Grief for lost loved ones...
You stupid, stupid idiot...
An unforeseen consequence of letting Neville carry Katie back was Oliver's complete inability to find her. He felt like he was on a rollercoaster: first he couldn't let her go, then he couldn't bear to be near her, now he wanted desperately to find her...to what end?
He knew he wanted to find her, though. He wanted to see her one last time, to say goodbye instead of denying it again. Oliver wanted the last time he saw the woman he'd intended to spend the rest of his life with to be more than a glimpse as he carried another dead body away from her.
She wasn't in the Great Hall, he was fairly certain of that. He still had her wand in his robes' inside pocket, snuggled against his chest, and he could swear it gave off heat.
Then again, Oliver knew he wasn't in the best state of mind right now, and he was probably imagining things. Walking out into the morning sun, his eyes instantly fell on the pile of black not far away from the gates; the Death Eaters who had died in the fight were stacked unceremoniously in contrast to Hogwarts' dead inside the hall. There was no dignity here, no respect for the fallen.
Oliver wondered if that was wrong. He thought of Crabbe again, how he'd considered Katie to be no more than an enemy. That's what there was in war; friendlies and enemies. Try as he might, he couldn't take it personally. He couldn't blame anyone other than Voldemort; the Dark Lord, now the very dead Dark Lord, who had inspired these people with words and promises and, above all, twisted sympathy.
Voldemort was not on the pile.
Nor was he anywhere near the line of living Death Eaters not far away, every one of them on their knees, every one of them with both hands behind their heads. Some of them had still had their masks on when they were shoved into line, all of them now laying discarded on the grass. Seven wizards patrolled constantly around them, and Oliver recognized one of them as Arthur Weasley. He knew his family had lost at least one, and it was no surprise that his gait was far less enthused compared to the Aurors walking the line, wands drawn.
He was probably there for the same reason Oliver had left Katie behind; Death was easier to deal with when you couldn't see it, if only temporary.
Looking back at the dead, Oliver again realized that Voldemort was not on the pile. The Dark Lord was also not what Oliver had come outside to search for. Tearing his gaze away from the Death Eaters, he started glancing around at everyone carrying bodies. Some were carrying black-hooded corpses, bound for the pile. There were comparatively few of them than the lines of dead in the Great Hall, and the morbid collection was almost finished. As deadly and as violent of a fight as it had been, there had scarcely been more than a hundred combatants on either side.
Not seeing what he was looking for, Oliver headed back inside. A quick glance spared him no sign of Katie, so he decided to head over to the Weasleys. He wasn't very close with all of them, but the twins had been faithful teammates and friends for a long time, and he was acquainted with Ron through Harry years back, so it only seemed like the right thing to do. He knew he couldn't live with himself if he ducked out on them like he had on Katie.
They weren't in a circle anymore, but they were standing and sitting almost in a line, but they were in front of their lost family member. Oliver approached from the side and didn't even get the chance to say anything to them before he saw the fallen one. "Oh...Fred..."
He turned on his heels and rooted himself to that spot, feeling like he was going to hurl. First Katie, now this? Why did it have to be one that he'd been close to, that he'd known? Why had he never written them after graduating and leaving them behind? Why? Why...
Turning his head to see someone with a mop of red hair at his side, Oliver realized it was Ron. "Hey...hey, I'm sorry..."
"Thanks," Ron said. "They'd always tell us what a great captain you were, he'd be glad to know you cared, I bet."
Ron's voice was dull and dead, his eyes vacant. Figuring he was much the same, Oliver nodded and forced his feet to move, walking away before he lost control of his stomach. He planned on sending his condolences to Fred's parents, and he swore he would actually write that letter this time.
As if it were destined, Oliver nearly walked into one of the dead who had been laid out peacefully on the floor while he was still in his stupor, just trying to get further away. When he looked down, he saw Katie. The Hufflepuff girl who'd been dead before they'd tried to save Colin was next to her.
Whoever had brought her in took the time to lay her out nicely. Her hands were clasped together on her stomach, her eyes closed. She looked so much more peaceful than she had out on the ground.
Wordlessly, Oliver, pulled her wand from his inside pocket and bent down, planning to slide it under her hands. At the last second, he didn't. It felt somehow wrong, it wasn't that he wanted it because it was her wand, per se, just because it was hers and it was important to her. He wanted to keep a piece of her that was more than an old letter or even a Christmas present, even though she'd always known what he wanted. It just felt more like he was acknowledging she was important, that she was his world.
The problem then being that Oliver wasn't so sure he deserved it. Hadn't he run away when he should've brought her inside himself? Hadn't he let her die? Maybe he couldn't have stopped Crabbe, but why hadn't he even tried? There wasn't even time...was there? Would you hate me if you were here, Kate...please don't hate me...
Still, the lure of the wand was undeniable. Hands shaking, Oliver took his time in putting it back into his pocket. It was still warm in his hands, and finally, the tears he'd been holding back since hearing Voldemort's speech last night came once more. "You...you don't mind, do you? I don't...I don't just want to remember you, I want to put this somewhere I'll always see it, so...so..."
He couldn't say more through the tears, his breath coming too erratically. He didn't want to admit aloud that he wanted the wand for more than just its connection to her, but that it also made him feel a little better to have it nearby.
"Colin...Colin! Which one of them did it, is he still alive?! Which one?!"
Startled at hearing the name "Colin," Oliver turned to the source of the yelling. It was, by far, not the only sound of grief coming from the Great Hall. Indeed, as the delightful shock of Voldemort's death wore off, and more dead were organized on the floor, the chamber had become home to a depressing, anguished, slow wail of tears and mourning. The name was what brought Oliver's attention to this one. Surely more than one Colin attended Hogwarts...but, still.
"Dennis, what are you doing," a heavily Irish-accented voice called after him.
Colin Creevey's brother Dennis looked exactly like him, just younger. Oliver watched him sprint down the hall towards the doors with Seamus Finnigan close behind, thinking that his brother's murderer was already dead. He'd killed, murdered Crabbe himself.
Perhaps that was why Oliver ran after him. After all, if Dennis was intent on revenge, really intent, well...it wouldn't do for him to start throwing curses as innocent Death Eaters now, would it?
Seamus had grown up a lot since Oliver had last seen him, but he was still shorter and not the best runner in the world. Oliver caught up to him as he caught up to Dennis outside, and even from behind, he could see that Dennis was mad with grief.
The fourth-year looked back and forth between the pile of the dead and the line of living prisoners of war, still waiting for the Ministry to get its Voldemort-less self together and send reinforcements to deal with them.
Then, he pulled his wand and moved away from the pile. Both thinking the same thing, Oliver and Seamus bounded on Dennis from behind, both shouting, "No!"
Dennis never really had a chance. Oliver had his arms around him right off the bat, and Seamus went for his wand. He didn't get a hand on it, but when Oliver threw himself onto his own back, taking Dennis down on top of him, it was easy pickings.
That done, Oliver spoke an inch from his ear as soon as Dennis started to struggle. "Hey, hey. I know it hurts, lad. Believe me, I know. Nothing you do to any of them'll bring him back, though...he's already dead anyway. The one who killed your brother is already dead."
Dennis didn't have a chance of breaking out of Oliver's grip, but after a few more seconds, he stopped. And shortly after that, he spoke with a pained voice twenty years older than his age. "Please let me up."
Thinking that he wasn't going to stay here forever, Oliver did so. He stood up as soon as Dennis rolled off of him, and found the young Gryffindor had started staring at the pile of dead. Dennis said, "Which...which one is it?"
"I dunno," Oliver said, honestly. "I can't see him."
Catching Oliver and Seamus off-guard, Dennis instantly reverted to his anger, snatching his wand out of Seamus' hand before he could be stopped. And before Oliver could get his own wand out, he had it pointed at one of the bodies on the bottom and shouted, "Incendio!"
"Expelliarmus!" Oliver was still processing what had just happened and just barely reaching for his wand when Seamus disarmed Dennis. The wand flew through the air, but the spell had been cast and the fire started. Seamus didn't stop there, he dashed up closer and made it to the pile before the flames could spread far. Before they could waft the smell of cooking flesh into the air. "Aquamenti."
"I know," Oliver ignored all of that, focusing on Dennis instead, half-repeating himself anyway. He didn't know what else to say. "I know it hurts. Your brother wouldn't want you to be like them, he'd want you to move on."
Dennis didn't say anything. He stared straight at the spot he'd cast the spell, looking like he wanted to say something. He had no answer, and he eventually lost the will to stand, falling to the ground and crying for his big brother. Oliver hoped his words might've helped, even a little, because he didn't know what else to say.
When Seamus was done and the damage turned out to be no worse than singed robes, Oliver looked around and found everyone starting at them. Not at the pile of bodies, but at the three of them. Those who were carrying dead back into the castle had stopped dead in their tracks, despite their burdens. The Death Eaters had gotten antsy and clearly angry. Even Arthur Weasley was looking, but he still had that vacant look in his eyes.
"What's the matter," Oliver nearly shouted, growing as unsteady as Dennis was. "Can't we have a little respect for all the dead?"
No one challenged him, but there were plenty of murmurs among the onlookers as they moved back to what they were doing. He didn't care, he didn't think death was something to ever, ever celebrate.
Looking at Oliver indifferently, Seamus asked, "Y'really think they're worth that?"
For what it was worth, Oliver thought he was asking an honest question instead of questioning his intelligence. "Of course...of course they are, everyone should have dignity and respect when they die," he said. He wasn't sure if he really believed it or if his reasoning was just something he couldn't quite put into words. Thinking about it distressed Oliver to no end, he didn't know what to do anymore, didn't know how he should feel, and he started pacing around the spot, randomly, while he tried to make sense of it. Why hadn't he flown into an uncontrollable rage when Katie died, he wondered? Was it because his act of murder seconds later shocked him out of that, the same way actually committing an act of vengeance turned Dennis sober? "Even them...even..."
Aware that a sudden impulse he felt was completely, completely crazy, that no one would understand, that he himself wasn't sure if the reasoning he gave Seamus was at all an explanation for, Oliver nevertheless turned back to the pile and pointed his wand just over the top of it. "Morsmordre!"
If people had stopped in their tracks before, they were paralyzed with shock now. When the dark mark appeared just over the Death Eaters, every single person outside stared at it, totally shocked. No one could muster anger, it was so surprising. Some stared at Oliver, others turned to him after staring at the mark first, and not a single one of them looked angry. Oliver could tell even from far away that they all thought he was simply and utterly crazy.
Even the living Death Eaters were stoic, though a few looked more proud than they did minutes ago. Most of them looked just like everyone else; bewildered.
The mark was unimpressive, small and hovering over a pile of bodies in broad daylight, washed out by the sun. Robbed of the nighttime sky, it inspired none of the fear that it did in years past. Soon after, it faded away as if it wasn't even there.
Oliver turned and, wordless, walked back into the castle.