Chapter One Hundred-Seventeen

Had the Dumbledore in this timeline been a little older, he would have already mastered Fiendfyre. Unbeknownst to Severus, the headmaster had used the fire mere hours before his demise when he had been in the cave with Harry. He had driven away a pack of Inferi with it.

As it was, this Dumbledore was perfectly capable of learning a new trick or two. In desperate times, the oft-used saying went that desperate measures may need to be taken. This was such a time.

After departing the Snapes' company, Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts, intent on opening the Room of Requirement later that day. Such a place would afford him the privacy he would need, and it would be safe, cut off from the rest of the castle in its own magical way.

Before any further Horcrux destruction, however, Dumbledore had to tell Regulus's family the horrible news. While he wasn't looking forward to speaking with Orion and Walburga Black, he was deeply saddened to have to notify Sirius. Sirius would deserve to know before his parents, as Dumbledore knew the elder Blacks wouldn't permit their older son anywhere near Regulus's funeral.

Since James had married Mary and gotten his own flat, Sirius had moved out of the Potter mansion as well, and he was now living in the same flat complex as Remus Lupin. Dumbledore didn't usually call on Sirius for things, but knowing his location, all he had to do was overcome his grief enough to make the gesture of creating the Floo connection.

Uttering quietly, mournfully pitiful for his formidable voice, Dumbledore tossed the Floo Powder half-heartedly into the fireplace. "Sirius Black's place."

The connection made, Dumbledore stuck his bearded head into the green flames and searched for Sirius. He didn't immediately spot him, so he called out for him, but to no avail. Not surprised that Sirius would be visiting his friend, Dumbledore proceeded onto the next logical dwelling.

He found Sirius and Remus sharing a late breakfast at the kitchen table, laughter echoing off the walls.

"Dumbledore!" they exclaimed in unison, happy to see him.

"What a pleasant surprise," Sirius said, much more welcoming than Severus would be toward the old wizard for intruding.

"Good morning, you two," Dumbledore returned, trying to keep his voice calm. "Unfortunately, I don't come bearing good news."

Seeing the look on the old wizard's face, Sirius frowned. "What's happened?" he asked sharply.

"Sirius, if you would be so kind as to come to my office-"

Sirius glanced at Remus. "Can Remus come?"

"If he wishes."

Remus gave Sirius a nod, the merriment from his face disappearing. The two young men left their breakfast unfinished and headed toward the fireplace. Dumbledore withdrew and allowed them passage into his office.

"If you're calling on me directly, sir, I assume something happened to my brother? Why else would you ask me here?" Sirius ventured, already fearing for the worst.

"Sirius, I am sorry-" Dumbledore started to say, but Sirius held up his hand, silencing him.

With his other hand, he grasped at his face, as if unsure what to do with himself, and then shielded his eyes, like he was standing in uncomfortably bright sunlight.

"You don't have to finish," he said, his voice slightly strangled. "I knew it... would happen. That... bloody... idiot." Suddenly, his hand dropped, and he glared around the room in anguish, his grief culminating in anger. "What did that bastard think would happen by joining the Death Eaters? No one gets out alive; he should've realized that before he joined! So, tell me what happened, Dumbledore. What moronic thing did my little prodigy brother do to get himself killed?"

"Sirius," Remus pleaded softly, trying to reach for his friend's shoulder, but Sirius refused any comfort, pulling away.

With a sigh, Remus relented and gazed upon Dumbledore. "What happened?" he asked.

"He was found out by Voldemort," Dumbledore said with all honesty. "Voldemort sent his... sent him here to personally deliver the message."

"Where is he?" Sirius questioned, now sounding hollow.

"I will take you to him..."

Dumbledore went to Sirius and placed a gnarled hand on his upper back, gently guiding him into the adjacent room.

Remus held back and watched as his friend stood there a moment in disbelief, before crossing the room and falling to his knees in front of the brother he hoped he had understood better.

Sirius wept for the brother he wished he had truly known. He would have been honored to call him brother now.

x x x x x

Later that day, James, Mary, Sirius, and Remus were gathered in the sitting room at Spinner's End. Lily had deliberated on inviting Petunia, but Sirius didn't seem in the mood for company. His normally flirtatious manner was glum and withdrawn, and while a small toast had been shared in Regulus's honor, Sirius had taken to holding the bottle of whiskey in his hand and insisting on pouring himself glass after glass. No one tried to stop him.

Mary was now expecting as well, so both Lily and she had abstained from the alcohol. Baby talk was not in the air for once. How could they speak of new life when the life of one so young had just ended?

"Makes you wonder who's next," Sirius was saying, his speech beginning to slur. "How many Order members've died now? What's the count, Moony?" He looked at Remus, who frowned, and then turned to James. "Prongs? C'mon, mate! Enlighten me! We all know it's mounting by the day!"

"Sirius," James replied warily. He flicked his wand, Summoning the bottle. At Sirius's protest, he said, "I think you've had enough."

"It's never enough dead for Voldemort, though, is it?" demanded Sirius. "So, what's a little more whiskey? Let me mourn in my own way, damn it!"

"Sirius, mate, I know you're upset, but you're going to regret this in a few hours when you're sicking up. I'd hold your hair out of your face as you lean over the toilet and all, but you're still going to be in for a long night," Remus explained.

Sirius leaned back into the chair and crossed his arms, glaring into the fire, but didn't say anything.

"I think I have something that can help with the hangover," Severus supplied, standing and exiting the room before anyone could say anything.

He proceeded down the stairs to the basement to his work table and shelves of personal potions. He found the correct vial and took his from its spot. He shook his head, wondering himself if all this talk of death would only set circumstances as such that Dumbledore joined so many before him. Severus found himself clenching the tiny bottle tightly and was half-tempted to hurl it across the room at the wall.

Hadn't enough people died in wars in both of his lives?

Instead, he turned sharply on his heel and headed back upstairs. He entered the room and immediately crossed the space to where Sirius was seated.

"Take this now," Severus instructed, holding the vial out for him.

"Going to poison me, so I can join my brother, Snape?" Sirius asked humorously.

"That's not funny, Padfoot," Remus interjected.

Sirius eyed the potion distrustfully and shook his head. "I don't want it. Maybe I'm supposed to feel like this-"

"Oh, snap out of it, Black!" Severus yelled impatiently. "You're mourning, fine, but what the hell do you think it'll accomplish by drinking yourself into a stupor? Don't be an idiot! That's what your friends have been trying to tell you all night, but they've just been too polite to tell it to you like it is."

"Severus," Lily said worriedly, "maybe that's a little harsh-"

"Harsh, maybe, but it's the truth," Severus stated. He glared at the others in the room. "What do you expect would happen? You knew what would happen when you joined the Order, what you were risking - your very lives. This is a war, in case you missed it years ago."

"Wait a minute here," James shot out hotly, standing as well. "You have no right to tell Sirius how to mourn. He's just lost his brother. How'd you feel if Lily were killed? Should we expect you to just 'snap out of it', as you so bluntly put it? Give the man some time to bloody mourn, Severus! Regulus was murdered less than a day ago!"

Severus didn't say a word. Instead, he withdrew from the room once again, only he went upstairs this time. He slammed the door shut and dropped onto the bed, resting his elbows on his knees as he leaned forward.

A minute later, Lily was at his side.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked gently.

"What's there to talk about?" he shot back, staring at his fingers.

"Severus, really... I know Sirius was being irresponsible by drinking like that, but he's not harming anyone. James made a good point. What if it were me instead who died?"

"Don't... say... that..." Severus ground out, struggling with every word. "You cannot possibly know... no!" He withdrew his face from his hands and gazed desperately upon Lily, grabbing her shoulders more fiercely than he meant. "It's getting close, so close, Lily. Do you see it? Dumbledore will destroy the remaining Horcruxes, whether he dies in the attempt or not, but the Fiendfyre will do its job. Voldemort has to suspect that Regulus knew about the Horcruxes now, and he's going to go searching for them. When he finds they're destroyed, he will come for us. He will find a way... and I'm going to kill him... or die trying. He's not going to kill you again, Lily!"

"Severus, calm down," Lily tried to reason. The memories from Severus's other life played through her mind, and she gasped.

"What is it?"

"How did Voldemort even find out the prophecy meant you? Haven't you been wondering that all these months?" she questioned in a fearful, small voice.

"Of course, but-"

"Your memories, Severus... they're in my mind, too, now. If only Dumbledore and I know the truth about you reliving your life, Voldemort had to have found out from one of us. Almost a year ago, when he grabbed me in the pub and looked into my eyes, do you think he saw?"

Severus swallowed. "I- I cannot say. What were you thinking about then?"

"I feared for your life, of course," she said. "I can't recall the exact thoughts-"

"I don't know, Lily," Severus replied, sounding worn out. "It doesn't really matter how he found out. The fact is that he knows, and if I'm right - if he figures out his Horcruxes are gone, he will come for us, and soon. Black was wondering who would be next on the death list. If not Dumbledore, then..."

"Don't you dare say it, Severus," Lily interrupted strongly.

Severus was silenced. He shook his head, no words of reassurance to be found.

After a few minutes of continued silence, Lily took Severus by the hand, coaxing him to stand.

"Come on, Sev," she urged gently. "We do have guests, and... let's just try to make the best of this all, shall we?" Lily gave him a small smile of encouragement, which Severus tried to return.

"Very well," he agreed, having regained some of his composure.

They headed back downstairs, and upon entering the sitting room, found a sober Sirius. The empty vial sat on the coffee table in front of him.

Severus avoided the other man's gaze as Lily led him to a seat, and she broke the awkward silence by saying, "Wouldn't you all stay for dinner, please? It's bad enough that we're together because of such dire circumstances, but the weather is nasty outside, and I, for one, can't really think of a better way to spend a day like this than among friends."

Remus, encouraged by Lily's tone, brightened slightly, sitting up straighter. "That would be nice, Lily. Thank you."

Lily looked expectantly upon the others, and Mary nodded. "I'll help you prepare dinner if you wish."

"Thanks, Mary. That'd be appreciated," replied Lily.

James gave his nod of consent and squeezed his wife's hand. When only Sirius didn't reply, Lily pressed, "Sirius?"

Sirius finally looked up from his previous gaze at the floor. His shoulders slumped, and then he shrugged. "Does he want me here?" he asked cautiously, gesturing toward Severus.

Severus turned his face toward Sirius for the first time upon returning and said levelly, "I must... apologize for the tone I took with you earlier, Black. You do realize I was only trying to help?"

"I, er... yeah. Thanks for the potion, by the way." Sirius, although uncomfortable with the eyes of everyone on him, finally gave in. "All right. Maybe you might consider inviting your sister, too, Lily?"

Heartened by Sirius's response, Lily stood. "Okay, then."

She met her husband's eyes and exchanged a look of understanding.

Better together than apart.

x x x x x

Several hours later, while the younger generation was able to find something to celebrate in their togetherness in these dark times, Dumbledore was alone in his office at Hogwarts. The three remaining Horcruxes sat in front of him on his desk: the locket, the cup, and the diadem.

He had already told Professor McGonagall what he was planning on doing, much to her shock and dismay. Someone needed to know, though. He trusted her to run the school if something should happen to him, but he also trusted her to keep the secret of the Horcruxes to herself and the few who knew about them.

Should he somehow fail to destroy them today, someone would need to finish what he had started.

Dumbledore exchanged a sorrowful glance with Fawkes, who was perched nearby and gazing almost forlornly back at his master.

"You have been a constant companion, Fawkes," Dumbledore told the bird, who seemed to understand him. "This may be goodbye, my old friend."

Dumbledore stood and gathered the Horcruxes, securing them in his pockets. He went to Fawkes and placed a hand upon his head, petting him.

Fawkes trilled softly, morosely.

"Be good, then," Dumbledore murmured. With one last pat, he left Fawkes and exited the office.

He found the corridor where he would gain entrance to the Room of Requirement and thought long and hard about what he desired. After a couple of minutes, a door appeared, and Dumbledore stepped into a cavernous room, empty and vast. Its walls appeared to be composed of stone, and Dumbledore knew the room would keep the fire contained.

He walked to the middle of the room and set the Horcruxes on the ground. He envisioned Grindelwald playing with Fiendfyre at the mere age of eighteen, so long ago. Dumbledore shook his head. A part of him had been intrigued... and still was.

He spoke the incantation and performed the wand motions he remembered his old friend employing all those years ago, and the fire erupted from the tip of his wand, forming a long, snake-like thread. Dumbledore stepped back, keeping his wand out and his mind steady, imagining what he wanted the fire to do. The fire twisted and turned, as if it had its own emotions and will to disobey, but Dumbledore held onto it like an owner with his leash on a dog.

You will obey me. You will destroy the Horcruxes.

Then, with a sudden and violent jerk, the fire turned into a lion, which charged toward the Horcruxes. Its mouth opened, and with a blaze of furious flames, the fire danced and sizzled. It finished its work, leaving the Horcruxes damaged, destroyed.

With a whoop of joy, Dumbledore momentarily lost control of the fire, which continued to streak toward him. Suddenly realizing his folly, Dumbledore jumped out of its path with the energy of a much younger man, and he held out his wand again, commanding the fire to bend to his will.

You have finished what you were summoned to do. You have done well. Now, lessen your anger and abate.

The fire stopped its charge and appeared reluctant to obey, like a pouty child, but Dumbledore held his wand and power strongly, and the fire finally submitted, growing smaller, until it disappeared with a spark.

Dumbledore smiled. He could feel victory amongst the death.