Chapter 21: Hogwarts Again

Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione, each dressed in casual wizard robes, emerged from Honeydukes with a favorite sweet in hand. They began to walk up the High Street toward Hogwarts castle after spending the morning wandering through the shops in Hogsmeade. Many other witches and wizards also bustled amid the shops and pubs. On most weekends, the shop owners would have said that the crowds of people were unusual, particularly two days before start of term at Hogwarts. But this wasn't a normal weekend. After much toil and effort over the summer, the battle-inflicted damages to Hogwarts had been mended. The school stood in readiness for the arrival of students and resumption of their lessons. And on this particular day, Hogwarts would be officially rededicated to its time honored mission of educating and preparing young witches and wizards for the magical life that lay ahead of them.

The gates to the castle grounds were open and they passed between the winged boars standing sentinel on each gate pillar. Other small groups of witches and wizards were also walking up the lane toward the castle. A few minutes later, the four of them rounded the last bend in the lane and paused to take in the view. Somehow, the sight of the castle was different. They sensed vibrancy in the stone walls of the castle and the high spire on each of the towers seemed to gleam in the afternoon sun. Above the clock tower, the Hogwarts flag flapped gently in the breeze. On each side of the large entrance doors, the four house banners, each emblazoned with its house crest, hung from the third floor windows down nearly to the ground. In the distance above the Quidditch pitch, the four house flags flapped in the breeze high above the grandstands on each side.

The four of them walked toward a crowd that was gathering on the steps in front the great entrance doors. The doors were closed and the familiar stone statues, wearing armor and brandishing swords, stood in sentinel on each side. There was a crisp magical feeling in the air, muggles would call it electric. There were sounds of laughter and excited voices as people greeted, talked, and joked with each other. A few owls and Thestrals lazily circled overhead sometimes passing between the spires of the castle. They saw Hagrid in the distance by his hut. He was welcoming a group of centaurs that were emerging from the forbidden forest and moving toward the castle. The centaurs were wearing knee length cloaks that extended partway along their back and sides.

"I see Mum and Dad," said Ron to the others. He waved his hand in the air. Arthur caught sight of Ron and beckoned them toward him.

"Dad wants us to join them," said Ron. He looked at Hermione. "Your mum and dad are with them too."

They weaved their way through the crowds toward Arthur, Molly, Dan, and Emma. Their progress frequently slowed as they stopped to greet and acknowledge well-wishers along the way.

"Mister Potter, Mister Potter!" said a young reporter. "I'd like to ask you some questions for the Daily Prophet."

"I've already been interviewed for the Prophet. The story will be in tomorrow's edition."

The reporter frowned. Harry and the others moved on as a nearby photographer snapped pictures of them. Finally, a few moments later, they stood together with Arthur, Molly, Dan, and Emma.

"Hi Mum, hi Dad," said Ginny. She squinted at Dan and Emma. "Umm ... Hi."

Hermione raised her hand to shield her eyes from a bright glare. "Hi Mum, hi Dad. ... You umm ... look good dressed in wizard cloaks."

"Well," said Dan glancing at Emma, "What's her name? ... Madam Malkin, said these cloaks would be appropriate for this occasion." Dan looked at his sleeves. "I think lime green and neon purple will take some getting used to."

Hermione smiled. "How did you get into Diagon Alley?"

"Ron took us there the other day," said Emma as she looked tentatively at her bright cloak that matched Dan's. "We wanted to surprise you."

Hermione smiled warmly at their attempt to better fit into the magical world. She took out her wand. "How about I tone them down a bit?"

Dan and Emma nodded with thankful expressions on their faces. Hermione waved her wand. The bright colors of the cloaks faded into subdued and pleasant pastel tones.

Dan and Emma each let out a sigh of relief. Arthur and Molly smiled warmly.

Molly said, "We received an owl from Headmistress McGonagall this morning after you'd left. When the doors open, we're to go directly to the antechamber just off the front of the Great Hall." She turned to Dan and Emma. "There are reserved seats for each of you. Give your names to one of the elf ushers and they will seat you."

A moment later, they heard the shuttling of many large door locks. The crowd noise diminished to murmurs as everyone looked at the great doors. Following the loud sound of a final lock, the great doors slowly swung open.

Two Aurors stepped out and stood on each side of the doorway with stern expressions. The crowd of people began to move slowly forward and the Aurors scrutinized them as they past. After stepping through the doorway, Dan and Emma turned to enter the Great Hall. The six of them walked to the back of the entrance hall and then down a corridor to the antechamber. Madam Hooch stood by the open doorway of the antechamber holding a parchment and quill.

"Good day to each of you," said Madam Hooch. She made several check marks on the parchment. "If you will all please wait inside, Headmistress McGonagall will speak to you shortly."

They stepped inside. Molly and Arthur saw George, Angelina, and Lee standing on the far side of the room and moved toward them. Luna and Neville caught sight of the four of them and came over.

"Hi Luna, hi Neville," said Ginny giving them each a hug. Harry, Ron, and Hermione also greeted them. As they talked, the room began to fill with other witches and wizards. Many were members of the D.A. but others they recognized from the day after the battle when the four of them had visited the hospital wing. Everyone was talking and moving around the room exchanging heartfelt greetings. Some who had been gravely injured, like Lavender Brown, moved more slowly, but they were nonetheless delighted to see old friends and share stories about their summer activities.

"Greetings and good day to you Mister Potter," said a gruff voice amid the many conversations in the room. Harry turned to see two elves, each dressed in a fine black cloak, bowing low toward him.

"Please don't bow like that to me Kreacher," said Harry. "I prefer a handshake." The two elves stood upright and briefly looked at each other with uncertain expressions. Then Kreacher timidly extended his hand toward Harry.

As Harry shook Kreacher's hand, Hermione, who had been watching a short distance away, stepped up to the other elf.

"Good to see you Nesbit," said Hermione and she shook the elf's hand. "You look dapper."

"Yes Miss Granger," said Nesbit with an uncomfortable expression on his face. "Please excuse my attire, it is most inappropriate for a house elf."

"Headmistress McGonagall transfigured our elf clothing," said Kreacher apologetically while his finger tugged at the tight collar.

"You both look great," said Harry with an amused expression. "Get used to it Kreacher, especially if you want to serve the house of Potter."

At first, Kreacher's ears drooped slightly as he mumbled to himself about elves wearing fine cloaks and the most certain disapproval of his former mistress. After a moment, the implication of Harry's words began to take hold. His ears perked up and a confident expression came to his face. He nodded once to Harry.

The many conversations in the room were cutoff at the clatter of centaur hooves on the stone floor. Everyone turned to see Firenze and Ronan stepping into the room. There were some cheers and many in the room moved over to greet the two centaurs. Once again, the sound of lively conversations filled the room.

Madam Hooch stood just outside the door of the antechamber surveying the room and repeatedly glancing down at the parchment in her hand. A moment later, Headmistress McGonagall stood beside her and they briefly looked together at the parchment while having a discussion. After nodding to each other, Madam Hooch rolled up the parchment, stepped into the room, and moved toward a door on the far side.

McGonagall took a few steps into the room. She caught sight of Kreacher and Nesbit looking back at her and nodded approvingly at them. Then she placed the tip of her wand against her throat. "May I have your attention please?" Her voice gently sounded in each person's ears. The din of conversations faded into silence and everyone turned to face her. She lowered her wand.

"Welcome to each of you," said McGonagall. "The rededication ceremony will begin momentarily." She gestured with her wand toward the door that led into the Great Hall and it swung open. "Please follow Madam Hooch into the Great Hall and take a place in the reserved section at the front." She looked toward Firenze and Ronan. "There is a magically extended area on the far side to accommodate our larger guests."

Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione queued up together and followed the others into the Great Hall. Hermione saw a beetle, with green coloring, resting on the lintel above the door. She stared sternly at the beetle and scowled. The beetle took flight and zoomed away. As they stepped through the door, the gentle roar of hundreds of subdued voices in conversation greeted them. Instead of the four long house dining tables, they saw row upon row of chairs set on the flagstone floor. There were aisles down the middle and on each side. There were only a few empty chairs amid the seated witches and wizards. Others were still entering from the back, waving to friends and trying to locate a place to sit.

Reporters and photographers were wandering the aisles talking to people and taking pictures. Hermione caught sight of her parents and waved to them. Partway up the sidewalls, between the flaming torches, they saw new balconies filled with house elves. On the far side, a portion of the wall magically extended outwards. Centaurs occupied the alcove it formed. The loft along the back wall above the entrance doors looked filled to capacity.

Up above, the countless number of floating lit candles provided light on the gathering. Further up, the heavy wooden trusses and cross beams supporting the cavernous roof were clearly visible. Missing was the enchanted ceiling that normally reflected the outdoor sky. It had always been there, and perhaps over time, they had come to take it for granted. But despite all the witches, wizards, and magical creatures present, the Great Hall seemed to lack a certain feeling of connectedness and spirit. The four of them sat down in the row next to Arthur and Molly.

In place of the teachers High Table on the raised floor, curved rows of chairs were set. Witches and Wizards in plum colored robes were seating themselves on the right side. Twelve others, in deep blue robes, sat on the left side. Between the two groups, a raised marble platform supported an ornately carved wooden easel holding a large stone plaque. The polished marble green surface of the plague was blank.

Percy stepped through the antechamber door and seated himself at a small desk laden with sheets of parchment. A quill then floated above a piece parchment and began writing as Percy surveyed the Great Hall. A moment later, the flaming torches dimmed. The multitude of conversations faded into whispers as McGonagall and Kingsley walked to a podium set left of center at the front of the raised floor. McGonagall stepped behind the podium that held a long parchment. Kingsley stood a short distance behind and to one side.

"Good afternoon," said McGonagall. She raised her hands toward the gathering. "It is my great pleasure to once again welcome each of you to Hogwarts."

There was applause and cheering at these words. Some stood and exchanged high fives with each other.

When silence returned, McGonagall continued. "A warm welcome to the Minister of Magic, distinguished members of the Wizengamot, the Hogwarts school governors, honored guests from the Chironian centaur tribe, the people of Hogsmeade, students past and present, families, caretakers of this school, and faculty. We meet her today because of your hard work, tireless support, encouragement, and generosity. Hogwarts is once again a place where students may come to learn of their magical world and of themselves. We gather here today to rededicate the school to the great vision of its founders. We will remember those who gave their lives in its defense. We will thank those who have given extraordinary service to this school and to our magical world. So without further ado, please welcome our Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt."

There was applause and a few cheers as McGonagall stepped back and Kingsley took her place behind the podium.

"Thank you Headmistress. I believe I speak on behalf of all when I say that Hogwarts has never looked better. Your leadership has made Hogwarts once again, the place we remember and cherish in our hearts. Well done indeed."

There was more applause and cheers.

"Friends and honored guests, the last few years brought turmoil, destruction and injury to so much of what we cherish. Those with selfish designs tried to take control of our life and spirit using fear, deceit, and intimidation. In the end, we defeated those who set themselves against us by the use of our collective trust, tenacity, and valor. Injury is part of the life we live while furthering a world of justice and peace for all. Most injuries heal with the help of compassion, understanding, and time. Other injuries ... result in the loss of life and spirit."

Kingsley nodded to professor Flitwick who waved his wand at the blank marble plaque. A soft beam of light, as if from an invisible spotlight from above, illuminated the plaque. Chiseled writing on its surface became visible.

Kingsley said, "This memorial is engraved with the names of those who lost their lives during the great battle of Hogwarts. It bears tribute and honor to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Hogwarts and the ideals it professes. We are humbled and awed by their courage and strength of character. They inspire us to see beyond ourselves, to strive to make the world a better place for all. Will Ernest Macmillan and Katie Bell please come forward to read aloud the names of these valiant individuals."

Kingsley stepped into the shadows as Ernie and Katie came forward. They stood on each side of the plaque and Professor Flitwick swished his wand in a complex pattern. Ernie and Katie took turns speaking a name. Their magically amplified voices echoed and reverberated in the silent cavernous hall. With each spoken name of a fallen warrior, a large vaporous image, like a magical picture, formed in the air in front of the plaque.

"Colin Creevey" ... "Remus Lupin" ... "Nymphadora Tonks Lupin" ... "Elf Thannor" ... "Centaur Tyketis of Olipas" ...

Feeling a bit uneasy, Harry glanced around a few times while the names were read. He saw Ron and Hermione holding each other's hand, their gaze transfixed on the images. George gazed stiff lipped at the monument and Angelina had her arm around him. Neville and Hannah sat close holding hands. Each had an expression of pride and firm resolve that seemed to say, 'this won't be happening again on our watch'. Luna, sitting on the other side of Neville, had tears in her eyes but she was also smiling. Her tears seemed to be of joy rather than of sorrow. By the faraway expression on her face, she seemed, as usual, to be seeing something more.

"Centaur Vokarus, daughter of Tyketis" ... "Elf Dobby" ... "Fred Weasley."

As the reverberation of Katie's voice faded away, the only sounds that disturbed the silence in the Great Hall were those of sniffles. Ernie and Katie quietly walked back to their chairs and sat down.

Harry was holding Ginny's hand and he looked toward her. She was still looking toward the plaque where Fred's vaporous image had just dissolved into the air. She looked back at him and her glistening eyes connected with his. There was sorrow and loss in her eyes but he also saw strength and determination. He put his arm around her shoulders and she squeezed his hand.

Kingsley stepped back to the podium and nodded to professor Flitwick. Flitwick pointed his wand at the plaque and stretched out his other hand in front of him. With a swish and flick of his wand, the easel and plaque levitated off the floor. Guided by his wand, the memorial floated down the center aisle, followed by Flitwick walking behind, and moved out through the main doors of the Great Hall.

Kingsley said, "The memorial is now at its permanent place in the entrance hall. At the conclusion of this ceremony, I encourage you to have a closer look and recall the images of those commemorated if you so desire."

After a moment, Kingsley turned and caught the eye of McGonagall where she stood in the shadows. He said, "Minerva, I have an item that is not on your copy of today's proceedings. Please join me here at the podium."

McGonagall walked out and stood beside him with a scrutinizing stare.

Kingsley winked at her. Then with a questioning expression said, "I checked with the Hogwarts governors. With all of the turmoil and commotion this last year, they told me you haven't been officially appointed as Headmistress of Hogwarts." Kingsley grinned. "A bit presumptuous of you to take charge don't you think?"

Gentle laughter echoed in the Great Hall.

She tilted her head, raised her eyebrows, and looked at Kingsley. "I felt certain the students would not want to wait for a Ministry committee to decide what to do."

There was laughter and a round of applause.

"I see," said Kingsley. "Well, in that case, will Tiberius Ogden and the Hogwarts board of governors, please correct the oversight at this time."

Kingsley stepped back and Tiberius stepped to the podium. The other Hogwarts governors stood.

Tiberius unrolled a parchment and faced McGonagall. Reading from the parchment he said, "Minerva McGonagall, your leadership and actions have resulted in Hogwarts being restored beyond its former self. Your many years as professor, councilor, and mentor have endeared both students and faculty. As Deputy Headmistress, you seamlessly stepped up and took charge following the untimely death of Albus Dumbledore. Despite the many dangers and uncertainties during the recent term, your concern was always for the protection of this school and the safety of its students. It is therefore with great pride, and the unanimous decision of the Hogwarts governing board here present, to appoint you Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

Cheers and enthusiastic applause echoed in the Great Hall. Tiberius rolled up the parchment and handed it to McGonagall. They talked for a brief moment and Tiberius congratulated her.

After the applause ended, McGonagall said, "Thank you." Then looking out at the assembly said, "I trust the endearment is in spite of the lost house points and detentions."

Sporadic laughter and applause erupted from the crowd.

Kingsley returned to the podium as Tiberius and the board of governors seated themselves. McGonagall took a few steps back into the shadows.

"We will now take this opportunity to thank certain members within our midst for their exceptional courage, fortitude, and bravery. The Distinguished Service Medal honors those who have demonstrated exemplary gallantry in difficult and life threatening circumstances. These individuals willingly gave of themselves in the defense of this castle and protection of students and faculty. Their integrity, and fidelity to truth and justice, is an inspiration and a shining example to our magical world."

Kingsley stepped to the center of the raised floor. An elderly witch in a plum colored robe stood and moved to stand beside him. She held a small hand-size storage box engraved with magical runes.

McGonagall stepped to the podium. "When I call your name, please come forward. ... Hannah Abbot."

Hannah looked at Neville with an expression of disbelief as the assembly applauded. Neville looked back at her and grinned broadly giving her a reassuring nod. Hannah stepped forward and stood in front of Kingsley. He reached into the box and withdrew a red and gold striped ribbon with a polished silver star attached. In the center of the five-point star, another smaller star twinkled and shimmered with golden light.

As Kingsley pinned the medal to the lapel of her cloak, he quietly said to her, "Congratulations, I'm sure Charlotte would be very proud of you."

"Thank you," said Hannah as a tear trickled down her cheek. She turned and there was more applause as she returned to her seat. In a similar way, McGonagall called the other Distinguished Service Medal recipients forward.

"Katie Bell" ... "Terry Boot" ... "Lavender Brown" ... "Cho Chang" ... "Michael Corner" ... " Colin Creevey, accepted posthumous by his brother Dennis." ... "Seamus Finnigan" ... "Justin Finch-Fletchey" ... "centaur Firenze" ... "Anthony Goldstein" ... "Angelina Johnson" ... "Lee Jordan" ... "elf Kreacher" ... "Ernie Macmillan" ... "elf Nesbit" ... "Parvati Patil" ... "Padma Patil" ... "centaur Ronan" ... "Alicia Spinnet" ... "Dean Thomas" ... "Alice Tolipan, accepted posthumous by her father Raymond" ... "Fred Weasley, accepted posthumous by his father Arthur" ... "George Weasley" ... "Nigel Wolpert."

Kingsley returned to the podium. "Would you please give one more round of applause to our honored recipients of the Distinguished Service Medal."

The gathering responded with applause and cheering.

When silence returned Kingsley said, "We will now confer the Order of Merlin. There have been instances in the past when the Order of Merlin was conferred to individuals based on questionable merit or achievement. As Minister of Magic, I have taken steps to restore the rightful prestige that was envisioned and instituted by our revered Merlin. As of now, and henceforth, worthiness to receive this high honor will be determined by members of the Wizengamot. Testimony for a prospective recipient will undergo a thorough investigation for factuality and evidence of action.

Laboring to this end during the preceding months, the members of the Wizengamot seated here, and chaired by Elphias Doge, have deliberated the events of our recent times. Their deliberations have identified individuals who, by their actions, have epitomized the true spirit and ideals of the Order of Merlin. Ideals that embrace all sentient beings, both magical and non-magical, as worthy of respect and dignity. That freedom to choose one's destiny, and equal justice for all, are inalienable rights worth fighting ... and dying for. It is these individuals, who have demonstrated courage and valor in the face of adversity, that we now honor. Their actions have helped to preserve a better way of life, one that nurtures a future of opportunity and prosperity for all. These individuals might be best described by the words of a muggle diplomat, Henry Kissinger, who said, A diamond is a lump of coal that did well under pressure."

Kingsley stepped back to the center of the raised floor and the elderly witch again stood beside him holding the small box. The other members of the Wizengamot stood.

McGonagall stepped to the podium. "For meritorious service, within the Ministry, in defense of Hogwarts, cooperation with Aurors at great personal risk, and leadership in providing aide to those afflicted by war. Will the following two individuals please step forward, Arthur Weasley and Molly Weasley."

There was applause as Arthur and Molly stepped forward. Kingsley reached into the box and withdrew a shimmering medal attached to long purple ribbon. The polished silver medal contained a lifelike embossed image of Merlin. Sometimes shifting its gaze, the image held an expression of sincerity, satisfaction, and pride. Silvery points of light, sparkling like the stars of night, filled the background of the medal out to its edge. On the back of the medal were the words:

Order of Merlin, Second Class
Conferred to Arthur Weasley
August 30th 1998

Arthur leaned forward and Kingsley put the ribbon around his neck.

Then reaching into the box, Kingsley withdrew a second medal, with inscription for Molly, and placed it around her neck.

Kingsley said, "By the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I confer upon each of you, Order of Merlin, Second Class, with all associated rights and privileges."

The assembly applauded and cheered. After congratulations from Kingsley, Arthur and Molly turned to face the assembly hand in hand. Photographic flash powder sent a cloud of smoke into the air. Arthur waved to the crowd and then he and Molly returned to their seats. The applause faded into a quiet buzz of conversations.

McGonagall said, "In recognition of leadership, fortitude, and tenacity in the face of affliction, for the defense and rescue of fellow students from inequitable, deplorable, and unlawful punishments, and for meritorious service in the defense of Hogwarts. Will the following three individuals please step forward, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and Ginevra Weasley."

They looked at each other with shocked and surprised expressions on their faces amid the loud applause. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and many of the D.A. members stood. Ginny looked briefly at Harry. He grinned back at her, clapping his hands loudly. They came forward and stood before Kingsley, Neville in the middle and Luna and Ginny on each side. The applause faded as Kingsley withdrew a shimmering silver medal with purple ribbon for each of them and placed it around their neck.

Kingsley grinned at the three of them fidgeting and glancing at each other trying hard to control their excitement. After what seemed like an eternity to them, Kingsley said, "By the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I confer upon each of you, Order of Merlin, Second Class, with all associated rights and privileges."

As the assembly applauded and cheered, Kingsley congratulated each of them. The three of them warmly hugged each other. They all turned to face the assembly with delighted expressions. After some energetic hand waves above their heads, they returned to their seats. Molly gave Ginny a bone-crushing hug and Arthur hugged Ginny firmly. They both beamed back at Ginny with expressions of great pride and joy.

Tiberius stood and stepped up beside McGonagall. He whispered into her ear. She nodded with a questioning expression and stepped to one side of the podium allowing Tiberius to take her place behind it. He took out a small piece of parchment from his pocket and laid it on the podium.

"In recognition of leadership and meritorious actions in the defense of Hogwarts, meritorious service in the Order of the Phoenix, tireless and unwavering dedication to Hogwarts School, its staff, and the welfare of its students, Minerva McGonagall please step forward."

Hearty applause filled the Great Hall as McGonagall glanced at Tiberius and then Kingsley with an unsure look of surprise. Kingsley grinned. His face held a look of satisfaction for a well-kept secret.

McGonagall moved toward Kingsley and stood before him. With an expression somewhere between a smile and a glower she muttered, "Any other agenda secrets that I've not been made aware of?"

The applause began to subside as Kingsley said, "I fancy having the last word when it comes to medals."

McGonagall smiled as Kingsley reached into the box and withdrew a medal with a long green ribbon. The scintillating gold medal contained a lifelike embossed image of Merlin looking out with an expression of sincerity, satisfaction, and pride. A comet moved slowly in a circle around the image of Merlin leaving a trail of stars that sparkled in pinpoints of golden light.

McGonagall removed her hat and Kingsley put the ribbon around her neck. Then he said, "By the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I confer upon you, Order of Merlin, First Class, with all associated rights and privileges."

The assembly applauded and cheered. There were flashes of bright light from the photographers. She nodded her appreciation to the gathering and then returned to the podium. Tiberius shook her hand and then he returned to his seat. McGonagall put on her hat as the applause faded.

McGonagall looked sideways at Kingsley. "I trust the Minister has no additional surprises for me today?"

Kingsley shrugged his shoulders innocently. "We'll have to wait and see." There was a low rumble of laughter.

McGonagall looked down at the parchment on the podium. "By way of introduction, our next honoree lived a life of constant battle. He was afflicted by lycanthropy in childhood."

There were a few gasps and the Great Hall became very quiet.

"With determined effort and support of close friends, the affliction was brought under control. Our honoree performed perilous espionage providing invaluable intelligence during both wizard wars. In recognition of his actions, his defense of Hogwarts, and for meritorious service within the Order of the Phoenix, I ask Edward Lupin to please come forward to accept posthumously for his father, Remus Lupin."

The assembly applauded. Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione stood. Neville, Hannah, and the D.A. members also stood. Andromeda walked up the center aisle carrying Teddy in her arms and stopped in front of Kingsley. The applause faded as Kingsley withdrew a medal with a long green ribbon. As he brought the loop of ribbon over Teddy's head, Kingsley paused and laughed. Looking down at Teddy, Andromeda grinned and snickered.

Kingsley put the ribbon around Teddy's neck. "By the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I confer upon Remus Lupin, Order of Merlin, First Class, with attendant rights and privileges."

Amid resounding applause, Andromeda turned and carried Teddy back up the center aisle to her seat.

McGonagall said, "Our final honorees have been united in battle against dark forces for many years. Through faith in a mentor, conspicuous valor, and deep trust in each other, they caused the downfall of the most dark and evil wizard of our time."

Sporadic cheers echoed in the Great Hall. Harry, Hermione, and Ron briefly glanced at each other. Ginny squeezed Harry's hand.

McGonagall said, "I am honored to know these individuals quite well. Their courage and fortitude have made both the wizard and muggle worlds a safer place. We are all a step closer to a fuller realization of a just and enduring society. Will Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Harry Potter please step forward."

Tumultuous applause filled the Great Hall as everyone rose to their feet and cheered. As the three of them made their way forward, they saw Kingsley, the Hogwarts governors and members of the Wizengamot all standing and applauding. They stopped in front of Kingsley but the thunderous applause and cheering went on and on. Harry, Ron, and Hermione glanced at each other with reddened faces feeling uneasy and awkward. Harry tilted his head at Kingsley with pressed lips giving him the eye. Kingsley smiled and continued to clap. Ron and Hermione, standing beside Harry on either side, snickered in amusement. After another moment, Kingsley raised his hands above his head and motioned for the gathering to be seated. The applause slowly faded away.

Kingsley grinned and looked at McGonagall. "What are we here for?"

Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the assembly laughed lightly. She took hold of her medal, held it up, and pointed to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

"Right," said Kingsley. He glanced at the three of them, their faces now less red and more relaxed. He withdrew a scintillating gold medal with green ribbon for each of them and placed it around their necks.

"The wizarding world extends its deepest and most sincere gratitude to each of you. By the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, it is my great honor and privilege, to confer upon each of you, Order of Merlin, First Class, with all associated rights and privileges."

Everyone in the Great Hall rose to their feet in applause and cheering. Kingsley congratulated each of them. Harry, Ron, and Hermione turned to face the assembly. Flashes of light and puffs of smoke erupted as photographers snapped pictures of them. Harry leaned close and spoke to Ron and Hermione. They both nodded. Then Harry held up his hands and motioned for the assembly to be seated. The applause faded and everyone seated themselves.

Harry said, "I want to say how overwhelmed we are to receive this great honor from you. You all helped make it possible. So thank you to the professors who taught us what magic is all about and shared with us their wisdom and knowledge. Thanks to Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape who taught us the true meaning of bravery and love. Thank you to the members of the D.A, friends, and especially the Weasley family for defending and sheltering us. Thanks to each of you for your faith and trust in us. Let's move forward together and live in a way that befits us as magically endowed beings. Thank you."

The assembly once again rose to its feet in applause. Harry, Ron, and Hermione hugged each other warmly and then made their way back to their seats. The applause faded and a buzz of conversations filled the Great Hall. Kingsley moved into the shadows behind McGonagall at the podium.

McGonagall said, "If you would all take your seats, we will now witness the rededication of the school."

She stepped back and Tiberius moved to the podium. The members of the governing board stood and fanned out along the front of the raised floor. They extended their hands at shoulder height in front of them and upward into the Great Hall.

Tiberius said, "We rededicate Hogwarts to the education of witches and wizards. It once again stands as a pillar of strength, a source of knowledge, and through its students, a beacon of hope leading us into a future of possibility. May the wisdom of its founders, the conviction of its defenders through the ages, and the daily efforts of its staff and professors, faithfully enrich the lives of all who enter this school and this hallowed Great Hall."

With wand in hand, Tiberius held up his arms like the other governors and said, "Dedicavit ad veritatem et scientiam!" (Dedicated to truth and knowledge)

The walls of the Great Hall briefly glowed in a golden hue and blue flames flared from the torches. Outside, around the entire castle, the golden hue traveled upward like a wave from foundation to the tips of the spires where it exploded like fireworks. The assembly applauded and the governors returned to their seats.

McGonagall stepped to the podium. "There is one last item on our agenda. But before that, I wish to extend my sincerest thanks to each of you in this assembly for your presence here today. Following this ceremony, please partake of refreshments in the courtyard and enjoy your afternoon on the castle grounds. I wish to extend my sincerest congratulations to those honored here today. We, and Hogwarts, are very proud of you. ... And now, may we have silence."

McGonagall stepped from the podium, moved down the aisle, and stood in the center of the Great Hall. A hush fell over the assembly. "Will those who received Novum Vitae please stand."

Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione stood, as did the others who had remained at the castle the night after the battle and received the red healing potion. Firenze and Ronan stepped forward from the alcove. Kreacher and Nesbit stood. Throughout the Great Hall, about a hundred were standing.

McGonagall said, "Will those standing please raise your upturned hands above you, close your eyes, and clear your mind." After a brief pause she said, "Recall the memory of your awakening from Novum Vitae."

Those standing became immobile and a tranquil expression dawned on each of their faces.

McGonagall pointed her wand upward and said loudly, "Winds of the tempest, gather above!"

A cyclonic wind ruffled everyone's hair as it circled and flowed upward within the Great Hall. It extinguished the floating candles and swept them to the sidewalls casting an eerie darkness. Dust flew into the air from the wooden trusses and cross beams. They heard the sound of a great wind and the shutters in the rafters above them rattled.

Still pointing her wand upward, she said loudly, "With venerable champions of essence beloved!"

From the walls of the Great Hall, grey mists appeared and were swept upward by the wind. A translucent disk-like cloud formed stretching half the width of the Great Hall. It contained scintillating points of light and it slowly rotated like a galaxy just below the crossbeams. A small void, like the eye of a storm, formed in the center of the cloud.

McGonagall swept her wand around the hall as if joining those with raised hands by an invisible cord saying loudly, "Chivalrous souls, your vitality imbue!"

Those who were standing felt a warm tingly feeling well up inside. The sensation moved up their arms, through their hands and out the tips of their fingers. Those who were watching saw an indistinct white mist rise from each person and float quickly upward. The mists mingled together into a small translucent white globe that pulsed like a heartbeat and floated just below the void.

McGonagall pointed her wand at the globe saying loudly, "Reflection of the heavens wondrous view!"

The white globe rose up into the void. There were flashes of lightning and loud cracks and rumbles of thunder. The cloud rapidly spread out forming a thin flat canopy that flickered with the images of hundreds of witches and wizards in rapid succession. Some of those pictured wore cloaks not seen since the middle ages. Then, the images vanished and an instant later, the enchanted ceiling came to life showing a blue sky with wisps of thin white clouds.

The assembly broke into applause and cheering. The trance on those with their hands raised broke. Some staggered slightly and others sat down to catch their breath as the tingly feeling ebbed away. They gazed up with satisfaction at the enchanted ceiling.

Later, the four were standing together in the center aisle talking about the enchanted ceiling and occasionally glancing upwards. There were small knots of people scattered around the room but most of the assembly had filed out of the Great Hall toward the courtyard.

Andromeda came up the aisle toward Harry carrying Teddy. Harry reached out and took Teddy from her into his arms. Remus' Order of Merlin medal was around Teddy's neck and resting on his chest. Teddy looked up at Harry and grinned. Teddy's hair turned black and became untidily combed. Ron looked over Harry's shoulder with a warm smile as Ginny and Hermione giggled at Teddy.

"How's he doing?" said Harry to Andromeda. "I didn't hear him make a sound."

"Very well, he was quite fascinated by the entire ceremony. The color of his face changed when he got a good look at Minister Shacklebolt."

"That's why Kingsley laughed," said Hermione with an expression of realization.

Andromeda smiled and nodded. "Congratulations to each of you. Your medals are very much deserved and I'm happy that Teddy will have such fine role models when he's growing up."

Bill and Fleur came up to them.

"Congratulations to each one of you," said Bill. "Well done. Mum and Dad are beaming with pride."

"Ooo ee est so precious," said Fleur. "May I hold him?"

Andromeda nodded and Harry carefully transferred Teddy to Fleur. She cradled him in her arms and looked intently at him. Teddy grinned at Fleur and his hair turned silvery-blonde.

"You are zee cute leettle man," said Fleur as she gently rocked Teddy. "Zee pretty girls will be after you one day."

Much later, after everyone had gone home, the four of them rested together on a quiet hillside overlooking the black lake. Ginny was snuggled close to Harry and Hermione close to Ron. The giant squid, submerged just below the surface of the water, was making geometric ripple patterns by poking the tips of its tentacles up through the surface. The sky was ablaze in shades of gold, orange, and red as the sun slowly disappeared below the horizon. The castle was peaceful and awash in the colors of sunset. The moon was slowly brightening in the sky and the first stars of the evening were beginning to make their appearance.

Like so many others, each of them had come very far over the summer months. The bleak days of the war had slowly faded into the back of their memories. Considerable healing had occurred and so much was beginning to feel normal again. Though for Harry, normal was different now, gratefully lacking the constant threat to his life and well-being.

Ron said, "I didn't have a clue that Order of Merlin came with a cash award."

"Yeah, neither did I," said Harry. "From what Sirius told me about his grandfather, I thought the galleons went the other way 'round."

"Sirius was right about that," said Hermione. "I asked Kingsley about it. For a long time, wealthy wizards bribed officials to get an Order of Merlin. That's why the medals had so little meaning until now. Kingsley also said there were many witches and wizards who wanted to thank anonymously those involved with the defeat of the Dark Lord. So the Wizengamot committee decided to divide the donations for each award."

"Well there must have been a lot of donations," said Ron. "According to Bill, first class got seventy-five hundred galleons, second class got four thousand galleons and the Distinguished Service Medal recipients each got one thousand galleons. It's been deposited in each person's Gringotts account."

"Teddy will have money for his school things," smiled Harry as he gazed at the sunset remembering what his parents had left for him.

They talked about their plans for the new term. Ginny would stay in the Gryffindor dormitory. As the Gryffindor Quidditch captain, she wanted to scout new team members and be readily available for planning meetings and practices. Harry, Ron, and Hermione would travel daily to their Hogwarts classes and balance studies with their fledgling careers. They had accepted McGonagall's offer to take meals at Hogwarts when their class schedules permitted.

Hermione would continue living with her parents. Ron planned to stop by regularly and check up on the proper workings of her teknikator. Hermione's NEWT studies would include work on a proposal to reform the elf and magical creature laws. Ron and Hermione planned to meet at Hogwarts on weekdays, take evening meal, and then study together in the Hogwarts library.

In addition to his Auror training and studies at Hogwarts, Ron would continue working part time at the joke shop. He and George had come up with some new product plans. Angelina and Lee thought the ideas somewhat outlandish and were unsure about how successful they'd be. What witch or wizard, they said, would ever buy something that involved one of those tekno-gizmos.

Harry would continue to stay at the Burrow with Ron while building his home. He appointed Kreacher the overseer of its construction. In addition to his Auror training, Harry planned to mentor the official, Headmistress approved, D.A. club. Harry and Ginny would also do evening studies together in the Gryffindor common room.

On the first day of September, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione entered Kings Cross Station. They made their way to platform 9 and boarded the Hogwarts Express. School arrangements were complete and the needed books and supplies for the year's studies were ready for use. McGonagall gave each of them permission to travel to and from Hogwarts using the floo network and a secret castle fireplace. But for the start of their final term at Hogwarts, the four of them had decided to travel by train. Luna and Neville joined them in the carriage compartment for the trip.

When the train arrived in Hogsmeade, they helped Hagrid collect the first years and see them off on the boat ride across the black lake to the castle. They watched, from a much different perspective, the expressions of wonder on the first year's faces as they walked into the Great Hall and saw the enchanted ceiling for the first time. Then after the sorting of the first years into their houses, and a few words spoken by Headmistress McGonagall, they enjoyed the great feast in the pleasant company of friends.

The End

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: 11/11/17