who needs revision when you can write angst about the battle of Hogwarts, right
(tw for death/grief and a vague mention of suicidal thoughts)
no matter how well they cope, once a year they will always be sent reeling back to the beginning
The longest day of the year is not June the twenty-first.
Not for them.
There are days that stretch on and on and there are days as momentary as quicksilver, but on no other day does time stop and drop like a lead weight onto the fragile facades of togetherness that they put up.
May the second.
They called it Victory Day, after the battle was won. ‘They’ being those bureaucrats who sat in their swivel chairs and watched as wave after wave of death swept over that school. They being people who had never held anyone close as their last breaths shuddered on, had never felt the acid sting of a curse fly past, had never held life so tenuously in the tips of their fingers and the grip of a wand.
It has never been a victory.
Every year, the graveyards are heavy with black cloaked figures ramrod straight with the expectations of duty and pride, slumped with grief and cowering in shame. Every year mothers weep for medals that were never won, jumpers never worn, empty beds gathering dust in their freshly starched creases; fathers retreat into themselves for all the advice they never got to give. Siblings grieve for years of lost teasing and playfights. Children wonder at a hole they will never really understand. This is not victory.
Victory is not waking up even now in the dead of night with your wand in your hand and your heart beating itself bloody. Victory is not waiting for a familiar knock that never comes, it is not scars and graves and dusty medals, it is not this mess of a day that lasts forever and brings it all flooding back.
Victory is not staring down at a line of headstones and wishing you were among them.
They are not victors.
Every year, they remember this sham, this mockery of celebration, and their only pride is in those who fell to uphold it.
Lavender goes to the memorial service at Hogwarts every year, no matter how much agony she’s in or what cycle of the moon it is. Parvati brews her extra strong pain potions and holds her hands as tightly as she can as they read off the names of the fallen, and silently thanks every deity she has that Lavender isn’t amongst them. Lavender used to wish she was.
Hagrid knew nearly every person on the list, and his sobs can be heard every year echoing off the stones of the castle because they were just kids, most of them, too young to drink and too old to live.
Luna finds those with no family left to grieve and takes them flowers each year: her flowers the brightest thing in the tiny graveyards she spent months searching for.
George lets off all the fireworks in the shop and whispers “I’m sorry, Freddie, I’m so sorry”, his other half’s name a broken litany over the crashes and the light. The Victory Day fireworks are the best the world has ever seen, and no-one ever knows that he writes letters to Fred inside each one.
The Golden Trio attend the memorial every year, trying to slip in at the back but always being dragged to the front. They melt into the mass of Weasleys, trying to bury their guilt in that explosion of embraces and red hair and fierce, unconditional love.
Harry uses a specially commissioned Time Turner, one of the only Chosen One privileges he would ever use,to go to every single memorial service, no matter how small. He visits every grave and every last resting place of anyone who ever fought in his name and thanks them from the bottom of his heart. It doesn’t appease his guilt. He visits Dumbledore’s snowy white tomb and tells him that he might never forgive him for the Dursleys and the lies and the lifetime of being primed like a pig for the slaughter, but he is trying.
He breaks down in front of the Lupins’ graves and tells them that he is so, so sorry that they never got to see their son grow up but that he will always love him as much as they would have done. He tells Sirius about how James is more like him every day, and how his motorbike looks better than ever, and how the promise of living with him saved his life.
He visits his parents, the first to fall for him, and waters the gate with salt.
Ginny goes to the memorial service at Hogwarts and clenches her fists until her palms bleed so she doesn’t burst. Every year she feels the white hot flame of anger rise inside her when they talk about sacrifices and victory and living forever in glory, because they weren’t martyrs they were just people, ordinary, scared, in the wrong place at the wrong time and none of them wanted to die, why can’t you see that?
She convinces herself she wants justice when all she really wants is her brother back.
Her mother needs her more than ever on those days, needs to be surrounded by children and scoldings and people to feed when they get back from the graveyard, so she bites her tongue and hides her shaking hands in her black dress robes and hides her tears in her children’s shoulders. She hangs on to them so tightly, she who always hated being mollycoddled, because it is this day more than any other she realises what she has to lose.
She hates it, hates that she has to do it all alone because Harry cannot, will not lay down his burden of guilt for anyone, but at the same time she knows he wouldn’t be the man she loves without it.
So she lets him go and she doesn’t tell him that part of her breaks off every time she reaches for his hand at the table and he’s not there, because she knows this is something he will always have to do alone.
He comes back at midnight, Apparating into the garden unshaven and swaying with lack of sleep. She waits up for him every year, sitting in the kitchen in her pyjamas waiting for him to come home to her. His eyes are as bloodshot with tears as hers are, and they hold each other silently as desperately as drowning men clinging to a raft, these two broken people with their scars so aligned.
She helps him upstairs and he doesn’t let go of her hand until morning, when he smiles at their children like nothing ever happened, like he didn’t breathe her in seeking absolution, like he didn’t spend his day going backwards and forwards in time and never truly making amends.
It is the longest day of the year, and all they can think as they slump onto their pillows that night, the same night every year is:
Thank God it’s over.