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Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

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There’s a grief that can’t be spoken


Harry’s eyes travelled over the rubble of the four House tables scattered around the Great Hall. He crouched down and his fingers trailed over a relatively intact section of the Ravenclaw table. The jagged edges where spellfire had hit caught on the pads of his fingers, leaving tiny red cuts behind. Harry didn’t notice. He didn’t care. 


There’s a pain goes on and on


Harry stood up and strode up to the ornate golden chair where Dumbledore had once sat, reigning over meals eaten in happier times. The chair was on its side, and yet didn’t show any signs of damage. Harry supposed there was a terrible sort of irony in that. He left the chair as it was and turned to leave the Hall. 


Empty chairs at empty tables


Harry’s eyes caught upon a bench - really, the pieces it had been rendered into didn’t lend themselves to the name ‘bench’ anymore - that Hermione had so often sat on, nagging Ron about one thing or another. 


Now my friends are dead and gone


The bodies had been moved out of the hall but he could still see them perfectly in his mind’s eye. Ginny had been laid just over there, eyes closed as if she were sleeping. Fred and George had been on either side of her. Together, and yet apart for all eternity. 


Here they talked of revolution


Harry could hear Hermione’s voice, strong and proud, ringing out around the Hall. Luna had stood beside her, blonde hair floating around her head in a mockery of a halo. They had been the wordsmiths, the bards that had rallied a troubled people to arms. 


Here it was they lit the flame


Everything had started and ended in this Hall. Harry rotated in a slow circle, committing every detail of the carnage to memory. The emeralds and rubies mingled amongst the sapphires and topazes. A miscast Stupefy had shattered the hourglasses five minutes into the battle. ‘House unity,’ Harry thought bitterly, ‘but too little too late.’ 


Here they sang about tomorrow


Seamus and Dean had once stood on top of the Gryffindor table and sung “The Parting Glass” . The song was one of departure and yet they had turned it into a song of hope. Hope that when they parted to fight in the battle, that they would come back together again and drink to a new dawn. 


And tomorrow never came


The Hall was glowing. Rays from the morning sun had crept over the ground while Harry had been lost in thought. He looked over at the stained glass window that Snape had shattered while making his escape from McGonagall. Harry could see the sun peeking up above the horizon. It was the first of many dawns that his comrades would never wake up to again. 


From the table in the corner


Harry turned his head away from the blinding light and finally left the Hall. There were too many ghosts there. For once, he wasn’t speaking literally. Harry felt like a ghost himself, silently traversing the halls that had seen smiles and laughter just a day prior. He ran into no one on his silent vigil. The few survivors had cleared out once the dead were properly taken care of. He looked up and found himself staring at the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. Half of the tapestry was falling off the wall in tatters, strips of cloth gracefully curling toward the floor. Pain lanced through Harry’s heart as he knew what he would find on the opposite wall. Indeed, when he turned on his heel he was confronted with the sight of the door to the Room of Requirement hanging ajar. Evidently no one had bothered to close it after the battle was done. 


Harry squared his shoulders, knowing that he owed it to his friends to visit their last refuge and place of hope. He slid into the room through the gap, sucking in his stomach as he didn’t want to disturb anything. Harry believed things should remain as they were. He knew it wasn’t realistic, but he half wanted Hogwarts to remain as it was in that very moment so future generations could see where their ancestors had laid down their lives to buy freedom from Voldemort. 


The room was barren. The Fiendfyre had done its job and destroyed everything in its path. Harry could only thank his lucky stars that nothing conjured in the Room of Requirement could cross the threshold. The walls seemed to be untouched for that reason. A fine layer of ash liberally coated the floor. Decades, probably centuries worth of various students’ belongings obliterated because of a foolish mistake. The fire had likely burned itself out once it couldn’t find anymore fuel. 


The dimensions of the Room were still the same as they had been when the DA had used it as their base of operations. The far left corner had held a series of tables set up as the Great Hall had been. Only here, Houses were obsolete. In the DA you weren’t a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw, you were simply a warrior fighting for a better world.


They could see a world reborn


Luna had taken it upon herself to ask the Room for some paints and paintbrushes and she had painted a mural on the wall above the bunks. It had depicted a field of grass under a rising sun, and every single DA member stood in a line, linking elbows and laughing. Laughter had been so rare. Every giggle had been treasured because no one knew when they’d laugh again. 


And they rose with voices ringing


Dean, Seamus, Hermione, and Luna as the members of the DA with the best singing voices would put on impromptu performances when they felt like singing. Neville had joined in with the piano, Cho had played a flute, Hannah Abbott pulled a violin out of nowhere, and Colin had taken great pleasure in pounding away at a set of drums. 


I can hear them now


If Harry listened hard enough he swore he could hear strains of music floating in the still air. He had sat just beside their “stage”, eyes closed and enjoying the music eight students had managed to create in the midst of a war. 


The very words that they have sung


Dean’s smooth baritone had perfectly complemented Seamus’ tenor voice while Hermione and Luna had used their soprano voices to great effect. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd when the four had done their rendition of “Danny Boy” on Seamus’ suggestion. 


Became their last communion


Ever since Dean and Seamus had taken it upon themselves to belt out “The Parting Glass” at dinner, before they’d had to remain in the Room of Requirement for safety, the DA members would tell each other ‘good night and joy be to you all’ whenever one of them left the Room for one reason or another. Harry had taken heart in that phrase, as had many others, for the idea of having joy again when everything was said and done was a heady thought. 


On this lonely barricade, at dawn


Harry bowed his head under the weight of all the memories. The DA had perished in the battle, every last one of them. He had seen the Creevey brothers go down when Dolohov managed to get over a bench from the Slytherin table that they had used as a barricade. Lavender, Parvati, and Padma had also died together when Greyback simply ripped through the Gryffindor table as if it were paper. Ron had gone out in a blaze of glory, fighting alone surrounded by four Death Eaters. He had seen Bellatrix land the killing blow on Ginny and rushed to avenge her. At the very least he had severed Mulciber’s head with a well placed Diffindo before Bellatrix transfigured a stray piece of rubble into a knife and sent it hurtling towards his heart. 


Oh my friends, my friends, forgive me


Harry squeezed his eyes shut and felt hot tears trickle down his cheeks. He turned his back on the room and almost ran to escape. The Room of Requirement had once been a safe haven. It was now a barren wasteland. Harry continued running, running to where he had no idea but he knew that he needed to run. His eyes were still closed, he was letting his magic direct him around corners and through corridors. He came to a stumbling halt when his lungs let him know that he needed more oxygen than he was currently getting. His eyes opened and he took several heaving gasps of air before noticing just where he had ended up. He was face to face with the gargoyle that guarded the Headmaster’s office. The sight of the gargoyle, even damaged as it was, filled him with righteous fury. His right hand smashed into the cobblestone to the left of the entrance and pain radiated outward from his knuckles. Harry took no notice of it and continued to pummel the wall once, twice, thrice. 


That I live and you are gone


Harry only stopped when red rivulets streamed down his hand and dripped gently onto the floor. He gave a vicious kick to the gargoyle’s head, which only groaned and then fell silent again. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that he be the sole survivor. Him, the only one who had actually been marked for death! As Snape had spat at Dumbledore, Harry had been raised as a pig for the slaughter. Now he was the last one standing as his friends fell one by one around him. 


There’s a grief that can’t be spoken


More hot tears trickled down his cheeks and dripped off his chin to join the ever widening pool of blood that his savagely torn knuckles had created. Harry’s heart now had a gaping hole that he doubted would ever be filled again. His peers had been his lifeline, his reason to continue on when the darkest nights sapped his energy and filled his head with doubts. He had fought the war for them and they would never get to see what they had helped bring about. 


There’s a pain goes on and on


Luna would never paint another picture. Hermione would never read another book. Seamus would never sing another song. Ron would never play another chess match. Neville would never get to see another plant grow. Hannah would never play her violin again. Terry would never delight in learning another amusing charm. Dean would never yell about another football game. Lavender and Parvati would never get to pour over the latest fashion magazine again. 


Phantom faces at the window


Harry turned away from the entrance to the Headmaster’s office in disgust and began walking again. With every window he passed he saw another face reflected in it. The faces were smiling and laughing with abandon. The faces looked young again, before the stress of war had prematurely aged them all. 


Phantom shadows on the floor


Harry tore his gaze away from the line of faces stretching down the corridor and directed his eyes to the floor. Except now he could see shadows moving. He could see the outline of Ron’s lanky form gallantly ask Hermione - identified by her trademark bushy hair - to dance. He could see Parvati’s ornamental butterfly clip swinging about on the edge of her braid as she laughed at something someone out of sight must have said. Neville sat next to his Mimbulus Mimbletonia , prodding it with the tip of a quill. He had never learned his lesson after that day on the train. Hannah was playing her violin of course, and Cho had her flute. Terry swished and flicked his wand. His wand had had a rather unique carving on the grip that protruded enough to be easily spotted. Professor Sprout had recovered his wand and laid it on Terry’s still body when the clean-up began. Everywhere Harry looked had reminders of what could have been had his friends lived. 


Empty chairs at empty tables


Harry found himself back in the Entrance Hall. He didn’t know whether he was in a particularly masochistic mood or what, but his feet carried him to the doors that led to the Great Hall. He turned away, not willing to lay eyes on the empty room again. 


Where my friends will meet no more


No more meals would be had there. No more spontaneous food fights would break out between Ron and Dean. No more last minute study sessions with Hermione. No more melodic songs from Luna. Harry despaired for the Great Hall and its broken visage. How would any future students find comfort in camaraderie over meals? 


Oh my friends, my friends, don’t ask me


Harry exited the Entrance Hall and strode out onto the sprawling lawn. The grass ought to have been a rich emerald green, but it was marred with wide swathes of red blood where the fallen had lain. Neat rows of bodies covered with white shrouds lined the pathway. The ten survivors who had stayed behind after Voldemort had died had taken it upon themselves to see that the dead warriors were buried properly where their families wished them to be. Harry couldn’t identify any of his friends lying under the shrouds but he walked among them anyway. He felt a kinship with them. They had all been willing to lay down their lives, and yet through a cruel stroke of fate Harry was the only one to survive being killed. He imagined he could feel their eyes staring at him, wondering why he had lived when they had died. 


What your sacrifice was for


Harry’s body shook with the force of his pent up emotions. He didn’t know how the wizarding world could build themselves back up after losing such a great number of their population. The better world the DA had hoped to be a part of building had never seemed so far away. 


Empty chairs at empty tables


The world was moving on around Harry. Birds were waking up and warbling out their songs. Harry could hear the rustling and huffs of the Thestral herd in the forest. Various insects were crawling around in the grass. The glows of fireflies winked out one by one as the sun continued to rise on its inexorable journey across the sky. 


Where my friends will sing no more


Harry finally sank to his knees and let himself mourn for what could have been.