The smell of sweat, urine and blood; sweet and nauseating.
A horrible gurgling and gasping noise.
A view of his boots; his heels are scratching on the filthy floorboards.
Moving upwards and into the room, following Harry, now she can see more of the body. Harry's shoulder is in the way. She moves to the right. Finds the empty bottle in her beaded bag, passes it to her friend, looks down at the mess of blood, mucus and silver memories leaking from the face, eyes, ears, nose.
Harry takes the memories. Green eyes look into black eyes. Soon neither man breathes.
Two hands shoving Harry forwards – "Go; use the memories, Harry! Ron - go with him – I'm right behind you!"
Moving forward. Hands on his chest, fingers pushing into sodden cloth. Head bows, tears splash onto the bloodless face. Of all the deaths today, later this one will hurt the most.
Suddenly his eyes open again, the chest heaves, his hands flail and grab hers.
Adrenaline explodes in her chest.
"RON!" She screams.
No one comes…
His right hand has closed over the old Time-Turner that has fallen forward out of her shirt. She is at a loss for what to do. She scrabbles in her bag again – finds the Essence of Dittany –is there enough? She is sure there is not, but empties the phial anyway on the pulsing wound. He writhes in renewed pain and she pulls backwards, frightened. As she does so, the fine chain that holds the Time-Turner snaps. Frantic fingers search his coat for anything else she can use; she finds Blood-Replenishing Potion and pours it into his open gasping mouth. He coughs and chokes. It is still not enough. Desperate, she learns forward again towards his face and feels his breath, thin and shallow on her cheek. His eyes are thick pools of pain and frustration and anger. His mouth moves, but he clearly cannot form words; nonetheless she can feel that he is chanting something. Blood suddenly wells through his mouth and nose, diluting the silver streams that had spread on his skin.
"Ohhhh Christ! Professor!"
She presses her hands on his chest again. He gasps. His fingers twist the Time-Turner, slick with blood. His eyes burn into hers – was that an apology? Her heart begins to race in her chest as her panic rises even further. His lips are still moving and again she is aware that he is trying to do something, to tell her something. She grabs his hands in an effort to try to focus his attention further.
"Professor – what can I do? I have tried everything I can. We need to get you to the Infirmary, I'm sure that Madam Pomfrey will be able to help you…"
He seems to gentle under her touch, and his lips still but his eyes continue to search hers, as if looking for something within them. His face relaxes, and he almost smiles before finally closing his eyes.
She feels a tug behind her navel and suddenly cannot breathe. His body seems to blur in front of her, through her tears. Reflexively she grips the front of his coat and cries out as a ripping pain pulls through her chest.
His chest rises.
The Black Lake is tranquil and silent as the group of mourners gather.
Memories fragment and move faster.
Images and the memory of emotions flicker past her mind's eye.
A grey stone coffin, not white like Dumbledore's. Somehow white marble does not seem appropriate for someone who has spent so much of his life in the shadows.
Ron's arm around her shoulders provides reassurance but not understanding.
She feels a physical ache that is so profound she can almost feel it like a pulse in her chest and belly.
Harry speaks briefly about lost opportunities and regrets and the nature of bravery.
He seems guilt ridden, but all the survivors share that.
11 years later
I hope that you are okay and work is going well. Life back here at Hogwarts has been pretty uneventful. Harry is enjoying teaching (who would have thought?) and I have settled in as well. The children are both happy living here and Lily loves the animated soldiers that you sent for her birthday -"
- too much! If you knew how many times I've tripped over the wretched things or found them stuck down the sofas or in her bedding!
"…I know that you are really busy right now on your dig, but there is something that I really need to show you at the castle. It's a bit of a puzzle really, and I wanted to ask your advice…"
Ginevra Potter paused, squinting at the manuscript in front of her. It had been more than ten years since Hermione had left Hogwarts with Ron and Harry. Unlike Harry, however, Hermione and Ron had not only left Hogwarts, but Britain itself. Anxious to avoid the media attention that had accompanied the fall of Voldemort, Hermione had gone to see her parents in Australia to restore their memories, but she decided to stay once Ron had secured a contract playing professional Quidditch for the Sydney Sirens and Hermione had been accepted onto a graduate archaeology programme at Maquarie University. Since gaining her PhD, Hermione had worked on various archaeological digs across Indonesia and in Europe, publishing her research regularly in Muggle and Wizarding journals.
She and Ron had initially seemed happy enough to Ginny, who did not see them regularly, but as the months passed it became clear that they were growing apart. She rarely accompanied Ron back to visit the family at the Burrow or Grimmauld Place, often citing work commitments or giving other excuses not to be in the UK. They had not married, nor had children, something that had surprised everyone as Ron had made it clear that he had expected children and Hermione doted on their godchildren Lily, James and Albus. After five years, Ron's contract expired, and he signed for the Chudley Canons.
When Ron came home, Ginny had cornered him at the top of the stairs in Grimmauld Place about the end of his relationship with Hermione. Never one for overanalysing his actions, Ron had shrugged and been evasive. Under his sister's relentless pressure, he eventually let out that Hermione had changed, become shut off from him and sunk in her work. She was obsessed with finding something important, Ron had said bitterly, something to make her reputation in her academic field. He had angrily denied that there was someone else, that he had done anything to push her away. "It's almost like she never got over the end of the war, Gin." He had said and pushed past her to go to the bathroom.
Hermione did not return to Britain after Ron and she split up and apart from Christmas and birthday presents for the kids, she had had very little contact with Ginny and Harry, despite the Potter's best efforts to keep in touch.
Ginny's eyes refocused on the parchment in front of her. How to phrase this so that she would come back, then? Too much information in the letter and Hermione would simply reply to the question. Not enough and she would surely make another excuse to stay in Italy. Ginny tapped her quill lightly on her nose…
"… It's about Snape's headmaster's portrait; and… erm… you…."