Chapter 20 : A Better Path
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Flitwick and the Grey Lady paused to survey the damage at a particularly smashed staircase. There was nothing left but rubble and a hole in the floor, and no one could go up or down. In the distance, Flitwick could see a staircase shudder into place with a groan of protest, not at all like the smooth and seamless way they were supposed to glide. He wondered if any of the staircases in the castle were safe any longer. Certainly, the ones on the lower levels had sustained heavy damage, and they all would have to be checked. A great deal of repair would be needed, that was certain.
He sighed. “There are times like these when I am so grateful for magic.”
The Grey Lady laughed bitterly. “Grateful? For all the destruction wrought here? ”
“No,” Flitwick responded softly, “I am grateful for how much more quickly we’ll be able to clean up and repair than Muggles would.”
He pointed his wand at a slab of stone that had crumbled from the staircase when it had been ripped away. Wingardium Leviosa – the first charm he taught his first-year students, the one that had been wielded so effectively by Anthony Goldstein and Terry Boot during the battle. He cast the spell now, gently wafting the slab over to himself. He stepped onto it and made it carry him into the gap where the staircase had been, then up to the next level. Beside him, the Grey Lady floated up too.
At the top of the chasm, he stepped off the stone slab and allowed it to settle neatly against the wall so that no one would have to clamber over it.
“Maybe so,” Helena said, long after he thought she wouldn’t answer. “Despite the bravery of our House tonight, I think sometimes that the world would be a better place if there was no such thing as magic. If not for magic, none of this would have come to pass.”
“Perhaps not,” Flitwick agreed. “Yet Muggles are more than capable of wreaking terrible destruction without any magic at all. You have not seen much of the outside world, but even in your time, Muggles were capable of great destruction, just as wizards were. If not for magic, this would have played out differently, but I don't believe nothing would have come to pass. Even without magic, there was something not right about Tom Riddle. Perhaps there was a time when his path could have been changed. I don’t know.”
“Like Barty,” the Grey Lady said. “Then it’s all his fault. Voldemort wouldn’t have returned if not for him.”
“I suspect he’d have found a way.”
“But don’t you see?” Helena burst out. “We’re the ones who allowed this, who helped him! We are! Ravenclaw house! If Barty had been good, if I had never . . .” she trailed off, her cheeks becoming a slightly more opaque grey.
Ah, and that’s the crux of the matter, Flitwick thought. He had heard Potter had gone looking for something of Ravenclaw’s in the castle tonight, and he had suspected it must be the diadem. Why else would Potter go looking for the diadem, if not for the fact that Voldemort wanted it, or even had acquired it at one point? How could a relic that had been lost for centuries fall into the hands of one such as Voldemort? The answer, he suspected, drifted along beside him.
He paused to consider his words before speaking.
“With or without your mother’s diadem—” he began. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her start angrily. Ah, so it had been the diadem! He held up his hand—whether to stop her from speaking or to keep her from fleeing, he wasn’t sure.
“With or without your mother’s diadem, if Voldemort was determined to to return, he’d have found a way. With or without Barty Crouch, he’d have found a way. These were just tools to him, as were so many other things. You were just a tool to him. Place the blame where it belongs.”
They drifted along in silence for a while. Flitwick paused now and then to charm some larger pieces of rubble out of the way or to clear away broken glass, making note as he did so of the particularly damaged areas. Fortunately, the damage seemed to abate as they made their way to the higher levels where Ravenclaw Tower was located. The Death Eaters had not penetrated so deeply into the castle, for the most part, so the majority of the damage was confined to the outer walls, which had been breached only by giants and acromantulas.
He marveled a little that he could feel relief at damage from “only” giants and acromantulas.
“Not all Ravenclaws are good,” she said, and once again, he knew she wasn’t talking only about Barty Crouch.
“No,” he agreed. “Not all Ravenclaws are good, but they—we—are all human. None of us is all good or all bad. It doesn’t matter which House we are in, or even whether we have magic or not. In each of us there is a capacity for evil, a divide in our souls. Most of us stay on the good side, or at least don’t succumb to the bad side. How we react to difficult things, that’s what shapes our paths in life. The important thing is whether we get lost in that divide, allowing it to corrupt our lives, or whether we climb back out again.”
Flitwick could see she was considering that.
“People like Voldemort, or like Barty, got lost in the divide, and they refused to climb back out of it. Like you, I wish more Ravenclaws had stayed to fight. And yet, they are school children. We shouldn’t forget that.” He sighed heavily. “I can’t really blame teenagers, even those who are of age, for not remaining behind to fight. Fighting, standing up to evil, and facing death . . . that is no easy thing, even for adults. Many lesser things are quite difficult. Even so, we had several students remain behind, as we saw just a few minutes ago, and of those brave souls, I am immensely proud. You have reason to be proud too.”
“Those we passed below . . . you would say their souls are not corrupted?”
“And what of those who were of age but left? Or what of those who have made mistakes in the past?”
“I would say that for each one like Barty, or for every time one of us makes a mistake, there is one who chooses a different path, a better path. It is never too late to choose a better path.”
A/N: Well, this is it. I am very proud to say that, at last, The Divide That Corrupts Us is finished! I want to thank each and every person who has contributed to this story. We've had writers, beta-readers, graphic-makers, reviewers, and others who have supported this endeavor. It's been a fun experience.