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The ground exploded.

Everything went black.
 

Hogwarts, a few hours earlier…
 
“Lily! I don’t want to go!” I tried to hide further under my covers, but they were rudely wrenched away, exposing me to the chill air. May had arrived, but not with the warm weather the calendar promised.

Lily was having none of it. “I don’t care what you want, Millie. You’re coming down to Hogsmeade with the rest of us, whether you like it or not. I am fed up with your wallowing.”

A week and a half had passed since my confrontation with Black, and whilst it had seemed like a good idea at the time, the pain of his betrayal hadn’t lessened. I’d managed just fine, though, keeping myself busy preparing for exams, which were happening next month. I maintained my silence in Potions class, and was glad that Black seemed to respect that. I’d catch him staring at me out of the corner of my eye; his gaze holding something I couldn’t quite fathom.

“I haven’t been wallowing,” I muttered mutinously, although I recognised the truth in her words. I had been wallowing, and enough was enough. I couldn’t let him get me down like this. I swung myself out of bed, and headed over to my trunk, looking for my comfiest jeans.

Sarah came back from the bathroom, and giving a little twirl in her floral spring dress, asked, “How do I look?”

“Gorgeous,” I replied without looking up. Sarah could wear a potato sack and still make it look good.

“You haven’t even seen me!” She cried.

I shrugged, standing straight and giving her a grin. “I don’t need to.”

She giggled and came over to give me a hug. I’d been receiving a lot of hugs from her of late. Usually, I’d complain, but I didn’t mind. She’d received a letter just last week, telling her that her family was going into hiding. She tried to brush it off, but we could all tell that worry was weighing heavy on our bubbly best friend. Sarah could do with a few extra hugs.

“You think Dom will think so?” Dominic Peabody of Hufflepuff had asked Sarah out to Hogsmeade, and she’d accepted. When I’d gently teased her about breaking Remus’ heart, Sarah had replied with a shrug. “He’s not interested in me. It’s time I moved on.”

I was secretly jealous of her, the way she was handling the fact that the object of her affections for goodness knows how long wasn’t interested. However, it was difficult to feel malice against Sarah – she was too nice by half.

“He’d be an idiot not to,” Lily replied with a snort, slipping into a pair of flats. She, too, was dressed in jeans, but unlike mine, they looked less dusty and didn’t possess a tear at the knee.

I smiled at my two best friends and surprised myself by leaning over and giving both of them a hug. “You know that I love you guys?” I said quietly.

I pulled back to see the identical looks of shock on their faces. “Are you… are you feeling okay?” Lily asked slowly.

No, not really. There was a tight knot in my chest, and whenever I blinked, I saw the nightmare of last night. It was similar to the one I had experienced in the Leaky Cauldron, all those months ago, except the red river did not just comprise of the blood of my parents anymore. “I’m fine,” I replied with a small smile.

Sarah regarded me for a moment, then blinked, and smiled back.

“We should head down for breakfast,” I said, turning away from Lily’s steady gaze, and headed towards the door.

 
Hogsmeade Village, two hours later…

 “Padfoot, mate! Are you coming, or what?” Prongs called down the long main road that ran through the middle of the village.

I kicked a loose stone out of my way before answering. “I’ll catch up with you guys later!”

Prongs regarded me for a moment, and then turned towards Evans for help. Evans shrugged, but her head tilted a little. I didn’t miss the direction, nor what she meant by it. Millie had wandered off into a little side street just moments before, saying that she needed to get some supplies before exams.

Supplies, my bushy dog’s tail. Side streets in Hogsmeade were no place to find quills. She was running away from me.

Again.

I could hardly blame her. I had really botched up that apology. I did think I did rather well, given the circumstances. Sirius Black was not in the habit of giving out apologies, so as a first attempt it wasn’t too bad.

Millie White, however, did not seem to have such a benevolent opinion. And I got it. I really did. I’d messed up. I saw that now. But why didn’t she understand that I regretted my actions? That I wanted to make things right between us again?

Hell, right now I’d settle for our relationship returning to what it had been when we’d first struck up our bargain. I remembered back to that fateful day when we’d sat next to each other in Defence against the Dark Arts, and she’d fallen asleep. Or that time in Potions when we’d sat side by side, observing our best mates pine after each other even through their anger. Or all the late nights that we’d spent in the Common Room flailing over my Arithmancy homework.

Was it really too much to ask? I wasn’t asking her to snog me. Hell, I didn’t want to snog me right now. I’d settle for getting her back as my friend. We could have that at least.

My musings had taken me to the end of the street, where it petered out into a beaten track of dirt. I knew it led up into the foothills, where the stone was riddled with caves. I climbed a little ways up, so that I had a nice view of the village. Resting for a moment on a convenient wooden fence, I glanced down at Hogsmeade Village, home to so many wonderful memories. There was the main road, full of teenagers happy to get out of the castle for a bit. There was the little side street that Millie had wandered down. There was Madam Puddifoot’s, where Sarah had gone for her date. I thought it was a little sappy, but Sarah had seemed pleased. I was glad that she’d finally gotten over her crush on Moony. She was a lovely girl, and Moony was too oblivious by half.

There was the Hog’s Head, tucked into a shady corner of the town. Old Aberforth was a strange sort, but he never asked questions when Prongs and I bought too much firewhiskey and butterbeer.

There was Zonko’s, where I’d left Moony and Wormtail to their nefarious devices. They’d been tasked with restocking our prank supplies. With graduation so near, we needed all hands on deck. Our grand plan for graduation brought a smile to my face. For good reasons or bad, Hogwarts would not be forgetting the Marauders anytime soon.

I’d loved to have told Millie about it. She would have rolled her eyes, but I knew that secretly, she’d be impressed. Or at least, I’d pretend to myself that she’d be impressed. It was amazing how much of my self-worth was now tied up in her good opinion of me.

I sighed and let my eyes wander again.

There was the Three Broomsticks with… half of it on fire.

 
Meanwhile, at Puddlebrown: Fine Quill Makers
 
I had found out about Hogsmeade’s secret quill-making industry quite by accident back in fifth year. My favourite quill had broken about two weeks before exams, and in a stress-induced panic, I’d rushed around the tiny village trying to find the perfect replacement. I’d stumbled upon this tiny establishment, all out of hope, and almost out of time.

The proprietor, an elderly man with springy white hair had taken one look at me, and whisked to the back of his shop.

He’d returned a few moments later, bearing a wooden box with a fine selection of quills. “Here you go, Miss,” he’d said, and not unkindly. “I’d been saving these for someone special.”

I’d looked up into this man’s face, and seen a kindred spirit. Here was a person who understood what a good quill could mean to someone.

I’d bought the entire box.

Two years later, I felt I owed a goodbye to this nice old man. He’d lost his only son last year in a Death Eater attack, so like me he had no family left in the world.

I stepped into the dusty interior of the shop. Despite a good layer of dust, it was still a cheery place, with the sun shining through the front window panes. The bell tinkled, and Mr Puddlebrown himself came out from the door behind the counter.

“Miss White! What a pleasant surprise!” he smiled. He’d replaced his missing tooth since the last time I’d seen him.

“Mr Puddlebrown! It’s good to see you,” I replied warmly.

“Were you after a new quill?” he enquired politely.

“Ah, no actually.” I stopped, not knowing what to say next.

“Perhaps just a nice cup of tea, then?” he suggested. His eyes were kind, and they seemed to understand what I wanted so say.

I smiled gratefully. “Tea would be lovely.”
 

Half an hour later, in the shadows of the main road
 
“So now that you’re no longer dating my brother, does this mean I have a chance again?” a voice asked from the shadows behind me.

“I don’t think you ever had a chance, Reg,” I replied. I still smiled and turned around. He was leaning against the side wall of Mr Puddlebrown’s establishment.

He shrugged and grinned. “I tried my best I suppose.”

Despite myself, my smile grew wider. When the Black brothers weren’t being completely infuriating, they were completely charming. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground.

“How have you been, Mills?” Regulus asked with more seriousness than I was used to coming from him.

I shrugged. “Well as can be expected with exams just a few weeks away.”

“That’s not what I meant.” His eyes were an icy blue, rather than stormy grey, but they could still carry the same weight.

“Then what did you mean?” I asked, pretending that I didn’t understand.

“You know.”

“If you’re referring to your brother, then I don’t want to talk about it,” I replied tightly. I didn’t want to talk about Sirius with anyone anymore, least of all his brother. He was in the past now. I would be graduating soon. I had to think of the future; what I wanted from life after Hogwarts.

Regulus raised his eyebrows. “That bad, is it?” he asked quietly.

I shrugged again. “I’m getting over it, and that’s all that counts.”

“What happened between you two?”
It was my turn to raise my eyebrows. “I hardly think it’s any of your business, Regulus. From what I understand, you two are hardly close enough to want to know about each other’s love lives.”

He smirked. “Point taken, Mills. Although I had hoped that we were still friends.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. The rumours going around school about him and his gang of friends had not been… pleasant. “We are still friends,” I murmured.

His smirk turned into a grin. “I’m glad, Mills.”

We stood there in silence, both lost in our thoughts.

“I guess I should be heading off now,” Regulus finally said.

I nodded, “I have to go meet my friends.”

“I’ll see you around?” he asked.

I nodded again.

He smiled at me before heading further down the little lane. I wondered where he was off to. I hoped it had nothing to do with those nasty rumours about Death Eaters and initiation ceremonies.

I shook my head and turned onto the main road, heading towards The Three Broomsticks.

I was almost at the pub when –

The ground exploded.

Everything went black.

 
Hogsmeade Village, at this very instant…
 
I had almost reached The Three Broomsticks when the second explosion happened. I could see people down on the ground further ahead, but my mind was focussed on the burning building now in front of me.

I’d come down from my little hill at a dead run, a terrifying thought running through my head.

James and Lily were in there.

“Padfoot!” a voice called. I turned around. It was Peter, a bleeding cut on his forehead.

“What happened?” I cried. “Where is everyone?”

“Moony’s helping the younger kids get back to the castle, but I haven’t seen Prongs or Lily.”

I blanched and glanced at the doorway to the pub. There was thick smoke pouring out of the windows and gaping door. They were still in there.

Without thinking beyond that, I dashed inside.

And immediately began coughing. I hadn’t reckoned that the smoke would be that thick. I could barely see a foot in front of me. I’d taken perhaps five steps inside when someone barrelled into me. I instinctively reached out and grabbed hold of them. By the feel of it, I’d grabbed their upper arms.

“Let me go!” The arms struggled under my grasp. I orientated them towards the door and released them. They didn’t even look back as they bolted towards fresh air.

“Prongs?” I called, stepping further in. “Evans?” That’s all I managed to choke out before a coughing fit overcame me. The smoke was becoming even thicker.

I whipped out my wand and muttered a spell. My vision finally cleared. I may not be able to breathe, but I could at least see what was going on around me.

The pub was in complete disarray. There were overturned chairs and tables everywhere. I glimpsed a quick lick of orange beyond the door behind the bar, before Madame Rosmerta slammed it shut and headed for the door.

“Madame Rosmerta!” I called. She half-turned from helping two third-years untangle themselves from their overturned table and chairs.

“Sirius – what are you doing here? The building’s on fire! Get out!”

“Have you seen James or Lily?” I persisted.

“Sirius!” a feminine voice cried, before what little clean air I had was forcefully pushed out of my lungs by a deceptively strong pair of arms.

“Evans!” I gasped, breathing in more of the smoke. “Where’s –?”

“Right here, mate,” Prong’s voice came to me from my left side. I looked over with relief. They were covered in soot, but they looked alright.

“Could you help me with these two ladies, Padfoot?” he asked. I noticed then that he was supporting two almost-unconscious girls, fifth-years by the look of it. I immediately reached for one and wrapped her arm around my shoulders.

She moaned, her eyes fluttering.

“It’s going to be okay,” I murmured.

Lily led the way, following Madame Rosmerta out of the burning pub.

There was a long line of Hogwarts students heading back to the castle. After handing off our unconscious rescues to their frantic friends, Lily, Prongs and I caught up with Moony, Wormtail, Sarah and Sarah’s bloke from Hufflepuff, about a third of the way back up towards the castle. We congregated by the side of the road.

“What happened?” My voice sounded grim, even to my own ears.

“Death Eaters,” Moony said curtly. “Five explosions, all within two minutes of each other, up and down the main road.”

“Where are they now?” I asked. I suspected the answer before the Hufflepuff bloke – whatever his name was – said it.

“They disappeared after setting off the explosions.” My mouth pressed into a thin line. Bloody cowards. It was just like them to cause so much fear and panic and pain, and then disappear. Attacks like these had been happening with more and more frequency over the past year.

“Anyone hurt?” Prongs asked.

“No one really knows yet,” Sarah said. “We won’t know until we get up to the castle.”

“We have to go,” Lily said urgently. “We have to help –”

“Where’s Millie?” I asked, suddenly realising that in all of the chaos, I hadn’t seen her since I watched her turn off into that side street.

Lily went pale under her soot-covered skin. She whirled to face Sarah, who looked equally ashen.

“I haven’t seen her since…” Sarah breathed.

I didn’t bother waiting for her to finish her sentence.

I knew.

Millie was still down there.

 
Back at Hogsmeade Village, near The Three Broomsticks
 
I searched frantically, not really sure where to begin. Where on earth could she be? I looked around helplessly, hoping to see her.

There were still people everywhere. The village folk were all there, trying to put out the fire at The Three Broomsticks, and some of the older students had stayed behind to help out. My heart plummeted into my stomach. No. She couldn’t be trapped inside. Prongs, Lily and I had been the last out. We couldn’t have left anyone behind.

I turned to face down the street in desperation. Maybe she was still down that little side lane. She’d said she’d wanted to get some supplies before exams… did they sell parchment down that street? A vague memory about quills pushed itself into my brain through the panic.

I skidded to a halt at the mouth of the little lane. It was deserted. Maybe she was inside one of the buildings? No, that wasn’t right. Everyone was out here, helping.

“Sirius!” a voice called out from further down the lane.

I looked up to see who it was. “Have you seen her?” I asked, not caring that we didn’t speak anymore. He knew.

He shook his head. “I spoke to her just before…”

“When?” I snapped. If he didn’t spit it out…

“She said she was heading to meet her friends…”

That would be Prongs and Evans. So that meant she was somewhere between here and The Three Broomsticks. But she could be anywhere between here and The Three Broomsticks. It was quite some distance, and the place was riddled with debris from the explosions.

He was closer now, becoming more cautious as he approached. “You have to find her, Sirius.”

I nodded. “I know that, Regulus.”

My brother came to a stop a few feet from me. Our last proper conversation had been almost three years ago, the night before I’d left that bloody house for good. It felt a little strange standing here, knowing that we had a common goal, despite our differences. I don’t know what had happened between Millie and him, but he cared, and if he helped me find her, that was all that mattered right now.

“I’ll check down here,” he said. “Just in case she doubled back when she heard the… the blasts.” Did he know something about this? Because if he did… no. I didn’t have time for this right now. I had to find Millie.

“I’ll look down the main road,” I replied. With not another word, we turned around and went looking.

 
A few minutes later
 
I found her propped up against a wall about three buildings down from The Three Broomsticks.

My breath caught in my throat at the sight of her.

She was alive.

There was a nasty gash near her hairline, her hair was almost grey from dirt and ash, her leg seemed to be bent at an unnaturally awkward angle, but she was alive.

And that was all that mattered.

“Mills!” I choked out. I rushed up to her and crouched down.

Her breathing was shallow. There were lines of pain bracketing her expressive mouth. Her brow was furrowed. She was covered in grime. There was blood on her shirt.

She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

“Mills,” I said softly, touching her arm gently.

She moaned.

I froze and looked down at my hand. Had I hurt her? That’s when I noticed where the blood on her shirt had come from. I turned her arm as gently as I could. There were bits of glass still embedded in the soft skin of her inner forearm. The bleeding had slowed a little, and the blood was drying in its little rivers.

“Mills!” I said more urgently. She needed to stand up. We had to get her up to the castle. I could fix minor bone fractures, but I knew nothing about how to stop the bleeding. Or what to do when there was so much blood loss. The Marauders’ full moon adventures hadn’t quite prepared me for this.

I ripped the bottom of my t-shirt and wrapped it tightly around her forearm. Maybe that would slow the bleeding a little further. I hoped she wouldn’t bleed out before I could get her back up to the castle.

I put my hand on her shoulder. “Mills,” I said quietly, trying to keep the fear and panic out of my voice. “Millie!”

She moaned again, but at least she opened her eyes. “Sirius?” she slurred. I had never been gladder at the sound of her voice. If she was able to talk, then she was going to be okay.

She was going to be okay.

“Can you stand up?” I asked.

She seemed to consider it for a moment. Her eyes went cloudy and her eyelids drooped, but she still answered. “N-no… I think… my leg… it hurts…

I glanced down at her left leg. It was at an awkward angle. Well, there was nothing for it, then.

“Mills, I want you to listen to me carefully,” I said as I arranged myself. “I want you to put your arms around my neck, okay?”

I knew things were very bad, because she didn’t even argue.

“Good. Now, can you bend your legs for me? Just a little bit?”

She bent them slowly then stopped, wincing in pain. “This is all I can do,” she whispered, her entire face contorted in pain.

“Is it okay if I put my arm under your knees… like this?” I asked. I had to carry her out of here, and I didn’t want to hurt her any more than absolutely necessary. I could have levitated her out, but my levitation charms had always been erratic at best. The things that I floated always seemed to needlessly jostle. I couldn’t afford to be so callous with her.

She nodded, although I knew that it hurt her. My heart clenched. It hurt me so much to see her like this. I put my other arm around her back and lifted her.

She groaned as I stood. “Mills,” I murmured. “We’re going up to the castle now, but I need you to promise me something.”

“What?” she rasped, her eyes clenched shut in pain. I tried to smooth my almost frantic pace, but I had to get her up to the castle as quickly as possible. How much blood could someone safely lose? And couldn’t head wounds be more deadly than they first appeared?

“I need you stay awake for me, okay? You can’t fall asleep.”

“But… I’m so tired…”

“No!” I said vehemently, my fear and panic seeping into my voice. “You can’t! I won’t let you!”

She didn’t reply.

 
In the Great Hall, a while later…
 
“Padfoot…” Moony murmured. Everyone had congregated in the Great Hall. The tables had been removed, and the injured were being looked after in one corner by Madame Pomfrey and some of the sixth- and seventh-years who knew a little about first aid. Prongs and Evans were bustling about, trying to restore some calm and order, along with the Prefects and teachers. There were people constantly running in and out, fetching supplies from the Hospital Wing and the kitchens, as needed.

I was pacing just outside where Millie was. Madame Pomfrey had set up beds and screens around the worst of the injured, affording them some privacy in which to begin to recover. There were far too many of those screens.

I whirled around to face Moony. I could just imagine what I looked like, covered in soot and grime, my sweat leaving clean tracks across my skin. “How is she?” I rasped. I hadn’t left her side since I’d carried her in. It had been Lily who’d directed me towards the field hospital, her eyes worried and her face ashen.

Moony handed me a goblet.

“What’s this?” I demanded, but took the goblet anyway.

“Water,” Moony replied with some of his usual calm. There was something to be said about werewolves in a crisis – they knew how to keep their cool. Or maybe that was just Moony. “Drink.”

I complied. “Millie?” I asked after I drained the goblet. I hadn’t realised how parched my throat was. It felt nice to wash down all the soot.

Madame Pomfrey bustled out from behind the screen. “She’s still unconscious, but I’ve stopped the bleeding in her arm and checked her head. I won’t be able to do anything else until she wakes up, but I think she’ll be fine, Mr Black.”

My body went limp with relief. I put my head in my hands and choked back a sob. Oh, Merlin. I think I was going to cry.

A hand rested on my shoulder. I turned around to see Prongs standing behind me. “Is she going to be alright?” he asked quietly, his expression concerned. I wasn’t sure if the concern was for Millie, or my sanity.

I nodded, still too overcome to speak.

“You can see her, if you like,” Madame Pomfrey said kindly.

I looked up at her face and saw an understanding look in her eyes. “Are you sure?” I asked.

She smiled then. “Yes, I’m sure.”

“Go,” Moony said. Prongs gave me a little shove.

I didn’t hesitate again as I rushed behind the screen.

 
I could have pretended that she had merely fallen asleep, if it wasn’t for how pale she looked. There was a clean white bandage around her head and arm, and her leg looked normal under the covers.

I sank to my knees beside her face and merely looked at her. Madame Pomfrey had cleaned most of the dirt off her face, but she’d missed a spot on her cheek. I gently reached out and wiped it away with my thumb.

My breath came out in a slow exhale. I’d missed touching her; feeling her soft skin under my fingertips. I brushed away a strand of hair from her closed eyes.

I watched her face. I watched as her chest rose and fell evenly. I held her hand in my grasp. I looked at it, feeling the soft coolness of her palm against mine. Turning it over, I placed a soft kiss on the back of her hand, and let out a sigh.

If something had happened to her… I don’t know what I would have done.

Something drastic and stupid, I was sure.

Because I knew, as I watched her resting form, I was too far gone.

I loved her.

There were no two ways about it. I tried to pinpoint the exact moment when it had happened, thinking back over all the moments we’d shared since I’d asked her to pretend to be my girlfriend.

Had I loved her when I’d spoken to her in the kitchens two weeks ago? Yes.

Had I loved her when I’d gone looking for her that fateful night of the last Quidditch match of the season? Yes.

Had I loved her when I’d asked her to be my Valentine? Yes.

At this rate, I’d probably realise that I’d been in love with her since the moment I laid eyes on her at the Leaky Cauldron, almost a whole year ago. I knew that wasn’t when it had happened – probably – but it didn’t really matter. All that mattered was that it had.

And all it had taken me to realise that was her almost dying.

Fantastic.

That would be a story to tell the kids.

I was surprised that a thought like that didn’t surprise me. Millie hated me, and here I was, fantasising about telling our future children about how I’d realised I was in love with their mother. Typical.

But I loved Millie White, and I didn’t really care anymore about anything else.

And that was the moment when a horrible realisation came upon me.

She didn’t really care anymore about me.






AN: Hello everyone! Please don't hate me for this very late update! And after I promised a quicker one in the last chapter, too! I'm really sorry guys (for those of you who are still reading - you guys rock) but this chapter gave me a lot of difficulty. I had to change up the style a little get things going again - sorry if that annoys you, but tell me how you feel about it nonetheless!

Also tell me what you think about Sirius NOW! I'm super happy about where he was at the beginning of this story, and where he is now. It's taken a very long time, but it has finally happened! Yay!

Also, the title of this chapter is the song Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips, which was the inspiration for this chapter. The lyrics in the summary are from this song as well, and therefore, belong to Phillip Phillips!

Adios, amigos! :D

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