The orderly classification of information is everything. It is essential, it brings order from chaos. It combines utility and beauty.
It is difficult to cling to this belief. The information I have painstakingly collected over the past few hours is ugly, but the truth often is. I have indexed injuries, listed lacerations, collated casualties and catalogued crimes. I have carefully created a directory of the dead.
My presence in the Hospital Wing was questioned by many.
I am not well liked by the students, I know that. They are foolish, unruly and disrespectful towards my charges. Even the brightest of students treat my books with a contemptible lack of respect. They vandalise and vilipend them. They turn page corners rather than use a bookmark. They deface them with inane scribbles and unfunny jokes. They are incapable of seeing the beauty and power of books, but are capable of spotting an almost-rude word or phrase in the most serious of texts, and encircling it for others to find!
They are so childish!
'That is because they are children, Irma,' Albus Dumbledore's oft repeated reminder remains in my head.
Children do not deserve to die. No one deserves to die ... well … except, perhaps, some who are more monster than person.
I would have defended Poppy, had the need arisen. I am a reasonably proficient duellist, and I am certainly used to dealing with odd, unusual, and highly dangerous spells. The Libraries Restricted Section can occasionally be a very dangerous place.
I have filled over one hundred pages of Poppy's journal tonight. Every injury, every statement has been painstakingly penned. There are fifty-nine dead and a similar number seriously injured. I can provide information to anyone who asks. I can re-index the dead and injured by age, sex, occupation, time of injury, time of death, and cause of death (which, far too often, is the Killing Curse). I have the power of knowledge and organisation. I can distil a bewildering array of facts into an orderly and easily understood system, because I am a librarian.
Poppy is exhausted, and so are the students who have helped her. Soon, when we can be certain of the competence of the volunteers who have arrived from St Mungo's, we will join the celebrations. Then we can finally rest.
In the aftermath of this night, as we leave the caliginosity of the past, we can but hope that the events of this abstergent evening will bring an end to years of gloom.
I of course, did nothing in the Battle. Several people have already told me this.
I did not fight and I did not heal, therefore, I did nothing.
I worked all night, doing nothing.
With quill in hand, I recorded the night's events. Nothing? A waste of time? I do not think so. I am no Healer, no Auror and no warrior. I did what I could, what I do best.
Historians will thank me; Auror Shacklebolt has already thanked me, and taken a copy of my information.
The Library teaches silence, stillness and order. The library gives knowledge. I have read the histories. I know that the death toll during the Goblin Rebellions was higher, and that the atrocities carried out by both sides were greater, perhaps that is why I can cope. Worse things have happened to wizardkind. They have not, however, happened to these wizards.
Is one tragedy less than another simply because it was long ago, or because there are fewer corpses? Is it greater because several of the victims were teenagers?
I am approached by an Auror, a woman named Phillipa. She takes me to a classroom filled with her harassed and extremely busy colleagues. I answer their questions. The Aurors, too, are attempting to make order from chaos and my notes provide them with vital information.
Remus Lupin was killed by Anton Dolohov, I tell them. I give the names of those who witnessed his death, and reported it to me when his body arrived. Dolohov was subsequently stunned by Professor Flitwick, but died when a giant thrown boulder landed on his unconscious body.
'He didn't suffer then?' one Auror mutters. 'Pity.'
Lupin's wife was killed by her aunt, Bellatrix Lestrange. Bellatrix was, in turn, killed by Molly Weasley. The remains of Bellatrix's husband, Rodolphus, were found in the forest; he was full of Acromantula venom. No witnesses have come forward. Perhaps his death was an accident. As I continue down my list, I am thanked and thanked again.
Unfortunately, I fail Minerva McGonagall when she too arrives to request information. The youngest casualty of the Battle, Colin Creevey, died alone. His death, like that of Rodolphus Lestrange and several others, was not witnessed. It was unreported until his body was found and brought to the Hospital Wing. I scour my notes and tell the acting Headmistress everything I know.
I tell her that Poppy examined the body and declared that the boy had died from the Killing Curse. He had, however, been injured shortly before his death. He had three broken ribs, injuries which were consistent with him having been hit by the end of a pole, a broom, probably. Poppy should know, as she has seen many students rammed by brooms over the years.
Colin Creevey's wand was not with him when he was brought inside. His body was found by Oliver Wood and Neville Longbottom and they provided me with its location.
Creevey's devastated parents, and his distraught brother, want answers. I cannot provide them. The boy's wand was not where he fell. Perhaps his killer took it? I can tell them where his body was found, and approximately when. I can even tell them that he probably saved the life of an Auror, a woman called Protheroe. But I cannot tell them who killed their son.
Minerva summons both Wood and Longbottom and questions them carefully. They looked for his wand, they tell her, but did not find it. The Longbottom boy looks exhausted, he is close to tears as he talks. Wood is sombre, but he is being supported by a girl he calls Katie and they are sharing their grief.
'Sorry, Professor,' Longbottom apologises.
Minerva McGonagall cuts across him, she too is close to tears, and her voice catches in her throat as she speaks.
'You did a magnificent job this year, Mr Longbottom,' she tells him. 'You are a credit to your parents, to Gryffindor House and to Hogwarts. I am certain that your grandmother will be very proud of you.'
Longbottom stands tall for a moment, then slumps again.
'But Colin's dead,' he says. 'And so is Fred Weasley. How many died?'
'Fifty-nine, including eight definitely from the other side, and five more who, at the moment, we have no idea about,' I tell him. 'But the Aurors and Law Officers are still searching the grounds.'
'Try to rest, Neville,' says Minerva gently. 'You need it.'
She dismisses the youngsters and watches them leave.
'Can I rely on your discretion, Irma?' she asks.
'Of course,' I assure her. She casts several security spells, ensuring that we will not be overheard.
'Do we have any books relating to the creation of a Horcrux?' she asks, whispering the final word.
'No,' I tell her.
'No?' She is on edge, and it is obvious that she does not believe me. I decide to trust her with my greatest secret.
'Albus removed them all, the year before last,' I tell her. 'He asked my permission, of course. I know my shelves, and he knew that I would notice if he simply took them.'
'Do you know what he did with them?' Minerva asks.
'He said that he was taking them to his office for safekeeping. But they were not there after he was killed, Minerva, I checked. Either he destroyed them, or…'
'Or Potter, or more likely Miss Granger, took them,' Minerva suggests. I nod.
'From what I hear, Potter certainly seemed to know what he was doing,' I reply. 'Albus asked me to tell no one, Minerva. I have broken his trust by telling even you.'
'Your secret is safe with me, Irma,' she assures me. 'I will speak to Potter, but I suspect that he too will want this kept secret. He may even have destroyed the books. Would that bother you?'
The idea of destroying books is repugnant. It goes against everything I have been taught, everything I believe. Books lift the brume of ignorance. But perhaps the loss forever of those dreadful books would be condign, an appropriate threnody for the fallen.
'Not at all,' I tell her.
These stories were originally written for a house collaboration challenge at HPFF and I'd like to thank my friends at HPFF for their assistance and support in the conception and birth of this collection. Melian in particular, deserves praise. It's a pity that I can't publicly thank her on HPFF. Melian's work rate (15 stories) spurred me to submit 22 "Tales" in a little over a month, helping my house to win the challenge.
The original (challenge) versions of these stories were little more than first draft plot outlines with a lot of embarrassing typos. Many of them were only 500-800 words long (500 words was the minimum allowable for a valid submission). The HPFF contest was going for quantity, not quality, and that's what they got from me. After the contest closed I asked (and was given permission by) both my house and the moderators to remove my stories from the collaboration in order to expand and rewrite them.
Unfortunately my HPFF friends are unable to read these stories on that site. Two months after the competition closed (and a month after I'd received permission to remove my stories from the collaboration) a senior admin introduced a new rule declaring that removing stories from a collaboration was "contrary to the family nature of the site" and that "from here forwards" all such stories would have their reviews removed, and any future reviews would be deleted too.
I naïvely assumed that this wouldn't apply to me. After all, Dolores Umbridge couldn't punish Harry for creating the DA because he did it the day before she made the decree banning new organisations. Even in the less than perfect wizarding world, new laws aren't applied retrospectively. HPFF, I discovered, are not as fair and reasonable as Dolores Umbridge. I queried the admin's decision, and was instantly banned. My stories were deleted and I became an unperson.
As you can probably tell, this still rankles. Until the new rule was introduced I had never received any warnings. Thanks to the rule I went from "just another writer" to rule-breaker and I was banned within two days of its imposition. I'm saddened that the HPFF'ers won't see the final version of "Tales" on the site for which it was written, but there's nothing I can do about it.
As I'm sure you've realised from the above, this is the last chapter of Tales of the Battle. You are the first to see the final completed version which is twenty-five chapters, not twenty-two, and 45,000 words, not 29,000. If you're interested the three new chapters are the final three. Paperwork grew from a story rejected from the collaboration (not an easy thing to achieve), Ouroboros and Index are entirely new. These Tales of the Battle (along with Fred and George's Busy Day, Summer of '97, and Grave Days) form the foundation on which all of my other stories are built. Thank you all for reading.
Special thanks to the four dozen or so people who (at the time of writing) have left reviews on this site. Reviews mean a lot to me.
Extra-special thanks to my most prolific reviewers: fanficfan1037, Friend of Molly, sbmcneil, Rebecka, Fireburnshot, and Stephanie O. :-D
This motley collection of tales would not have been possible without the help and encouragement of my fellow Gryffindors at HPFF, many of whom caught the gross errors in the early drafts. Nor would it have taken this shape without my brilliant betas. In alphabetic order they are: Andrea (still asking "why?" after all these years), Apurva (who did the first few chapters), Justice, and Molly (who has been with me since chapter 5).
And finally, I apologise for this rant.