Chapter 1 : Amidst The Shadows I Lie
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A/N: My answer to timeturner’s ‘Most tragic day’ challenge, which unfortunately didn't meet the requirements but is pretty tragic anway! Many thanks to hplover7 for the beautiful title, and for letting me using it, I couldn’t have come up with a more perfect one! Thankyou so much :) :)
I grieve for you
You leave me
So hard to move on
Still loving what’s gone
They say life carries on
Carries on and on and on and on
-Peter Gabriel, I Grieve
“Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."
Tecumseh , Shawnee Indian Chief
Hermione opened her eyes on darkness, and silence. She was lying on the floor of the Atrium, in the Ministry of Magic. The fireplaces that lined the long room were dead and empty, the shadows beyond them black and impenetrable. Hermione’s hair was damp with blood and sweat. Frantically, she pushed herself to her elbows and let her eyes search the room for signs of Harry, Ron, and the others.
Her gaze froze on the blank face of a body staring back at her, and for a long, terrible moment she didn’t recognise the face. Then she realised that it was Ginny Weasley. Her dead eyes were staring past Hermione, her face frozen in an expression of shock. There was a cut on one of her cheeks that stood out vibrantly against her pale skin; even her red hair seemed dull and somehow colourless.
With a sickening feeling, she looked beyond Ginny and saw several more bodies strewn about. Her heart seemed to collapse in on itself as she identified the faces. Lying behind Ginny, wreathed in the darkness of the still and silent Atrium, Ron Weasley lay with his wand still clutched tightly in his hand. She thought,
No… no… no.
But her eyes couldn’t shut out the image, couldn’t make it go away. When she closed them it was burned onto the back of her lids. She opened them again and drew a harsh, tearing breath, pushed herself to her feet, and began to stagger through the rubble towards Ron. She whispered his name a few times, but that was all she could manage because her throat had closed up.
The Atrium was a mess. Many of the fireplaces lining the walls had huge chunks blown out of them. Bricks the size of her head littered the floor, which was covered in dust, ashes from the fireplaces… and blood. On her way to Ron she tripped on something, landing on the floor and the sharp rocks beneath with an anguished yelp. She looked over her shoulder and gasped… she had tripped over Dumbledore.
He was lying in the pool of gloom cast by a mass of masonry and wood that had been blown up from the floor, which is why she hadn’t seen him. His long, patterned purple cloak was blackened with soot and dark patches of what could have been blood, but she didn’t want to think about that or get closer to have a look. Like the others, he was dead, and his own wand lay a few feet away, his white fingers reaching out to it as if it had been flung forcefully out his hands. His face was turned to one side, and cloaked in shadow, for which she was glad.
She let out a loud sob that echoed in the large, empty space, and bounced off the cold walls. She covered one hand with her mouth and turned away from Dumbledore, feeling sick, and light-headed with grief. Had Voldemort killed everyone, then? Was she the only one left?
Her only answer was silence. The bodies that lay around her seemed so small, and she found it hard to believe she had ever known them; their limbs were now twisted and broken by the spells that had killed them, their faces unreal and lifeless. She just couldn’t accept that these were her friends lying dead. It was just too horrible.
The Order had failed… the war was over… Voldemort had won.
“Harry?” She called in a broken voice. “HARRY!” In a flood, tears slid down her face and neck, leaving her shivering. It was cold… so cold. Dazedly she stumbled away from Dumbledore and headed across the Atrium, towards Ron and Ginny, and the once magnificent golden fountain that dominated the centre point of the hall, but which had been blown apart in the furious firefight that had taken place earlier. Now, as she staggered towards it she saw two more bodies, and her blood turned to ice at the sight of them. One, lying beneath the base of the golden fountain, was Remus Lupin, his head tilted away from her, his legs bent awkwardly underneath him. The other lay in the shadows by one of the fireplaces in the wall, his dark-haired head almost touching one of the corners of its stone base. His glasses were sitting cracked and bloody on the floor beside his head.
“Harry!” she flew across the distance between them, stumbling over bits of brick and, of all things, one of the house elf’s ears, which had somehow been blasted all the way across the room. Tripping on it, she hurried on, and fell to the ground on her knees beside Harry.
It only took her a quick glance to realise that Harry, too, was dead. The belief of it seeped into her slowly, like a large weight sinking into her chest, until she fully understood what had happened.
Everyone’s dead, and I am alone.
“Oh no…” she whispered brokenly, staring down at Harry’s face. He looked beautiful in death, serene in spite of the blood that had caked on one side of his head, or the dirt on his cheeks. He was removed from it. He had gone away from her now. He was lost.
“No, Harry, please no…” the sorrow seemed too much to bear, she felt like it would kill her at any moment, so great was the pain of it. In a few short hours, she had lost nearly everyone she loved most in the world… and in the coming hours, many more would die at Voldemort’s hands. Of that she was certain. The sadness threatened to tear her apart.
After what seemed like an age she lifted her head and looked around, looked towards where Lupin lay. She almost whimpered in horror at the thought of seeing more death, but she forced herself to move. She had to know for sure if he was gone.
If he was, then she was truly alone.
Her school shoes crunched on the tiny rocks and ash that had spewed from the damaged fireplaces. Every heartbeat seemed to be the ticking of a clock… every footstep the crash of a drum. She crossed the space and tearfully studied the body lying motionless at the base of the fountain.
He must have heard her approaching, because his head rolled sideways until he could look up at her. There was blood leaking from his mouth, and an ugly bruise on his head, he seemed barely able to draw breath; but in spite of this Hermione’s being filled with a giddying sense of relief and compassion at the sight of him. Still crying, she collapsed ungracefully by his side. A sharp-edged stone bit into her knee, drawing blood. She didn’t feel it.
“You’re alive,” she said, smiling though it hurt her to do so, because so many others had died and that void in her stomach would never be filled. “I thought… I was the only…” she pressed a hand over her mouth because she thought she might scream, or start sobbing wildly, and she didn’t want to do either.
Lupin’s eyes seemed to swim in and out of focus. He frowned and fixed his gaze on her, his eyes searching desperately. “Harry… Ron… the others…” his voice was barely more than a whisper.
Hermione’s face scrunched up in pain and Lupin knew; and a look of grief so deep that it hurt her heart to witness passed over his face. His lips pressed together and his eyes grew moist; he closed them for several moments before speaking again. “Is there no-one left?”
She shook her head, her damp hair swinging into her face. The tears had cut tracks like scars through the ash on her cheeks. “No-one but us,” she croaked.
He did cry then, perhaps for Harry, for Dumbledore his old friend, for Ron and Ginny and the countless other people who had been lost, but they were quiet, dignified tears, and he turned his face away so that she didn’t have to see.
“Hermione, I don’t have long,” he said hoarsely. “I want you… to find Severus and go with him… stay with him… he’ll get you out safely…”
“What about you?” She sobbed. “I’m not… I can’t just leave you here!”
“Hermione please, don’t ar-” He winced, breaking off in mid-sentence, and finished with a ragged, pained groan. Hermione jerked forward as if to offer help, but she realised she didn’t know what to do and sank back, panic fluttering around her chest like a caged bird. “Death Eaters-” he winced again- “will be… back.”
“Then they’ll find you!” Hermione cried.
He looked into her eyes and a realisation passed between them. Hermione knew that Lupin might be dead before the death Eaters came… and he knew it, too. His face was a twisted mask of pain and desperation.
“I’m not going to leave you.” Her compassion for him was overwhelming; not just because he was her teacher and someone she respected but because he was a good man… a friend. She saw him then very clearly, and realised he was just as vulnerable, scared and hurt as she was. His eyes pleaded with her but she stared back at him defiantly.
“I’m sorry, Professor. But you can’t make me go.”
Lupin closed his eyes again but this time it was not with grief but weariness. She could see that he knew there was no point in arguing, though he would probably continue to try. Well, that was fine.
She sat down in the dust at his side and hung her head onto her chin, and they shared their grief in silence, side by side. For some reason, Hermione found herself thinking about that time when Ron and Harry had argued in their fourth year. She had been so angry, so frustrated then. She realised, with a terrible sense of loss, that they would never argue again. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and thought she’d given anything just to have them back again, with or without the arguments. But that was too hurtful to think, so she made herself stop and instead stared down at her hands, examining the dirt under her nails.
After a long time sitting on the cold ground Hermione had started to shiver, and glanced over her shoulder into the darkness where the bodies were still lying.
“I should cover them up with something,” she said softly, half to herself, and Lupin opened his eyes. He had been drifting in and out of consciousness.
“If you want,” he replied in a croak. He looked dreadfully pale. His blue eyes still swam with unshed tears.
Hermione looked at him and nodded sorrowfully, to convince herself, and got to her feet. Dust sifted down off her robes and she moved away, careful not to get it in Lupin’s eyes. She turned her back to the fountain and looked across the hall, and the immensity of the events that had taken place here struck her again, faced now as she was with the bodies of her friends.
Her legs threatened to crumple beneath her.
Slowly she made her way across to Dumbledore.