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The first thing Harry felt was the pain. It was like ice, like lightning, like white fire, burning and scorching and frying and twisting and melting and seething and consuming. All-consuming. It felt as though his skin was being flayed from his bones and his bones were shattering to dust. Every muscle, every ligament, every fiber and vein and blood vessel seemed to explode, and implode, and just wrench itself in a terrible feeling of perpetual wrongness. He couldn't see anything. He thanked God for that. The pain itself was excruciating, unbearable, unearthly, inhuman. To have seen what was happening to his body would have been more than he could take. Unfortunately, feeling it was more than enough. "Just let me die, please just--" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sirius had been lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood, but he could faintly hear the conversation between Harry and Dumbledore. As the pain thudded through his battered, weak body, he tried to register what Harry was saying. He understood moments too late-- as Harry shouted those damnable words, he felt his heart freeze and he tried to shout out, but he had no voice. It was then that Sirius Black knew what Hell was; it was not Azkaban, it was not having the entire world hate him-- it was when he was unable to save that which he loved most, and he had no way to speak against the evil. And so he fell back to the floor and began to sob, knowing that it was all over and there was nothing else for him. Remus was still watching everything with the same blank, detached look. He stood against the wall and stared as Harry shouted the Killing Curse and collapsed. Twin tendrils of smoke escaped through the Dark Lord's lips as his body fell heavily to the ground and then seemed to evaporate into thin air. He then looked at Harry's crumpled body, the blood soaking its robes, the brilliant green eyes horribly dimmed, and the ceaseless scream in his mind grew louder, almost providing a shield against it all. Cassie scrambled out of the way as Snape, Flitwick and McGonagall strode in. Apparently they had finished with the Death Eaters, though their victory there had not prepared them at all for the blood bath they had just walked in on. The professors stared around in undisguised shock, looking first from Remus to Cassie to Sirius to Harry to Dumbledore. "What happened?" McGonagall gasped. "Where is You-Know-Who?" Remus said nothing, but merely slid down the wall so he was sitting. His eyes never left Sirius. Flitwick moved at once to Ron, gently trying to wake him. Dumbledore was moving slowly and wearily, like that of an old man. "Is it over, Albus?" McGonagall asked, moving in front of him. The headmaster did not reply, but merely looked down at the spot where Voldemort's body had been lying moments before. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The pain was growing stronger now, as though some sort of demon god was laughing at his fate and deciding to escalate his torture. White-hot knives were slicing up and down his skin, his ribcage was being torn inside-out, he was gasping and swaying on feet that could no longer support anything-- ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "We must help the others," Snape said. He strode over to stand in front of Remus. Kneeling down, he shook the man's shoulder. "Remus." No answer. "Remus!" Still no answer. Snape sighed, and then smartly shook the Defense Professor extremely hard. Blinking a few times, Remus turned to stare at him. "No time to be mute, Lupin," Snape said, glaring at him. Remus still said nothing, but he stood up as Snape did and followed him to the center of the room. Cassie was trying to do all she could for Sirius. She swept her dark hair back and turned to look at the others. "He's out cold and he's losing too much blood," she said, her voice trembling. "If we were at Hogwarts I could do something, but I don't have any materials here--" "Cassie," Dumbledore said softly, "Please speak with Professor Flitwick. He will conjure what you need." "Along the bandages line, anyway," Flitwick piped in. "We have to get them to Hogwarts if they need potions. But what about. . . about Harry's. . ." "Body?" Remus whispered. The others turned to look at him, but he did not say another word. The man merely stared with eyes that had lost far too much to cope with. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "No," he thought, gasping with the effort of such a thought at all. "Not my body, don't take my body--" the shards of glass were tearing through every square inch of him, every damned square inch-- ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Flitwick had conjured a stretcher and was lifting Sirius onto it. Snape was helping Ron stumble out of the room, and Remus was still hovering by the door. McGonagall looked at the Headmaster. "Shall we leave?" she asked, glancing uneasily at the blood on the floor. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "NO!" he screamed, though nobody could hear it. "DON'T GO! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING!" and he fought, as though battling against a crushing wave of death. He forced himself to stitch himself back together, to bring back the consciousness that was starting to spread and scatter and lose life. He screeched and sobbed, but still he fought. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Dumbledore was staring down at Harry's unmoving body. He still could not believe what Harry had done. . . what he had been willing to do. To know that the young boy, so like his father, was now dead. . . and dead because he, the headmaster, had brought him there. . . "I brought him to his death, Minerva," Dumbledore said softly. She put a hand on his arm. "Harry fulfilled what he was born to do," she said. "At-- at least, he'll be at peace now," she faltered, looking as though she was about to cry. "But we must do something about his body." "Yes," Dumbledore murmured. He held up his wand. "I suppose we should." "WAIT!" they heard something scream. Everyone in the room stood completely still, staring around. The echoing voice was faint and distant. "Harry?" Dumbledore asked, astounded. "Where--" but his voice died away as he saw the wraith-like creature slowly materializing in the middle of the room. The creature was kneeling, his arms wrapped protectively around himself. But there was no mistaking the messy hair, however ghostly it was. "Harry?" The ghostly form of Harry looked up and nodded. "What is this?" Snape asked in a low voice. Dumbledore was still staring at the wraith in shock. "It. . . it is the same thing as before, Severus. When Voldemort tried to kill Harry as a baby, the curse backfired and he was reduced to the most insignificant of shadows. And now Harry has done it to himself. . . but where is Voldemort?" "Gone," Harry mouthed, unable to speak. It took too much effort just to hold his form. "But not dead," Dumbledore supplied. Harry nodded. Feeling energy course through him, Dumbledore began pacing. "Voldemort was reduced to a shadow once more, and where he has gone we do not know. And-- Harry, don't you see? We have the upper hand here!" The ghostly Harry frowned, confused. It was getting harder to hear. . . harder to hold on. "When Voldemort performed the curse on you all those years ago, his body was destroyed. He had no vessel to return to. But you. . . you were possessing him, meaning your body is still vacant! We can send you back to your own body!" "Uh, I hate to be a killjoy here, but we have one problem with that," Cassie cut in. "Have you taken a look at what's been DONE to Harry's body?" They all stared at the cruel, jagged cuts from the knife. "We'd have to fix it up in the hospital before Harry's spirit could return to it! He'd die if he tried to return now!" "Come," the headmaster said briskly. "We must return to Hogwarts." It was hard to Apparate everyone back to the gates of the school. It was, by now, midday, and the castle was alive with activity. The students in the Care of Magical Creatures class stared as the professors, the headmaster, Ron, and two stretchers bearing Harry and Sirius moved quickly through the throng of people and up to the hospital wing. Cassie tried very hard to ignore the blood dripping to the floor from Sirius's stretcher. As everyone was much too focused on that, no one really noticed that Dumbledore had a squirrel poking out of the pocket of his robes. Although Harry had been inclined against it, knowing how Voldemort had possessed animals to prolong his life, the headmaster had insisted that Harry do the same in order to return safely to the school. Dumbledore pushed open the door and was met almost immediately by Madam Pomfrey. The headmaster had already informed her of the situation and she was mostly prepared, although her face did pale considerably upon seeing the two people she was to care for. "Cassie, get your robes and help me," was the first thing she said. She carefully set the squirrel Harry was possessing on the bedside table and turned to the professors. "No offense to any of you, but I think it's best if you leave. I need to be able to concentrate fully." "If it's not too much trouble," Remus whispered, "I would like to stay." Perhaps it was the look upon his tired face or the haunted misery in his eyes, but Pomfrey did not object. Remus folded his arms over his chest and stood off to one side, well out of the way, as Cassie and Pomfrey went to tend to the patients. Ron, who was still rather out of sorts after being possessed by both Voldemort and Harry, was led to the other side of the hospital wing to lay down and rest. "What on earth happened, Cassie?" Pomfrey asked as she hurriedly sorted a large amount of potion bottles to be used. "I'll explain later," Cassie said firmly as she brandished her wand and moved towards Sirius. "Please help Harry as quickly as you can, Poppy." "Yes," Pomfrey said, looking in dismay at the mangled body she was supposed to save. The squirrel on the night table gave her a pointed look. "Yes, I shall." And they went to work. They worked for the better part of three hours, continually doing blood-replenishing spells and the like to keep their patients alive while they tried to fix them up. At one point, Cassie realized that Sirius's eyes were fluttering open. "Bugger and blast," she muttered, "now I've got to conk him out again--" and she was about to perform the spell to render Sirius unconscious, but he faintly rasped, "Remus?" Remus was immediately by his side, staring down. "I'm here," he said comfortingly. It was then that Cassie remembered how weak Remus had been the day before, and how he had managed to ignore it in the face of what had been happening. She was in awe of him. "Remus," Sirius gasped, "Harry-- he's dead--" " No, Sirius. He's alive. He's here," Remus said, unwilling to tell his best friend the whole truth. He could not bear to destroy the look of joy struggling to show through the pain on Sirius's face. "He. . . he's safe." Sirius looked up through foggy eyes, the cuts on his face bleeding freely and his chest heaving as he tried to breathe. "Take care of him, Moony," he whispered. "God knows I didn't." And then he fell unconscious again. Remus sharply turned to Cassie. "What did he mean by that? Is-- and the way he was talking-- is he going to--" "Sirius is being overly dramatic," Cassie said firmly, though Remus thought he saw a shadow of doubt in her eyes. "Remus, I think it's best if you go get some sleep. Madam Pomfrey and I have to work in peace here." "Right," Remus said vaguely, running one hand through his hair. He slowly walked out of the hospital wing, quietly closing the door behind him. The sun was setting over Hogwarts and the colors of the sky was streaming in through the windows. Normally it made him feel contented, but Remus had never known a time where he had been more lost and shattered. "What about Lily and James died?" a small voice in his head piped in. "Don't talk to me about that," he told the voice firmly, rubbing his eyes as old grief swept over him. He leaned against the wall, groaning as the bell rang for the end of classes. Students immediately stampeded through the hallways, and soon enough, a voice was asking, "Professor Lupin? Are you all right?" He lowered his hand to see Parvati Patil standing before him, clutching an armful of books. "Hello, Parvati," Remus said quietly. "How are you, sir? You haven't been in class lately," she said, stating the obvious. "Professor Snape's been substituting again." "Oh, really?" Remus asked, feeling wearier than he had in ages. "How is it?" He almost laughed at the look Parvati had on her face. Almost. He spoke with her a few minutes more and then she went on her way. He did not return to his room, but did the exact same thing that he and Sirius had done at St. Mungo's all that time ago; he slid down the wall and sat facing the door, his eyes never leaving it as the sun went down and the moon, his accursed enemy, rose in its place. As the moonlight struck his face, anyone walking by would have sworn he was a marble statue: never moving, but merely watching. * I know it's short, but if I had continued it would have been like ten thousand more pages to get the next idea out (not actually ten thousand, more like five) and I'm too lazy to type more tonight. By the way, go to trailersworld.com and check out the PoA trailer! (I haven't actually seen it yet; it's still loading. Damn slow computer.)

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