"See! Your beloved Harry Potter is dead!" Voldemort yelled at the crowd gathered outside the castle. "Join me!" There was silence. Neville limped up to face him.
Iris watched from just inside the castle entrance, still hidden from the others, as he gave a rousing speech. It was working to rile up the people. Then he pulled out the sword just as Harry leapt from Hagrid's arms.
It was at that moment, Iris stepped out from the castle and moved through the crowd, her power whirling around her. The battle had started, but still, Voldemort and Bellatrix had registered her arrival. As had Harry.
"What's this? Little Iris Evans back for more?" Bellatrix shrieked.
"I wasn't ready then. But I am now," Iris said simply as a wind had picked up, circling her. Iris closed her eyes, allowing the power to build up, this time without fear. She knew she was ready. She knew that she could handle it. That she was in control. She could feel it in her hands and spreading throughout her body from her back. The sign began to glow, now visible through her shirt. Voldemort yelled and aimed his wand at her.
"Avada Kadavra!" he shouted. The curse shot straight for Iris, but instead of hitting her, it deflected off an orb that had surrounded her and shot up into the air.
"You will no longer kill anyone in my family again," she said, her eyes glowing. Bellatrix fired another curse, which was deflected as well. "Harry! You know what to do!" Harry nodded and began to run, firing curse after curse at Voldemort. They disappeared. Iris looked around her, suddenly realizing what role she was meant to play. She looked over and saw a Death Eater firing off a curse at a student. Without thinking, she raised her hand and a shield formed around them.
All around her, shields were popping up left and right around those defending the castled. Bellatrix hissed and disappeared. Iris took a deep breath and held both hands out. When she released, the ground shook and many a Death Eater fell. But just as they fell, the curses started up again. She quickly moved, raising shield after shield, knocking out the enemy whenever she could. Just as quickly as the curses were set loose, she was there, protecting the intended victims. Occasionally one would fly too close to her for comfort, but still she kept at it.
"Well, well, if it isn't Lauren Baker. Or do you prefer Iris now?" a voice said. Iris looked over, noticing Brom standing near her.
"So you survived," she said blandly. He laughed.
"I think you overestimate yourself," he said. Iris smirked.
"I think you underestimate me," she replied. He shot a curse at her, which she easily deflected. She raise her hand, shooting one at him that knocked him to the ground. He immediately hopped back up and shot another at her. Iris saw a first year about to be hit next to her, and shot up a shield around them, ducking out of the way in time to miss one from Brom. She hit the ground, then pushed herself back up.
"You can't save everyone, Iris," Brom shouted.
"Watch me," she said.
"Like you tried to save Wood? You weren't here earlier to save him," Brom said, grinning maliciously. Iris' heart seized. Oliver. She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Wrong move," she said. Suddenly, she let the power take control for a moment. It shot about from her hand and hit Brom full in the chest. He froze mid-laugh before he turned to stone and exploded. Iris barely had time to take any sort of satisfaction before she turned her attention back to the many others around her that needed protection. She may not have saved Oliver, but she'd be damned if they would lose any others around her.
Then, it was just Harry and Voldemort, locked in battle. Iris shot up a shield around him. She was so focused that she almost missed the curse flying her way. She deflected it just in time and threw the caster against a pillar nearby.
Just as she looked back over, she saw Harry and Voldemort locked in one final curse. And then… it was over.
Iris breathed heavily as she surveyed the scene around her. Word seemed to have spread almost immediately that the fight was over with the sounds of battle dying out and the remaining Death Eaters scattering or being taken prisoner. Iris looked over at Harry, who stood rooted to the spot staring at where Voldemort had stood in the courtyard just seconds before.
"It's over," he murmured, looking up at her. Iris nodded and looked around her as slowly people began to work their way back inside to the Great Hall.
"Thank god," she said looking back at him. They stared at each other a moment before closing the distance and collapsing into each other's arms. Tears filled Iris' eyes as she desperately clung to the only family she had left, finally being able to fully react.
"Thank god you're still here," she said. Harry laughed, pulling away.
"I'm a bit pesky like that. You won't be rid of me anytime soon," he responded. Iris nodded as the two stood, her arm wrapped around his shoulder for support, and looked at the survivors moving through the debri, searching for others who may need help. Iris could feel the sore muscles screaming throughout her body. It had be a brutal fight and even with her strength fully under her control, it was still draining.
"Think it's about time we go find the others," she finally said. Harry nodded and he glanced at her as they began to walk forward towards the castle's entrance. Her eyes were scanning the crowd. She hadn't said anything and he couldn't feel anything from her, but he knew who she was searching for. While he wasn't sure what had happened after he left for the forest, he still knew there most likely hadn't been time for a reunion with Wood. If he had survived, that is. Harry hadn't seen him since running through the courtyard well before Voldemort's ultimatum.
Cautiously, though still rather quickly Harry noted, the pair made their way through the rocks and the rubble, heading straight for the Great Hall. Iris scanned faces as they passed people, some offering smiles of gratitude or cheers to the two while others just stared. She had already forgotten that no one knew she even existed.
"Please, please be here," she thought, fighting hard to keep her emotions in check. While she had no fear of losing control in her emotionally and physically drained state, it was old habit to still fight to keep her mind under control. And she couldn't feel him. That was what scared her the most. She couldn't feel Oliver. Brom's words were stuck in her head. Had she been too late? The two made it into the Great Hall where many who had been bustling around stopped as they entered. A cheer went up through the entire hall as folks quickly rushed to the two, offering pats on the backs and words of congratulation.
Harry smiled graciously and offered a few words here and there, but continued pushing through the crowd towards the small knot of friends and family at the back.
"Harry! Iris!" they heard before the group came into sight. Mrs. Weasley pushed through the last bit of people crowding the two and enveloped both of them in a near suffocating hug. After nearly breaking the rest of their ribs that weren't injured, she stepped back and put her hands to their cheeks looking back and forth between the two with tears in her eyes.
"I thought we lost you two," she finally said, sniffling. She then let go and stood back. "Now, do not scare me like that ever again," she ordered as she wagged her finger at them, though she was unable to hide the grin. Iris and Harry glanced at each other and smiled.
"I don't think you'll have to worry about that," Iris finally said.
"C'mon now, you lot look a bit worse for the wear. Come over here and we'll get you looked after," Mrs. Weasley said, stepping back and leading the way for the haggard duo. Harry looked up and saw Ron and Hermione grinning at them from their seats. Mr. Weasley stood near Ginny and George. As they neared George lifted a bottle in salute. Nearby his other brothers Percy, Bill and Charlie stood, surveying the two.
Iris frantically scanned the group, noting the missing faces. Where was Lupin? Tonks? She had been so focused on Oliver, that it didn't occur to her who else they may had lost that day. She looked around over her shoulder, scanning the rest of the hall. Surely they were just injured somewhere. They couldn't possibly be gone. She opened her mind slightly as she looked back at the weary faces of her friends, drowning out the chaos going on around her and focusing solely on them.
Her breath caught as the tears began to fill her eyes. She didn't need anyone to say anything - she saw it all there. Fred, Remus, Tonks. All gone. And Tonks and Remus had left behind a little one as well. They had finally confessed their feelings to each other. Iris stopped abruptly, looking around her, taking in each person's heartache as the tears began flowing down her cheeks.
"Oh god," she said breathlessly. Harry turned to look at her, immediately realizing what was going on. He could feel it.
"So many gone…"
"Iris, it's okay," he said soothingly as she looked down at him, looking into the eyes that looked so much like her own. "It's… it's going to be okay." She nodded and attempted to smile. She looked at the faces around her.
"I'm… I'm so sorry that I didn't come back sooner," she said, meeting everyone of them in the eye. So far none of them had thought anything about Oliver, but she pushed the thought aside for the moment. Apologizing was the only thing she could think to do at that moment, even though she knew that she couldn't have stepped in sooner even if she had tried.
Molly walked back up to the two and wrapped her arms around Iris again.
"Don't think of it, Iris. We all know as well as you that you were here exactly when you were needed," she said. The older woman let go and looked Iris in the eye. "Now, let's get you some drink and food and those wounds healed." Iris nodded and smiled and she and Harry continued their walk towards some benches off to the side of the group. Hermione and Ron quickly jumped up to make room for the two. They both collapsed on the rough wood as Mrs. Weasley immediately began to assessed their injuries.
"You look like you could use a drink, Iris," George called out with a small smile. Iris looked over at him and laughed softly.
"I believe you," she said. He walked over with a clear bottle containing some sort of brown liquid and held it out to her. She accepted it and took a long swig, allowing the alcohol to burn down her throat.
"Where were you?" he asked, unusually solemn. Iris took another swig before answering.
"There were… some complications after that previous encounter back…," she trailed off as she looked down at Harry. "How long has it been?"
"Over a year," he answered. Iris nodded as she looked at the faces around her. She had missed over a year. Christ, it was going to take forever for her to catch up with everything.
"I was here at Hogwarts," she said finally. "I needed to recover."
"Blimey, all this time and you were right under Snape's nose," George murmured. "Dumbledore wouldn't even tell Wood where you were. I thought he'd go berserk trying to find you." At the mention of Oliver's name, Iris found her eyes wandering back out to the mass of people in the hall, once again searching. Was he still alive? Did anyone know or is that why they had yet to mention him? She reached out with her mind, hoping to catch a glimpse of his somewhere out there.
Suddenly, her heart nearly stopped when she heard a familiar deep voice in her mind. The thread connecting them suddenly forming bright and strong. She didn't know why she hadn't felt it earlier, but she didn't care. It was there now. She stood, ignoring Mrs. Weasley's commands to sit back down until she was done and started to walk forward, moving towards the direction of the voice.
"I've got to get to her… she's here," she heard, chanting over and over again in her mind. Suddenly, it was as if time stopped. There was a break in the crowd and there he stood. Dirty, bloody and bruised, but he was alive. Iris held her breath as the whisky bottle slipped through her fingers. Quickly, almost before the bottle hit the ground it seemed, Oliver had run up to her and taken her into her arms, a beyond joyful grin shining from his face.
"It's really you," he said as he touched her face, hair - anything and everything - as though he thought she could have been an apparition. "I thought I had lost you forever after that fight. Dumbledore refused to tell me where you were or what was going on… just that you were safe… but here you are." Iris nodded her head slightly, too overwhelmed to speak for a moment.
"I would have… sent a message or something - anything - to you if I could have," she finally said. "I'm so sorry." Tears were once again streaming down her cheeks, mixing with the dust of battle.
"There's no need to apologize," he whispered before he kissed her soundly, generating a round of whoops and catcalls from various people around them.
"Iris Evans! Get back here and let me finish looking after you," Mrs. Weasley screeched over the noise. The two looked over at the slightly irate fiery-haired woman currently glaring at the two of them with her hands on her hips. There were a few gasps nearby at the use of her real name. "You look as though you need some tending too as well, Oliver. Get over here the two of you. Plenty of time for snogging later." Laughter abounded as Iris and Oliver limped their way back over to the bench and sat down next to Harry.
"How are ya, Harry?" Oliver asked as he stretched his legs out and rubbed the back of his calf with one hand, the other still holding on to Iris' in a grip.
"Been better," he answered honestly.
"Are you mad woman? You just wasted nearly half a perfectly good bottle of Firewhiskey," George shouted as he held up the bottle he had retrieved from where Iris dropped it. Iris laughed as she attempted to wipe away the tears from her cheeks. It was a bit overwhelming. She looked around the group, feeling equal parts relief, joy and sadness. They had survived. It was over. Though there were so many lost.
The bigger question of what happened next was also present. She watched as Mrs. Weasley looked over Oliver, speaking to him though the words had blurred into faint murmurs in Iris' mind. Where did she go from here? Where did they all go? She looked around the room. Some were helping heal others, while others solemnly sat in silence. Still others wept over the bodies of those who had died. Iris was suddenly taken over by a wave of emptiness. Now that the war was over, where was her place?
"There will always be a place for you," someone said quietly. Iris looked over a Harry, who sat to her left. "I mean, it's not going to be easy for a bit. We have to rebuild, start over in some places. But you're family. There's always a place for family." Iris smiled and reached over to squeeze his hand.
"Thank you," she said. She looked around at their little group, drinking in each and every one. From Ron and Hermione cuddling in silence, to George passing the whisky bottle to his remaining brothers and father. To Mrs. Weasley fussing over Oliver, who was failing at convincing her that he could heal himself and to please look after Iris. She looked back and met Percy's eyes. It was his first time seeing her as she really was, but she could tell he knew. Oliver must have filled him in at some point. He smiled and nodded at her.
She sighed and a small smile appeared. It wouldn't be easy. There were still a few dark days ahead. Too many funerals. But they would get through it. Together. Oliver looked over at her, catching her smile.
"What's this about," he asked, gently running his thumb across the corner of her mouth.
"I think… I don't know. I guess just relieved that we made it through… that hopefully the worst is over," she answered, still unsure how to articulate what was going through her mind. She cocked her head to the side as she continued to watch Oliver as he temporarily turned his attention to George who held the bottle out to him. As he took a drink, images began to flint through Iris' mind. They weren't premonitions, moreso things that she hoped would pass. Things that she had never dreamed were possible before.
Laying in a field on a summer day with Oliver looking up at the sky. Cooking with him. Iris cheering from the stands as Oliver blocked a shot on the Quidditch field. Kissing him against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. Watching him and Harry attempt to teach a curly-headed chubby toddler how to ride a broom in circles. Iris sighed again, this one more content.
Oliver looked at her again, this time a serene look of hope on her face.
"Now what is it?" he asked, smiling. Iris started to answer, but stopped, feeling like it would be best to just show him. She reached up and placed her hand against his cheek and watched as his eyes widened as he stared off into space. A smile slowly spread across his still dirty face as he watched the different images play out. As Iris started to pull her hand away, he grabbed it and kissed it.
"Is that the future? Can you see that too?" he asked, looking at her in awe.
"Not the future - just what I was thinking about. But it could be…" she said quietly, raising an eyebrow at him. Oliver leaned over and kissed her.
"Let's see about making some of that happen."
Author's Note: And here we are, the end. Feels a bit freeing to finally have this one completed. I've toyed around with possibly doing a sequel. Could be interesting. But not sure. If I do, it'll probably take awhile. Anyway, I hope you all have enjoyed the story!