Harry Potter appeared with a sharp “crack” in the field just beyond the Weasley’s orchard. Harry couldn’t hear the Apparition sound himself, and he rather hoped no one else had, either, because hadn’t quite made up his mind if he wanted to be there or not.
On the one hand, he really wanted to be with the Weasley family during Fred’s funeral. On the other, he feared that his presence would be an improper distraction, taking attention away from Fred and the people who were honoring him.
And if he’d possessed third and fourth hands, he would have used them to weigh his own desire to avoid stares and whispers against his desire to see Ginny.
Too late! Hermione appeared at the gate and spotted him. She waved, then turned her head back to look at someone inside the orchard walls. Whomever it was must have called her away, because she left the gate, but Harry knew she would tell everyone he’d arrived. He shouldered his rucksack, which contained a new set of dress robes in the color George had requested — magenta — and trudged to the orchard.
Apparently it was Fred who’d insisted on magenta robes for the employees of Weasely’s Wizarding Wheezes. Why George had applied the magenta theme to Fred’s funeral, Harry didn’t understand, but he supposed it was nicer than the black that Muggles always wore.
Harry had been bouncing between the Weasley’s, Hogwarts, and Number 12, Grimmauld Place for the past week, never feeling comfortable anywhere. He feared that his random wanderings might be annoying Ginny, but he needn’t have worried. The moment he stepped through the gate, Ginny ran up and wrapped her arms tight around him. He buried his face in her hair, which always smelled so good, and held her for a long moment.
They were interrupted by Mrs. Weasley, who called to Harry from the garden. Harry and Ginny smiled at each other, and without saying a word, they turned and walked arm-in-arm to join the others.
As Harry had expected, Fred’s funeral was very large, and very public. Wizards came from far and wide to pay their respects. Even the Daily Prophet was there, thankfully represented by a discreet reporter who seemed sincerely impressed by Fred and George’s anti-Voldemort efforts.
Harry could tell that Molly Weasley was rather stunned by great number of people who were acquainted with Fred because of the joke shop and his investigative reporting for Potterwatch. When Harry pointed this out to Hermione, she said, “Well, of course! A mother is always the last to realize that her children have their own lives.”
It was a stunningly beautiful day: sunny, not too warm, not too breezy — the perfect day for Quidditch, Harry thought. He grinned to himself, thinking of the times he and Ron had played against Fred and George above the very spot he was standing.
Harry watched as the mourners crossed the orchard from the gate to the reception area and signed the guest book. He didn’t recognize many of them, but he smiled at those he did: Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, Lee Jordan, Angelina Johnson, Luna and her father, Neville and his grandmother.
Greeting and seating were handled by Hermione, the Delacour family, and Verity, Fred and George’s very first employee. Ron, Percy, and Charlie stood nervously near the speaker’s podium, silently rehearsing their remarks, while Bill tended to his mother, who became increasingly distraught as the hour of the ceremony neared. Ginny and Mr. Weasley were in the house with George, helping him put the finishing touches on a visual tribute to Fred, which would play on a large canvas screen.
While the Weasley’s orchard was extensive, there wasn’t enough open space for hundreds of chairs, so a large crowd of people were standing and sitting among the trees, and floating above on enchanted carpets and sofas. Those who spoke during the service would use the Sonorus charm to amplify their voices.
George’s magenta theme applied not only to the attendees’ dress robes, but to Fred’s coffin as well, which rested on the same platform as the podium. It was covered in flowers and notes that were magically attached to it by people who had filed by to pay their respects. Harry felt relieved that the coffin was closed.
Finally, Mr. Weasley, George, and Ginny emerged from the house. Mr. Weasley mounted the platform and asked everyone to take their seats. Harry and Hermione were placed with the Weasley family in the first row of chairs. The wizard who had presided over Bill’s wedding stepped up to the podium, and the funeral ceremony for Fred Weasley began.
Talking about Fred to the large crowd of mourners wasn’t as bad as Harry had anticipated. Never in his years at Hogwarts had Harry given a classroom presentation, and as he mounted the platform he felt a sense of dread. What if his remarks were ridiculous? What if he couldn’t follow his notes? What if he completely forgot what he wanted to say?
However, once Harry began to speak, addressing the crowd didn’t feel any different to him than addressing the Gryffindor Quidditch team, or the D.A. (It helped that he could see members of both in the audience.) As he left the platform, Harry felt he’d done a good job. He wasn’t as entertaining as Charlie or as profound as Bill, but he thought he’d captured his memories of Fred fairly well.
The real star of the ceremony turned out to be Ron. After saying a few brief words, Ron introduced George and the special presentation. Unfortunately, as soon as he began, George was overcome by emotion and couldn’t continue.
After an uncomfortable silence, Ron joined George at the podium, put his arm around him, and without any rehearsal, or a single glance at George’s script, delivered an eloquent and touching tribute to Fred.
As the presentation progressed, Ron asked George a few key questions, drawing him back into the proceedings, and by the end the two were trading remembrances.
Harry glanced over at Hermione and saw tears in her eyes that he was pretty sure had nothing to do with grief. He understood; he was proud of Ron, too.
When the ceremony concluded, the mourners filed by the Weasley family’s row of chairs to offer their condolences. All the family stood except for George, who remained seated, his head in his hands. Many people looked as though they wanted to say something to him, but everyone left him alone; no one wanted to disturb him.
Harry, Hermione, and Lee sat in the chairs behind the family, waiting to see if they could be of any help. When the line of guests finally petered out, and the older Weasleys moved away to converse with friends, Harry noticed a raven with an envelope in its mouth hopping up and down in front of George.
Harry was very puzzled. He’d never heard of a messenger raven. He nudged Hermione and Lee, who looked as mystified as he felt.
Hermione gently laid a hand on George’s shoulder and said, “George, I think you have a letter.”
George straightened up and looked at Hermione with red eyes, then turned to look in the direction she was pointing. When he saw the bird, he didn’t look surprised. He took the envelope from the raven, which flew away, and opened it. Inside was a stiff white card with a few large lines of calligraphy written in blue ink. Whatever it said made George chuckle in a sad, watery way. He wiped his eyes and put the note in the pocket of his robe, leaving the envelope on the seat beside him.
“You okay, mate?” asked Lee, climbing over the back of a chair to sit next to George. “You want to get out of here for a while? Away from all these people?”
“I dunno,” answered George despondently.
“Or we could go sit with the old team. They all stayed…. look, here’s Angelina now.”
Angelina, sporting magenta beads in her abundant braids, was heading their way. As she arrived, she said, somewhat apologetically, “Excuse me, George, but Hagrid has something he wants to show you. I told him you might not feel up to it —“
“No, it’s fine,” said George quickly, standing and turning to look for Hagrid, who wasn’t hard to spot.
As George, Lee, and Angelina walked away, Harry noticed something fluttering to the ground.
“Hey, George, I think you dropped —“ started Harry, but George was talking to his friends and didn’t hear. Harry picked up the card and glanced at it.
“Harry!” exclaimed Hermione. “You’re not going to read that? It might be private!”
As if he hadn’t heard, Harry said, “Hermione, what do you make of this?”
“I really couldn’t say, because I don’t read other people’s —“
Harry thrust the card under her nose. Whether she intended to read the card or not, it was impossible for someone with Hermione’s reading skills not to instantly absorb the simple message:
“We’re very sorry for your loss. Don’t give up on the Fred & George. It’s still mega.”
It was signed “~ N.”
Hermione looked puzzled. She picked up the envelope that George had abandoned on the chair and turned it over. It was unmarked except for George’s name.
“What do you think it means?” she asked Harry.
Harry raised his eyebrows. “I was hoping you could tell me.”
“It sounds like a shop, doesn’t it?” asked Hermione. “But what’s ‘mega’?”
“I dunno,” said Harry.
Before they could discuss it further, Bill walked up.
“Ready to do the tables, Hermione?”
Hermione drew her wand, and she and Bill transfigured some of the chairs into round tables with magenta tablecloths. Then they joined a group of grandmotherly witches who were creating a very long banquet table. Witches and wizards who appeared to be Weasley friends and relations began piling the banquet table with food and beverages. Unlike Bill’s wedding, which was funded by Molly and Arthur, the meal after Fred’s funeral was donated by the Weasleys’ loved ones.
Harry felt a little useless, but no one seemed to need any help, and Harry didn’t want to join any conversations; he wanted to avoid any talk of Voldemort and the battle for as long as he could. He sat alone at one of the tables near the platform, watching the guests, until Ginny joined him.
“Hey, you,” she said, taking a seat to his right.
“Hey, you,” he said back, smiling. Her hand was on the table, and he put his over it and gave a gentle squeeze.
“You okay?” he asked. Ginny wasn’t one to cry or look sorrowful, so Harry wasn’t sure how difficult the ceremony had been for her.
Ginny gave him a tight smile. “I’m okay,” she said.
Harry instantly knew she was not. He was trying to think of something helpful to say when Hermione rejoined them, accompanied by Ron. Unlike Ginny, Ron looked morose. His eyes were red, and his face pale. The biggest sign that he was upset, however, was that he hadn’t stopped at the buffet table for a large plate of food.
“Ron, are you sure I can’t get you something?” asked Hermione, as they sat to Harry’s left. “You haven’t eaten anything all day.”
“No,” said Ron, not looking at any of them. He stared off into the crowd instead.
Hermione seemed distressed, but Harry caught her eye and shook his head. He knew Ron’s moods very well, and in this situation it was best to leave him be.
They all sat in silence for a moment. Then Harry noticed George talking to Professor McGonagall — who looked very odd indeed in her magenta robe and hat — and was reminded of the mysterious note.
“Ginny,” he asked, turning to her, “were Fred and George planning a new shop?”
Ginny looked surprised. “I don’t think so,” she replied. “Why, did George say something?”
“No,” said Harry, pulling the card out of his robe pocket, “but he received this after the ceremony. He dropped it as he was walking away to see Hagrid.”
“Harry! That’s a private note!” scolded Hermione, but Ginny read it with interest.
“‘The Fred and George?’” she asked, “Are you sure it’s not something like…. like….”
She looked up at the sky, composing her thoughts. “Like saying that they’ll always be a team, even though Fred…” she swallowed. “… even though Fred isn’t here on earth?”
Disapproving though she was, Hermione couldn’t keep from answering.
“I don’t think so.” She paused and added gently, “Although that is a lovely thought.”
Businesslike again, she said, “‘Mega’ sounds like a description, and ‘it’s’ seems to refer to a thing. I think it’s a business venture.”
“There’s something else, too,” said Harry. “It wasn’t delivered by owl. It was carried by a raven. Have you ever heard of that?”
Ginny looked thoughtful. “Yes, I have, but it’s a very old-fashioned thing to do. I believe it’s still done in the Americas for special correspondence. The only person I’ve ever seen use one is Serena Serpentia.”
Harry was startled; he hadn’t expected to hear that name fall so casually from Ginny’s lips. Ginny mistook his expression for unfamiliarity.
“You know her! She’s a Slytherin. She was Head Girl this year. Wouldn’t she have been in some of your classes? She was in your Arithmancy class, wasn’t she, Hermione?”
Hermione stood up suddenly and said forcefully, “I’m really hungry. And so are you, Ronald!”
Ron, who hadn’t been following the conversation, looked confused as Hermione grabbed his hand and literally dragged him away.
“What was that about?” asked Ginny, open-mouthed.
Obviously Ginny didn’t know how much Hermione had always complained about Serpentia. Harry said simply, “Hermione and Serpentia don’t get on very well.”
Ginny looked confused. “No one gets on with her very well, but they don’t leave the table when her name is mentioned!”
Harry didn’t feel it was the right time for the whole history. He continued, “Anyway, this card is signed ’N’.”
“And Mrs. Serpentia uses an owl for letters,” said Ginny.
“How do you know that?”
“She sent a condolence card.”
Now it was Harry’s turn to be open-mouthed. “Why would she do that?”
Ginny said impatiently, “Really, Harry, all the old wizarding families know each other.”
“Your parents know the Serpentias?”
“They know the Kouassis. That’s Serena’s mum’s family.”
“They aren’t Death-Eaters?”
“The Kouassis? I highly doubt it, and I don’t think Serena’s Dad is, either. When Mum won that recipe contest sponsored by the Potions Society, the reception for the finalists was at Serena’s house in Wiltshire. We all went. I don’t think Mum and Dad would’ve taken us if the hosts were Death Eaters.”
She paused. “Come to think of it, if I remember correctly, the Malfoys tried to gate-crash, and they were turned away.”
“Why would the Malfoys try to crash a party for recipe contestants?”
“They’re neighbors. Maybe they thought they’d be welcome.”
“Maybe they’re cheap bastards who wanted a free meal,” said Harry darkly.
Ginny snickered. “You’re probably right!”
“So your Dad reckons the Serpentias are okay?” continued Harry.
Ginny knit her brow, giving the question some serious thought.
“There was a Serpentia in Bill’s year. He was a Beater for the Slytherins. He used to like whacking Bludgers into the Gryffindors. But I remember when I was small, Bill and Charlie and all the Quidditch players in the entire school were given free tickets to a Quadpot exhibition, and Bill said it was arranged by “that Serpentia git.”
“None of that proves they were or weren’t Death Eaters.”
“Well, Serena’s Dad went to Durmstrang for a year as an exchange student. He’s from the States, and Durmstrang is somewhere in eastern Europe. No one goes out of their way attend Durmstrang unless they want to learn Dark magic. But on the other hand, Serena caught us out after hours a number of times this year, and she never reported us. Why would she do that if she weren’t on our side?”
“You’re not the first person who’s told me Serpentia hid stuff from the Carrows,” said Harry, “but I can’t believe she just let you all go.”
“Oh, she didn’t let us go!” replied Ginny. “She just didn’t tell the Carrows exactly what we’d done. If she had, they would’ve chained us up in the dungeons. She told them we didn’t finish our homework, and we had to go to this special detention that Snape put her in charge of. If she liked you, she would think of something really hard you had to learn, like a really advanced charm, and you had to stay until you could do it, even if you had to stay up all night and keep coming back for days. I think the record was Jimmy Peakes with fourteen nights in a row.”
“That’s if she liked you?” asked Harry.
Ginny smirked. “Yes, believe it or not. Me and Parvati even had fun. We had to learn these routines that the Quaddo Charms Girls do.”
At Harry’s blank expression, she clarified, “That’s what they call Quadpot in the States. There are these girls who come out during breaks in the game to dance and do charms in time to the music. It’s really hard, but it’s a laugh, too.”
“And if she didn’t like you…?” asked Harry with some trepidation.
“Oh, it was awful. Romilda Vane didn’t know the Scourgify charm, so Serena brought out these absolutely nauseating jars of putrid preserved bits of heaven-knows-what, and said that every jar Romilda couldn’t instantly clean with Scourgify she had to wash out by hand. Romilda learned the charm, but she stank for a week.”
Not being the greatest fan of Romilda Vane, who had several times tried to trick him into drinking a love potion, Harry was amused.
He asked, “Is that what Neville meant when he said Serpentia saved some of the students from being tortured by the Carrows?”
“No, that was something else. You see, she was able to….”
Ginny suddenly seemed uncomfortable, and looked away.
“Well, I mean, yes, that’s what she did. Because if you did something really bad, the Carrows would have the Defense classes practice Cruciatus on you. But if you’d just neglected your homework….”
Ginny’s voice trailed off when she looked at Harry, whose irritation must have shown on his face. He felt absolutely certain that Ginny had almost spilled a secret, and he was rather nonplussed that Ginny was keeping any kind of secrets from him.
“That’s not what you were going to say!” accused Harry.
When Ginny just stared at him, he said forcefully, “Well?”
Ginny shook her head, and said defiantly, “That is what happened!”
Harry countered, “But you were going to say something else.”
“No, I wasn’t!”
“Yes, you were!”
Harry’s voice rose, and people stared curiously at their table. Not wanting to draw any more attention to himself, Harry lowered his voice, but spoke with intensity.
“What was Serpentia able to do?”
“Leave it alone, Harry!” declared Ginny forcefully as she stood.
Now people really were looking at them. Ginny was uncharacteristically tearful as she said, “I don’t want to talk about it any more! Not today! Not….”
She turned abruptly and marched away toward the house, leaving Harry to stare helplessly after her. He jumped when he heard voices beside him.
“Don’ worry about it, Harry. She’s a tough little thing, but inside, I know she’s all broken up about her brother.”
Another voice said, “Yes, Harry, I’m sure she’ll forgive you for being thoughtless.”
It was Hagrid and Luna. As usual, Luna had expressed an uncomfortable truth. Harry realized that he shouldn’t have criticized Ginny at her brother’s funeral. But how did Luna know he’d been thoughtless? Harry supposed it had been an obvious guess.
He stood and said, “Excuse me, but I’d better go talk to her.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Harry,” said Luna. “You’ll just start arguing all over again.”
“We weren’t arguing!”
“It certainly sounded like an argument.”
“I think Luna’s ri’, Harry,” said Hagrid. “Jes’ give ‘er some time.”
Harry signed. Maybe they were right, and he’d better give Ginny a break from him for a while. He craned his neck to look up at Hagrid.
“All right then. Why don’t you join me?”
Hagrid pulled out the chair Ginny had vacated, and three others besides, and sat across them all. Luna sat next to Hagrid. Hagrid’s bright magenta shirt was quite overwhelming, but on Luna, bright magenta robes, paired with bright orange dangling earrings, looked perfectly normal.
They talked about the upcoming school year. Hagrid seemed genuinely relieved that Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank was head of the newly-expanded Care of Magical Creatures program, with Hagrid as her assistant.He said, “I know ye always liked my classes, Harry, so ye might not’ve known that most o’ the students… well, I’m not really tha’ good’a teacher.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Hagrid!” said Harry, simultaneously with Luna’s “That’s all right, Hagrid; you’re good at other things.”
Harry wished Luna hadn’t been so blunt, but Hagrid didn’t seem to mind. Harry wondered if maybe he, Ron, and Hermione had been making a mistake all these years, insisting to Hagrid that his classes were just fine. Maybe he’d been miserable teaching.
Their conversation was interrupted by Mrs. Weasley, who appeared at Harry’s left side with a large plate from the buffet table. She set it in front of Harry, saying,
“Now, there’ll be no arguments! You haven’t eaten a thing all day!”
Harry glanced anxiously at the house, but saw no sign of Ginny. He didn’t feel hungry at all, and was about to make an excuse to Mrs. Weasley, when Hagrid said,
“Now isn’t it nice, Harry, to have something pleasant to do for ten more minutes?”
He raised his eyebrows meaningfully at Harry.
“What’s happening in ten minutes?” asked Mrs. Weasley suspiciously. They were spared an answer when Charlie walked up with a plate and took a seat across the table.
“I see mum’s force-feeding you, too. Best do as she says,” he advised, “or she’ll make you eat even more for supper.”
Mrs. Weasley whacked Charlie on the head with a napkin, which made Harry grin. With sudden inspiration, he said, “Sit down and join us, Mrs. Weasley.”
Mrs. Weasley hesitated.
“C’mon, Mum,” said Charlie, “You’ve talked to enough people.”
“Yeah,” said Harry, “you can supervise me. To make sure I eat.”
“Oh, all right,” said Mrs. Weasley.
Harry stood and pulled out the seat next to his.
“Thank you, Harry, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley as she settled herself. Harry grinned again when she immediately turned to Hagrid and Luna and asked,
“And have you had enough to eat?”
As Harry diligently cleaned his plate, one by one, friends and family began gathering at the table: Andromeda Tonks, Hestia Jones of the Order, Harry’s old Quidditch captain Oliver Wood, and Neville, whose grandmother had already apparated back home.
The conversation bolstered Harry’s resolve to give Ginny a little space, but this evaporated when Ron and Hermione finally came over, floating before them goblets and large pitchers of pumpkin juice.
As Hermione poured juice for all, she asked, “Where’s Ginny?”
“I dunno,” Harry admitted. “She went inside a while ago. Maybe I should check on her.”
Surely enough time had passed; maybe she wasn’t upset with him anymore.
“Excuse me,” he said as he left the table for the house.
He found Ginny in the family room, lying on the sofa with her head on the armrest, looking out the window. It was dim and cool and peaceful in the room, and Harry wasn’t sure he should disturb her. But she must have felt his presence, because she turned her head and looked at him with a calm and steady gaze. Suddenly he was overwhelmed with regret, and the words tumbled out of him.
“I’m sorry, Ginny,” he said as he crossed the room to stand by the foot of the sofa. “I shouldn’t’ve kept after you like that. I was all wrapped up in my own…. I was acting like I’m the great expert at everything, and I’m not. Especially at a funeral. I mean…. I especially shouldn’t have been hounding you at Fred’s funeral. I was….”
Maybe Luna had said it best. “I was thoughtless.”
Ginny regarded him for a moment, then swung her legs down from the sofa and patted the seat.
Harry sat down and said, “Try again?”
Struck by sudden inspiration, Harry stuck out his hand and said, “Hi! I’m Harry Potter. I like ice cream, Quidditch, and long walks on…. the Quidditch pitch. And you are…?”
Ginny burst into laughter, drawing up her legs, throwing her head back and rocking back and forth, which made Harry laugh, and each time they looked at each other, they laughed some more. Harry’s sides were aching when he noticed someone in the doorway.
It was George, resplendent in his magenta robe, leaning against the frame, arms folded, with a genuine smile on his face.
“Now that,” he said, “is what this funeral is supposed to be all about.”
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