The Day After
The day after...
Harry wakes up with a start, thinking there are things they have to do, horcruxes to find, dark lords to vanquish... He's disoriented to find himself in his old bed in the Gryffindor dorm, then sinks back into the bed as memory washes over him. He lies there, tears leaking down his face, mixed grief and exhausted relief pooling at his ears until they drip down to his pillow. He realizes he's shaking a little, and quells it with determination.
Looking to his right, he spies Ron snoring in his old bed, and a momentary grin lightens his face, replaced by guilt as he remembers that Ron lost a brother yesterday. He turns away from that thought to find Neville awake and contemplating him from his own bed. Neville nods at him, but says nothing. Harry offers him a half smile, and Neville flashes him a victory sign, which makes Harry laugh. Seamus and Dean shift in their blankets, and Ron's snoring stops abruptly.
It's time to face the day.
In the girl's dorm, Ginny sits on a bed in the 7th year room, hugging her knees, gazing at Hermione. The girl whose bed it was died in yesterday's battle. Hermione needed someone trusted near her, overnight, and Ginny needed someone, too. Molly and Arthur hadn't wanted to be parted from any of their children, but Ron and Hermione refused to leave Harry, and Ginny refused to leave any of them, so Ginny had slept here - to the extent she had slept at all.
Hermione murmurs something in her sleep, then jerks awake, sitting up abruptly, wand in hand. Ginny reaches a hand out as if to breach the space between them. "It's okay. You're safe. It's... it's over," she says, the last word choked out past the memory of... Fred...
Hermione slumps in relief, then straightens, softly saying, "Oh no! Ginny..." She turns to the younger girl and holds out her arms, and Ginny scrambles from the neighboring bed and throws herself at Hermione, and they hold each other, sobbing.
After a while, Hermione gently says, "We should go find Ron and Harry." Ginny nods, sniffs, and wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. She nods again, more strongly. "Ron will be hungry." They both laugh. It's time to go find breakfast.
Minerva McGonagall slumps sideways in the chair behind the Headmaster's desk, her dry mouth open in a silent snore. She'd fallen asleep in the middle of responding to yet another urgent communication she had received in the last 30 hours. The gargoyle guarding the spiral stair to the Headmaster's office had toppled from its pedestal in the battle, but still required a password. She'd fumed and paced back and forth until she finally threatened him with Dumbledore's fate, at which point the gargoyle begrudgingly allowed her to pass. She suspected something in what she said had been the password.
The flue in the Headmaster's office flares green, and a deep voice says, "Minerva? Are you there?" Kingsley Shacklebolt's face appears just as McGonagall jerks awake. She straightens slowly, a crick in her side and her back stiff from age and from sleeping in such an awkward position. A moment of disorientation, and a small cry of mixed triumph and grief, and she turns toward the flue, as Shacklebolt mutters an apology.
"Kingsley," McGonagall says, murmuring an apology of her own.
"Nonsense. You must be exhausted. Did you sleep at all?" he asks, all concerned.
She starts to reassure him, and then realizes the futility of it, given he's caught her napping. She knows he'll want - they'll need - to meet as soon as possible. So many things need doing - repairs, the students, the wards, the... the dead... A moment of grief almost chokes her, but she doesn't allow it to overcome her. "Give me a few minutes to freshen up, would you?" she responds.
He nods. "I'll come through for breakfast - would that be acceptable?"
"Of course. See you shortly," she says. It's time to... to see to what comes After.
Madam Pomfrey lies on a cot in the infirmary, ordered to sleep not two hours before by Smethwyck, one of the healers from St. Mungo's dispatched to Hogwarts in the immediate aftermath of the battle, in response to her urgent plea for aid. They'd worked the day and night through to see to the survivors, and to locate and count the dead. Finally, around four in the morning, Smethwyck had overcome her protests by casting a somnolous at her, catching her before she fell to the floor and levitating her to the cot.
Smethwyck watches over Pomfrey as he wearily completes the last of the necessary paperwork, then stretches, accidentally brushing his cheek with his quill, leaving a line of ink. Through the door to her office, he hears soft, reassuring murmurs of other healers, and muffled cries of pain or loss, as their patients wake for the day. Soon, he and Pomfrey will have to get back to the ward, themselves, but he intends for her to sleep just another hour - two, if he can manage things himself, before he wakes her. For now, he has to see to breakfast for healers and patients alike, and wonders how to contact the school's elves.
Severus Snape's body lies at the juncture of wall and floor in the Shrieking Shack. A patch of sunlight creeps closer to his body, warming first his left foot, then his left hand, then slowly, the rest of his body. A tiny vial that used to hold a potion is cupped in one hand, while another hand, bloodied, has fallen to his chest. Blood surrounds him, soaked into now-stiffened cloth of robe and waistcoat and sleeve. His cravat is caked with it, and with green venom, some from bites that missed their mark, and some that leaked out with the blood from the wounds at his neck. The sun hits other bits of glass and crystal, and fractures into rainbows of color that confuse the eye.
A foot twitches. A hand curls. The vial drops to the floor, clinking and rolling until stopped by the thickened pool of blood. Snape coughs, then groans, then spits blood and venom and potion from his mouth. Spasms of muscle contracture wrack his body inside and out, and he vomits weakly. Eyes clenched shut against the pain, he turns to his side, one hand going out to push to a sitting position, but it recoils when it meets the sticky mess that is potion, poison, and Snape's life's blood.
A moment, and Snape pushes up anyway, gasping against the pain. He takes inventory, and discovers the wounds in his neck sealed over, but defensive wounds on his arm still leaking slowly. He'll have to find another blood-replenishing potion soon. His next breath shudders as he realizes he has no way of knowing...
Who was victorious? Was there a victor? Nothing that comes to his senses informs him. Either way, he is not safe, is he? Both sides consider him a traitor, and if he shows himself, he'd be dead (again) before he can defend himself - or in the case of the Dark Lord, concoct an explanation... He's likely safer here, for the moment, than anywhere else. It will have to do.
His wand is caked in blood, but warms to his hand nevertheless. He casts a weak scourgify. And another. Piss-poor wandwork, but that, too, will have to do. He wonders if he dare contact... anyone. It occurs to him that there's only one person, really. Only one person, if he lives, who knows the truth.
Struggling to his feet, and then to another room, he finds a chair and table, and sinks to the chair gratefully. If he is going to meet his fate, he will do it with as much dignity as he can manage. He takes a breath. Then he raises his wand, firm intent in mind, casts the spell, gives the message, and waves the doe away to deliver it.
All he can do is wait. For Potter. And whatever comes After.
Molly Weasley sleeps fitfully in her husband's arms, in room 201 at the Three Broomsticks. Her dreams are of battling for her daughter's life, and her nightmares of seeing her son laid out among the dead. She cries, even in her sleep.
His arms wrapped around her, Arthur Weasley lies staring at ceiling, the gathering light slowly brightening the room around him. He has not slept. He and Molly stayed at Hogwarts the entire day and evening, finally pulled away by Rosmerta sometime in the early hours of the morning. His heart - part of it - remains at Hogwarts, in the room where his son lies alongside Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin. He cannot stop thinking about Fred… and about Percy and Ron and Ginny and Bill and Charlie. He cannot stop worrying about George… and his Molly.
His arms tighten around his wife protectively, and for a moment, she snuggles in, lost in sleep, in forgetfulness. He knows the exact moment she wakes, despite her efforts not to move, thinking him asleep. How can he comfort her, when his own heart is breaking, when his own emotions are so confused? "Hush," he says, as she stifles a sob. "Hush, Mollywobbles. It's all right. It's going to be all right." He ticks off the good, in his head, as a way to fend off the bad. Percy has returned to the fold. Ron is back, safe and sound, though much older and wiser - and thinner - than he was less than a year ago. Harry is alive - thank Merlin! Ginny… safe… all his family is safe now. Even Fred. He swallows against the pain and loss, and determinedly kisses his wife's forehead, as if conveying to her some of his strength. She kisses his neck, but he can feel the wetness of her tears.
She shifts in his arms, and he loosens his hold. "What time is it?" she asks.
He reaches one long arm for his wand on the nightstand and casts a tempus. "It's just gone half-six," he says, letting her go when she moves to sit up. "We should get back to the castle," she says. "The children… the children…" He knows what she means. The pull to get back to their offspring - and Harry... and Hermione, as well, to be sure they are safe, that they made it through the night, that all is well… the pull to sit at Fred's side while they still can, is compelling. He stands, and pulls her up to stand in his strong embrace, and she returns his strength with hers.
"Let's go, then," she says, forcing from her mind the memory of a boggart at Grimmauld Place that turned into each of her children in turn, lying dead. They're alive. They're mostly alive. And they are well. And she needs… they need her.
And she and Arthur descend the stairs, wave to a couple of earlier souls sitting at tables, head out the door, and turn left to start up the path to Hogwarts, to see to their children, and to learn how to cope with their loss.
Luna Lovegood has been up for hours. Some flowers bloom best in the early morning light, and it's important to pick them at full bloom, if she is to have a chance of chasing away the tiny beings that hover in the air around her classmates, their parents, and the workers from the Ministry that have trickled in over the course of the last day. The infestation hides itself amidst the motes of dust that pervades the castle's air. As the sun's first beams of light peek over the horizon, they illuminate the field of battle, and the groupings of infestation around each spot where some hero fell.
Luna does not discriminate. She knows that "hero" is a relative term, depending where you stand on the battlefield. She leaves it up to powers greater than herself to determine whether there were any villains - other than Voldemort, maybe. She pauses to consider that, before bending down to pick another bloom, wet with the morning dew.
She wishes the Potions Master was here. He would know best what to do with the blossoms she has picked - whether to brew a tea or a potion or concoct a poultice. Lacking that, she thinks just placing a bloom behind each ear of those who survived might help them through their day.
There aren't enough in her basket, for everyone in the castle, by the time she turns back to the great doors, but there are enough for her friends, and for their families… and probably enough for the faculty, she thinks. She'll come back out in the afternoon for more, though those will be for the fighters who lost their lives, who will suffer less from the infestation than those who are still walking around.
Thus decided, she turns and makes her way to the doors, though without her usual dancing movements. She's tired, despite having a good sleep. She supposes she is still recovering from being closed away from the sun, in the basement of the Malfoy mansion. Before heading in, she turns to face it, feeling the morning light on her face, and resolving never to let herself be deprived of it again.
Slowly, throughout the morning, dotted here and there in the gathering at breakfast, flowers appear behind the ears of classmates. Professor Flitwick sports a pair. Trelawney wears hers tucked into her hair. Hagrid's are tangled in his beard, which was as far as she could reach. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and even Draco are a bouquet that gathers and parts, gathers and parts…
Luna continues ministering love and light and friendship throughout the morning, until Neville, Ginny, and Hermione make her sit down and rest. She falls asleep with her head in Neville's lap, his arm wrapped around her thin shoulders protectively.
Draco Malfoy curls into himself in a plush chair in the Slytherin common room, where he has spent the night. His father slumbers in Draco's bed in the 7th year dorms, and his mother sleeps prettily on the sofa across from him.
His stomach hurts. His face is covered in soot and tear tracks. His mother's wand bobs up and down as he taps it rhythmically against his shoes - first the left, then the right - tucked up under him, no matter that Mother would chide him for putting his shoes on the upholstery. It doesn't matter.
Draco has not slept at all. His father could not help but sleep, still weakened from his stay in Azkaban. For all Draco knows, his father may well spend the remainder of his life in prison. Frankly, he's not sure he has the energy to care. He hopes Mother escapes that fate, though. As for himself… he thinks he deserves Azkaban, too, and that he may well get it.
No one seemed inclined to haul any of them away yesterday. That is more confusing than reassuring, though. Soon enough, he thinks, blood thirst and a desire for revenge will make him a target, right along with his father, and perhaps rightfully so.
The wand in his hand stops its movement as he thinks about Crabbe, lost to a swifter fate in the Room Where Things Are Hidden. His lip curls in disgust - what on earth made the idiot cast fiendfyre? Then his face changes, and the pretense drops, and he angrily dashes the tears from his eyes. In the end, it's his fault. He led Crabbe and Goyle to their fate, he thinks - could have turned them from the path they chose, maybe, if he had been bolder. He smirks at himself. He's no Gryffindor.
But Potter. Saint Potter. Potter is a Gryffindor - a true Gryffindor, in every sense of the word. He sighs. There's nothing for it. He may have… contributed in some small way to Potter's survival - at the Manor, in the Room… but Harry saved his life. And… that means his own life is forfeit, Potter's to give or take.
He stands up and goes to the lavatory to wash up. If he's going to do this, he's going to do it right. Finishing his preparations, he stands over his still-sleeping Mother, hoping she will understand. He bends and kisses her forehead. She stirs in her sleep, but he soothes her hair, and she drifts away again, allowing him to slip out of the Slytherin dorm. His shoulders straighten - with courage, if he only knew, rather than his usual superiority, as he paces the dungeons to the stairs, up the stairs to the entrance hall, and, without allowing himself to slow down or hesitate, into the Great Hall, and right up to the Gryffindor table.
"Potter," he says. Potter and his… friends… turn to look at him, their faces curious, but not antagonistic - not even Weasley's.
"Malfoy," Potter says with a nod.
"Might I have a word?" he asks.
Potter gestures. "We can talk here. I have no secrets from my friends."
Draco nods, accepting the condition. He slips his mother's wand from his sleeve, and no one flinches. No one moves to retrieve their own wands. He guesses that's a mark of how far he has fallen - he is no threat, and they know it. He reverses the wand on his palm, and extends it, haft first, toward Potter. Granger's face turns to shock. Weasley's is appraising. Ginny's is approving. Longbottom's is simply observant.
Potter looks from his palm to Draco's eyes. "I thought that's your mum's wand."
Draco hesitates just a breath. "It is. I… I speak for the family. We… I … I owe you my life, Potter. My life, my magic, and my fortune are yours to command." He gestures vaguely. "And those of my kin." His hand remains extended; his eyes remain fixed on Potter's.
"Alright, then," Potter says, finally, placing his hand over Draco's, and grasping the hilt of the wand. Draco prepares himself for the loss, but then Potter releases the wand. "I don't want your fortune. Or your life. Or your magic, for that matter. But… cooperation? Or… your word… that you will… make better choices… and not pursue… not come after... " He gestured around, "... any of us."
Draco looks at him in shock. "But…"
"That's all I want, Malfoy. I just want peace."
Draco stares at Potter as if he's grown another head. The tableau is broken when Luny - Luna - Lovegood walks up. "You need this more than anyone, I think," she says to Draco. She tucks a flower behind each of his ears. "There. Much better. You'll be able to think more clearly now!" and she turns away, a basket of flowers in hand.
Potter - Harry - snorts and sits down. Granger says, "Sit down, Malfoy, before you fall over." Longbottom moves over on the bench, making room between him and Granger. Weasley shovels pancakes into his mouth, and Potter pours pumpkin juice in everyone's glasses. Ginny reaches past Draco for bacon. Granger just smiles to herself. "This is weird," Draco says aloud. "Yeah," someone says. "You'll figure it out," someone else says.
Hesitantly, Draco reaches out. "Tea?" he asks, picking up the kettle and starting to pour.