We've been through a lot, me and Sirius. I've hated him, I've loved him. He was my best friend through Hogwarts, closer than James or Peter. He was always better to me than they were. Sure he was even closer to James, but I didn't mind that - I'm an introvert, I was fine watching and giving them tips on how to improve their pranks, rather than actually participating and getting credit (or rather blamed) for it. Of course if I did help and I went well, they'd all credit me, but even then I was happy to stand in the background and watch.
It's what I'm doing now, really, standing back and watching. There's nothing I can do – I'm duelling two masked death-eaters when I catch it out the corner of my eye. A blur of movement, running a few yards further into the centre of the room and a few flashes of red light, a taunt from Sirius that catches my attention. I look over, see his smiling face, laughing, I want to laugh with him. I would, were my death not a certainty in the near future if I stop duelling. I feel my lips flinch into an involuntary smile, but then my focus remains on the more pressing matter before me. Sirius is still laughing, I can keep fighting.
It's when the laughter stops that I really have to pause. Thankfully my opponent has just collapsed, so I feel no worry about turning to see why my best friend isn't so pleased anymore. With the echo of his last taunt still resounding in my ears, I see his expression fall, his eyes falter from their adrenaline pulsed state to one of a more fearful stance. There's nothing I can do, only watch as his legs buckle and he falls back through the stone archway behind him. The veil accepts his body slowly, like a feather floating slowly to the ground. There's no saving him now, my mind registers. My feet are plastered to the floor. My legs have turned to lead. My entire body from head to toe is numb, except that spot in my stomach which is so alive, pulsating and screaming; this can't be real.
I feel like I'm going to be sick, until all at once his body is gone, vanished from sight, and someone is shouting his name.
Harry! Harry is running toward the dias. He's not as close as I am, but he's sprinting. At last my adrenaline kicks in and I'm running too, suddenly completely aware that if I don't head him off then he's going to follow his godfather through the archway. I barely even notice that I'm moving until my arms make contact with Harry's, and I have to tell myself to constrict them around him in some way before he jumped through. As he struggles against me, my stomach protests. I'm about 50% certain that I'm going to collapse or be sick within the next few seconds.
Words fall out of my mouth, saving my body the turmoil as the boy lessens his resistance against me. I'm telling him it's too late, I'm fully aware of the words that are coming out of my mouth, but I don't want to believe them myself. I can't bring myself to say another word, but he's having none of it. I can't let Harry follow him though, so I settle for tightening my grip on him. He's still struggling against me, as strong as ever. I can feel myself weakening, falling subject to the pain that edges ever closer. Harry is shouting, screaming at me that Sirius hasn't gone. I want to agree with him. At this moment I want nothing more than to see my best friend walk out from behind that curtain, but a part of my brain, that stupid part of my brain called logic gives me a little piece of information that I don't want to listen to. I can hear my voice shaking, and I have to fight to keep it steady. If I'm not careful, I might not last very long before I completely crack.
"He is not dead!"
I honestly can't tell you if that is Harry or my heart screaming those words. It could be both. All I know is that there is still a battle going on around us, and the little bubble that surrounds Harry and I might not last much longer. It occurs to me that Harry should probably leave the room, and so I proceed, unwilling to reason and convince him to move using words. I only manage a few steps however, and it is much to my relief that Harry appears to have stopped struggling.
I take a moment to survey the room around us, and clock the position of Tonks who is currently unconscious. This only adds to my worried state, and so I focus on the boy by my side, who I now hold with only one hand on his arm as a precaution, and promise myself that I will look after Tonks tonight.
It is still painfully obvious that Sirius won't be returning through that veil, and the pain this causes me is so immense that for a second I am forced to calculate whether or not this is a full moon, which of course it is not. It's a different kind of pain, anyway. Not the horrible, torturous tearing of muscles from bones, more the heart-being-ripped-in-two kind of dull and horribly constant pain of oncoming tears.
I purposely turn away from the arch, focusing my mind back on the living. It occurs to me that several children are not within my view, and it takes a lot of energy for me to very deliberately turn my attention to helping others. Mentally unable to do a silent incantation, I bring the uncontrollable movement of Neville's legs to a halt, and focus on every syllable as I take charge and ask for the whereabouts of the rest of the students.
A fluster of movement, spells and anger catches my attention, and before I can form a reaction, Harry slips from my grip and charges at Bellatrix Lestrange, ignoring all of our shouts and warnings. It is his shouts of vengeance that finally pull the last ounce of strength from my body, as the words he fires into the universe seem o fly into my soul like darts, and pierce the very last bits of hope left inside me.
And with that, I break.
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