A Flaw In The Plan
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX REVISED
Suddenly Lupin stirred beside his semi-conscious wife and all attention was turned for a second time towards the growing number of bodies lining the raised platform in the Great Hall. He came round rather wobbly at first, struggling to his feet as he gazed unsteadily around at the procession which had suddenly began to file into the Great Hall around him.
"What happened?" He demanded rather sharply of Professor McGonagall in his obvious confusion, as he laid eyes upon her first. "Where's Teddy? Where's my son? I want to see my wife and son!"
"Relax Remus." McGonagall tried to reassure him, making her way over as gently she took him by the hand and led him off towards one of the large house benches as Professor Sprout helped Tonks to her feet. "Teddy's fine. Tonks left him back at her mother's where he'd be safe. Do you remember?"
Lupin shook his head vaguely. "I don't think… I'm afraid that I don't remember very much… what happened?"
"Well I'm afraid I'm rather baffled by that myself." McGonagall looked at him with an air of vague expectation. "I was rather hoping you may have been able to tell me that yourself."
Suddenly however there came a further commotion from over where Fred's body had been laid a short distance away from the rest making room for his family to gather around him. The sound of his mother's weeping was immediately ensued by her cries of shock and then joy as the entire Weasley family rushed to see what had happened, Molly revelling in the sudden and unexpected movement which her son had made with a mixture of reverence and delight.
"Well bless my soul!" Professor McGonagall exclaimed, clutching the neck of her gown weakly as tears filled her eyes. "I don't know what miracle has been performed this night but my God it is a miracle indeed."
"Excuse me Professor." Hermione stepped up to the platform, blushing violently and looking, to Harry's mind, more anxious and unsure of herself than he had ever seen her before. "But I'm afraid that I may be able to help explain what has gone on here tonight." She told her.
"You Miss Granger?" Professor McGonagall spluttered. "But… How?"
She was immediately silenced however as her eyes were drawn to what dangled from the end of a long gold chain which Hermione had just drawn from beneath her robes… there the time turner sat glittering within the palm of the young girl's hand.
Professor McGonagall looked quite perplexed at the small and glistening object, as though at that moment it was the rarest and most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life, before turning shakily back to Hermione. "But how in the name of Merlin's beard?" She exclaimed, not getting very far as Ron cut in.
"But Hermione, I thought you said that you had had to give that back to the Ministry at the end of our third year?" He asked her.
"I did." She explained, and Harry thought that he recognised just an inkling of a smile lift the corners of her lips and lift her so far tearful expression as she spoke. "But you never know when you might need one in a time of such great uncertainty. The day that we managed to infiltrate the Ministry Harry," She turned to him now, addressing him directly, "just before Umbridge managed to drag me off to that dreadful hearing, I seized my opportunity. It was just sitting there on one of the desks in front of me, and I thought to myself it was now or never, so I just took it and slipped it beneath my robes before Umbridge noticed anything. I mean it wasn't exactly steeling, not from Voldemort, it wasn't as though anything at the Ministry was really his to take in the first place… was it?" She added.
"Steeling!" Ron immediately exclaimed as he threw his arms ecstatically around Hermione's neck. "Hermione you're a ruddy genius!"
At this Hermione's face exploded into a large smile as she looked around nervously for vindication that she had done the right thing. Hundreds of faces now surrounded her, , most of whom had now irrupted into a glowing landscape of beaming grins themselves, and those who hadn't aimed a succession of winks and nods of approval at the brave young woman.
"But Hermione," Harry frowned after a moment. "That was months ago. Why haven't you told us about this before?" He asked her.
Hermione's answer was simple and struck a knife to Harry's heart with the mere mention of his godfather's name. Even he couldn't deny her grasp and accurate assessment of the situation however.
"Because," She explained, treading very carefully, "had I told you about it you would have been all for using it to bring back those who we had already lost; Sirius, Dumbledore, Ted Tonks." and Harry noticed her glance up apologetically at Nymphadora as she mentioned her father's name. "But you had to remain focused. Dumbledore had left us a mission, and I knew that he wouldn't have done so had it not been important. It was vital that you locate and destroy all the horcruxes not just the few which we had already found. I knew that the time turner must only be used when we absolutely had to... as an absolute last resort… but I also knew that I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least try to put to right some of the evil which has been done tonight."
At this Harry found himself just standing and looking at Hermione for what felt like a very long time. The Great Hall had lapsed into silence, everyone eager to hear what she had had to say. Anger surged in Harry's heart, that she seemed to be of the opinion that everyone else had had the right to live when Sirius had not. In the midst of his anger however his thoughts turned to the fate of another, and a sadness tinged with the faintest flicker of hope replaced the enmity in his heart.
"What about Snape?" He asked her at last, recognising the gasps and looks of surprise the mere mention of the man's name provoked from many, but choosing to ignore them.
"There was nothing I could do." Hermione responded, to Harry's surprise with an edge of sadness to her own voice, which made him wonder whether she didn't already know, at least in part, some of the details which had transpired in the pensive after Harry had inserted Snape's last memories. Did she already know that the man they had all once so hated had actually been doing his best to protect Harry for the past seventeen years, and died doing so?
"Snape!" Ron suddenly exclaimed however. "But he was a traitor! He killed Dumbledore! He was a slimeball, weasley coward who hated you and made all of our lives hell for the past six years. Why should you care if he's dead? He doesn't deserve a second thought Harry!"
"But he wasn't any of those things!" Harry growled, suddenly filled with an unexpected rage at the injustice of it all, and remorse for Snape's death. "He was a hero!" And he set about explaining what he now knew to be the truth about the man everyone, including himself, had once labelled a traitor.
After he'd finished there wasn't a single person who didn't appear moved by Harry's retelling of Snape's final act of bravery, and as Professor Slughorn and Hagrid were sent off to retrieve his broken body from where it still lay in the Shrieking Shack at least fifty more people had squeezed themselves into the Great Hall as the castle ghosts floated through the now derelict corridors spreading the news to portraits and straddlers alike that this once hated man had died a hero, trying to save 'the boy who lived'.
When they finally returned a short while later, bearing Snape between them – despite the fact that Hagrid could have easily managed his slender form alone – everyone was silent as they laid the potions master down alongside the others who'd lost their lives in the battle. Harry couldn't help but feel happy that Snape's body had at last come to rest in its rightful place. Never before had a man been so wrongfully misjudged – but at least now he knew the truth.
At that moment however he noticed Madam Pomfrey come bustling in to usher the more seriously wounded and those in need of further medical attention upstairs to the hospital wing – the only part of the castle which seemed to have escaped serious damage. Noticing Fred – supported by his family – Tonks, and Lupin – looking even more exhausted and shabbier than usual – being assisted out of the Great Hall he, Ron and Hermione began to make their way over.
"Harry! My dear boy!" Madam Pomfrey beamed as she noticed him approach. "This is indeed a wonderful day!"
He forced a smile in response.
"Umm… Madam Pomfrey, they will be alright won't they?" He ventured to ask her uncertainly, not sure he really wanted to know the answer. He knew they weren't out of the woods yet, especially Remus who looked close to collapse.
Following his gaze and guessing that he meant the three who were now being supported by various members of the Order in turn she nodded and smiled pleasantly. "Thanks to Miss Granger here they will." She responded, and Hermione's cheeks immediately flushed with red for the second time that evening. "Had it been the avada kedavra there would have been nothing anybody could have done for them, but fate was on our side tonight it would seem. With any luck I'll have them all back on their feet within the next few days." She almost sang in her gladness, but with that she shuffled out of the Great Hall and was gone.
Harry wanted to go and join the rest of the group in the hospital wing there and then, but feeling the lump of the Elder Wand still stuffed deep within the pocket of his robes he knew that he had one final task left to perform, and he turned to Ron and Hermione.
"Will you join me?" He asked them, and they both nodded, smiling, happy in the knowledge of the better times which were to come. With that all three of them left the Great Hall for the Headmaster's office together.
As Harry, Ron and Hermione entered the hospital wing a short while later the first figure he noticed was Tonks. Ron immediately made a beeline for his own family, all seven Weasley's gathered around Fred's bedside, as Hermione's expression changed to reveal that she was torn between the two. The question of who she should go to first obviously lay heavily upon her mind. Harry however made a motion to her that she should join Ron if she so wished but with this Tonks turned, her tear stained face evident despite the distance between them, and Hermione's mind was immediately made up as the pair began to make their way over to Lupin's bedside. The lone witch now sat, gazing down at her husband. As the pair approached the foot of the bed Harry noticed that she was wearing a pale pink dressing gown to contrast the blue highlights of her hair.
"Hiya." He remarked awkwardly, not too sure of what to say as Tonks looked up.
"Wotcha Harry." She smiled, as Hermione wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders.
"How are you feeling?" She asked her.
"Oh, I've felt better." Tonks sighed sadly, wiping the tears from her cheeks before turning back to look at her husband. "But lucky to be alive…" She added. "I can't believe it's all finally over though. Can Voldemort really be dead?"
Harry nodded. Lupin lay asleep, pale faced and grey, his breathing shallow in the bed before them. Harry registered Hermione's look of shock at how ill he looked, but could do nothing to console her… there really was nothing to be done except to give the more seriously wounded time – something which for the first time in years they now had plenty of.
"How is he?" Harry asked her.
"He's very sick." Tonks explained, looking down at Remus affectionately and gently slipping her hand into his – taking comfort from the warmth of his palm. "It wasn't anything nearly as deadly as the Avara Kadavera." She explained. "He was very lucky. Obviously they believed that whatever they used on him he wasn't going to be strong enough to survive it… but they underestimated him. These dark curses are nasty though… he was weak before, and the injuries he sustained were serious, but Madame Pomfrey says that given time he should make a full recovery. I don't know how you managed it Hermione."
"He's lucky she was there." Remarked Harry with a smile as he glanced proudly at Hermione by his side. "She's saved us all."
"Well, you proved yourself that it's possible Harry." She grinned back, tears in her eyes.
With this the two looked up to see that Ron too was now making his way over to them, his expression brighter than either of them had seen in a very long time and beaming.
"Fred's awake." He explained. "He's got a concussion and is complaining about one hell of a headache… but he's alive thanks to you Hermione!" She grinned.
Harry sighed. "I only wish Dumbledore could have survived to see this day." He mused sadly. "and that others, Sirius, and Mad-Eye, and Dobby… they all died so needlessly. I never thought I'd live to see the day when I'd feel pain for Snape's death but he was a good man. He risked so much in his fight to defeat Voldemort, more than most, and he was so alone through it all. They all deserved to see this day."
"I know." Hermione nodded, wrapping an arm around Harry's shoulder's with this, and giving them a comforting squeeze. "But we'll never forget them, and their names will go down in history as those who died so others may live… they guaranteed a better future for everyone… one free of Voldemort and the suffering and pain he inflicted upon the world."
"I know." Harry sighed, appearing momentarily distracted by his own thoughts. His expression glazed over and his empty stare appeared to be looking at something far away. Both Ron and Hermione fancied they knew what, or who was preying on his mind – Hedwig, the faithful and loyal bird who over the last six years had served Harry so well. The loving and intelligent companion they knew they would never see again. He'd hardly had chance to grieve for her yet.
Harry swiped a tear from his eye. "I'm glad you could both be here with me." He said. "At the end of it all."
"Not the end Harry." Hermione pointed out.
Outside the sun had started to come up, casting rays of beautiful golden light over the ruins of Hogwarts, and decorating it's walls with a rich and vibrant glow. Lupin started to stir. The school had sustained extensive damage, but it could and would be rebuilt, given time - just as they would rebuild their lives.
"The start of a new day." Ron sighed.
Harry looked at them both, wrapping his arms around his two best friend's shoulders. "No, not the end." He agreed, remembering something Dumbledore had once told him, many years ago, and looking out of the window, up towards the sky. He knew that, if he could, the wise old Headmaster would be watching over them all - and he hoped that they'd made him proud.
"From the ashes we are reborn." He whispered to himself, thinking of the time he'd watched Dumbledore's pet Phoenix Fawkes burst into flames during his second year at the school, before being reborn. Hermoine and Ron exchanged a confused glance at this, they didn't understand, but Harry fancied he finally did - and he smiled..