A Report on ‘Unity!’
It was done for the 2012 SS/HG Exchange. I had signed up as an artist rather than as an author. But one of one of the illustrations that I had the bright idea of working up as a gift for the community as a whole needed a bit of explanation…
As a foreseeable effect of the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts, in the immediately post-war atmosphere of the interim Ministry, prior to Kingsley Shacklebolt’s confirmation as Minister, the Ministry of Magic could not pull down the Thickness Ministry’s ‘Magic Is Might’ statue in the entry atrium quickly enough. In the period following, however, it was not so easy to form a consensus on what was to replace it.
The initial impulse to commemorate the victory with a statue of the Boy Who Lived was effectively blocked by Mr Harry Potter’s categorical refusal to agree to take part in any such project. Thwarted, the functionaries of the committee which had formed to select a proposal to fill the unaccustomed void in the welcome hall of the Ministry headquarters, first hit upon the idea to commemorate the leaders of the Hogwarts Resistance (as that group had come to be called). They were once again stymied by refusals. It was believed that Miss Genevra Weasley’s refusal to take part in the project was made in solidarity with Mr Potter, with whose name hers had been linked since the battle. Given that Miss Weasley was still some months underage, the committee did not choose to press the issue.
Mr Neville Longbottom’s refusal was of a somewhat different nature in that he refused to be commemorated unless the whole group was similarly honored. Given that some of the members of the group had already refused to participate, others had perished in the battle, and that the remaining members comprised too large a group to make a statue on the scale which the committee proposed, this concept was soon abandoned. (Longbottom’s suggestion of putting up an obelisk with all of the partcipant’s names, was dismissed out of hand as insufficiently eye-catching.) That no one appears to have even considered requesting the participation of the barely-of-age Miss Luna Lovegood, who was not only an early leader of the Resistance, but one of the few surviving hostages of the ‘One Who No One Now Mentions’s’ chief supporters, might appear odd, at first glance. However, the fact that Xenophillius Lovegood’s track record of having managed to get thoroughly up the noses of the Fudge, the Scrimgeour, and the Thickness Ministries (as well as the Bagnold, Gamp, and Fortescue Ministries, if one undertakes only the most cursory level of research), and had crowned his accomplishments with a failed attempt to ransom his daughter by the capture of Harry Potter, goes a long way towards resolving that puzzle.
Ultimately, a coalition of the traditionalists and the sentimentalists on the committee managed to forge a resolution to commission a replacement of the old St Mungo’s fountain;‘The Fellowship of Magical Brethren’.
Not without a few protests. Most prominently those of Miss Hermione Granger (Order of Merlin) on the grounds that the statue in its former iteration had been both condescending and untruthful in its representation of the actual relationship between the Magical Brethren so depicted.
At this point, a further complication was introduced by a groundswell movement which, determined to see some commemoration of the Battle of Hogwarts, floated the idea of using the fact that the Hogwarts House Elves had voluntarily supported the faculty and staff in the battle, and that even the Centaurs of the Forbidden Forest’s grudging, last moment, protection and support of the Hogsmeade citizenry as they mustered to relieve the residents of the Castle on the 2nd day of the battle was of sufficient note to repurpose the proposal to recreate the Fellowship Fountain as a memorial of the battle in itself.
It must be agreed that the inclusion of a representation of the Goblins in such a memorial was problematic. But it was easily pointed out that the Goblins had certainly been no more supportive of the Thickness Ministry than they had been of any of its predecessors.
An unintended result of this repurposing of the project was to render a choice of models for the witch and wizard to be depicted more problematic than the committee had anticipated. It was rapidly bourne in upon them that if the project was to commemorate an actual event, then — it was insisted — the models should also be recognizable figures known for their actions during the war. A generic representation of two idealized humans in robes was simply not acceptable.
There was yet a further problematic element in play in that even in the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts, the Ministry was still predominately a bastion of traditional wizarding values, most of whose members were unwilling to give offense to those whose more moderate sufferings during the undeclared war just concluded had not been made public, nor were currently being spun into a circus by the media.
There was a good deal of muttering on the part of the survivors of the actual battle on this point, but it had to be admitted that it was, after all, the Ministry which would be paying for the project. Nor, to be perfectly honest, did the victors of the Battle see a lot of credit to be gained by gratuitously giving offense to those who had been thoroughly out of the loop (a significant percentage of whom had also effectively given hostages to the Ministry who were held — under Ministry supervision — at Hogwarts), and who, receiving nothing but tainted information — which was all they were given by the Thickness Ministry — and had kept their heads down as much as possible, for the sake of their families’ safety.
The public vindication of Headmaster Snape, and his highly publicized double role during the war (indeed, both of the previous wars) burst upon the general wizarding populace at about this stage of the proceedings, which had the result of making the selection of what wizard should be immortalized by the project relatively easy (Headmaster Snape not being in any condition to refuse).
Indeed, both his double role, and his status as a literal halfblood were easily spun by the media — which found it in its best interests to throw its support behind the new Ministry, and the committee — as an exemplary modern representation of "Everywizard" in the public eye. Indeed, the reputation of Severus Snape, once so exposed to media manipulation, soon proved him to be a wizard with whom nearly any modern British wizard could plausibly make some form of a claim of association.
In this campaign they were further assisted by Mr Potter who was adamant on the subject of Snape’s heroic execution of a task far beyond the abilities of lesser wizards. Professor Snape’s unavailability to actually model for the project was deemed a comparatively minor setback, for although he had previously never received a great deal of media attention, there were nevertheless a number of photographs of him extant, many by the late Colin Creevy, who had perished in the battle. Indeed, Creevy’s posthumous portfolio enjoyed brisk sales for several years afterward, being the most comprehensive record of prewar Hogwarts extant, as well as comprising an outstanding piece of photojournalism regarding the TriWizard Tournament (and a more extensive one than that produced by the ‘Prophet’), a significant historical event in its own right.
The selection of a witch to model for the project was a cause of much debate, ultimately settling upon Miss Hermione Granger. Miss Granger’s prominent position as a staunch supporter and friend of Harry Potter, from the time of his re-entry to the wizarding world to that date was an obvious reason for her consideration for this honor, but it is also strongly implied that the fact that she was perhaps the most prominent Muggle-born witch in Britain was more likely to be the real reason for this selection. Largely thanks to the efforts of former Commissioner Umbridge, in the minds of most of the British wizarding public, Muggle-borns were, after all, what the war had all been about.
Miss Granger, in private, was clearly disgruntled by the selection, having little confidence in the Ministry’s ability — or willingness — to fairly or truthfully depict the proposed subject, and not altogether flattered to be selected to come and be “a credit to her race”. She also pointed out that expecting her to model for the work in company with a Goblin was just asking for mayhem. Her friends pointed out that if she didn’t participate she’d have no right to grumble about whatever the Ministry did end up commissioning, and her only chance of having any input on the project would be to agree to it.
The Sculptor — who was not a British subject, and apart from accepting the commission had little use for committees — was resistant to suggestion. He had been commissioned to depict a work commemorating the conclusive Battle of an undeclared war which had been brought to a conclusion through the cooperation and support of four of the five magical races to be depicted. That his home country was also bound by the demands of International Statutes, assured all that he needed no explanations regarding the why of the inclusion of a Goblin in the depiction. Gringotts is a world-wide entity. It does not do to deliberately offend entities on that scale of prominence.
To be completely honest, Miss Granger, even with the best of intentions found that she had limited input upon the resulting design. The sculptor had undertaken the project with a clear concept in mind, and she was bemused to find herself depicting a mythological entity. She did adamantly insist that the Elf to be depicted be clearly a representation of a free Elf — in the interests of (what she hoped) to be an encouragement for House Elves to at least consider taking the example of the late Dobby to heart. Mr Ronald Weasley pointed out to her that this attempt at propaganda was just as much a piece of deliberate untruthfulness as the earlier fountain’s depiction of all magical races looking to human wizards for leadership, since none of the House Elves in the battle had actually been free Elves (Winky had been discovered later hiding in a cupboard), and that her dismissal of the Hogwarts Elves’ defense of their own home was insulting. The quarrel that resulted took most of a week to settle.
The sculptor, on the other hand, had accepted Miss Granger’s proposal, finding it advantageous in furthering his concept for the work.
Any potential for mayhem during modeling sessions was easily avoided by the sessions all being separately held and the final statue assembled from the individual components. Indeed, given that the sculptor was forced to work from photographs for the depiction of Headmaster Snape, and from a number of relatively hasty sketches for that of the Centaur, there was no possibility nor need for a group modeling session. In the end, the most problematic task turned out to be the representation of the House Elf, since getting a Hogwarts Elf to model in the costume the sculptor desired rather than household linens was simply not on, and it took some effort to finally locate a free Elf who would agree to it (Winky refused, and was later found in the burnt-out Room of Requirement with a half a dozen bottles of butterbeer, whimpering about people who wished to make her disgrace even more public than it was already).
The new fountain was ultimately completed in time for its unveiling on the 2nd anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. It was much admired by most of the commission, and virtually all of the Hogwarts Battle Memorial Action Group. The Ministry workers certainly did not express any open discontent regarding either the new design nor its execution.
The wizarding public, like most of the British public, however, is not known for its reverence for works of public art. Before the end of a week after the unveiling, the new fountain, with its grandiose title of; ‘Unity!’ had been unofficially dubbed ‘Together, we fight crime!’