just need to give each other a memory of Fred once and a while. That's sure to bring a smile and help fill the emptiness in our hearts. It's what Fred would have wanted."

After a short pause, George said, "Now, as a final tribute to Fred, we have a little something from Weasleys' Wizarding Weezes."

Pulling out his wand and pointing it, George said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please direct your attention toward that tree." Everyone turned to look and George said, "Incendio!"

A bright spark shot from George's wand and flew toward the tree. From just in front of the tree, ten fountains that were not visible earlier erupted and shot shiny silvery confetti into the air that floated like a shimmering curtain. It looked like thousands of bright stars twinkling in the afternoon sun. Then, streaks of colored sparks shot up toward the center of the shimmering curtain. The streaks crossed in flight and then formed a heart shape as they curved back toward each other. The streaks met and spiraled around each other creating a large sparkling bubble. Then the bubble collapsed inward on itself and a dense cloud of smoke billowed out. The smoke formed itself into a large, standing, life-like image of Fred with his arms folded across his chest. The face wore the unmistakable smirk of Fred, the one he always had whenever he'd gotten the best of someone with a joke. There were some renewed sniffles and tears. Then, the image smiled broadly, the eyes twinkled and one of the arms waved goodbye. After a moment, the image dissolved and the breeze carried the smoke and sparkling confetti up and away.

Some cheered and applauded. Others, like Ginny and Ron, were holding each other and weeping. As the funeral director and clergyman came slowly forward, Ginny and Ron broke apart. Harry put his arm around Ginny's shoulder and held her hand. Hermione took Ron's hand and laid her head on his shoulder.

The funeral director and clergyman stood at each end of the casket. The clergyman opened a small prayer book and raising his hand over the casket said, "Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. Keep him always in the light of your purest love. Grant that his soul find joy and happiness in you and with those who have gone before him." The clergyman stepped aside and the director waved his wand. The casket slowly descended into the vault. With another wave of the director's wand, the vault sealed and covered itself. A headstone appeared bearing an engravement.

Fred Fabian Weasley, 1978 - 1998, Mischief Managed!

The director said, "The service is now concluded. The Weasley family sincerely thanks you for your presence here today and invites you to partake in some refreshment."

The guests began talking quietly and moving about consoling each other. Some of them filed past the grave and dropped flowers onto it. A few others picked up and pocketed an acorn. After everyone who wished to pay his or her respects had past, Ron stood and took Hermione's hand. Walking to the edge of the grave, they stood together looking down at the grave and headstone.

Ron said in a quiet voice, "Rest in peace Fred. You were always a good laugh when you were with us. We're going to miss you."

Hermione, her face wet with tears, waved her wand. As two black roses appeared by the headstone she said, "Rest in peace Fred."

After another moment, they moved off toward the house.

Harry looked at Ginny with her wet and puffy eyes. Ginny nodded and they both stood and walked to the grave.

Taking his wand, Harry pointed toward the headstone and a large bouquet of red, pink, and white carnations appeared. Then he said, "Thanks for the fun times at school Fred, especially Quidditch practices. Thanks for reminding me to laugh a little and see the brighter side of things."

He bent down, took a single red carnation, and presented it to Ginny. She took the flower and enjoyed its fragrance. He put his arm around her.

In a quavering voice she said, "Thanks Fred ... for teaching your little sister how to play Quidditch."

Her lips curled into a small smile. "And sorry about the bat bogey hex that time you turned my face green."

An expression of deep gratitude came to her teary face as she said, "But especially ... thanks for helping me through those nightmares during the summer after my first year. You showed me the good person inside when all I wanted to see was the failure. I'm ... I'm really going to miss you Fred."

Tears dropped from her eyes. Harry took her in his arms and held her as she cried into his shoulder.

Harry laid his head against Ginny's head. Thoughts of the many times she had stood by his side and helped him through his pain and grief flooded into his mind. He felt shamed in not really considering how all these things, and some he was just beginning to learn about, had affected her. Tears fell from his eyes and he solemnly promised himself, from this moment forward, to help make her life happy in whatever way it unfolded.

Slowly, she regained control of her emotions as Harry held and rocked her gently. She felt warm, secure, and protected in his arms, like when Mum and Dad had comforted her when she was a little girl. She thought about Harry never having his parents to comfort him in that way. She renewed her resolve to be there for him.

They separated and looked at each other for a moment. Then, with many sniffles, they walked hand in hand toward the house.

Early afternoon the next day, they all arrived at the home of Andromeda Tonks. Though Harry had stopped here briefly with Hagrid while on their run from Privet drive, the surroundings were unfamiliar. They followed Arthur and Molly as they led them toward rows of chairs that were set facing two open graves.

They made their way to a row of unoccupied chairs and seated themselves. Those who were already gathered sat quietly. A few of the guests turned to look at them briefly with blank expressions. Turning back to the front, they occasionally leaned toward each other whispering. Arthur acknowledged a few that he recognized from the Ministry but the others were unknown. There was a feeling of coolness and the people were generally keeping to themselves.

There was a CRACK and a moment later, two coffins floated up the aisle followed by the funeral director, Andromeda, and Narcissa. Then, the row of seats behind them began to fill with Aurors in full dress robes. The coffins floated into their places over the open graves. Andromeda and Narcissa seated themselves in the front row next to a familiar person they had not noticed earlier. Kingsley stepped forward and stood by the coffins facing the seated guests.

"We gather here today to pay our last respects to Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks Lupin. ..."

Kingsley spoke briefly about each of them and their service to the Ministry. He mentioned Remus' professorship at Hogwarts and service in Ministry assignments. He praised Nymphadora's service as an Auror and said she had died in the line of duty. Kingsley signaled and the Aurors seated behind them stood and filed to the front. Holding their wands vertically before their faces, they saluted her as Kingsley awarded Tonks the Auror Distinguished Service Medal.

After the Aurors were again seated, Andromeda stood and spoke briefly, her words interrupted frequently with tears. She talked of how her daughter had wanted to be an Auror from an early age, about falling in love with Remus, and blessing her with a grandson. She seated herself. The funeral director then sealed, lowered, and covered the coffins.

The service ended and they all stood. The Aurors moved off in different directions and most of them disapparated a moment later. Arthur beckoned Molly to accompany him and they walked over to one of the wizards he had acknowledged earlier.

"They hardly mention Remus at all," said Ron incredulously in a hushed voice. "He was our best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."

"Yes, he was," said Hermione quietly. "I think they didn't say much due to his special condition. It would have resulted in Andromeda having to endure more embarrassing comments from the other family members."

"Still," said Ron in a low voice, "he lived a difficult life with a major handicap. He didn't pity himself or give up. He simply did the best he could and helped others see the best in themselves."

"Excuse me for interrupting," said a voice walking up beside them. "I thought Harry might like to meet his godson."

They all turned to see Andromeda holding Teddy, wrapped in a blanket in her arms. Hermione and Ginny beamed in delight.

Andromeda said, "Move closer Harry so you can hold him."

Harry stammered, "Well I've never ... umm ... maybe you should ..."

Andromeda stepped toward him, "Put your arm like this ... and now the other like this ... there, that's it. See how easy?"

There was a mix of uncertainty and fierce concentration on Harry's face. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were now grinning from ear to ear.

Harry looked down at the tiny face and everything else around him faded into the background. This was Teddy, his godson with black hair like his own and two greenish gray eyes glinting back at him. A witch and wizard, who he had trusted and admired, had selected him as the godfather of this new life. He hadn't thought about it much beyond the honored of being asked. Now, Harry was starting to understand something of how Sirius must have felt about him. His eyes got misty.

"You okay mate?" said Ron quietly.

"Yeah," said Harry still looking at Teddy. "I just didn't expect it would be like this. He's so ... tiny and helpless. I hope I'm qualified for this job."

"No question about that Harry," said Hermione. "Andromeda thinks so too. She stepped away right after she showed you how to hold him." Hermione looked at Ron. "C'mon Ron, let's go get something from the hors d'oeuvre table." Looking at Harry and Ginny she said, "We'll be back shortly." Ron and Hermione stepped away.

"I think you'll be a wonderful Godfather," said Ginny. "More than any of us, you know what it is like to grow up as an orphan."

Harry, still looking at Teddy, nodded. Then he said, "Well, it isn't going to be for Teddy like it was for me. Teddy's going to know about his parents, who they really were, and what they did to make the world a better place."

From over his shoulder, Harry saw a familiar person walk up to the graves and stand facing them. Harry turned to Ginny. "Will you hold Teddy for a minute?"

"Of course," beamed Ginny as she took Teddy into her arms, "I was hoping I'd get a turn."

Harry paused briefly to look at them. Ginny talked softly to the infant in her arms and the color of Teddy's hair changed to ginger. With a contented feeling, Harry walked slowly and stopped a few feet to the side of Draco also facing the graves.

"Thanks," said Draco, his eyes not shifting from the graves.

"No problem," said Harry also looking at the graves. "My thanks to you ... And tell your mum thanks for the good word in the forest."

There were questioning eyes behind the stoic expression on Draco's face. Harry glanced at him. "What will happen to you now?"

"Pay my debt to wizarding society I reckon," said Draco in disgust. "Then ... try to find a life again."

Harry reached into his cloak and turned to face Draco. "I have something of yours that I want to give back."

Draco turned warily and saw his hawthorn wand balanced on the palm of Harry's open hand.

A deep voice at Harry's side spoke, "Mister Potter, I'll keep that wand safe for Mister Malfoy until the Wizengamot makes its final determination in his case."

Harry looked and recognized Auror Sanders as he lifted the wand from Harry's hand. He had not heard the Auror walk up beside him. Draco grimaced as the Auror pocketed the wand and then looked back at him with a stoic expression. Draco gave a small nod to Harry and then turned and walked away.

As Harry watched Draco walk away the Auror said, "Sorry to interrupt your conversation Mister Potter, just doing my job."

"I understand. I know him to be a different person than he appears. What are his chances?"

"It doesn't look too good for the Malfoys." Then the Auror turned and walked away.

Harry walked back to Ginny. "Where's Teddy?"

"Andromeda took him so she could show him off to the other relatives. How did you get on with Draco?"

"About as I expected."

Harry looked up to see Kingsley walking toward them. Kingsley extended his hand to each of them in turn. "Good day to you Harry, and to you Ginevra."

Harry smiled. "Hello Minister."

"I'm not officially the Minister. But in either case, the two of you can call me Kingsley. Harry, I wonder if I might have a word with you."

Ginny turned to leave but Harry took hold of her hand and held her back. She glanced at him warmly. Then looking at Kingsley he said, "Of course, what is it?"

"As I'm sure you are aware, a large number of the Dark Lord's followers are still at large. The Auror Department is doing its best to capture the leaders and cause confusion and dissention within their ranks. Nevertheless, the remaining dark forces will see you and your friends as targets to exploit or use for bargaining. I strongly suggest that you stay in secure areas for a while and continue to exercise caution."

Kingsley glanced around making sure no one else was near. Then he reached into his pocket and withdrew two small badges shaped like five point stars. He handed one to Harry and the other to Ginny saying in a quiet voice, "Keep these hidden on your person at all times. If you see or hear anything suspicious, touch the five points to talk to the Duty Auror of the Day. If you are in danger and in need of help, squeeze it tightly in your fist and an Auror will be dispatched to you."

With a mixed expression Harry said, "You're deputizing us?"

Kingsley smiled. "In a way, yes. The Aurors need all the trusted eyes and ears they can get." After a quick glance at Ginny he said, "Confidentially, a certain family member was very insistent about this arrangement."

Harry and Ginny briefly glanced at each other with a knowing expression.

"In all seriousness, each of you should remain vigilant at all times.

One last thing. I will do my best to keep the members of the press away from you. However, their detective work can rival some of the Aurors at times. Please say as little as possible. After things are back in order, I would like to meet with you and come up with an official statement. In the meantime, you might notice rumors or misinformation in the Daily Prophet. Some of it will be deliberate. Contact me directly if you have any questions or concerns."

"Thank you," said Harry. "A question for you if I might?"

"Of course Harry."

"What will happen to the Malfoy family?"

"They will stand trial in three or four months and their actions will be judged by the Wizengamot. Until then, they are confined to Malfoy Manor unless escorted by a Ministry official."

"I'd like to enter a statement for the defense of Draco and his mother Narcissa."

Kingsley and Ginny looked at him in surprise. After a short pause Kingsley said, "Yes Harry. Send word when you are ready and I will take you to the proper person at the Ministry. Will there be anything else?"

"No. Thank you ... Kingsley."

"You're welcome. Now, I need to find Ronald and Hermione." He turned and hurried away.

This is an original fan fiction story based on the seven book series 'Harry Potter' written by J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter, the characters, names and related characters are trademarks of Warner Bros., Inc. Harry Potter publishing rights © J.K.R. This is an unofficial, not for profit site and is in no way connected with J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Books, Bloomsbury Publishing or Warner Bros., Inc. This site is not endorsed by any of these aforementioned parties. Rights to characters and their images is neither claimed nor implied. This fan fiction story is owned by the author and subject to copyright law under transformative use.

Copyright © 2015-2017 Don Buczynski
San Diego, California
Published: 8/30/14
Last Updated: 9/15/17