A/N: I'm sorry for the delay. I knew what I wanted this chapter to be about but somehow I couldn't write it down.
On the one hand, I'm glad I've managed to finish this story because it isn't one of my strongest points when it comes to writing. But on the other, I'm going to miss Holly and Regulus :/ But anyway…
Thanks to everyone who read this story, faved it and/or left a review. I really appreciate your feedback ;) And special thanks to zebra-scarf for motivating me to sit down and finish writing the last chapter.
So, you know what to do: enjoy and review :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
One of the Reasons
13. Epilogue: Memories Are Bittersweet
It was the beginning of Holly's seventh year and she was spending even more time in the library than before. She still hadn't figured out what she wanted to do in the future but she knew that without education she would not get far. So she studied really hard for her N.E.W.T.s and she did it mostly in the library because she enjoyed the place and liked working there. Except when she remembered a certain young Slytherin who used to sit at the table near the window and stare at her.
She knew thinking about him was stupid and pointless. After all, she was the one that told him to go to hell and never come back again. She still thought it was the right decision but it hurt nevertheless. After two years, it still hurt. And on a certain Friday evening in September it started to hurt even more.
She was sitting in an armchair in the Hufflepuff common room, taking a deserved break from all the studying. Her friends were not around for once and she stared idly at the fire, listening to the buzz of conversation around her. Suddenly, she heard a familiar name being spoken and she turned her attention to a group of younger boys sitting nearby.
"…Blacks are really on his blacklist now," one of them was saying and the others laughed.
"Why?" a definitely younger boy asked, looking at the others in wide-eyed surprise.
"Are you kidding, Jerry?" the first one snorted. "It's obvious, isn't it? First Sirius Black becomes a Gryffindor and sure as hell doesn't want to be friends with You-Know-Who or his DE's. And now his younger brother turns out to be another black sheep of the family."
"Yeah? What did he do?"
"Come on, Jerry, you're just playing dumb, aren't you?"
"What? My parents are Muggles, we don't get The Daily Prophet."
"Well, it's high time you started getting it or you're always be in the black– I mean, dark." The other boys howled with laughter at another "Black" joke. Holly thought it was getting rather old.
"Wait, it wasn't in The Daily Prophet!" one of the others protested. "My dad heard it at work."
"Yeah, so did mine. But who cares? Okay, I'll tell you. So, this Regulus Black was a good boy, well, at least from his family's point of view, and he became a DE. Some time last year, I think. But he obviously didn't have the stomach for it because after a while he chickened out."
"You can do that?"
"Of course not, Jerry," the older boy scoffed at him. "That's why they killed him."
Holly had to grab the sides of her armchair because the world was spinning so fast. Regulus was dead?
She barely made it out of the common room before the tears came. She knew she wasn't supposed to cry for evil Death Eaters but she couldn't help it. Regulus didn't deserve to die. He wasn't really a bad person. She had liked him and that was why she had hoped he would have the guts to do the right thing. When he chose the other side, she was angry and disappointed. But she never wanted him dead…
That evening in the girls' dormitory she didn't even try to hide her distress. When her friends asked her what was the matter, she told them one of her Muggle friends had died. They were so sympathetic and supportive that she was glad of this lie. It would have been much harder to bear if they weren't there for her.
/\ \/ /\
Holly finished Hogwarts with a clear idea of what she wanted to do. There was a war going on and she knew she couldn't just sit at home and wait for it to end. She got a job at the Ministry of Magic along with some of her friends – they were producing leaflets with guidelines for keeping oneself and one's family safe. It wasn't much but at least she felt she was a part of something.
Everything changed on 31st October, 1981 when He Who Must Not Be Named was defeated while trying to kill Harry Potter. After ten dark years there was finally peace and the world was normal once more. And Holly had all her life before her.
But the very next day the moment was spoiled for her. Sirius Black had been arrested and sent to Azkaban for killing his friend and twelve Muggles. He was also said to have betrayed the Potters. It was a shock to everybody who knew him or even heard of him but Holly was completely stunned by the news. Had he been You-Know-Who's follower all these years? Was he his spy at Hogwarts? Were the Black brothers just pretending to hate each other? But Regulus sounded so sincere… But if this was a lie, maybe he was lying about not wanting to be a Death Eater, too?
So instead of celebrating with everyone else the fall of Voldemort, she was questioning Regulus's motives and berating herself for crying after his death. But she was a strong person and she got over it. She told herself that she did the right thing breaking it off and that it was all behind her. She would not be fooled by him again.
Soon afterwards she took a journalist course organized by The Daily Prophet and then a Muggle one to get more experience. She worked for a while at Witch Weekly (although recipes and household spells were not her cup of tea), then for Quidditch Madness (after a year her articles started appearing in the first half of the magazine and she even got to interview a couple of players), and then in Ministry's Press Bureau where she prepared press releases and organized press conferences for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. And then one day she opened the newspaper and saw an advertisement that changed her life. Her favourite Quidditch team, Wigtown Wanderers, was looking for a spokesperson and Holly realized it was a perfect job for her. Apparently, the managers thought she was the perfect person for it, too.
She was responsible for talking to the press about everything involving the team and the players, and for organising press conferences and interviews. It was a challenging and quite stressful job but there were also amazing fringe benefits. She got the best seats for every match, she could come to practice any time she wanted and she got to spend a lot of time with the players. And that was how she met Edwin "Van" Vancoller, the team's Keeper, who became her husband three years later.
Edwin was always cool, calm, and collected, whether he was defending his goalposts or solving a personal problem, and he always managed to calm her down. People who knew them joked that in their marriage she was the fire and he was the water. But in this case the opposites did not collide and she was tremendously happy. And even though he was a professional Quidditch player and was training all the time, the fact that they worked in the same place allowed them to spend enough time together to make their marriage work.
\/ /\ \/
In spite of her pessimistic predictions, when the Quidditch World Cup took place in Britain, she was only 32 and quite capable of enjoying it. But she didn't have a good time. First of all, they were constantly surrounded by screaming people who wanted to get Edwin's autograph and the photographers' flashbulbs blinded them wherever they went. And when they finally arrived at their seats, which were really high up, Holly looked down at the magnificent stadium and was reminded of Regulus and of the conversation they had had about this moment. And that wasn't exactly her idea of fun.
But the worst thing happened during the night, when Death Eaters appeared in the middle of the campsite. Luckily, nobody was hurt but it was another remainder of Regulus and it was too much for her. When they finally got home the next day, she told Edwin her "big, dark secret". She had never told anyone about this before because it was just too weird and difficult to explain, and she still had mixed feelings about the whole thing. But she trusted Edwin and after the events of the previous night she needed to get it off her chest. And he didn't judge her – he just listened and comforted her.
They were celebrating their fourth anniversary the night that Voldemort returned, though they weren't aware of it at the time. For the next year they were torn between believing Harry Potter and believing the Ministry. And though it seemed that everything was all right, they had discussed their options in the event of You-Know-Who's return to power, and so after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries they put their plan to action. They quit their jobs, which weren't much useful under the circumstances, and started working for an underground newspaper. Holly was one of the writers and Edwin was in charge of its distribution. These were dark times and every day Holly was afraid she would not see him again. Sometimes she even thought of running away and hiding but she was always ashamed of it afterwards.
But they were lucky and they survived. When it was all over, they spent two weeks in Ireland, hiking and enjoying the peace and quiet. And when they got back, there was a surprise waiting for her. The Daily Prophet had published an obituary for all the people who have died fighting Voldemort and there was Regulus's name on that list, right above his brother's…
"Oh my–" she gasped and showed the paper to Edwin. "What does that mean?"
"That he died fighting Voldemort, I suppose," he replied calmly. There was no trace of sarcasm in his voice.
"But how come– I mean, how do they know this?" she asked, looking fervently around the page for some explanation.
"I guess you could ask Harry Potter," he suggested after a while.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Regulus died many years ago and there was never any rumour that he had changed sides, was there? So it was probably discovered recently. And if that's the case, then Harry Potter should know something about it."
It seemed quite logical so Holly sent a letter to Mr Harry Potter, explaining that she had been Regulus's friend before he became a Death Eater and that any information about the circumstances of his death and change of heart would be very welcome.
For the next couple of days she was constantly looking out for the return owl. She had thought it was all behind her but this new revelation really shook her. She realized she still cared, and that the hope that Regulus was in fact a good person never really died.
On the evening of the fourth day of waiting she was lying on the couch, tired after a whole day of work (everybody was eager to start afresh after Voldemort's reign and the Quidditch League was no exception), when Edwin walked into the room, holding an envelope in his hand.
"It's from him," he said simply. "Do you want me to go away?"
He wanted to give her some privacy but she realized she didn't want to read the letter alone.
"No, Van, please stay."
Edwin sat down on the couch beside her and she snuggled up to him. She took out a piece of parchment from the envelope, unfolded it slowly and started to read.
Harry Potter was sorry for her loss and said he understood why seeing Regulus Black's name on that list must have been a shock to her. He didn't have much information about Regulus's motives but he knew for certain that sometime before his death in the summer of 1979 he had changed his mind about Voldemort, found out about one of the Horcruxes and sacrificed himself to destroy it.
"I feel terrible right now," she whispered after she finished reading.
"Why?" Edwin furrowed his brow, scanning the letter.
"The last time we spoke, I basically told him he was a coward. And all this time I thought he was one. But sacrificing himself? That must have taken a lot of courage."
"Maybe he wanted to prove to you that he wasn't a coward after all?"
Holly considered it for a moment and suddenly realized something.
"Then it's my fault he's dead!"
"Okay, then you're also responsible for the fact that we didn't win the league in 1991 because during the matches I was thinking about the best way to propose to you and not about the game."
She looked at him in disbelief. That was not the time for jokes. Usually he was more sensitive.
"Look," he continued and this time she was sure he was serious, "you can't be responsible for the influence you have on other people. I mean, you didn't tell him: go and do this. If he wanted to prove to you that he wasn't a coward, then it only means that you were really important to him."
"Well, he should have said something. I mean, how was I supposed to know about this?"
"He couldn't send you a letter, could he? That would have been too dangerous. For both of you." Edwin was amazingly patient with her when she was this distraught.
Holly took a couple of deep breaths and was finally able to see things more clearly. It didn't really matter if Regulus did it for her or not. Actually, as it had already been too late to get into her good books, he probably did it because he believed that he was doing the right thing. And that meant a lot.
She sighed and put her head on Edwin's shoulder.
"I'm sorry for all this. You're probably fed up with this Regulus stuff. But it was really important to me. And now I can finally let it go."
"It's okay. I've realized, you know, that he and I have something in common."
"You mean me?" she asked half-jokingly.
"Yes, you." Edwin pulled her closer to him. "Holly, you are the best thing that has happened to me. And I think Regulus felt the same way."
Holly smiled. It seemed she was the lucky one here. Besides having a wonderful husband, she finally got proof that she hadn't been mistaken about Regulus. All was well.