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The Great Hall stood open to the night sky. Walls had crumbled and windows had disintegrated; nothing had been repaired yet, and the stone beneath her feet was cold and damp with darkness. Above her, clouds were clearing. They looked like bruises against the jagged edges of the castle, blossoming dark purple against the moonlit skin of the sky. She hadn't dared to come back here during the day, when others roamed the shattered corridors. She didn’t know how she had dared to come back here at all, but she’d needed to do something. Her husband and son had been taken. She hadn't been told where. She didn't understand why they hadn't taken her too. 

The bodies had long gone. She knew that the Hall had been full, rows upon rows of the dead. She could still smell them. She knew what death smelled like. She could still hear them too, could sense the accusations hanging in the air. But she hadn't come to find a body. She knew there hadn’t been one. Minerva McGonagall, with a flash of pity that she never wanted to see again, had told her that when she’d arrived. She had come instead to find the spot where her sister's body shattered. Although she couldn't have explained it, she was looking for pieces to mend. Fragments of the old sister. Tiny, glass-like slivers of the sister she had loved. 

When she stood on the flagstone, she thought she felt the echo of Bellatrix's last curses ringing over her skin. 

She stepped back, and sank to her knees. Grief had never felt this angry before. Grief had never torn through her like a flame, leaving every shred of hope in ashes. Grief had never left her body feeling like scorched earth, a barren and smoking wilderness that absorbed her screams as if they were whispers. There was nothing left of the sister she had so desperately wanted to find, and grief had never felt so final. 

She thought of her son's face as they'd led him away, and she wished violently that they'd taken her instead. 

She hadn’t seen the figure on the other side of the Hall, sitting quietly in shadow and watching, and the footsteps that approached her now were soft, so soft she didn't hear them. Only when they were within touching distance did she realise someone was there; only when she felt an old familiar magic brush up against hers did she realise who it was. Her chest constricted. She didn't look up. She braced herself against the floor, waiting for whatever was coming, unwilling and unable to defend herself against it, but what she hadn't expected was a hand. It hovered tentatively, not in anger but in something she thought she'd just lost. Hope. 

"Your son needs you."

She hadn't heard her sister's voice in years. She didn't even know if it was real, but when she hesitantly reached for the hand, still half-expecting it to turn on her, she felt warm fingers. Solid flesh. A tenderness that she hadn't felt since the last time. 

"I don't know where he is," she whispered, and tasted salt on her tongue. 

"He's alive," her sister replied, and she heard the fracture, the crack in her sister's voice that would never quite heal. "You still have a son, Cissy."

She dared to look up, into dark eyes that she'd never thought she would see again, into wariness and anger and a different kind of grief, and into a love she'd convinced herself she'd lost and didn't deserve to regain. 

"I was trying to find her." Her voice trembled. "I wanted to..."

"She's gone. You lost her a long time ago.” 

A gentle tug on her hand took some of the sting out of the words, and she tried to rise to her feet but she'd been kneeling so long that her legs wouldn't hold her. With a soft sob, she buckled, and Andromeda caught her in arms that still felt like home. 

"Draco is still here." Her sister's murmur sounded loud in her ear. It drowned out the whispers of the dead, the ghosts of the curses, her own voice that was still screaming after the fire that had raged through her. "I'm still here. We both need you."

She had no answer to that. Whatever her sister was offering, she didn't deserve it. She clutched Andromeda, not knowing if she was holding on or trying to push her away, but as she felt a delicate shower of rain begin to fall through the ruined ceiling, she felt it again. A shiver of something, just beneath her skin. An ember of hope flickering between their bodies, an ember that hadn't quite burned away.