I

Professor McGonagall is sitting in the Headmaster's chair in the Headmaster's office. She hopes that soon she will be the Headmistress sitting in the Headmistress' chair in the Headmistress office.

It is rather amusing to think that this will be the case regardless of who wins the war.

A lifetime of snubs, of being kept in the dark, of not being trusted with the truth all excised in a flash of green light.

She only wishes she'd been there to see it.

She smiles at the portrait of Dumbledore; no one else has worked out why it hasn't woken yet.

She strokes the leather on the arm of the chair. It really is very comfortable.

II

Harry is lying on his bed, staring up at the underside of the canopy.

He's thinking.

He's thinking about how this is his last night at Hogwarts for a while, and wonders whether he'll ever come back.

He's thinking about Snape, and how much he wants to kill him. Hermione must be wrong when she says he's not evil. What else can you call a man who turns on someone who trusted him like that?

He wonders if it's bad of him to hope that there isn't any information that they need from him. That, in the end, they won't have to do a deal with him to get Voldemort.

He knows it's bad that, at the back of his mind, he's thinking that you don't have to keep promises to the faithless.

III

Ron is sitting in the Common Room and wondering how he has managed to be dumped by Hermione before they even started going out.

She was keen on him, he was sure.

But suddenly it's all about their great responsibility, and having to put Harry first, and keeping their minds on the job at hand.

He always knew he was going to die a virgin.

IV

Snape is sitting in a small, dank room in a shabby house and wondering whether the Dark Lord is going to be pleased that he killed Dumbledore in Draco's place.

He's wondering whether insanity runs in his family. He's fairly certain that, if it does, it's going to stop with this generation of the Snapes because he's not going to live beyond the end of the year.

If Voldemort doesn't kill him, then Potter certainly will.

He doesn't have a chance, other than relying on a half-whispered confession to Granger before he stunned her. She was the most sensible of the three, but that wasn't saying much.

Surely that Gryffindor piety won't allow her to stand and watch Potter Crucio him to death? Then he remembers about Umbridge and the Centaurs and wishes he could go back in time and speak to someone more reliable – good old Minerva, for instance – rather than a little girl.

He looks at Draco, sitting opposite, looking all crumpled and miserable, and wonders whether it was worth trading Albus for him.

He can only hope so.

V.

Down in the depths of the castle, Hermione is thinking.

She's wondering what Professor Snape meant, and whether he really is evil.

She keeps looking at the Half-Blood Prince's book, and seeing if she can read the future in that crabbed handwriting. Has he turned against them, or is this some convoluted plot.

In the corner is the Mirror of Erised. Once Harry had told her about it, she had been determined to find it and look in it. She knew what she would see, but it did no harm to confirm her ambitions.

Only now she wasn't wearing the robes of Minister for Magic. All she could see was the reflection of the room she was standing in, with a dark shape standing behind her.

She puts a hand to the cold surface, and asks: what is your secret?

He says nothing, but puts a hand on her shoulder. She feels comforted by it.

VI.

Draco is cold, at least that's what he tells himself. It's easier to believe he's cold than to face the fact he's terrified.

It's not just that he couldn't do it when confronted with the truth of taking away someone's life, someone he knew, someone real, but that he now has to face the other, harder truth.

His father has done this.

Snape has done this.

And now he is at the mercy of a man who has just demonstrated that he has none.

For the first time in his life, he wishes that he wasn't a Malfoy.

VII

Up on the battlements, Fawkes is taking the night air.

There is another phoenix squatting next to him. He hasn't seen another phoenix in years.

In the back of his small, birdbrain Fawkes knows that he reproduces asexually and fierily, but he's been around humans long enough to know what to do with another member of his species.

Sex is important, but gender doesn't matter.

The other bird seems to be a little startled to be mounted – perhaps he thought he was going to top – but soon begins to croon his appreciation.

As they both go up in flames together, Fawkes has a moment to reflect that this is a Grand rather than a petit mort.