Author's Notes: Well, this is my second story. I think it's better than my first, but I'm still not thrilled... Anyway, please be kind and review, and I'll be your best friend! Unless, of course, you don't need a best friend, then I'll just keep the proper distance so as not to invade personal space.
Also, I'm American, and I don't have a British beta (in fact, I don't have a beta at all and would appreciate it if anyone was willing), so if you see any errors (whether it's cultural or just simple grammar), please let me know.
In addition, I realize that the tense changes from past to present several times throughout the story. This was completely deliberate. This is set in a battle, and the main character is utterly bewildered. I felt that the change of tense (as well as the few run-on sentences scattered throughout) helped to add to the confusion and the overall general effect.
Finally, the first line ("Ring around a rosie") is supposed to be in italics, but no matter what I do it won't show up. So, erm… just imagine italics. Alright, then.
Disclaimer: The characters and the setting are J.K. Rowling's, not mine. I just tortured and killed them is all.
All Fall Down:…Ring around a rosie…
Children used to play here, he remembers, and the thought chills him.
...Pocket full of posies...
Children used to learn here, he knows, but it's wrong; it's all wrong. There are no children here.
This is the grave of children.
They came in droves, dozens upon dozens, wands out, ready for action.
Ready for kill.
Students were ordered by the ghosts back to their commons rooms, but hardly anyone made it there. They crouched in corners, hid in shadows, trying to find somewhere safe to stay while battle raged. Seamus Finnigan did not know what to do. At present he was carefully positioned between a wall and a suit of armor, and there were no Death Eaters in sight, though he could hear them just around the corner. He heard a distinct sob and peered through and axe to the statue across the corridor. He could faintly make out the figure of one Hermione Granger, curled in the fetal position behind the statue. Seamus glanced around hurriedly and ran to her.
"Hermione, get up. We have to move!"
"Seamus?" she sniffled.
"Come on!" He pulled her up by the arm and half led, half dragged her down the hall. The unmistakable sound of footsteps met their ears, and with a sense of desperation they threw themselves into a classroom, then magically sealed the door shut. Seamus finally looked over at Hermione. She was very pale, and still crying. Seamus felt a tug at his stomach as he glanced at her hands. There was a bloodied stump where her left hand should have been.
She didn't seem to have noticed, and this more than anything made Seamus want to gag. He choked on his vomit and looked away. A questioned burned within him; tears stung his eyes, and he was sure he didn't want to know, but he steeled himself and asked anyway.
It was a rather ambiguous question, he realized, and she could have taken it several ways. Seamus had been inquiring about her hand, but she thought he meant the situation as a whole.
"I don't know how they got in. The wards... they should have... I don't know.... But they came. I was in the library with Harry." She choked back a sob. "Harry... He went out to investigate. I told him not to.... He promised he'd come back. He promised!"
Seamus stared at her. She couldn't mean... No, surely not. His voice cracked as he asked, "Where is he?" Hermione turned her face slowly toward him, her eyes flickering. There was something slightly... off about her.
"In the corridor outside the library," she stated matter-of-factly, and it frightened him that she had changed her demeanor from confused and scared to calm so quickly. She paused, then added, quite unnecessarily, "He's cold." She began babbling. "I know, because I tried to wake him up. I tried everything. Then Ron came. He was crazy, said something about...." She broke off, trying to remember. "About Neville. Yes, something about Neville's toad. Then he blew up." She looked bewildered, and Seamus finally realized she had completely lost all sense. He wondered if she had gone insane from a curse or from Harry's and Ron's deaths. "I ran, of course," she continued, "but my wrist hurt." She looked down now. Seamus's stomach churned when she screamed, because she held it up to her face and he knew she had to smell it.
She vomits, and he cries, and the door opens and they hold each other, because they're scared, and Hermione is thrown against the wall and he runs and feels no guilt though he knows he's just sacrificed her.
And her blood is on his robes and on his hands, but he doesn't care because he's tripping over his best friend's corpse and somehow Hermione doesn't matter anymore.
He escapes. He mourns his friend, then comes to his senses and runs like there is no tomorrow. He realizes that this might be true. He finds his way to Gryffindor tower and, once inside, gazes about at the tear-stained faces in the room. He sees Ginny and wants to cry again--she's lost so much and doesn't even know it. He decides not to tell her. She'll know soon enough.
"Seamus," he hears someone behind him whisper, and he turns to see an apprehensive Padma Patil. For a moment he wonders why a Ravenclaw is in the Gryffindor common room; then he wants to cry because there's nothing else to do. How deep the rivalries run! "Have you--" her voice breaks, and she takes a deep breath and asks through her tears, "Have you seen Parvati?" No, he hasn't, or he doesn't remember, because all the faces blur, and he tells her so and she shakes her head and the portrait opens and Colin Creevey stumbles in with his little brother and Luna Lovegood and he realizes that he's in a war.
It is the kind of realization that hits one full force, and Seamus is no exception. He sits on the floor and weeps the tears of a child, because he is a child.
Or he used to be.
No one can see his best friend like that, with his face half--that isn't a sight for children.
He knows now why Hermione lost her mind.
He feels a gaze upon him and lifts his face. Luna stares back with clouded eyes. Seamus sharply draws in his breath as she begins to speak in a strangely clear voice, so unlike her usual dreamy one.
"Hello. My name is Luna Lovegood. You're Seamus Finnigan, and this is Gryffindor Tower. My father is the editor of The Quibbler. My mother died when I was nine. My father died yesterday. I hate Potions. I love Astronomy. My favorite color is blue, though yellow is nice, too. My dream is to one day see a Crumple-Horned Snorkack. I am in Ravenclaw. 'Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure,' and when I was six, I broke both my arms."
"Train-of-Thought Jinx, I think," Colin offers. "She's been rattling on for a while now."
Even Colin's cheerfulness is gone, and his camera is nowhere to be seen. Seamus feels a chuckle tickle his throat, and he swallows it.
Not like he'll need a photo to remember.
Not like he'll want to remember anyway.
He vaguely wonders is one can Obliviate oneself.
Gryffindor Tower is no longer safe.
Padma grabbed his arm and dragged him up the stairs. He made a mental note to thank her when he had more time. They ended up with several other people in the fifth year girls' dorms.
Padma took charge.
"Anyone with a wand, summon a broom from the shed. Two to a broom, and hurry. Get out of here as fast as you can. Do not touch ground in Hogsmeade; they've taken it. Head for Muggle London if you can, to the Ministry. Luna knows the entrance."
"What about you?" Seamus asked in alarm. Padma's face was set.
"I have to find Parvati. I can't leave without her." Seamus nodded, then inclined his head toward Luna.
"I don't think she's in a fit state to lead us to the ministry."
"I know the way," he heard Ginny say. "Here Seamus, share my broom."
He hugs Padma good-bye and seats himself on the broom. As the group flies away, he hears a blast, then sees a flash of green light, and he knows Padma is no more.
How many children have died today?
How many others had to grow up too quickly?
Hours of flying. The air is so cold in February.
He wishes the Death Eaters had attacked in May.
They reach the Ministry, and all stand outside as Ginny descends in the phone booth. Seamus feels arms wrapped around him and turns to see Katie Bell. They stand together for a moment, before Ministry officials start to apparate around them and escort the students into the Atrium. There are several healers conjuring stretchers for the injured.
"They sent a crew of aurors to Hogwarts," Ginny tells him. "But... it's been hours, Seamus. We had to fly here. Why didn't one of the teachers go to Hogsmeade and apparate? Dumbledore--"
"Is dead," Katie finishes. "They attacked Hogsmeade first. They put up anti- apparation wards and then obliterated the whole place. Then they stormed Hogwarts. They headed straight for the staffroom. There was a meeting there."
"Dumbledore, dead?" Ginny asks incredulously. Seamus knows it's time.
"Ginny, I saw Hermione.... She--she told me that Harry and Ron are both-- they're dead, Ginny."
Ginny's face crumples. "And Hermione?" There's fear in her eyes.
Seamus hangs his head in shame and Ginny understands. She weeps, and Seamus jerks when he hears the cries of a woman, not a girl.
They should be children still.
And so Seamus survived. He didn't go back to Hogwarts--there was very little left standing. He went to one of the small schools the Ministry set up in London, and took his N.E.W.T.s with Lavender and Neville, because they were the last three Gryffindors from their year.
He goes through life hearing horror stories about the corpses they find in the rubble. Corpses, not people. His friends lost their identities. The world weeps for the loss of Harry Potter, but no one remembers the football-crazed artist named Dean.
And at 4:32 on a Friday afternoon in February, exactly six years after the attack, he sits as a broken man upon the rubble of what he once called home, and weeps for all the lost children. There is no dawn for his generation.
...We all fall down.