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Falls the Shadow by Slide
Chapter 44 : The Homecoming
 
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Chapter 44: The Homecoming

When he heard hoofbeats coming up from behind him, as he worked with Katie and Tom to try to clear the worst of the rubble out of the main courtyard, Gabriel’s first instinct was to duck for cover. But holding several car-sized chunks of masonry up in the air was not the best time to lunge behind a fallen rock, and so all he could do was freeze, and cringe.

‘Seer.’

Gabriel winced at Katie and Tom, who were unhappily looking over his shoulder, and he waggled his wand. ‘Take over for me?’ And if I die, bury me wherever I fall. They nodded mutely and he turned, shoulders sagging. ‘Um. Bane.’

It was, indeed, Bane. He’d heard the centaurs had fought, in the end, when the reinforcements had come and all hell had broken loose with every last reserve the fighters against Voldemort had came in to play. And he wasn’t sure if he should be satisfied or irritated.

‘I heard you were here,’ said the big, dark centaur, his expression stern. ‘And I would have words with you.’

‘Words. Great. Go ahead.’ Gabriel folded his arms across his chest, then decided that he probably wasn’t going to be murdered in full sight of everyone. ‘I heard you joined the battle.’

Bane paused. ‘The time was right.’

‘Was that why you did it? Did the stars suddenly shift and go “hey, time to do something now”, or did you realise it was the right thing to do?’ He wasn’t sure, entirely, why he was talking to a giant centaur this way. His own safety aside, he probably wasn’t going to gain anything.

But it had been more than his pride that had been hurt at the centaurs’ refusal to act. Everything he had come to believe in about his powers had been insulted by their attitude. And while he didn’t hold anyone else to the same standards he held himself to, it had churned away.

‘We saw the body - what we thought was the body - of Harry Potter. Witnessed how he had sacrificed himself,’ admitted Bane. ‘And when the sounds of battle came... we knew it was time to stop hiding. To step forward, and act.’

‘Because it would have affected you, too, the outcome of today. Nothing I told you about what You-Know-Who would have done next was a lie.’ He still didn’t feel comfortable to call him ‘Voldemort’, even if that was the cool new thing Potter was spreading around. ‘We’re all in it together, in this world. And we all have to choose to pull together, instead of waiting for what we see to give us the reason to. Fate doesn’t overrule our choices. Our principles. Our motivations. It just guides us along the way. Nudges us here and there. It’s never an excuse to act, or an excuse not to act. You might have a better idea than I why we see the things we do. But I know it’s not so I and the people around me don’t have to think for ourselves.’

Bane had been looking at him, gaze dark and foreboding, and Gabriel honestly thought he saw a thoughtful furrow of the brow there. Then the centaur opened his mouth. ‘No,’ he said.

‘What? What do you mean, “no”?’

‘We marched out tonight because we had seen that you humans can accept, and understand, the will of fate. We witnessed Potter sacrifice himself because the stars had foretold that was what he was supposed to do. That was his part in the great plan. Because we all have our part to play, and the reason so many of us distrust you humans is because you act as if you are beyond it.’

‘That and the massive oppression of the centaurs.’ Gabriel scowled. ‘If you didn’t even come here to tell me I was right, why are you here?’

‘In the hope that you might, Seer, understand your gift better. Speak with Potter, perhaps. He may not have your vision, but he certainly has the wisdom that you lack.’ And with those words Bane turned and clopped off, across the courtyard, back in the direction of where the rest of his herd had been helping clear out around the edges of the Forbidden Forest.

Gabriel stared at his disappearing form, jaw actually dropping, before he gave an irritated snort. Then he turned to face Katie and Tom, who’d been clearly pretending to not listen, and raised a finger. ‘Okay,’ he said. ‘New rule. It’s no longer “fuck fate”. It’s “fuck fate, and centaurs”.’


----------------


‘Hey.’

Cal looked up from where he was sat on the steps of one of the main stairways, and hopped to his feet quickly, brow furrowed. ‘Will, hey - should you even be here? Shouldn’t you be getting some rest?’

Will lifted a hand as his foster-son hurried over, chuckling. ‘It was just some cracked ribs. Nothing the Healers at Saint Mungo’s couldn’t deal with, I just had to wait until I rolled around on the priority list. I’ll be sore for a few days but I’ll be fine.’

Cal grimaced but nodded, shoulders slumping. ‘I really thought he had you, then.’

‘He might have done. But then you got him.’ Will smiled. ‘It was a good shot.’

‘What’s going to happen to him?’

‘He’s still in the cells in Canary Wharf. Vaughn’s taking over business in the MLE; Thanatos is going to have a lot of company down there soon enough. He’s not the biggest fish we’ve caught today, but he’s on the list, and I don’t imagine they’ll want to delay for his trial. It’s not like we don’t have a tonne of evidence of the stuff he’s done since he broke out, let alone everything he was locked away for originally.’

Cal frowned, guilt tugging at his expression. ‘I’ve been... a real arse about him. And I don’t even know why. I don’t think it ever occurred to me, even fleetingly, that he might change his ways. I know he loves me in his own way, but he’s seen me as some sort of legacy, someone to carry on the torch for him. Nothing more. Anything I wanted, I believed in, he just... dismissed.’

‘Because if he didn’t dismiss it, he’d have to realise he has a son who’s nothing like him, who thinks all he stands for is lunacy, and then, maybe then, he’d have to begin to consider that he’s wrong.’

‘I’m not... nothing like him.’ Cal shoved his hands in his pockets.

‘Looking like him isn’t being like him. I can see him in you, my boy, when I look at you; of course I can. You’ve got the same eyes, the same shape of a face. The same build. But you don’t stand like him. You stoop more, but even if you’re standing up straight it’s not because you want to dominate a room, like he does; you don’t stand like you’re trying to overshadow everything. You stand like you’ve got something to stand up straight over.’ Will clapped him on the shoulder. ‘And you do. You took the plunge. You fought for months against everything he stood for.’

‘When push came to shove, I helped him.’

‘When push came to shove, you saved a life. He’d have killed Nat, you know he would. There was nothing else you could do. And we all got out of it alive - focus on that, not the “what if”. Anything, everything he did to ever manipulate you played upon your virtues. Your love, your compassion, your loyalty. And you might feel guilty that he did it successfully, but you shouldn’t feel ashamed for feeling these things. They’re what make you different from him.’ Will’s lips twitched. ‘And I’m proud of you.’

There was a pause, then both men, neither of them prone to overt displays with one another, stepped forward for a short, firm hug. Cal was blinking a little quickly as he pulled back, but his gaze was firm, smile firm. ‘How’s Nat?’

‘She’s okay; Saint Mungo’s have given her a bunch of potions to help her recover from the damage incarceration at Azkaban’s done, and she’s gone off to her parents’ house; figures she owes them some explanations and needs somewhere to rest,’ said Will. ‘She did ask me to tell you, so I’m pretty sure she’ll want you to stop by at some point.’

‘Yeah. I guess we got a lot to talk about.’

‘And Ariane Drake’s going to be okay. She’s still in Saint Mungo’s and she’s been pumped full of potions too. Damndest thing - once they said she was going to be fine, once Bacchus Drake had heard those words from a qualified Healer, he turned right around and handed himself in at Canary Wharf. I don’t know if seeing his allies almost kill his daughter messed with his head and his priorities or what, but he’s locked right back up.’

‘Do we have much to pin on him?’

‘No violent crimes, no kill orders. He’ll be facing some jail time, but concerned to most of the ranks of Voldemort’s supporters, he’s small-fry. I suppose that’s why Thanatos wanted him as a partner; he wanted someone he could walk all over.’

‘You couldn’t always walk all over Drake,’ Cal remembered. ‘He backed me up against Thanatos. When I wanted to get Tanith out. I think he actually agreed with me, about the principles, about how it was wrong.’

‘The problem with Death Eaters is that they do have principles. Just they’re pretty messed up. You know even Thanatos had his principles, even if they were crazy ones.’

‘I know. He tried to drill them into me enough times.’ Cal frowned, then shifted his feet. ‘That I resisted... that I knew better, that I had my own principles and could tell him to go to hell, it’s because of you, you know? You taught me all that.’ He fixed him with a cautious, but firm look. ‘You’re a better father than he could have ever been.’

‘I know.’ Will smirked. ‘I’m not a genocidal bastard, so I reckoned I was off to a good start.’


----------------


It was almost midday by the time Tanith made it back to the school grounds proper. Many of the Death Eaters had surrendered upon the demise of Voldemort, especially those who’d been caught in the rush of the battle that had filled the Great Hall. But there had been others, those at the periphery or just those with the will and talent, who’d blasted their way out and ran.

It had felt good to chase them down.

She ached, still, from almost twenty-four hours in an Azkaban cell with no proper rest, but that had been no excuse to step out from the MLE’s mobilisation. Not only were there others joining the ranks who’d been in Azkaban far longer than her... she’d wanted to. For the first time in nine months she’d stood alongside her colleagues and done what she’d signed up to do: hunt Dark Wizards.

For the first time ever, she’d felt like an Auror.

But the initial pursuit was done, and gratifying it had been. They’d rounded up a good twenty who’d fought on the Death Eaters’ side, though any of the others by now had to have made it out of the anti-Apparition wards that had been re-stabilised and fled.

They would have to wait another day to be hunted. And she was prepared to wait.

She sloped up the steps back into the school building, the group of Aurors, Enforcers, and Hit Wizards breaking off to wherever they needed to go, and she was unaccompanied by the time she was wandering the corridors - though they, themselves, were full. She tried to not pay too much attention to the faces, tried to not let any of the fatigue that was sinking in on top of the jubilation get the better of her.

She felt good, and she wanted to keep feeling that way.

A smile struck her as she turned the corner to approach the Great Hall and saw Professor Slughorn there, holding court - and, beside him, his captive audience in the form of Tobias. Slughorn seemed to have plenty to say on the subject of the contacts and connections he was thrilled Tobias had utilised for his work on the Midnight Press, but Tobias looked almost dead on his feet.

‘...of course, terrible, terrible thing to happen to Percival McGowan; he really was a visionary in his own right, but that you could fill the gap so ably -’

‘I’m sorry, Professor,’ said Tanith as she walked up, pasting on her best, polite smile. She worked hard to push back the desire to condescend Slughorn; scuttlebutt had it that he’d not only rallied the reinforcements who’d come to Hogwarts at the eleventh hour, but that he’d also stood toe-to-toe against Voldemort himself.

That and she had a perfectly good Potions NEWT which had got her into the Aurors in no small part thanks to him.

‘But Mister Vaughn wanted to see Tobias about some press release details,’ she continued.

Slughorn’s expression cleared, and he clapped Tobias on the shoulder, though at least rather lightly. ‘Of course! Of course, don’t let me keep you waiting, my boy. I know your work is important, and there’ll be lots of it, mark my words.’

‘Yes. Thank you, Professor.’ Tobias gave a grimace of a smile.

‘I think, by now, it would be appropriate for you to call me Horace,’ said Slughorn with a wink, though Tanith noted that despite the gesture of equality, the older man had no compunctions about still calling Tobias “my boy”. ‘But do get to it, now. I don’t doubt I shall see you soon.’

‘I don’t doubt it,’ muttered Tobias wearily as he limped in the direction Tanith led, and she slowed her gait to match his speed. He rubbed his temples. ‘What the hell does Vaughn want now? I already talked with him about the arrest dispatches...’

‘He doesn’t want anything,’ she reassured him. ‘I was just saying that so Sluggy would let you go. You look like hell.’

‘It’s Victory Day, I should be happy, celebrating, and skipping,’ he said wryly, then looked down at his leg. ‘Though I don’t think any amount of sleep is going to have me skipping.’

‘You’re allowed rest,’ she said, and stopped as they emerged out of one of the side doors into the sunlight, in a quiet spot where most of the rebuilding work hadn’t yet begun. She moved to perch on the steps, before briefly wondering if that had been an insensitive move with his leg.

But he sat down next to her, albeit using his staff to brace his weight on most of the way down, and his lips twisted with wry pain. ‘You’ll have to help me back up.’

‘That’s what friends are for,’ she replied easily, though had to then wonder if the word “friends” was too loaded in the situation.

She wasn’t going to enjoy over-thinking this.

It looked like he was just as awkward as her, though, because he made quite a fuss about getting his staff settled down, and shifting his weight, and then they both realised at roughly the same time that she’d managed to accidentally pick an out of the way sort of place to sit.

‘Are you okay?’ he said, and she was pretty sure he was talking to her even though he was staring at his hands. ‘I mean... Azakaban. That’s not... a good place.’

‘I was only there for about eighteen hours,’ she said quietly. ‘It was a walk in the park compared to Canary Wharf’s jail.’

He cringed, but that broke the ice as he turned to her, eyes bright. ‘I’m sorry,’ he blurted. ‘I would have come when I heard you were in there, I would have done... something to break you out. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t get the intel, I couldn’t get anything to the Lions so they could do it. I wanted to come, but...’

‘But it was a trap,’ she finished for him. ‘Either I’d break and give them more information, or you’d break and... come after me. But neither one of us broke.’

‘I wish I had, sometimes,’ he said, expression still crumpled. ‘I hated sitting on the sidelines, observing and never participating; I hated, hated every second of those days where I waited for reports and yet dreaded them, and doing nothing.’

‘But you did do something. When I needed you, at the end, you were there.’

‘Just not the other times.’

He looked so crestfallen she had to reach out, her hand resting gently on his shoulder. ‘I know you would have, if you could. But chasing off without thought would have been insanity, it would have got you killed - and it almost did. And even staying away you weren’t safe, even staying away you almost... almost died.’

‘I’m sorry I did that,’ he said sincerely. ‘It wasn’t a trick, or a gamble - not by me, anyway. I was out of action and when the Ministry reported I was dead, neither Will nor Dimitri saw fit to correct them until I was in a state to make a decision. I genuinely...’ His voice trailed off, and he cleared his throat. ‘I mean, if I’d thought that had happened to you, I’d have... I don’t... know what I would have done.’

‘Nothing,’ she murmured, and despite the brightness of the sun shining down on this lighter day, her throat constricted with the memory of winter. ‘Sat, and grieved, and suffered, and done nothing because nothing could be done except for... closing it away inside.’ She drew a long, shaking breath, and met his gaze. ‘I thought my world had ended, Toby. I thought...’

Again her voice lost strength and so she simply embraced the ease of the moment, and leant over to close the space between them. Her hand came up to his jaw, tilting his face down towards her, and she pressed her lips against his.

It was the first time she’d been the one to initiate the kiss, the first time she could do it without desperation or passion, just embrace him for the sheer pleasure of it. There was the scratch of stubble on his chin, rough against her skin, and her other hand came up to play with the strands of hair at the back of his neck as his arm wrapped around her to hold her close.

And this time, when she pulled back, resting her forehead against his, she didn’t have to watch him leave. Could just sit there, bathed in the sun, and marvel at the ease with which this closeness came, how right it was. How it wasn’t going away.

She brushed her nose against his, and sighed. ‘...you know I love you, right?’

She hadn’t uttered the words aloud in eighteen months, not since that dim day in the woods merely hundreds of metres away where they’d stood in the rain and shouted at one another. She’d kept them locked away in the corners of her mind and heart until the day came when she could say them without shame or recrimination.

And waiting was worth it for the shy, pleased smile that split his face in response. ‘Yeah. Yeah, I... God, I’d have ripped apart Azkaban to get you out, if I’d needed to...’

‘From what I saw, you kinda did.’

‘I got the gates open... I may or may not have needed Riley to save us from the Dementors...’ Then his grin broadened. ‘I don’t think there’s a man on the planet who could make a better Patronus than me right now, though.’

Tanith closed her eyes, basking in the moment, in how all the tension of the past month, the past two years, could wash away with just some simple words and simple moments. But when she opened her eyes again, her gaze was coy. ‘I just have one question.’

‘Anything.’

Her smile turned wry. ‘How the hell did you think Ariane Drake was me?’

His eyes widened as he realised he’d blundered into a trap. ‘Well... you see... she knew things! She knew about that day in the flat...’

Tanith’s brow furrowed with confusion. ‘How did she know about...’ Then she remembered. ‘Oh.’

He cocked an eyebrow. ‘Oh?’

‘I may have told her about that.’

‘You told her I popped by for a snog and some international espionage?’

‘I didn’t mention the international espionage stuff. I even let her think it had happened before the war, but I - I was drunk!’ Tanith defended herself indignantly. ‘There was... Firewhiskey, and there was gin! It’s Ariane, there was lots of gin!’

‘I thought that was the price of doing business with Ariane,’ Tobias sighed. ‘Step in the door, hand over your coat, get given some gin.’

‘Exactly.’ She narrowed her eyes at him. ‘But still! Ariane! Pretending to be me! You didn’t do anything, did you!’

Now he looked indignant. ‘I most certainly did not.’

Now her teasing smile broadened accusingly. ‘And why not? You thought it was me, come to see you for the first time in months, braving Death Eaters and the Mediterranean...’

Mercifully, at least for Tobias, her teasing was interrupted by a shadow falling over them, and they looked up with sheepish grins to see a tired-looking Cal and Gabriel coming up the path towards the steps. They were covered in grime and dust, but Cal had a couple of bottles of water in his hand.

There you are. Wondered where you’d got to. We had a break and thought you might want some refreshment.’ Cal tossed her a bottle, and she stuck her tongue out at him as she had to let go of Tobias to catch him.

‘Instead of, you know, celebrating victory by snogging in the sun like there’s no work to be done.’ Gabriel flopped down at the bottom of the steps, running a hand through his perpetually messy hair.

‘I’ve done all my work, for the moment. And unlike you two faces, I’m going to have a tonne more to do in the coming months,’ said Tobias.

‘But speaking of snogging,’ said Tanith, leaning forwards. ‘Jennifer Riley?

They were all astonished when Gabriel didn’t deploy denial, or even deflection. He just gave a broad, happy smile which looked alien on his face. ‘Yeah.’ He tilted his head. ‘So? She’s great.’

‘She’s...’ Tanith hesitated. ‘A bit uptight.’

‘Whereas you are the very soul of acceptance and forgiveness itself,’ he said wryly.

She lifted her hands. ‘I wouldn’t have imagined you two together, that’s all - not that I thought about it. I didn’t see it coming.’

‘And on the topic of “seeing things coming”...’ Tobias looked sideways at her. ‘Did you know Gabe’s a Seer?’

He looked so astonished and almost outraged that she felt guilty for chuckling and nodding. ‘Actually, I did. I’ve known for about eighteen months now.’

Tobias narrowed his eyes at Gabriel. ‘Was I the last person to know?’

He shrugged. ‘Pretty much.’

‘So... was that it? When you bust into Canary Wharf at the ridiculously opportune moment?’ Cal took a swig of water, leaning on the crumbled remains of the stone railing. ‘I heard a rumour around the Lions that you’d had this one Big Vision, that it was why you were there. Was that it?’

Gabriel nodded. ‘When I was in Rio - the first day I got there, actually - I had that vision. Obviously at the time it made no sense; Death Eaters fighting alongside Ministry? All of that. It was clear from the vision that neither of you two were expecting me, but I was dimly aware of the rest of the Lions, and especially aware of... Jen.

‘When the Occupation began I realised that it was making a lot more sense. By then I’d had a bit more training, a bit more study in the interpretation and use of my visions. By then they could be... self-contained loops.’ He tried to gesture to explain, but instead just ended up whirling a finger in a circle. ‘I’d see it because it would happen, and it’d happen because I would see it. Small things. But it was enough for me to prove my trustworthiness when I got in touch with Jen.’

He jerked his head at Tanith. ‘That was around the time Wilson was arrested. The Lions sprung up out of that, people from McGowan’s old group and some people who’d not yet gone on the run banding together. I was hiding out with them, and reassured Jen that you’d be on the level when she said she had the tip from you. Then after that, when none of our people had a decent cover inside the Ministry, we went on the run properly.’

‘And you were waiting,’ said Tobias. ‘Until the time when the vision could come true.’

Cal wrinkled his forehead. ‘How did you know?’

‘Mostly by knowing when it wasn’t the time. I didn’t have much to go on, but I knew that you were using a stick to walk,’ Gabriel nodded at Tobias, ‘and you were in Thanatos Brymor and Bacchus Drake’s custody.’ The second was to Cal. ‘So since I knew Cal’s whereabouts for a good portion of the year, especially when he was with us, and Bacchus Drake wasn’t working anywhere near Thanatos Brynmor for many months, for a long time I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew it wasn’t yet.’

He gave Tobias a mock-frown. ‘So I was really confused when we all thought you were dead.’

‘Yeah.’ Tobias rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Sorry about that.’

‘When you came back and we learnt about your leg injury, it all made sense. When Lestrange was killed and Drake took over, it all made more sense. When Cal was captured...’ Gabriel shrugged. ‘I knew the clock was ticking. But we were still in no position to break through the front door of Canary Wharf. That was still stupid and still would have brought down more MLE numbers than I’d foreseen. It was only when we heard how the bulk of the MLE were being redeployed to Scotland that I figured... it was time.’

‘Well, however it worked, I, for one, am intensely grateful,’ said Tobias. ‘Considering I blundered us right into a trap.’

‘Hey, I’m pretty grateful you did blunder into a trap on my behalf.’ Cal gave a lopsided smile. ‘Considering I don’t know what would have happened if you didn’t take the bait.

Tanith looked across at him. ‘How’s Nat?’

He grimaced. ‘Recovering. With her parents. I’ll go see her in a couple of days... I don’t want to overwhelm her, but I guess we have a lot to talk about.’ He met her gaze, and she gave a small smile, and that was all that was really needed to be said between the two of them. To break the moment he leant down to Gabriel and clapped him on the shoulder. ‘So I guess we all owe you big-time.’

Gabriel made a face. ‘No, no. That’s not why I did it.’ He rolled a shoulder. ‘The Lions might have learnt to rely on me, and Jen... bless her, seems to think that she owes me far more of the credit for her success than she does. But I didn’t come back to play heroics, I didn’t even really come back to change the course of the war. If I hadn’t had that vision about you guys, I would have stayed in Rio and counted my lucky stars I was out of the way. But you’re my friends. So I came back.’

He said it with such simple openness that they were all taken aback, not just because it was Gabriel, but because it was more overt than the three of them - used to joking and edging around their feelings - were particularly used to. Gabriel either noticed his faux pas and pushed to move on, or was genuinely oblivious when he looked up at Cal. ‘Pass me that water, will you?’

Cal did so, and blinked up at the other two. ‘So, hey. Lots of work in the future. Didn’t you want a holiday?’

Tobias laughed. ‘I’ve had a holiday, on a hot tropical island, for the past four months. I think I’m good. No, I want to get down to it, down to work. There’ll be press releases to write, and I have a feeling I’m going to be doing five rounds a day with Shacklebolt to make sure he’s not falling into secretive habits, and Vaughn to make sure he’s smiling properly at the camera. And that’s not even counting the international reputation I need to rebuild. Thank God Dimitri’s sticking around for that.’

‘As for me, I’ll just be happy to do the work I originally signed up for. I spent enough time making things worse in the past year. Now I get to make up for it - properly.’ Tanith nodded firmly. ‘What about you two? Do you have plans?’

Gabriel smiled distantly. ‘I, for one, intend to take a break. I look forward to sleeping under a proper roof in a proper bed again.’

Tobias eyes Cal, who wore a small, eager smile. ‘You’ve got something lined up, don’t you. That’s why you asked.’

‘I did ask because I care.’ Cal straightened his shirt with mock-defensiveness. ‘But, since you asked, I do have something lined up. Turns out Urquhart’s been contacted by an agent for Puddlemere United. And Jack, of course, has another year left at school... well, he might drop out, since NEWTs aren’t the be-all and end-all and the school’s been blown up and he might have a shot at the big leagues, but the point is that he mentioned my name. And half the team’s been here helping the rebuilding. And I talked to them, and - someone’s got a try-out.’ His grin broadened even more. ‘With Puddlemere United. You know. The Puddlemere United, “Bat back those Bludgers, boys, and-”’

Tobias lifted a hand, though he grinned. ‘We’re familiar with their work. If only through you.’

‘Doesn’t that make you a traitor to Caerphilly?’ asked Gabriel provocatively.

‘I’ve betrayed the Catapults the day they offer a try-out and I don’t take it.’ Cal folded his arms across his chest. ‘Until then, they’ve betrayed me. Besides. We’re going to need some fun in the future. And what could be more fun, or bring more people together, than Quidditch?’

Tobias looked like he had several good ideas to counter that, but Tanith smiled as he held his tongue and changed the subject. ‘If the next few months are going to be hard work,’ he said, ‘then I am altogether more determined to make good on a promise I made to myself in late December. This Christmas, I think we should all go somewhere warm.’

She cocked her head, though just the prospect of getting away together was invigorating enough, regardless of Christmas. ‘Find somewhere sunny and nice? I could live with that.’

‘We could. And, I mean, we should.’ Cal gave an expansive gesture. ‘But that’s seven months down the line. You’re forgetting something important. It’s doing a pretty good job of being sunny and nice right here, right now.’

And as one they lifted their gazes upwards, where they could still see the damaged walls of Hogwarts, the legacy of a year of struggle and a climax of suffering, but beyond it there was nothing but bright blue skies and the sun shining down with warmth and promise.

Tobias smiled. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘It really is.’



Finis



A/N: And this brings 'Falls the Shadow' to an end. I know it's been a bit of an erratic journey of long breaks and so forth, but I would still like to thank everyone who's stuck with me to follow this twisty, twisty tale, and I can only hope you have enjoyed yourself.

As for what's next, there's good news, there's better news, and there's best news. The good news is that there IS a fourth part in the trilogy (I know), which will be posted presently. It is entitled 'Unconquered' and will be picking up six months after the end of the war with the gang. The better news is that it's good and chunky, at just shy of 150,000 words and 29 chapters, so not as long as Shadow or Shade but nevertheless a hefty tale. The best news is that I know this because my writing speed exceeded my posting speed and it is already FINISHED, so it should be posted steadily and regularly.

'til next time!


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