Soldiering On

What if Neville had been the chosen one?

*  *  30  *  *

“Run!” shouted the old man. “Get out of here!”

“You heard him,” said Arabella. “Get your asses in gear.” The trio ran as fast as they could, dodging curses left and right on their way to the cave’s entrance.

“We can’t just leave him,” shouted Luna. “We can’t!”

As Luna turned to run back to help their mentor, she was met by the glowing tip of Arabella’s wand. “Don’t you dare,” said Arabella. “Don’t you dare make his sacrifice worthless.” Her eyes seemed cold and empty, but the tears welling up in them softened her words. “No one else dies today. You hear me?”

Luna nodded and left the cave.

“What about you?” Arabella turned to face her other companion. “You wanna test me, Colin?”

Colin shook his head and ducked past Arabella and out into the dimming sunlight.

The trio regrouped at the bottom of the staircase that led to the cave. Arabella looked over her companions’ tattered clothes and battle-weary faces. The scar across Luna’s nose looked darker and fresher than ever. Colin was sitting on a rock, staring out at the ocean. He hadn’t said a thing since the second battle of Hogwarts. Losing a brother changes you.

Arabella knew that all too well.

“We have to keep moving,” she said, tucking her wand into the sash around her waste. “It’s gonna be dark soon.”

“My god, Arabella! Could you just have a heart for one second?!” screamed Luna.

Arabella took a breath and let it out slowly. “Look, I’m sorry. Ok? It’s been a rough day, but…”

“A rough day?” The look on Luna’s face melted from incredulity to hysteria. “A rough day? This was not a rough day. Do you even realize what just happened?”

“It’s been a rough day,” Arabella raised her voice and pressed on, “but if we sit here, things aren’t going to get any better. Now wipe those tears out of your eyes and let’s get some distance between us and this place before someone comes to investigate. Alright? The Order needs to know what just happened.”

“The Order already knows” said a deep, accented voice behind them. Colin seemed to take no notice, but Arabella and Luna turned to find themselves facing a Patronus in the form of a lynx. “Edgar and Emmeline are on their way to clean things up. You three need to get back here as quickly as possible. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sir,” said Arabella, immediately snapping back into her training.

“Luna?” said the Patronus sternly.

Luna sighed. “Yes, sir.”

The Patronus walked past them both and stood next to Colin. The lynx told him something too quietly for either of the girls to hear and Colin nodded. Then, it was as though the lynx had never been there.

Colin got to his feet, gave the sea one more long look, and turned to face his companions. His eyes were set and more focused than Arabella had seen them in years. He nodded, placed a hand on each of the girls’ shoulders and closed his eyes. For a moment, Arabella was sure it was going to fail again, but then she felt a tug behind her navel that she had never grown accustomed to.

When the world resolidified, Arabella quietly left her companions behind and walked to her room. Tonks, her roommate, was already inside, sitting at the desk. “Was it really that bad?”

Arabella closed the door and collapsed to her knees. “He’s dead.” Arabella raised her head to look up at the only person left in the world that she truly felt she could call friend. “Alastor’s dead.” She had expected more of a reaction from Tonks than she was getting. “Didn’t you hear me?!” she screamed.

“Oh, I heard you, alright,” said Tonks. “Granger told us two hours ago that it was going to happen.”

Arabella clenched her fists. “Then why the hell didn’t she…”

“You know it doesn’t work that way.”

Arabella sighed. “You’re right.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “What do we do now?”

Tonks finally reacted with the fire Arabella had expected. “What do we do? The same damned thing we’ve been doing since the war started again.” Tonks dropped down next to her roommate to look her directly in the eyes. “You’re Arabella Potter, right? The one who single-handedly stopped the Fletcher Gambit. The one who invented the Butterfly Hex. The one who, when she couldn’t find her wand, drove a knife into Severus Snape’s chest.

“You know what you’re going to do? You’re going to get your ass into that bed, get a good night’s rest, then get up and do it all again tomorrow. Because that’s what we do. We soldier on.”

Arabella choked back a sob, set her jaw, and stood up. Without another word, she collapsed onto her bed, knowing that she would, without any hesitation, wake up the next morning prepared to go out there and rejoin the fray.

She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.

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