The Dark Night
s l y t h e r i n
Theodore Nott disobeys Professor Slughorn.
Instead of heading towards the Slytherin common room, he continues to stroll through the dewy grass, delighting in the cold night air and the cold thrill of victory that ripples through him in waves, over and over, over and over. He walks with his head held high and nonchalance in every movement—why should he trouble himself, why should he sulk and look over his shoulder, watchful for any movement that might signal a teacher was nearby? They'd won, hadn't they? What did the reprimands of teachers and any number of detentions matter anymore?
With Dumbledore dead, the Dark Lord's victory was assured. Dumbledore—dead—it causes a delighted shiver in him. He takes the words and wears them like a crown, and he strides over to the exact place where Dumbledore's body had fallen, feeling proud and grand and brave.
He carefully settles himself upon the already-flattened grass and makes a pillow with his hands, and he gazes up at the night sky and the glittering green skull that does not fade.
Daphne Greengrass curls up in a great, emerald-green armchair with a high back that serves as a shield from view, and she cries.
She's heard Dumbledore's name slandered so many times, heard him spit and sneered at, had occasionally insulted him herself (all of this, of course, done in the safety of the Slytherin common room), but he had been a constant—dependable, unyielding, ever-present. She had always known, always known without a trace of doubt that Dumbledore could never be vanquished, and inwardly, she had taken it as a gift—because if Dumbledore fell, then the world she had always known would crumble to pieces at the hands of the Dark Lord, and Daphne would be lost. (And what if she never found her way back? What if those she loved were lost, too?)
She thinks about all that will happen now—she and her family are protected by their status, but her sister—her sister has Mud—Muggleborn friends, and the shadowed world she sees looming will destroy Astoria. And she can't allow that to happen.
She wipes at her tears and draws a few deep breaths. She must not be seen crying about Dumbledore. The Slytherins would destroy her, too.
Blaise Zabini raises an elegant goblet and quietly touches it to those held in Crabbe and Goyle's pudgy hands. He drinks the deep red wine (his mother had sent him a bottle a few days back) and then sits back, gazing at the heart of the dancing fire, which is glowing a strange, familiar green in the lake-darkness.
In his mind, he toasts Malfoy, who seems to have worked up the courage to do what he was supposed to do—he had cornered the old man anyway, from what he had heard. Blaise is a little shaken at Dumbledore's death—it had taken him by surprise—but is not unduly disturbed. (Blaise Zabini personifies languid indifference.)
He toasts his beautiful mother, who he hopes will rise with him in this new age.
He toasts Severus Snape, who has brought about the new age.
It will be glorious, he knows. He pictures the riches that will come to the Slytherins—he sees himself superior to the likes of Neville Longbottom, Harry Potter, and the rest of those fools Slughorn had thought good enough to become acquainted with.
He doesn't think about the deaths and the heartache and the sorrow that will come to others—he thinks only of all the grandeur that will come to him. Blaise Zabini isn't one to dwell on dire consequences, only on his own gain.
He glances over at Crabbe and Goyle. They seem lost without Malfoy at their side.
"To the Dark Lord," he says quietly, and he drains his goblet.
h u f f l e p u f f
Susan Bones doesn't cry. She sits in an armchair, quiet and blank-eyed, and Hannah Abbot comes over and settles herself beside her.
Susan knows that Hannah is sharing her thoughts—she takes the hand of the other girl and squeezes it, and Hannah smiles sadly.
Susan thinks of her uncle, his wife, their children, and the other relatives she has lost over the years, memories frozen in pictures, forever young, forever gone. She doesn't like thinking about them much—seeing them waving happily from an old photograph causes her heart to twist, and she doesn't like the feeling—but Dumbledore is now dead, just like them, and many more will begin to join them now that their headmaster is gone, and not fair not fair not fair grows like the pounding of a drum in her head until it's all she can do not to scream.
Hannah's soft, sweet voice interrupts the cacophony. "It's like my mother all over again," she says.
An embrace seems to be poor comfort for all the pain in Hannah's voice and the pounding in Susan's mind, but it's the best they can do, and tears stud Susan's cheeks as Hannah puts her arms around her.
"Wonder what this means for me."
Ernie had thought Justin was already sleeping, but it was apparently not so. He knows exactly what Justin means, but asks anyway, desperate for conversation to break the awful stillness in their dormitory: "What do you mean?"
"You know." Justin's quiet voice floats from his bed to Ernie's, soft enough not to wake the others. "I've got Muggle parents, haven't I?"
Ernie swallows. "Just because Dumbledore—just because he died—it doesn't mean—"
"Of course that's what it means! Dumbledore was the only one You-Know-Who was ever scared of, he was the champion of Muggleborns, of course I'm done for now!"
Ernie is silent for once. Justin is absolutely right.
"I've got to hide my parents," Justin says—there is a tone of gray desperation tinting his voice. "They'll be targeted just because I'm a Muggleborn, I expect."
Ernie finds his voice. "We'll all help you. We are in the same boat now, my friend."
"No—I'm a Muggleborn, of course I'm—"
The pompousness deserts Ernie entirely, and words spoken simply, sincerely, leave him quietly,
"I'd give up my life if it meant saving yours, Justin. And I'd do the same for any other Muggleborn. I'm going to fight, and I know I'm not alone—I may be pureblood, but that doesn't matter to me."
"Thank you, Ernie. You—I mean—it means a great deal to me."
"I meant what I said," Ernie says. And he had.
r a v e n c l a w
It surprises all of her Housemates—it surprises her as well—that Cho Chang doesn't burst into tears when Anthony and Michael bring the news that Dumbledore is, indeed, dead. She seats herself in a vague, absent-minded motion on the nearest chair and grieves.
She doesn't grieve for the loss of the world so familiar to her, as so many students do, or the innocence that has vanished along with it—she grieves for Dumbledore himself, the man who knew so many, touched so many lives, and yet was so little known to others.
She remembers the ending of her fifth year—an ending worse than her most horrible imaginings could have conjured—when Flitwick quietly led her towards an ugly stone gargoyle and a winding staircase. The numbness she had been swathed in since Harry came back with the Cup and—the numbness began to crack away, and when they reached the circular office, she sat at Dumbledore's desk and wept for the first time since she had seen Cedric's body.
He hadn't been wise and forbidding—he hadn't spoken words of comfort, which weren't really what she had needed at the moment, anyway—he allowed her to speak and sob until she couldn't any longer, and then he had said, very gently,
"Cedric cared for you very much. And though I know it is difficult not to hurt—not to mourn—he would want you to be happy, Miss Chang. I hope you remember that. It is always more painful for those left behind. If you ever feel the need to talk, or perhaps simply be with another and share the burden of grief, I am always available."
She had taken him up on his offer once or twice, but now he was gone—gone to some place where no one could reach him, now. Just like Cedric.
But it isn't sorrow that consumes her mind, leaving her eyes glazed and her face pale. It is regret—regret that she never had the chance to thank him properly, regret that the last words she had spoken to him had been a mere "Good night, Professor."
She feels a hand on her shoulder and twists around abruptly to see Michael Corner, as pale as she is, but saying, quietly, "Hey, Cho, you look like you could use… I mean… if you need to talk…"
A smile ghosts her lips. She can almost see Dumbledore's kind, brilliantly blue eyes in Michael's dark green ones. "Thanks, Michael."
She is dangling her feet in a stream whose water is a bright orange, staining her feet happily, when she hears a heart-rending, desperate scream.
She runs, runs as fast as her orange feet can take her, her heart suddenly pounding as the screaming continues, and the sound tears, tears, tears at her and she's never felt so afraid… She stumbles on the green grass and suddenly they've turned into cruel, gray rocks. Her feet are soon raw and bloody.
She stops in front of a cylindrical house that greatly resembles her own, but isn't her own, she knows with absolute certainty, just like she knows that the man sobbing and screaming at the door isn't her father.
The man grabs at her feet, making her recoil. "Luna, Luna, Luna…"
She runs past the screamer, her heart pounding even more loudly into the deathly silence, and she runs to her room, almost knowing what she will find…
And yes, of course it's her mother, but blank-eyed and ghostly white in a way Luna had never seen her before. Her hair is hanging down limply, and she raises her wand in a weary gesture.
The light that emerges from her mother's wand engulfs Luna's sight, and when she can see again, her mother is lying on the floor. Just as she kneels down, her mother's body shatters into a million pieces, and the pieces fly up and form a green, glittering sign.
The world falls away and all that's left is the sign, growing larger and obscuring her vision until it's all she can see and she's ready to scream and—
She feels a hand in her own as she shuts her dream-eyes, and when she opens them again, the Dark Mark has vanished. She turns to smile at her rescuer, but when she looks, he's gone.
There's still a warm, comforting pressure on her hand, though.
Terry curls up in the only windowseat in their dormitory, gazing at the lovely serenity of the night sky and the livid disruption that is the Dark Mark, like an angry blot of deep, staining ink on priceless calligraphy.
Anthony enters and says, very quietly, "Terry, we're back."
He doesn't turn around. "Where's Mike?"
"Talking to Cho. He'll be back in a few minutes."
Soon enough, Michael's precise steps are heard, but Terry still doesn't turn around as Michael sits on the bed nearest him. "Mate, you okay?"
Silence. Then: "Is it true?"
Anthony's and Michael's answers come at the exact same time. "Yes."
Something collapses in Terry, and he puts his arms around his knees, rocking and clutching and trying hard not to remember, but of course the memories flash into his head, even as he attempts to drive them out—
Reading a book late into the night. Hearing a crash. Springing to the window. A flash of green light—a body—the hated, dreaded Dark Mark.
And somehow knowing—from the long beard, lit emerald by the jet of light—the fluttering robes—that the body belonged to Dumbledore.
Rousing Anthony and Michael, who sprinted down to see whether it was true. Being too afraid to know… to find out… the first time that had ever happened, but he had known that if what he had seen hadn't been some horrific nightmare, then everything was lost.
"He's gone…" He hears the words escape him involuntarily, and then he finally turns. Michael and Anthony stand solid and blessedly real in front of him, and he grips their arms tightly, the agony in his chest subsiding slightly.
g r y f f i n d o r
Neville Longbottom stays awake far, far into the night, even after the Weasleys—those who had decided to stay in the hospital wing—had fallen asleep. His senses seem sharpened, heightened to an almost unbearable level—the flutter of Fleur's hair as her breath catches it is the brightest gleam in the gloom, Bill's raspy, agonized breathing a harsh sound breaking the stillness of deep night.
Luna stayed, too. She's curled like a cat in the chair beside his bed, and her shoulders rise and fall as she sleeps, seemingly at peace.
No, she isn't at peace—he's used to seeing her so utterly calm that it takes him a while to realize that her shoulders are heaving, not with the evenness of untroubled sleep, but with deep, heavy pants. She turns and she moans, and she recoils from an unseen enemy.
Luna is dreaming.
He watches her in silence, watches as sweat beads her forehead and then she speaks in a heartbreaking, desperate whisper, "Mum, no," and he can't take it anymore.
He takes her hand and doesn't let it go until he's fallen asleep himself.
Ginny waits for Harry in the common room. Ron had decided to stay at the hospital wing, but Harry needs her. She knows he's going to come down. They have a lot to talk about.
She remembers the shattered look in his eyes as he tore them away from Dumbledore's body, looking at her through unbroken glasses, though she knows he hadn't seen her properly then. He had peered at her through an almost-tangible haze of emotions that were splattered so clearly across his face—regret had been there, definitely. Anger and utter confusion, too. A dash of guilt. A sea of grief.
She knows what he's going to say when he comes down. They'll have to end it, he'll declare, with that broken-glass look in his eyes, because it's all up to him now, and he can't involve her in anything that could be dangerous for her, not anymore.
She won't argue. All she knows is that he needs her, needs her desperately, and that she needs him, too. And even if he tells her this, she knows that, tonight, they must hold onto each other in this hurricane of utter madness and bewildering sorrow, because without the other as an anchor, they could both drown. And Ginny is not ready to surrender just yet.
But tonight… just for tonight. She knows he'll come down.
She wakes up the next morning, alone on the couch with tears on her cheeks, as if she had known, even while sleeping, that he hadn't come.
Harry stares at the canopy of his four-poster, imagining a skull and a serpent plastered across it, and loses himself in horrible memories and visions he has no wish to relive, and voices… sounds… images… thoughts… They blur in his head.
He allows himself the agony, and does not go downstairs. Ginny doesn't need to share this with him.
He is swallowed up by his grief, but it isn't enough to drown him in blessed, welcome sleep.