Author's note: Well, this is the last chapter for Nemesis. I tried to tie up most of the loose ends but as you will notice, there is one thing that is completely unresolved. I have yet to work out a solid plot for the third instalment but obviously the twist within this chapter will have everything to do with the next part. You guys have been an amazing audience and although I have been dreadful about keeping this story updated, I hope you have all enjoyed it anyway.
Also, the end of this story – the very last scene – will have a major impact on the next part but I have yet to fit all these things together into a believable plot.
Tell me what you think and maybe even let me know what you'd like to see in the next story. Any questions or suggestion… just leave a review or drop me a PM. I could do with the ideas! You guys have been an amazing crowd throughout all of this and The Unholy Trinity series has turned into something of almost epic proportions. I wouldn't know what to do with my writing if it wasn't for you guys! ~Cissy
The snow was covered the ground. The rows of gravestones were covered in a fine dusting of the crystal white powder. The trees had been stripped of their leaves and the branches were bare, reaching up to the grey winter skies like bony arms. There were no other footprints in the snow besides her own. No one had come here since the war had ended. She doubted anyone would come here after today. The world around her was covered in silence. The gate that provided entrance to the small cemetery creaked as the wind howled around the headstones, disturbing the snow and lifting it up into the air.
Andromeda stared at the headstones in front of her. The white marble looked untouched by the hands of time, with the inscription still as clear as the day it had been printed. 'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death' was the inscription underneath the names of James and Lily Potter and she was once again painfully reminded of the truth that hid within those words. A lonely tear chased down her cheek as her eyes were drawn to the smaller yet equally white headstone beside the first one. The name Harry Potter was spelled out by ink black letters. Underneath a single sentence had been engraved into the marble. 'For neither can live whilst the other survives.'
"I did what I thought was right," Andromeda said softly as she brushed some of the snow away from Harry's headstone. His body had recovered several days after he had been killed but it had taken weeks before the resistance had managed to bury him in the place where he belonged. He now lay beside his parents in Godric's Hollow. "I fought as hard as I could but I still lost everything that ever meant anything to me, to all of us. If I could do it all again, I would change the outcome. I would undo what has been done wrong and I'd try to save you all."
"I know you knew you didn't have a choice but I still allowed you to die. I did nothing when you made the ultimate sacrifice. Now everyone who believed in you, in us, is gone. No one can help me pick up the pieces and bring life back the way it once was. There is nothing left to save." Andromeda's voice trailed off and from the tip of her wand a wreath of red roses began to form. She placed them against Harry's headstone before repeating the spell and placing the second one against the headstone belonging to James and Lily. "I gave you back your son but I feel like I stole him from you at the same time."
Her eyes snapped up when an unexpected sound filled her ears. It came closer, slowly, and its beautiful tones brought tears to her eyes. The phoenix circled over her head several times before starting its descend and landed in front of her in the snow. Fawkes strode towards her through the snow and nudged her hand. She scratched him on his hand.
"I know phoenix tears have healing powers but not even you can bring back the dead, Fawkes," Andromeda said solemnly. "And your tears can't undo what's been done to this world."
Fawkes continued to nudge her and pecked at the pocket of her robe. She pushed the bird away but he came at her again, a little bit more persistent this time. He nipped at her finger, not hard enough to draw blood but sharp enough for her to feel the pain. Again he nudged her arm before putting his head against the pocket of her robe. Andromeda patted his head. Its feathers were soft under her fingers.
"What do you want, boy?" she asked when the phoenix pecked at her pocket again. Part of the seam caught in its beak and Fawkes gave a firm pull, creating a hole large enough for the item she kept in her pocket to roll into the snow. The golden snitch glistened in the bleak winter sun and Andromeda picked it up. It felt cold in her hand and she looked from the snitch to Fawkes.
"This is what you wanted me to see?" Andromeda asked as she rolled it through her hand and brought it up to her lips to blow the snow off it. Fawkes cocked his head and its little black eyes stared up at her, as if he was expecting something else to happen. Andromeda turned the snitch around and around but couldn't find a reason why Fawkes would have wanted her to look at it. She dropped it back in the snow and her eyes drifted back up to look at the names engraved into the marble.
"I failed you, Harry," Andromeda said softly and the cold wind suddenly tugged at her hair, as if to whisper something she had yet to understand. "But even more so, I failed myself." She reached out a hand and touched the headstone. "I wish I had done things differently. Now that it's over I can finally see that I should have given up a long time ago. My actions killed so many, simply because I wanted to keep believing in something I knew I couldn't save. I'm sorry, Harry. I will always carry that regret with me."
Fawkes made an unexpected noise and Andromeda looked down at the red and orange feathered phoenix in the snow. Fawkes was pecking at the snitch and the sound of its beak knocking against the golden metal was sharp and surprisingly loud. Andromeda gently pushed the bird aside and Fawkes looked up at her as if to try and study her face. She reached inside her sleeve and drew her wand. At the sight of the Elder Wand, Fawkes broke out into a soft but beautiful song.
"You want me to try and get inside this thing?" Andromeda asked the phoenix. "Merlin only knows how your brain is wired, Fawkes. You were Albus' bird. The old coot always had some strange antics going on."
She placed the tip of the Elder Wand on the golden snitch and carefully drew a line across the metal. To her surprise a cut began to burn itself into the outside layer, slowly biting its way through the material. The further she drew her wand, the longer the cut became and to her surprise the two halves of the snitch suddenly fell away from each other. Andromeda's brown eyes snapped back at Fawkes, who was watching her with great interest, and shook her head.
"No wand has ever been able to break a snitch," she said softly. "We tried, when I was in Hogwarts, but it never worked." She looked at the wand in her hand. "But this isn't just your average wand." Her eyes fixed back on Fawkes. "You knew what this thing could do, didn't you? You've spent plenty of time around Albus to know exactly what he was doing."
She picked up the two halves of the snitch and held them in her hand. Something was stuck inside one of the halves and she carefully freed it from its confinement. It was a small black stone, like a pebble someone had taken from a river. It lay in her open palm and glistened in the winter sun. Her heart pounded in her chest when she recognised the marking engraved into its surface and the back of her throat became dry. Unexpected tears burnt behind her eyes as the realisation that she was holding the Resurrection Stone in her hand began to dawn.
"You knew it was here," she whispered to Fawkes and the phoenix almost seemed to nod its head. "Albus put it in here, didn't he?" Her mind began fitting the pieces together. "He must have had the intention for someone else to find it. He never once considered me." She glanced back at the headstone. "It had to be Harry, right? Harry was supposed to find the Resurrection Stone but life took a different route and the snitch's destiny was changed." She looked back at Fawkes. "Did Severus take it? Did he hold onto it for all this time, until now? You answered to Albus and I know Severus was his friend. You were loyal to both of them, weren't you?"
Andromeda took a deep breath and turned the stone over once in her hand and then again. Her breath hitched as she turned it for a third time and a sudden gust of cold wind made that she opened her eyes. Two ghostly pale figures had appeared at her side. Harry was smiling, his hands pushed into the pockets of his jeans. The sight of him brought tears to her eyes and Andromeda covered her mouth with her other hand. Albus Dumbledore stood next to the Chosen One.
"Don't drop the stone, Andromeda," Albus said softly when he noticed the witch's hands were shaking. "You can only see us as long as you hold it in your hand."
"I'm sorry," Andromeda whispered. "If I had done things differently…"
"The outcome may have still been the same," Albus cut her off and he smiled. From behind his half-moon spectacles blue eyed looked down onto the kneeling witch. "You have done well, Andromeda. You did what your heart continued to tell you was best. The voice of our hearts is often the one with the most reason."
"I don't know what else to do now," Andromeda admitted and looked at Harry. "I wish I had told the others about your plan, Harry. I wish I had stopped Ginny, I wish I had been there to protect her. I got too lost in my own emotions to really see what I was doing to my friends." She shook her head. "Many died because they continued to believe in something that didn't exist anymore."
"Neither can live whilst the other survives," Harry said. "Have you ever considered that the prophecy didn't just apply to me and Voldemort?" His green eyes glistened behind his glasses and he walked towards Andromeda, leaving no footprints in the snow. "Have you looked at what has happened to the world, what happened in those final moments, and thought about what those words mean?" He smiled encouragingly. "There was no other way, just like I knew there was no other way for me."
"She couldn't live whilst one of the others still survived," Andromeda whispered and briefly averted her gaze as the truth of those words sank into her heart. The pain they caused was almost unbearable. She'd been carrying it with her since the end of the war, silently and unspoken. "I have yet to believe she does live."
"Only time knows the answer to that," Albus answered. "Time is the one thing that has all the answers."
"What does this mean?" Andromeda asked and looked down at the stone in her hand. "I have the Elder Wand. I have the Resurrection Stone but I do not have The Invisibility Cloak. The Deathly Hallows are incomplete but if I were to unite them, what would it mean?"
"It means that for now the fate of the world lies within your hands," Albus said kindly. "Master of Death as well as Master of Life, Andromeda. People have viewed the Hallows as connected to death but anything that can be used to kill can also be used to create life. You'll know what to do when the times comes."
"You were always a man of many words and few hints," Andromeda smiled and looked up at Albus. "I promise to do my best." Her eyes found Harry and he sensed what she was about to say before she could say it.
"Don't," he said softly. "There's no need for apologies. We all knew what we did and we all knew the sacrifices we would have to make. No one blames you, Andromeda. You ended the war in the only way you could. War takes lives. It destroys lives. But it also leaves behind hope." Green eyes found brown. "Build on that. Use that hope and start over." His image slowly began to fade and Andromeda found herself desperately clutching the Stone tighter in her hand. Harry's smile lingered on. "No one blames you, Andromeda."
"I have to go," she said softly and pushed herself up out of the snow. She looked up to find Albus and Harry still smiling at her. "The Ministry is in shambles and I've been asked to meet with the new interim Minster of Magic. They kicked out McGuinnes and everyone else affiliated with the Three Cores. Some new guy named Xaveak Lingwood."
"We'll always be here, Andy," Harry said and pointed at her hand. "Right beside you."
"I know," she smiled and tears glistened in her eyes. "Thank you."
"Go now," Albus encouraged her and Andromeda slowly loosened her grip on the Stone. Harry and Albus began to fade until they disappeared against the wintery backdrop of the cemetery. A quiet sob escaped her as she slipped the stone in her pocket and she brushed the stray tear from her cheek. She then turned on the spot, called up the image of the Ministry of Magic from her memory and Dissaparated.
She reappeared in London, around the corner from the Ministry. Here the streets were mostly clear of snow, with just a fine layer dusting the rooftops here and there. She quickly made her way across the street and into the Ministry through the new main entrance. The building was undergoing a massive refurbishment as the world attempted to erase any memory of the Three Cores ever ruling the country. Robur Castle on the banks of the river Thames had been destroyed and Muggle building companies had flooded into the city, eager to restore some of London's famous skylines. People were moving back into their houses and with every passing day the world changed a little bit more. To the eye life had returned to normal but to the mind many demons still remained.
Andromeda met Xaveak Lingwood on the third floor of the Ministry, where the temporary office of the acting Minister of Magic was located. The room was nothing but a simple office, without any of the grand decorations Lingwood's predecessors had taken a liking to. A simple desk stood by the window, a couple of shelves were piled high with ancient looking books and various editions of the Daily Prophet littered the floor.
"Sir?" Andromeda asked from the open door way when she saw Xaveak Lingwood standing by the window that overlooked the streets of London. "You wanted to meet me?"
He turned around and the first thing Andromeda noticed were the kind blue eyes and the scar across his face. This was a man who had seen war, who had fought in battle. They shared a quiet moment of understanding before she walked into his office. He shook her hand. She felt the rough skin of unhealed blisters against her own flesh.
"I wanted to talk to you about the aftermath of Hogwarts Castle," Lingwood said as he sank into his chair. He flicked his wand and a similar leather arm chair appeared. Andromeda sat down and folded her hands in her lap. "To be precise, I want to talk to you about your sisters, Bellatrix and Narcissa."
Andromeda swallowed hard and she squared her jaw. "Narcissa's dead."
"I know," Lingwood answered and sensed her sudden change in demeanour. "My apologies for appearing inconsiderate but there are some things that have yet, shall we say, to be cleared up."
"Like what?" Andromeda challenged him. "You found Narcissa's body and destroyed her wand."
Narcissa's lifeless body had been retrieved from the castle ruins the day after the battle. She'd been buried in a small cemetery in the Scottish Highlands in an unmarked grave. The location was known to only a few. Andromeda was one of them but she had yet to visit her sister's burial site. She wasn't sure she wanted to. The knowledge of Narcissa's death had been both liberating as well as devastating and the conflicting emotions continued to dwell within her heart. The Ministry had taken what was left of Narcissa's wand after it was destroyed in the fight and disposed of it. It had been Nymphadora who told her that they broke the wand in two before taking the core and burning it. All that remained from Narcissa's wand was a pile of smouldering ash which had been scattered in an unknown location.
When the sun climbed over the horizon the next morning, the Ministry was overthrown and Lingwood took over from McGuiness. Anyone bearing the mark of the Cores was arrested and imprisoned in Azkaban. Soon the cells were full and a second prison was erected on a larger island in the middle of the North Sea. It was called Falcon Island. Every other day another group of people was sent there by boat, waiting for a trial that was most likely still years away. Members of the resistance now worked for the Ministry and they were searching the country and the rest of the world for those who got away.
"We arrested your nephew Draco Malfoy in the early hours of this morning," Lingwood said and Andromeda's eyes snapped up. "He was found hiding in a village in Hungary and has been transferred to Falcon Island." She knew what he was going to say next, she could see it in his eyes. "Your sister wasn't with him."
"How many people know about this?" Andromeda asked and felt the tension build up in her body.
"Only those who were given the task of locating Draco Malfoy," Lingwood answered. "Katie Bell and your daughter are the only ones who know but maybe it's time we…"
"No!" Andromeda sat up in her chair and the sharpness of her voice caught Lingwood by surprise. Her brown eyes widened and she stared at him. "Minister, I beg you, don't tell anyone about this!"
"Andromeda, it's been four weeks. Don't you think we should tell the world that there's a chance she's still out there?"
"No. I don't want them looking for her. If she's out there then she's weak. She's no harm to anyone. She lost her wand in the battle. You found it and you destroyed it, just like you did Narcissa's. She's no danger to this world any more than I am a danger to you." Andromeda's dark eyes flared up. "Besides, it would be best if the world believes her to be dead, even though her body has never been found."
Lingwood seemed uncertain. "But if Bellatrix…."
"Bellatrix is dead." Andromeda's words were harsh and cold and even though she felt a sharp pang of guilt in her chest, she ignored it. She crossed her arms in front of her chest. "It's for the best if we all just leave things the way they are. My sister is dead, Minister."
"You really believe that?" he questioned.
Andromeda swallowed hard. "I have to."
Lingwood leant back in his chair and his blue eyes met Andromeda's eyes. "I know why you're doing this."
"Then you know not to question me." Andromeda chewed the inside of her cheek. "Minister, I wouldn't be asking this if I didn't think it would be for the best. Bellatrix is dead. For all our sakes, let the world believe it. Like you said, it's been four weeks. For all we know she really is dead and she's been buried in some foreign country where we'll never find her." A tear glistened in her eye, betraying the emotions she kept hidden inside. "My sisters are both dead, Minister."
She stood up. "If you will excuse me, there is somewhere else I need to be."
Lingwood nodded and reached for the quill and ink jar on his desk. "Very well." Andromeda pushed herself out of the leather arm chair and started for the door. She turned around when Lingwood called her back. "How is she?"
Sad brown eyes found blue. "The same."
It wasn't her house but it was home for now. The Ministry had arranged for her move into a house in the city of London. She shared it with Nymphadora, who spent most of her time working these days and only came home every so often. Andromeda closed the door to her townhouse behind her and immediately became aware of a shift in energy within the house. Her hand shot down to her wand and she slowly made her way into the kitchen. It looked exactly like she had left it that morning, with the half empty glass or orange juice still standing to that morning's edition of the Daily Prophet.
One thing however had changed. A parcel lay on the kitchen table, wrapped in simple brown paper and held together with cotton string. Carefully Andromeda walked towards it and inspected it before picking it up. There was no return address or a note to say who had sent it to her. Her fingers hooked behind the cotton holding the wrapping together and she pulled it away. The paper ripped underneath her eager fingers and encountered something soft inside. When she pulled the last bits of paper away she held the item up in her hands. Her mind immediately clicked as to what it was.
"The Invisibility Cloak," she breathed and let her fingers run across the soft material. Her eyes darted around the kitchen. "But how did it get here?"
It was only then that she noticed the bright red phoenix feather tucked inside the brown wrapping paper and a smile graced her lips. She now knew exactly where it had come from. Andromeda carefully put the cloak down and reached into her pocket. She took out the stone and lay it down beside the cloak before taking her wand. The Deathly Hallows lay united on her kitchen table. She'd brought together the items so many had died for. Now it was up to her to make sure that the trail of death ended here.
"Master of Death or Master of Life," Andromeda said as she took the three items and carried them into her living room. She took the box where she kept some of Nymphadora's childhood photos from the top shelf of the cupboard and put the stone and the cloak inside. She replaced the lid and put the box back. It was in plain sight but the one thing she had learnt about life throughout the war was that people never looked at what was in plain sight. They were always looking for what they couldn't see instead of noticing what lay right in front of them.
The closed ward in St Mungo's was not a pleasant place to be. As the doors closed behind her she was greeted by the distinct smell of urine and disinfectant. From behind thick walls, screaming voices penetrated her ears. The doors on either side of the corridor were painted in a simple, dull shade of grey and the sound of her footsteps echoed off the cheap lino floor. From the corner of her eye she watched as two Healers ran past her, towards the room at the end of the hall. The loud banging died down and the voices screaming silences for a few precious moments. This was everyone's imagination of hell; trapped between the walls of madness with no way of ever escaping the monsters in one's head.
Andromeda's heart beat slowly and softly in her chest. The steady rhythm was the only reminder she was still alive, that she had not yet fallen victim to the call of death that whispered within these walls. With her hands firmly in her pocket she crossed the distance of the dimly it hallway. Every cell of her body screamed that she didn't want to be here but every day she kept coming back here, like she was dragged back to a sickening and despicable display of hopelessness and depravity.
She held still when she reached the second last door on the right and placed her hand over the door handle. She knew it would be locked but somehow it made her feel closer to the reason she was here. She rose to the tip of her toes and peered through the barred window. The room behind the door was dark apart from the magical light floating near the ceiling. The walls were padded. The material was worn out, old and grey. Her eyes adapted to the darkness in the room and her gaze fixed on the small form curled up into the corner, pressed against the wall.
"She's been like that for the past five hours," said a quiet voice behind her and Andromeda's head whipped around. The female Healer behind her had kind grey eyes that reflected sadness. "She's refused food or water since yesterday."
"There's blood on the walls," Andromeda whispered. "What happened?"
"She bit herself on her wrists and arms," the Healer answered. "Over and over again. By the time we got to her she'd smeared it all over the walls and her body. She was kicking and screaming." She shook her head. "The sad thing is that she was the clearest I've seen her in weeks when she did it."
"Did she say anything?" Andromeda asked and glanced back into the cell.
The hunched over figure in the corner hadn't moved, even though she knew that she could hear their voices outside. She'd pulled her legs up to her chest and her head rested against her knees. Her fingers had tangled in her thick brown hair. Judging from the bold patches across her head she'd started pulling it out again. Unsightly marks covered her arms and feet. Scabs and bruises desecrated pale, paper thin skin.
The Healer shook her head. "The usual. But it was the look in her eyes that was the alarming part. She seemed clear and bright, like she was right there with us. Usually when she becomes agitated and aggressive, you can see her slip into another delirium but the look in her eyes was almost sane."
Andromeda's eyes fluttered shut and she shook her head. "Oh Hermione, why must you suffer like this?"
"I'd let you see her if I knew for sure she wasn't going to try and rip your throat out," the Healer said and placed a hand on Andromeda's arm. "I'm sorry." She turned around and walked away, leaving the brunette witch standing outside the cell door. Andromeda's hand slid from the door handle up to the bars across the window. It was as close as she was going to get.
Hermione had been here since the end of the war. When she woke up after the battle she'd been imprisoned in Azkaban but her behaviour escalated so quickly that she was transferred to St Mungo's for observation and treatment. By now everyone knew she was most likely never goinh to leave here. Most days she spent screaming inside her cell until her voice was hoarse and she couldn't scream anymore. Her eyes were permanently wide, her pupils dilated. She cried abuse and screamed for Bellatrix day after day. Often the Healers found her hurting herself by smacking her fists against the walls until they bled. When they padded the walls she began biting herself and pulling out her hair.
The destruction of the Three Cores had destroyed Hermione in a way Andromeda had not imagined possible. The figure she saw curled up in the corner of the padded cell was only the empty shell of the girl Hermione had once been. The Cores had destroyed her, torn her apart, until only craziness remained.
"I'm so sorry, Hermione," Andromeda whispered and turned away from the door. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and took a deep breath. She slowly started walking back down the hallway to the door, leaving Hermione's cell behind. This was what it had come to. The war was over. The world was slowly changing back into what it had once been. But within these walls, and within Hermione's head, the world was never going to change. It had been destroyed in a way that it could never be fixed.
Here it would never be over.
Chapter title meaning - Tabula Rasa:
a. The mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience.
b. The unformed, featureless mind in the philosophy of John Locke.
2. A need or an opportunity to start from the beginning.