Harry Potter & the Ritual of Merlin's Choice

Chapter 6

Much as Harry would have liked to get started on planning his departure, circumstances conspired against him.

He could not draft a letter to the International Confederation of Wizards because all such letters had to go through the British Ministry of Magic, which had quite literally shut down all but essential services, given the reason behind the previous government's collapse, the current political climate, and the need for major restructuring…

He couldn't even do any major research into the current events of 1981, because someone—Merlin knew who or why— had burned the Daily Prophet's offices to the ground around the time of the final battle, destroying all the records within. He could always try the archives of Muggle newspapers, but Harry was hoping not to have to resort to trying to glean useful information from Muggle accounts of Wizarding events. First, he preferred try a few news offices across the channel; but, that would have to wait until the Ministry reopened international borders.

And then there were all the funerals—hundreds of them…

Harry couldn’t attend them all—nor did he want to. But, even counting only those he knew well enough to want to pay his respects, there were several dozen funerals to attend. And the number would have been larger still were it not for the multitude of group burials amongst them.

So, in the end, Harry decided to put off planning his departure until the funerals were over. After all, he couldn’t very well skip the Weasley Family funeral, much as he was dreading it, dreading saying a final goodbye to his two best friends and two thirds of his surrogate family.

Harry especially hadn’t wanted to stand in the receiving line, and shake hundreds of hands. He worried that people would get hung up on meeting the Boy-Who-Lived-And-Destroyed-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and forget who they were there to mourn, but Mrs Weasley had insisted. Therefore, he stood at Percy’s side in the grim and disorderly garden at the Burrow which, only a few months before, had been neatly pruned and beautifully decorated for Bill and Fleur’s wedding, and shook hands with guests.

He tried not to, but each time that there was a lull in the stream of guests, Harry found himself staring at the long line of wooden coffins before him: first Mr Weasley, then each of his deceased sons in order of birth, then Hermione—who Mrs Weasley had generously offered to bury in the Weasley family crypt—and Ginny.

Though Mrs Weasley and many of the guests had commented on how good they looked, how peaceful, and seemed comforted by the sight, Harry couldn’t help disagreeing. He tried to see what they did, but the bodies on display in the coffins just made him uneasy.

As heart-wrenching and painful as it had been to look upon the fresh bodies of his friends in the aftermath of the final battle, at least those had been real. Not this—not these magically reconstructed and preserved showpieces, healed of all injury, stuffed, and plastered in make-up.

It was almost a relief when, after a week of standing at attention, the last guest had said their condolences and Harry could join the group of fourteen pallbearers, two per coffin, that would levitate the dead to Ottery St. Catchpole's tiny church for the service. As they walked in solemn silence, under cover of Muggle Repelling Charms, Harry spared a passing thought to wonder where they would have found forty-two pallbearers to carry the caskets, had they needed to do it the Muggle way.

But the thought was fleeting. Mostly, he dwelled on what was to come. He had already made up his mind not to say a eulogy: not only did he not feel the strength to do so, but he didn't want the Weasley’s moment of sorrow to be overshadowed by a speech by Boy-Who-Lived-And-Destroyed-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

But his resolve lasted no more than five minutes from the time the service got underway. The empty words spewing forth from the mouth of the Ministry official that Molly had found to officiate filled him with silent rage—empty meaningless words uttered by someone who had never even known the Weasleys, for whom this was just one of a dozen funerals scheduled that day alone.

By the time the official stopped spewing pleasantries and asked if anyone wanted to make a speech, Harry’s anger had spilled over and transformed into resolve. He found himself getting to his feet, and walking to the front of the room. He was shaking as he turned to face the crowd but somehow he found the strength to clear his voice and begin, "I've never been one for fancy speeches, but the Weasleys deserve to be remembered by someone who knew them…"

Once he started speaking the words just started to flow, as if rehearsed, "I first met the Weasleys on September 1st, 1991…”

As he began with a tribute to his first friend his own age, Harry found himself unable to hold back his tears. Still, he managed to share Ron’s last words to him,I'm proud to have gone down for destroying a piece of that bastard,” without his voice breaking.

He even managed a half-smile as he reminisced, "Of course, no discussion about Ron would be complete without mention of Hermione. Those two squabbled like an old married couple from nearly the first time they met,” but his voice finally cracked as he reflected that they hadn’t lived long enough to actually become a married couple.

The room was silent except for intermittent sobbing as Harry struggled to regain his composure, before continuing with his eulogy, "To those of you who knew her well, Hermione was so much more than a just a know-it-all bookworm—though yes, she did have the answer to most of our questions, and some we didn't ask. She was a loyal friend, sticking with us even when she objected to our foolish schemes, and she was a braver woman than most give her credit for. I will never forget the sight of her climbing to her knees after a minute of Voldemort's Cruciatus and still refusing to give me up to him...”

Harry took a moment to pull himself out of the memory, before starting again, "Ginny Weasley was a force to be reckoned with. She had a temper to match her mum's—sorry Mrs Weasley, but it's true— and was stubborn to boot. I guess she would have to be, growing up in a house with six brothers.”

Tears flowed freely as he spoke of their break-up, but he managed to soldier on without another breakdown, “I still love her, I think I always will. She understood me in a way that no one else ever has, and don’t think I can ever fill the hole she’s left in my heart.”

Harry even managed a few more bittersweet smiles, as his recounted some of Fred and George’s more memorable antics, and commented, “It's a small comfort to those us left behind to mourn them both, but at least neither has to mourn the other.”

Harry paused before continuing, "Arthur Weasley was a good man, with a good heart, and though he had no shortage of children, he treated me like his own son.” He shared a few anecdotes, as well, but they were mostly lost on the crowd which was, for the most part, as clueless about Muggle gadgets as Arthur had been…

Harry struggled to find something to say about Charlie, who he had barely known, but he did his best, calling up things Ron and Ginny had shared about their older brother, and sharing the story from his first year at Hogwarts when Charlie had convinced some of his friends to help them smuggle Hagrid's dragon out of Hogwarts.

And then it was over. Harry stumbled back to his seat and sat through the rest of the service in a haze. There were a few more speeches, but his mind did not register most of what was said, as he continued to struggle with his overwhelming grief.

Finally, he managed to stifle his tears before the end of the ceremony. He did not cry again, not during the long walk to the crypt, not as the bodies were finally laid to rest, not as he supported a sobbing Molly Weasley out of the crypt and back to the Burrow, not as he retreated to Grimmauld Place, empty except for Kreacher...

He was out of tears.

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