Ch. 22: Departures
Leo returned to their private rooms without Elliot, not that Oz was very surprised. He barely glanced at the Baskerville, not wanting to look away from the doors to Gilbert's and Break's rooms, as though he expected them to open.
'Is Gilbert still sulking?' Leo asked, sitting next to Oz. Gilbert hadn't liked his task, Oz could tell, and he was using his injuries as an excuse to not have to meet anybody.
Last night, Gilbert had sent Voldemort into Abyss. That thought bothered Oz. Last night, after Gilbert and Break have been taken care of and they could all go to sleep, Oz had woken up screaming and sweating because he had dreamt about the chains dragging him down. Alice had tip toed into his room moments later and wordlessly went to sleep next to him in the bed.
'I suppose,' Oz muttered. 'I wouldn't have thought that this would affect him that much,' he added. He wondered what Gilbert's reaction would have been if he had become Glen and had to send Vincent into the Abyss. Then again, it wouldn't have been the same Gilbert, who would be killing his brother.
'Let's give him until Break wakes up and then we sent Elliot to scold him,' Leo suggested, smirking. Oz laughed shortly, even as bringing up Break made him think to the fragile man in the other room.
Break, using the power of Mad Hatter, had shattered the door to the Abyss in the Ministry, which was really good because they couldn't have left it open. However, that meant that he had used an awful lot of Mad Hatter's power and that was never healthy. He had collapsed afterwards and had yet to wake up since. At least he stopped coughing, Oz thought, remembering Reim's words earlier during the day. The Pandora agent assured Oz and the rest that, while worrying, it was absolutely normal for Break to be in such a state due to using his Chain.
Reim was taking care of both men and was the only person with whom Gilbert had talked until now. Oz strongly suspected that it was only because Reim had to report to Pandora, which the man was currently doing, locked up in his room ever since his shadow had asked, in Sharon's voice, to report.
'Harry Potter woke up,' Leo said tonelessly. Oz ignored the words. 'It seemed like there has been no permanent damage to any of the Gryffindor students, so you can stop beating yourself up for agreeing to Break's plan,' Leo added, making Oz huff in annoyance.
'We both know that Break would have made it happen one way or another,' he said, grudgingly admitting the truth. 'I knew that Break and Gilbert would do everything to not let those kids get hurt,' he added. Of course, the ceiling accidentally crashing as a part of Mad Hatter's madness didn't help much the keeping-out-of-harm plan. Not that the wizards needed to know the cause to the sudden collapse of the ceiling. In the same swipe, Mad Hatter got rid of the Chains present in the room and that was the official version, to which they were going to stick.
'Yeah, I heard that Gilbert went out of his way to make sure that Elliot's Gryffindor sweetheart comes to no harm as well,' Leo commented and summarised part of Hermione's recount of the events. 'Elliot owes him now, because I don't think that she would have survived pieces of concrete or stones on her head,' he added.
At Oz's request, Leo told him everything that he and Elliot have heard from Hermione about the happenings in the Ministry of Magic. He even included Hermione's version of Raven sending Voldemort to the Abyss. When he was done, Reim opened the door to his room and smiled at them.
'We all got commended on a job well done,' he announced with some irony. 'Sharon said that Pandora wants that we stay at Hogwarts until the end of the school year, to not "raise suspicions", as they put it,' he added. Oz shook his head. What did those people think? There was probably not a single suspicion that they haven't already raised and it was going to be a pain to find cover stories for all them.
'So that's it?' he asked. 'There will be no more contacts between the Four Great Dukedoms and the wizarding society?'
'They want to send in a spy,' Reim admitted. 'Upon our arrival, we are supposed to relay all the information we have gathered and they will try to make somebody pass for a regular wizard so that they can survey the Chain situation.'
'Good riddance,' Leo muttered darkly. Reim told them to go and enjoy the nice weather, while he goes to check on Break. Seeing no other option, Oz and Leo left.
The weather was really nice. The sun was shining and, despite the rather late hour, it was still quite warm. They quickly found Alice, who was making flowers dance around her in the air. It reminded Oz a bit too much of his time in the Abyss to truly enjoy it, but he didn't say anything. Together, they went towards the lake, where Elliot and Hermione have already been disturbed by Ginny and George and so they decided to go to Elliot's rescue.
The following day, Elliot and Gilbert had a shouting match about one thing or another and afterwards Gilbert was more or less back to his normal self. He flat out refused to talk about the Ministry or about the topic of his argument with Elliot, but he didn't hide in his room anymore. Later that day, Break woke up and started whining about being bedridden, but both Reim and Gilbert shouted him into submission, which was amusing to watch. If Oz didn't know better, he would have thought that they were back in Pandora.
Fred, Ron and Harry were released to from the watchful eye of Madam Pomfrey two days later. The twins threw a party in the Gryffindor tower and invited Oz and his friends as well, saying that, just because nobody else was celebrating Voldemort's demise, it didn't mean they couldn't. It was true that there was no euphoria after Voldemort's death, since not a lot of people knew and believed that he had been back. Nevertheless, the air was somehow lighter anyway and the teachers were definitely in better moods.
Rounding up the remaining Deatheaters didn't take too long and, although nobody believed that Voldemort had been in the Ministry, they were all nicely tucked away in Azkaban. An investigation around the door of Abyss, which the wizards called "the veil", showed that the two people working on researching it were in fact Deatheaters. It was enough of explanation for Pandora as to the source of the Chains in Great Britain and the investigation was going to be closed as soon as possible, pending only their reports.
Oz didn't feel like writing his report. He and the other three had decided that they had worked for Pandora enough and they treated the remaining month of school as holidays, since they no longer needed to pretend they were eagerly studying. They outright ignored some subjects, like Transfiguration, only attending to those lessons that they enjoyed. Against all odds, one of the latter was Defence against the Dark Arts. Cain Kruspe went out of his way to teach them about countering wizards, should they ever encounter them again.
Instead of doing homework, Oz, Alice, Leo and Elliot spend loads of time in the sun, fully profiting from the freedom that being away from home and Pandora offered. They talked a lot about the future, when they were sure that nobody could hear and they chatted about small things when their Gryffindor friends were around.
Dumbledore informed Reim that he did not wish for Core of Magic to be taught in Hogwarts, something that Reim was extremely grateful for. Neither he nor Pandora had any intentions of continuing teaching in the following years and Dumbledore's decision made it all the easier: they didn't even need an excuse. However, the headmaster of Hogwarts made it clear that any child, wishing to follow the school's curriculum and willing to accept all the school rules, was welcomed. Gracious as the offer was, Oz knew that Pandora saw it only as a potential door into the wizarding society.
They decided to not stay for the final feast, because of Dumbledore's attitude. The headmaster was sour about having to thank two "cold-blooded murderers" for getting rid of his nemesis. Besides, they wished to be on their way as soon as possible and leaving before the feast meant that they could be home one day earlier.
Packed and ready to leave, Oz wandered off to find Harry Potter. What Elliot and Leo had told Harry about Oz was true, but he had decided to overlook it in favour of keeping good memories from Hogwarts. Thankfully, Harry never mentioned their little disagreement either.
He found Harry sitting by the lake, alone, and he went to sit next to the boy, grateful that they would have that moment of peace. Not that he had anything important to say. After all he couldn't admit that Harry had indeed been treated as a bait for Voldemort and that it was a part of the plan from the beginning that Harry gets ambushed in the Ministry. He didn't think that Harry would appreciate to hear that.
'Will you miss it?' Harry asked as soon as Oz sat down. 'The school I mean. I've been thinking about how I will feel in two years, when I leave here for the last time. I'll miss it terribly,' he added. 'This place is like a home to me.'
'It is not for me,' Oz pointed out. It has never been and will never be, he amended. 'I don't think that I will miss it a lot, but I'm happy to have come here,' he answered truthfully, because he felt that Harry deserved honesty. 'But shouldn't you be looking forward to staying with your godfather?' he asked, remembering that Sirius Black has been pardoned and could now officially take his place in the society. Harry beamed at him.
'It will be so awesome,' he said enthusiastically. 'Ron, Fred and George are also looking forward, because Sirius promised that they can come. They can't wait to escape from the parental control at home,' he laughed. Oz laughed as well, although when Harry added that it would have been cool if Oz could join, he sobered up. A small part of him wished that he could witness the chaos that would ensue.
'What will you do now?' Harry asked after a moment of silence. Oz shrugged, calling a smile back to his face.
'Same thing as I did before. I will keep working for Pandora, like a good heir of the Duke family I am, I will keep fooling around with Alice and maybe, if Elliot helps, we can manage to convince Leo to join us,' he replied in a light tone. He fully expected Leo to go back to "Glen mode" as soon as they leave, so the last part didn't seem that realistic. Even Elliot doing anything silly didn't seem probable, considering that he was already coming back to the "responsible Duke mode". Maybe Oz would miss Hogwarts more than he thought he would, after all. 'I'll go back to harassing G-, uh, Raven,' he added, knowing that this would not change.
'So he has a name,' Harry noted, making Oz laugh.
'Of course he has a name, but I'm not telling you,' he replied. He didn't add that Hatter had a name as well that this would remain a secret as well. 'It's not my secret to share and, besides, he deserves the name he used here, so it's alright.'
'What name do you deserve?' Harry asked and all trace of good humour was gone from Oz immediately. Harry probably assumed, correctly, that Raven took the name of the apparition that sent Voldemort to the Abyss. He must have assumed that they all had this kind of apparitions and he wasn't all that far off mark.
'Just Oz,' he muttered, the hurtful words echoing in his head. Harry couldn't know what the problem with that question was, so he forced a smile onto his face and turned back to the Gryffindor. 'I would have thought we shared enough secrets with you and you'd let the rest slide. I'd like to remember you as a friend, not an interrogator.'
'You make it sound like we will never meet again,' Harry muttered and Oz smiled at him kindly, understanding the sentiment even if he didn't feel it. He had known from the very beginning that this was a temporary situation so he was prepared for this. Besides, having spent time waiting for his own life to run its course as the seal progressed, and knowing Break, taught him to enjoy the moment.
'We most probably will never meet,' he said truthfully. There was no point in giving Harry fake hope. 'But you should not see it as a bad thing, because we enjoyed the time we have spent together. "Grief not, rather find, strength in what remains behind",' he quoted his favourite poet. Well, really the only one he knew and only because Sharon was a fan.
'What remains behind?' Harry asked. It was soon time for the feast and their departure, so Oz got up and pulled Harry up as well.
'Memories,' Oz replied, as though it was obvious. 'Memories that you make and feelings that people share with you make you yourself, after all. In times of doubt, if you can remember the people that are important,' he trailed off, not wanting to think about that. Harry looked at him questioningly, but didn't say anything, for which Oz was grateful.
'If, in exchange for memories I have to give up Hermione, then I'm not sure it's a fair deal,' Harry muttered finally, looking away. Oz looked at him for a moment, before realising that Hermione must have told him about Elliot's proposition and the ramifications that went with. Did she tell him what her choice was? Oz was itching to know.
As they made their way towards the castle in silence, Oz saw Elliot and Hermione, standing next to the carriage that would take the islanders home. They haven't noticed them yet, Oz was sure, because they both looked comfortably relaxed. Hermione was saying something, touching her tie and smiling. Elliot replied with a smile and leaned to kiss her.
Ah, the teasing the Nightray would have to endure from Oz for this scene. The very thought made Oz grin internally. He noticed Harry also looking at the two, with a sad expression.
'Maybe it's their farewell,' Oz said, trying to be encouraging. Harry said that he hoped it was and Oz didn't agree so he kept quiet. There was no point in arguing over something neither of them had any influence on.
By the time Oz and Harry reached Elliot and Hermione, the latter two have finished their good byes and stood a bit further apart, awkwardly trying to look anywhere but at each other. Oz smiled at them, knowing that Harry didn't. Elliot glared, which was his way of friendly acknowledging Oz, while Hermione smiled slightly. From up close, Oz could see the Nightray emblem pinned to her tie and his eyes widened.
When Gilbert joined them, moments later, his gaze lingered on the emblem for a couple of seconds, before he looked at both Hermione and Elliot carefully. Oz thought he could see him smile slightly at his younger brother, but he couldn't be sure and Gilbert quickly got into the carriage without a word.
As Oz apologised to Hermione and Harry, for Raven's rude behaviour, he could feel the glare from inside the carriage. It only made him grin.
Break and Reim came up to them soon after and Reim whispered something to Break. Before going into the carriage, the latter grinned in the general direction of Hermione and Elliot, who were both becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Yes Elliot, you're that easy to read, Oz thought, grinning and waving at the twins, Ron, Ginny, Leo and Alice, making their way across the lawn. Further away, he could see students lurking in the windows, watching them go. He laughed at their behaviour.
'I was almost wondering if you would show up,' Oz said when the Gryffindors reached them. Ron stopped as close to Hermione as he possibly could and, when she didn't step away, he grinned. He seemed to think that he was winning. Oz could see Harry avoid Ron's gaze and he wondered if Harry and Hermione would make a secret out of her decision.
'So, if you guys ever come in the neighbourhood,' Fred said with a grin and they all knew that it was just empty words. When George finished his sentence, saying that they should stop by to say "hi", Oz nodded.
'We will do that,' he assured them. He exchanged hugs with all the Gryffindors and so did the other three, except for Elliot, who didn't even try to approach Ron but got a kiss from Hermione instead, much to Ron's obvious displeasure. The twins whistled and laughed, especially when Elliot and Hermione blushed.
Without a word, Elliot got into the carriage, followed by Leo and Alice. Oz smiled at the Gryffindors one last time and got into the carriage himself. It was the same carriage in which they have arrived ten months ago. It had spacious and comfortable inside that easily fitted the seven of them. Break knocked on the wall and the carriage moved.
'Finally,' Leo muttered in the voice of Glen, while Oz leaned against the window, waving at the Gryffindors. As they slowly disappeared from his view, Oz wondered if he would really never see them. Break unwrapped a lollipop and put it in his mouth, mumbling unclearly about well-deserved holidays. Reim muttered "paperwork" in reply, making both Break and Gilbert grumble unhappily.
'So is she coming?' Alice asked Elliot, but the Duke of Nightray merely smiled.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you had fun! Double thanks to those who took their time to review.
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