Chapter 28 : Fight or Flight
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Mortuus: Colin Creevey
If either of the two young men had been given enough time to form expectations, they would have expected to fall onto the lawn overlooking the entrance hall of Hogwarts Castle. As it was, they felt themselves separate somewhere inside the smoky Pensieve as they continued to plummet, and ended up in different locations.
Fred popped into being next to a prim white bed in the Hospital Wing. Three of the beds on the wall opposite had been blasted apart, and a crumpled, motionless figure lay underneath another. Fred stepped tentatively forward, fearful that he would recognize whoever it was, but heard a thin hissing noise crawling outside a window behind him. He turned to see white sparks bursting in the night sky, ones that Fred had seen before: They were a signal for help.
He grasped his wand tightly in his sweaty hand and chose to ignore the person under the hospital bed. Whoever it was, he couldn’t afford to waste time on them. What was done was done, and their ultimate fate would not be changed no matter what Fred did within the memory. All he had to do was find himself and prevent his own death, if only in this sinister scenario, and then it could all be over.
But where was he? The real Fred?
He felt the skin on the back of his neck prickle coldly, tiny hairs standing on end. He would see himself. He would see his family but it was nothing like he would have wished – he would be viewing them on the worst day of their lives, reliving a nightmare all over again. Gritting his teeth together and thinking to himself about how evil Cliodna must be to throw them into this, how twisted, he pointed his wand at the Hospital Wing door.
He could have opened it manually, of course, but it felt so cathartic to be able to destroy something, to take out his frustrations on an object that couldn’t feel or think. The door blasted off its hinges with a satisfying shriek, and Fred stormed through it with his wand at the ready, its handle burning red welts into his palm.
The first floor corridor sprawled out ahead of him, with a tapestry on the left that he knew would take him to the fifth floor, but before he could focus on where the other Fred might be, a fizzling golden light stole his attentions. It slithered up one wall of the corridor, electrified gossamer that blinked white every other second, and as he watched, it began to stitch fibers together in thin air, knitting across the corridor to attach to the other wall. The surface of it boiled and shimmered; it was thin enough that Fred could see something on the other side, something moving.
Spellbound, he drew nearer, trailing the tip of his wand over it. What was it, exactly? As he examined the substance, he was reminded of the threads of lightning on the surface of the Pensieve, distinguishing the seams of where Fred’s memory met Colin’s, in one tangled mass that refused to completely coalesce. His eyes widened slightly as the large body of a giant stomped across a burning lawn right on the other side – a lawn that had inexplicably become juxtaposed with the first floor corridor.
Colin’s memory was just through that electric webbing.
Maybe he was curious, or maybe Fred just wanted to prolong seeing his family in their current state; but whatever the reason, he thrust his wand through the barrier and then pushed his hand through after it. He felt the warm, balmy open air of somewhere outdoors, and the hot, disintegrated ash that had been part of Hogwarts’s ramparts before someone had blown it away.
He stepped into Colin’s memory without a second glance over his shoulder, the thin mass holding Colin’s thoughts together resisting Fred’s body with weak effort. It felt like congealed jelly as he penetrated it, and then he was wholly in the Forbidden Forest.
What had Colin been doing in the Forbidden Forest? Nearby, Remus Lupin was dressed in a long traveling cloak, engaged in combat with a hooded Death Eater. Kingsley Shacklebolt ran down a rocky path just behind them, chasing after a white-haired witch. Far above their heads, Hagrid’s enormous half-brother Grawp had seized the head of a larger giant, and was attempting to crush his skull between his thick fingers.
Fred ran to the castle as quickly as his feet could fly, feeling that familiar pumping of blood in his veins, the same mixture of elation and terror he had experienced when he was here not in a Pensieve, but when he was still alive.
The world looked so different from the view behind the veil.
He squeezed between Neville and Professor Sprout, who didn’t seem to notice him. Their arms were laden with spiny plants of every variety, both of them shouting at others to get out of their way. Something about it struck Fred as odd, although he couldn’t quite place why; he flung open the door to the entrance hall and dove between people, all of them ignoring him, and raced along another corridor. Along that side there was the entrance to a different courtyard, but he couldn’t recall if his other self would have been there or not. It wasn’t until he heard his voice – his own voice, but echoing from far away, that he stopped dead in his tracks.
“Nice night for it!” the other Fred called, words ringing off the walls.
Skin chilled to ice, Fred swiveled on the spot and started to run the opposite way. Before he could navigate the quickest route to the floor above, heavy with the footfalls of children evacuating through Aberforth’s pub into Hogsmeade, an electric white barrier had sealed itself across. Fred ground his teeth together in frustration.
The barrier made a ripping noise as he plunged through it.
His frustration mounted as he found himself on the seventh floor, with no glimpse of himself in sight. Portraits full of shouting, screaming people raced alongside him, the throng of students and staff all trying to speak and be heard over everyone else – there were young children talking about going up to their dormitories to fetch a few of their belongings, and others asking, Have you seen my brother? Where’s my sister? Where’s my cat, I can’t find him – has anyone seen my cat?
Tonks ran by, just outside the Room of Requirement, her face lined with frantic worry. She was calling for someone, her wand aloft with a precautionary Shield Charm radiating from it. And just behind her, ready to twist down a flight of stone steps, was Ginny.
“Ginny!” Fred yelled. He couldn’t help it, even though he knew she couldn’t hear him. He stood there helplessly while her red hair licked the air like fire, whipping down the stone steps. Heart beating fast, Fred had half a mind to follow her but was nearly knocked off his feet by the passing of a coarse cotton stretcher held between two people: Colin Creevey lay on it, not breathing.
“– a few hours ago,” one of the people was saying. “We’ll just take him to Gryffindor Tower, then?”
“Yeah, his mum and dad’s on their way. Dennis owled them early this morning.”
Fred stared, paralyzed, at the lifeless body as it made its way down the hall, literally disappearing into a blend of people. He found it in his legs to move, and when he charged forward, there was no sign of the stretcher or dead boy anywhere.
“But that’s…impossible,” he murmured dazedly.
And then Harry Potter came whipping by, with Ron and Hermione (Ron! He called for him but Ron would not turn, would not listen…), and the door to the Room of Requirement soon sealed shut behind them. Right after that happened, someone from the stairway below shouted, “He’s alive!”
“Who?” called Katie Bell.
Fred looked back and forth between them, a puzzled frown puckering at his forehead. Of course Harry was alive – hadn’t they just seen him run by with Ron and Hermione?
“Down in the Great Hall!” said the boy on the stairway. “Come quick!”
Katie Bell eagerly followed. Not sure of what else to do, Fred decided to follow, as well. Maybe he would find the other Fred down in the Great Hall.
As he rounded down the stairs, following after the oddly fading footsteps of Katie and the nameless boy, Harry, Ron, and Hermione passed him once again – sloping upward. Fred stopped, watching in bafflement as they made their way towards the Room of Requirement all over again. The word ‘Ravenclaw’ slipped from one tongue to the other, speaking in quick, hushed tones. They vanished as soon as they reached the top of the stairs, wavering away into nothingness as the echoes of their voices continued to discuss Ravenclaw.
Fred slumped against the staircase for a moment, uncomprehending. There had to be something wrong with their memories, a sort of defect that made their timeline inconsistent, reeling back and forth in the past, present, and future. It could have been Cliodna or Ptolemy, but Fred wasn’t so sure. After all, Ptolemy had pulled a memory straight out of Fred’s head and concealed it in the glass phial. There had not been time to manipulate it before dumping it into the Pensieve.
This left the only other explanation: The error lied in Colin’s memory. But how could that have occurred? Why would Colin have tampered with his own memory?
As if summoned, the boy in question slipped past him and down the stairs, taking each step three at a time. His wandlight painted a silver-blue streak on the curving wall, bobbing like starlight on water. “Colin!” Fred called out. It could have only been the real Colin, which meant he wouldn’t be able to hear him, but he felt compelled to try it, anyway.
The boy did not slow down. Fred ignored the stabbing reminder that he was supposed to destroy that version of Colin, to kill him even sooner than he’d died in real life. He would have preferred to just leave him alone, to wander into a disused classroom and wait for Colin to win or lose so that none of this would be on his shoulders, on his conscience, but something about the young running Gryffindor struck him as odd.
He didn’t know what it was.
Fred followed him, emerging on the sixth floor. The walls were shaking, jets of red and green light spiraling overhead that indicated that wherever and whenever they were, the battle was still raging on. Hot, sweating faces illuminated by spells passed on either side of him, blurring together as he chased the receding boy. But he was quick, quicker than he should have been because here he was only a ghost, and soon caught up to him.
Panting heavily, he stepped in front of the boy, who’d stopped without explanation in the middle of the corridor, staring at a spot of wall. His eyes were dull, expression blank. There was something not quite right about his eyes… They were green. Not a deep, leafy green like Lily’s, but touched with spots of it on the outside of his irises, as though mirroring the Avada Kedavra. Colin did not blink or move, and even as Fred looked at him his irises continued to change color – from blue to brown to hazel, as though he couldn’t remember what color his own eyes were supposed to be.
“Colin?” Fred repeated, so quietly that he could barely hear it himself.
And then a second Colin turned down the corridor, much more vibrant than this one, with a wand pointing the way ahead. There was grim determination in the set of his face, a spark of dynamic, thrumming energy exuding from him in a way that was not at all like himself. He did not notice Fred standing there, or his other self, but he froze mid-stride when Fred put a hand around his elbow.
His eyes were wide, fearful.
“What are you…?” Fred’s brow furrowed, glancing from Colin to the immobile boy who allowed himself to be elbowed about by passersby. The ghost Colin followed his gaze and snapped upon his doppelganger; immediately, the other Colin turned away from the wall, alert, and started running off again at full-tilt as though obeying a silent command to do so.
“Aren’t you going to go save him?”
“I’m – I’m going to,” came the unsteady reply. He twirled his wand dexterously between his fingers, sharp gaze never leaving Fred’s, and the latter started to get the creeping feeling that Colin was trying to tell him something. He opened his mouth, ready to ask a question that had yet to form in his brain, when something strange happened.
It was fleeting – so brief that it would have been impossible for anyone around them to notice it. He could have explained it away with a trick of the light, as there were so many rebounding spells shooting off the walls and off of people that such a thing could easily occur, but the meaningful way that Colin studied him spoke volumes that it had been fully intentional. In the space of a heartbeat, his eyes had changed color from brown to gold and then back again.
Fred’s mouth dropped open. “You’re –”
Colin grabbed him, eyes flicking violently upwards, and Fred suddenly understood that he was motioning not towards the ceiling but to the roiling surface beyond, and the masses of people watching their every move from above the Pensieve.
Wordlessly, Fred stepped aside and allowed his opponent to make his way past.
“No.” Remus shook his head vehemently, tension trembling on his skin with such force that Tonks could feel it in waves of heat. “No. No to the Polyjuice Potion, no to using your abilities to take his place, no to keeping my mouth shut while you destroy our family.”
“Don’t you –”
“No!” he roared. “No, I do not understand!”
“I have to intervene.” Tonks touched his arm, turning his face into the light with her other hand so that she could see the terror in his eyes. She felt like if she just spoke more quietly, more calmly, he would be more likely to see things as she saw them. “He’s just a boy.”
“He signed up for this,” Remus insisted weakly. “That is…his problem.”
“Remus!” his wife snapped, the venom in her tone bruising his flesh as though she’d slapped him. “Shame on you. What if it was our Teddy in there? God knows what sort of hell they’re going to put him in for the fifth round, and he’s already at such a disadvantage with everything he has yet to learn about defensive magic. He couldn’t inflict an Unforgivable if he tried, and that could very well mean the death of him.”
“But what about Fred? You would rather he died?”
She gazed at him sadly. “That is not at all what I’m saying. Can’t you see…what I’m trying to do? What needs to be done?”
He swallowed, selfish and burning. “I can’t. No. I can’t let you do that.”
“Remus, I love you, and I know you don’t want to understand. I know how hard this is for you – imagine how hard it is for me. I don’t want to go against your wishes, but so help me, if I don’t get your blessing I am going to do this, anyway.”
The pain in his features, the uncontrollable anger that brought back memories of what he’d felt like during transitions into a werewolf, the stage where he felt not quite human and not quite animal, exploded in a fit of rage and the glass on their casement window shattered to pieces. “Why do you keep doing this to me?” he demanded, voice breaking. “Please, Dora. Please just do what I say, just this once, and leave it alone.”
“I’m the only one who can save them both,” she said, and he turned to finally look at her, seeing the tears slipping down her cheeks. “I’m a mother, Remus. Maybe not here, in Cliodna’s Clock, but in my heart I will always be a mother and I cannot in good conscience sit by while one of those boys dies.”
“Damn it, Dora, they’re not Teddy. They’re not your sons.” His face fell into his hands, exhausted. “I wish I’d never told you what he said. I cannot convey the regret I feel for saying anything, for telling you about Creevey’s fears. Purposefully losing the duel and making a martyr out of yourself isn’t going to make anything better.”
“You’re right,” Tonks replied stiffly, and Remus jerked his head back up, disbelieving. “They’re not my sons. But they are someone’s sons.”
“And what about your son? What about the real Teddy? What will he have when he dies someday and comes here, and his mother is gone?”
She smiled softly. “He’ll have you.”
She could see the milling bodies, the ricocheting spells, but heard none of it. Her ears had sealed away all sound except for the last vestiges of Remus’s laboring breaths, teardrops hitting his collar one by one with tiny splashes. His last words lived inside her heart, tunneling between pleas for her to change her mind and the dead, hollow pangs of his goodbyes when he realized she was firm in her decisions. The air tasted several days old, already inhaled and exhaled by a hundred mouths.
Those toneless murmurs of love had gotten stuck in his throat on the way out, and while he said them, standing there a ruined man, Tonks could feel both of them sinking under the weight of what they knew was going to happen. He did not hinder her, did not stop her. He would support her because he could not and would never try to control her.
At least this time, she knew exactly what she was getting into when she left for battle. She had not thought it would be the exact same battle as last time, but there was poetic irony in the setting, the suffering. Everyone in the stadium around the Pensieve who had been present at the Battle of Hogwarts would suffer right along with her, the post-traumatic stress curling their hands into claws, clapping around their ears with eyes squeezed tight. Reliving such a horrifying experience might very well kill them twice.
Tonks pushed through electrified web after web that walled off her memories from Fred’s, thin and feeble because she’d had to tinker with her memories with only seconds to spare, thinking fervently of Colin Creevey and only of him while Claudius strode expectantly towards her. She had tried to imagine the things he might have seen, what he might have witnessed, so that those thoughts and those thoughts alone would pass through her temple and into the silver strands collected by Ptolemy’s wand.
She knew that there had been mistakes made. Her memories, as well as Fred’s, were irrevocably changed by what they had come to learn in hindsight. She’d stitched together pieces of information from many, many point of views – Cassandra Trelawney’s, Severus Snape’s, Remus’s, Phineas Nigellus’s and others who had portraits in Hogwarts, Benjy Fenwick’s relays about things Scabior mentioned in the Grotta, as well as miles of speculation, theories, and guest articles in the Daily Departed.
Once she had read those things, learning about everything else that had happened all around her at the time of her death that she had not been able to pay attention to while it occurred in real time, she could not un-read that. They filled in the gaps of her own memories and warped the preexisting ones. Adding to this the fact that she tried to tamper with this further by trying to replace herself with Colin Creevey before Ptolemy could take the memory from her, and they’d been given a maze to navigate that could not be navigated. They could not make sense of the twisted monster their pasts, when pooled together, had become.
There were multiples of everyone. As Tonks pushed through one of Fred’s memories – which was actually from the viewpoint of Dilys Derwent, as Fred had already been dead by this time and he had heard her talking about running through the portraits along this corridor, so this was indeed Dilys’s memory and not his own – she stepped into one that she knew to be Remus’s. She had not been able to rid it from her mind while fiddling with her memory, trying to wash it over with white noise.
The twisted, red-menaced face of Dolohov had been beaten into a grimace. There was no smile of cruel delight, no mercy, no unaffected mask of one who did merely as he was told, a small piece in a greater machine. He was clearly exhausted. The Death Eaters predicted an easy defeat, with someone as omnipotent as Lord Voldemort acting as the brain of the operation while they, the limbs, took down their foes as easily as shooting fish in a barrel.
They had chosen the worst place in the world for their battleground.
Their eagerness to fight, to win, had been their undoing. Tonks often thought that the Death Eaters might have won if they had waged war on Harry Potter anywhere else. If they had waited a few days, after Harry Potter left Hogwarts, there would have been fewer Horcruxes, yes, but Voldemort would still have been alive. He could have privately dueled Harry, and then the outcome might have been quite different. Even if the Dark Lord still died at Harry’s hands, the Death Eaters wouldn’t have witnessed it. There would be no crushing blow to their morale, no reason to discontinue fighting.
Voldemort, after all, was only one person.
Their flawed planning backfired extraordinarily on them, engaging themselves in combat in a school of magic of all places, surrounded by magical people, creatures, and walls who would all help protect The Boy Who Lived even if that meant sacrificing their own lives.
The man Dolohov was dueling cast a shield of sparks, holding up one arm to mute the blinding white light of it. The fire roared, reaching for Antonin’s wand. A smaller figure stood there next to him, protected by the shield. The contours of his face were paved with wonder, with vivid fear; a silver kitchen knife in his fist glittered in the firelight, and when Remus bent down to speak with him, Tonks could not hear his words over the deluge of everything falling apart, debris and screams and the cries of centaurs, elves, and giants; but she watched his lips move, forming the one-syllable word that would save the unfamiliar student’s life.
The boy obediently ran as fast as he could back into the castle, turning his head over his shoulder frequently to make sure he wasn’t being followed by Dolohov’s curses. As Tonks swerved to watch his progress, halfway thinking that she could maybe protect him if anyone tried to attack, her eyes lifted to a gouged-out hole several stories up the length of Hogwarts. Two windows on either side of the hole were cut in half, the intact halves still preserving jagged glass, and between them she could see two figures circling each other, predator and predator, prey and prey.
One, with wild black hair, was tight-lipped with hatred, wide eyes fixed on the young woman with pink hair. The younger one snarled in return, wand rolling quickly in her hand as she crouched low, anticipating Bellatrix’s every move.
The time to save that person was long gone.
Eyes slipping down to the grass, she absently watched a cinder, its edges glowing ember-orange, float along over her shoe. It might have been a textbook or a student’s essay. It might have been carefully-detailed curriculum plans or the result of someone’s N.E.W.T.s. Or maybe it wasn’t paper at all. It might have been human skin, due to the foul odor it emitted while wafting past.
She couldn’t stand it anymore, sitting around while she was about to die, while Remus was about to die. Colin – the real Colin – was running around somewhere in that castle right now, not knowing what was going to befall him. And Fred was enduring precisely the same thing. There was nothing else for her to do except sit idly and wait for Fred to do what he was supposed to do. When everything was over, Tonks would accept her fate with the full knowledge that she had asked for it, and Fred would not have had to reduce himself to attacking her in order to win. Life spared, conscience spared.
It would have been lovely, she thought, to dash off into the Forbidden Forest and not look back, to somehow be able to exist here. Perhaps if she ran hard enough, fast enough, she could escape the boundaries of the memory and live in this world forever. It was at once so wonderful and so terrible to be back, seeing her loved ones and the school she’d grown up in. If she could hide away in a memory and not have to discover which way she would die for the final time, she would have done it.
Moisture welled in her eyes as she fumbled at the doorknob of Hagrid’s hut. She pictured Remus in the stands next to Colin, who was saturated with enough Polyjuice Potion to make him look like Remus’s wife for the duration of Round Five. They would be staring bleakly down on her, Remus devastated and Colin guilty, ever so guilty. But she could not have let him enter this round when it was her own fault he should have had to. If she hadn’t interfered in the previous round, and had instead allowed Crabbe to win while Colin was escorted to safety, she and Colin would have both been watching Round Five from afar.
But this was the perfect solution, she told herself as she shut Hagrid’s door behind her. She found his bed in the darkness and sat on it, mattress creaking. The shouts weren’t nearly muffled enough, Hagrid’s curtains blazing every other second with spells hurling back and forth on the other side of the windowpanes. Colin would not have to die, and neither would Crabbe, and neither would Fred. It all would have been quite the triumph if only Tonks could have found a way to spare herself, too.
Fred’s gaze followed Percy Weasley’s untidy mop of red hair as it wound around yet another flight of stairs, calling instructions down to his brothers. Fred and George had done all that they could do with protecting secret passageways – they’d already been blown half to hell – and had congregated on the sixth floor to decide how to proceed. Percy reasoned that they should split up to cover more area: Bill would go assist Kingsley on the Astronomy Tower, Percy himself was to go up one level to the seventh floor, and Fred and George would go down to the fifth floor where they knew Greyback to be prowling.
Bill and George had already darted away, heeding Percy’s directions (Percy had always been the most organized, the most level-headed under pressure, and they were only too happy to let him assign posts), when something dawned on the real Fred. “Percy!” he shouted. “Make sure to check on Ginny! Make sure she’s still you-know-where!”
But Percy was gone, footsteps already carrying him to the seventh floor. Fred panicked for a moment, hardly seeing as Peeves the poltergeist swooped past, his arms filled with trophies from the Trophy Room to drop upon heads of Death Eaters. Glancing at the place where George’s back had disappeared into the throng of people, Fred turned quickly around and rushed after Percy to the seventh floor.
The other Fred, the one who watched him, felt a sickness hook around his stomach. He did not want to follow himself up there. He knew what awaited him, could once again feel the cold air blasting against his skin as the walls wrenched apart, rubble assaulting every exposed inch of his body. And even as his feet moved, one in front of the other, following suit, he kept waiting for the scenery to change. He waited to see Percy flying up the stairs again, or see Ginny charging down them, or to hear a boy exclaim to Katie Bell that Harry Potter was alive and she needed to come down to the Great Hall.
He ascended slowly, listening to life raging against life, listening to people die all across the dotted lawn far below. Windows glinted with rosy reds and ambers from torchlight that flared both shadows and flames every which way over the rounded walls, wriggling like snakes. The air was constricting, claustrophobic, and as he passed each window he thought he could see the stars shrinking away from him, coldly sneering as he contemplated whether or not he should try to live.
A cheer erupted from somewhere on the floor below – he did not know whose victory it was, his side or the enemy’s, but plowed onward with heavy footsteps. He seemed to weigh a thousand times more when the last step broke into a long corridor, heliotrope with curses bursting from many wands. The bodies were thick, swarming under and over and around each other in a synchronized mess. And there was the real Fred, and there was Percy, and even Ron, Harry, and Hermione further down the corridor.
Fred had already known, of course, that by this time he had been plucked aside by a masked and hooded Death Eater, chosen for fighting even though he was too weary to fight anymore, even though all he’d wanted was to find Ginny.
It was all the real Fred could do to keep one eye out for Percy, who simultaneously dueled Thicknesse, while struggling to stay afloat versus the Death Eater unrelentingly shooting deadly jinxes at him; blood flooded out of the observing Fred’s head, swimming down his legs, making him faint. Even though he was not alive, and his doppelganger was, he had never felt more alive than at that moment, experiencing the most painful déjà vu he could ever imagine.
A fleet of giant spiders hurrying up the exterior siding of Hogwarts threw them into temporary shadow, and there was the high voice of Voldemort even though he should not have been speaking at that time. The memory distorted itself, unraveling at its frays while two Neville Longbottoms streaked by him in a whir of colorful motion, one of them chucking Stunning spells while the other wiped blood and sweat away from his forehead. His hair was so matted with it that it resembled tar, and Fred had never seen him more lined with age. He looked like a younger Remus Lupin.
Time stalled as Pensieve-Fred instinctively mirrored real-Fred’s movements, drawing his lower lip between his teeth as he tensed for each blow, muscles rigid. The real Fred was fast but never fast enough for his liking. Fred tasted blood coating his mouth, metallic like steel, the popping blood vessels making him weaker than he already was to begin with. Nausea, strong and uncontrollable, boiled in his stomach, sloshing up his throat.
He leaned against the wall and heaved, vomiting everywhere. It disappeared as soon as it spilled over the flagstone floor, just as insubstantial as the person who’d made it. This was not a situation he could see clearly when inside of it – he could not put together plans or act coherently. Knowing what he knew about the future of the grinning red-haired boy in the hallway, opening his mouth to say something to Percy, his mind ground into a slush of conflicting perspective, dread, and that ever-present scent of blood lingering in the air.
He stepped over something spiny – an unconscious body that someone had cursed to look like a thorny sea creature, with needles shooting out of his pores. Next to him, the Death Eater Fred had been dueling fell across the spiny body from the backlash of multiple Stunning spells. His mask had gone askew, revealing the perpetually glazed eyes of a middle-aged witch who had been Imperiused. It was too much to relive, too much to digest. Fred’s arms ached from tensing his muscles. His head hurt, his heart hurt…from somewhere far away, he heard the voice of Oliver Wood shouting over a din of a hundred other voices, begging for back-up.
It was only when he saw Augustus Rookwood’s thin black wand pointing over his own head – over the real Fred’s, as well, though he did not notice, to the wall behind them all, that he sprang to his senses. He felt as though he had been asleep all this time, and now waking up in a bright, ripe world, bubbling with the cries for help; and he helped even though no one had solicited it. He flung himself like a human weapon into the heart of the crowd with such force that he thought Ron himself stumbled out of the way, and raised his own wand in response to the silent oath inching from Rookwood’s lips.
Tears of rage poured from Fred’s eyes, his teeth audibly chipping into powdery grit as he clenched them against each other. And in his peripheral vision he saw the mirror image of himself, still smiling at Percy, and Percy saying something he couldn’t hear, and Hermione shielding her eyes from a warm rain of debris that had been a painted person inside a portrait, flayed to shreds.
Love blossomed in Fred’s heart, adrenaline burning in his veins with love and revenge and protection that he knew he couldn’t really give to any of them. He felt all of it combine in a power that surged through his right arm like a fuse that had been lit, traveling through his wand before ripping the air apart with a phosphorescent glow.
The Death Eater’s large, malevolent eyes flashed green with the Avada Kedavra, and he and Fred both blew backwards off their feet.
Fred’s skull made a sickening crunch as it hit the stone wall. It was the wall that was supposed to have exploded, but intact it had done just as much damage to him. Fred felt his lungs deflate, skin oddly freezing. The world rocked around him as he rolled into an agonizing ball on his side. There was no choking masonry lining his throat, no hand squeezing around his heart, but there was a small, thin cry coming from nearby, and that was even worse.
On his right, another figure on the floor exhaled shallow breaths on his neck. Fred opened his eyes to see three dizzying images of Percy, gradually melding into one as Fred’s eyes adjusted through a searing migraine. His glasses were smashed but still dangling cockeyed on the bridge of his nose. The back of his head looked strangely dented.
“Percy!” Ron urged, kneeling right through the Pensieve-Fred to assist his fallen brother. “Are you – are you okay?”
“Perce?” the real Fred echoed.
“Fine,” Percy mumbled, but the other Fred knew that he was lying. He could feel it in the stillness of his body, his voice. The Fred that no one could see, that no one knew was watching, realized that in changing what had happened on the seventh floor corridor, he had somehow made Percy attack Yaxley, too. Percy had seen him in time, and in a knee-jerk reaction he retaliated with an Unforgivable Curse he never thought he would have to use to defend himself. The blow-back of such a spell had sent him right into the wall that ought to have been shattered moments before, injuring his head.
Harry joined the congregation huddled around the wounded young man, who assured them feebly that he was all right, to keep fighting elsewhere.
“We’re not just going to leave you here,” Fred told him, his previous grin overtaken by worry. “We’ve got to – hang on, has anyone seen Pomfrey?”
“Who knows?” Ron began, but was interrupted by Seamus Finnegan, who’d come from nowhere, and told them that Pomfrey was last seen in the entrance hall, tending to a heavily-bleeding abrasion on Cho Chang’s face. Someone else was yelling out – a musical purr in her voice that stirred images of Fleur Delacour to his mind – but the tenor was deeper. Madame Maxime.
The memory Fred was still lying on the floor next to Percy when the flash of gold appeared, the ignited walls between Fred’s memory and Colin’s – or Tonks’s, rather – rushing closer. They were moving, fluid, changing form as the people who had donated them shifted the events of those memories in response to everything that had just happened. It occurred to Fred, as he lay there, that memories were living things, fragile and powerful, and that Cliodna had underestimated this when she chose them to be the settings for this year’s Devil’s Duel.
As the white-gold wall of memory bubbled, washing up and down the walls and steadily drawing nearer, Fred saw a blood-red dawn staining the other side. If the barrier overtook them, it would carry them into morning. Midnight would be over and technically, Fred would have succeeded in the task of keeping his other self alive until the required time was up. The only question remained: Had Colin kept his other self alive, as well? What if both had succeeded in their tasks?
Who would win, then?
He rolled wholly onto his back just as Percy released his last fluttering breath; Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the real Fred squinted against the blinding light of electric webbing as it stole right through their flesh with a zephyr of wind, pulling them into the other side. It touched the Pensieve-Fred in warm tones, in laughs and cries that he had heard himself or heard about from word of mouth long after the fact. It was like the sun – the brightest thing he’d ever seen, but it streamed from inside of him, illuminating his very bones.
And then he knew no more.
A/N: RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU’RE EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED. *raises both hands* This chapter took forever for me to get around to writing because I did not want to revisit this particular time and place. I’m not sure why I always feel compelled to punish myself by writing sad/mentally draining things. As always, thank you so much for reading my monstrous, scary-long chapters and I would love to hear your thoughts on Round Five. Also, after a lot of internal debating I've decided to post the rest of Run today because of momentum reasons. I think that if I drag this out for another month, spacing the remaining chapters once a week, it will lose momentum with readers who regularly keep up with updates. And I know that I owe a lot of review responses - I'll get getting around to them very soon, I promise.
The real Fred Weasley’s line of “Nice night for it!” is from page 621 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, USA edition. All scenes/characters/what-have-you from the Battle of Hogwarts that you recognize belong to JK Rowling and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
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