“In there,” whispered Ginny in Harry's ear.
And he saw them in the clear green sunlit water, inches below the surface, reminding him horribly of the Inferi; a chorus of merpeople singing in a strange language he
did not understand, their pallid faces rippling, their purplish hair flowing all around them. The music made the hair on Harry's neck stand up and yet it was not
unpleasant. It spoke very clearly of loss and of despair. As he looked down into the wild faces of the singers he had the feeling that they, at least, were sorry for
Dumbledore's passing. Then Ginny nudged him again and he looked round.
Hagrid was walking slowly up the aisle between the chairs. He was crying quite silently, his face gleaming with tears, and in his arms, wrapped in purple velvet
spangled with golden stars, was what Harry knew to be Dumbledore's body. A sharp pain rose in Harry's throat at this sight: for a moment, the strange music and the
knowledge that Dumbledore's body was so close seemed to take all warmth from the day. Ron looked white and shocked. Tears were falling thick and fast into both Ginny
and Hermione's laps.
They could not see clearly what was happening at the front. Hagrid seemed to have placed the body carefully upon the table. Now he retreated down the aisle, blowing his
nose with loud trumpeting noises that drew scandalised looks from some, including, Harry saw, Dolores Umbridge ... but Harry knew that Dumbledore would not have cared.
He tried to make a friendly gesture to Hagrid as he passed, but Hagrid's eyes were so swollen it was a wonder he could see where he was going. Harry glanced at the back
row to which Hagrid was heading and realised what was guiding him, for there, dressed in a jacket and trousers each the size of a small marquee, was the giant Grawp,
his great ugly boulder-like head bowed, docile, almost human. Hagrid sat down next to his half-brother and Grawp patted Hagrid hard on the head, so that his chair legs
sank into the ground. Harry had a wonderful momentary urge to laugh. But then the music stopped and he turned to face the front again.
A little tufty-haired man in plain black robes had got to his feet and stood now in front of Dumbledore's body. Harry could not hear what he was saying. Odd words
floated back to them over the hundreds of beads. “Nobility of spirit” ... “intellectual contribution” ... “greatness of heart” ... it did not mean very much. It
had little to do with Dumbledore as Harry had known him. He suddenly remembered Dumbledore's idea of a few words: “nitwit", “oddment", “blubber” and “tweak", and
again, had to suppress a grin ... what was the matter with him?
There was a soft splashing noise to his left and he saw that the merpeople had broken the surface to listen, too. He remembered Dumbledore crouching at the water's edge
two years ago, very close to where Harry now sat, and conversing in Mermish with the Merchieftainess. Harry wondered where Dumbledore had learned Mermish. There was so
much he had never asked him, so much he should have said ...
And then, without warning, it swept over him, the dreadful truth, more completely and undeniably than it had until now. Dumbledore was dead, gone ... he clutched the
cold locket in his hand so tightly that it hurt, but he could not prevent hot tears spilling from his eyes: he looked away from Ginny and the others and stared out over
the lake, towards the Forest, as the little man in black droned on ... there was movement among the trees. The centaurs had come to pay their respects, too. They did
not move into the open but Harry saw them standing quite still, half-hidden in shadow, watching the wizards, their bows hanging at their sides. And Harry remembered his
first nightmarish trip into the Forest, the first time he had ever encountered the thing that was then Voldemort, and how he had faced him, and how he and Dumbledore
had discussed fighting a losing battle not long thereafter. It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be
kept at bay, though never quite eradicated ...
And Harry saw very clearly as be sat there under the hot sun how people who cared about him had stood in front of him one by one, his mother, his father, his godfather,
and finally Dumbledore, all determined to protect him; but now that was over. He could not let anybody else stand between him and Voldemort; he must abandon for ever