On the day of the funeral, Saturnine was astounded to see how many people attended. Save from her parents’ funerals, she hadn’t gone to many in her life. And she hadn’t been sure what to expect for this day. Rows upon rows of black folding chairs had been installed in a large open field beside Hogwarts’ Castle. A Protective Charm enveloped the entire area in a dome-like shield that stopped the snow from falling onto the guest’s seats and the raised dais where a fine-looking mahogany casket was displayed.
All the students were in attendance, dressed in their best school uniform and creaseless robes. Their arrival had been organised by House and school year. And they complied with the instruction without stepping a foot out of line, moving as one grieving body intent on displaying a final show of respect for their deceased headmaster.
The only two students who weren’t to sit with the others were Harry and Draco, who had been sternly ordered to remain by the Snapes’ sides throughout the entire ceremony. Given some of the wizards in attendance, Saturnine was adamant not to take any risks, and she wouldn’t let either boy out of her sight.
One such wolf in sheep’s clothing was the newly appointed Minister for Magic, Pius Thicknesse. Though his long brown hair was neatly combed, and his goatee finely trimmed, he didn’t look to be entirely there. It was common knowledge amongst members of the Order of the Phoenix that the former head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was under an Imperius Curse and little more than Voldemort’s puppet now.
A large section of the Wizengamot was also present—all of them dressed in matching purple ceremonial robes—and, of course, the Hogwarts Board of Governors. Supporters of You-Know-Who dotted both groups, and Saturnine tried hard not to think of how badly they were outnumbered.
The members of the Order of the Phoenix were there, too. But they refrained from gathering together and took up seats scattered throughout the entire area. Thus, the only person Saturnine had encountered today was Remus Lupin. Upon their arrival near the front row, the sandy-haired wizard had left the witch he’d been talking to, Nymphadora Tonks, to come to greet them.
He gave Harry a warm hug and a few words of encouragement. He then turned to Saturnine with a soft smile on his face, earnestly happy to see her, despite the dire circumstances. They both exchanged an equally intense hug before Remus stepped back to pat Draco on the shoulder. His greeting for Severus was a lot more reserved. While the werewolf made free use of her brother’s given name, Severus steadfastly refused to address him with anything other than his usual tight-lipped “Lupin.”
When it became apparent that the ceremony was about to begin, Remus returned to Tonks’ side. And Saturnine saw him slip his hand into hers. She was glad to see the two still appeared to be an item; Remus deserved to have a little love in his life, and she wished them a long, happy life together.
Squeezing between the second and third row of chairs, she followed Severus until he stopped to sit down. She took the chair next to him before looking to her left to make sure Harry and Draco were doing the same. Professor Flitwick was next in line, preceding Professor Sprout. Saturnine sent a silent thank you to whoever had overseen the seating arrangement that the two Heads of House had been chosen to round out the protective detail on Harry and Draco.
The Minister for Magic came on the dais first, addressing the crowd at large, his voice magically amplified so that he could be heard all the way to the back. He gave a quick recap of Dumbledore’s best achievements and reiterated the Ministry’s stance on education and the importance of educating the wizards and witches of tomorrow.
Minerva McGonagall, deputy headmistress of Hogwarts, Head of Gryffindor House and Transfiguration teacher of over eighty years, was next. The assistance’s attention to her words was much more sincere than it had been for Pius Thicknesse. But then again, it was probable that more than two-thirds of the assembled crowd sat in her class at one time or another. McGonagall launched herself into a long eulogy that had everyone’s eyes watering. Unlike the Minister’s barely veiled attempt at rallying political attention to his cause, McGonagall’s speech was honest and heartfelt. When a few tears fell along the lines of her wrinkled cheeks, there was no denying their sincerity.
Saturnine was filled with mixed feelings. She knew for a fact that Dumbledore wasn’t dead; he was merely resting—in a coffin—at his own funeral. However, she knew that everyone’s pain and sorrow were real, and it was hard not to succumb to the morose atmosphere that seemed to have been spelled into the protective dome.
Besides, Saturnine knew how close they’d come to holding a real funeral; Dumbledore sure had come close enough to death for that. It had been sheer folly on his part to wait until the day of the Welcoming Feast to take the potion; he’d been at death’s door that night, and a few more hours would have done him in. Plus, there was still the possibility that he wouldn’t wake up when given the antidote—or that Voldemort would win the war, in which case Dumbledore had given them instructions never to wake him again.
Looking at the casket to centre her thoughts, Saturnine focused on what she knew to be fact to regain control of her emotions. Despite the appearances, Dumbledore wasn’t dead. He was in stasis, his whole body under temporal lockdown—neither growing older nor decaying. The casket was a special commission they had overseen, and it would keep him safe once placed within the mausoleum they had designed. A constant circuit of fresh air would be provided through a series of hidden air vents and slots—Muggle ingenuity at its best—and something that they were sure most wizards and witches would overlook even if it stared them in the face.
McGonagall’s eulogy came to an end, and she pulled her wand out of her dark robe’s pocket. Swirling her wrist, she used the first spell that students attending Hogwarts were taught to close the lid on the open casket. It fell shut with a loud thud that elicited a few surprised gasps throughout the audience.
Saturnine felt Severus shudder next to her and glanced at him sideways. She didn’t like what she saw and turned in her seat a little to get a better look at her brother. Severus’ lips were clamped shut in a tight line. And he breathed in and out of his nose at a too-rapid pace. His face was ashen white, and he looked minutes away from either passing out or throwing up his lunch. Guessing that she wasn’t the only one for whom this whole charade felt all too real, she reached out for his hand, lacing her fingers with his limp, cold digits.
Severus didn’t seem to notice the gesture, his dark eyes never straying from the closed casket that McGonagall now levitated towards the marble mausoleum erected next to the Black Lake that would be the headmaster’s final resting place. Using her free hand, Saturnine sneaked it around her brother’s shoulder while she pressed her right leg close to his to impart as much warmth and comfort as she could. That he did notice, and he turned a bewildered gaze her way. The look in his obsidian eyes was so lost and vulnerable; Saturnine was sure that, in that very moment, Severus had no clear idea where he was or what was going on—he’d lost himself too deep within his own head for that. She’d seen it happen before when they were children. The most violent nights had left him in a near-catatonic state, his mind taking a leave of absence—unable to process the horror with which it was presented. It was no wonder Severus later became such a talented Occlumen. He’d been partitioning his mind for years already; he’d only had to learn the proper technique to do it securely.
“It’s okay; you’re safe,” she murmured for his ears only. “Remember what you know.”
He blinked a few times before nodding—a sign that he was returning to his senses. Though Saturnine turned back in her seat to face forward again, she held onto him as the ceremony ended.
After the mausoleum was locked, and two tall torches were lit on either side of it, McGonagall called all in attendance to stand up to pay a final homage to the headmaster. The crowd stood as one, pulling out their wands and aiming them at the sky. Streams of lights and sparkles shot from hundreds of wooden tips in a myriad of colours that rose high in the sky and mingled together before slowly fanning out and down over the assembled mourners.
The crowd parted soon after. The professors lost no time herding the students back to the warm confines of the castle, while most of the Wizengamot and Board of Governors moved past the Apparition Wards in silence. In less than ten minutes, only a handful of witches and wizards remained, mostly members of the Order.
Saturnine wasn’t sure what her brother wanted to do. Looking at him now, you would never have guessed he’d almost had a panic attack only minutes ago. But she knew looks could be deceptive, especially where Severus was concerned. “Do you want to stay a little longer or go back inside?” she asked him in a tone that let him know both solutions were perfectly acceptable to her, and the choice was his.
“Let’s go back,” he replied in a voice that was as controlled as ever.
She nodded her assent and sneaked an arm around Harry’s back as they started on their way to the castle. The young Gryffindor looked minutes away from tears, and she felt awful for him. Not for the first time, she wished she could tell him the truth: Dumbledore wasn’t dead, and he hadn’t lost one more person who had taken an interest in him…
It was all so unfair; it made her angry, and she fought hard not to let her feelings show. But wars were rarely fair.
Now that the day ended, Severus was left alone with his sister and a crackling fire in the hearth. He’d wanted to keep the boys around for the night, but both teens had insisted they were fine and returned to their respective dorms.
“Having second thoughts about this?” his sister asked as she came to sit down next to him on the sofa with a small glass of Firewhiskey in her left hand. She’d offered him one, but he declined, not feeling up for it.
Severus shook his head, and spikes of pain shot up and down his tense neck. “It was necessary,” he replied. Sighing, he closed his aching eyes, then rose a hand to rub at them; he could feel the beginning of a headache settling in. “Minerva will do worse than give us detention when she finds out.”
“I hope that Dumbledore will be the recipient of the brunt of her rage,” Saturnine said. “But she’ll be mad, all right. And she won’t be the only one.”
Severus leaned forward slightly and tried to take a couple of deep, steadying breaths to calm himself. Although he’d had next to nothing to eat for supper, he felt as if he’d stuffed himself with something that didn’t agree with him. The truth was, he’d been feeling awful all day. He even debated taking a Calming Draught before going to the ceremony but resisted the urge. Given the danger of having so many unsavoury characters present, he opted to keep a clear head throughout. Now that the show was over, though, he ached for some relief.
His discomfort must have shown on his face because his sister’s hand rose to rub soothing circles between his shoulder blades. Her soft voice broke the silence a short while later as she said, “You should take something. You don’t look too good.”
Forcing his tired eyes back open, Severus shook his head. He was about to say that he was fine when he winced against the harsh light of the dancing flames. All at once, he felt himself breaking into a cold sweat; he heaved in a few measured breaths to avoid becoming violently sick.
Saturnine left him an instant; when she returned, a small phial was pressed into one of his clammy hands. It was a Calming Draught—one of his. He swallowed its content without protest and vanished the empty phial back to the Potions lab afterwards.
His sister took her place on the sofa again, and her hand returned to massage his tense shoulders. Though he was thankful to her for that small gesture of comfort, he was ill-equipped to express his gratitude in words and didn’t know where to begin.
Saturnine didn’t seem to be in a hurry to be elsewhere and stayed with him long after she’d finished her drink. She remained silent, reminding him that, in moments like these, the two of them had never needed words.
Severus closed his eyes again, content to listen to the crackling of the wood in the fireplace and his sister’s soft breathing. And if he leaned on her shoulder at some point and fell asleep, he blamed it on the Draught.