(If you didn't read Chapter 33 earlier today, go back and read it!)
Chapter 34: Crowning
Charlotte remembered the next few days in bits and pieces. The two armies had stayed in their own lines for a few hours, unsure if the piece was real. Unsure if they could trust the other side. But eventually a few brave souls walked across to the other side. Neighbors were discovered. Lives were reconnected. They rediscovered that they were all human. They weren't really that different after all; they'd only been told they were. Charlotte learned much about the general who had surrendered to her. Apparently he remembered her father from his brief time working in the muggle army. He had liked Albus.
It was Skylar who found Charlotte to bring her back to the real world. Most of the Ministry had joined those defending the castle and were in the upper floors. His report of the situation inside was grim. The dungeons were flooded. The fiendfyre spell had originated from near the Slytherin Common Room and seemed to have broken the protective spells that kept the lake out. A few Ministry officials were holding the water where it was while Professor Finnigan tried to replace the charm, but the Common Room and anything in it was likely destroyed for a while. That was when Charlotte accepted that the spell was her brother's work. And if what he said was true, he hadn't survived.
She wasn't sure if that made her happy or sad.
Many of the leaders on both sides appeared to be dazed and dizzy for the next several hours. It was revealed that about half the generals on the muggle side and several Ministry personnel had been replaced by Slytherin puppets under various levels of bewitchment. That was when Charlotte knew that her brother had succeeded. Slytherin was dead. This time they had won for good.
The news from Louisiana arrived a couple hours later when James arrived to hugs from both Charlotte and Harry. Edward himself had been forced to stay behind, but they had won and the muggle leaders were prepared to say good words for Edward to the press. The only bad news was Leveau's death. Like Regulus, she had died saving everyone else.
Over the few days following the battle the peace remained very tenuous. The muggle press around the world went into overdrive to spin the narrative surrounding the anti-magical movement into craziness that no sane person had ever bought into. The British press ran story after story about the corruption of the imposter king and the valiant heroism of Prince Edward to stand up to him. By the day after the battles they were already referring to him as King Edward, and Parliament recognized his claim to the throne soon after. It took Charlotte a few days after that to convince him to accept it.
The President of the United States resigned after dropping a nuke on his own land, and the new President visited King Edward a week after the battle. The two didn't discuss much, but they managed to shake hands in front of cameras, which Edward assured Charlotte was actually a big thing. She figured it must have been a "politicians thinking they are bigger than they really are" thing.
It took Professor Finnigan almost a week to get a new spell up in the Slytherin Common Room. The water of the lake evaporated, or was vanished, but the smell of dead fish and mildew proved more difficult to get rid of. No charm was known to get the smell out of the fabric. It was a muggle who suggested one of their potions that, when sprayed on the beds, did the trick.
A hole at least ten feet wide had been blown in the side of the common room, where an old wardrobe had once been according to the Slytherin students. It opened onto a massive chamber, over a hundred feet below them that Harry quickly identified as the Chamber of Secrets. It was clear that the fiendfyre had begun here. The walls of the chamber were charred and ash was crumbling off their surfaces. Harry reported that several statues were just completely missing, including a hundred foot statue of Slytherin himself. The bones of the basilisk had been petrified by the flames.
Charlotte was thrust into the forefront of the media spin campaign. Her name, as the daughter of the redeemed Albus Severus Potter, Magical Ambassador to the Crown, as well as her prevalence in the resistance to the imposter King would probably have been enough to make her headline news anyway. But her being the one to reveal the imposter king as well as the one who was offered the crown at the end of the battle solidified it. Many believed that any new monarch would need her blessing to maintain the tentative peace. There were rumors that the King wanted to make her the Queen. She wasn't upset at these rumors.
"Are you ready for this? You look pretty pale."
Harry Potter stood in dress robes making sure that his granddaughter was immaculate. A full year had passed since the battle, and the King had finally believed that enough time had passed to allow for an official coronation. This was the first time that an openly magical person would be crowned the monarch of Great Britain; and he had hoped that time would make the public more open to the idea. For the most part it seemed to have worked.
Edward had asked that Charlotte be a part of the ceremony. Specifically he had wanted her to grant the crown to him in conjunction with the Archbishop as a symbol of unity between the two governments of England. And so she now found herself at the back of Westminster Abbey in a big, flowing, red dress trying to keep from throwing up.
"I'm a Gryffindor. I thought I was supposed to be brave," she said.
"Bravery doesn't mean never being afraid. It means being scared and doing it anyway," Harry said.
Charlotte looked at him inquisitively. "Great-grandma Molly say that?"
"John Wayne. Among others," Harry said. "But, yes, Molly would have approved."
Charlotte smiled a fleeting smile. "Dad should have been here," she said.
Harry sighed and gently grabbed her shoulders. "Your father was named for two of the bravest men I knew," he said. "I had merely hoped that he would be half the men they were. But he was more than either of them could ever have hoped to be. Your father was a hero, and you have lived up to his legacy. I am proud of you, Charlotte Potter. And I'm sure he would be too."
A tear leaked out of Charlotte's eye. She nodded at her grandfather.
The door opened. Harry stepped back and motioned her forward.
Charlotte didn't really see much of the ceremony, being too focused on not making a mistake live in front of the entire world. But she made sure she was more present mentally for the party afterwards. The nobles, both magical and muggle, had been invited to Buckingham Palace for a reception of sorts after the ceremony was over. The only thing that was required was the King would appear on the balcony before it began, which he dutifully did. He had enough criticism coming at him for being a wizard, he didn't need more for missing a custom.
Charlotte had grown up with Royal parties, but even she had never seen anything like this before. The sheer amount of food, music, tables, lighting, and people overwhelmed her senses. Flashes of planes and bombs, and blue fireballs assaulted her senses. She felt her heart pounding in her chest, sweat began to roll down her back. She dropped her drink. The butler said something to her, she said something back but wasn't really aware of it. He had the face of a young girl, dead on the forest floor. He escorted Charlotte out onto the balcony to get some fresh air.
Slowly, her vision cleared. Her breathing returned to normal. The butler, with a normal face now, brought her a new drink. She looked out over the courtyard. Most of the people had left now, and those who had stayed were not focusing on the balcony. The tree leaves were shining in the moonlight. The world seemed too calm.
"Doing okay?" Edward's voice came from behind her, and she almost tripped spinning around so fast. For once, she was glad she couldn't reach her wand easily or else England may have been looking for a new monarch again. The new King was leaning against the doors of the balcony, holding a drink of his own, and smiling like he had just won a bet to see if he could actually startle her.
"You're lucky I don't have my wand," she teased.
Edward shrugged. "I can handle myself." Charlotte laughed. Edward walked past her and leaned against the railing. "It doesn't feel right to party," he said to the air.
"They would want us to," Charlotte said. "They would want it all to go on."
"Which 'they' are we talking about?" Edward asked.
"Both our parents," Charlotte said. She walked up to the rail and leaned against it about ten feet to his left. Some white flashes were seen in the courtyard. "Well, this will be front page news tomorrow," she said.
Edward laughed. "Only on the tabloids. Besides, you should be used to the front page by now."
"I would be scared if I ever got used to the front page," Charlotte responded.
Edward sighed. "That's what I like about you," he said. "You're one of the few people I know who isn't enamoured by the extra stuff of the palace. Of the crown."
Charlotte turned to face him, but he kept his gaze resolutely forward. "My family is magical royalty. I'm used to it I guess. But I do often wish we could save the world without the world constantly thanking us for it."
Edward let a smile spread on his lips. "As do I," he said. "I never wanted this, or thought it would ever happen. I think we share that as well."
"You are right as always, my King," Charlotte said.
"I'm still not used to that," Edward said. The two stood in silence for several moments, the flashes of cameras the only thing breaking the stillness of the night. Edward finally turned to face her. "The party is hard for you, isn't it? The noise, the lights, they're causing flashbacks, aren't they?"
"How would you know that?" Charlotte asked.
"I'm on the patio too," Edward said. Charlotte grinned and nodded. Edward continued, "Go home. Get rest. I have to stay, or so I'm told. But before you go, might I make a request?"
"What can I do for you, my King?" Charlotte asked.
"Would you come back by tomorrow evening. Aparate in. No need to involve the press."
"What's the occasion tomorrow?" she asked.
"Let's call it a job interview," he said.
"For what job?" she asked.
Edward smiled. "Queen," he said. He lifted his glass at her and disappeared back into the party. Charlotte headed home shortly thereafter, but she didn't sleep. For the first time in a year, all was well.
Thank you to all who have read this whole thing all the way to the end. I have very much enjoyed picking this story back up. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much. Please keep an eye out for more stories from me.