Change of Heart

Epilogue

Azkaban. A towering compound in the middle of the ocean, icy-cold, mountainous waves crashed against the black walls of the prison every minute. Hundreds of inmates groaned in agony at every moment in that hellhole as the infamous guards stalked the corridors, their unseen fingers piercing the prisoners' minds and sending them into nightmares.

The only sound outside a certain inmate's cell was the crisp noise of footfalls in the stone hallway. Two men, who looked distinctly out of place in the abysmal setting of Azkaban Fortress, strode down the corridor, one studying a copy of the Daily Prophet.

"A shame, really," muttered one of them, a stout man wearing a lime-green bowler hat. "You'd think now that You-Know-Who's gone, we wouldn't have to deal with such tragedies anymore."

The second man, who had jet-black hair that was quickly graying, looked at the first stiffly. "You can hardly compare a Quidditch accident to the atrocities He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named committed."

"True, true," conceded the one with the bowler hat. "But come, now, Barty. You must admit she was fantastic." And with one last, pitying look at the front page of the newspaper, he threw it aside and followed the other man down the long corridor.

Once the footsteps had died out, an emaciated hand slipped in between the iron cell bars, grasping at the newspaper the man had tossed down. The bony fingers closed around the paper and pulled it back through the bars.

Sirius Black unfolded the Daily Prophet to see the front page. The headline shocked him.

STAR QUIDDITCH PLAYER TAKES DIVE

By Norma Curtis

Staff Writer

Last Sunday, April 6th, in a game versus the Appleby Arrows, Colleen O'Brian of the Holyhead Harpies was struck by a Bludger and fell two hundred feet to her death.

The young witch was only twenty-four years old. O'Brian had attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and was a good friend of such famous people as the late James and Lily Potter, Peter Pettigrew, and the incarcerated Sirius Black.

The game halted upon her fall, and the Mediwitches rushed to her side, but no amount of magic can bring back the dead. O'Brian had multiple abrasions and broken bones, as well as severe head trauma, as the Bludger had caught her by the side of the head. It is suspected that she was dead before she even hit the ground, because upon further inspection, the Mediwitches found her skull cracked in several places.

Her fellow teammates, though sobbing and broken, refused to forfeit the game. Captain Gwenog Jones called in reserve Chaser Vesta Vamblee. They went on to win 210 – 60.

"Forfeiting is not what Colleen would have wanted," said fellow Chaser Susan Stresseman. "If we had forfeited the game, she would have been yelling at us, wherever she is."

"I can't believe she's gone," said Seeker Patricia Dwight. "She was so bright and cheerful just the other day, talking to me about how we'd beat the Arrows. And we did. She was right."

Further research yielded that O'Brian was the oldest of a family of five. Her father, Innis O'Brian, passed away just two years ago.

Additionally, although unmarried, O'Brian was found to have a child—a daughter named Atalanta, with no magical powers. She is in the care of O'Brian's younger sister, Mary Northropp, and her Muggle family.

"Colleen was the pride of the family," Northropp said. "She was the only magical one, after all. I think we'll all remember her little antics when she was just learning magic."

When asked to quote, six-year-old Atalanta O'Brian said, "I miss Ma. She used to tell me about my daddy. She said he cheered the loudest whenever she flew."

Colleen Anna O'Brian was born 13 April 1960 and died 6 April 1985.

Sirius reread the article several times before setting it down. He stared at the picture in the upper right-hand corner of the article. The caption beneath it read, "Colleen O'Brian and her then five-year-old daughter Atalanta. Photo by: Mary Northropp."

In the moving picture, Colleen was hoisting up her daughter into her arms. They both were laughing. The girl had shiny black hair and a broad smile that Sirius clearly recognized, even though his hair was now dirty and matted and he no longer could smile.

But, looking at that picture, he came close.

Absolute Fin