Chapter 16 : Beyond the Veil
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Disclaimer: I do not own any of these wonderful characters; they all belong to the magnificent J.K. Rowling. (Except for the original few that you'll be able to recognize yourselves!)
About an hour later, Ginny, Hermione, Remus, Tonks, Kingsley and Mad-Eye were congregated in Dumbledore's office. The Headmaster was seated behind his desk, the rest of the occupants were sitting or standing in various places on the opposite side. Ginny was pacing not only due to her desire to depart for the Ministry quickly, but also because of the myriad of emotions emanating from everyone in the room. Dumbledore had yet to begin the impending discussion, but Ginny could already feel that the rest of them knew what was coming. Most of them were thrilled, or relieved, but one person's emotions stood out above them all. Remus was so conflicted that Ginny feared that her former professor might implode. She carefully avoided his gaze, though she could feel his eyes following her pacing figure.
At long last, Dumbledore began to speak, "I'm sure you're all aware of the reason that I have asked you to assemble here." They nodded collectively, and he continued, "Miss Weasley is adamant that we depart for the ministry at once, for fear-"
"And you're going to let a fifteen year old dictate your actions?" Remus cut in derisively. The tension surrounding him was expanding and making Ginny's head ache fiercely.
"Remus!" Tonks hissed reprovingly.
Dumbledore didn't flinch, however. His blue eyes sparkled, which comforted Ginny slightly. "I am in agreement with Miss Weasley. We should act as quickly as possible, for if we don't, I fear we may run out of time."
Remus looked as if he wanted to make another scathing remark, but he refrained. Dumbledore surveyed each of them in turn, "Are you all in favor of accompanying Miss Weasley, Miss Granger and myself to the Ministry tonight?"
Tonks nodded eagerly, while shooting Remus a meaningful glance; Remus crossed his arms and avoided all eye contact. Mad-Eye growled his assent and Kingsley voiced, "Of course, Albus."
"Excellent. Disillusion yourselves and gather at the Hog's Head; I will arrive there shortly." He stood from his chair, as if to dismiss them all.
"Shouldn't Ginny's parents be informed of where she's going and what she's volunteered to do? She is underage, after all," Remus put in.
Ginny groaned, "Remus, please. You know what they'll say! Can't you just give me a chance?"
"And lose another innocent life to that veil? I don't think so, Ginny. Think of what that would do to Harry!" Remus said heatedly.
"That's not fair! Don't you try to make me feel guilty!" Her voice was shaking now. She felt the tears rise to her eyes, but she wasn't sure if it was more due to her own emotions or the mixture of everyone else's.
"Maybe he's right though," Hermione began, worry evident in her tone, "…about telling your parents, I mean!" She quickly added, seeing the deadly stare Ginny was directing at her.
Ginny continued to glare at her, and then turned her gaze to Remus, "No, maybe Remus should just stay behind if he feels this way."
"Fine by me," he countered.
"But Sirius…he would want you there," Tonks began quietly. Truthfully, Ginny felt this way too, but at this point, if Remus was going to act like a child then they were much better off if he stayed behind.
"Don't start, Dora," he said venomously.
Dumbledore cut in before the conversation could take a worse turn, "I do have to agree with Remus on this one, Ginny."
She faced her headmaster and tried to search his emotions for an explanation, but to her amazement, she couldn't sense an aura of emotion around him. Just like Malfoy…but she pushed this thought aside for the time being to handle more pressing matters. "Professor…" she began, trying to mask the defeat she was beginning to feel.
He shook his head, signaling her to close her mouth. "I wish I thought of this before they departed; however, we'll contact them via floo and settle this matter." He turned to the flickering fireplace, grabbing a handful of powder from the pot beside it. The fire roared with green flames after he tossed the powder into the grate. "The Burrow!" he bellowed, placing his head into the flames.
Ginny waited with bated breath. Dumbledore's words were muffled since he was facing away from them, but not two minutes later, he pulled his head from the flames. She was about to ask what happened, until her mother's head filled the fireplace displaying a very stern expression. Ginny bit her lip nervously.
"Ginevra, your father and I are not happy about this."
"But mum, its important…Sirius needs to come home. He's been there for months," she pleaded, never taking her eyes off her mother's face.
"It's dangerous, Ginny! Especially if you aren't even sure that it will work!" Her mother's eyes flitted to Remus, but to Ginny's relief he stayed quiet.
"I am sure it will work. Look mum, I'm not asking your permission. Professor Dumbledore and Remus just thought it would be best if we informed you of our plans." Her tone was resolute.
"You're underage! You can't make such hazardous decisions on your own."
She desperately wanted to point out that Ron made such decisions on quite a regular basis throughout the last six years, but she knew that this would incite further argument. "What does Dad have to say about this?"
"He agrees with me, of course!" She realized that her mother was on the verge of hysterics.
"Well, I'd like to talk to him for myself." Her father was more likely to see reason, no matter what the situation was.
Her mother disappeared from the fire, shooting Ginny one last disapproving stare, and was quickly replaced by her father. "Dad?"
"Ginny, what do you want me to say?" He looked tired.
"I want you to say that I have your approval," she said, determined to win the argument.
"The rest of you…are sure that this will work?" He scratched his balding head.
Everyone but Remus nodded, and Dumbledore responded, "I'm almost certain that this is a foolproof plan."
Remus snorted derisively. This did not go unnoticed by Arthur Weasley, "I already know how you feel Remus, and I respect your opinion. However, it seems that we are outnumbered."
Ginny looked at her father hopefully, "You mean that?"
"Yes. I trust your intuition…or whatever it is that governs your new power. Just be careful, Ginny."
She couldn't help it, tears welled in her eyes but this time she knew it was due to her own gratitude. "I will, Dad. Thank you."
"If anything…well, just know that your mother and I love you very much," he said, his voice shaking slightly. Ginny briefly wished that he were actually in the room so that she could throw her arms around him.
"I love you both," Ginny replied.
"Well, I suppose Molly and I will be waiting for all of you at Headquarters, then?"
"I think that would be best," Dumbledore agreed.
"See you soon," Arthur said, and with a pop his head was gone from the fire.
"Now that we've settled that, I must put a few things in order here before we depart. I shall meet you in the Hog's Head in fifteen minutes. From there we will apparate to the visitors' entrance; I will take Ginny and Hermione by side-along apparition." Everyone except for Hermione and Ginny exited the headmaster's office. Remus had not said another word as he departed and Ginny wondered what he had decided to do.
"Do you think-" she began.
"I am almost certain he will be at the Hog's Head when we arrive. But before we join our friends, I must inform Professor McGonagall of our departure. I'll disillusion both of you and meet you back in the entrance hall. Be very cautious as to not be seen by anybody."
Dumbledore moved towards them and cast the disillusionment charm, and Ginny felt the familiar sensation that something cold was trickling down her head, to her back. She looked down at her body and sure enough, she blended in with her surroundings as if she were a chameleon. Eventually her eyes focused and she was able to make out Hermione's shape not too far from her. The pair made their way to the entrance hall to wait. Five minutes later, Dumbledore joined them and they set off across the grounds to the Hog's Head.
Once again, it took a few minutes to focus on the camouflaged forms of the rest of their party who were standing near the entrance of the dingy pub. Dumbledore disillusioned himself, and said in barely more than a whisper, "Apparate to the visitors' entrance. Hermione, Ginny, take hold of my arms, I will transport you by side-along apparition." Ginny grasped the scarcely visible arm to her left, and she only assumed that Hermione did the same, because within seconds she felt pressure surrounding her body quite strongly, as if she were being pulled through a very narrow tube; as quickly as it begun, it was over, and she was standing still once more.
Ginny recognized the London street and saw the familiar rundown red phone booth a few feet away. They closed the space between themselves and the phone booth, and the seemingly invisible group crowded inside. The receiver lifted as if on its own accord, and the numbers "62442" were dialed. A serene woman's voice filled the booth, just as Ginny remembered from the previous June. Dumbledore recited each of their names in turn, and stated that they were there for a rescue mission.
Somewhere to Ginny's left came Hermione's voice, "There's irony for you…" Ginny snorted. The buttons were dispensed and everyone reached, grabbing the one designated for them. The phone booth began to move underground; Ginny's heart rate sped up excitedly; this was it.
As the lift continued to move downwards, Dumbledore spoke, "It is best if we remain disillusioned until we are safely inside the chamber that contains the veil, in case we encounter any obstacles."
Ginny hoped that this advisement was based on speculation. She remembered that there was no security present on their last trip to the Department of Mysteries, but was sure that this was because the Death Eaters had taken care of that particular obstacle before she and her friends had arrived. If the Ministry had any brains at all, they should have stepped up security after that last breech. However, Ginny reflected, Fudge didn't seem too able the last time she had seen him.
The phone booth stopped moving and opened to the Atrium. Everything that had been destroyed on her previous visit was restored to its original grandeur, including the Fountain of Magical Brethren. There were two security wizards, clearly bored, facing each other, a pile of cards floating between them, each holding a few spread out in their hands. One glanced their way, maybe at the sound of their footsteps, but looked back at his hand of cards after he clearly didn't see anything. An instant later the pair of them were looking at each other confused and it was apparent that someone (probably Dumbledore) had confunded them. They proceeded towards the lifts and once they all piled in, Dumbledore pressed the number nine button, and they descended noisily to the Department of Mysteries.
When the lift finally came to a stop, once again, Ginny took notice of how quickly her heart was racing. They silently made their way to the circular room, and within a few moments Dumbledore had successfully located the correct door leading to the death chamber. Within seconds the group materialized around her, as they removed their disillusionment charms. She felt the trickling feeling recede, this time traveling up her body, and she too was visible. Much to her relief, Remus stood stonily next to Tonks; he had decided to come after all.
"Here we are," Dumbledore said gravely.
Ginny could hear the faint whispers coming from beyond the veil, but she ignored them presently because she suddenly became very aware that everyone's eyes were fixed on her. She bit her lip, and her heart raced a thousand times faster than before; her hands were shaking. She clutched her wand like a lifeline, and nodded at her companions and stated as steadily as her voice would allow, "Well, I'll see you all in a little while, then." She glanced at Remus one last time; she felt his nerves buzzing around his very being. She smiled at him uncertainly and he nodded with conviction; this small gesture made her feel worlds better about what was about to occur. Turning away from the rest of her companions, she faced the ominous black veil.
Ginny stopped a few feet in front of it; the whispers became louder and she became entranced by the lulling sound of the thousands of voices calling to her. The veil fluttered before her; she reached out as if it were her purpose, and lightly touched the thin fabric. She began reciting an incantation as if she had always known the words, "Adnecto intermundia de animus ac exanimus." Before she knew it, she was surrounded by a blinding white light, but she refrained from shielding her eyes. Instead she walked, mechanically, through to the other side, unsure what she would find.
Soon, the bright light faded, and she was able to see once more. Ginny gasped at the sight before her; it was the most beautiful place that she had ever encountered. She faced an open meadow, trees sporadically placed throughout. The sky was marvelously clear with millions of tiny stars sparkling; the moon, nearly full, shined luminously above. She turned around, reflexively and her heart dropped; the meadow stretched behind her, farther than she could see. There was no sign of the veil, or any portal back to the world of the living. But she pushed this thought from her mind for the time being. She was sure once she found Sirius that they would be able to find the way back home.
Ginny strode forward, following the sound of a stream in the distance. She had no idea where she was going, and found it almost eerie that she had not encountered another creature, alive or dead. "Sirius?" She called, but heard no response. She continued walking, passing more and more beautiful scenery. She became increasingly worried that she was mistaken to come here. Finally she heard a rustle coming from nearby shrubbery; automatically she gripped her wand in her right hand, searching her surroundings for any sign of threat.
A man chuckled behind her, "That won't do you any good here."
Spinning around, Ginny faced a tall, beautiful man with golden hair and tanned skin. He was dressed in simple, thin, white robes, but he gave off an air of royalty.
"Another live one, Tartarus?" Came the musical voice of a woman from behind her. Ginny glanced over her shoulder to see a gorgeous woman, with wavy, mahogany hair. She too was wearing the simple white robes, yet hers more feminine, accentuating her beauty.
"I'm afraid so, Elysium. It's such a pity," he responded shaking his head, not looking as if he felt any pity at all.
"Another…so you might be able to help me," Ginny began confidently.
"Technically, that is what we're here for," replied Tartarus, sounding quite bored.
"Don't mind my brother," Elysium added, linking arms with Ginny. "How may we be of service to you?"
Ginny saw Tartarus roll his eyes. "Well, I'm looking for a friend of mine. Sirius Black…"
"Oh! You're the one!" Elysium bounced on her heels, excitedly.
"I would really appreciate it if you would explain what it is you're talking about. I don't have time to be speaking in code." Ginny tried to keep the exasperation out of her tone, but knew it was useless. It was clear that Elysium meant well, but Ginny was anxious to get to Sirius.
Elysium, clearly unruffled by Ginny's short temper, smiled fondly at her, "We've been informed of your impending arrival, but I never expected it to be this soon!"
"Or for the one to be…a child." Tartarus looked her up and down contemptuously. Ginny scowled back at him. He may have looked like a god, but this man knew nothing about her and the things that she had gone through in her fifteen years of life.
"Who are you anyway? Are you supposed to be gods or something, because-" Ginny inquired.
Elysium laughed musically, but it was Tartarus' mocking tone that replied, "In a manner of speaking, yes. But our story isn't to be told to mere mortals."
"I suppose we should formally introduce ourselves," Elysium cut in, shooting her brother a reproachful stare. "I am Elysium, and this is my brother Tartarus; we are the Guardians of this realm. I am charged with escorting the innately good souls to their next destination, and Tartarus is responsible for doing the same for the unfortunate souls. This is our home; Asphodel Meadows. While the souls are awaiting judgment they remain here." She gestured to their surroundings fondly.
"In the rare case that you are still alive, as you are, you remain here as well." Tartarus added, "But it seems that if you are truly the one that has been prophesized, that is to say, an Empath, then you and your friend will be able to leave quite shortly. So the question is, are you an Empath?"
"Yes, I am," she replied steadily.
"We shall see," Tartarus smiled almost menacingly.
Elysium rolled her eyes, "Don't listen to him, he enjoys seeing living beings stranded here. You're going to be fine. What was your name?"
"Ginny." Ginny didn't voice her fears, but she was fretting; what if they didn't make it out safely?
"Well, Ginny, let's go inform Sirius that his knight in shining armor has arrived at last, shall we?" Tartarus added sarcastically. Ginny couldn't sense his emotions, but she could tell that he was sour about letting two souls go free. She hoped that Elysium was correct and that she and Sirius would be perfectly safe.
The three of them set off in the direction that Ginny had been heading when she encountered the god-like pair.
"Why haven't I come across any er…souls since I've arrived here?" She was curious about this since she crossed into their realm. It seemed only fitting that she would encounter souls roaming around, but perhaps she was wrong.
"They are instructed to leave any new comers alone. As not to frighten them; especially living beings, such as yourself," Elysium explained.
"But I was walking for quite a while before I encountered you two. What if I met a new soul that hadn't been informed of this?" It seemed almost illogical to Ginny.
"Well you're lucky you didn't." Tartarus began, shooting his sister a reproving glance, "One of us is supposed to report to the portal when we are informed of a soul…or being arriving by means of such portals, but I was tending to some important business, while Elysium was off gallivanting with your friend."
"You were with Sirius?" Relief washed over Ginny. This was the first solid piece of evidence that either of them had given her that he was alive and well.
Elysium flushed, "Yes…"
Ginny giggled at the blush creeping into Elysium's complexion. At least Sirius seemed to be enjoying his stay in Asphodel Meadows.
They were approaching a vast lake; it reminded Ginny of the one at Hogwarts. There were mermaids near the shore, surrounding a boulder with a man perched on top of it. Ginny noticed that they were much more attractive looking than the merpeople that she was accustomed to seeing. There were more people—no, souls—sitting in various places in the distance, some close to the lake, others right at the shore. It was clear to Ginny that they were souls because their auras glowed in a much different light than that of a living being. She was more accustomed to the golden brightness of a living aura; the souls possessed a silvery white aura, almost like a patronus. The man on the rock's aura pulsed with that familiar golden light.
And even if she couldn't distinguish between the auras there was no mistaking the identity of the man perched on the boulder, as they edged closer. Sirius threw back his head and laughed his familiar bark-like laugh, causing Ginny to smile widely, and cover her mouth in disbelief; it was really him. She sped up, and called out, "Sirius!"
He turned in their direction at the sound of her voice, narrowing his eyes interestedly. He quickly transformed into the bearlike black dog, leaping into the water, swimming the remainder of the way to the shore. Hopping on land, he shook his fur out, and transformed back into a man.
His eyes widened in disbelief, and concern. "Ginny? What the bloody hell are you doing here?"
"Rescuing you," she replied simply, grinning through the tears that had formed in her eyes.
"I—what…really?" He looked incredulous.
"I thought you said that you knew I was coming?" Ginny turned to face Elysium and Tartarus once more. If this were true, shouldn't they have told Sirius?
"We did, but we weren't allowed to tell him. We do have rules, you know." Tartarus stated in his grim tone. He shot Elysium a nasty glance and Ginny looked between the two of them quizzically, but Sirius spoke before she had a chance to question them.
"But how…I've been here for…well a long time, and they told me that it was impossible for a 'simple human' to leave on their own accord." Sirius said the words 'simple human' with a hint of scorn.
Ginny grinned importantly, "Well, I'm not exactly a simple human."
Sirius raised an eyebrow skeptically, "Then what are you?"
Sirius' jaw dropped, "You're having me on."
"Sirius, I wouldn't be here otherwise. Do you think I'd go anywhere near that veil if I was not entirely certain that I'd make it back safely?" She purposely left out her previous fears and uncertainty.
"I suppose not…wow, this is so unexpected." He ran a hand through his long black hair, " But, Merlin, Ginny. This is incredible." His grey eyes were bright with excitement. "How's Harry? And Remus…and your family?" He was speaking rapidly and she could feel his emotions twisting with so many different feelings that she was unable to clearly decipher them.
"Everyone's…well they'll be great once you come home," Ginny said, her own emotions becoming just as overwhelming as his.
"Then what are we waiting for, let's go home." He grasped her hand and began to walk in the direction that they had come, without looking back at the lake. Ginny looked at her two counterparts. Tartarus nodded, and Elysium soon followed suit, but Ginny couldn't help noticing how miserable she looked.
The quartet was relatively silent throughout their journey; Ginny had a million questions buzzing in her head, yet somehow she knew to hold off until they safely returned to the opposite side of the veil. They walked for a while, until their godly leaders stopped, signaling that they had made it to the portal.
She tugged on Sirius' hand and nodded at Elysium. He sighed, "Don't be sad Elyse…you made my time here quite enjoyable, considering the circumstances. But…you knew this day would come, didn't you?"
She nodded, tears in her eyes, "Take care of yourself."
"I will," Sirius promised.
"Thank you," Ginny said to both of them. Elysium hugged both Ginny and Sirius, while Tartarus nodded with a little less contempt in his movements.
"Be warned though," Tartarus exclaimed gravely, "You are not to breathe a word of the secrets of this realm, for if you do, you will face dire consequences." Ginny shivered at his words. But Tartarus' eyes were trained on Sirius, who nodded solemnly.
A shimmering force-field appeared before them and Ginny and Sirius locked hands once more, making their way back to the world of the living. Again, the blinding white light filled their vision; a moment later it cleared to reveal that they had safely returned to the Department of Mysteries. A series of gasps and exclamations filled the air as Ginny and Sirius made their way across the room. Ginny felt each aura burst with a mixture of disbelief and happiness.
Hermione and Tonks simultaneously burst into tears and hugged each other, causing Ginny to laugh, but she realized that she too was crying freely. She had finally accomplished what she had been obsessing over for months. It had actually paid off. Dumbledore smiled proudly at her, and shook Sirius' hand, welcoming him back. Moody's gnarled face was grinning, and Kingsley's booming voice laughed in amazement.
Remus stood still, tears falling from his eyes. Sirius paused in front of him for a second, and the two finally embraced. "I can't…Sirius, I didn't…."
"Oh come on Moony, I always come back don't I?" Sirius said half laughing, half choking back tears.
"Yeah…I suppose you do." Remus chuckled, wiping at his eyes.
Remus turned to Ginny, hugging her tightly. "I'm so sorry that I didn't -"
"Don't, Remus…." Ginny smiled, while sobbing. The emotions that filled the room overcame her and she did not bother to fight it.
Sirius was looking around the room with concern, "Where's Harry?"
"He's' at school, Sirius. We weren't certain how successful this plan would be, so we thought it best to keep him in the dark until we found you."
He nodded in understanding, and added hopefully, "Can we go get him?"
Ginny laughed, and looked to Dumbledore. His eyes were twinkling with amusement, "I don't see why not."
"Well then let's go to Hogwarts!"
"I don't think-"
"Sirius you're supposed to be-"
Everyone in the room responded with various forms of this at once, and Sirius looked crestfallen. Ginny expected him to get angry about the implications of him having to lay low once more.
However, much to everyone's astonishment he replied calmly looking at each of them, "How long has it been?" It became apparent that he probably had no concept of time passing during his stay in Asphodel Meadows.
"It's October, so about four months…actually we just came from your funeral," Remus replied wryly, grinning ever so slightly.
"Memorial! Don't be so morbid, Remus!" Hermione scolded, wiping her puffy eyes.
Sirius' eyes widened, "But if you planned on rescuing me….?" He looked bewildered.
"We have much to fill you in on. And for now I think it is best, for the sake of others, as well as yourself, that you return to Headquarters." Sirius looked as if he wanted to say something but Dumbledore continued without repose, "And I will return to Hogwarts to retrieve Harry." It was clear that Sirius wasn't thrilled with the idea of returning to his old family home, but the prospect of finally seeing Harry again seemed to dispel any sign of discontent.
Ginny became anxious for what felt like the hundreth time that day, at the thought of Sirius and Harry being reunited at last. Finally, she thought, everything will be set right. She only hoped that Harry would understand and in turn could forgive her for keeping such an important secret for so long; her stomach fluttered nervously at the thought. The group disillusioned themselves once more, and made their way back to the Atrium.
A/N: Finally getting that chapter out was like breathing a sigh of relief! I've been waiting so long to rescue Sirius! I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Stay tuned for Sirius' reunions with the rest of his loved ones. If anyone caught it, Asphodel Meadows, Elysium and Tartarus are all parts of greek mythology..I just molded the ideas to fit my story. I wrote a paper on the Underworld a very long time ago, and those particular elements stuck, so I used them. :)
Thanks to Tracie, as always, for editing and laughing in all the right places. And a huge thanks, as well, to everyone who reviewed the last chapter; your feedback is what keeps this story going! I'm currently in the midst of writing Chapter seventeen..my tentative plans are to finish it before I go on vacation in about a week, but I can't make any guarantees! Please don't forget to review this chapter!!! :) :)
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