47. What Appears to be an Ending

After the drama and trials of the spring, the end of the year slipped by with almost boring normality. Ella kept her promise to Snape not to speak with Mithrandir, though she watched him closely, determined to force healing on him again if he needed it.

The end of year exams were heralded in with varying degrees of panic throughout the Houses and were met with varying degrees of success. Ella was sure she passed all of hers, though she was also sure she was nowhere near the top of any of her classes. She'd continued working with Professor Mithrandir on her wandless magic, though she made no further progress in controlling her ability.

The DA had met all year, though it seemed in vain, for there were no attacks on the school. There was a collective sigh of relief that lasted until they realized that the most vulnerable time was coming—the train ride home. Harry Potter and his other deputized leaders drilled everyone in tactics and spells until they were ready to drop, though they felt cautiously certain they could fend off most attacks that would come on the train. After all, the children and younger recruits of the Death Eaters would be on the train as well, and that would provide some measure of safety.

The leaving feast arrived, and to Ravenclaw's dismay, Gryffindor again took the House Cup, though they had managed a close second. Ella could tell from the focused looks on the faces around her that the start of the next year would again bring logical suggestions and recommendations for earning points and taking the House Cup away from the two leading Houses. She almost sighed at the thought of it.

Ella spent most of the leaving feast not looking at Snape. Though she'd not been able to spend the time with him she would have liked, at least she'd been able to see him every day. Now, it would be two long months away from her uncle, and she wasn't quite sure she could take eight full weeks of Shelly's perkiness, though that had been tempered by sleepless nights with the new baby. Shelly's letters since little Rafe's birth had been short—written in the short times he was sleeping and not demanding her complete attention. When she rose to leave, she met Snape's eyes and returned his solemn nod, the only farewell they could offer.

She climbed the long stairs to Ravenclaw Tower, only half listening to Vivianne as her friend chattered happily about her summer plans. Her attention was drawn back quickly as Vivianne's words sunk in.

"Well, I won't get to go to the summer house of course, since it was destroyed, but my mother promised that we'd get away without trouble. I do wonder where we're going, because she hasn't even given any clues, and she usually does. Oh, well, I guess I know soon enough, won't I?" Ella looked closely at her friend and realized that her friend was covering worry and stress with her idle chatter.

"I'm sure you'll have a great summer, Viv. Your mum just wants to surprise you, that's all," she said with forced sincerity.

They parted at Vivianne's room, and Ella promised to ride with her on the train the next day. Ella finished the climb up to the Crow's Nest and walked into the room, avoiding looking at Sylvia's bed, as she always did now. No one in the room spoke of Sylvia's betrayal, but the silence spoke volumes. Sylvia's things had been packed up or thrown away, and her bed was stripped and empty. Ella flopped down on the couch, not ready to finish her packing yet. She looked up when Moira dropped down into the seat next to her.

"All right, Ella, we've waited long enough," Moira declared. Ella looked up in confusion. Moira nodded towards Sylvia's bed, and Ella realized that the rest of her roommates were waiting around. "You haven't dealt with what happened yet, and you need to, or this room is going to become haunted for you."

"What do you want?" Ella snapped, struggling for control.

"Good," Moira said, standing up and dragging Ella after her. "You need to get mad. You have every right to scream and break things and we are going to give you the opportunity." She pulled out a flask and passed it around to everyone. When it reached Ella, Moira pointed stared at her until she took a large swig.

"This isn't your same potion you gave us before," Ella accused Moira.

"Nope," Moira said, taking a swig of her own. "This is a little mixture I call crazy juice. Let's go." Taking Ella's arm firmly in her hand, Moira marched her out of the room and down the stairs, with the rest of their sisters following. By the time they reached the third floor corridor where the Room of Requirement hid, Ella was feeling strange indeed.

"What's in this stuff?" she asked, stumbling a little.

"Nothing you want to know about," Moira assured her. They crossed the tapestry three times, and a door appeared. Moira opened it, and Ella stumbled crossing the threshold. It was the Crow's Next, but all of Sylvia's things were there, neatly on the shelves, her favorite pillow propped just so against the headboard.

Everyone stood around once the door closed. "Now what?" Ella asked, looking around.

"Now you take dose number two, because you aren't crazy enough yet," Moira said, handing Ella the flask again. Ella shook her head, but Moira tipped it back and Ella had to swallow or choke. They flopped down on couches, and Ella couldn't help looking again at Sylvia's belongings.

"Go on, you know you want to," Moira egged her on.

Ella was drawn to Sylvia's bed as iron to a magnet. She stared down at Sylvia's collection of porcelain figurines sitting on the bedside, and before she realized what she was doing, she grabbed one and threw it across the room. It shattered on the wall, and the girls gave a cheer.

"Go on, Ella! Give her what she deserves!" someone yelled.

Time became a blur to Ella, and later she couldn't remember everything that happened. She seemed to recall destroying things left and right, screaming and crying at the same time. Her sisters cheered her on, helping when she couldn't destroy something herself.

When she came to, they were back in the real Crow's Nest, which Ella only recognized because the fourth four-poster bed was standing and whole, without feathers escaping through the rents and tears in the pillows and mattress. She turned with wide eyes to Moira, and the older girl smiled at her.

"Do you feel better now?" she asked.

Ella nodded slowly. "Promise me you won't make me drink anymore of that stuff," she begged.

Moira smiled gently. "It was only spiced apple cider, Ella. You provided the craziness yourself."

"What!" Ella cried.

"It's a dirty rotten trick, I know. But you needed it, Ella. You needed to get angry, to allow yourself to blame Sylvia for what she did, and so did the rest of us. We couldn't do it until you did, though, because you were the one who was wronged. Do you forgive me?"

"Spiced apple cider?" Ella asked again, and Opal nodded.

"She did it to me last year when my da died. Sometimes, your brain gets stuck on hold, and you need to jumpstart it to deal with whatever the issue is that you can't face. It's funny though, even though we all knew it was Moira's trick, it still effects us, because we let ourselves go, to support you." She shrugged, but Ella noticed an innocent expression cross Moira's face. It was just a flicker, but Ella had her suspicions. Maybe her drink had just been apple cider, but she wouldn't put it past her to have slipped something else to the others. She let it drop, though, because she was grateful for Moira's help. She did feel better, as though a great weight had been lifted off; and when she looked over at Sylvia's bed, it was just a bed, waiting to be filled by someone else. It felt good to know that.

XxX

The next morning, pandemonium covered most of the school, as students tried to corral suddenly stubborn familiars and pets into carrying cases, crammed last minute things into over-flowing trunks, and queued up for the carriage ride to the train.

There were exclamations of surprise as older students read the letters restricting the use of magic that summer. Apparently, it usually didn't mention permission to defend oneself or others, including Muggles, from magical attack by any means necessary. The Hogwarts Express pulled out of the station on time, with everyone aboard. Ella found herself back with Vivianne, Dominick, and their friends from the train ride in the beginning of the year, but this time, Ella didn't find herself tongue-tied. She happily discussed Margo's translation of her grandmother's book, and took turns with Viviane teasing Elliot about his latest crush on another girl in Hufflepuff. She took her turn patrolling the train corridors with the other DA members, casually making her way up and down the long length of the train.

The ride was uneventful, and thanks to the patrols, there was even fewer high jinx that usual. The sun was setting as the Express pulled into Kings Cross station. Students piled off the train, and Ella gave Vivianne an impulsive hug.

"Have a wonderful summer, Viv."

"You too Ella. It was quite a year, wasn't it?"

Ella smiled and she waved good-bye to her friend. You have no idea, she thought as the milling crowd swallowed her up.

XxX

A/N: It's done, it's done, it's done! La, la, la! Sorry, I'm just glad to reach this point because I never thought I'd make it. Ella's story is not finished, nor is Snape's. There will a sequel, but please be patient, as I have towrite it down. I hope you've enjoyed my story, and thank you again to all who have read, replied, and reviewed. I am honored by your compliments, and I hope I've applied your constructive criticism well. Thanks again to my magnificent Beta, Aren, for all the time and effort she went through to polish this up and make it readable. Trust me, a good beta is worth his or her weight in gold.

Blessings to you all! -Krew