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“C ’mere, Harry . . .”


“Yeh can’ stay here, Harry. . . . Come on, now. . . .”


He did not want to leave Dumbledore’s side, he did not want to move anywhere. Hagrid’s hand on his shoulder was trembling. Then another voice said, “Harry, come on.”






A much smaller and warmer hand had enclosed his and was pulling him upward. He obeyed its pressure without really thinking about it. Only as he walked blindly back through the crowd did he realize, from a trace of flowery scent on the air, that it was Ginny who was leading him back into the castle. Incomprehensible voices battered him, sobs and shouts and wails stabbed the night, but Harry and Ginny walked on, back up the steps into the entrance hall. Faces swam on the edges of Harry’s vision, people were peering at him, whispering, wondering, and Gryffindor rubies glistened on the floor like drops of blood as they made their way toward the marble staircase.

“We’re going to the hospital wing,” said Ginny.

“I’m not hurt,” said Harry.

“It’s McGonagall’s orders,” said Ginny. “Everyone’s up there, Ron and Hermione and Lupin and everyone —”

Fear stirred in Harry’s chest again: He had forgotten the inert figures he had left behind.






“Ginny, who else is dead?”

“Don’t worry, none of us.”

“But the Dark Mark — Malfoy said he stepped over a body —”

“He stepped over Bill, but it’s all right, he’s alive.”

There was something in her voice, however, that Harry knew boded ill.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure . . . he’s a — a bit of a mess, that’s all. Greyback attacked him. Madam Pomfrey says he won’t — won’t look the same anymore. . . .”

Ginny’s voice trembled a little.

“We don’t really know what the aftereffects will be — I mean, Greyback being a werewolf, but not transformed at the time.”








“But the others . . . There were other bodies on the ground. . . .”

“Neville and Professor Flitwick are both hurt, but Madam Pomfrey says they’ll be all right. And a Death Eater’s dead, he got hit by a Killing Curse that huge blond one was firing off everywhere — Harry, if we hadn’t had your Felix potion, I think we’d all have been killed, but everything seemed to just miss us —”

They had reached the hospital wing. Pushing open the doors, Harry saw Neville lying, apparently asleep, in a bed near the door. Ron, Hermione, Luna, Tonks, and Lupin were gathered around another bed near the far end of the ward. At the sound of the doors opening, they all looked up. Hermione ran to Harry and hugged him; Lupin moved forward too, looking anxious.




“Are you all right, Harry?”

“I’m fine. . . . How’s Bill?”

Nobody answered. Harry looked over Hermione’s shoulder and saw an unrecognizable face lying on Bill’s pillow, so badly slashed and ripped that he looked grotesque. Madam Pomfrey was dabbing at his wounds with some harsh-smelling green ointment. Harry remembered how Snape had mended Malfoy’s Sectumsempra wounds so easily with his wand.

“Can’t you fix them with a charm or something?” he asked the matron.






“No charm will work on these,” said Madam Pomfrey. “I’ve tried everything I know, but there is no cure for werewolf bites.”

“But he wasn’t bitten at the full moon,” said Ron, who was gazing down into his brother’s face as though he could somehow force him to mend just by staring. “Greyback hadn’t transformed, so surely Bill won’t be a — a real — ?”

He looked uncertainly at Lupin.

“No, I don’t think that Bill will be a true werewolf,” said Lupin, “but that does not mean that there won’t be some contamination. Those are cursed wounds. They are unlikely ever to heal fully, and — and Bill might have some wolfish characteristics from now on.”




“Dumbledore might know something that’d work, though,” Ron said. “Where is he? Bill fought those maniacs on Dumbledore’s orders, Dumbledore owes him, he can’t leave him in this state —”

“Ron — Dumbledore’s dead,” said Ginny.

“No!” Lupin looked wildly from Ginny to Harry, as though hoping the latter might contradict her, but when Harry did not, Lupin collapsed into a chair beside Bill’s bed, his hands over his face. Harry had never seen Lupin lose control before; he felt as though he was intruding upon something private, indecent. He turned away and caught Ron’s eye instead, exchanging in silence a look that confirmed what Ginny had said.




“How did he die?” whispered Tonks. “How did it happen?”

“Snape killed him,” said Harry. “I was there, I saw it. We arrived back on the Astronomy Tower because that’s where the Mark was. . . . Dumbledore was ill, he was weak, but I think he realized it was a trap when we heard footsteps running up the stairs. He immobilized me, I couldn’t do anything, I was under the Invisibility Cloak — and then Malfoy came through the door and disarmed him —”

Hermione clapped her hands to her mouth and Ron groaned. Luna’s mouth trembled.




“— more Death Eaters arrived — and then Snape — and Snape did it. The Avada Kedavra.” Harry couldn’t go on.

Madam Pomfrey burst into tears. Nobody paid her any attention except Ginny, who whispered, “Shh! Listen!”

Gulping, Madam Pomfrey pressed her fingers to her mouth, her eyes wide. Somewhere out in the darkness, a phoenix was singing in a way Harry had never heard before: a stricken lament of terrible beauty.

And Harry felt, as he had felt about phoenix song before, that the music was inside him, not without: It was his own grief turned magically to song that echoed across the grounds and through the castle windows.




How long they all stood there, listening, he did not know, nor why it seemed to ease their pain a little to listen to the sound of their mourning, but it felt like a long time later that the hospital door opened again and Professor McGonagall entered the ward. Like all the rest, she bore marks of the recent battle: There were grazes on her face and her robes were ripped.

“Molly and Arthur are on their way,” she said, and the spell of the music was broken: Everyone roused themselves as though coming out of trances, turning again to look at Bill, or else to rub their own eyes, shake their heads. “Harry, what happened? According to Hagrid you were with Professor Dumbledore when he — when it happened. He says Professor Snape was involved in some —”



“Snape killed Dumbledore,” said Harry.

She stared at him for a moment, then swayed alarmingly; Madam Pomfrey, who seemed to have pulled herself together, ran forward, conjuring a chair from thin air, which she pushed under McGonagall.

“Snape,” repeated McGonagall faintly, falling into the chair. “We all wondered . . . but he trusted . . . always . . . Snape . . . I can’t believe it. . . .”

“Snape was a highly accomplished Occlumens,” said Lupin, his voice uncharacteristically harsh. “We always knew that.”





“But Dumbledore swore he was on our side!” whispered Tonks. “I always thought Dumbledore must know something about Snape that we didn’t. . . .”

“He always hinted that he had an ironclad reason for trusting Snape,” muttered Professor McGonagall, now dabbing at the corners of her leaking eyes with a tartan-edged handkerchief. “I mean . . . with Snape’s history . . . of course people were bound to wonder . . . but Dumbledore told me explicitly that Snape’s repentance was absolutely genuine. . . . Wouldn’t hear a word against him!”



“I’d love to know what Snape told him to convince him,” said Tonks.

“I know,” said Harry, and they all turned to look at him. “Snape passed Voldemort the information that made Voldemort hunt down my mum and dad. Then Snape told Dumbledore he hadn’t realized what he was doing, he was really sorry he’d done it, sorry that they were dead.”

They all stared at him.




“And Dumbledore believed that?” said Lupin incredulously. “Dumbledore believed Snape was sorry James was dead? Snape hated James. . . .”

“And he didn’t think my mother was worth a damn either,” said Harry, “because she was Muggle-born. . . . ‘Mudblood,’ he called her. . . .”

Nobody asked how Harry knew this. All of them seemed to be lost in horrified shock, trying to digest the monstrous truth of what had happened.




“This is all my fault,” said Professor McGonagall suddenly. She looked disoriented, twisting her wet handkerchief in her hands. “My fault. I sent Filius to fetch Snape tonight, I actually sent for him to come and help us! If I hadn’t alerted Snape to what was going on, he might never have joined forces with the Death Eaters. I don’t think he knew they were there before Filius told him, I don’t think he knew they were coming.”


“It isn’t your fault, Minerva,” said Lupin firmly. “We all wanted more help, we were glad to think Snape was on his way. . . .”

“So when he arrived at the fight, he joined in on the Death Eaters’ side?” asked Harry, who wanted every detail of Snape’s duplicity and infamy, feverishly collecting more reasons to hate him, to swear vengeance.



“I don’t know exactly how it happened,” said Professor McGonagall distractedly. “It’s all so confusing. . . . Dumbledore had told us that he would be leaving the school for a few hours and that we were to patrol the corridors just in case . . . Remus, Bill, and Nymphadora were to join us . . . and so we patrolled. All seemed quiet. Every secret passageway out of the school was covered. We knew nobody could fly in. There were powerful enchantments on every entrance into the castle. I still don’t know how the Death Eaters can possibly have entered. . . .”


“I do,” said Harry, and he explained, briefly, about the pair of Vanishing Cabinets and the magical pathway they formed. “So they got in through the Room of Requirement.”

Almost against his will he glanced from Ron to Hermione, both of whom looked devastated.

“I messed up, Harry,” said Ron bleakly. “We did like you told us: We checked the Marauder’s Map and we couldn’t see Malfoy on it, so we thought he must be in the Room of Requirement, so me, Ginny, and Neville went to keep watch on it . . . but Malfoy got past us.”




“He came out of the room about an hour after we started keeping watch,” said Ginny. “He was on his own, clutching that awful shriveled arm —”

“His Hand of Glory,” said Ron. “Gives light only to the holder, remember?”

“Anyway,” Ginny went on, “he must have been checking whether the coast was clear to let the Death Eaters out, because the moment he saw us he threw something into the air and it all went pitch-black —”




“— Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder,” said Ron bitterly. “Fred and George’s. I’m going to be having a word with them about who they let buy their products.”

“We tried everything, Lumos, Incendio,” said Ginny. “Nothing would penetrate the darkness; all we could do was grope our way out of the corridor again, and meanwhile we could hear people rushing past us. Obviously Malfoy could see because of that hand thing and was guiding them, but we didn’t dare use any curses or anything in case we hit each other, and by the time we’d reached a corridor that was light, they’d gone.”



“Luckily,” said Lupin hoarsely, “Ron, Ginny, and Neville ran into us almost immediately and told us what had happened. We found the Death Eaters minutes later, heading in the direction of the Astronomy Tower. Malfoy obviously hadn’t expected more people to be on the watch; he seemed to have exhausted his supply of Darkness Powder, at any rate. A fight broke out, they scattered and we gave chase. One of them, Gibbon, broke away and headed up the tower stairs —”

“To set off the Mark?” asked Harry.



“He must have done, yes, they must have arranged that before they left the Room of Requirement,” said Lupin. “But I don’t think Gibbon liked the idea of waiting up there alone for Dumbledore, because he came running back downstairs to rejoin the fight and was hit by a Killing Curse that just missed me.”

“So if Ron was watching the Room of Requirement with Ginny and Neville,” said Harry, turning to Hermione, “were you — ?”



“Outside Snape’s office, yes,” whispered Hermione, her eyes sparkling with tears, “with Luna. We hung around for ages outside it and nothing happened. . . . We didn’t know what was going on upstairs, Ron had taken the map. . . . It was nearly midnight when Professor Flitwick came sprinting down into the dungeons. He was shouting about Death Eaters in the castle, I don’t think he really registered that Luna and I were there at all, he just burst his way into Snape’s office and we heard him saying that Snape had to go back with him and help and then we heard a loud thump and Snape came hurtling out of his room and he saw us and — and —”


“What?” Harry urged her.

“I was so stupid, Harry!” said Hermione in a high-pitched whisper. “He said Professor Flitwick had collapsed and that we should go and take care of him while he — while he went to help fight the Death Eaters —” She covered her face in shame and continued to talk into her fingers, so that her voice was muffled. “We went into his office to see if we could help Professor Flitwick and found him unconscious on the floor . . . and oh, it’s so obvious now, Snape must have Stupefied Flitwick, but we didn’t realize, Harry, we didn’t realize, we just let Snape go!”





“It’s not your fault,” said Lupin firmly. “Hermione, had you not obeyed Snape and got out of the way, he probably would have killed you and Luna.”

“So then he came upstairs,” said Harry, who was watching Snape running up the marble staircase in his mind’s eye, his black robes billowing behind him as ever, pulling his wand from under his cloak as he ascended, “and he found the place where you were all fighting. . . .”



“We were in trouble, we were losing,” said Tonks in a low voice. “Gibbon was down, but the rest of the Death Eaters seemed ready to fight to the death. Neville had been hurt, Bill had been savaged by Greyback . . . It was all dark . . . curses flying everywhere . . . The Malfoy boy had vanished, he must have slipped past, up the stairs . . . then more of them ran after him, but one of them blocked the stair behind them with some kind of curse. . . . Neville ran at it and got thrown up into the air —”


“None of us could break through,” said Ron, “and that massive Death Eater was still firing off jinxes all over the place, they were bouncing off the walls and barely missing us. . . .”

“And then Snape was there,” said Tonks, “and then he wasn’t —”

“I saw him running toward us, but that huge Death Eater’s jinx just missed me right afterward and I ducked and lost track of things,” said Ginny.

“I saw him run straight through the cursed barrier as though it wasn’t there,” said Lupin. “I tried to follow him, but was thrown back just like Neville. . . .”





“He must have known a spell we didn’t,” whispered McGonagall. “After all — he was the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. . . . I just assumed that he was in a hurry to chase after the Death Eaters who’d escaped up to the tower. . . .”

“He was,” said Harry savagely, “but to help them, not to stop them . . . and I’ll bet you had to have a Dark Mark to get through that barrier — so what happened when he came back down?”

“Well, the big Death Eater had just fired off a hex that caused half the ceiling to fall in, and also broke the curse blocking the stairs,” said Lupin. “We all ran forward — those of us who were still standing anyway — and then Snape and the boy emerged out of the dust — obviously, none of us attacked them —”




“We just let them pass,” said Tonks in a hollow voice. “We thought they were being chased by the Death Eaters — and next thing, the other Death Eaters and Greyback were back and we were fighting again — I thought I heard Snape shout something, but I don’t know what —”

“He shouted, ‘It’s over,’ ” said Harry. “He’d done what he’d meant to do.”



They all fell silent. Fawkes’s lament was still echoing over the dark grounds outside. As the music reverberated upon the air, unbidden, unwelcome thoughts slunk into Harry’s mind. . . . Had they taken Dumbledore’s body from the foot of the tower yet? What would happen to it next? Where would it rest? He clenched his fists tightly in his pockets. He could feel the small cold lump of the fake Horcrux against the knuckles of his right hand.


The doors of the hospital wing burst open, making them all jump: Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were striding up the ward, Fleur just behind them, her beautiful face terrified.

“Molly — Arthur —” said Professor McGonagall, jumping up and hurrying to greet them. “I am so sorry —”

“Bill,” whispered Mrs. Weasley, darting past Professor McGonagall as she caught sight of Bill’s mangled face. “Oh, Bill !”

Lupin and Tonks had got up hastily and retreated so that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley could get nearer to the bed. Mrs. Weasley bent over her son and pressed her lips to his bloody forehead.






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