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Harry, Ron, Hermione, and I slip quickly past the man and inside. He gestures toward a rickety wooden staircase, brings a finger to his lips to quiet us.

I enter a room with a threadbare carpet and a small fireplace, above which hangs a large oil painting of a blonde girl with a sweet, but vacant stare. I step to a grimy window and peer down to the street, where half a dozen Death Eaters glance about in confusion. Just then, Hermione, Ron, and Harry enter the room.

"Did you get a look at him? For a second I thought it was-" Ron begins to say. Then Hermione cuts him off.

"I know." She looks mildly shaken.

I didn't see the mans face so I don't understand what they're talking about. I look over at Harry and he slips the mirror from his pocket. Footsteps sound from below.

I look at the mantel below the oil painting and see Harry's face in a mirror with a broken shard missing from it. Only problem is, he's on the other side of the room, looking down.

"Harry! I can see you in here." I tell him.

Harry turns, watches me take a jagged shard similar to his own from the mantel. He glances down at the piece in his palm, sees my eye looking out at him. Just then, the man's hulking form appears on the landing.

"You bloody fools! What were you thinking coming here? Do you have any idea how dangerous it is?" As he speaks, I get a good look at him. He looks just like Dumbledore.

"You're Aberforth." I say. The room goes quiet. The man turns, eyeing my brother.

"Dumbledore's brother." Harry mutters. "It's you I've been seeing. It's you who sent Dobby." Harry holds up his shard. Aberforth eyes it.

"Where've you left him?" Aberforth asks.

"He's dead." I look down as I say these words.

"Sorry to hear it. I liked that elf."

"How'd you come by it?" Harry nods to the shard in my hand.

"Mundungus Fletcher, 'bout a year ago." He replies. My blood begins to boil.

"Dung had no right selling you that. It belonged to-" he cuts me off.

"Sirius. Albus told me." He looks down. "He also told me that you'd both likely be hacked off if either of you ever found out I had it. But ask yourself where you'd be if I didn't." Harry and I don't respond. "Right then. Reckon you're hungry. Let's get you fed, then think of the best way to get you out of here."

A tray of food is set down on the table. Ron and Hermione set to, they haven't eaten for days.

Aberforth pours himself a glass of mead. Not his first.

"Do you hear much from the others? From the Order?" Hermione asks him.

"The Order is finished. You-Know- Who's won. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves."

The four of us exchange glances. Harry and I don't touch the food, just stare quietly at Dumbledores brother.

"We need to get into Hogwarts. Dumbledore gave us a job to do." Harry tells him.

"Did he now? Nice job? Easy?" An awkward silence, the tension heavy.

"We've been hunting Horcruxes." I try to explain. "We think the last one's in the school. But we'll need your help getting in." He takes another sip from his cup, keeping quiet. "If we can find it and kill it, then we kill him, and then we can end this war once and for all. We need to get into Hogwarts tonight."

Aberforth stares at me for a moment, until the silence grows. "It's not a job my brother's given you, it's a suicide mission. Do yourselves a favor. Go home. Live a little longer."

"Dumbledore trusted us, to see this through." Harry glares.

"What makes you think you can trust him! What makes you think you can believe anything my brother told you! In all the time you knew him, did he ever mention my name? Did he ever mention hers?" Aberforth gestures to the painting of the girl.

"Why should he..." Harry asks.

"Keep secrets? You tell me."

"I only care about the Dumbledore we knew. We trusted him."

"Did you now? And why is that?" Aberforth raises an eyebrow at my brother.

"We had no reason not to." Harry glances at me.

"That's a boy's answer. A boy and girl who goes chasing Horcruxes on the word of a man who won't even tell him where to start." He scoffs. "You're lying. Not just to me, which doesn't matter, but to yourselves as well. That's what a fool does."

I curl my fists. "You're drunk."

"You don't strike me as fools, Mr. and Miss Potter. So I'll ask you again." He eyes both of us. "There must be a reason. Why do you trust anything my brother ever said to you? Why?"

Harry stands mute, his face at war with itself. For a moment, it's unclear which competing emotion will win out.

I finally break the silence. "Because we need to. Because if we don't, we don't know who we are anymore. We've lost too many people to lie down now. The room grows quiet once more. All eyes are on me. "I'm not interested in what happened between you and your brother, I don't even care that you've given up. I trust the man we knew. We're going to see this through." I pause. "We need to get into the castle tonight."

Silence. Hermione, Ron, and Harry exchange a glance. Aberforth regards me darkly, but I merely stand, waiting. After several seconds, Aberforth's gaze shifts... to the painting.

"You know what to do..." The girl smiles, turns, and walks away, growing slowly smaller in the painting with each step she takes.

"Where've you sent her?" Harry asks.

"You'll see soon enough."

"That's Ariana, isn't it? Your sister. She's beautiful." Hermione speaks up.

"She'll always be beautiful." He says. Ron and Harry glance at each other, confused.

"She died very young, didn't she?" I question. This hangs in the air.

"My brother sacrificed many things, Miss Potter, in his journey to find power, including her. She was devoted to him, he gave her everything, but time." Aberforth looks to the empty frame.

"Mr. Dumbledore... thank you." Aberforth stares hard at Hermione, nods curtly, then exits. As he disappears Ron looks to Hermione to explain her thanks. "Did save our lives twice. Kept an eye on us in that mirror. That doesn't seem like someone who's given up, does it?"

Ron, Harry, and I exchange a glance, then eye the empty doorway.

"She's coming back. And she's got someone with her!" I point. Just then, the painting blooms faintly and Ariana emerges from deep within the dark canvas.

"Who's that with her? Bloody hell..." Ron sighs. As Ariana draws closer, the limping figure beside her comes clear. It's Neville.

"I knew you'd come! I told them all! Harry and Amelia Potter would never abandon Hogwarts!"

"Neville..." I say softly.

The gilded frame swings open, revealing, in actuality, what the painting had replicated. Harry pelts forward into the passageway as Neville comes into the light drifting from the sitting room. Long hair. Gashed face. Swollen eye. Clothes ripped and torn.

"Neville, you look..." I say, dashing up to him, engulfing him in a tight embrace.

"Like hell? I reckon. This is nothing. Seamus is worse. You'll see. Hermione! Ron!" Neville embraces them, then turns to Aberforth. "Hey, Ab. There might be a couple more people on the way."

The four of us turn, seeing Aberforth standing in the doorway, watching Ariana drift back into the canvas. Neville turns to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and I. Smiling again.

"Well? Ready?"

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