Chapter 2 : Repentance
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“The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end and by posterity.” – Jean Paul Richter
Pain. Excruciating, unrelenting pain was the only thing she could focus on as she stumbled her way through the dew covered grass, the sounds of the battle echoing around her. It was as though a thousand knives, dipped in hot, molten lava, had pierced the entire right side of her torso. Every breath inhaled was agony; every step, torture.
Keep walking, keep walking, keep walking. Gritting her teeth against the pain, she sneaked a look down at the robe she had bunched into a ball and pressed under her arm. Once a beautiful beige, the robe was now soaked through with the deep red of her blood. Trying not to faint at the thought, she continued her trek across the Hogwarts grounds, determined to make it to the castle before she completely passed out.
Keep walking, keep walking. Her left foot caught on something and she stumbled. Tears flooded her eyes as white hot pain flashed through the right side of her body and she staggered as the world tipped on an axis. She hunched over involuntarily and took some deep breaths as she continued to apply pressure to her right side. Once she felt the dizziness pass, she opened her eyes and immediately wished she hadn’t.
Lying at her foot was the body of a boy, no more than a year older than her. Her eyes ran down the awkward angle of his limbs and took in the lifelines of his fingers, the paleness of his face and she stood in shock, rooted to the spot. But what struck her the most was the look of pure terror on his young face, a look that would be forever etched into the smooth lines of his eyes, his cheekbones and his forehead. More tears came to her eyes, and she could not prevent these from falling onto her cheeks, the salty tears making tracks through the dirt on her face to fall onto the grass below her. How many more young lives would be lost before the sun rose?
Keep walking, keep walki... But she couldn’t. She couldn’t keep walking. The pain was too much. Her feet felt as though they were made out of stone and the pain in her side was almost unbearable. The thought of taking another step was too much. She needed to stop, she had to stop. She gratefully sank to the grass and rolled to her left side to avoid antagonising the right side of her body, though it felt as if the pain could not be any worse than it already was. Succumbing to the pain and terror of the last few hours, her shoulders shook as her tears turned into sobs.
How could she have been so stupid? What had made her think that she was old enough, strong enough, brave enough to sneak into Hogwarts and fight in the battle? Her father had always told her of the terror and the gripping fear that came with every fight and had always warned her to steer clear of danger where she could.
A celebrated Auror, her father had had his fair share of close encounters with the greatest forces of evil imaginable. As a small girl, she had spent many a night huddled into his warm body on his favourite armchair, her eyes wide as she listened to his deep, rumbling voice regaling the tales of his adventures in the field. Upon reflection in her later years, she had realised that he had left out the graphic details when she was small, but what he had told her was enough. She had decided from an early age that she would do as her father asked her – to stay safe and out of harm’s way.
His death two years earlier at the hands of Death Eaters had turned her and her mother’s worlds upside down. It had taken her many months to come to terms with the fact that her beloved father, her idol, her protector, the man with the kindest eyes in the world was really gone. Many nights she had sat in the same armchair that her father had loved so much and tried to imagine he was there next to her, his arm curled around her body, her head against his chest as she listened to the soft thump of his heartbeat.
Yet, when she heard of the battle only hours earlier, all promises she had made her father were forgotten. She was driven by one thought and one thought only: to fight for the side of light and to make her father proud of her and most importantly, to stare those responsible for his death directly in the eye. More than anything, she wanted her father to look down over her and be proud of the young woman she had become, a young woman who was not afraid to stare evil in the face. Forgotten were the promises of a small girl, staring solemnly into her father’s brown eyes, in their place was the determination of a young woman, adamant to make sure her father’s death had not been in vain. Ignoring any misgivings she may have had about her age and lack of experience, a grim fire ignited inside her. These terrorists, these were the people who were responsible for ripping her father away from her. And she was not going to sit back and allow them to get away with more terror.
Sneaking into Hogwarts had been surprisingly easy. Chaos had befallen upon Hogwarts and no one had noticed a small girl running through the shadows of the grounds. She had had no real plan; she had only wanted to get to the castle as quickly as possible. But the trees of Hogwarts had been unforgiving and she had tripped over a tree root. Before she had been given a chance to stand up and right herself, a ball of pain had erupted in her right side and she had fallen once again at the sudden intensity of it. She had not had a chance to see who had cursed her, though she had heard the rustle of the leaves as they ran further into the shadows. Her only thought after that was to continue toward the castle and make her way to where she knew help was. But the pain in her side had steadily become worse with every step and, though she had been struggling through the grass for almost three-quarters of an hour, she was not even halfway to the castle.
Shifting slightly, the pain crept down her side into her right leg, but the pain barely registered in her hazy brain. She was barely on the brink of consciousness and it was taking every effort for her to keep her eyes open. A thick, black fog was enveloping her and she was struggling to not fall into it. Dimly, she was aware that the dew in the grass was soaking her and that the sounds of the battle were getting louder, but she was too tired to pay full attention to anything but the heaviness of her head.
More tears filled her eyes as she thought of her mother. Was her mother even aware that her daughter was not safely tucked in bed but, instead, barely conscious after taking a nasty curse to her side? Shuddering against the growing pain in her side, she was only dimly aware that she had begun whispering into the darkness, her breath coming in foggy bursts of air.
“Mum... mum... I’m so sorry, mum... please, mum...”
She felt movement in front of her, but she could not find the strength to open her eyes. She felt a hand stroke her face and a sharp inhale as the person in front of her gasped.
“Can you hear me? Open your eyes, shhhh. It’s OK, open your eyes.”
Struggling against the temptation to slip out of consciousness, she concentrated on the soothing voice that had broken through the early morning air. It was a girl, she realised. With a bout of strength she did not know she had, she opened her eyes and absently took in the red hair and concerned, brown eyes of a girl a few years older than her.
“Hurts... mum... doesn’t know... mum...” she managed to gasp out as the heavy sleep threatened her once again. The girl’s eyes widened and she nodded.
“It’s all right. It’s OK. We’re going to get you inside.”
Through the heavy fog that addled her brain, she noted that the words were a lie. This kind girl was lying to her. She knew that she was not going to make it inside. And the thought terrified her. She suddenly wanted to be anywhere but where she was. The bout of bravery that had run through her hours before was gone, in its place was a wounded and panicked young girl, who wanted nothing more than be safe and warm at home. The thought of her mother’s smile and a hot bowl of soup was more than she could take, and the promise she had made herself not one hour ago to not succumb to the terror was broken.
“But I want to go home. I don’t want to fight any more!”
“I know. It’s going to be all right.”
This time she could hear the waver in the older girl’s voice and it was the last straw for her. Tears racked her body as she gave into her despair and she shuddered against the increased pain that they caused. Was it only six weeks ago ago that a shy Ravenclaw had held her hand and given her her first kiss under a tree only a hundred metres away from where she lay? Was it only eight days ago that she had blown out the candles on her fourteenth birthday cake and made a wish? Was it only yesterday that she had spent the day making plans to go her best friend’s older sister’s wedding?
It wasn’t fair! She had so much more to live for. She felt as though her life had only just begun. She could not bear the thought of not living to see another day. Yet, what upset her the most was the thought that her father would be angry with her. She had broken her promise to him. She had not stayed out of harm’s way. She had, stupidly and blindly, run straight into danger’s path and was now dearly paying the consequences. Her father had always been a constant in her life, the one, unwavering person who had always had blind faith in everything she did. How could she have so easily betrayed his memory?
While she dwelled on this last thought, a strange sensation swept through her body. The pain in her side slowly ebbed, almost to the point where she felt nothing. Yet, it was more than that. It was as if everything in the world was slowly fading away. Gone were the sounds of the battle, the screams, the yells and the explosions. Gone was the coldness of the grass beneath her. Gone were the hot gushes of air against her face. In their place was a calming, soothing serenity that filled her every pore, from toe to fingertip.
She inhaled and, instead of the pain that she had become accustomed to in the last hour, the sweet scent of sandalwood and cinnamon filled her senses. The scent was familiar and it filled her with a sense of warmth and love, of nights spent in front of a fire, of kisses on her forehead before bedtime, of rumbling laughter, of days spent in the park. Tears came to her eyes once again, but these were tears of joy and not of pain.
The wind seemed to be whispering to her and, if she strained her eyes, she could feel words of love and reassurance. Love that she had not felt in two years filled every part of her body and she seemed to be drowning in it. A love that had been simmering in her heart for the last two years finally burst open and surrounded her, both inside and out.
As she felt a warm arm encircling her body, she opened her eyes and looked into the warm, brown eyes of a man she had held close to her heart her whole life. They were filled with warmth, love and, above all, pride. And, though she could not hear any words, she knew in her heart that he was saying he loved her, was proud of her, that she had never betrayed him.
And, with a smile on her face, she closed her eyes for the final time and took her last breath.
Yes. Everything was going to be all right.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor anything affiliated or associated with it. Quotes in this have been lifted straight from page 558 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Australian hardback edition. No copyright infringement is intended on any basis.
A/N: This was written for the House Cup 2010 collaboration. I enjoyed the open-endedness of this challenge, and have tried to breathe life into the least significant character in the Final Battle. Hopefully it worked!
Thank you ever so much to ericajen for beta-ing.
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