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Brave New Hope by ARG
Chapter 65 : The Final Battle pt 2
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 11


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 A/N: And here is the final battle and the final chapter to this fic (excluding the epilogue, which will follow soon). Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Some lines of this chapter you'll recognize as refferences to the Chapter 'The Flaw in the Plan' of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Those belong to J.K Rowling. The rest is mine.

Inside the Hospital Wing, Sirius and Izzy heard her calls all the way from the end of the hall even before they saw her. Once they got up from where they’d been sitting and walked over to the door, they saw as Nymphadora Tonks ran in their direction as fast as her feet would allow her, her eyes as red-rimmed as anyone’s eyes could possibly get and her hair, which had been pink last time Izzy had seen it, back to the dull brown it always showed whenever something worrisome was going on. Clearly, she knew something was wrong with her husband.

Remus!” she was calling.

The metamorphagus reached them in a matter of seconds but didn’t seem to register their presence in the least: the one thing she would have possibly cared about seeing right then and there would have been her husband. Such was, that she’d have burst straight into the Hospital Wing if Sirius hadn’t caught her by the waist first, blocking her way.

“Let me go, I need to see him!” she yelled, struggling against his hold.

“Tonks, they’re working. You can’t just barge in there freaking out like this,” Sirius told her. It disturbed him a little that, even though he still felt completely messed up, Tonks was so much worse that he actually had to call her to reason. Hadn’t he been the one who, twenty minutes before, had to be talked into getting out of the way?

His best mate’s wife, however, stopped struggling much faster than he’s predicted, suddenly turning from the flailing mess she’d been seconds before into a nearly-limp version of herself. “He’s really dead, isn’t he?” she asked, her voice so empty it felt like a punch to the face.

It hurt so much to hear that Sirius had to look at his daughter for support. Izzy shook her head, reminding him that wasn’t the truth. “No, Tonks, he’s not,” he replied

But she wasn’t listening. “They told me he fell from so high…” she said, tears running down her face. “I should have tried harder to find him! The prat thought he could just leave me home and come here alone. He just had to get himself killed! We were supposed to come together and protect each other!” She somehow sounded furious and inconsolable at the same time.

“Tonks, he’s not dead,” Sirius told her once again.

Like last time, his words came and went without her actually registering a single letter. “Merlin, what am I supposed to do without that stupid, selfless arse?! What am I supposed to do about Teddy? He’s so little… how can I tell him his Dad is gone?”

“He’s not gone!” Sirius said one more time, that once actually grabbing his cousin’s shoulders and making her look at him. “Will you listen to what I tell you, for the love of Merlin?! Remus is not dead! He’s not fine but he’s still alive, so stop acting like he’s not!”

If he had any doubt she’d actually managed to convince herself that Remus was dead up until then, the look of incredulity on her face after she finally allowed herself to hear those words certainly cleared it. “He fell from the seventh floor,” she said in a small voice. “Dawlish said Dolohov sent him flying over the railing. He said he was dead.”

“Dawlish is a moron and everyone knows it,” Sirius told her. “Moony’s alive and, Merlin help me, he’d better stay that way or we’re going to have a big problem, me and him.”

She pursed her lips together hard, trying to will her tears to stop. “I want to see him,” she said.

“Let Izzy check in first,” he told her, knowing from experience she’d be no good to his friend the state she was in. He glanced at his daughter and she nodded, making her way back into the infirmary and heading to Remus’s bedside.

“How bad is he?” Tonks managed to ask when the two of them were left alone

“Not nearly as bad as he should have been,” he told her in the same way Mia had told him earlier. “And it’s Greyback we have to thank for that, I suppose.”

Tonks’s red-rimmed eyes seemed confused as she eyed him.

“His furry little problem. He’s made of more durable stuff than any of us are because of it,” Sirius explained. “He’s going to love the irony.”

The metamorphagus pursed her lips again, trying to keep the tears away as she wished he’d have a chance to.

Izzy walked back out of the room a few seconds later, holding a spoon full of some liquid and an apologetic look on her face. “Madam Pomfrey says you can only come in if you take this,” she said, nodding at the spoon. “It’s just a little bit of calming drought.”

“Calming drought?! I don’t need any calming drought!” Tonks shouted, not at Izzy but at Madam Pomfrey herself, even though she couldn’t even get a glimpse of the matron through the doorway.

The older woman clearly heard her, nonetheless. “Nymphadora Tonks, don’t you make me walk away from your husband who actually needs me and go over there to shove it down your throat!” the matron yelled back from inside, with her usual non-nonsense attitude, especially saved for regular patients as Tonks had been herself. “We’re going to need you in a few minutes and you’re no use to us panicking!

“I’m not panicking!” Tonks yelled back. “I just want to see my husband!”

Then why are you fighting about taking the damn thing?! It won’t do any harm!

Tonks went quiet at that, realizing the woman had a point. She was wasting time on a pointless battle against something that might actually help.

“Sorry,” Izzy apologized, as she handed her the spoon.

The metamorphagus didn’t reply. She accepted the spoon, downed it quickly and handed it back to Izzy, promptly marching past Sirius, headed to her husband’s bedside.

Sirius and Izzy couldn’t help following her into the room themselves, although they stood farther away from the bed than she did, reminded of the argument from before. Still, from where he stood Sirius was relieved to note than his friend seemed considerably less bloody than before, even though he was aware that the most serious damage was likely not on the surface. Yet, only Mia and Madam Pomfrey remained by his friend’s bedside, the nurses having gone back to check on the other patients, which he supposed was a sign that they had things under control.

“Remus? Remus, talk to me. Remus!” Tonks demanded from her husband, her voice shaking as she did so.

“I don’t think that’s going to work, Miss Tonks. He’s quite out of it,” Madam Pomfrey said, still addressing Tonks the same way she had during her Hogwarts years. “A bit of a blessing. He’d be fairly uncomfortable if he was conscious right now.”

“But he’ll wake up, right?” she asked, frantically. “He’ll be okay. He has to be okay. He has to wake up!”

“We’re confident he will, Tonks, but it’s just too early to tell for sure,” Mia said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Then do something to make sure!”

“We have done all we could, Ms Tonks,” Madam Pomfrey told her. “We’ve cast every spell, given him every potion we could possibly give him with the resources and the information we have. But he needs more tests and more potions that we just can’t provide in a school infirmary.”

“Then what? He just has to do without? We cross our fingers and hope for the best?!” the metamorphagus asked, incredulous to the point of near-hysteria.

“Of course not – he needs to be moved to St Mungo’s,” the matron declared. “And that’s where you come, Ms Tonks.”

“But how? Apparition is blocked. And it’s a slaughter out there! How can I possibly carry him all the way to the Room of Requirement or to the gates without getting both of us killed?”

“There are a couple of secret passages you can take – they’ve been fairly safe so far,” Mia explained. “We can get someone to guide you through…”

“I’ll do it,” Sirius offered immediately, taking a step closer.

Mia nodded, not wavering for a second. It was his best-friend lying there half-dead and desperately needing help – or course Sirius would step in. “Sirius will take you there. Right now Remus is stable enough to be moved, so we just need to cast a few immobilizing charms and you’re good to go. I’m sorry we can’t do more right now, Tonks, but if we try to go too far without being completely sure of what the full extent of the damage is exactly, we could make him worse than he already is.”

Tonks nodded numbly in response, the calming drought just starting to kick in, and held on to her unconscious husband’s limp hand as she let Madam Pomfrey get to work with the immobilizing charms.

Mia, on the other hand, took Sirius aside in order to brief him on what kind of precautions he should have while moving his friend. She’d barely gone past instructing him on what sort of levitation charm he should use to transport Remus when a voice other than hers – a voice they really would rather not hear – not only sounded in the room but also through the entire castle. Voldemort’s.

Everyone went quiet at that, even the patients that had been moaning in pain in the background.

You have fought valiantly. Lord Voldemort knows how to value bravery,” he started, to everyone’s disbelief. For a moment, they had to wonder if he was referring to his Death Eaters or just mocking everyone else. The latter option seemed to be the most likely when he went on about how they’d sustained heavy losses that would only get heavier if they continued to resist him. Then, he had the gall to say that every drop of magical blood spilled – by him, no less – was a waste, promptly branding himself some sort of magnanimous soul by commanding his troops to retreat so they could have an hour to dispose of the dead and treat the injured.

And then, he started speaking to Harry directly. “You have permitted your friends to die for you rather than face me yourself. I shall wait for one hour in the Forbidden Forest. If, at the end of that hour, you have not come to me, have not given yourself up, then battle recommences.”

The threats continued after that – something about punishing everyone who protected him after said hour, regardless of gender or age – but none of them was really listening anymore.

“That son of a…” Sirius mumbled under his breath.

“Harry won’t do it,” Izzy said, more to convince herself than anything else. “He’s smarter than that. We’re already traitors in You-Know-Who’s eyes. Harry has to know that even if he gives himself over, there’s no way he’ll let us get away with helping him.”

No one responded to that, although they all hoped she was right.

“Miss Black, another dose of Skele-Gro to Mr Jones, please?” Madam Pomfrey broke through the silence. “Same measure as before.”

Izzy frowned, feeling like the task was just a way to dismiss her, but did it anyway.

Mia sighed where she stood. “Where was I?” she asked Sirius, trying not to think of Voldemort’s words.

“Levitation charms. But, look, I’ve got it: don’t lose focus on the charm, be careful not to let him bump into anything, send a Patronus is something happens… It’ll be okay.”

She took a breath. “Alright. I’m going to write down a list of the potions we gave him. Give it to the healers there just as soon as you can. And another thing,” she added. “Don’t leave Tonks alone. Contact her mother or… anyone, really. Just make sure she doesn’t stay there alone even if you have to stay there yourself or else she’ll lose it.”

“She seems calmer now,” Sirius argued. “What with the calming draught…”

“She didn’t have that much of it, Sirius. Calming drought can only do so much without clouding judgment and we didn’t want that,” she explained. “The fact is that when she sees herself in that hospital on her own with her husband fighting for his life, as long as she’s awake she’ll feel anything but calm, no matter how many potions we feed her. Merlin knows I would.”

Sirius sighed. “But are you sure you’ll be okay here on your own with Izzy?”

She nodded. “We’ll be fine. We’ve got an hour – you heard it.”

“For some reason, I can’t quite fully trust the words out of a psychopath’s mouth,” he said, dryly.

“You’ll have to this time. Look, Izzy and I are fine – Tonks is not and Remus even less. Hold the fort with them over there, I’ll hold this one over here. We’re a team, remember?”

He let out a long breath and replied with a nod. “Just tell me straight – does he have a good chance?”

Mia sighed. “If he gets to the hospital in time… if they have the right resources there… if they all they’re supposed to… he might. I’m sorry. That’s all I can give you now.”

Sirius let out a breath. “I suppose it’s better than nothing.”

“It is,” she agreed. “I have to go write that list down now while Poppy finishes immobilizing Remus.”

Her husband nodded and, the moment she was gone, he moved over to Izzy, who was already putting the Skele-Gro away. “Don’t even think of trying to sneak away from your mum,” he warned her.

“I could’ve snuck away a dozen times in the past half-hour while you were distracted and I didn’t,” she replied. “Give me some credit.”

“It’s a little too soon for you to be asking that, don’t you think?” he pointed out. “Just keep in mind that I don’t care about having a hero for a daughter today. But I need a living one. So…”

“Dad, I’ll try not to get myself killed,” she said. “I promise.”

“Good. I won’t forget that,” he replied before taking a breath and leaning forward to place a kiss on top of her head. “Thank you.”

“What for?” she asked, genuinely confused by his gratefulness.

“Keeping it together when I couldn’t,” he specified.

Sirius, he’s ready,” they heard Mia calling from nearby, prompting Sirius to walk over to her and his friends.

There was little time for goodbyes and good lucks before they had to leave, yet Madam Pomfrey herself took the time to reassure a very shaken Tonks that, even though her husband was nowhere near ‘well’, he still could be in much worse shape. On the background of that short conversation, Mia handed her husband a few notes to pass on to the healer and, after placing a little kiss on her lips and begging her to be careful, Sirius was off, followed by Tonks and an unconscious Remus, floating a few feet above the floor on a levitated stretcher.

They hadn’t been gone for thirty seconds and already the sound of running steps sounded outside – half-expecting it to be Tonks or Sirius returning to get them because of Remus taking a sudden turn for the worst, Mia rushed to the door immediately with Madam Pomfrey following close behind, having just delegated what she was doing on a nurse. But, turned out, it wasn’t Sirius or Tonks – it was Dean Thomas.

“Madam Pomfrey… Professor,” the boy said, trying to catch his breath from all the running.

“Mr Thomas, are you alright?” Pomfrey asked.

He nodded. “They need you downstairs. In the Great Hall. They’re gathering the injured down there – there are just too many to move this far.”

“The Great Hall? Is there anyone there helping them?”

Once again, the boy responded with a nod. “There’s a healer and a few volunteers. But they’re shorthanded. She asked me to find someone with healer training – I figured I might find that here. Oh, and she asked to say they need supplies. Lots of supplies.”

“And by ‘she’ you mean…” Madam Pomfrey prompted.

“The healer. I think her name is Harvey or Harmon…”

“Harper? Elizabeth Harper?” Mia asked.

He nodded. “Could be – there was too much happening at the same time. Sorry.”

Madam Pomfrey shook her head. “Alright. Run back and tell Ms Harper or whoever the healer is that we’re sending someone right down with supplies, then find some volunteers to help move the worst of the injured to St. Mungo’s – we’ll send a couple of aurors down to set up the whole thing. Now, off with you, Mr Thomas.”

The moment Dean was gone, Madam Pomfrey turned to Izzy, who stood suspiciously close, trying to look like she was trying to mind her own business. “Miss Black, let’s not play coy. I assume you heard everything, so you know what to do.”

“Hum… gather supplies?” she asked, slightly embarrassed for having been called out on her eavesdropping.

“Ask Anna for help,” the woman said with a nod before turning back to Mia. “I’m afraid we’ll have to split now. There may be plenty of injured down there but the ones up here still need attention.”

Mia nodded. “I suppose it makes sense that I go – this is your turf. You know how to get around here best,” she said, even though she had to glance at her daughter, unsure of what to do about her.

“Take her,” Pomfrey said, as if she was reading her thoughts.

Mia turned to her suddenly. “Izzy? You think it’s safe?”

“This entire school is a battlefield – nothing and nowhere is safe here. But the girl is clearly doing well and keeping her busy is good for her. Besides, Merlin knows you won’t trust anyone but yourself to keep her under control.”

The matron had a point there, Mia had to admit. “I suppose keeping her near me wouldn’t hurt.”

Pomfrey nodded in approval. “I’ll spare you Anna and the other nurse girl. I think Mrs Podmore and myself can keep this wing under control.” She left to go help Izzy and the nurses with their task.

Sighing, Mia joined them too, helping her daughter filling up the supply bag she was currently in charge of. Once they were done, she stopped Izzy just as she was about to carry it to a pile they were making near the door

“Stand still for a moment,” she instructed before using her wand as a torch and waving it around in front of Izzy’s eyes, testing her reflexes. She then stopped and lifted four fingers in front of her daughter’s face. “How many?”

“Four. Mum, you’ve done this before. I’m fine,” Izzy reminded her.

“I need to make sure the concussion hasn’t worsened. How is your headache?” Mia asked.

“It feels like it’s almost gone – I think it’s the potion.”

“Any vertigo when you’re walking?”

When she shook her head, her mother stopped, then and sighed. “Alright, then. Take this bag and come with me. We’re going to the Great Hall.”

Izzy raised her eyebrows. “Wait, you’re letting me get out of here?”

“I’m not letting you out of my sight for a minute tonight if I can help it. Merlin knows the trouble you’ll get into the moment I’ll turn my back. Now come along, Izzy.”

She gladly did. The nurses followed them out, each one of them carrying a bag, as well as the two aurors who’d been in charge of moving the injured to St. Mungo’s.

It was a whole new world outside of that little safe haven in the Hospital Wing – that was particularly noticeable once they reached the Entrance Hall. Even as she followed her mother, who was already a few yards ahead, entering the Great Hall with the nurses and aurors, Izzy’s eyes didn’t stop roaming around to see all the destruction. People injured in corners, dead bodies being carried, big chunks of stone from the walls and ceilings covering the floor. It was horrifying, yet she still couldn’t look away.

“Izzy!” she heard a familiar voice calling from behind her.

Turning around, Izzy caught a glimpse of flowing blond hair before feeling herself being engulfed in a bone-crushing hug. “Luna,” she said in recognition.

“It’s been such a long time,” the girl said as she pulled away, sounding as if she’d been on holiday, rather than serving as a hostage in the Malfoy Manor.

“It has,” was all Izzy could say at first as she put the bag down on the floor. “Luna… I’m so sorry. I should have noticed you were gone sooner. We all just assumed you’d gone with your Dad…”

Luan shook her head. “It wasn’t your fault. They’d have taken me anyway,” she said. “I heard they tried to get you and your mother too at Easter.”

“Yeah… we escaped before they could, though. Listen, they didn’t hurt you, did they?” She felt stupid right after asking that – they probably had, one way or the other.

The blonde shook her head, though, either because she was being truthful or feeding her a kind lie. “It was quite uncomfortable, though… all those Nargles. Mr Ollivander had the most the most interesting stories, though…”

Izzy,” they heard her mother calling, suddenly reminding Izzy she was supposed to have been following her into the Great Hall.

She turned around immediately, only to spot her mum making her way back to her, presumably to scold her for falling behind. “I’m sorry,” she apologized before her mother had a chance to lecture her. “I got distracted and then I ran into Luna…”

“It’s alright, honey, I just wanted to see where you were,” Mia told her. She smiled at Luna but there was something missing in that smile. Odd. “It’s good to see you doing alright, Luna.”

Luna smiled back. “You too, Professor.”

“I’ll be right in with you,” Izzy told her mother, already reaching down for the bag of supplies.

Mia reached for it instead, though. “No need to rush – I can take that myself. Why don’t you take five minutes to catch up with Luna and then come meet me?”

What?! Izzy thought, looking at her mother very oddly. “I thought you didn’t want me out of your sight.”

“It’s five minutes. I’m allowing myself to trust you for five minutes,” Mia said. There was something strange in her voice – she was speaking faster than usual. Just a little, but enough for Izzy to notice.

“Is everything okay?”

“You haven’t seen Luna in a while, Izzy. I know you’d want to catch up and I’d rather you did it while there are no Death Eaters around.”

Izzy still suspected her mother was acting out of character, but the few minutes of freedom did sound like too nice a prospect to refuse. “Five minutes, then?”

“Yes,” Mia replied, her voice strangely feeble before she rushed back into the Great Hall.

“That was odd,” Luna commented.

“I know. It’s like she wanted me out of her hair…” Izzy agreed.

Oi! We could use a hand here,” they heard another familiar voice saying from behind her.

The two girls turned around only to spot the owner of the voice, Neville, making his way down the main staircase with Hannah Abbot as the two of them supported a clearly injured Seamus, who struggled to walk on a rather bloody leg.

“Can we stop for a second?” Hannah asked. “He’s starting to falter.”

“Oi! Are you calling me feeble?” the Irish boy protested through the pain as Neville helped him lower down to sit on one of the steps.

“You’ve seen better days,” Neville commented before turning to the girls. “I didn’t think you’d come after what happened at Easter and all,” he told Izzy.

“Come on, I couldn’t miss the party, could I?”

“And what a party…” Neville commented.

She chuckled and crouched down, turning her attention to Seamus. “What’ve you got there, Seamus?”

“Oh, you know,” he mumbled in a pained tone. “Got nicked by a cutting charm. It could’ve been much worse. But I guess if this doesn’t kill me, it’ll leave a nice scar. You girls fancy that kind of thing, right?”

“Don’t be stupid, Seamus, you’re going to be fine!” Hannah scolded him.

“Hannah’s right. My mum has some dittany with her. She can probably heal that leg for you in a tick. Do you think you can get to the Great Hall after you catch your breath or should I get someone for you?”

“I got this far, didn’t I?” he told her. “Nev, gimme a hand.”

Neville nodded and promptly wrapped one arm around his friend, helping him up onto his good leg. Luna lent a hand as well and so she and Neville supported the Irish boy, Hannah following right behind.

Izzy led the way into the Great Hall, which was the pinnacle of all horror. She had to avert her eyes from the corner where line after line of dead bodies remained. On the opposite side, there were the injured. She recognised her mother’s best friend, Elizabeth, running around, patching them up as well as she could manage but they outnumbered her by a lot. Izzy was surprised to note her mother hadn’t joined her. Where was she?

Another painful look at the side with all the dead, and she found her standing next to some of the Weasleys, talking to a red-eyed Fleur. It didn’t register why they were at first: once she spotted Ginny, she found herself bundled with relief. And then she realized Ginny has tears on her face too. She was crying – Ginny never cried.

Suddenly, she was searching for George among them, but he was gone. He wasn’t the only one: Bill was missing too and so was Charlie. Percy was surprisingly there, a little out of place in her book, though he seemed to be as lost in his sobbing as the rest of his family.

And then she noticed what they were gathered around… who. It was one of the twins and she just couldn’t tell which one. She couldn’t tell and she needed to because they weren’t helping him – they were just crying. And she knew what that meant. Death. The Weasley on the floor – Fred or George – was dead and the moment that sunk into her, it was like all air was sucked out of her lungs. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t move.

Her mother spotted her almost immediately and was running to her. Suddenly, it made sense. “This is why you wanted me out,” Izzy mumbled in a detached sort of way.

“I needed to know, Izzy. It’s not him,” her mother said, wrapping her arms around her. She’d thanked all the gods ever to be worshiped that Izzy had fallen behind when she’d first seen it. She’d known right there and then that she couldn’t let her see it, not without knowing beforehand if the boy lying dead on the floor was the one her daughter had spent the past few months pining for. Not without knowing if her heart would get broken so badly when she was still so young. “It’s not George, love. It’s still awful but… it’s not your George, sweetheart.”

All of a sudden, Izzy felt like the most horrible person in the world. It wasn’t George and she was relieved. She was relieved because it was Fred dead and that was just a horrible thing to feel. She hated herself for feeling it, because poor Fred was dead and didn’t deserve her feeling that way about it. She especially felt horrible because she knew it would crush George. Merlin, it would break him so bad… and she was relieved! What the hell was wrong with her?! She felt like crying for that fact alone.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” her mother asked her when she let go.

Izzy didn’t respond. She just pointed behind her numbly. “Seamus’s leg,” she mumbled.

Mia looked over and nodded. “Yes, I’ll take care of it. But are you alright?”

She nodded, even though she didn’t mean it. She didn’t want to be consoled. How could anyone console her when she was the girl who was relieved that the twin brother and best friend of the bloke she was in love with was dead? “I need to go. Ginny…”

Mia nodded and allowed her to walk away, towards her best friend.

“Ginny,” she whispered.

The redheaded didn’t move. She just stood there, staring at her dead brother like she was just waiting for him to rise up and laugh over having thrown the mother of all pranks. But he wouldn’t. And so, Ginny Weasley who didn’t cry, Ginny Weasley who was one of the bravest people she knew, Ginny Weasley who’d just lost one of her favourite brothers, stood there, immobile, with silent tears rolling down her face.

Izzy wasn’t sure what to do, so she just stood there with her friend, placing one hand on her shoulder. Still, Ginny didn’t move or sob, or sniff, contrasting heavily with her mother, who cried and begged loudly. And so, unable to leave her friend’s side in that moment of grief, Izzy did the same.

As much as she willed her eyes to move away, they wouldn’t – they remained morbidly fixed on Fred’s body, painfully reminding her of what a horrible person she was that she’d been relieved that boy – that boy who’d been nothing but a good friend to her and her family – was the one dead, rather than his twin brother.

“I tried to prepare myself for this.” Ginny’s voice was low and distant as she said those words. “You can never really prepare yourself but I tried. I really did. Because there are nine of us – nine – and odds are just stacked against you when there are so many. So, I told myself it could happen and I shouldn’t be completely shocked by it.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Izzy told her.

“I know. I know it doesn’t. But the thing is: I never prepared myself for this. For one of them to die. Just one. Because they were never one – they were always two. They were different but they were always two,” Ginny mumbled before turning to Izzy. “So, how can there be just one now? How can there be a George without a Fred?”

It went straight to the heart, Ginny’s question. How could there be a George without a Fred? “Where is he? George, I mean,” she heard herself asking.

Ginny shook her head. “He was here before. We came here together and then we saw them… gone. I think he couldn’t stand it, so he ran off. Bill and Charlie went after him,” she explained, her tone still far away.

Izzy pursed her lips. They wouldn’t find him if he didn’t want them to – George knew the castle too well. All that time with the map… Then, all of a sudden, something hit her. “Them,” Izzy mumbled. “You said ‘them’ gone, not him.”

Ginny nodded, biting her lip before turning once again towards the direction of her brother’s body… only it wasn’t Fred’s body she was looking at this time, Izzy noticed for the first time. It was Angelina Johnson’s.

“Oh,” was all Izzy could say. Fred was gone. And so was his Angelina.

“Percy said they weren’t together when it happened, so I guess neither of them knew the other…”

“Ginny!”

Molly’s anguished cry cut through her daughter’s words thoughts, making her turn to the inconsolable woman in question.

“I need my babies!” Molly cried, looking around for her living children in the room. “Ginny! Ron! Percy!”

“We’re here, Mum,” Ginny said, already moving towards her mother, who pulled all three against her and promptly started sobbing on them.

With Ginny gone to console her mother, Izzy couldn’t stand just being there, staring at Fred’s body. She needed to go. She needed to go and find George.

She was marching to the door seconds later, only stopping when Neville placed himself on her way.

“Hey, where are you going?” he asked.

“To find George,” she said. “Cover for me with my Mum and if doesn’t work… tell her I’m sorry and that I’ll try to be back before the hour is up.” She was off before he could say anything else.

On her way up the main staircase, she ran into Bill and Charlie coming down all on their own, confirming they hadn’t been able to find their brother. Hopefully, she’d be more successful that they’d been.

It didn’t start out great, though. She went to the Room of Requirement first, only to find it… locked. The door was there but it wouldn’t open – for some reason the handle actually scalded her when she touched it – not seriously, but enough to let her know something was wrong with the room itself. She had to scratch that off the list because, even if George was inside, it was clearly not letting her in.

By the time twenty minutes out of the promised hour were gone, she stopped to think. George could be anywhere but there wasn’t nearly enough time to sweep through the whole castle – she needed to start by the most logical places for George to be.

Gryffindor, Quidditch and Mischief – she supposed those were the three words that could be used to most accurately outline the nature of George’s years at Hogwarts. The Gryffindor Tower was too obvious and certainly the first place Bill and Charlie would have looked. With the Room of Requirement already searched (or as close as they could get), she supposed that left maybe the Quidditch Pitch, the boathouse, where the twins had mostly kept their smuggled goods in their school years, and a few secret passages.

Then, she suddenly remembered. Secret passages. Fred and George had been in charge of unblocking the secret passages. They’d split up for that sole purpose and agreed to meet later in the secret passage behind the tapestry of the Lady of the Lake. She wasn’t sure if the meeting had ever really taken place but it seemed like a logical enough place to try.

She entered the passage through its sixth floor end, only to find it quiet and dark, as most of the torches were dead. She didn’t bother lighting them back, instead using her wand to guide herself through the narrow hall.

“George?” she called, hoping to get a response, even if it was him telling her to leave him alone. It didn’t come. “Are you there?” But, once more, the only answer she got was the echo of her own voice.

She kept going, nonetheless, accepting that even if George wasn’t there, that secret passage actually was the fastest way down to the lower floors. And so it was then, when she was mere yards away from the end of the secret passage, no longer holding on to hope of finding George in there, that she finally spotted him.

Izzy wasn’t sure in what state she’d expected to find him – crushed, no doubt, but no specifics beyond that… Still, she found it rather unexpected to walk in on him just sitting on the stone floor, arms crossed over bent knees staring at the nearest wall, like he was stunned or something. Apathetic, that was the word. It would have been less heart-breaking if she’d found him trashing a room in a fit of anger or something. She might have found it easier to intervene that way, while, finding him in such a state made her wonder what she should do or say.

Izzy knew he must have heard her steps but he still didn’t move, not even when she sunk down to the floor by his side.

“George,” she breathed after a few seconds.

He stayed as silent and as immobile as before.

“George I… I saw it in the Great Hall…” Fred’s body, she thought to herself, recognizing that as something far too awful to say. “I am so… so sorry,” she whispered to him, feeling her words come out empty, pale in comparison to how she really felt.

As she half-expected, though, he didn’t respond.

“I know it hurts. I won’t presume to know how much but it’s got to be more than a lot,” she said. “And I don’t know how to make it better, so please tell me what to do. Anything – because we’ve got little more than thirty minutes of that hour You-Know-Who gave us and by the time those minutes are gone, you need to be good enough to get back on your feet and fight for your life. So, tell me how to make it happen, George.”

Her pleading was left without an answer, once again. She was starting to lose her footing.

“Is it time you need, George? A little time to get your head in order? Because I can give you a few minutes. You shouldn’t be alone, though, so I’ll be here. Unless you tell me not to be.”

He didn’t, so she stayed, sitting there by his side. Before that day, she didn’t think it was possible for a person who wasn’t in a coma not to move an inch for more than five minutes. The next time she checked her watch, she noted he was going on fifteen without a motion, without a word… almost without a breath.

That’s what she started to get desperate. The clock was ticking and he wasn’t moving. He wasn’t reacting. He wasn’t… anything. And that was going to get him killed.

“George, please,” she pleaded, moving to kneel opposite him. “Please do something. Say something. Anything. Yell at me for being a pest. Hex me. Break stuff. Just do something. I beg of you.”

But, again, he didn’t. She couldn’t even tell if he was listening. He just didn’t seem to be responding… he didn’t seem to be willing to move.

She didn’t know what to do – she could practically feel herself panicking. He couldn’t stay that way, motionless and helpess. Who knew who could stumble into that secret passage? If the Carrows had known to close it during the school year, they certainly knew it existed. So, leaving him there hoping it was a good enough hiding place was not an option. If some Death Eater stumbled there he’d die And he couldn’t die. He just couldn’t. She couldn’t deal with that again – she couldn’t deal with that for real.

In a matter of seconds, her mind went through the possibilities: there was no way she was strong enough to physically drag him away and, even if she did so magically, there was just no time to get him out of the castle. There was always the chance of her staying and covering for him or getting him to his family but those were no solutions – just temporary fixes. George’s best shot was to get himself together, even if just enough to be able to move and think rationally – and, Merlin himself knew, that was just revealing itself to be an impossible task.

So, in a desperate attempt get him to snap out of his apathy, she did one of the hardest things she’d ever done in her life: she went right for the open wound, hoping that would be impossible to ignore.

“Look at me, George,” she said, her tone low at first. “Look at me!” she repeated, raising her voice. When he still didn’t do it, she reached for his face with her hand and made him. He didn’t fight her – he seemed too far gone to try. His eyes were empty and unfocused. He seemed like a far cry from the George she usually knew. That was why it would cost her even more to do what she was about to do.

“Fred is gone,” she told him. That seemed to catch his attention as there was a clear flicker of pain in his eyes. “He’s dead. That’s not going to change. He’s not coming back, no matter how much you silently beg the universe to make this all a bad dream, no matter how long you sit here and let it eat you up or whatever it is you’re doing. That will just get you killed as well and if you stay here and let that happen, you’ll just be betraying Fred because he was counting on you to fight for him. For yourself.” Every word coming out of her mouth felt like acid burning her very insides as payback for being cruel to him. But he needed it – there was no time to ease him into the reality that was a world without Fred because the Death Eaters were coming back in a matter of minutes. George needed to be shocked, slapped and shaken by the truth. He needed it as a fuel to fight… to live. Or at least she hoped he did, or else they were both in big trouble. “Fred died but you didn’t, so, snap out of it. Snap out of it, right now, George, because he’s not coming back and you owe it to him to fight for your own life!”

By the time she finished, his eyes were no longer unfocused. There was still a shadow of emptiness in them, but it heavily contrasted with the look of shock on his face as he regarded her. He just looked at her heavily for endless seconds – she didn’t move or blink. She was just waiting for him to do something… something that would show she hadn’t broken him with her words.

He did, eventually. He spoke… “Go away,” he told her, his voice low and hard as he eyed her with a glare on his face.

“What?”

“I said go… away,” he told her, yelling the last part so loud she actually had to physically back down. “Get the hell out of here, Isabelle! Why are you here? Why did you have to bloody come here today? You should be home. You should be far, far away and you should have never come here today in the first place!” he told her furiously.

That time, she was the one staring at him immobile. Shock… resentment… anger. She could hear them all in his voice. She’d gone too far… she’d been too cruel. It had worked, she knew. He was going to fight – she’d been able to see it in his eyes. But at what cost had she managed that? “George…”

“Fred is dead. You wanted me to face it, so there it is – Fred is dead and you’re still here. And I don’t want you here. So, go.”

But, that time, she was the one who couldn’t move. And, that time, he was the one with the solution: he got up and walked away instead without another word.

She’d known it was going to be horrible. From the moment she’d changed strategies to get a reaction out of him, she’d known, of course, that there was no way hearing those things was going to get a good reaction out of George. Still, it hurt… so much. Especially because she felt like she had it coming, if not for anything else, for karmic payback to her previous feelings of relief over Fred’s death.

But it didn’t matter, she told herself. It didn’t matter because George was reacting. He was moving. Hopefully, he was going to channel that fury into the battle. And he’d have a chance to live. So hating her was a small price to pay. Thinking of that was the one thing that held her together long enough to get up and walk back to the Great Hall, rather than sit there and simmer in her own shock like George had.

She vaguely noticed that things weren’t as awful in the Great Hall as she recalled seeing them before: most of the bodies had been moved and there were far less injured people lying around than before. The Weasleys had left as well, having followed Fred’s body, she imagined. Elizabeth was still around, helping move a girl with a splinted leg onto a stretcher. As for her mother…

“Izzy, are you trying to give me a heart attack?!” she heard her mother’s distinctive voice saying from her right. When she turned to face it, Mia was walking on her direction, Lulu following shortly behind. “What were you thinking? We’ve only got five minutes left until the Death Eaters return! Your grandfather is looking for you everywhere. And you’re lucky your father isn’t back yet!”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I didn’t think it’d take this long.”

“Well, it did. And you shouldn’t have gone without asking in the first place. For the love of Merlin, you know you’re supposed to be in a tight leash…” She stopped talking suddenly, starting to look at her oddly. “Izzy, what’s wrong?”

She pursed her lips and shook her head, wanting to do anything but talk about what was wrong. “It’s nothing.”

“Well, ‘nothing’ isn’t supposed to make you cry,” Lulu told her.

Izzy frowned, reaching to her face with one hand only to feel a trail of wetness down her cheek. Great – she was crying. Her own damn body was betraying her.

“Honey, tell me what’s wrong,” her mother said, as her voice softened considerably. “What happened? Is it George?”

And, that was it. At the sole mention of his name out loud, she was done, crumbling into a humiliating fit of tears that was just about the last thing she wanted to happen.

Mia caught her immediately, holding her as she cried and shooting Lulu completely clueless looks, as if asking her if she had any idea what was wrong with her daughter.

Lulu shook her head, just as clueless, and excused herself seconds later, the moment Gabe stepped back into the room, presumably to tell him there was no need for him to keep looking for their granddaughter.

“Izzy, please tell me what’s wrong,” Mia asked of her daughter as she sobbed. She unwrapped her arms from around her, though her hands remained on her shoulders. “Please. I need to know. Did something happen? Are you okay? Is George okay?”

Izzy shook her head. “Nothing is… okay,” she sniffed

“What happened?”

“He… he wasn’t reacting,” she said between hiccups. “He just… sat there… looking at nothing. He wouldn’t speak… He wouldn’t move. And he had to move. It’s a… battle. If you don’t move, you die.”

Mia nodded in understanding but didn’t interrupt her.

“I tried to wait and to… to help, but he just wouldn’t… do anything, so I said…” she paused, still hiccupping every few seconds, sighing before turning her face into some sort of disgusted expression “… awful things. I just wanted him to face it and to… fight for himself but I went too far. And now he hates me.”

“Of course he doesn’t.”

“He does. The things he said…”

“People say all sorts of things they don’t mean when they’re hurting,” Mia assured her, wrapping her arms around her again.

Izzy sniffed once more, but didn’t respond. “We were so close to finally letting it happen. And now I ruined it. He hates me.”

With a sigh, her mother smoothed her hair. “He doesn’t. I’m sure he doesn’t. Not really. Maybe he just needs time to grieve and then everything is going to be okay, sweetheart. You’ll see. But we need to go. The Death Eaters are returning at any moment and Madam Pomfrey is expecting us back at the Hospital Wing.”

Izzy nodded, using her sleeve to clean up the tears still on her face. Now it was her turn to follow her own words to George – she had to buck up and focus on the battle at hand. She could be as miserable as she wanted afterwards. “Is Dad really not back yet?” she asked, just recalling her mother’s earlier words.

Her mother replied with a nod. “Don’t worry about it. I told him to keep Tonks some company until everything calmed down a little on their side,” she said, even though she was starting to worry a little.

The worry didn’t last much longer, though, since, seconds later, as the two of them were walking out of the Great Hall, Mia’s arm firmly wrapped around her daughter’s shoulders, and starting to climb the first steps of the grand staircase, Sirius was making his way down.

“Hey, Pomfrey said you were…” He paused, noticing Izzy’s red-rimmed eyes. “What’s wrong?”

Izzy tensed, wondering if her mother was going to rat her out on the whole going-after-George-while-supposedly-grounded thing because she wasn’t sure if she could take being yelled at again. Mia didn’t, however.

“Things are bad out there, Sirius,” she said. “It’s just hitting her hard.” It wasn’t a lie in the true sense of the word. Things were bad and it was hitting everyone hard. Izzy was just being more affected by one of those bad things in specific – George’s grief over Fred’s death. And, as much as she always valued telling her husband the whole truth, Izzy’s feelings for George were not for her to tell. “How is Remus?” she asked, purposely shifting the conversation to another matter.

Sirius shook his head. “It’s too early to tell. One of the nurses said you and Madam Pomfrey did a good job, though.”

Mia nodded. “And Tonks?”

“A wreck. Andromeda had just arrived when I left – she had to bring Teddy along since basically everyone who could babysit is here. It’s good that she did, though: the moment Tonks got a hold of the kid, she seemed to get it together a little,” he explained. “But what about here? Is everyone we know okay? The Weasleys? Your parents?”

“Lulu and Gabe are fine. They were just here a moment ago,” she replied.

“And the Weasleys?” Sirius insisted, not missing the fact that she purposely kept them out of her explanation and that Izzy had apparently started holding her breath at the mention of them. It wasn’t hard to guess why – something bad had happened. “Who?”

Mia sighed. “Fred… he didn’t make it.”

Sirius seemed positively shocked for a moment. Of all of them, Fred was about the last one he’d have guessed that would die. “He’s just a kid,” he mumbled.

His wife nodded. “And the saddest part is that he’s not even the youngest one to…”

“Harry Potter is dead.” Voldemort’s voice felt like a punch to the stomach as it rang through the whole castle even louder than it had exactly one hour before.

It sounded like a foreign language to them at first, as Sirius, Mia and Izzy just stood there, frozen like statues trying to translate it into something that made sense – something that wouldn’t mean the words that, if they were honest to themselves, they had perceived.

He was killed as he ran away, trying to save himself while you lay down your lives for him,” the Dark Lord continued.

If the previous words had brought shock, the last ones had dragged anger along. And with anger came denial – and not a completely unfunded sort. “He’s lying,” Sirius said without a shadow of a doubt. “It’s a trick.” He turned to Mia, who still looked like someone had just slapped her, and continued. “You know Harry – he wouldn’t run to save himself. All of it is a lie, Mia. You know it is.”

Izzy nodded by her mother’s side, holding on to her father’s words like an anchor. Of course it was a lie. Harry wasn’t dead. Not like that. Voldemort had taken the lie too far – he’d given himself away.

“We bring you his body as proof that your hero is gone,” Voldemort announced.

“He’s trying to lure us out,” Sirius said, trying to voice justification after justification for every ´lie’ the Dark Lord fed them. Still, as it seemed, not everyone was buying his explanations. “Mia, where are you going?” he called after his wife the moment he saw her turning on her heel and walking towards the castle’s main entrance, from where the voice had clearly come. “Mia!”

He followed after her, Izzy on a tow, and was only able to stop her once he grabbed her arm, only a couple of steps away from the doors.

She turned with an angry look on her face, her eyes starting to redden even though no tears fell. “Let go!”

“What are you doing?! He’s just trying to lure us, Mia!”

“You don’t know that!” she yelled back as Voldemort’s voice kept sounding in the background – whatever it was about, they weren’t listening anymore.

“It could be a trap,” he warned. “It probably is.”

“I don’t care! He’s my son – I need to know!” Then, yanking her arm out of his grasp, she walked off towards the crowd that was already forming just outside the doors, waiting for Voldemort and his Death Eaters to show up with Harry’s alleged dead body.

Later she’d consider it ironic that she was the one recklessly walking off while Sirius was the one trying to stop her, since the roles were usually reversed. But, at the moment, she just didn’t care – Harry could be gone and, as far as she was concerned, the Earth itself would stop turning up until she knew if that was or wasn’t the truth. And if it was… if it was, she wasn’t sure it would ever resume.

She found herself blasting through the crowd, rudely pushing whoever appeared on her way until she stood at the front. To her own surprise, she felt her hand being caught seconds later and turned to find Sirius standing at her side.

“I thought you were sure this was a trap,” she barely managed to say.

He sighed. “I am. But if you have to walk into one anyway, you’d better be sure I’ll be right there with you,” he assured her.

She grasped his hand back harder, thankful for the unconditional vote of support. “Izzy?” she asked him.

“Lulu’s got her,” he replied.

She nodded, leaning her head sideways onto his shoulder as the two of them, as well as the growing crowd, waited. “How can you be so sure it is all a lie?” she had to ask her husband at some point, maybe a couple of minutes after they’d joined the crowd.

“Because Harry Potter survived a killing curse when he was one year old. Then, he went on to live through another showdown with the same bloke when he was eleven and then one more time when he was twelve… and twice more at fourteen and fifteen. And in the meantime, at thirteen, he went back in time just to save me from having my soul sucked out by Dementors. If that’s not doing the impossible over and over… and over again, I don’t know what is,” he told her calmly. “So, you can be sure that, even if it kills me, I won’t believe this is over until I touch his cold hard body with my bare hands.”

Mia nearly trembled once she heard her husband’s words. It was unbelievable how deep his trust in their godson’s abilities went. “I wish I could have that much faith,” she said in a whisper.

He wrapped one arm around her. “You do. You’re just not as chronically pig-headed as I am.”

She pushed herself closer against him, drinking in the moment of comfort he was offering before it all potentially went to hell.

Sirius held his wife in return, just then taking the time to look over her shoulder at the various people making up the crowd they were in. Right at the front, he could spot several teachers, order members as well as DA ones. Those who really stood out seemed to be McGonagall, dignified as ever, Kingsley, always the leader and… Neville, apparently holding a sword of Gryffindor in a not-awkward-at-all manner. Next, he spotted the Weasleys – all minus George, whose sombre-self Sirius recalled passing at the back of the crowd when he was walking to join Mia. Molly and Arthur looked the most miserable he’d ever seen them, which was no surprise, given their son’s demise. Ginny stood nearby, right beside Bill and…

Sirius had to pause for a moment, blink and frown. Ginny was standing next to Izzy. Izzy who’d apparently given Lulu the slip. He huffed. Honestly, he didn’t even know why he was surprised – for a moment he actually had to curse at his own sneaky genes. He sent a glare his daughter’s way but either she didn’t see it or she pretended she didn’t.

Yet, before he had a chance to even step away from Mia so he could have a word with Izzy, the blurry outline of Voldemort’s army became visible at a distance, surrounding a very large shape that, even though they could hardly tell anyone apart at that distance, could only belong to Hagrid. Everyone held their breath at that moment, Sirius himself included, and all the low-volume chatter that had been going around until then went mute.

He felt Mia tense as she felt the change in the mood as well and, just to make sure she wouldn’t just lose it and bolt towards the approaching mass of Death Eaters, shifted his position so she was standing with her back against his chest, allowing his arms to wrap themselves around her from behind.

Tension rose with every step Voldemort, Hagrid and the Death Eaters took their way. Even though he forced himself to stick to the belief that all of that was a play until his bare hands told him otherwise, Sirius had never been more aware of the heart thumping madly in his chest.

When it became undeniable that Hagrid was carrying something – someone – he started feeling Mia losing control of her emotions. She tensed even more, if that was even possible, and her head kept shaking as she mumbled ‘No. Please, no’ over and over again under her breath.

Soon, the ‘no’ became the general word of choice among the crowd. McGonagall was the first to shout it. Ginny was the second, going even louder as Bill had to physically restrain her to keep her from running all the way to Harry’s dead body. By her side, Izzy was frozen – she only moved to look over at her father, silently begging him to come up with an explanation for that not to be true.

A staged death, Sirius forced himself to think immediately. They were staging Harry’s death to get them to give up… or to lure Harry out of wherever he was. It was certainly some sort of conjured dummy or someone under Polyjuice. Maybe it was even some sort of general magically-induced hallucination… Every explanation seemed to sound less and less plausible, but he didn’t let that stop him: that was the Wizarding World – weirder things had happened in the past. And he was painfully aware that, the moment he stopped believing… the moment he ceased trying to find another explanation, he’d be just as bad as Mia was.

She’d started going limp in the midst of her sobbing the moment it became clear that the person Hagrid was carrying was – apparently, Sirius added in his mind – indeed Harry. He couldn’t blame her for completely losing her bearings over that – for all she knew, she was living the nightmare she’d been dreading ever since they’d first heard of the prophecy. So, with little to none hesitation, he followed her down to the floor, wrapping his arms around her as her body shook with grief.

He didn’t have it in him to insist with her on his belief that it was all a fake – he felt like that would only upset her further. Still, he couldn’t just let her slip away. “Please don’t give up,” he whispered. “He wouldn’t want you to.”

His wife didn’t respond, though she held on harder, like he was the only thing keeping her from shutting down.

He barely listened to the back-and-forth taking place on the background between Neville and Voldemort himself but, once it culminated on the younger boy cutting off Voldemort’s pet snake’s head, it became impossible to ignore. Especially with what came after.

“Harry!” Hagrid’s booming voice shouted. “Harry! Where’s Harry!?”

He was up in a flash, bringing Mia along with him. Everyone around stood in confusion, wondering, asking and looking, trying to figure out how Harry’s body had vanished from Hagrid’s hands without any apparent help other than Hagrid’s full-blooded giant half-brother appearing out of nowhere.

Sirius couldn’t help allowing his chest to expand with newfound hope and, looking at Mia, he clearly saw there was some light back in her red-rimmed eyes, as if she was allowing herself to believe just a little bit that he might be right. He didn’t mention it, though.

The crowd around them started to scatter as the battle resumed. “Where’s Izzy?” Mia asked, her voice still quite faint.

Sirius glanced over to where he’d last seen their daughter but she wasn’t there anymore, a fact he welcomed with some relief since she’d clearly moved away from the front line. “Come on, let’s find her,” he told his wife, who nodded and allowed him to drag her along.

They soon found themselves in the Great Hall, where nearly everyone was duelling. However, the weirdest thing seemed to be happening: although Death Eaters were dropping left and right like they were supposed to, not a single spell aimed at the fighters whose allegiance was to Harry and the Order hit the target. It was so bizarre Sirius almost felt like he was in the middle of a freak show. Had someone showered them with Felix Felicis while they weren’t paying attention?

Some Death Eaters started to run, overwhelmed by their impossibly bad aim, a group of them nearly knocking over Sirius and Mia on their way out without even trying to harm them in any way – they were just so freaked out they wanted to get the hell away.

Somehow in the middle of all that mess, the duellers ended up unwillingly pushing Sirius and Mia on opposite directions. He lost sight of his wife for that reason and, unable to spot her in the middle of all that mess, had to move further into the room – carefully avoiding the centre of it, where Voldemort battled about a dozen aurors at once – hoping he could see her from a less crowded area.

He finally spotted her when he was standing near the entrance of the Trophy room and was glad to find she had Izzy with her. They seemed to be caught in a four-way to one duel with Bellatrix, who seemed quite frustrated with their constant ability to escape her spells, which reached the point of statistical impossibility.

He was just about to join them, also hoping to get a chance to help taking down the miserable bitch, when a massive blow sent him flying into the trophy room. He landed against one of the trophy displays but not a single shard of the glass that broke against his back pierced him, though his wand flew out of his grasp somewhere along the way. All of a sudden, he found himself face-to-face with Fenrir Greyback, who pushed him against the wall right next to the display, holding him by the neck just tight enough that he wouldn’t choke too fast but also wouldn’t feel too comfortable breathing.

“Fancy running into you, Black,” the man – if he could even be called that – said. “I was just wondering where your friend Lupin was. Thought this might be as good a time as any to rid the world of another traitor to his kind.”

“Well, then I guess it will really irk you that you kind of… saved his life today,” Sirius managed to gasp, hoping that would grab enough of the werewolf’s attention so he could safely grab one of the trophies in the nearby display. “Long story,” he added when he saw Greyback frown at him.

“Where is he?”

“Far out of your reach,” he said, wrapping his hand around the handle on one of the trophies.

Greyback glared. “Well, then I suppose I’ll have to pass my disappointment along through a friend,” he said, clearly not meaning a written message or a spoken one.

Sirius got a feeling that he meant something along the lines of mailing Remus the severed head of said friend or something just as gruesome. And apparently that friend just happened to be him.

“Yeah, I’d rather you didn’t,” he said just before using the heavy trophy to hit the werewolf across the head.

Knowing the ridiculous werewolf invulnerability was in Greyback’s favour, he didn’t kid himself by thinking the damn thing would cause much more than an annoying bump, though he hoped that would distract Greyback enough for him to escape his hold.

However, if that was the case, the werewolf’s reaction was fairly out of proportion. The moment the trophy smacked him, his opponent howled in pain, staggering back as he clutched his head in a way Sirius thought only being ran over by the Hogwarts Express could cause.

Confused, he took a moment to look at the trophy, trying to find if there was anything special about it. It looked perfectly normal, shaped as a large cup with a handle on each side. The writing on the side indicated it had been given to a Laurence Fothergill bloke for making it to second place on the 1865 Inter-School Wizard’s Chess Tournament. And, just like that, it hit him – second place. The damn thing was made of silver.

“Well, look at that,” Sirius mumbled under his breath, realizing silver was more of an Achilles’ Heel for Werewolves that he’d ever realized. A few feet away, Greyback seemed to be regaining his footing but, before he could do anything, Sirius swung the trophy hard across his jaw, actually feeling it pop out of the place before the werewolf hit another display and fell to the floor, unconscious. “Eat that, you bloody son of a bitch.” Proud of himself, Sirius dropped the trophy down on the floor, barely caring when it actually landed straight on Greyback’s leg.

Then, Sirius walked over to the general area his wand must’ve landed in order to retrieve it and, once he had it back, he took a moment to stand over Greyback’s unconscious form. He didn’t feel quite right about killing him – in his book, if anyone had the right to do it, that person was Moony. And then again, after all he’d done, Sirius figured death was too good for him. With a huff, he sent a stunner the werewolf’s way, just to make sure he wouldn’t wake up anytime soon. Then, he cast a disillusionment charm over him to make sure some Death Eater wouldn’t show up and rescue him while he was busy elsewhere.

“You’d better wish I make it through this battle alive, or else you’re going to rot here, which is nothing less than you deserve,” he told the unconscious werewolf’s invisible form before turning on his heel and walking away.

As it seemed, he exited the trophy room just at the right moment – exactly in time to watch as Molly Weasley sent Bellatrix flying out of a window in front of a rather large audience, in which were both Izzy and Mia. He felt like clapping at the redhead but, before he had a chance, the thing he’d probably wished for the most that day happened: just as a rather angry Voldemort aimed his wand at the killer of his most faithful servant, a very familiar voice roared a shield charmed and the allegedly deceased Harry showed up in the middle of the room all of a sudden, having been hiding under James’ invisibility cloak the whole time.

As Harry asked people to refrain from helping him in what was bound to be the final face-down between him and Voldemort, Sirius made his way back to his family, who was now standing as part of a circle of spectators around them. By then, nearly all Death Eaters had either fallen or defected. The few who remained, namely the Malfoys, were acting just as quiet and harmless as the people on their side.

Once he reached Mia and Izzy’s side, his wife was still staring at their godson with a look of utter shock on her face, as if she was seeing a ghost. As much as Harry’s earlier disappearing act had allowed her to hope, she’d never actually let herself believe he might still be alive. Sirius laid a hand on her shoulder and she didn’t even turn, so fixed her eyes were on her godson. He could tell she knew he was there, though, as her hand reached up to touch his.

“I can’t believe it,” she mumbled.

“I told you: that kid is completely impossible,” he said.

“How did he do it?” Izzy mumbled from Mia’s other side.

Sirius shrugged. “You’ll have to ask him.”

“Shh,” Mia hushed them, trying to hear what Harry was saying.

It was a strange conversation, the one going on between his godson and Voldemort, Sirius thought. The kid seemed like he had it all figured out – or at the very least he sounded confident enough to pretend he did.

It actually made for a rather informative chat for everyone around them. As it seemed, the reason why no-one from their side was being hit by any spell or suffering any harm ever since Harry’s ‘death’ was because he’d given himself over to protect them (that was going to be a looong chat between them once the whole thing was over) the same way Lily had given herself over to protect him. And, speaking of Lily, apparently Snape had been working undercover for them all along… because apparently he’d been secretly in love with Lily since they were kids – honestly, Sirius just had no idea of what to make of that revelation (he wasn’t even sure if he should believe it) but it certainly served to keep him from being completely jubilous over the news of Snape’s death. Unfair as it might be, Sirius felt a bit cheated over the lack of said jubilee – it was like Severus Bloody Snape had mailed him one last kick in the gut from under the grave. It seemed oddly fitting.

The latter part of the conversation was less clear – something about some ‘elder wand’ (wasn’t that from some fairy-tale he’d read Alex?) and how Harry actually owned it because he’d disarmed Draco Malfoy at some point… Of course, by then the tension widely overpowered the words, with the Harry and Voldemort circling around each other like they were wild dogs aiming for each other’s jugulars.

And aim they did, though it was with their wands, rather than their teeth. When Harry cast a simple disarming charm against Voldemort’s killing curse, Sirius thought the kid had lost his mind – and his life, along with it – for good. And when the disarming charm caused Voldemort’s wand to fly straight into Harry’s hand just as the dark lord dropped dead, Sirius had to wonder if he hadn’t been knocked out sometime during the battle and wasn’t just dreaming it because that kind of thing just didn’t happen.

But then, his own words sounded in his mind: Harry Potter was impossible. That had never been more obvious that it was at that moment.

There were about ten seconds of confused silence before everyone started cheering and Harry was mobbed from all directions. He was so solidly surrounded that, as much as Sirius and Mia would like to reach their godson, they didn’t stand a chance against the mob.

Ginny, who stood near them, having also been beaten to Harry by the mob, wasn’t about to let it go victorious. For about two seconds, she glared at the crowd like an enemy, then she plunged into it like a game hunter about to tackle a lion, pushing everyone out of her way until she reached a very overwhelmed Harry at the centre of it, who silently begged her to get him out of there.

Alright, everyone, start scattering,” she yelled at everyone around in a commanding tone. “Give the guy a minute of quiet – he’s just saved the world! Let him at least say ‘hi’ to his family.”

People seemed a bit disappointed but most of them appeared to understand, promptly walking away. Those who hesitated were glared at by Ginny until they did it anyway. Once they were all gone, Ginny turned to her boyfriend, who seemed more than a little grateful at her interference.

“Thanks – I was starting to think they’d never leave.”

Ginny smiled sweetly. “You’re welcome.” Then, in a slightly disturbing shift, the smile vanished from her face, turning into a glare that was followed by her lifting her hand and slapping him right across the face.

“Bloody hell,” Harry managed to say as the sound of the slap still echoed in the room. He felt his jaw with his hand, as if trying to check if it was still in the right place.

Never scare me like that again!” his girlfriend shouted at him. “You… you git! Do you have any idea what if felt like watching you playing dead?! Why do you have to be so bloody good at it?” Just the memory of it made her angry enough to make her punch him on the arm.

“Ginny, could you stop hitting me, please? It’s not like I was enjoying it!”

She kept on glaring, promptly poking him on the chest with her index finger. “Never do that again,” she threatened.

“Fine by me,” he assured her in return.

And, just like that, the glaring ceased and she was hugging him, holding on like her own life depended on it. It was right around then, once Ginny’s violent moment was over, that Sirius, Mia and Izzy chose to approach him as well.

He eyed the both of them uncertainly as Ginny stepped back from her hug and moved to stand by his side. “You’re not going to slap me too, are you?” he asked, mainly looking at Mia.

Mia sighed, though it sounded like there was a bit of a laugh there, and stepped forward, wrapping her arms around her godson. “You impossible boy. Please tell me you’re done giving me sleepless nights.”

“Please tell me there’s not another prophecy with my name on it out there,” he replied.

She let out another sigh before pulling back. “Hopefully not.”

Izzy was the next to step in for the hug, though she was rather quiet about it, as she’d generally been since the end of the battle, mumbling little more than something along the lines of ‘I’m glad you’re alive’.

“So, what now? You won, kid,” Sirius said, slapping him on the back.

“Yeah,” Harry said, like he wasn’t quite so sure about it. Maybe it was the novelty of the thing, but he didn’t really feel victorious. He didn’t feel like he’d lost either. Just… glad it was over. And, honestly, he had just no idea where to go from there. “I suppose I wouldn’t mind getting a good night of sleep. Or a day.”

“If you want to go home, we can take you right now,” Mia offered. “Really – no one would blame you.”

He was tempted to accept it but his conscience spoke louder. “I should probably stay a little longer. Everyone here did risk their lives for me – doesn’t seem right to just walk away from them.”

Sirius nodded. “Whatever you want, kid. We’ll be here waiting,” he promised.

Harry seemed thankful in return and, with his hand firmly placed on Ginny’s, he excused himself to go talk to his girlfriend’s family.

Exhausted as they were, they stayed at the school past dawn. The mood around them was strange – celebration and grief, all rolled up into one. There was cheering and crying and, after someone had brought in the booze, happy drinking and solemn toasting.

Most of unharmed fighters stayed, only a few having left. George was one of those – according to Lee Jordan, he’d walked away minutes after the battle was over. That fact only served to make Izzy more miserable than she already was, as by then she was nearly sure her words had broken George for good. While her mother constantly assured her she hadn’t, Sirius obliviously believed her odd behaviour was just a strong reaction to the things she’d seen in the battle – no one bothered to correct his assumption.

News travelled fast around there: Death Eaters were already being rounded up and formally arrested; a group of aurors led by Kingsley had taken back the ministry with little resistance and plans were already being made to identify and sort out those under the Imperius Curse over there; Muggle-borns were being released from Azkaban; Amelia Bones had been re-instated as Minister and was promising big changes. Of course, no news were as anticipated by Sirius as the ones Andromeda Tonks brought once she showed up in the Great Hall.

“Andie,” he called, making his way to his cousin the moment he caught sight of her entering the room while Mia was distracted talking to Lulu and Elizabeth. “How is he?”

“Stable, don’t worry,” the woman said the moment she reached him. “Dora sent me as soon as she heard the battle was over. She wanted me to see if you’d made it. You and, well, your lot, so to speak.”

“We’re fine. Mia and Izzy too. Harry gave us a bit of a scare but he’s alright – but if you know it’s over, you probably already knew that bit.”

Andromeda nodded, a small smile on her lips. “Everyone is cheering everywhere. Even little Teddy smiled today – his first actual smile, I think… Dora burst into tears because Remus missed it.”

“How is he doing, really? Did he wake up? Is he in very much pain?”

“They’ve got him in a healing coma, right now, so he doesn’t feel anything – there’s a lot of healing to be done and the healers reckoned putting him out for it would be the best. A nurse friend of mine was there and she said he was conscious – barely – for a couple of minutes before they put him out, which is a good sign. It should be a couple of days at least before the coma wears off and the healers can’t be completely sure of the outcome until then but they’re confident he might just make a full recovery. They couldn’t believe the extent of protection him being a werewolf provided. Everyone knows they’re sturdier than normal, but surviving eight-storey falls takes things to a whole new level of sturdiness…”

“Tell me about it. I thought he was done for it when I saw. Tonks did too once she heard. You saw how she was like at the hospital.”

His cousin let out a sigh. “Well, she’s a bit calmer now. When I left her, she was vowing not to leave Remus’s side until he was awake and clutching to Teddy like a toddler to a plush toy. He loves it, of course – little as he is, anyone can tell he adores Dora and Remus like something out of this world.” Her lips pursed a bit upon saying so, as she remembered how close her precious grandson had been to losing his beloved parents. “Anyway, I may have to talk her into letting me take the boy home at some point. I may be able to pull some strings and have the nurses let him stay longer than they usually would but they might take issue with letting a month-old baby stay overnight in an intensive care ward.” She sighed, knowing her daughter would hate it, but shook her head, reminding herself it had to be done. “I didn’t thank you, Sirius, for looking after her before I came.”

He shook his head. “Don’t mention it. She’s family.”

The mention of the word ‘family’ seemed to affect Andromeda on some way. She gulped, and then averted her eyes from his, aiming them to the floor like she was ashamed. “I know I shouldn’t ask…”

“Narcissa made it. Bella’s dead,” Sirius informed her before she could finish, easily guessing what her question was going to be.

His cousin nodded solemnly – she didn’t seem particularly full of grief over her now deceased sister. “I know I shouldn’t even care anymore. We haven’t talked in years. But…”

“You’d still want to know,” Sirius said, understandingly. “I get it. I felt the same way about Regulus.”

His cousin smiled, thankful that he understood. “I should go. I don’t want Dora to be on her own for too long.”

“Of course,” Sirius said, nodding. “Tell her I’ll try and drop by later today, okay?”

When he made his way back to Mia, he found her sitting with Izzy tucked against her on one of the few wide benches that weren’t broken, which stood against the wall. Their daughter seemed to be snoozing with her head resting on her mother’s shoulder, having finally given into exhaustion.

“Hey, was that Andromeda?” Mia asked the moment she spotted him standing by her. Her arm remained around Izzy, rubbing soothing patterns on their daughter’s arm even as she slept.

Sirius nodded, sitting by his wife’s side. “Tonks sent her to check on us. It looks like the healers are confident that Moony will be just fine. They have in a coma while he heals.”

Mia responded with a nod. “That’s good – he’ll be more comfortable that way.” She paused and let out a sigh. “Can you believe this is it? That it’s over?”

He chuckled. “Not by a mile. Because it isn’t – over, I mean.” Mia eyed him in confusion for a moment. “If you asked me, I’d say everything is just beginning. And, for once, we don’t have the shadow of some lunatic set on world domination looming over us.”

His wife smiled. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right,” she agreed.

As they talked, Harry stood at a distance, hugging Ron and Hermione goodbye before doing the same with Ginny, though that action was followed by a kiss in her case. Then, as his two friends and his girlfriend made their way back to the Weasleys, Harry walked towards his godparents.

“Hey, is it okay if we go home now?” he asked them.

His godmother smiled. “Of course.”

And so the four of them left Hogwarts behind, heading back home to the once-dreary 12 Grimmauld Place.

It wasn’t until Harry stepped the threshold that everything in his head started sliding where it belonged. Because he was back home. He was back home, he had an amazing family, amazing friends, a girl he loved and there was no death threat hovering in the shadows that would keep him from enjoying that the way it should be enjoyed. He’d won – it finally started feeling like he really had.

“Welcome back, kid,” Sirius told him, clapping his shoulder as he stepped in.

Harry smiled. It was good to be back.

A/N2: And so, the last chapter is delivered. Stay tuned for the epilogue, though it should only come after a little Remus/Tonks companion piece is posted. You'll be able to find it in my profile, hopefully in a few days, as part of my Outtakes.




Also, as some of you know, I plan to continue this fic with a sequel – the name will be States of Mind and it will mostly focus on Izzy and George, although you can count on plenty of Sirius and Mia and everyone else. The first chapter should be posted shortly after the epilogue.

I'll save the 'thank yous' for the epilogue. Stay tuned!


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