A/N: Could I
possibly have left it like that? This is the last chapter, but there is an
epilogue to follow. I'm certainly not intending to leave Theo, Anne, and their
universe after this - no matter what happens in HBP - but whether I get
anything up before HBP comes out depends on timing.
And I just realised about all the trouble with funny symbols - I had no
idea. Mea culpa, for not double-checking. This chapter should be okay, and I'm
going to try and replace the problematic chapters with corrected ones ASAP.
Sorry about all that.
Twenty-Three - Ritando
There were Aurors on the door of Hogwarts. They let
Theo in only, he suspected, because they'd seen their colleague talking to him.
"Who's still out there?" one of them, a
brown-haired man, asked.
"No one sensible, Hal," his partner snorted.
"My f-" Theo clamped his mouth shut on the
word. "Eric Nott."
The brown-haired Auror narrowed his eyes at him.
"So you're Theodore Nott, huh?" If Theo didn't know better, he would
have thought the man was hiding a smile.
"Yes," Theo allowed stiffly, striding
quickly into the school. The last thing he needed was to be stared at by some stupid
Auror who thought he knew who Theo was. They didn't know anything. Not anything
that counted. Theo was going to - well, first, go to the Great Hall, because
his shoulder was becoming less and less easy to ignore, and then...go back to
his common room and find out what today had cost Hogwarts.
He knew what it had cost him.
A few people were going in and out of the Entrance
Hall. Anne was sitting alone on a step, looking white and small. As soon as
Theo saw her, he forgot about his shoulder. Anne's eyes focused, noticed him,
and her face flooded with colour and life. She sprang to her feet and rushed
"Theo! Oh, thank God, you're not - your arm
With a few quick steps, they were face to face. She
reached out to touch his left arm gingerly, and he winced.
"It'll be all right. Anne -" The next thing
he'd meant to say was, "What happened to you?" He attributed to blood
loss and shock the fact that what came out was "I love you, you know
Terry, who had bounced out of the Great Hall unnoticed
and was just tugging on Anne's sleeve, giggled. Theo wasn't sure to be relieved
or angry when Anne, who had transferred her attention to Terry, said,
"Yes, I do. Terry, where have you been? Theo
disappearing, then you off again, I was worried -"
Terry snorted. "Anne, you're an idiot."
"I didn't leave everyone panicking!" Anne
said, glaring at her. "Why can't you stay in the same place for two
seconds at a time?"
"Sorry, Theo," Terry said with great aplomb,
"what she actually means is that she loves you too and she's really happy
to see you but she's feeling upset 'cause of the battle and she's trying to
look after me even though she doesn't need to 'cause she's my big sister."
Theo wished fervently that hexing second-years was not
something that would bring down a professor's wrath on him. "Thank you for
that translation, Terry. I could never have worked that out by myself."
"Ahem." Anne had, apparently, finally heard
what he had said - and what she had said. She was blushing. "Oh, dear."
Theo gave her a half-smile. "I always know what
you mean, remember?"
Anne bit her lip, then smiled back. "Thank
goodness for that."
And he had known what she meant. Which was probably
what counted. Theo winced as the doors opened and Liam O'Neill's voice could be
heard announcing there was another prisoner. He'd known what his father meant,
once. In the here and now it was impossible. Perhaps that was what loving
someone meant. Understanding them, and caring for them even so...
Some of the implications of that were untenable, and
untrue besides, so he nodded towards the stairs.
"I have to go to the hospital wing. Or wherever
Madam Pomfrey is. My wrist's broken, I think. And I need to find Monique."
"You mean the Great Hall." Definitely blood
loss; he didn't normally forget things like that. Anne fell into step beside
him, Terry skipping along as well. "Madam Pomfrey's injured, and there're too many people to use the hospital wing.
Your...your family are all okay, and mine too, but...it's bad."
"It's over," Theo said. "It's worth
that, if it's over for good."
"I don't know about that," Anne replied
quietly, glancing at Terry. Theo followed her gaze across the Entrance Hall,
past the black scar in the marble floor , the splintered doors letting rain
blow in, and the blood, which was stubbornly refusing to be washed away.
"Maybe it is. But...I wish we didn't have to pay this price."
"We didn't," Theo reminded her. Hannah Abbott's
slumped form danced under his eyelids, Anthony Goldstein with his missing hand,
Dennis Creevey covered in his brother's blood. Even Blaise Zabini. "You're
right, though. I wish that it hadn't had to be paid at all."
"We didn't?" Anne raised an eyebrow. "Theo, I
talked to Ernie Macmillan. I saw..." She glanced back to the door, and the
Aurors who must now be standing there, along with...no. No looking back.
"You paid for this victory, too."
It was true, but it wasn't a truth Theo wanted to
did what I had to," he said coldly. "It wasn't as if there was a
"Theo-" Anne bit her lip, then shook her
head. "Maybe you're right."
Under her breath, he heard her mutter, "But you
don't really think that."
He chose to ignore it. He didn't want to talk to
anyone about what had just passed between him and his father, not even Anne.
Not until he was ready. Not that it was too painful, although painful it was;
it was merely private. He'd betrayed his father's trust enough, today.
The Great Hall was full to the brim with people in
various states of shock and injury. Approximately half were parents and
siblings who had arrived in the great rush the night before. Theo was scolded
by a Healer from St. Mungo's for having a broken arm and not having come in
sooner, then further when he started to shiver from the cold and damp. The Hall
was anything but cold with so many people in it, but Theo was forcibly seated
near one of the fireplaces and told to stay there "or else!" Anne was
amused. It was not often that someone managed to order Theo to do anything.
Anne had been in there earlier for her multiple small
injuries, which had added up to quite a lot of pain. She still had to favour
her left side, and the Healer who treated Theo (who had also treated her)
frowned at her and asked if her shoulder was giving her trouble. Anne shook her
head mutely, feeling suddenly too tired for words - impossible, it was barely
midday - then followed Theo over to sit with him beside the fire. Her family
were safe, and she would see them, but she wanted to reassure herself Theo was
all right. She wanted to reassure Theo. Whatever he had said to his father, it
would weigh heavily on him. Terry, after being kept for a good and
well-deserved sisterly scolding, tried to race off again to her common room.
"I have to go and find Mum and Dad - well, again,
I saw them before - and Jake, too, I haven't seen him yet and Alex and Cait
couldn't find him either - I think he was -"
"Jake," Anne repeated to herself, unable to
stop. "That was his name. I couldn't remember, you know. That was
terrible. I should have remembered. Someone should have remembered."
"What?" Terry halted, half-ready to fly. She
looked so...innocent. Anne couldn't say it. She couldn't. She wanted to eke out
this moment, to preserve, for however long, that look of innocence that even
the Cruciatus curse and a battle had not been able to dent. This news would. It
Theo slipped his arm around her waist; she barely
"Terry," she began slowly, "Terry, I
hate to be the one to tell you-"
"No!" Terry shot back, clenching her fists.
The noise went unnoticed in the bustle of the Hall. "No, he's fine, he has
to be, he's fine, he'll be back in the common room, he's fine -"
Theo interrupted the ragged chant. "Terry. You
saw this battle."
Her sister's face crumpled, and Anne wanted to turn
"No," Terry whispered, "it's not true
if you don't say it, don't say it-"
Anne forced the words out. "He's dead, Terry. I
saw his body. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"No." Terry collapsed into Anne, stifling sobs in
her shoulder. "No, please, not Jake, it isn't fair-"
"You know about Hannah Abbott?" Theo said to Anne, looking down at
her and Terry with a frown.
"Yes." Anne swallowed. "And Colin. And
Helen Thompson. And Professor Sinistra, and Professor Dumbledore, and...Don't
read me the list of the dead, Theo; I can't handle it right now." Tears
stung her eyes, and she blinked them back. "Not right now."
"Blaise Zabini, if that makes you feel
better," Theo told her with black humour.
That brought Terry's head up. "Was he the one who
"Yes." Theo's face tightened.
"I'm glad!" She dashed a sleeve across her
face. "But Jake...Anne, why did they come here?"
Anne held her sister close. "They wanted
everything, and we couldn't let them have it."
"The story of the last few centuries," Theo
"In the Muggle world as much as ours," Anne
agreed over Terry's head.
"Ours?" Terry didn't look up. "The Muggle world's
ours too, Anne!"
"Maybe you're right," Anne said, to soothe
her, but Theo's smile was wry. He knew what she really meant.
Not as it was. Not ever again. The wizarding world
sucks you in and doesn't let go, and then it demands everything you have for
the right to stay there, when you have no choice about it.
So not truly ours, Terry, not any more. We lost
that battle long ago.
"Is everyone else in my year okay?" Terry
asked in an unusually quiet voice.
"I don't know," Anne said at the same time
as Theo. "The best thing for you to do right now, if you're okay, is go
back to your common room where Mum and Dad are, all right? Look, Parvati
Patil's just over there. She's in Gryffindor, she'll take you back."
"You should come," Terry said hopefully.
Anne shook her head. "I want to, but I have to go to my common room.
Headma- Headmistress's orders. I've sent them a message; they know I'm okay.
Will you be all right, now?"
Terry sniffled, but got up. "Yes. You should come, no one
cares about the rules anymore."
"Go on. I'll see you as soon as I can."
Terry nodded, then straightened her shoulders and
headed through the crowd to where Parvati Patil had last been.
"She's right," Theo spoke up, "no one
"I can't take Terry's grief as well, not for a
little while longer. And my parents...I can't face them now, is that
strange?" Anne replied wearily. "Not with Terry out here when she
should have been safe, and with everything...I'd rather pretend for a little
while that they're safe home. I always hated telling them when things went
wrong here. If I have to see them, I'll have to admit they were right,
"Right about what?"
"The stakes were too high. To
stay." She could hear her voice fading. "Look around you. Just
before, I was - I was throwing all these stupid words about duty at them, and
about being an adult, here...I don't want to be, anymore. If this is what it
means." She gestured at their surroundings. The injured, and the weeping,
and even the dying. The bloody remnants of war.
"Our world?" Theo said deliberately.
She leant her head on his shoulder, unable to summon
the energy to laugh. Their world. Of course. The price hadn't been too high
because there was nothing else that could have been done, despite everything
telling her differently. You couldn't hide from yourself. You couldn't be what
you weren't just because someone else wanted you to. If the past year had
taught her anything, it was that.
"I hope Parvati is okay to get her back
there," she added as a thought struck her. "She'll be pretty fragile,
"Why?" Theo frowned. "I saw her sister
earlier, she's okay -"
Anne closed her eyes against a flash of memory.
Parvati huddled next to Lavender Brown, holding her hand in a death-grip.
"Lavender Brown. You remember - they were good
friends," was all she needed to say.
"Oh." Theo was silent for a moment. "I
What you're thinking is that you thought Lavender
was a giggling twit and better her than someone else. But you're
not saying it because that would upset me, except you don't need to say
it for me to know what you mean...except I'm probably being unfair...except I
know you too well.
It was a morbid fascination, but one Anne could
sympathise with. You didn't want to know and you didn't want to have seen, but
somehow the truth was better than what your brain came up with in its place,
left to speculate.
"Broken neck. She was alive when I left,
but...oh. I wish I'd stayed. At least she wasn't alone. Hannah?"
"Nothing so bad. Only the Killing Curse. From
behind." Theo snorted. "Only. She was fighting. Like that makes it better."
"It does," Anne insisted. "It
means...something. I think."
"I like not such grinning honour as she
hath," Theo said bitterly. Anne was too tired to try and figure out where
that came from, and doubted she'd be able to. "I'd rather live, thank you
"Then why are you here?"
"Pride. If you want to call it that. Or
maybe...what you said about Terry, once. You become what people expect of you,
because their disappointment is worse than whatever it is they expect you to
The other great truth of life. Fight to the death
to stop yourself becoming what others wish you to be, and fight to the death to be what
they believe you are.
"I wanted to run away," Anne admitted,
quietly. "Or hide with Terry. But you can't. Harry Potter gave us what we
needed to fight; not fighting would have been...disloyal. You can't do
that." Her lips twitched in memory. "Oh, yes, and Ginny Weasley would
have had our heads."
Theo laughed, not in humour. "I wanted to run. I
did, I suppose. But then I ran straight into Ernie and the others, and they
expected me to go with them, and I couldn't...it was the way they didn't even
think I might run. Just like my father never thought I - one betrayal is
enough. I do have some self-respect."
"I don't think you're like that. Even if you
prefer to think you are."
"Well, exactly. The question is, how long do you
have to wear a mask before it becomes the truth?"
"You don't," Anne said with conviction,
"wear a mask around me. So I think I can make that judgement."
"Sometimes," Theo said dryly, "I really
do think I should have overridden boredom and gone to the damn Quidditch
Anne elbowed him, but without real force.
"Uh-huh. I believe you."
"No, you don't."
The noise in the Hall was dying down as people got
sent back to their common rooms or simply lost the energy to keep talking. The
bench Theo and Anne were sitting on creaked as someone lowered themselves onto
the other end. Anne peered around Theo to see Estella Haywood sitting there,
staring blankly at the fire.
"Hello," Theo said.
Estella didn't look up. "Mmm."
"I heard about Andrea Banks," Anne commented
carefully. That made two from Estella's class, counting Gerald Cameron in the
summer. Anne's class had been so lucky, with only Gabby. Then there was Brian,
transferred to St. Mungo's and hovering on the edge; Sarah had been a mess,
unable to hold still. Maybe that was her trouble. She committed so fiercely to
protecting her classmates, each and every one, that any objection to that
protection appeared to her as a betrayal. You had to pity her children, if she
had them. Still, it made her a good Prefect, especially the way she watched
over the youngest ones. Everything had two sides. Even today's battle must,
although Anne was having trouble seeing the good of it through the haze of
Anne realised her thoughts were drifting. She was
bone-weary. Her crying had been done before Terry had been found; any more
would wait 'till later. Her speaking to Theo had been done, for the moment. She
should go, before someone came and sent them back to their common rooms. She
should find her family. She just couldn't bring herself to go anywhere.
"Malfoy was out there," Estella said
suddenly. "Not dead. Not worth killing him. I don't know what's happened."
"He'll have run," Theo replied. "If
he's lucky, he will have got away. And there's no proof."
Estella shrugged. "He's powerless, now.
Everything he had was because of his family, and the Dark Lord. And..."
"What?" Theo said warily. Anne could feel
him tense. He'd never liked Estella Haywood very much, Anne knew. She wasn't
sure what that stemmed from, other than the fact the Slytherin girl was frankly
intimidating. You had no idea what was going on behind those cold grey eyes.
"This." Estella pulled out a wand; Anne
didn't recognise, it but Theo drew in a breath. "He'll kill you if he can,
"I know that. Let him try." With a quick
motion, she snapped the wand in two. Anne winced; even she knew what that symbolised
to another wizard. Even today, she had not seen one person break another's
wand. Take it, hide it, but not break it. It was simply not done.
Estella tossed the two pieces of wood into the fire,
where they caught immediately, throwing off green and gold sparks from the
magical core. She stood and left without a word.
"Was that revenge?" Anne asked. "Malfoy
will never know she did that."
"He doesn't need to. Haywood knows, and she knows
he'll wonder forever just what she did with his wand...an even better revenge.
If you're in the business of making lifelong enemies."
"And you're not?"
"Not when it's easily avoidable, no."
Anne echoed. The noise around them was no more than a murmur, now. Surely
someone would be along any minute to make them go.
Just for now, she didn't move.
With the Hall now quieter, the weary voice from behind
them was easy to hear.
Theo disengaged himself from Anne and stood.
"Liam said you'd come this way, and I needed to
check," Theo's aunt explained. "Are...you all right, Theo?"
Theo hesitated. If anyone would
understand..."Yes. Yes, I'm fine."
"Good." Monique gave him a fierce hug, and
he could see Anne hiding a smile at his startled expression. But after a
second, he returned it. Family, after all. "I'm glad you didn't get
yourself killed. When you rushed on out there..."
Theo shrugged, feeling embarrassed. Put that way, he
sounded like an idiot Gryffindor. "I...wasn't thinking."
Monique smiled wryly. "If you wish. Callum would
have stopped by, but he's...busy."
"His Housemates haven't strung him up for
"Let's say it's still under debate." Monique
glanced at Anne. "I'm sure Anne can explain the implications of what he
did. Be safe, the pair of you."
"Not much danger here." Anne gestured at the
Hall. "I'll try to keep him out of trouble, Mrs. O'Neill."
"You'll -" Theo choked, and his aunt
laughed. "I'm sure you will."
"So, Anne," Theo asked as his aunt left,
"what are all those rooms leading off your common room?"
She stiffened, staring up at him warily as he sat.
"What rooms?" she asked.
Theo rolled his eyes. "I already know about them,
you heard Aunt Monique. Those rooms and tunnels that come out beside the main
fireplace. One of the tunnels goes to a door in that ante-chamber behind the
dais in the Hall here."
Anne gaped. "How do you know about that?"
He grinned, enjoying her total amazement. "Callum
led a group of us out through there when the Death Eaters hit the Hall. I must
say, your fellow Hufflepuffs didn't look too pleased to see us. I was quite
pleased to get out of there as fast as I could. That's what Aunt Monique
Anne groaned, shaking her head. "Oh, no. Your
uncle is going to be toast. Hung, drawn, and quartered. The sett's been a House
secret since Helga Hufflepuff. It's never been revealed to anyone outside the
House. Ever. In a thousand years. People are going to have absolute fits. This
"More terrible than Death Eaters?" Theo said
sharply, and she smiled wryly.
"Well, perhaps not, but this is...a thousand
years of tradition? You can't talk about this to anyone. I mean it, Theo. Bad
enough if - how many of you were there?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Ten, twelve? Alicia
Davies and her brother, a couple of other Slytherins, some Ravenclaws,
Longbottom, a boy in your year, Jeremy, I think it was, he wasn't pleased,
and my...my family. A few."
Anne sighed, looking over her shoulder at the rest of
the Hall. "I should have guessed, I suppose. On a day like today, anything
can happen. Still. I can't believe your uncle would do that. He seemed so
"He is half-Muggle. I suppose our
traditions don't mean as much to him in the face of danger."
Anne frowned at him.
"I'm Muggle-born," she pointed out stiffly, "and
I've never told anyone, not even my parents. You don't have to have the right
blood to appreciate tradition. God knows, you've broken enough of it."
Theo looked down, chastised. "Only because I had
"Only because he had no choice," Anne said,
and then, sighing, "I don't know how you do it, really I don't."
"Do what?" Theo said, looking up at her, or
at least, less down.
"Mix me around. Three seconds ago I was arguing
against your uncle, and I just started defending him."
"It's a talent," Theo told her gravely,
"I'm getting you to see all sides of the argument."
"What am I supposed to do with that?"
"Pick the one you like best, and stick with it.
Or not, as circumstances warrant."
Anne muttered something Theo didn't quite catch which
sounded like "politicians' game." He chose not to comment. Anne was
capable of a very broad worldview, as she had proved by putting up with him.
She was allowed a small prejudice or two.
"Who sent you here?" came a cheerful voice
from behind them. Theo followed Anne's gaze to a short, spiky-haired Auror.
"Hello, Sergeant," Anne said. "Theo got
sent here to dry out, he was out in the rain."
"Talking to your father, I heard," the Auror
- no, wait, it was the disowned Black daughter's daughter, Sergeant Tonks - addressed
"That's not your business," Theo replied
"It could be," she said equitably. "But
under the circumstances, I'll take your word for it. Professor McGonagall's
just getting me to go round and remind you all that you're to get back to your
common rooms fairly soon, they're trying to keep track of everyone."
"Who's taking over Hufflepuff, do you know,
Sergeant?" Anne asked. Theo remembered seeing Professor Sprout fall.
The Auror's face saddened. "Professor Wykeham,
for the moment. And before you ask, Professor McGonagall is Headmistress for
Theo had almost forgotten. Death you had seen had a
vivid intimacy that reported death could not, and blocked it out almost
"What happened to - to Dumbledore? Was it the
"Yes. I don't know details, but - ah, well, it's
no secret anymore. There was a prophecy, about...it isn't important, but it
mentioned there was only one person who could kill You - kill Voldemort. And
when he realised it...he was free to attack Dumbledore. Then the battle, and,
well...Harry fulfilled it. The prophecy. He killed Voldemort."
"Dumbledore will be missed,"
Anne said softly.
"Yes," Theo agreed. He'd barely spoken to
the Headmaster, but Dumbledore had found him safety over the summer - and
watched, as best he could, during the term. A debt was owed there that Theo had
never been easy about. Now it would never be repaid. Theo knew, of course, that
Dumbledore would have said some nonsense or other about how choosing the right
course was repayment - but Theo knew it wasn't. That had had nothing to do with
Dumbledore, and was not to be confused with it.
Sergeant Tonks shook her head, breaking the spell.
"Well, I'd best get on and warn the others. Don't hang around here too long, you two,
you'll become joined at the hip."
Theo frowned after her. "I wonder how the Dark
Lord found out the actual wording of the prophecy?"
"You knew about it?" Anne sounded startled.
"That a prophecy existed - but I'd
forgotten, to be honest. My father mentioned it, once, back - oh, the summer
after fifth year. It didn't seem important at the time."
"Really?" Anne's expression was
disbelieving. "Not important?"
"Well...more not my business. There I was, holed
up in my room writing letters to you; I owed my father that secret. I never
wanted to be a spy."
And I never was. Apart from...once. Once only, and
I couldn't have blood on my hands, even at second hand.
No, I kept that promise to myself. As well as I
"You'd be terrible at it, anyway," Anne
murmured. "Too much honour."
Theo scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous."
Her expression was faintly amused. "Very
well." Looking around, she sighed. "We better go. They know where
everyone is, but I don't blame them for wanting to feel like they're doing
"I can," said Theo grudgingly. "But I suppose
"Following the rules? What's the matter with you
The joke fell rather flat, but Theo did his best to
prop it up.
"No idea. It just seems rather incongruous to
survive a battle and still end up with detention."
"I swear Snape was on the point of giving some of
the Gryffindors detention for surviving," Anne told him, eyes twinkling.
"He had high hopes for this battle, I think."
"He survived, then?"
"As far as I know. He was chivvying people out of
here just before you got back with his usual cheerful demeanour."
"Ah, we're all leaving in two weeks." Theo
waved a hand. "I hear he's planning the party for the moment Harry Potter
walks out the gate of Hogwarts, though. "
"I can imagine." Anne rose reluctantly.
"Are you all right, Theo?"
He'd been asked that question too many times to count,
by so many different people he'd given up on any answer but a simple
"yes." But Anne deserved better than that.
"No." He reached for her hand, twining his
fingers through hers. "I thought I'd...started again, this year. When I
left last August. But I didn't. I've just been putting off finishing, this
whole year. Or maybe I've spent it finishing. It's hard to tell, from here. I
think I couldn't start again, not at Hogwarts."
Anne nodded simply. "Too many memories here. I
don't want to come back, next year, and see...but I have to, don't I?"
"Good memories, too," Theo added hastily.
"Yeah, good ones." She looked around
quickly, and apparently observing no direct onlookers, leaned down to kiss him
on the cheek. "I'll try and find you when things calm down."
Theo squeezed her hand once, then let go. "Do
She paused, then leaned over again, this time for a
"Terry was right. I mean - I love you, you
know," she mumbled in his ear. Theo almost didn't catch it, but he did,
and that was enough.
"I always know what you mean. We established
"Not the point." She straightened,
reluctantly. Theo was reluctant for her to let go, anyway. "See you
Theo watched her go, knowing he'd be evicted back to
his common room any moment now. The ceiling of the Great Hall showed that it
was still bitterly raining outside, the sullen dark grey of a summer storm.
Theo stared at the swirling cloud for a minute before rising. He'd go back to
the common room, and see what was happening, and then...then he had some
mourning to do. His father's last call was going to haunt his dreams for weeks,
but that was the price he'd chosen to pay. He just hadn't known it, two years
ago, when he'd told a quiet Muggle-born that of course he'd never be a Death
Eater, how could she believe that of him?
But he'd paid it, all the same. There hadn't been much
of a choice. Strange, how running and hiding could bring you, when all the
fighting was done, to the same place you would have been if you'd taken the
high road of defiance and courage.
He rose, shaking his head. No point philosophising, either;
for the first time in what seemed like forever, all that lay in front of him
was the future. There were still a lot of choices to be made, of course, but
not like the ones that lay behind him. His own personal horizons were clear,
never mind the sky outside.
Picking his way through the crowds, he followed Anne
out of the Hall.