Disclaimer: Not Mine
Winning Wasn't Supposed to Feel Like This
A Series of Drabbles
Luna lay on her back and closed her left eye, raised her left arm and used her thumb to block out the moon from her vision. Then, keeping her arm as still as possible, she switched eyes and saw the moon again slide into view. Strange, she thought, that something as small as a thumb could change the way you saw something. Strange, that the length of a thumb could steal the cold white light from her eyes or put it back where it belonged.
Folding her arms under her head, she continued to gaze at the clear black sky. She found Orion and Cassiopeia and sighed knowing she would never see them the same. Lifting her thumb, she blocked out Sirius and moved her arm to cover Bellatrix as well. She thought it nice, to be named after stars, and to always be easily found and remembered.
"Luna?" Harry approached her slowly, his wand hanging loosely at his side. "You should be back up at the castle. The Professors are trying to make sure every one is accounted for."
"I think I will stay here, Harry." She sat up and hugged her knees. "It is quieter out here."
"Yeah," he slipped down next to her. "I had to get away myself."
"It is cold tonight."
"Here." Harry struggled off his jumper and draped it over her shoulders only to have her take it off and hand it back to him.
"No thank you, Harry." She looked at him oddly. "I want to feel the cold."
"You should go back in," he said softly. "Luna? Are you okay?"
"I am fine, Harry, and you? Were you injured?"
"No," he sighed and looked up to the sky. "No I just feel … I don't know. There are so many … Fred and Remus … and …"
Luna nodded as Harry's voice stuck in his throat and trailed off. She again lifted her arm and sought out the stars she knew by name. Searching the heavens and trying not to miss any.
"Luna? What are you … I was wondering …" Harry lifted his head with hers and looked up wondering what she was looking for.
"Colin once said he could judge the frame better if he could … it got confusing with F stops and all, but the short of it was that he could see the frame better. Find the centre of the picture and hone in on it. He is dead you know."
"I don't know what to do now," she sighed, dropping her arm to her lap. "Now that it is over, now that I don't know what to look for I feel … lost. It's as if I need to see something that's not there and can't seem to find the centre."
Harry lowered his head and watched her up-tilted chin begin to quiver. Reaching his arm around her shoulders, he pulled her into his chest and felt her collapse into him suddenly in tears, sobbing quietly.
"It's going to be okay," he said softly.
"I can't feel the cold. I want to feel the cold and see them again but I don't know where to look."
He nodded and hugged her tightly, understanding then that she felt the same numbness he felt. He buried his head in her hair and felt his chest hitch as he fought not to cry, fought to just sit and hold her, just to hold her and maybe let her feel the warmth of his arms if not the cold of the night.
Neville sat with his parents that first Sunday after the end of the war, the same as he had sat every Sunday before. He did not bother explaining to them what had happened, or that it was finally over. He knew that for them, the war would never be over. They were locked in time as much as their minds were locked somewhere he could not go. No matter how much he wanted too.
He had thought he was close to joining them. Had even secretly wanted it, to join them and forget and to let his mind go, to stop the pain that he thought should be there but had not been able to find. Walking through the halls, carrying in the dead, searching the castle for injured, he had waited for the sadness to come, waited for that sudden blinding flash of grief that never came.
The Weasley family had stood together with cries of anguish and sobbed on each other's shoulders. His eyes had met Arthur's, and unable to do more then nod, Neville had turned and walked away, unable to find words of condolence that he did not feel and did not understand. It is strange, he remembered thinking, strange that Draco who had seemed so cold and hard could sit and wipe at his face and feel the salty tears.
Sitting and watching his mother rake a brush through her hair he began to count the strokes, remembering how his grandmother would sit and stroke her own one hundred times a night. His mother did not stop at a hundred, but kept brushing, her scalp showing red welts under the bristles. He wanted to ask her if she could feel it. Could she feel the pain? He smiled thinking perhaps she could, perhaps that is why she did it. He stood and walked away, leaving her to her pain and vivid memories.
Hannah Abbot pulled the mop and bucket down the narrow hallway of the top floor at the Leaky Cauldron. The bottom levels, including the pub, had been the first repaired after the war, this floor being the last. She wiped the back of her hand across her forehead and sighed, wishing she knew the cooling spell. It was hot up here. Hot and sticky.
She liked the work here. She did not have to think, did not have to talk to others about things. Things that left her in tears and unable to think, unable to smile and sleep at night. Only sometimes, as today, when the sun was bright and with the windows sealed shut by a fresh coat of paint it was hot. Hot and sticky.
Sometimes people, from before, would come for lunch, or a drink, and want to talk to her. She would smile and be too busy, too caught up in what she was doing to sit and talk about things. Hannah thought it was better to stay alone. Better to stay on the top floors and forget what others talked about and tried so hard to remember while all the time she fought to forget. She wanted to forget all the things that had happened before.
When she finished cleaning the top floor, it would be lunch time, and time for her to go to the kitchen. The Daily Prophet would lay open on the tables, full of pictures that still moved and smiled. As she cleaned the tables, she would throw them in the bin, keeping her eyes on the rag in her hand and the wooden tabletops.
"Hannah!" Tom called to her from the bottom on the stairs. "You have someone that wants to see you. She should be up top. Just go on up."
"Thanks," Neville muttered, and started the long climb up to the top floor, taking the steps two at a time with his long legs.
"Neville?" Hannah peered over the banister as the sound of footsteps made it up to her. "What are you doing here?"
"Yeah," he called up to her. "How ya doing?"
"I heard you were working here." Neville looked down the narrow hallway and frowned. "There's no air up here."
"The windows don't open and I … I can't seem to remember the cooling spell. I've tried, but…" She shrugged her shoulders.
Neville took her by the upper arm and found an empty room, quickly casting a cooling spell, he grinned at her. "There, that's better all ready. Gran sent something for you. She was cleaning out the old cupboard and … here."
Hannah took the envelope Neville had thrust at her and walked to the bed, sitting on the edge as she spilled the contents into her lap. Her mother looked up at her from a faded picture, winked, brushed her hair back from her face, then laughed, and began to brush her hair back again. Neville looked around the small room, noticing everything but Hannah, and how she hastily shoved the pictures back in the envelope then stood and crammed it in her pocket.
"Tell her thanks," Hannah said crisply. "Listen, I have to finish up here before the lunch crowd comes in."
"Sure, I've been carrying those around for a while. Thought it was time I brought them over." Neville shoved his hands in his pockets and stood by the door. "I could show you that spell."
"Maybe later." She walked by him on the way to the hallway. "My magic is … erratic right now. When it levels off ... I'll wait until …"
"Hannah?" Neville reached out and held her arm again. "Are you really okay?"
He reached in his pocket and handed her a clean handkerchief, unable to look further than her tears. "Better?"
She nodded and gave him a thin smile. "I can't stop it. Whenever I see someone I know I just…"
Without thinking, Neville put both his hands behind her head as he leaned down and kissed the tears that had moistened her lips. He felt her sob into his mouth and parted her lips with his tongue, needing to feel, needing her sadness to fill him.
Rubeus hauled two great blocks of salt into the forbidden forest and left one in the small clearing where Norberta was last seen, hoping to lure the Norwegian Ridgeback to safety. Since the war, even the magical creatures were hard to control and had fled to places not safe. The second salt block he slung to his shoulder and headed up to the northern slope, setting it down in the sweet grass that Buckbeak liked so well, hoping the hippogriff would bring the others home with him.
Walking back through the forbidden forest, he wiped at his eyes and sobbed at the silence that seemed to have come to this once magical place. He remembered all his friends that were forgotten, whose names would never appear in the Hogwarts history books, and let his face crumble into tears.
Rebeus missed Fang most of all. He thought again of the way Fang had only looked up to him and closed his eyes, without so much of a whimper, although the left side of his head had been crushed, his life seeping out with his blood. He had buried him at the foot of the black tomb that sat next to Albus', and liked to think that he was with the professor, protecting him, and silently keeping him company. The professor had been hard and mean, disliked by most but in the end had proven more loyal then they would ever believe. It did not matter, not to Rebeus, that the professor had disliked him and had found him stupid and clumsy. In the end, it was the professor's deed that was most important.
Putting a kettle of water on the fire, he thought to make a cup of tea, and then added two measures. Hoping someone would think to make the walk down the path to visit, knowing that it would be another lonely night.
The part of the war's aftermath that Minerva found the most difficult was not writing the letters to the families of the dead, as she had done almost twenty years previously, nor in detailing, as much as she could, of how their loved one had fought valiantly and well. The difficulty was not in the telling of how a wall had collapsed or a hex had hit, nor that the lack of speedy medical care may have contributed to their demise. It was the fact that each and every letter she wrote, brought back the memory of a sorting. A ceremony that she replayed in her mind each and every time she picked up the quill.
Perhaps we sort too soon, the Headmaster had said. Perhaps we sort too soon. She wanted to sort them now that they had proved their worth. She wanted to go back in time and slash out house affiliations, put them where they belonged, and wondered how many she could saved. Perhaps we sort too soon.
Perhaps if Fred had studied in Ravenclaw where he belonged, where his intelligence should have put him, where he could have grown and earned respect, perhaps he would not have thought to be brave and run too quickly into the foray. She thought of Nymphadora and lifted her chin to dip the quill back in the well, determined to finish what she had started. Determined to finish a letter for each that had fallen, she once again bent over the parchment. Perhaps we sort too soon. She replayed the sorting of a small pink haired girl, and wondered if Gryffindor could have better prepared her.
The hard work she had yet to start. The hard work she had set to the side after making up the list of names of those that would never be buried in a hero's grave. She did not yet know how to word the grief she felt. The pain that filled her each time she had tried to write a letter to the mother of a fallen Death Eater had overwhelmed and confused her.
We failed your son, she had started then crumbled up the parchment and flung it in the fire. I failed, she thought. I should have done more because truly we sort too soon.
Vincent had come to Hogwarts full of a first-years wonder and hope, sorted into a house in which he could never excel, never learn to lead, only learn to cower and follow. Never cunning, thoughtful or ambitious he would be lead and used until he no longer had a thought of what a future could really be like. She had failed him, and every one like him that she had given to darkness because she did not bring them to the light.
Peter Pettigrew, overshadowed by the three that had befriended him had been her first true loss. A loss it had taken her years to know. A loss she, a teacher, a head of house, a person in charge, the adult responsible for his wellbeing, had not seen.
We sort too soon, he had said, and she thought perhaps it was she that had been sorted so terribly wrong.
The stones of the foundation had been laid a thousand years before. Those first stones, hewn out of stolen monoliths which had been built by a people already gone thousands of years, had caught and retained the magical residue of each and every student that had walked the halls. As each student passed overhead, each footstep they took further packed the blue foundation stones into the mountain. Driving the them further into the ground and so firmly anchoring and pressing them into the mountain that they would remain so for all times. Slivers of the walker's magic united with the castle, mingling and joining with all the other's shards and strengthened the base, holding up the heavy walls and towering turrets.
An original flaw, a crack no larger then the breadth of a hair, had not sealed in the original building. A schism created of flawed purpose, of dark intent, of the world's future path had opened a crack, so small, barely visible and so inconsequential that it went unrepaired and unseen as the castle rose and expanded over the centuries. In dark times, the crack, the thin line of flawed magic had expanded, widened and grown. The blue corner stones could feel the rift as the very foundation sifted and would try to send out enough retained magic to fill the void, to keep the four corners intact and will the walls to stand firm.
In the bowels of the earth, under the dungeons, down forgotten stairs, and behind long unseen earthen walls, a crack wrenched open. Splintering and opening the length of the castle it waited, for fifty years. It waited for the end of the conflagration that would determine if the blue stones could summon the power from those that walked the halls to repair the damage. It waited, waiting to grow larger, to feel the blue stones pull back their magic, as they had done to the people's that had first brought them from that far away mountain to lay in this cold northern valley.
Again, in a blink of time, the crack felt power radiating down and rose to meet it, as if welcoming the darkness above. The blue stones felt the same and summoned the years of stored energy, sending it forth to aid those that had returned. They felt the blood of the original builders and gathering the magic of eons, reached up, sent it forth, sheltering and protecting, lending courage and strength.
The rift stilled, and slid back, slithering in retreat to wait again.