Chapter 24 : Epilogue
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It is so dark outside that I cannot see the lake. Behind me they are all still fighting. To my right Dumbledore’s phoenix is asleep. I look at it for a second and find myself envying it. If only it were so easy to let the past you go and renew yourself. I am evidence that that is bloody hard. Georgiana is evidence, too.
I turn around and see her in the same chair she has been sitting in since we arrived at Dumbledore’s office. She isn’t wearing her thick white coat anymore, but is still clad in her muggle school uniform; her legs bent to her chest, a mug of tea in her hands. Around her there are at least fifteen professors, including Umbridge, who just accepted that she couldn’t possibly expel me for trying to save Georgiana. McGonagall, in a rare demonstration of caring, has an arm around my girlfriend and is shooting her reassuring looks every once in a while. Not that Georgiana notices any of them. That tea mug, as far as I can tell, has been in the same position since we burst into this office at six in the afternoon. Now it is past midnight and its tea has not been drunk. Professor Flitwick empties the mug every once in a while and fills it with hot tea, but it makes no difference. I haven’t seen her move in over six hours. Her gaze is lost in some object or another in Dumbledore’s desk.
“We need to take her to the Ministry,” Umbridge insists, “And try to understand how she has come to convince herself of this boy’s lies!”
She has been going on like this for hours.
“I have told you all time and time again,” I insist, “That Harry and I are not lying!”
“We believe you, Mr. Diggory,” Professor Vector says.
“I don’t,” Umbridge says, “The Ministry doesn’t.”
“The Ministry does not rule here, Dolores,” McGonagall says and I can’t help but to smile at her.
“Pardon, Minerva,” Umbridge retorts, “But the Ministry rules everywhere. And if it is necessary, I will commandeer this girl for interrogation.”
“You will do no such thing,” I hiss at Umbridge.
“Please remember, Mr. Diggory,” she says with a fake grin, “That I am a professor, whereas you are nothing but a liar!”
“Dolores!” McGonagall hisses, “You will not speak to any of the students in that tone.”
I smile at McGonagall again and she returns the smile, as if we are both allies in hating Umbridge.
“The girl will not leave this school, Dolores,” Dumbledore says suddenly, “with you or anyone.”
“Pardon me?” Umbridge says raising an eyebrow, “If the Ministry requires the girl she will leave.”
“The rules of Hogwarts,” Dumbledore’s voice thunders, “Plainly state that no inhabitant of Hogwarts can be taken, without his or her permission, from the premises. Not when this is their home.”
Umbridge smiles as if she just figured the flaw in Dumbledore’s master plan.
“Ah,” she says, “But, Dumbledore… This is not the girl’s home. This is her school. And she eventually will need to leave the premises over the Christmas break or the summer holidays.”
“Alas, Dolores,” Dumbledore says without hesitation, “That will not happen because this is the girl’s home.”
Umbridge smiles again.
“The rules of Hogwarts,” she mocks Dumbledore, “Plainly state that no student can live or take Hogwarts as their permanent residence. Have you forgotten, Professor?”
“This is a special situation,” Dumbledore answers, “And if you remember the rules as exactly as you claim you do, Dolores, you will remember that they say that any one of them can be modified in extreme necessity, provided that the modification is agreed upon by the larger part of the staff.”
Umbridge’s face drops and I can’t help but grin.
“What, Dumbledore?” she asks despondently, “Does the girl have no family?”
My eyes shift quickly to Georgiana and I see her wince. So she has been listening.
“She does have a family,” I find myself saying and this time Umbridge smiles. Shit, what did I just do?
“Pardon Mr. Diggory?” she asks.
Professors Vector, Flitwick, McGonagall and Snape shoot me looks that say ‘For the love of God, don’t say anything stupid.’
“Not legally, of course,” I say, “But I am Georgiana’s family.”
For the first time in hours I see Georgiana’s eyes move up to me.
“I am hers as she is mine,” I say.
Umbridge rolls her eyes.
“Though that is very romantic, Mr. Diggory,” she says, “You have proved once again to be entirely useless.”
I can’t help but smile with relief and Umbridge rolls her eyes again.
“Now, Dumbledore, other than this boy,” she says with evident disgust, “Who clearly should not be taken into account in a serious conversation given his antecedents of lying: does this girl have a family?”
“She does not,” Dumbledore answers quickly. I look down at Georgiana and see that her eyes are still fixed on me.
Umbridge huffs and resumes her seat.
“Shall we vote, then?” Dumbledore asks, “All those in favour of making Hogwarts Miss Georgiana’s permanent residence?”
Fourteen hands shoot up with a chorused ‘aye’. I sigh with relief.
“Then, Miss Quested,” Dumbledore says leaning forward on his desk, “This is how it will work.”
Georgiana’s eyes shift back to him.
“Since Hogwarts has now become officially your home,” he says with a kind smile, “You must understand that nobody is allowed to take you from it, unless it is with your direct consent and, most importantly, that of the majority of the staff.”
“You may leave now,” Dumbledore says, “There is nothing more to concern you and I believe that your things have already been taken to your room.”
“Where do I take her, Professor?” I ask Dumbledore, “The Ravenclaw Tower?”
“Actually, Mr. Diggory,” he says with a mischievous grin, “Since this will be her permanent home, other accommodations have been arranged. You will find her room in the second floor corridor, next to Professor McGonagall’s housing.”
That is how I, as well as Umbridge but not the rest of the staff, I can tell, discover that Georgiana’s room had already been prepared – even before the whole voting process took place. Umbridge’s mouth falls wide open and McGonagall smiles widely at me. Then I turn to Georgiana.
She doesn’t move. I walk over to her chair and take the mug of tea from her hands. I place it on top of Dumbledore’s desk and then take both her hands in mine. She looks up at me but still doesn’t move, like she doesn’t understand what is being asked of her. Finally I get her to stand up and, wrapping an arm around her waist, I lead her out of Dumbledore’s office.
The door has not yet closed when I hear Umbridge’s shriek.
“This is an outrage!”
Since she can hardly keep herself standing, Dumbledore has graciously conceded me the permission to enter her room. But, he specified, other than today, I will never be allowed in beyond her little living room. There are basically the same rules applied to this room as to any girl’s room in Hogwarts.
“I wish he hadn’t,” she says as we reach her door. I wonder if she’s talking about her family, “I don’t want people thinking I’m a freak because I don’t live in the Tower anymore.”
“Hey,” I say leaning her on the door and cupping her face, “No one will think that you’re a freak. You are not a freak. If anything you are the bravest girl I have known.”
“What good has that done me, Cedric?” she asks. “I have lost everything: my home, my family. No one I have ever known, who is not in this bloody school, remembers me! No one knows that I exist!”
“I am your family,” I say sadly, “I will always be your family.”
She looks up at me for the first time since Dumbledore’s office and tries to smile. When I notice that she can’t, I take her once again in my arms and open the door for us. It is a large room, with a little living room, a large fireplace and a bed that looks exactly like the ones in the dorms. All her books, clothes and still pictures that once were in her bedroom have been arranged to fit the room. It looks almost cosy.
“And you will still see them everyday,” I carry on, “In classes and stuff. In the common room, even! The only different thing is that then you will come back here to sleep.”
I sit her down in an armchair and she bends her knees up to her chest once again. I kneel down in front of her.
“Look,” I say, “I know that you don’t want to feel weak or different, but this is all for your protection, Georgiana.”
She looks into my eyes.
“Do you know how bloody easy it is to curse one of the idiots out there? Heck, they could hex you any minute if a Death Eater has them under control.”
“I do know, actually,” she says.
I sigh. Right. She does know.
“Look,” she says in a soft, broken voice, “I know you all want to protect me, Cedric. But I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to feel as weak as I do.”
Finally, I find just the words to say.
“Hey,” I say, “You spent a whole year trying to protect me, remember?”
“Well, you can’t always be the hero, Georgie,” I whisper, “Sometimes you have to be the damsel in distress.”
She smiles at my little example and I smile back at her.
The damsel in distress? I don’t want to be the damsel in distress. For all I know my soul has been broken into pieces. Like those Horcrux things minus all the murder. One part of me feels relieved to know that Cedric actually loves me and that I actually love him. This broken and destroyed me loves this broken and destroyed him. Another part almost wishes that none of this had ever happened and that I could be back at home without knowing anything more about Hogwarts or this world than the books ever let on. Yet another part wants to be strong and wants to know that everything will turn out for the best. The dominant part, however, knows very well that I am the damsel in distress and that there is no strength left in me. All that I currently am is weakness.
“Come on,” he says kissing the top of my head, “You need to get some sleep.”
He carries me to the bed and covers me with the duvet. I don’t even care that I am still wearing my previous school’s uniform.
“What will I do, Cedric?” I ask him suddenly.
“What do you mean?” he asks back sitting next to me.
“What will I do when you graduate next summer? Or when Dumbledore dies?”
He stares at me with eyes wide open at this. Still, I know that I need to tell him.
“By the end of this year,” she says softly, “everyone will know that Voldemort is back. Everyone will believe you. Then, by the end of next year, Dumbledore will be killed.”
I wince at this, fully realizing now where this speech is going.
“When Dumbledore dies, Voldemort will take over the school. Snape will be appointed headmaster and there will be Death Eaters living here.”
My hand shoots up to her face and starts caressing her.
“What will I do then?” she asks, “They will take me.”
“I won’t let anybody take you,” I say in a shaky whisper.
“You won’t be here to stop them,” she says.
“Then I’ll take you with me,” I tell her, “We’ll go anywhere. I will take you with me after your sixth year and we’ll go anywhere you want.”
She seems to consider my words.
“To Paris!” I say, “I will take you to Paris. Or far, far away. To Mexico!”
The first honest smile of the night crosses her face.
“I have always wanted to visit Paris,” she says, “But you know that we can’t let them fight alone.”
I do know this. Still, I lean forward and kiss her softly on the lips.
“I will take you away from this place the second I sense that you are in danger. Then, when we are needed, I swear to you that we will come back.”
She shuts her eyes and nods slightly. When she opens them again I see the tears.
“Loving someone seems stupid now,” she cries.
“Shh,” I soothe her lying next to her and pulling her closer, “Don’t say that.”
“You know it’s true,” she cries into my neck and I feel her warm tears dripping down my skin.
“No, I don’t,” I say, “Loving someone does not depend on time.”
I let her cry in silence for a couple of minutes. Cry about her lost family and all the things that she has had to give up for saving me. She tried with all her might to protect me last year and, in a way, she succeeded. I will protect her with all my might this time. I will love her with all my heart this time around, even if it does seem a bit ridiculous that this broken Cedric could love the equally broken Georgiana. But I will love her. And if it costs me my life, I will keep her safe. If it costs me my soul, I will still keep her safe. I will do all that I can to never hurt her again, even if that means hurting myself. Seeing her break down in front of me this very minute is breaking me even deeper, and still I don’t care. I love her. I will keep her safe. I will save her this time around. I have every chance this time around to fix everything – to fix myself and fix her, even. And she has given me this possibility. Who knows how things will turn out after her sixth year? For all I care, all that matters is that right now there is her and there is me. The rest will just fall into its right place in time.
“Besides, love,” I say cleaning a tear with my fingertip, “What have we if not time?”
It took ages, I know. I know, I know, I know, and I'm sorry. I wasn't quite ready to bid adieu to a story that I enjoyed so much writing - the first long story I've ever written, actually. Thank you all so much for staying with me through all this time, and for commenting, and liking, and telling me you liked my characters and the way I wrote the characters that weren't mine in the first place. Thank you so much.
Right now there's a really tiny file in my computer called Fanfic Numéro Trois, a sequel to, well, this story - Fanfic Numéro Deux. I sort of like the way it's going, but it's quite more depressing than this story, so I'm not entirely sure about publishing it. I would, therefore, if you want, love to know if you would be interested in knowing what happens to Georgiana and Cedric. If not, well, maybe I'll still post it in the future.
In the meantime, my usual disclaimer - none of this actually belongs to me, except for the characters and situations I created. Writers other than J.K. Rowling were quoted throughout the story, and I don't own their material either.
Again, thank you so much for reading, guys. I'd love to know what you think of this last chapter and of the story as a whole. Thank you, thank you, thank you.