FIC: "The Aftermath" for songquake Recipient: songquake Author/Artist: ??? Title: The Aftermath Rating: PG-13 Pairings: Charity/Hermione, Dudley/Neville, Pomona/Minerva Word Count: 3770 words Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *canon character death, fanon character survival*. Summary: In the days after the Battle for Hogwarts, there was much healing work to be done. Fortunately all of creation was helping Author's/Artist's Notes: Dear Songquake, I hope with all my heart that this amuses you. When you mentioned Charity surviving, a whole cascade of head-canon came flowing in, and this asked to be written. The inspiration for Dudley’s perhaps unlikely appearance comes from this artwork: http://dudley-redeemed.livejournal.com/18651.html Many, many thanks and blessings to my kind and thoughtful betas MBR & K.
1. Infirmary: Early Morning
Nurse Pomfrey hurried to the apothecary for more Burn Banishing salve. The honey and comfrey concoction was a specialty of Pomona’s, and it worked miracles as far as she was concerned. Having used up several pints in the past day, she made a note to reorder now, to allow plenty of time. It wouldn’t do to be without.
On her way back to her patient, she nodded and smiled at Charity and the Granger girl who were tending a crumpled form. She watched as Hermione held a steady Lumos while Charity carefully completed the elaborate bandage at the man’s throat. Several glowing potions flowed into the drip line running into the unconscious man’s arm. Poppy nodded her approval and bustled on.
Through the archway she caught a glimpse of Pomona Sprout running triage in the makeshift A&E. There was quite a crowd, but no doubt Pomona had the situation well in hand.
Poppy continued her journey to the end of the ward toward her most serious burn patient, a huge man occupying three beds lashed together. Hagrid smiled when he saw her, before remembering that it hurt to move any part of his body. She soothed him with a calming charm and began gently removing a portion of bandage to apply the cooling salve.
After working quietly for some time, she tucked the final piece of Hagrid’s extensive bandages neatly in place. He had fallen into a peaceful doze. Nurse Pomfrey smoothed his sheets and rose, taking in the scene of the busy ward.
Despite her weariness, Poppy had to smile. A light breeze moved in through the tall windows, and she brushed a strand of silvering hair from her face. Breathing in the scent of spring, she felt the warmth of magic and gratitude rising within her.
In all her years at Hogwarts, she’d not seen an emergency on this scale, overflowing all available beds, requiring dozens of volunteers, some of them working despite injuries of their own. But considering the rows of corpses that lined the school’s foyer, the hospital ward was actually the hopeful place to be.
2. A&E: Mid-Day
Dudley Dursley slumped in the hallway outside the makeshift A&E, waiting his turn for a pain potion and Draught of Peace. He hunched over, arms around his knees, trying not to cry.
Long lines of students and staff were waiting. With many moans and cries, limping witches and crudely-bandaged wizards crowded the former classroom, but these were the minor injuries, and they were made to wait.
Amid this chaotic scene Professor Sprout skillfully diagnosed each injury, dispensed advice, comfort and herbal prescriptions and gave instructions to helpers. She deployed her best students to fetch necessary balms from the dispensary, where Horace was filling orders as fast as he could, one leg bandaged and propped on a floating cushion.
Neville Longbottom had just returned from the greenhouse, arms laden with fragrant herbs. Despite the armload of fresh ingredients for the Potions Master, he looked a fright, with a gash over one eye and torn and dirty tunic. But Neville’s eyes were bright and determined.
He spied Dudley after he delivered his bundle and crouched down to peer at Dudley’s hidden face.
“Hey, are you okay, mate?”
Dudley felt a gentle hand came to rest on his arm and looked up into warm brown eyes. He wished he could disappear. This was the last person he wanted to see him crying like a baby. He fought to hold in the tears, but the result was a quivering chin and his eyes spilling over. Dudley attempted to duck his head in shame.
“Hey, wait, no.”
Neville settled onto the floor beside him and touched his face, wiping the tears away and lifting his face, smoothing Dudley’s hair.
“You were brilliant out there, mate. Do you realize how many students you saved? Without you, that evil hag would have killed me, for starters!”
Neville pulled the larger boy into a hug. Dudley buried his face on the comforting shoulder and let Neville hold him while he cried.
“Remus! Get back here this instant!” Pomona Sprout could command the attention of a large lecture hall, so Lupin stopped in his tracks involuntarily.
“I have to get back downstairs.” And bury my wife, he thought, grimly. He looked at her wearily through his one good eye.
“You will do no such thing, young man! You need to be assigned a bed immediately.”
He snorted and waved his hand at the overflowing room. “I am in good enough shape to tend the dead, Professor.” He tried to smooth his hair and summon an air of authority.
“Well at least let me clean you up, man. You could frighten the dead.” She risked a grim joke.
He submitted with a sigh, and she sat him down on a desk. Summoning a basin of warm water, fragrant with lavender, Pomona proceeded to gently clean his face of dried blood.
“This eye needs more than just a coagulating charm, Remus. You’ll lose your sight.“
“I already have, Pomona, it’s best I keep working until things get a bit more under control. It’s rather hellish downstairs, and I can see you have your hands full up here.”
She didn’t argue with him, but finished cleaning his wound, applied a plantain salve, and applied a sealing patch over it to keep in clean. Dosing him with Rescue Remedy ,she sent him on his way. He was lucky to be alive, but he was right. There was still so much to do.
3. The Great Hall: Afternoon
Lupin came down the main staircase to the grand foyer teeming with figures wandering about the rubble. Acting Headmistress McGonagall was waving her wand like a conductor, supervising students who were clearing space of rubble, sending helpers as well as the injured up to the Infirmary, and directing those with corpses to the makeshift morgue.
After years of conjuring the sky into the stone vault of the Great Hall, how odd it was that actual sunlight now flooded in between the few remaining arches. The sky was the kind of clear blue perfection that only May can bring, eerie in its cheerfulness when cast upon such devastation. The hall was flooded with liquid light, illuminating the many figures, the living and the dead.
For all the chaos around her, and the weariness of days of battle and recovery, Minerva felt strong and clear. She was pleased with how quickly order was being restored. Years of battle, she thought. It’s been over 20 years of being on alert for the growing evil and where it would erupt next. Finally, she felt a sense of open skies ahead in the magical continuum. She drew upon her Magic, pulling it up from the stones beneath her feet, and felt it course through her bones and muscles, felt it pouring into her brain, clearing away weariness, sharpening her vision.
Several of the giants had come to her, hanging their heads and delivering a groveling apology. One offered her a wilted fistful of jonquils. She put them to work moving the largest stones and restacking walls. Firenze had hailed the Centaurs, and a dozen had come to help with hauling and carrying, something they had always been far too proud to do. The Thestrals stood by with their carts, transfigured into caissons for the dead.
Luna, Cho and Lavender were the de facto chaplains, guiding people to what they needed, notifying relatives, and comforting the grieving. Minerva saw Cho Chang offer spring water to Remus and Andromeda, sitting beside their beloved Tonks. Lavender was distributing her namesake about, not only for its pleasant scent, but to lift spirits and cleanse the air. Luna sat with the Weasleys, plaiting violets into Ginny’s hair and nodding as she listened.
4. Rest: Evening
Later that day Minerva sent Ginny up to the headmaster’s tower to look after Harry and Ron, last seen viewing Snape’s memories. She found them curled in Dumbledore’s enormous bed (no one, not even Snape, had dared to move into Albus’ room). They were sound asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms. Ginny cried tears of sweet relief and love, then summoned a comfortable chair nearby. She curled up to watch them as the sky darkened in twilight hues. Then, comforted by the scent of violets, she soon fell into deep sleep.
This is how her parents found her much later, after they had finished making arrangements for Fred and so many others.
“Don’t wake them, Molly,” Minerva whispered. “You can sleep in my quarters.”
As they left, she quietly closed the doors and bid the stone hippogriff keep watch, then showed the exhausted Weasleys to her suite. She swiftly transfigured a few sitting room chairs to make beds for George, Percy, Charlie and Bill, and all the exhausted gingers settled down and fell into well-deserved slumber.
Minerva felt like a tired but satisfied parent who had managed to get her infant to sleep. She swept down the main stairs, and passing through the main foyer, saw that all was calm and quiet, and so she turned down the long shadowy hallway toward the Hufflepuff keep.
5. Sanctuary: Midnight Pomona returned to her quarters long after the moonset, so weary that she stumbled a bit coming in the door. She could feel the magical signature of her lover and knew before entering the bedroom that Minerva would be there. It warmed her heart to see her there, asleep in the lamplight, book fallen in her lap, her long steel grey hair tumbling across the pillows.
Pomona quietly made ready for bed, brushing out her hair, washing her face and smiling at all her wrinkles, and refixing that charm on the one tooth that was bothering her. Time to get that seen to, she mused, almost laughing at the absurdity, the normalcy of it. Nothing would feel normal for quite some time, but getting ready for bed when she could sleep beside Minerva was the best normal she could think of right now, and she snuffed the lamp and crept quietly into bed.
“Oh, I’d hoped I wouldn’t disturb you” she whispered, when her bedmate stirred and hummed sleepily.
“You, Madame, may disturb me whenever it pleases you.” McGonagall barely opened one eye, but stretched like a cat and managed to curl her arm around Pomona and draw her close. Pomona snuggled close, loving those long arms as they drew her in. They both breathed a great sigh and melted into the featherbed, exhausted.
6. Vigil: The Wee Hours
“Wake up, dear.”
Hermione was fighting for control of her broom, battling the forces of the storm and some dread magic that were shoving her all over the sky. She hated flying this high in any weather, but any lower and she’d risk slamming into towers or trees. Her hair was wet and whipping her face, making it difficult to see a thing. Hermione clenched her thighs and willed strength into her hands, keeping her broom aligned. Then someone grabbed her shoulder!
“Hermione, wake up, please! You’re having a nightmare.”
“Oh, ah, mmm sorry, I…” she sat up, disheveled and bewildered. “I’m… oh, I’m okay, yes.”
Charity sat back reluctantly as Hermione startled awake. She so wanted to reach over smooth her abundant hair. “There, you dear lass. You’ll be all right now.” She patted the girl’s shoulder primly.
They sat, quietly breathing, listening to the soft snores and murmurs in the dimly lit ward. There was a certain peace at this hour of the morn. When she had regained her calm, Hermione spoke.
“We don’t both need to be here, Professor. Why don’t you go get some rest?”
“Please, call me Charity, dear. No, this is where I belong. Severus saved me from certain death, at great risk to his own life. I will keep vigil here, and keep him safe. That feels right to me.”
“I feel as if I’ve aged ten years in the last week, Charity. Only yesterday it seemed he was the sadistic professor who had it out for Harry, and then a Death Eater who killed Professor Dumbledore. I only saw the truth when I allowed myself to see… “
“…see him as a human being.” Charity finished her sentence. “Yes, daft sod, Severus tried to keep everyone in the dark, and make the kids think he was an evil bastard. But when I first came here, a half-blood raised by Muggles, he was so kind to me.”
“He was?” Hermione looked curious.
“Yes, but always in secret. We’d have tea some evenings, and he’d listen to my foolish young teacher worries, always kindly.”
Hermione shook her head, her wild curls floating. “He had us all completely fooled.”
They looked at each other and laughed, quietly.
“It’s a wonder we haven’t awakened him, with all this chatter.”
The women looked down upon their charge, the pale professor, in deep trance sleep, his breathing shallow and slow.
“He had to, you know,” Charity began, “Fool us all. In order to do what he did. Only when he saved me did I realize what a dreadful game he was playing.”
She stroked his arm, very lightly, and whispered. “I hope he makes it.”
When she looked up, she realized Hermione was crying.
“Oh, dear, I didn’t mean to worry you, he’s fine, dear!” She was flustered. “You’re so tired, Hermione. Go get some proper sleep now, and I’ll stay with him.”
Hermione settled herself into her bedside chair, crossing her arms with determination. “No, I think I will feel safer right here, actually.” She poured some water from the white pitcher on the bedside and offered a cup to her companion. Their fingers brushed.
“I just knew I had to save him. When I saw what he passed to Harry, his face… I didn’t understand it, but I felt it. Then later when I saw the memories in the Pensieve it all made sense. But at that moment I knew I couldn’t leave him in that horrid place to die.”
“Charity, thank you for helping me.” The young witch looked up into Charity’s face, her brown eyes wide and brimming. “I was afraid no one would believe me, that he should be saved.”
Charity closed the space between them and placed a gentle kiss on Hermione’s forehead, then took her hand.
“I am so very glad you did, my dear. So very glad.” She didn’t let go, but turned the small elegant hand in her own and clasped it with both of hers. She lowered her lips to kiss Hermione’s hand, and a tear fell from her eyes.
That sweet small hand then caressed her face, wiping that tear then tracing a path along her jaw, lingering. Charity raised her eyes to meet those wide eyes holding a question, and received a sweet smile in reply.
It was quiet and dark, so no one witnessed their first kiss, nor heard the soft breath of their sighs.
7. Shadows: Near Dawn
Neville led Dudley through the shadowy cloisters, the pale moonlight throwing washes of light over the ruined walls. At several places they had to climb across gaps in the floor, following narrow ledges along the wall. But there was always a way, and Dudley thought it seemed as if the castle was trying to support them. He even thought he saw a ledge growing out of the wall as they approached – that’s how tired he really was. He shook his head.
He stopped, just to catch a breath. That’s it, he thought. I must have been holding my breath. That’s why he felt so floaty and weird.
“You all right, Dud?”
He watched as Neville’s concerned face moved into the soft light and noticed he had stopped breathing again. His heart was pounding. Time stretched like a slingshot band and he felt a buzzing in his toes and he heard a voice inside say: there is no time better than right now, and so he let go of the wall and seized Neville’s face in both hands and planted a hungry kiss right on his beautiful mouth.
He felt Neville go rigid with surprise and waited for the wrenching away, and then for the punch he knew was coming, just like last year when he’d made this mistake with Piers and nearly been beaten to a pulp. He lingered on the velvety soft mouth beneath his own, enjoying to the last second until…
…until the beautiful boy relaxed and kissed him back, softly, sweetly, then thoroughly exploring his mouth with eager intent. Until Neville wrapped his arms around and pressed against him warm and firm and… oh, oh, my.
Dudley gave in to the swoon, the feelings of floaty and buzzy and weird and hot, oh my goodness that beautiful heat of this lovely boy in his arms, on his lips, pressed against his groin. Dudley pressed back against Neville and met his soft tongue and felt him hanging on to his neck, and Dudley thought now I know what it means to see stars.
8. Awakening: Morning
The sun rose again to create a perfect spring morning, with sweet yellow and rose light, tender new leaves and the delirious song of birds. The ruined castle was bathed in the sweet light. The terrible gaping ruins looked less blackened, and the giants had cleared so much of the rubble there already was a new feeling of order and calm.
Pomona and Minerva came into the main foyer where beams of buttery sunlight washed the walls, illuminating the shrouded dead arranged in careful rows. Each was crowned with a bower of blossoms.
Minerva touched Pomona’s sleeve and whispered, “They are so beautiful! Who has done this?”
Pomona looked at the sweet woodland flowers and the vines that bound them. “I think this is the work of our house elves and their fairie cousins. What a blessing, how kind of them.”
They stood watching the tender scene. A small group of house elves placed a wreath on the last of the shrouds, bowing in respect. They stood strangely apart, the air shimmering between them. Then they seemed to speak to companions that weren’t there. When Minerva glanced away, the fairies were visible just for an instant.
The Headmistress forgot to be concerned that they were holding hands.
“We never see the fairies! I wasn’t sure they were real! Can you see them?”
“Not quite, but I know they are there. Their magic – it’s as delicate as violets, but a very powerful healing force. Certain plants require their blessings to thrive, become potent. This is the time of year I often catch a glimpse of them in the greenhouses, blessing my work.”
Even after all these year of struggle, I can still be surprised, and enchanted, by the ways of magic. Minerva only thought the words, but her lover looked up at her smiling and nodded.
9. The Healer’s Place: Morning
When Pomona arrived upstairs, she brewed two cups of tea and went to find Poppy, who was bent over her desk, quill in hand. Sound asleep.
“Oh, my, well!” Nurse Pomfrey sputtered a bit but quickly regained her aplomb. She eyed Pomona sharply, letting her know she must speak of this to no one. Pomona smiled and handed her the teacup.
Setting her own down, she walked around behind her colleague and placed her hands on the thin, strong shoulders. Pomona closed her eyes and allowed the warmth of magic to flow through her, warming and energizing her arms and hands as it moved. She felt Poppy relax back into her touch, and they both sighed.
After a moment, Poppy smoothed her hair and stood, donning her crisp white cap. Together they walked down the center of the light-filled ward. Poppy charmed the windows open to let the birdsong in and surveyed her domain.
Though all the beds were occupied, every one was serene, clean white linens and calm patients. Most of the patients were awaking, stretching and sighing and looking about, perhaps disoriented but pleased by the feeling of the new day.
Pomona wouldn’t say that Poppy smiled, but she definitely looked satisfied at what she saw. They approached the bedside of Professor Snape, peaceful in his healing trance, and noted Severus’ companions sound asleep despite the bright morning light. Charity Burbage cradled Hermione’s head on her ample chest, one arm around the girl’s shoulders. Her face was somewhat obscured by a mass of unruly curls.
Nurse Pomfrey touched Charity’s shoulder, and the sleepy witch looked up into the kind faces of her colleagues.
“Charity, dear,” Poppy smiled, then spoke with authority: “Take Ms. Granger and go get some proper rest. That is an order.”
Pomona studied details of Snape’s treatment, pretending to adjust the potion drip with her wand while Charity gently awakened Hermione, helped her to her feet, and led her by the hand out of the infirmary. Poppy nodded her approval at her colleague. “All is well here.” She smoothed her white apron, and they continued down the ward.
When they reached the far end, they watched through the large windows as the Thestrals lined up below, preparing to carry a group to the Gryffindor burial grounds. Poppy noted the herbal bowers and whispered “how lovely…” and Pomona smiled, feeling the plants doing their powerful, sacred, healing work.
Poppy bustled on, continuing her rounds, but Pomona lingered at the window for a while, watching the procession as it began to move across the cratered courtyard. Luna Lovegood led the first Thestral and the others followed at a stately pace.
Behind the fourth caisson walked the Headmistress like a queen, tall and proud in her robes, tartan wrapped across her breast. Behind her Harry and Ron Weasley led the Weasley family, Ginny supported her weeping mother.
Behind them came Harry’s cousin and Neville, who wore the Sword of Gryffindor at his hip. A group of students followed them, and bringing up the rear were the house elves, strewing flower petals on the path.
New leaves were unfurling in the sweet sunshine, and as they opened, blossoms released their healing perfume into the air. Pomona closed her eyes and lifted her face toward the sun.