Chapter 45: Guilt has no Place in War
Harry didn’t know how he got back to the castle, but he supposed that either Ginny or the founders helped him walk. He certainly didn’t have any control over his own movements. It might have been seconds or it might have been years but eventually red furniture swam before his eyes and he realised he was back in the Nest.
Glancing up, Rowena’s tear-stained face swam into view, her mouth moving, indicating she was trying to say something. He shook his head and stared at the ground, his ears filled with buzzing as his mind struggled to comprehend what had happened.
He saw Fawkes’s death over and over, his last whispered words echoing through his ears. Harry let his hands hold his head, closing his eyes in an effort to block out the images that seemed so determined to torture him.
He became dimly aware of two small hands trying to pry his own away from his face. Letting the persistent force win he raised his head and stared into two beautiful and grief-stricken eyes. Blinking twice, the eyes gradually turned into Ginny’s face and she gave a tremulous smile.
That was all his emotions required and without warning, tears started pouring down his face once again, dripping off his chin and splashing onto his lap. Ginny wiped them away gently, “Harry...”
He whispered, “It’s my fault, it’s all my fault. Who was I kidding? I am no leader, I never was, McGonagall was right all along. I led people to their deaths without giving them any chance of hope.”
“You are wrong Harry.” Salazar said gently, his wand tracking over Godric’s injuries. “The DA went into war knowing that people would die. Yes, we were surprised by Voldemort’s move and yes we paid heavily for it, but we still won. We came out victorious against a foe that no other wizard army has managed to best. If that isn’t enough to give people hope I don’t know what is.”
Harry looked at Ginny, “How can you sit next to me? Why are you still here? After what I have cost your family. I tear it apart, force you to choose sides and now Bill and Fleur are - are dead!”
Ginny’s face scrunched up in an effort to control her emotions, her eyes displaying a conflict between grief and anger, “Listen to me Harry James Potter. NOTHING could happen that would make me leave your side. You didn’t force me or Ron, or Fred, George, Bill, Fleur, Percy, Penelope and Charlie to choose a side and you didn’t force my mother and father to choose a side either. We all knew what we were getting into, including Bill and Fleur. They – they died for what they believed in and I-I know that they would have no regrets and wouldn’t want you to feel guilty for them either.”
can you believe that? How can you still think that I am worthy of everyone’s trust and loyalty when I lead them into battle which quickly turns into a trap!” Harry replied.
Ginny gave a sad smile, “Because you are
worthy. Whether or not you can see it is irrelevant. We can see it and that is all that matters. I would be extremely surprised if anyone’s
belief in you and our cause wavers even after tonight’s battle. Yes, we lost friends, colleagues and people that we have grown to care for, but that is not enough to give up the fight!”
Rowena nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks, “I heard what Fawkes said to you Harry as he wasn’t trying to keep the conversation between the two of you private. He believed that you were worthy and he didn’t want you to feel guilty. So shouldn’t you endeavour to keep his last wish?”
Harry opened his mouth to reply but before he could the portrait opened and Luna came in, her normally peaceful face was tight with pain and grief. Helga jumped up and steered her to a couch, “Are you hurt dear?”
The blonde girl shook her head, “No, nothing serious at any rate, just a couple of scratches. I already took care of the rest.” She looked at Harry, “I’m sorry.”
He nodded but looked away not willing to meet her understanding blue eyes. Rowena, who was still crying asked, “Where is Neville?”
“Helping Ron and Hermione deal with the Ministry and McGonagall. Amelia managed to get word to the Aurors before she joined the battle. They arrived shortly after the vampires left and are busy securing the wards around the castle. McGonagall is also down there with a few of the teachers, Flitwick and Slughorn I think.” She replied, sighing heavily.
Godric looked up from a potion that Salazar was force-feeding him, “What about the injured…and the dead?”
Ginny let out a strangled sob at the mention of the dead and Harry came out of his daze to wrap an arm around her, pulling her into a tight embrace. Luna replied softly, “I think the teachers are handling the injured but from what I could tell, the DA is refusing to let anyone except members handle the fallen. Hannah especially looked ready to curse any that got near Justin.”
Harry’s bloodshot eyes looked up, “Justin is dead?” his voice hollow and dead.
Luna nodded, wiping welling tears from her eyes, “Yes.”
Harry moaned and dropped his head again, squeezing his eyes shut and biting his lower lip, hard. After a moment, he slowly got to his feet, “I-I should be there.”
Rowena looked concerned, “Harry, that may not be the best thing. We four know what it is like to lose a phoenix. It isn’t something you just bounce back from, you need to give yourself time.”
He whirled on her, his eyes flashing, “Time is something I do not have! Every day that we delay, Voldemort becomes stronger, taking more and more of our friends away from us!”
Her face settled into a composed mask but Salazar gently reproached him, “Do not bite her head off Harry, she knows what she is talking about. Especially since Fawkes is her second phoenix and albeit he didn’t die for her, she has still lost him as a friend.”
Harry’s shoulder slumped, “Y-you’re right, I’m sorry, I just…”
understand Harry.” Helga replied, standing up and wrapping him in another embrace. Letting him go she stared intently into his eyes, “Perhaps it is best for you to keep busy. And you are right, the DA needs to see that you are not going to give up to grief and despair. You are a leader of some amazing people and while they would not begrudge you time to come to terms with your sorrow, standing up and continuing will only further inspire them.” She paused before giving a sigh, “Even with such a tragedy positives can take flight.”
Harry turned incredulous eyes to her, “What could possibly be good out of this Helga?”
She gave a sad smile, “have you so quickly forgotten what happens to a person whose phoenix gives its life for?”
Ginny gave a strangled gasp, “H-He is invulnerable!”
Salazar nodded, “As near to it as anyone can be, for the next hundred years.”
“Well then why am I simply standing here? I should be out hunting Voldemort, to kill the bastard!” Harry exclaimed, his eyes hardening.
“Because if you kill him in this frame of mind Harry, you will destroy everything you have set out to create. You have not killed in hatred and anger before, you cannot know what it is like.” Salazar replied firmly, “I have, only once, and it forever left a black mark upon my soul.”
Godric nodded in agreement, “I was the one who found him afterwards and I nearly lost my life simply trying to approach him.”
“It took a long time before Salazar was ready to enter any form of battle again for fear that the darkness within him would take over.” Helga summed up.
Harry’s eyes glittered, “Perhaps I don’t care about the consequences! Perhaps all I want is for that bastard to die! Even at the cost of my own soul!”
Ginny got up to her feet and grabbed his face, forcing him to look at her, “Don’t care about the consequences? How can you say that? Am I and all our friends so worthless to you Harry? You would leave us all behind to grieve your transformation whilst you became a new Dark Lord?”
Godric nodded, “For that is what you would become. Replacing Voldemort with yourself.”
Ginny continued, “And then we would have to kill you or imprison you, the same person that we loved and admired with all our hearts. It would destroy us Harry! So I ask again, how could you not care about the consequences?”
Tears started leaking from the corner of his eyes once again, “I-I’m s-sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” without warning his knees buckled and he would have fallen if Salazar hadn’t shot to his feet and caught him, slowing time down to get there before he hit the floor.
As Salazar lowered him gently, Ginny knelt down and kissed him slowly and firmly, pulling away slightly to reply, “I know Harry, I know. I love you, no matter what happens.”
Luna stood up and murmured, pearly tears on her cheeks, “I think I’ll go and see how the others are getting on. I only meant to stop by and tell you what was happening.” Without waiting for a reply she ducked out of the room.
Harry, crying into Ginny’s shoulder, didn’t even notice.
Godric called softly, “Dobby.”
The familiar crack signified the elf’s appearance, “Yes sir? What can Dobby get for you?” the elf caught sight of Harry and his ears drooped, “Dobby knows what to get.” He disappeared instantly, reappearing moments later holding a clear potion.
He knelt beside Harry, “Harry Potter, please take this for Dobby! It won’t do much, but it is good when one has had a shock.”
Harry stared at the little elf and gave a weary smile, taking the vial, “Thanks Dobby. You are a good friend, you always have been. I don’t think I have told you enough times how much you mean to me.”
His ears perking up again Dobby gave a bright smile, “Dobby is overwhelmed Harry Potter, your friendship is all I ever needed. You need not keep telling me though, for I know what is in your heart and only goodness resides there.”
Harry’s gaze dropped, “I don’t know about that Dobby, it seems like my heart is empty of everything except pain.”
He felt a tiny hand touch his shoulder and looked up to see that Dobby had crossed the distance and was standing directly before him, “And that is why Harry Potter’s heard is filled with goodness. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be in pain, grieving the deaths of friends and followers.” Not waiting for a response, the elf disappeared.
Harry was still staring at the spot where the elf had stood, a somewhat surprised and grateful look on his face. Ginny wiped the last of her tears from her face and then lifted his hand with the vial and whispered, “Come on Harry, drink up. Then we can discuss what we are going to do.”
Obediently drinking the potion Harry’s shoulders immediately relaxed and his face lost a little of the haunted loss that Fawkes’s death had brought. She helped him back up onto one of the sofas asking the founders, “So what do you think we should do?”
After sharing a quick glance Godric replied, “For now at least, stay at Hogwarts and recuperate. People do need to grieve and as much as we would like to get this war over and done with now, Voldemort is not going to come out for a while.”
Salazar nodded, “Yes, and I also think that with this latest battle more of the common populace will want to join. Hogwarts has always been the symbol of the future and with it under threat, more people will want to protect it…”
Harry’s body suddenly jerked up and his face became frantic, “I have to get back to the battlefield!”
Ginny’s, Helga’s and Rowena’s hands immediately seized his clothes to stop him dashing out of the room, the latter exclaiming, “What on earth are you on about Harry?”
“Tonks! Her body is down there. If Remus sees it he is going to go ballistic, especially since the full moon is only three days away!” Harry replied, trying to shake the women off him.
“And you think telling him that she was a traitor is going to make him go any less ballistic?” Salazar asked, sadness written in every feature.
Harry stopped struggling long enough to look the snake founder in the eye, “He should at least hear it from me. I owe him that much to tell him what happened!”
“Harry’s right.” Ginny murmured, “I’ll go with him, I should be with my family anyway. Mum and Dad will have heard about Bill by now.”
As soon as the other two women let him go, Harry wrapped an arm around Ginny and swiftly led her out of the room. Moving through the castle like a fleeting shadow they tore across the grounds towards the Forbidden Forest. The sounds of grief echoing through the night air were enough to bring fresh tears to Harry’s eyes.
As they neared the field there was a loud cry and a distraught Mrs Weasley hurtled into Ginny, sweeping her into a tight embrace. Ginny’s eyes nearly popped out with the force of her mother’s squeeze but returned the hug nonetheless.
“Ginny, my baby, you’re ok.” The older woman whispered into her daughter’s hair.
Harry left the red haired teen in the arms of her mother and slowly made his way over to Luna and Neville who were talking quietly with Ernie, Susan, and Draco, the latter supporting an injured Natalie. As soon as they saw him they stopped talking and waited for him to join them.
“Are you ok Nat? Do you need to see a healer?” Harry asked, concerned.
She shook her head, “No it’s only a sprain. There are far worse injuries out there.” Her face was red and swollen as was Susan’s.
Harry turned to Neville and sighed, “Alright Neville, tell me.”
The Gryffindor looked down, “Are you sure Harry, with everything else? It-it’s pretty bad.”
“I need to know.”
Nev nodded and took a deep breath, “Of the original members we lost two Ravenclaw’s Kevin and Jeremy, Justin from Hufflepuff…”
He paused had Harry stared at him intensely, “And from Gryffindor?”
But Neville was obviously not able to continue as his hands were frantically wiping his eyes in an effort to retain his composure. Ernie spoke for him, “Four Gryffindors, Romilda, Jack, Demelza and…and Seamus.”
Harry felt like the wind had been kicked out of him, “Seamus is dead?” Shaking his head Harry struggled not to start crying again, needing to be strong for those around him. He couldn’t imagine going into DA meetings without the fellow Gryffindor’s loud comments with his heavy accent and cheery disposition.
Harry bit his lip, “What about the adults? How did they fare since they came in part way through.”
Susan spoke up, “From what my aunt has said, apart from Bill and Fleur, we lost eleven people.
Harry closed his eyes briefly, “So in other words, over ten percent of our army is gone with nothing to show for it.”
“No Harry, we do
have something to show for it, we got rid of a traitor as well as the leaders of the vampires. They won’t fight again now.” Neville replied, his voice strong with conviction.
Draco nodded in agreement, “The Dark Lord will hear back from the surviving vampires and he will know that we won here convincingly, completely routing his forces. That is going to incense him even more.”
Glancing around Harry asked softly, “Have you seen Remus at all?”
Instant understanding flashed across Neville’s face, “He doesn’t know yet if that’s what you are worried about. He was injured badly enough that I was able to send him straight up to the castle so he hasn’t seen her body.”
Harry breathed a sigh of thankful relief and nodded his thanks before grasping Neville by the shoulders and pulling him into a hug, “Nev, thank you
.” He knew he didn’t need to say anymore to convey his gratefulness for the friendship that the two shared.
Breaking apart he clapped Ernie on the back, nodded to Draco and farewelled the girls before turning and heading back up to the castle. He had only just made it past the throng of Weasleys when a familiar strict voice called out, “Mr Potter.”
In no mood for McGonagall’s admonishments, Harry turned weary and stern eyes upon her, “What do you want Professor? Be careful what you say for any of your normal lectures would be detrimental to your health.”
The woman didn’t slow in her pace as she walked up to Harry but her eyes held none of her usual disapproval, “I-I heard about Fawkes. I wanted to say that I am
sorry for your loss.”
Harry tilted his head, “Thank you for your words I guess.”
She winced at his cold tone but pressed forward none-the-less, “Can you please tell me what happened here tonight? Some of your members were a little vague.”
Harry stared at her, “Only the adults didn’t have the full information. I take it you didn’t ask anyone who is still in school?”
Her cheeks turned slightly red, “No, no I didn’t.”
Sighing he replied quickly, “Long story short, I told you there was a traitor, you didn’t believe me. Turns out I was right, we found out who the traitor was and arranged a trap to bring them out into the open. We had also hoped to draw Voldemort out to kill him but he sent his vampire army instead and we were quickly overwhelmed. That is why we had to call in the rest of the DA.”
McGonagall looked stricken, “A traitor? Again? W-who was it?”
“Tonks Professor, Tonks, the bubbly young woman that we all came to know and love.” Harry revealed with hard anger glittering in his eyes.
McGonagall went white, and shook her head, “T-Tonks
? Th-that isn’t possible! She joined the Order the day Dumbledore re-created it!”
“Believe what you will Professor, but it is the truth. She was the one to tell Voldemort about this little situation that we arranged. She
was the one that told him the address of Grimmauld Place and she was the one who helped the Death Eaters attack the Ministry and let those acromantula loose.” Harry replied.
A mixture of anger and hurt registered on the Headmistress’s face, “So where is she now?”
“Dead. I killed her myself. She will not be betraying anyone ever again.” Harry stated.
McGonagall surveyed the field, “I know our relationship is too far gone to ever be repaired Mr Potter, but is there anything I can do? I want to see Voldemort defeated as much as you.”
Harry stared at her seriously for a moment before nodding, “Our losses were heavy and we feel the death of each person keenly so I would ask that you not go into any of your usual ‘children should not be fighting’ speeches. I have a feeling emotions will be running high for a while and if I am to try and keep some sort of control over everyone I need them to calm down.”
She gave a wan smile, “P-Harry, I have given up on those speeches since no one is listening to me anymore. Is there anything else?”
He admitted, “Our numbers were depleted by nearly ten percent. Voldemort won’t know the details of how badly we were hurt by his attack, but he will get the gist of it. He will attack Hogwarts, though when I do not know. If you and what remains of your Order will join with the DA we can correlate our plan of defence for the castle.”
Harry was taking an enormous step, offering up his hand of truce to the woman that had tried to mush him into the ground and McGonagall knew it. She nodded immediately, “Yes, of course! I-I had hoped you would propose something like that. Hogwarts is just too huge for the teachers and a few volunteers to protect and your members, even the children, have shown incredible talent and tenacity when fighting the enemy.”
Harry gave a dry laugh, “Professor, I hope you realise that it wasn’t just the teachers and your volunteers that have been protecting the castle all year. As soon as the DA reformed we set about several plans in case Hogwarts was attacked. The plans are formidable; all I am proposing is sharing them with you and the rest.”
“I see. Well yes, I agree.”
“Good, I’m pleased. Now if you’ll excuse me there is one more thing I need to do before I collapse.” Slipping away from her he returned to the castle. He walked quickly to the hospital wing and opened the door, automatically wincing and the familiar smell of blood and scorched flesh.
Thankfully the room was fairly quiet with most of the patients already unconscious and Madam Pomfrey was sitting in a chair, her eyes closed. Careful not to disturb her he moved over to one of the far beds where a familiar mousy head could be seen.
Remus was one of the few awake and he smiled tiredly at Harry as he approached, “Hey, how are you holding up?” he asked quietly, gesturing for Harry to sit next to him.
Shrugging, the black haired teen replied softly, “Not too good to be honest, but now is not the time to break down completely.”
Remus nodded, “I am glad to hear that, more than you know. I don’t suppose you could tell me if Nym is ok? I haven’t seen her yet.”
Keeping his face blank Harry nodded, “Y-yes I have seen her, that is part of the reason why I came to see you.”
Confused, Remus simply remained silent so Harry pushed on, “This is not easy for me to tell you but I owe it to you to tell you myself. Tonks was, was, oh blast it all, Tonks was the spy all along Remus…”
Harry kept his gaze steady upon the older man’s face watching as the colour drained out and an odd glitter appeared in the werewolf’s eyes. Realising that the man was fighting the wolf for control he placed a calming hand on his shoulder, “Easy Remus, remember who you are.”
A strangled growl forced its way out of his throat before he croaked, “Why?”
Harry shook his head, “I have been asking myself the same question ever since I learnt of her true allegiance Remus and I still don’t know for sure.”
Remus stared at Harry in silence for a moment, “How long have you known?” he asked quietly.
“Not long, perhaps a week and a half. As soon as I found out I set into motion a trap to lure her and Voldemort out. Unfortunately it backfired as you saw tonight.”
“But what of N-Tonks? What happened to her, you said you saw her?” Remus persisted, his voice cracking slightly.
Harry dropped his head, “She is dead Remus, I-I killed her just after she killed Bill and Fleur.”
Looking sickened Remus whispered, “She killed Bill and Fleur? She went to school with Bill, they were supposedly friends!” Suddenly his eyes snapped to Harry’s, “You
“Yes. I’m so sorry Remus.”
The older man let his head fall into his hands, his shoulders shaking with suppressed emotion. A muttered reply came from his bowed head, “You have nothing to be sorry for Harry. I am the one who should be sorry for I didn’t spot her for what she was. You would have thought that after Pettigrew I would have learnt to keep my guard up.”
His head came up, his eyes bloodshot, “I should have known that she wouldn’t love a monster like me, she only wanted to get close to you.”
Harry took him by the shoulders and shook him slightly, “No
Remus, you are not
to blame! You wouldn’t let me take the fall for Sirius and I refuse to let you shoulder guilt for what her actions have done. You are kind, honest and brave and she
was the monster to take advantage of you that way.”
Remus gave a wan smile, “You truly are more like your mother than most people admit Harry. She could never stand it when someone was hurt by another’s callous actions. I thank you for your words but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I can simply let this go.”
Snorting, Harry replied, “Of course you can’t, for crying out loud Remus, you loved
her. But don’t go blaming yourself.”
“I think that is the pot calling the kettle black.” A voice said from the doorway.
Harry half turned and wrapped his arms around the approaching Ginny, burying his head into her shoulder, “you should be with your family Gin.” He admonished.
She sighed wearily, “I was suffocating down there Harry; they are all just standing around crying about Bill and Fleur. Not even Fred and George are saying a word, I couldn’t stand it anymore. It’s just not like our family to be silent!”
She kissed him gently before turning to Remus who was staring at his hands, lost in thought, “Remus?” He looked up and she walked over and gave him a warm hug, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, but we’re all here for you if you need us.”
The older man’s eyes brightened suspiciously for a moment and he nodded, “Thank you Ginny, that is very kind of you. If you don’t mind though, I am very tired and I am sure you are too.”
Understanding that he wanted to be alone, Harry stood up and squeezed his shoulder, “I’ll come back as soon as I can ok? Try and get some sleep Remus.”
As they left the hospital wing Harry turned back in time to see Remus loose his composure and bury his grief stricken face into his pillow, tears flowing freely down his face.
A/N: So, did anyone cry at all?
There are only three more chapters left in this story and the next two really are part of the same chapter, just split into two.
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