Alright, I believe this is the last chapter. If you're not looking towards teh sequel, try to envision your own future of this story. Otherwise, the sequel will probably be out either sunday or monday.
There was a low hum in her ears. She was on something soft now. She was warm. But she had a funny taste in her mouth too. Instinctively she ran her tongue along the roof of her mouth, trying to make the taste go away.
She squinted her eyes as she moved her fingers along the softness beneath her, feeling her way around.
Something large and heavy was resting on her legs, moving ever so slightly, as if breathing. Unable to get a mental grasp of her surroundings, she listened as the hum grew louder, almost as if shouting.
"-You-know-who returned to his body? Come now, Dumbledore, that's ridiculous!"
"I'm sure Barty Crouch Jr. would've testified otherwise, had the dementor not given him the kiss under your orders, Minister!"
That one, for sure, was McGonagall...she almost winced at the tone.
"You can't really believe he's back, Dumbledore! Certainly, Crouch would've believed it, but he's not in his right mind! He is a lunatic!"
As Aero's mind slowly began to unfog she noticed the other shouting person was Fudge.
"When Harry touched the Triwizard Cup it transported him straight to Voldemort. He witnessed the rebirth...I will explain it all if you just come to my office. I am afraid I cannot allow you to question Harry tonight." Dumbledore said.
After a pause she heard Fudge reply; "And you are...er...prepared to take his word on that?"
Aero pursed her lips angrily, her hands twisted in the soft thing, she now knew was some sort of fabric, below her. The thing by her legs tensed and shook slightly, a growl pierced the air.
"Of course I believe Harry. I have heard from both Crouch and Harry on the accounts of what happened." Aero could hear the anger seeping through Dumbledore's voice.
"And you are, uh, going to take the word of a lunatic and a boy who...well..."
There was silence. Another growl.
"Someone's been reading the works of Skeeter." Aer mumbled, her voice thick with sleep.
"And if I have? And if I have discovered you've been hiding certain information from me Dumbledore? A parselmouth, huh? And having funny turns all over the place-"
"I am assuming you are referring to the pains Harry has been experiencing in his scar?" Dumbledore said.
"You admit then, that he is having these pains? Headaches? Nightmares, possibly hallucinations?" Fudge said quickly.
"Listen to me, Cornelius," Dumbledore said.
Woah...it just dropped twenty degrees in here...
"Harry is as sane as you or I. That scar has not addled his brains. I believe it hurts him when Lord Voldemort is close by, or feeling particularly murderous."
"You'll forgive me, Dumbledore, but I've never heard of a curse scar acting as an alarm bell before."
"Look, I saw Voldemort come back! I can give you their names-Lucius Malfoy!" Harry cried.
"Lucius Malfoy was cleared! Very old family, donations to excellent causes-" Fudge exclaimed.
"I believe I would know better than you, Cornelius Fudge, what the actions of my current caregiver are. I assure you, he should not have been cleared in the first place, but then again, I suppose those 'generous donations' to certain member's pockets caused a bit of denseness." Aero drawled, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.
"His tales are getting taller and taller! And yet you still believe him. He can talk to snakes!" Fudge shouted.
"You fool! Diggory, Crouch, these deaths were not the random work of a lunatic!" McGonagall shrieked.
Diggory? Oh Merlin no...
"I see no evidence to the contrary! It seems to me that you are all determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we have worked for these past thirteen years!"
Fudge and Dumbledore squabbled then. Dumbledore insisted upon sending envoys to the giants and taking the Dementors away from Azkaban, to which Fudge responded he'd be thrown out of office.
"If your determination to shut your eyes will carry you as far as this, Cornelius, we have reached a parting of the ways. You must act as you see fit and I-I must act as I see fit." Dumbledore said with a certain sense of finality.
She heard the furious footfalls and the door slamming shut. So Fudge had left.
She creaked an eye open. Bill was there, sitting by her bed, Sirius in dogform was by her legs, Mrs. Weasley was hovering over Harry who was looking extremely shocked, Hermione and Ron hanging back, their eyes wide.
Dumbledore stood with Snape and McGonagall, his face determined.
"There is work to be done. Molly...am I right in thinking I can count on you and Arthur?" Dumbledore asked.
"Of course you can. We know what Fudge is. It's Arthur's fondness for Muggles that's held him back at the Ministry all these years. Fudge thinks he lacks certain wizarding pride." Mrs. Weasley replied.
"Then I need you to send a message to Arthur, All those we can persuade of the truth must be notified immediatley, and he is well placed to contact those at the Ministry who are not as shortsighted as Cornelius." Dumbledore said.
"I'll go to dad. I'll go now." Bill said, standing up.
"Excellent. Tell him what has happened. Tell him I will be in direct contact with him shortly. He will need to be discreet however. If Fudge thinks I am interfereing at the Ministry-"
"Leave it to me." Bill said.
He clasped Harry's shoulder, gave his mother a kiss on the cheek, ruffled Aero's hair, pulled on his cloak and strode quickly from the room.
"Minerva, I want to see Hagrid in my office as soon as possible. Also, if she will consent to come, Madame Maxime."
McGonagall nodded her head and left without a word.
"Poppy, would you be very kind and go down to Professor Moody's office, where I think you will find a house-elf called Winky in considerable distress? Do what you can for her and take her back to the kitchens. I think Dobby will look after her for us."
"Very-very well..." Madame Pomfrey said, looking extremely startled before exiting the room as well.
"And now...it is time for two of our number to recognize each other for what they are. Sirius...if you could resume your usual form."
The great black dog hopped off her bed and looked up at Dumbledore. In an instant he was human again. Mrs. Weasley screamed.
"Sirius Black!" she shrieked.
"Mum, shut up! It's okay!" Ron shouted.
Aero almost smiled at Snape's expression. It was one of anger and horror. Aero thought it was a lovely combination...
"Him! What is he doing here?" Snape snarled.
"He is here at my invitation, just as you are, Severus. I trust you both. It's time for you to lay aside your old differences and trust each other."
Aero raised an eyebrow as she appraised Snape and Sirius. As soon as Voldemort put on a tutu was when they'd trust each other with anything...
Dumbledore looked impatient.
"I will settle, in the short term, for a lack of open hostility. You will shake hands. You are on the same side now. Time is short, and unless the few of us who know the truth stand united, there is no hope for any of us." He said.
Very slowly they shook hands, glaring at each other the whole time, and let go extremely quickly.
"That will do to be going on with. Now, I have work for each of you. Fudge's attitude, though not unexpected, changes everything. Sirius, I need you to set off at once. You are to Alert Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher, the old crowd. Lie low at Remus's for awhile, I will contact you there."
"But-" Harry protested.
"You'll see me very soon. But I must do what I can, you understand?" Sirius said.
"Yeah...yeah of course I do."
Aero could understand why Harry didn't want Sirius to go. Aero rather liked having Sirius around, especially now, when everything for so hectic.
"Aero...I assume we'll be in contact shortly. Until then, bed rest, do what Dumbledore and Pomfrey tell you to do, alright?" Sirius said.
"No problemo, cuz."
He nodded and transformed back to Snuffles and trotted out the door.
"Severus, you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready...if you are prepared..."
"I am." Snape replied.
"Then good luck."
Snape nodded and turned swiftly out the door.
"Aero, I have certain tasks for you as well. Though you are not completely functioning, physically, at full power-" Dumbledore said, gesturing to her wrapped wrist, "there are things I require from you."
"Are you up to coming with me?"
She nodded and swung her legs over the side of the bed.
"But Dumbledore...she's not healed yet..." Mrs. Weasley protested.
"Mrs. Weasley...I'm fine, honestly. I'll go with Dumbledore and come right back."
The older woman nodded slowly. Aero stood and slipped her shoes on, grabbing her wand from the side table and put on her jacket before following the headmaster out the door.
"Aero, you must understand the useful position you hold at the Ministry. You are feared by many, because of your family, and incredibly skilled in the dark arts. Your position as Auror is very needed in the plan I have. I am reorganizing the Order of the Phoenix. I assume you know what that is?" he asked as they walked briskly down the hall.
"Yes, I've seen a pitcure before, and Ebony has spoken of it."
"Good. During the first war, many things were chaotic. People could not be trusted. It's very dangerous, being in the Order, I need you to understand that. Many have lost their lives during war. You are young, not even out of school yet, but you are of age. You can do magic, advanced magic, without being questioned. I trust you. You are about as loyal as they come, much like Sirius..."
"Professor D, get on with it..."
"Yes...Aero Black, I ask you if you would like to join the Order of the Phoenix."
Aero sat back down on her infirmary bed. She had changed and come back to the room after her meeting with Dumbledore. She was hunched over the side of the bed, her feet dangling and gently swinging. She stared down at her leather boots, lost in thought. Her hair was long now, down to her waist, and as she bowed her head it fell around her, curtaining her.
Dumbledore was positive a war was coming, one as bad as the first, if not worse. People, innocent, good people, like Diggory, were going to die. And they wouldn't be able to save them all...
People she knew, kids she grew up with, people she went to work with, people she saw everyday, were just suddenly going to die, for no reason besides creating chaos and panic. Because of a power-hungry wizard.
Aero couldn't fathom the idea of another war. She had been there in the first one. With her memories now practically completely restored, she could remember what it was like. The constant death, the fighting, the dissappearances. The unrelenting fear and uncertainty.
She wouldn't be able to trust people the way she had before...
She was going to, like many other people, knowingly risk her life on a daily basis. Her fists clenched and she bit her lip, staring hard at the floor now.
People, her friends, could die. She might never be able to fully reconcile with Angelina. She might never get her old relationship with Draco back. She might never be able to have that fairytale with Fred...
Her heart clenched at the thought. To think before she couldn't bring herself to say 'I love you'. It seemed to easy now, knowing she could loose him, or she herself could die, without ever saying it, telling him.
And Harry...Harry was going to be at the center of it. He'd have to fight Voldemort, despite the fact he's still just a teenager, despite the fact how scared he'll be, how much courage it will have to take, despite teh fact he's never killed someone before, that this war could destroy him. This war could take away everything they held dear.
This was was going to be brutal. It was going to be hard. It was going to hurt. It was unstoppable.
The doors to the infirmary opened then and she could hear someone walking towards her. Mad-eye grunted in his sleep. Harry was off wandering somewhere. It was just her.
"Aero...how are you feeling?" Fred said quietly.
There was a pause.
"I'm not fine...I'm scared. I'm angry. I'm worried. I'm not fine...everything...everything is falling away. Everything is just...wrong. People are going to die. Things are going to get worse. Harry's in the middle. He's just too young! He shouldn't have to be involved in this! Cedric shouldn't have died! None of this should be happening, but it is, and it's wrong, and it's scary...so no, I'm not okay, I feel like crap, my ribs hurt, my head is pounding, I'm tired but can't sleep..." she grumbled, rambling as her body shook.
Fred sat down beside her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her tight against his side. She could feel something hard, something almost square, like a box, in his jacket pocket and his free hand grasped it tightly.
"I know...they told me what happened. Everything's going to be harder here on out. Nothing's going to be the same. But no matter what, no matter what happens, what changes, the one sure constant you have through all this shit, is me..." he whispered.
Aero nodded her head slowly, resting it on his shoulder.
"Hey Fred?" she asked, the same quiet tone he had used.
She was silent for a moment before she closed her eyes and relaxed her body against his and smiled.
"I love you."
Sequel PHOENIZ HONOR is now up.