Disclaimer: I own nothing in the HP universe.
So, here is the long chapter as promised. It's almost 5000 words and while length isn't everything (feel free to insert dirty joke here) I am pleased with the way it turned out. I should be able to update once more before I go to college. The updates after that should still be about every two weeks, but it might take me an extra week or two to get back to writing once I've started my classes. This ends in kind of a funny place, but the next section deserved a chapter of it own. Enjoy! :)
The hospital wing always had such a distinct smell- harsh and antiseptic. Ron opened his eyes slowly, adjusting to the light. His arms ached something awful and his head felt rather full.
The light wasn't as bright as he thought it would be. It was daylight already, but the windows were shuttered and the candles around the ward were the only constant light.
The heaviness in his head made him want to turn over and go back to sleep. He was in the process of obliging when he heard a muffled sniffle on the other end of the ward. With what he later might describe as a Herculean effort, Ron sat up in the bed and looked around the room. He saw that Hermione was still unconscious or at least asleep. Ginny was lying face-down in the bed next to Hermione's, her shoulders shaking and her fists clenched tight on her pillow.
Being the good big brother that he was, Ron hoisted himself out of bed and stumbled over to Ginny. "Hey," he said, shaking her arm. "What's the matter?"
Ginny jumped slightly, obviously thinking everyone else was still asleep, and turned towards her brother. Her face was streaked with tears and her teeth were gnashed together. "It's horrible!" she said, unclenching her jaw. "Si- Si- Sirius is gone. Dead."
Ron jerked in surprise. "Are... are you sure?" It didn't seem possible that the man who was clever enough to survive Azkaban could be dead.
Ginny sat up so she could speak clearly. "Yes. Lupin told me. He said that Sirius fell through that veil. You know the one that Harry spent forever looking at? Apparently Bellatrix Lestrange killed him. Poor Harry, his godfather's dead. Poor Lupin! Sirius was his best friend!" Ginny collapsed back into sobs and Ron didn't seem to know what to do. Not only was crying completely out of character for Ginny, but comforting people was completely out of character for Ron. He was rather dreadful at it. He gave it his best effort by putting his arm around his little sister and letting her cry on his shoulder.
Ginny looked rather uncomfortable. Harry knew that she hated crying in general, but having others see her being "weak" made Ginny crazy.
Well, Harry thought, even if the group was remotely interested in Ginny's sadness now, they would soon forget her waterworks when they saw Harry's breakdown in Dumbledore's office.
Harry was already beginning to get embarrassed. It wasn't one of his proudest moments and definitely not something he wanted the Weasleys and Grangers to see.
After what seemed like days, but was probably only an hour or so, Hermione stirred in her hospital bed.
Ginny and Ron sat up and waited for their friend to wake up fully. "I better go get Madam Pomfrey." Ginny said, quietly. "She needs Hermione to take a couple of potions." Ron nodded in understanding as Ginny shuffled to Madam Pomfrey's office door.
Hermione opened her eyes and Ron, who had climbed back into his bed so he wouldn't get yelled at by Madam Pomfrey, said, "Hey, you're awake!"
Hermione blinked a couple of times and turned towards Ron. "Yeah, I'm awake... I think. What happened? Was anyone hurt?"
"Well, You, me, and Ginny were the worst off. Ginny's fine now, just a broken ankle. I'll be fine, eventually. Neville had a broken nose that Madam Pomfrey fixed in about ten seconds. Luna's, well... Luna. She'll be all right. Harry doesn't have more than some scrapes I think, so I suppose he's fine physically..." Ron replied, his voice fading off at the end.
Hermione definitely didn't miss Ron's choice of words. "And mentally?"
"Not so good, I would reckon. Ummm... Sirius was killed." said Ron, surreptitiously wiping his eyes on his pajama sleeve.
"Oh, no." whispered Hermione, crying. "That's horrible!"
Ron opened his mouth to say something, but Madam Pomfrey chose that moment to bustle in with a tray of potions in her hands and Ginny in tow.
"All right, here we go. You," she ordered, pointing to Ginny. "Get back in bed. Mr. Weasley, Ms. Granger, sit up. There are potions to be taken."
"I'm fine, really!" complained Ginny. "It was just my ankle and Tonks healed it at the Ministry. It's good as new!"
"No! You shall stay for observation. I do recall that Nymphadora was in here quite a few times herself while at Hogwarts and while she's a competent witch—" Madam Pomfrey cut herself off and shook her head as if to keep herself from saying bad things about a former student. "Besides, from what I've been told, she had just been revived and was about to be taken to St. Mungo's for observation. She shouldn't have been performing healing spells in her condition."
Ginny sat down with a huff. Meanwhile, Hermione was desperately trying to sit up, wincing in pain all the while. Madam Pomfrey noticed and tutted like a chicken. "Ribs broken, internal scarring. Could've been worse, but definitely bad enough." She helped Hermione sit up and began passing potions around to her three charges.
"I don't know exactly what you lot have been up to, but it must be bad business if it gives you injuries like these." Madam Pomfrey said as she passed out the potions. "A broken ankle is one thing, but they should have brought you to me straight away, Ms. Weasley. Those brains will most likely leave permanent scarring, Mr. Weasley. And Ms. Granger, it's good thing this curse wasn't at its full potency; it does nasty things... horrible really."
"You were injured?" Mr. Granger asked his daughter, outraged. "We were never told about this!"
"I didn't want to worry you!" Hermione said desperately. "They gave me the option of having you both notified, but what good would it have done?"
"What good would it have done?" Mrs. Granger repeated angrily. "We are your parents, we should have known!"
"It's not like you could have visited me. I remembered how freaked out you got after I was petrified second year because you couldn't actually come to Hogwarts and see me. I didn't want you to be told I was hurt and not be able to do anything about it."
"While I understand the logic in that," Mr. Granger began and Harry could definitely see where Hermione got her argumentative skills from. "You should have told us when you got home. We would have been able to see that you were safe and not have been blindsided when we happened upon the truth."
Hermione let out a weary sort of sigh, but didn't respond. Harry could tell that she had given up arguing with them.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny each took their potions and Madam Pomfrey went back to her office, collecting the empty bottles with a sweep of her wand.
"Well, she's cheery, isn't she?" joked Ron, eliciting laughter from his sister and best friend.
"Really, Ron!" admonished Percy. "Was then the time to be cracking jokes?"
"Yeah, 'course it was." Ron replied indignantly. "What's the point of a joke if it you can't use it to lighten the mood?"
"Well, look at that, Ronnie!" George said with a smug smile. "Finally catching on are we? Not that the joke you made was in any way funny, 'cause it wasn't, but it's a start."
Ron's ears colored a bit when George used his childhood nickname.
What Harry was wondering, however, is why George was so interested in Ron's comedic timing. It seemed to be an odd thing to care about at a time like this.
"Who killed Sirius?" Hermione asked, crying again. Ginny began crying too and climbed onto Hermione's bed. The girls hugged gingerly because of Hermione's broken ribs, but they did their best to comfort each other.
Ron was crying a little too, but was trying to hide it; it wasn't exactly manly to cry in front of his sister and friend. "Bellatrix Lestrange. That's what Lupin told you, right Ginny?" Ginny confirmed this by nodding and hugging her best friend a bit tighter.
She was soon dislodged, however, as Hermione had sat up straight and balled her hands into fists. "That woman is utterly vile! She was mocking us back in the room with the prophesies and did you see the way she was throwing Unforgivable Curses around? Killing Curse here... Cruciatus over there. It's despicable!"
"I know," said Ginny patting her friend soothingly on the shoulder.
"What happened after that?" Ron asked, leaning forward with horror and interest.
"Voldemort appeared and Bellatrix escaped." Ginny continued in soft tones, as to avoid bothering Madam Pomfrey. "Dumbledore got there just in time and was able to stop Voldemort from killing Harry. The Ministry officials arrived just as the fight was ending, but they caught a glimpse of Voldemort, so I suppose Harry is vindicated, at least."
"What happened to the prophecy?" Hermione asked. "I was hit before I saw..."
"It was smashed." replied Ron "I heard Kingsley talking about it when he freed me of those brains."
"I wonder what it said that was important enough for Voldemort to try and get it?" Ginny asked.
"I don't know... one set of initials may have been Dumbledore's. I remember Harry telling me that Dumbledore had a ridiculously long name." Hermione said thoughtfully.
"Harry, how did you know what Dumbledore's full name was?" asked Ginny, "I always wondered, but never remembered to ask."
"When he defended me at my trial, he gave his full name to the Wizengamot. It's the kind of thing that sticks in the mind." Harry replied, causing Ginny to chuckle.
Harry thought it was odd that he and Ginny were able to function quite well in a public setting, falling back into their old patterns of banter, but failed horribly when they spoke one-on-one.
About a week after the battle, Harry and Ginny ended up alone together in the sitting room of the Burrow. When other members of the family had been in there moments before, the conversation flowed easily and Harry felt comfortable, extremely sad, of course, but at least not awkward. As soon as the others left, however, all forms of verbal communication stopped immediately as if a silencing charm had been cast.
It was ridiculous. Harry just wanted things to go back to the way they were before the horcrux hunt and that horribly hellish year.
"Maybe Dumbledore will tell Harry. He's in the headmaster's office now. Or, at least, that what I think I heard McGonagall and Pomfrey talking about. Apparently, Madam Pomfrey is angry that she couldn't treat Harry right away." Ginny replied as she had the most information about the events that had transpired in the stone pit and atrium.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny speculated about the prophecy for a while, but none of the scenarios they created made a ton of sense.
The conversation came to an abrupt end when Madam Pomfrey burst forth from her office again. "Ms. Granger," she said, moving rapidly in their direction, "I have more potions for you."
"More?" Hermione groaned.
"Yes, of course, more. You will have to take almost a dozen a day. That curse was no laughing matter. Oh, and Mr. Weasley, I have a salve for your wounds."
"Oh, yeah," muttered Ron,while looking down at his arms, "How long until they go away?"
"They will not ever go away completely, Mr. Weasley. They will fade, but memories create a very permanent type of scarring."
Ron's face paled considerably, a difficult thing to do considering his already pale complexion. Ginny who was still sitting on Hermione's bed leaned forward to pat her brother on the shoulder, one of the only parts of Ron's arms that was scar-free.
"Alright, then," Ron said, trying to move past the news of his permanent scarring, "How long will I have to stay here?"
Madam Pomfrey thought for a moment, "A week, I should say. Same goes for you Miss. Granger."
Both Ron and Hermione groaned at this news, but they noises of discontent were muffled by Ginny, who asked Madam Pomfrey how long she was expected to stay.
"What were you two complaining about? I would have loved to get out of exams and classes for a week." George said, almost horrified by Ron and Hermione's reaction to the length of their hospital stay.
"Have you ever had to stay more than one day in the hospital wing, George?" Ron asked, rising to the defense. "It's bloody boring!"
"Ron, language!" Mrs. Weasley admonished.
Ron pretty much ignored her, but had the decency to pretend he was somewhat ashamed.
"It was O.W.L year, George! It was imperative that we learn as much as possible to get ready for our N.E.W.T year!" Hermione said.
"Yeah," George began laughing in earnest. "the year you never took."
"Well, we didn't know we wouldn't get the opportunity to finish school. Besides, I plan on going back now. So you see, I needed to learn everything I could while I was still able to." Hermione finished with a smug smile.
"You're going back?" asked Ron, who looked completely perplexed.
"Well, of course I am! I can't be expected to start a successful career without the proper qualifications." Hermione replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Harry supposed that to her, it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Wait, aren't you both going back?" The question was directed at Ron and Harry, but Harry bet that Hermione cared more about Ron's answer than she did about his.
Either way, both boys only hesitated for a second before replying with a resounding, "No."
"But... but..." Hermione stuttered, at a loss for words. Mrs. Weasley seemed ready to back any argument Hermione made.
"Actually," Kingsley started, trying to diffuse some of the tension in the room. "we have some opportunities here at the Ministry that you three, as well as the rest of the DA, will be offered with the N.E.W.T requirement waved. We'll can discuss options later, though."
This seemed to appease Hermione and Mrs. Weasley, but it left Harry wondering.
He couldn't even begin to hope that he would be offered a spot in the Auror program. He would probably be given a desk job that paid pretty well as compensation for his work against Voldemort. The Ministry would do this thinking Harry would want a break from dark wizards for a while. And, truthfully, he did want a break, but the summer would suffice. It would be the most peace he had gotten in a long time.
Besides, a small part of Harry still wanted revenge for all the lives lost fighting Voldemort. If Harry could help bring in the remaining Death Eaters, he might get the closure he really needed.
"I feel that you should stay for observation. At least for the day. Your ankle seems to be fine, but injuries should not be healed 'on scene.' It's a dangerous practice. Anyway," she said, collecting herself, "I suppose that you may leave tomorrow."
Ginny brightened slightly at the news, knowing that there was an end in sight.
Hermione had long since finished off her potions and Madam Pomfrey went back to her office.
The Weasley siblings and Hermione sat in silence for a while, not quite sure what to do.
Finally, Ginny broke through the quiet, "I'm really worried about Harry. I mean, first Cedric, and now this. It's so sad."
"Yeah, it is sad," agreed Ron, "but, I dunno, maybe he'll be okay. He got to know Sirius, that's something at least. Sirius was a pretty cool bloke. Being an animagus must be fun." Ron was vacantly grinning toward the end of his sentence, probably daydreaming about what it would be like to be able to change into an animal.
"I don't know, Ron," Ginny began, smirking. "Animagus forms are supposed to reflect your true personality. You'd probably end up being turned into a sloth or something."
"Ginny! Don't insult your brother like that!" Mrs. Weasley snapped.
"Oh, come on, Mum! Ron would have said the same thing to me. Only difference is that when I say it, it's actually true." Ginny retorted with a cheeky grin. Ron returned it easily and rolled his eyes.
Harry was glad to see that the Weasley siblings were starting to fall back into their usual routines and bickering. It felt normal and healthy.
What wasn't healthy was Mrs. Weasley's new vehemence when telling her children off from picking on each other. Before the final battle, Mrs. Weasley would mildly reprimand her kids if things got out of hand, but now if any of the Weasleys said anything remotely insulting to one of their siblings, they could expect a full lecture form their mother.
Even Bill, who was almost thirty, wasn't immune. A week ago, he had told Percy to pull the stick out of his arse—good advice in Harry's opinion as Percy was way too uptight for his own good—and Mrs. Weasley sat Bill down and lectured him on proper behavior for a good ten minutes.
Granted, this new behavior was probably just an emotional reflex to Fred's death, but Harry hoped it would end soon. With so many Weasleys and so many opportunities for insults, Mrs. Weasley was going to drive herself mad quite quickly.
Ron looked mildly insulted. "You saying I'm slow, eh?"
"No, not necessarily, just lazy." Ginny replied. She knew she'd hit a nerve with that comment. Ron was really lazy, but he hated being called out on it.
Hermione and Ginny began laughing in earnest when they saw Ron's half stunned-half outraged expression. Finally, Ron cracked a smile and laughed with the girls. He hated to admit it, but Ginny was right. It was annoying, but still pretty amusing when his little sister was able to insult or outwit him.
The three continued to make jokes and tell stories about Sirius and cry because that was how they were going to get over their grief.
Harry arrived in Dumbledore's office moments after he had touched the golden wizard's head in the atrium of the Ministry. The head fell from his grasp and cracked on the marble floor.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Harry hoped that the heavy statue piece didn't crack the swirled stone of the floor. This nagging though was quickly pushed aside, however, as the first tendrils of real grief began to wind their way through him.
Along with the grief, came guilt. Harry felt so incredibly guilty. He had drawn his godfather into harm's way and Sirius had been killed because of it. Not to mention the danger he put his friends and the other members of the Order in. Why did he do something so stupid? Why didn't he listen to Snape's lectures on Occlumency? Maybe none of this would have happened if Voldemort hadn't been able to see into his mind.
Harry would have stood there, wallowing in self-pity and anger for years if a voice hadn't pulled him from his mind.
"Ah... Harry Potter..." a portrait behind Harry said.
It took Harry a moment to recognize the painted wizard. Finally, he figured out who it was. Phineas Nigellus blinked at Harry in a standoffish manner from behind his gilded frame.
"And what bring you here in the early hours of the morning? This office is supposed to be barred to all but the rightful headmaster. Or has Dumbledore sent you here?" Phineas paused and yawned before continuing. "Oh, don't tell me... Another message for my worthless great-great-grandson?"
"Who's that?" Mrs. Granger asked the room at large.
"Phineas Nigellus." replied Mr. Weasley. "He was a headmaster at Hogwarts a long time ago/ Most unpopular headmaster to date. He has a sister portrait hanging at number 12 Grimmuald Place. It's how Dumbledore communicated with the Order for a while."
"Number 12 Grimmauld Place?" Mrs. Granger repeated, not understanding the reference.
Hermione spoke up then. "It was the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix and it was Sirius's mother's house."
"Ugh. That portrait." Ginny groaned, referring to the painting of Mrs. Black that hung in the house.
When the non-wizards in the room looked at her oddly, she explained. "Mrs. Black had a portrait of herself attached to the wall with an unbreakable sticking charm. She just sits in her frame and screams at people all day. She's really quite vile. Even Sirius though so."
"Can't say that any of the Black family besides Sirius was particularly agreeable." said Mr, Weasley. Harry silently nodded in affirmation.
Harry couldn't bring himself to respond. It made his blood boil to head Phineas speak poorly of Sirius, especially considering the circumstances. Not that Phineas could know that Sirius was dead, of course. Harry couldn't even muster up the energy to admonish the rude portrait, however.
Walking away from Phineas, Harry pulled on the doorknob, but it refused to budge.
Another portrait near him spoke. "I hope this means that Dumbledore will soon be back with us?" Harry felt that this question was innocent enough and even though he still couldn't speak, he nodded to be polite.
"Oh, good. It has been very dull without him, very dull indeed."
The portrait of the wizard continued to speak to Harry, seemingly needing no verbal response. "Dumbledore thinks very highly of you, as I'm sure you know. Oh, yes. Holds you in great esteem."
This didn't really help Harry get over his self-pity, but hie was distracted by the whooshing of flames coming from the fireplace. Dumbledore arrived, much to the pleasure of the various portraits that adorned the walls of the office.
Dumbledore took a moment to situate Fawkes on his perch. The poor bird looked just like he did after a burning and Harry hoped that Fawkes would be able to grow into his normal form again.
Dumbledore informed Harry that his friends would be okay in time. A look of sympathy passed over the older wizard's face. "I know how you are feeling, Harry."
"No, you don't" Harry all but shouted. He hated when people tried to relate to his problems when they had no idea what they were talking about.
Phineas, of course, felt the need to rub salt in Harry's emotional wounds. "You see, Dumbledore? Never try to understand the students. They hate it. They would much rather be tragically misunderstood, wallow in self-pity, stew in their own—"
Dumbledore cut him off, knowing that Phineas was not in any way helping the situation.
"There is no shame in feeling what you are feeling, Harry. On the contrary... the fact that you can feel pain like this is your biggest strength." Dumbledore said quietly.
Anger began to gush through Harry's system in an alarming rate. He felt as if he were about to explode. "My greatest strength, is it? You haven't got a clue... You don't know..."
"What don't I know?"
"I don't want to talk about how I feel, alright?"
Dumbledore kept pushing. "Harry, suffering like this proves you are still a man! This pain is part of being human—"
Harry snapped at that moment, not able to take one more second of Dumbledore's patronizing attitude. "THEN—I—DON'T—WANT—TO—BE—HUMAN!" He screamed, throwing one of Dumbledore's possessions across the room.
"I DON'T CARE! I'VE HAD ENOUGH, I'VE SEEN ENOUGH,I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON'T CARE ANYMORE!" Harry couldn't seem to stop himself from destroying more of his headmaster's belongings. It was the only cathartic thin he could do besides scream.
Harry could see the Weasleys and Grangers shooting concerned looks in his direction, while the Dursleys looked smug as if Harry's outburst somehow confirmed their suspicions about their nephew.
Harry was so embarrassed and while he wasn't really prone to blushing or getting red like Hermione and Ron were, he could fell a flush rising in his neck and face.
He turned towards Ron and Hermione, barely whispering so as not to be heard. "I was so horrible to him." he said, referring to Dumbledore. "He did know what it was like to feel guilty over someone's death and I just went around breaking his stuff."
Ron leaned across Hermione with what was supposed to be a reassuring look upon his face. "Everyone understands, mate." he said, quietly. "Sirius had just died. He was basically the only family you had, except us."
"And even that's not the same." Hermione piped up. "Sirius was your Dad's best friend. He treated you like a friend instead of godson. Lupin was your Dad's friend too, but he didn't act like James and Sirius did. He acted more like me. Merlin knows you don't need another person to nag you." Hermione laughed at her own joke and Harry felt a bit better.
The Dursleys wouldn't understand the intricacies of Harry and Sirius's relationship and the Grangers were bound to hate him anyway for constantly leading their daughter into danger.
It was the Weasleys he was worried about, but Harry thought that they might understand. They, too, experienced mind numbing grief when Fred died and for days there was always someone who broke down crying at the kitchen table. They would understand Harry's anger and pain.
Harry yelled at Dumbledore some more, ignoring the older wizard's assertions that Harry did care and that what he was feeling was normal. It wasn't normal, it couldn't be normal to feel this much pain and anger. Harry tried to run from the office, but the door still wouldn't open.
"Let me out."
"Let me out." Harry repeated.
"If you don't—if you keep me in here—if you don't let me—" Honestly, Harry didn't know what he would do if Dumbledore didn't let him out of the office. Harry was outmagicked by his headmaster.
"By all means continue destroying my possessions. I daresay I have too many." was all Dumbledore said in reply.
Harry was momentarily stunned into silence, but anger pushed word out of him again. "Let me out."
"Not until I have had my say."
"Do you—do you think I want to—do you think I give a—" Harry heaved a large breath. "I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU'VE GOT TO SAY! I don't want to hear anything you have to say!"
Dumbledore seemed resigned and Harry thought that maybe he would be allowed to leave. What he wasn't expecting, however, were the next words out of his headmaster's mouth. "You will. Because you are not nearly as angry with me as you ought to be. If you are to attack me, as I know you are close to doing, I would like to have thoroughly earned it."
"What are you talking—"
"That poor man." Professor McGonagall muttered. When Charlie looked at her curiously, she elaborated.
"Albus always blamed himself for everything. He carried the world on his shoulders."
The wizards of the group nodded in agreement. Professor McGonagall's words did nothing to ease Harry's guilt. If anything, her assertions only exacerbated his pain.
Dumbledore took a calming breath and began a tale that, if it weren't for the fact that Harry knew some of the events to be true, he would have never believed them. "It is my fault that Sirius died. Or should I say almost entirely my fault—I will not be so arrogant as to claim responsibility for the whole. Sirius was a brave, clever, and energetic man, and such men are not usually content to sit at home in hiding while they believe others to be in danger. Nevertheless, you should have never believed for an instant that there was any necessity for you to go to the Department of Mysteries tonight. If I had been open with you, Harry, as I should have been, you would have known a long time ago that Voldemort might try to lure you to the Department of Mysteries, and you would have never been tricked into going there tonight. And Sirius would not have come after you. That blame lies with me, and with me alone."