Megan Jones had always been a bit different from the other kids at primary school. Not different in a bad way; but they knew she didn’t fit in with them, and she knew it too. She hadn’t ever been lonely, but she also knew that she didn’t really have friends. Just playmates.
Which was why when she was eleven years old and her Hogwarts letter had arrived she’d been filled with joy. Her mother had kissed her cheek and told her she’d never looked so happy. Her father had hugged her and said he was proud of her. Her baby brother, Evan, had pouted and begged to go too.
The professor who delivered the letter had smiled fondly and said, “Welcome, Miss Jones, welcome.”
Hogwarts was everything Megan had dreamed of from the moment she’d gotten the letter. A beautiful and majestic castle in the mountains, a lake with a giant squid and perhaps even mermaids (she’d heard rumors), there were unicorns in the forest, ghosts roamed the halls, the staircases moved, sometimes doors disappeared, and in the Great Hall she could stare up at the sky even though there was a ceiling.
The classes were wonderful, too. Megan particularly enjoyed Charms and Arithmancy, although she could have done without History of Magic, which was dead boring. And the headmaster, he was so kind. Always stopping and chatting with students, making sure that she and other kids whose parents didn’t have magic were fitting in, and telling stories of his days as a student.
(Megan couldn’t even begin to imagine the headmaster as a student. He was so old!)
Megan had settled in quite nicely, and said so when he had asked. She’d told him about how much she loved her new house, and how she had friends! Best friends, even. She was just so happy to be at Hogwarts!
He’d smiled happily at her and said that friendship, true friendship, was worth more than all the gold in Gringotts. Then he’d sent her on her way.
Megan’s joy in being at Hogwarts lasted well into her third year. But third year also seemed to mean that one of her friends was acting all moody and mean. They fought a few times, but always made up pretty quickly. But shortly after Christmas Holiday they fought again, and Megan stormed off.
Storming angrily through the halls, Megan thought long and hard about what had happened. Eventually, after a while, she decided to go back to the common room, but the staircase she was on started moving when she was midway. Megan ended up, after stepping off the staircase, in a long, empty corridor she’d never seen before on what she thought was the seventh floor. Looking around she wondered just how long it had been since anyone had come up here.
There were a few paintings on the wall, but most were of scenery. The rest were empty of the person who inhabited them – no doubt off visiting. Her footsteps seemed so loud in the empty hall, and her breathing quickened. She’d never been much of an explorer, but she knew the castle well enough and finding a new place was exciting.
She peered curiously at one of the few portraits – a very fat man with a very large mustache and peculiarly shaped sideburns – for a moment before continuing down the corridor. The portraits were interesting, particularly since there were so few. Most places in Hogwarts were filled to the brim with them, and their chatter became so much background noise. There were less and less paintings the further down the hall she got, and less and less light too.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, tripping on uneven stone. She managed to keep her feet by grabbing onto the wall.
She frowned as she stood back up properly and looked at the wall. It wasn’t stone under her hand, but some kind of metal.
“Lumos,” she said, and then peered at the metal. It was a plaque, how curious. She’d seen some around the school before, but never paid much attention to them.
She read the plaque. Then read it again, a shiver going down her spine.
Staring at the plaque now, though, she knew she was going to start paying attention to those plaques. She swallowed heavily, and reached out to trace the words on the plaque, reading along as she did.
“Megan Jones, Hufflepuff, 4 June 1980 – 2 May 1998.”
A girl. A girl with her name. A girl who had died years and years ago. And who had only been a few years older than her.
She looked around the hall, raising her wand’s light high, and caught the glinting of two more plaques. She walked over to the closest one.
“Morag McClintock, Ravenclaw, 5 January 1981 – 2 May 1998.”
She went over to read the third. The wall nearby had a deep gouge in the stonework.
“Terry Boot, Ravenclaw, 30 December 1979 – 2 May 1998.”
Megan went back to the first plaque, the other Megan Jones’ plaque. She touched it briefly, gently. What had happened here, she wondered, that three students had died? What had gouged out the wall like that?
She looked around, taking in the deserted corridor, and shuddered again before hurrying back the way she’d come. It was one thing to go to school with ghosts that spoke with her. Ghosts were dead, but not really gone. It was another to stand in a hallway where three kids barely older than her had died.
Particularly since she shared her name and house with one of them.
Megan tried to push it out of her mind, but she couldn’t. Instead she started seeing the plaques everywhere. She’d noticed them before, of course, but she’d never realized how many there were. Practically one in every corridor, it seemed. Even outside her common room there was a plaque.
“Alice Tolipan, Hufflepuff, 15 February 1983 – 2 May 1998.”
She’d shivered hard at that one; the girl would have been only a year ahead of her, a fourth year. Megan tried not to imagine one of the older girls dying, but couldn’t quite manage it. She started watching the older kids, there, that seventh year was the same age as Lavender Brown, Gryffindor, who’d died in a corridor on the fourth floor. And that fourth year, he was the same age as Nigel Wolpert, Gryffindor, who’d died on the second floor. She watched Colin Campbell, a sixth year Gryffindor prefect a lot, and wondered if Colin Creevey, Gryffindor, had been like him. Or rather if Campbell was like Colin Creevey.
There was even a plaque in the greenhouse, Megan was horrified to find, with four names on it.
Megan couldn’t help going back and seeing the other Megan’s plaque, either. It felt odd, seeing her name on a plaque for a dead girl. But it also felt sort of right, and she found that occasionally it was nice to talk to the other Megan about problems she was having – fighting with her friend, crushing on that stupid upper year Slytherin who didn’t even know she existed, her lousy grade in Transfiguration, about how many plaques she kept finding and how they both scared and excited her. She always felt better after talking, like the other Megan was listening, even if she knew she wasn’t.
Finally, after stumbling across the plaque of Maisy Reynolds, Ravenclaw, who’d been her same age, tucked into a corner by the great hall, Megan couldn’t stand not knowing anymore. She went to the library the following Saturday morning and asked the librarian for help finding a history book about 1998.
The librarian raised her eyebrows and looked a bit puzzled for a moment before her face smoothed out in understanding. “Ah,” she said, and led Megan to the history section.
After some deliberation she handed Megan three books. Megan peered at them curiously and read the titles. The one on top was named The Blood Wars, the second was called Hogwarts’ Last Stand. The third had a picture of three teenagers on the front cover, surprising Megan because most wizarding books didn’t have covers with pictures, and was called Children of War.
The librarian hesitated for a moment and then said, “Miss Jones, if I may? I would recommend reading The Blood Wars first, it will give you the background and context to understand the other two.”
Megan nodded and thanked the librarian, and then left the library. She hesitated at the top of the stairs to the basement, not sure if she wanted to read in her dorm. Without really thinking about it she turned and went up the stairs instead, heading to what she’d come to think of as Megan’s Corridor.
Settling down under the other Megan’s plaque she followed the librarian’s advice and pulled out The Blood Wars. Cracking the book open to the first page, she began to read.
“The First Blood War, also known by the more antiquated title of the First Wizarding War, was a major conflict in the British Wizarding World occurring between 1970 and 1981, although the foundations of the conflict reach back to the 1940s. The Second Blood War, or Second Wizarding War, which occurred between 1995 and 1998, was, in many ways, simply a continuation of the First Blood War…”
By the time Megan got to the end of the fascinating, if dry, book, she felt like she was in a state of shock. There’d been a war over whether or not magbobs should be allowed in the Wizarding World. And not even that long ago, less than one-hundred years. Considering wizards and witches could live to be over two-hundred there must be plenty of people who’d lived through it – who’d fought in it – still alive.
A sudden thought hit her, and she swallowed nervously. She remembered her parents asking about prejudice in the Wizarding World when the professor had first brought her letter – Megan had been teased in Year 3 and 4 by a really nasty boy who called her names just because her mum was black, and they hadn’t wanted her to go through something like that again. The professor had said that there was nothing like that in the Wizarding World, that black people had always been treated the same and never been slaves. He’d said there wasn’t any sort of prejudice like that; and that Megan would be easily accepted.
But now she knew about the Blood Wars, and maybe she wasn’t so easily accepted. What if there were people out there who still thought like that? She had recognized some of the last names of the Death Eaters – there was a Nott in her year, even – what if she thought like that, just… secretly?
Her stomach grumbling and growling finally drew her from her thoughts and Megan looked at her watch. She blinked in surprise – dinner was almost over! She rushed down to the Great Hall, gathering up her dinner onto her plate before it could all disappear.
“Where were you all day?”
“Reading,” Megan mumbled through a mouthful of chicken. “Really good book.”
She looked back at her plate and focused on shoveling as much food in her mouth as possible. Whenever someone tried to talk to her she’d just point to her mouth and shrug, before shoving more food in.
She didn’t want to get caught up talking to her friends, because then they’d want to do something before curfew, and then they’d want to hang out in the common room, and then she wouldn’t get to start her next book that day. Megan loved being a Hufflepuff, and the close friends she’d made, but sometimes she just wanted to be alone.
As soon as she cleared her plate Megan hopped out of her seat. “Gotta go, see you!”
She could feel the confused stares on her back, but as soon as she was out the doors they faded from her mind. She had two more books to read, and only a few hours until curfew.
She didn’t manage to finish Hogwarts’ Last Stand, the full title of which was actually Hogwarts’ Last Stand – An In-depth Look at the Second Blood War, by the time curfew came, she wasn’t that fast of a reader. But Megan had almost sort of managed to get to the part where the actual Battle of Hogwarts was about to happen. She was kind of proud at how much she’d managed to read that day, but it was all so interesting! Not like normal school work at all. Why couldn’t they learn this sort of stuff in history class? She read all about Philosopher’s Stones hidden in mirrors and deadly snakes roaming the school, about the Triwizard Tournament and Voldemort’s rebirth and Cedric Diggory, another student, the first official known casualty of the Second Blood War.
She learned what a smear campaign was and as she read about the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, she shuddered, imagining telling a horrible truth and nobody believing it and everyone thinking she was crazy and lying. Even the newspapers had called Harry Potter a crazy liar. The Battle of the Lightning-Struck Tower was terrifying, and she didn’t think she’d ever be able to look at the tower the same way again knowing someone had died and fallen off the top of it.
When she’d read about Headmaster Snape and how the Death Eaters had controlled Hogwarts for a year, torturing and even killing students, Megan had been horrified. But she was amazed at how some brave students had formed a resistance, right here inside the school, to fight back and keep each other safe.
It was horrible to imagine, Hogwarts becoming like that. Megan couldn’t picture Hogwarts as anything but, well, magical.
She’d been about to start the section on the search for how to destroy the Dark Lord Voldemort and the resistance and what happened to the students in the resistance who couldn’t go back to school – magbobs like her – but she’d glanced at her watch and seen the time. With a sad sigh she closed up the book and, after a moment of consideration, left it where it was. She was the only one who came to Megan’s Corridor, so the books would be fine overnight.
Laying in bed that night, staring up at the top of her four poster bed, Megan thought about what she’d learned so far. The Blood Wars had been interesting. Talking about the, the ideology – that was the word! – behind the war and the maneuvering of the major people involved and about the policies each side supported, and about the battles a little bit. It was hard to understand how people could have ever thought killing non-magicals and magbobs was okay. That they could steal magic somehow. It was like learning people used to think it was okay to have slaves. She just didn’t get it.
But Hogwarts’ Last Stand, so far, felt more real. It didn’t talk about ideas and policies and propaganda. It covered who the people were, sure, but it was more about their actions then their ideas. Parts of it read more like an adventure story than a history book. Megan had always liked adventure stories, and she wishes every history book was written like that. Maybe she’d actually like history if they were.
Waking the next morning, after readying herself for the day, Megan once again rushed through breakfast. Blowing off her friends, and feeling a bit guilty for it she promised herself to make it up to them later, she raced off to Megan’s Corridor to finish Hogwarts’ Last Stand.
Closing the book a few hours later, Megan brushed the tears off her cheeks. She’d found out what had happened to the other Megan. And to all the others on the plaques all over the school. She’d known they’d died, of course, but that was different from knowing Lavender Brown had been savaged by one of the most feared werewolves of all time and then tossed over a balcony after he’d ripped out her throat.
Or that Alice Tolipan, brave Hufflepuff, had been guarding the line of retreating younger years from all the houses into the Hufflepuff common room. When she’d seen two Death Eaters coming around the corner – infamous, horrible ones: Antonin Dolohov and Aquila Avery – she’d signaled the others. And then she’d collapsed the corridor behind her in the way the House had planned quietly, carefully over that horrible year. But she hadn’t had time to get to the other side. She’d done it anyways, sealing off the way to the common room and the younger kids, but trapping herself with two furious Death Eaters.
They’d tortured her to death.
Colin Creevey had taken down five Snatchers and three Death Eaters, before he was hit by a curse in the back while his little brother was watching. Megan thought about Evan when she’d read that part. He’d be coming to Hogwarts next year, they were all sure of it, and she couldn’t imagine watching him die. And she couldn’t imagine him watching her die, either. No matter how annoying he could be.
The other Megan Jones, she’d discovered, had – along with Morag McClintock and Terry Boot – killed two Death Eaters in this very hall. Four more Death Eaters, hidden in the wings, had killed them after a furious duel that had destroyed most of the corridor, and part of the outside of the castle. Of those four Death Eaters, three had died of wounds inflicted by Megan, Morag, and Terry not far from here. They’d made it out of the corridor, but not out of the Battle. Apparently, before the Second Blood War, this dead end of a corridor had been some sort of informal communal study hall.
Now it was an empty shrine to three dead kids.
It was horrifying to think of all those kids who’d fought and bled and died for Hogwarts. For magbobs like her to have rights, to have equality, to live. To be free. They’d stood up and done the right thing, and they’d paid for it with their lives.
It hadn’t escaped Megan’s notice that of the so-called “Defenders of Hogwarts” listed; most of them were either students or recent graduates. More than three-quarters of those who’d died in the Battle of Hogwarts, she’d calculated, had been under twenty-five. Almost two-thirds of those killed were still students. And that number didn’t include those who’d fought and died for the Death Eaters and Voldemort, whether by choice or because their Death Eater parents made them.
And those numbers didn’t include the fourteen students who had ‘disappeared’ during the Death Eater’s reign of Hogwarts. It didn’t include the magbob students and kids too young for Hogwarts that had died while on the run, or at the hands of the Muggleborn Registration Commission – either in the so-called ‘Relocation Program’ or who had been tried and convicted by a bunch of twisted… twisted arseholes. The death toll from the Second Blood War was horrific.
She remembered, then, that there’d been a big commotion the year before – the news had printed that the British Wizarding Population was finally back at the same level it had been in 1994. Estimates were that in another fifty to one hundred years the population would return to pre-war levels. She hadn’t understood at that time. She did now.
She rested her head back against the wall and let her tears fall. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to the other Megan, to all the students and kids who died. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
After another few minutes she whispered, “Thank you. Thank you for fighting so that I could live.”
She sat there, staring up at the ceiling, for a long while. Her mind was churning over the stories of those that had died, and of those that had lived. Of the old man that had scared her when she’d first been shown Diagon Alley. His face had been all scarred and twisted from what looked like claw marks, and the giant canine tooth dangling from one ear hadn’t made her any more relaxed.
Megan had forgotten about him. But thinking on it now, she wondered if his face had ended up like that because of the Second Blood War. She’d seen other old people with injuries, too. The woman at the apothecary in Hogsmeade with only one leg, the man who ran Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes and the hole where his ear should be, the man shopping at the book store with the milky eye and only one arm. She’d never thought to ask, never thought at all, about any of it.
It was… humbling, that was the word, to know that so many people, so many kids like her, had fought and died so that she could sit here in the halls of a Hogwarts free from bigotry. Megan couldn’t believe she hadn’t known about this; that no one had told her about it. Why didn’t they have a moment of silence on the 2nd of May? Why wasn’t there a memorial on campus? Or in Diagon Alley?
Finally, she sighed. She had so many questions, and no one to ask. She pulled the final book into her lap and stared at the photograph on the cover. Children of War was not a very cheery title despite the image on the cover.
The three students – two Gryffindors and one Hufflepuff – waved merrily at her from their seats in front of a stone wall that could be anywhere in the school. The only boy – and only Hufflepuff – in the picture gave her a cocky wink, and she couldn’t help but smile a bit.
Opening the book to the first page there was a large photograph of a rather mousy boy with a horribly old fashioned haircut and Gryffindor robes. “Most pictures in this book were taken by my older brother Colin Creevey (4 August 1981 - 2 May 1998) during his first through sixth years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This book is a tribute to him, and all of the other young people who died in the Second Wizarding War, put together with love and care by those of us who survived. Let us remember their loss, so no other children die in war again. –Dennis Creevey”
“Oh,” Megan said quietly. So that was Colin Creevey, Gryffindor Sixth Year. He was much scrawnier than she’d been imagining. On the back of the page were several short stories about Colin, who he’d been, what he’d been like. There was a particularly funny one written by Harry Potter, about a horrible fame-obsessed professor, the only autographs he’d ever given, and Colin in his first year. Dennis Creevey’s story about his brother nearly made her cry again.
The next photograph was the same as the one on the front cover. “Fay Dunbar (12 November 1979 – 2 May 1998), Lavender Brown (5 February 1980 – 2 May 1998), and Justin Finch-Fletchley (9 January 1980 – Early 1998.) Photograph: Colin Creevey, April 1996.
“Fay Dunbar, a kind and courageous Gryffindor seventh year, perished in the Battle of Hogwarts shortly before the hour long cease fire was called. An excellent flyer and a member of the Gryffindor broom racing team, she participated in the aerial defense of Hogwarts, taking down several giants before joining the fight against the dementors. She was killed by an unknown Death Eater who, seeing her distracted by the dementors, cursed her in the back.
“Lavender Brown was a popular, vivacious seventh year Gryffindor who was always willing to help out a friend. A skilled duelist, she helped organize the Hogwarts’ Resistance in the Room of Requirement and fought bravely in the Battle of Hogwarts. She was the last victim of the infamous werewolf Fenrir Greyback. She is commemorated in her best friend, fashion designer Parvati Patil’s, signature perfume line: ‘Lavender’s’.
“Justin Finch-Fletchley was a talented and bighearted young man who epitomized Hufflepuff house. Having been abroad over summer, Justin was unfortunately unaware of many of the events happening in Britain; including Voldemort’s conquest of Hogwarts. Upon arriving at Platform 9 ¾ for his seventh year he and all of the other muggleborn students were taken by the Ministry of Magic into the Muggleborn Relocation Program Camps.
“According to testimony from several would-be first years of 1997-1998 Justin spent the majority of his time in the camp protecting them from the attentions of the Death Eaters and ensuring their health and safety. Those first years, and several other children who were in the camp, say he was a large part of the reason they survived. The exact date of his death is unknown but was likely in either March or April 1998. He died ensuring two of his first year charges made it back, unseen, to their beds with the loaf of bread they’d stolen to keep from starvation. His body was never found, but his memory lives on in the lives of the children he saved.”
Megan stared at the faces of three teenagers who never got to grow much older than they were in the picture. Fay Dunbar’s long brown hair was up in ponytail but pieces that had come undone fell into her face. She’d huff and blow them away every now and then. She was quite pretty; and probably tall and thin, athletic, but it was hard to tell since she was seated. Lavender Brown was beautiful, absolutely stunning from the twists in her hair to the shine on her patent leather shoes. She looked like she could have been a model – perfect make-up, if old fashioned, and pristine clothes.
Next to her, Justin Finch-Fletchley looked plain, even though he was quite handsome. He had the sort of looks that screamed… ‘posh’ – Megan thought that was the word they used back then. His snub nose, high cheek bones and defined chin, gave him the traditional ‘look’ of the upper-class, and the obviously well-made clothes cemented it. His smile was sweet, though, and his eyes seemed to shine with kindness. His shaggy hair flopped into his eyes and his uniform rumpled, giving off a casual, effortless sort of aura.
Megan sighed and turned the page, reading the stories and watching the photographs. Sometimes she laughed – like at the picture of the Weasley twins handing a pastry to a first year who ended up turning into a canary. Canary Creams from Three W’s were a pranking tradition at Hogwarts and seeing the initial testing of them was really cool. Sometimes she had to stop and cry – like at the picture of Harry Potter holding Cedric Diggory’s body at the end of the Triwizard Tournament. She mostly ignored the tears that slid down her cheeks as she continued to read. She only paused to wipe them when her vision got too blurry to see the words.
Sometimes she simply stopped and stared at a picture for a long while. The photographs of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger in their first year and immediately after the war had been striking in their differences. Not in their age difference – which was obvious – but in their mileage as her Granny would say. The sheer exhaustion that seemed to be another body weighing them down, and the haunted eyes that stared back at her out of the page almost blankly were a stark contrast to the three smiling, waving kids they’d once been.
The picture of Neville Longbottom, kneeling, head bowed and solemn in the Great Hall with a sheet-covered body beside him and a giant bloody sword in his hand was beautiful, in a very morbid way. She wondered who was under the sheet, the caption didn’t say.
Alice Tolipan, the fourth year Hufflepuff who’d died guarding the others’ retreat, was photographed laughing so hard she was in tears. The other girl – Eleanor Branstone – was bright red and in stitches too. Megan smiled sadly, wondering what the joke was, and wondering what had happened to Eleanor.
The picture of the Room of Requirement decked in hammocks and with trunks scattered in between sheets on the stone floor looked wretched. The students in the Room looked thin and wasted, their cheeks hollowed and their eyes desperate. They huddled together, it seemed, taking comfort where they could. A large number were gathered around an ancient looking radio. The caption made her cry a bit.
“This was the last photograph ever taken by Colin Creevey,” it read. “Photographed on 1 May 1998 it shows the conditions the D.A. and younger students hiding from the Death Eaters had been living in for the past year while hiding in the Room of Requirement. Food was difficult to find, other than through the passage to the Hog’s Head Inn in Hogsmeade, which was dangerous and risky to visit as it was often searched by Death Eaters. The House Elves were forbidden from giving them any; although they would turn a blind eye to any student who managed to make it to the kitchen to ‘steal’ food. Illness was frequent, as none of the students had much knowledge of healing beyond making simple pepper-up potions and the like.
“Many of the students would stage small-scale rebellions against the Death Eaters, ambushing them with pranks and making their life difficult. Two students – Oliver Rivers of Hufflepuff and Anthony Goldstein of Ravenclaw, both seventh years – were caught while doing so by the Carrows in mid-November. The entire school was made to watch as they were executed for treason in the Great Hall the following day. Those in the Room of Requirement witnessed through the large scrying bowl used to keep track of the world outside.”
Most of the photos, Megan discovered, were of the dead while they were still alive or of those who’d survived the war. Others, less than a quarter, were of the dead when they were… dead. Most photos of the dead were on the battlefield, eyes staring glassily at nothing. Most had barely any marks on them, taken down by killing curses. Others, like Lavender Brown, were barely recognizable because their bodies were torn to shreds. The photograph of the pile of wands confiscated by the Muggleborn Registration Committee made her feel ill. There had to be a few thousand of them, piled up. According to the caption, these wands were the ones whose owners’ had either been confirmed dead or never located.
Megan had seen photos of Morag McClintock and Terry Boot already; Morag had been a pretty, dark-skinned girl who looked partly South Asian of some sort, Terry had been a square-jawed, freckle-faced boy, with deep dimples and a smile that lit up his plain face and made him look rather handsome.
But finally, close to the end of the book, she finally found her.
The other Megan Jones.
She had bright blue eyes and freckles all over her face. Her dirty blonde hair was in a messy ponytail, with half of it falling out. Her uniform was a mess – her tie very uneven and twisted to the side, half her collar was sticking up, and instead of her uniform skirt or trousers beneath her robes she was wearing pajama pants with fluttering pixies on them. Her smile was bright and beaming, and Megan could tell, just by looking at her, that the other Megan must have been wonderful.
She was in the Room of Requirement, sitting on a battered trunk. Kneeling beside the other Megan was Morag McClintock, who was perfectly put together. Her head was leaning against the other Megan’s knee, but every now and then she looked up, and the other Megan looked down, and they’d lean together and share a sweet kiss.
The caption read, “On 1 April 1998 a major act of rebellion was staged by the refugees and rebels hiding in the Room of Requirement. The doors and halls outside of the rooms of the Death Eaters occupying the school were booby-trapped so well that it took the quickest of them three days to disable the traps enough to get out. The D.A. took advantage and conducted both extensive food and potions ingredient raids, as well as rescue missions for those students who were particularly bad off, since they’d been unable to help their fellows for nearly two months due to increased patrols and spying and tracking spells on the students.
“Here Megan Jones, Hufflepuff seventh year, celebrates the rescue of girlfriend Morag McClintock, Ravenclaw sixth year, after five months of separation. Megan had relocated to the Room of Requirement in late November, following a prolonged torture session by the Carrows after they discovered she was a half-blood. Morag had elected to remain a part of the school in order to protect and shield the younger years as well as to pass information to the D.A. Both perished in the Battle of Hogwarts, keeping Death Eaters from following the evacuating lower year Ravenclaws and Gryffindors into the Hufflepuff basement. They loved, fought, and died together.”
The following page was a picture of the corridor she was sitting in with three bodies in Hogwarts uniforms on the ground. A boy – Terry Boot – was slumped against the wall with blood pooled under him. Morag was on her back, one arm fallen above her head and her wand had slipped out of her hand, it looked as if she’d been moving when she’d died, her body lying twisted on the ground. The other Megan’s wand was still in her hand. She’d fallen on her stomach, and it seemed like she’d been the last to die, trying to protect the other two. Or maybe avenge them. The ground was covered in rubble and the wall above Terry was gouged and burnt looking.
Just like the wall across from her was still gouged, even now. Practically one-hundred years later.
Megan couldn’t bear to look at the photograph. Couldn’t bring herself to read the caption, if there was one. Instead she flipped back to the photo taken the month before the battle, and watched Morag reach up and pull the other Megan in for another kiss.
Megan started crying. She stared at the two girls in the picture, happy and in love, and couldn’t understand why they had to die. Why anyone would want to kill a couple of teenagers who shouldn’t have had to worry about more than where to go in Hogsmeade on their next date. She couldn’t understand why the war had happened at all. It was all so stupid.
“It was rather stupid, looking back on it, wasn’t it?” a quiet voice said.
Megan sniffled and scrubbed at her face. “Headmaster!” she exclaimed. “I… I, uh. I didn’t mean that, you know, in a bad way. Just…”
Her voice faded as he chuckled and looked amused. “Not to worry, Miss Jones, I believe I understood what you meant. Might I join you?” he gestured at the ground beside her.
She blinked stupidly for a moment before nodding vigorously. “Of course, sir.”
He smiled in thanks and sat down beside her. “Might I see?”
She handed the book to him without protest. “You fought in the Second Blood War, right sir?” she asked.
Megan knew he had, of course. She’d heard he was a war hero before she even got to Hogwarts (although she’d never thought to wonder at the whys behind him being a war hero) and she’d read all about him in the books she’d just read. It had been strange seeing him so young. She’d never pictured him young before, and seeing him that way (and seeing how bloody gorgeous he’d been) had been an eye opener.
He gave her an amused look, letting her know that he knew that she knew that already, and simply said, “Indeed.” He glanced down at the book in his hands and sighed. “So you found out about Megan Jones then? Is that what peaked your interest in the war?”
Megan nodded. “I ended up in this hall on accident last term. I, uh, I kept coming back for some reason.”
“Perhaps because there was a memorial posted on the wall for a girl with your name?” He smiled slightly.
“Perhaps,” Megan agreed.
They both remained silent for a bit, not feeling the need to say anything else. Finally, Megan asked, “What was she like, sir?”
“I didn’t know Megan that well,” the headmaster admitted, “for all that we were in the same year. I was a Gryffindor and she a Hufflepuff, and house divisions were taken far more seriously then. A legacy of the First Blood War and the two prior headmasters – Dumbledore and Dippet – I’m sad to say.”
“Oh,” Megan said softly.
“She was outgoing,” the Headmaster said after a pause to think, “and funny. She loved music with a passion, and would dance to anything. She was kind and giving, loyal to her bones. The very best sort of Hufflepuff. She wasn’t much for scholastic pursuits, but was brilliant at Astronomy and absolute rubbish at Arithmancy, but her mother insisted she take it through her NEWTs, for all that she’d barely scraped an A on her OWLs. She had a bubbly, happy-go-lucky way of looking at life. That…”
He smiled, and Megan’s heart lurched because it was such a sad smile. “That was a blessing in seventh year. That year was horrible, you know. War on the outside, the school itself a battleground inside. Even before Harry, Hermione, and Ron returned and the official Battle began. I’d never known what it meant to be hungry, before then. To be cold for lack of warm clothing. Ill, for lack of medicine. I told Harry that once, and he said that at least his relatives had been good for something, even if it was just preparing him for war through neglect.”
“Harry Potter was neglected?” Megan blurted out in surprise.
“Yes,” the Headmaster said. “And although it’s obvious, looking back, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t notice as a boy, despite sharing a room with him for seven years. I apologized once, you know,” he said, confidingly, “for not noticing. He said that as long as I noticed now that I was a teacher, and never ignored it, no apologies would ever be needed.”
“Is that why we have required appointments with Healer Greengrass every year?”
“Yes, that’s why. After I insisted Minerva – that would be former Headmistress McGonagall to you – institute those policies, dozens of former students came forwards to thank her for it. They all said they wished it had been around when they were students. She was more crushed then, hearing that, than I’d ever seen before.” He looked Megan in the eye and said, “And considering that I’d fought a war at her side, helped her carry the bodies of students and former students she’d taught, and watched her attend funerals for dozens, that’s saying something.”
Megan felt a shiver go down her spine. “Kyle, Kyle Thompson, in my year. He doesn’t live with his parents anymore.”
“Is that a question, Miss Jones? I’m afraid I can’t tell you any details of other student’s personal lives.”
“No, no that’s okay.” Megan didn’t need an answer, she already had a pretty good guess. She changed the subject, or perhaps returned it to the previous one. “Can you tell me more about the other Megan, Headmaster? How’d… how’d she and Morag get together?”
“Certainly. I remember when they began dating, at the end of our fifth year. No one expected Megan and Morag to get together – Morag was quiet and studious, and loved to read. Megan, on the other hand, was rather gregarious; she preferred playing gobstones to studying, and loved music. She played three instruments, and kept us entertained many evenings in the Room, whilst we were in hiding.” He smiled wistfully.
“As for precisely how they began dating? Well, Morag asked Megan one morning. They were both early risers, you see, and would sit together in the Great Hall before breakfast. Morag typically read while Megan would play her flute or violin. They’d just calmly sit and enjoy each other’s company, or chat with one another. And then, one day in Megan’s fifth year and Morag’s fourth, Morag asked Megan to Hogsmeade.”
“And she said yes.”
The Headmaster laughed. “No, my dear, she said no. She had a boyfriend at that time. Of course, when they broke up later that year Morag asked again, and that’s when Megan said yes.” He mumbled something about a bridge and decrees, but Megan couldn’t figure out what he was talking about and so ignored it.
Megan was surprised. She’d been imagining some grand epic love story. Not a, well, a story you’d hear of in the Great Hall even now.
“You know, I didn’t pay them much attention. I didn’t know either of them particularly well, and didn’t much care for gossip. But my wife, Hannah, she shared a dorm with Megan. She once told me she was surprised the two lasted as long as they did – their personalities were so different, you see. But, despite their differences, they did seem to work well together. And they were happy, in what little time they had.”
Megan nodded, looking at her hands. They had no answers.
“Why did they have to die?” she asked impulsively, tears pricking in the corners of her eyes. It wasn’t all she wanted to ask, it wasn’t all the questions that circled through her mind. But in the end all of her questions boiled down to that: Why?
“I’m afraid I still don’t have a good answer for that, Miss Jones,” the Headmaster said softly. He sighed and closed his eyes for a minute. “I can only guess and speculate.”
Megan was surprised by that answer. She’d never had a professor – and adult, even – admit they didn’t know something.
“I can’t speak for those that killed them, for Voldemort and the Death Eaters,” the Headmaster told her. “I’ve never understood their thinking, not after going to school amongst them and not after hearing their testimonies. I can never understand the attacks that targeted innocent people doing nothing more than shopping, the way they hunted down magbobs living peacefully and happily tortured and killed them, the way they sought out and killed children so young they’d never held a wand. And I have to admit, I don’t really want to understand them. I can’t speak for that, for the atrocities they committed.”
He paused and let out a shaky breath. “But I feel that I can speak up and say that Megan Jones and Morag McClintock, and so very many other children like them, felt it was worth it to take a stand. We thought it was worth the risk, the chance of death, to fight. We thought it was worth it to do the right thing. To defend our school, our home, our world. And to defend our future, Miss Jones.”
Megan nodded again, but didn’t look up. The Headmaster handed her back the book, turned to the second to last page. There were two photographs. The photo on top was of about two-hundred-fifty or three-hundred students and teachers, all lined up on the front steps. The castle was majestic and grand in the background and the lawn in the foreground was pristine. The students were neatly pressed in their uniforms, organized by house and year. Some were waving, others pulled faces, most were just chatting to their neighbors. The script below it said, “Hogwarts School Photo, 1996-1997. Photo taken by: Colin Creevey, 12 June 1997.”
The photo beneath it was of a dystopian wasteland. The grounds were gouged and burnt, the castle was scarred and crumbling. The students were in a mix of casual robes, non-magical clothes, and school uniforms. They weren’t in neat lines, organized by house and year. Rather they were seated on the steps that remained with no real rhyme or reason. It was obvious how much smaller the group was. There were maybe, maybe one-hundred-fifty to two-hundred students. The script below that photo said, “Hogwarts School Photo, 1997-1998. (Photograph includes some muggleborns and other students unable to attend due to danger as well as some former students who had returned for the Battle.) Photo taken by: Ginevra Weasley, 10 June 1998.”
Megan stared at the photos for a while. Taking in the differences between the two. It was shocking, in more ways than one, to compare the before and after of the Battle of Hogwarts. Of the Second Blood War.
“Turn the page,” the Headmaster instructed her quietly.
Megan did. There was no picture on that page, rather it simply said:
“We were a generation born into one war, and we came of age in the next. Our youth was one of fear and uncertainty. We grew up as the numbers of the dead grew higher, and we could see those deaths every time we looked around the Great Hall at supper. A child, a boy, was the first of us to die in the war – and we remember that. We remember the empty space where he used to sit at supper. We cannot forget it. We cannot forget them. We cannot forget any of them.
“I beg of you, remember the deaths of the children – remember all of the children. Remember the deaths of the children in the camps, in the prison, in the ministry, in the school, in the battlefield. Remember the deaths of the children, who should have been the most sheltered amongst us. Remember their deaths were because too many adults were cowards, because too many were complacent, because too many stood aside, because too many looked the other way and ignored the horrors that were perpetrated by their neighbors upon other neighbors.”
The Headmaster surprised her when he began to recite the last words on the page out loud, not even having to look at it, “Remember that those who went to battle for nothing less than their freedom, and for their very lives, were children who should have been concerned with nothing more than a game of quidditch. Remember that those who fought and died for the future – for a better future – were children. Remember the deaths of the children of war, so that no child ever needs to die again.”
They sat in silence for a minute. Megan didn’t know what to say, if there was anything she could say. The Headmaster let out a terribly sad sigh.
“Harry wrote that, you know,” he finally said. “Dennis wrote and asked him if he had anything he wanted to put in the book in general, and not about a specific person, as he’d been our leader. And that’s what he sent back. Harry isn’t a great speaker – bloody horrible at it, actually – but he’s not a bad writer.”
Megan swallowed and looked up at him. He looked back with kind brown eyes in his wrinkled face under steel grey hair that he kept neatly combed. There was a scar near his hairline, and she guessed it was from the war. She could see, now, the handsome boy he’d once been beneath his age. She didn’t think about it, simply reached out and grabbed his large, pale hand in her small, dark one.
“Thank you,” she said. She squeezed his hand. “Thank you, Professor Longbottom. For everything.”
She wanted to say more, so much more, to explain precisely what she was thanking him for, but she couldn’t find the words. They were stuck in her throat, unable to be voiced. Megan wanted to explain that learning this, knowing these things, it felt like it changed everything – and yet everything was the same then as it had been two days before. Perhaps it was just her who had changed.
The Headmaster smiled and clasped her hand between his. “Always, Miss Jones. Always.”
Megan smiled back, knowing that Professor Longbottom understood. And silently she promised him and the other Megan Jones, and all the other children of war – both the dead and the living – that she’d remember them.