Chapter Thirty Two
Dreams Come True
Ron was sat on the windowsill of Dumbledore's office watching the school go about their business, completely unaware of the turmoil going on within their world at that very moment. They were worried about stupid things like whether they'd be late for dinner, whether that girl in their other class liked them, their homework for that evening…
Not whether one of their best friends was dead.
They had been back only two minutes, but it felt like lifetime. Nobody had spoken, he didn't know what to say that would be any comfort to both Harry or Hermione. Time crawled by slower than he'd ever felt it do before and he looked over to Hermione, who was curled up on one of the deep couches, trying to cry as silently as possible. She was biting her nail and staring ahead of her. Ron wanted to comfort her, but he didn't know how.
Ron looked across to Harry, slightly afraid of what he'd see. There was a fire crackling in the grate and Harry was stood in front of it, his back to Ron. He was standing straight backed with his arms held stiffly at his sides, a mass of black robes which was silhouetted against the flames. He watched his best friend staring into the flames in silence, wondering what on earth he could possibly be thinking - if he was at all. He acted like she was dead already. Did he know something they didn't? Could he feel it perhaps…
He had never seen the side of Harry he had seen out in the graveyard. He'd seen him angry, upset, annoyed, furious, but he'd never seen him…The expression on his face when Catalina disappeared, the tone of his voice, the unforgivable curses he'd held in his hands. The laughter…
As a child Ron had vividly imagined the scene when the notorious murderer Sirius Black was hauled off to Azkaban laughing and when he'd found out Sirius was innocent, he'd always wondered. Why laugh?
Ron shuddered and pulled his eyes away from his best friend and looked at the clock. They'd been here four minutes…
Harry watched the flames dance in front of his eyes, almost mesmerised by them and the feeling of misery, of howling despair, of grief too strong to take, of the burden of another loss. He wanted to scream, he wanted to destroy the part of him that made him feel like this, he didn't want to feel anymore.
He wanted to go to sleep. He wanted to have nightmares. He wanted to see what was happening to her so he'd know where she was, that she was still alive, that he could go and find her. He didn't care what or who he'd see, he just had to know. He wanted to feel the pain of the horrible visions, anything that would prove what he already believed was wrong.
His scar had been burning steadily ever since they'd got back to the office and for once Harry didn't mind. He relished the fact the Voldemort was angry, maybe this meant she'd escaped…He didn't truly believe that for a second, wondering if the pain wasn't because he was angry, but because he was happy.
Dumbledore had told him that Voldemort would stop at nothing to weaken Harry, that he would fight his war just as much psychologically than with curses and wands, that that would be how he would get at him. He'd always known they were in danger, but had he ever believed them?
He felt sick, his throat was tight as he thought back to that time he'd seen her. Shrieking his name as she was taken by the person he'd assured himself he'd trust over himself. Where was the real Sirius, had he gone to find her?
He couldn't stand another moment of being in this room, of staring at this fire, of hearing nothing but the faint sound of laughter, the crackle of flames and Hermione crying. But he couldn't imagine what else he could do, so he stayed. He watched the flames, he didn't make a sound, he didn't cry because on the inside he was raging more in grief than he could ever produce in the real world.
She's not dead, Hermione pleaded with herself, trying to make herself see sense. We don't know anything's wrong with her, Dumbledore will find her, everything will be ok…She tried to sniff as quietly as possible, staring at the same patch of frayed rug she'd been since they got there, going over the events in her head.
She tried to look at it rationally - Catalina had been with someone that was impersonating Sirius, that person had kidnapped her, Harry hadn't had a vision, so maybe Voldemort hadn't got to her yet. However, the rational part was overcome with her emotions - how could she be so naive to think that Catalina wouldn't be killed given the first chance - what would there to be gained from keeping her alive?
At this harsh, unfeeling voice in her own head Hermione gave a choked sob, unable to keep it down. She felt alone and trapped, she couldn't even cry freely - no one was showing any sign that the events were affecting them. Ron was just sitting at the window and all Harry was doing was watching the fire - why weren't they upset? Why weren't they crying? Why was Harry just standing there, doing nothing?
She let go, not caring if the others could hear her cry, they should, they should know how to feel. Hermione saw Harry drop his gaze from the fire and tilt his head slightly to one side, as if listening in on a conversation, angering her even more.
She felt someone sit down next to her and a moment later Ron wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulder. She twisted around and threw her arms around his neck, burying her head into his shoulder and letting the tears flow as he smoothed her hair down slowly. Hermione watched Harry through her tears as Ron shushed her, he was still listening to them.
After what seemed like an eternity, but to Ron's hawk-like clock-watching was only another minute and a half Hermione subsided slowly and Harry looked further around. Eventually he was watching them over his shoulder and he turned around, staring at them both.
Hermione had seen some of the worst parts of Harry's life, she seen him after fights, duels, hospital wings, arguments, revelations and she'd seen the effects, but she had never seen that expression on his face. Never seen him so pale, his eyes so dull, his entire stature had seemed to have shrunk so that he looked like a young boy that he had been when they'd first met.
After a moments indecision she shrugged Ron off her and climbed to her feet, walking over to Harry and pulling him into a strong embrace. It took him a few seconds to react, hesitantly wrapping his arms around her too.
"She might still be ok," Hermione said in a cracked voice, the first time they'd spoken.
"Yeah, we don't know what's happened yet," added Ron quietly, laying an uncertain hand on his shoulder.
Harry merely nodded, his throat was too tight to speak now.
"She could be ok," repeated Hermione, almost to herself, squeezing Harry tightly.
Harry took in a shaky breath and closed his eyes, almost as if he were too weary to stay awake now.
"My scar hurts."
Hermione gave a squeak of alarm and scrunched up her eyes against the fresh tears.
It was a minute, Ron guessed from his view of the clock, until the fire in the grate glowed green and Sirius stepped out of it.
"Sirius!" exclaimed Ron as Harry ripped out of their embrace and turned to his godfather.
"Have you found her?" he croaked, his voice coming out harsh and broken.
"Found her?" asked Sirius in puzzlement, side stepping away from the fire as he took in the trio's tortured appearance, "who?"
"Catalina!" exclaimed Hermione almost hysterically as Harry rushed forwards to Sirius, searching his eyes desperately.
"Say you've found her," he pleaded hopelessly, "please…"
"She's here," said Sirius in confusion, motioning to the fire that had suddenly flared green.
Two seconds later, Catalina Firelight stumbled out.
A cry ripped out of Harry's throat as he rushed forward and pulled Catalina into a tight embrace. He could feel waves of relief and joy crashing down on him and was quite unaware that he was laughing deliriously. She was back, she was ok, how could this be…
"Oh my god," whispered Hermione in disbelief, hands over her mouth as the tears sprang to her eyes again, "oh my god…she's ok…"
Harry felt like he never wanted to let go, but reluctantly pulled away and regarded her joyously. Her robes were clean and there was no trace of the blood that had covered it the last time he'd seen her and she gave him a watery smile. He laughed in disbelief and smoothed the hair away from her face with both hands and he held her steady so he could survey her.
"You're alright," she managed to say in a voice that had obviously been worn out crying.
"What's going on?" demanded Sirius as Ron and Hermione rushed forward to Harry and Catalina and formed a giant group hug, all laughing and shouting to each other in amazement.
"You're alive…" Harry managed to choke out, "how…I…how?"
"Where've you been," asked Hermione faintly, "we thought you'd…you went…where've you been?"
"At the Ministry…" she told them, shaking her head in amazement too, "I thought you were caught up in the fighting…I can't believe you're all ok…"
"But the Death Eater-" began Ron before the fire leapt to life once again.
Dumbledore and Remus stepped out, their faces grim and sombre before they noticed the much tear stained and incredulous four teenagers stood before them. They stopped in their tracks.
"Catalina!" gasped Remus, looking to Dumbledore and then back to her quickly, "what are you doing here?"
"I just got back from the ministry," she said, looking as confused now as everyone else.
Everyone asked a question at the same time and no one could make heads or tail of the situation until Dumbledore clapped his hands and silence reigned.
"Take a seat everyone, this may take some explaining," he instructed, before turning to the fire and putting his head into the flames.
He held a short conversation with someone in the grate as everyone else seated themselves in the various sofas. Harry and Catalina were last to sit down, reluctant as they were to let go of each other and settled for sitting on the small sofa together. Harry laced his fingers into hers, not caring who saw. Everyone was looking confused yet happy, despite the days tragic events and Harry couldn't help but grin like a maniac - he thought he had lost everything, only to have his deepest wish granted to him, for her to be safe. He couldn't believe it, it was as simple as that.
"I thought you got caught up in the fighting," she whispered to him, eyes alight with tears of happiness now.
"I thought you were dead," he told her in a strangled voice, "I honestly did…I can't believe you're…what happened?"
"Sirius -" she began before Dumbledore stood up and silence fell.
"Now, the search party has been called off," said Dumbledore with a warm smile in the direction of Catalina, "events of this afternoon seem to be extremely confused."
"I'll say," said Sirius, with a bemused look on his face, "who's the search party for?"
"Catalina," said Remus in an exasperated voice, "we were told she'd been kidnapped."
"Who by?" said both Sirius and Catalina in unison, looking shocked.
"Us," said Ron and Hermione together and everyone was silent for a few moments.
"And why did you think that?" asked Sirius as Catalina looked to Harry in sudden understanding for their odd reunion with her.
"Because, we thought someone was in a Sirius disguise at the cemetery who took her during the attack," said Hermione, looking wild and dishevelled with a tear stained face and bushy hair, "we thought it was a distraction…"
"Why would you think that?" asked Sirius, looking at them all as if they were stupid, "I spoke to Harry and everything was fine - when the attack started I knew we'd have to get you out as quickly as possible so I took Catalina - I figured you guys would be looked after by Dumbledore."
"But you were supposed to be taking Remus to his new transformation place today," pointed out Ron.
"That's tomorrow," said Remus.
"Oh," said Ron, ears suddenly glowing red.
"But she was trying to escape from you when the attack started," said Hermione suddenly, remembering the way Catalina had struggled with Sirius and shrieked Harry's name.
"I was trying to get to you guys," said Catalina in a quiet voice, "I didn't want you to get hurt because of me…"
Everyone was silent for a few moments before Harry remembered something else, feeling he had to say it now and explain why he'd caused such a huge misunderstanding.
"But Sirius sent me for a portkey, and then he disappeared using one…I thought he was lying," he tried, looking over to Sirius questioningly.
"We have emergency portkeys, all Auror's do," he said, showing him a small bag tied to the belt of his robes, "direct flight to the Ministry of Magic, we're usually discouraged from using them for cost reasons - I thought it would be easier for Dumbledore to give you one."
Harry suddenly felt very stupid. It all made so much sense when you thought about it rationally. But that was his problem, it had always been his problem, he was a very irrational person.
"Well, now that is sorted out," said Dumbledore, summoning a tray of tea and biscuits, "we must discuss the attack on the funeral."
"The first or the second one?" asked Catalina with a dry laugh, before remembering her company and flushing with embarrassment.
"Indeed. The first seems to be some kind of publicity stunt on behalf of Ruby Goldwing. However she has overstepped the line this time, as Miss Granger so concisely pointed out, and I shall be talking to the Editor in Chief of the Prophet quite soon, I assure you."
Harry gave a sigh of relief, he wondered what a life without her articles would be like. He looked over to Hermione who was grinning with pride, if not a little sheepishly, he wondered what she'd said so 'concisely' to the journalist to create such a fuss.
"The second attack," began Dumbledore heavily, and they all became more serious, "cannot unfortunately be dismissed as lightly. It was only a small group, six masked Death Eaters. Nobody was seriously injured which is a blessing, yet they all evaded capture which has come as a blow."
"And they took her…the body?" asked Catalina querulously.
Dumbledore surveyed her steadily for a few seconds before nodding heavily, "Yes, I am afraid so. But as for what reason, I cannot say."
Catalina looked across to Harry and he gave her hand a gentle squeeze.
"We believe they were acting under the orders of Charles Firelight," said Dumbledore gently, as if trying not to further upset her.
"Yes, I expect so," she said in a distant voice.
"Voldemort's angry about it," said Harry, Ron and Hermione flinching at the name and the news.
"Really?" asked Dumbledore, watching Harry with a very calculating expression indeed, "For how long?"
"Since we got here," he replied, self-consciously shifting his fringe slightly, aware of everyone lingering gaze on his scar.
"That is interesting," said Remus quietly, almost to himself and Dumbledore shared a look with him that Harry found hard to interpret.
"Well, as distressing as this news is," Dumbledore told everyone suddenly, getting to his feet now, "we can take heart in the fact they were not actively attempting to reach Harry."
Everyone's eyes swivelled towards him again and he stared resolutely at the floor. Catalina squeezed his hand.
"Or indeed anyone else," he added, "now, I must see to the Order members and then the Ministry. Remus, Sirius, you had best come with me - you need to file a report for your actions Sirius and we could use your specialist knowledge at the scene Remus."
"Right," said Sirius in surprise, but getting to his feet quickly.
Everyone else got to their feet as well and Catalina stepped towards Sirius.
"Thank you for your kind words earlier," she said in an almost timid voice, "and for getting me to safety."
"All in a days work," said Sirius with a half grin, resting a hand on her shoulder, "and I meant what I said."
She nodded silently, sliding from under his hand slowly though and placing herself next to Harry.
"I've sent for the house elves to bring you some dinner, I will send for you later this evening for an update on developments. Try not to tell anybody about this," said Dumbledore before stepping through the flames in a whirl of robes.
Remus walked through next and then Sirius. He paused with his foot in the flame and looked back to them, gave a slight chuckle and stepped through. Silence descended upon the room as suddenly as the noise that had filled it only ten minutes ago when Catalina had come back from the dead.
It was like being given a new lease of life. Like being marooned on a desert island to find it was paradise, like looking in your wallet for £10 and finding the winning lottery ticket, like the worst moment of your life becoming the best. Like the person you loved coming back from the dead.
Harry couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe they'd jumped to such conclusions, that he could feel so elated when only hours ago he was tormented with grief beyond measure. The four had eaten a wonderful feast in Dumbledore's office, laughing and joking with the wild abandon of hysterical happiness that overcomes people rarely. They didn't speak about the funeral, the protestors, the Death Eaters, the missing body, the grief - they just talked about the future, made fun of each other, dissected both Hermione and Ron's and Harry and Catalina's relationships.
Later that evening Dumbledore filled them in on the days news. They hadn't found any of the Death Eaters, everyone concerned in the duels would recover, all the mourners got away safely and Ruby Goldwing had been fired. This met a succession of cheers, even the thought of this Death Eater attack on Britain was the first in two months, wasn't enough to cloud their happiness.
Harry absent-mindedly picked a piece of mortar off the crenallation of the astronomy tower, rubbing it between his fingers and dropping it over the edge and watching it float away on the wind. He had always associated the Astronomy Tower with bad memories; getting caught after smuggling out Norbert, late night lessons, his arguments with Catalina here last year, Catalina getting captured, Catalina trying to jump…
It had been a very unlucky place for them, but still he sought the peace and solace that being so close to the stars gave him. He had so much to think about he wouldn't be able to sleep for a million galleons. His scar was still burning and as he was vaguely wondering what this meant, he thought about Catalina's disappearance. He didn't realise how affected he could be by Catalina until that moment. Sure he knew he loved her and would do anything for her, but he didn't fully comprehend what being in love with someone entailed until then.
He couldn't put into words how he felt at the moment of return, or the lingering feeling it had left him with. In a strange way it almost hurt, there was too much feeling, too much for him to hold onto himself, he needed to share it, express it somehow.
There was a sudden stab of pain in his forehead and he clapped his hand over his scar, gritting his teeth slightly.
"What's got you so worked up tonight?" asked Harry, rubbing it irritably - why was he spoiling his one moment of peace and quiet?
"Are you angry because I'm happy?" he muttered after a while.
He tried to ignore it, staring off towards the mountains, mesmerised by the throbbing sensation. He found it was almost in time to his heartbeat and if he concentrated on it for long enough, his whole body seemed to be moving to this strange double-beat.
He was so content listening to this that he didn't hear the footsteps coming up the stairway, or the person moving until the door shut behind them.
"Couldn't sleep either?"
He gave an incredulous laugh and looked over his shoulders.
"No," he replied, before nodding towards her, "nice pyjamas."
Hermione grinned in embarrassment, self-consciously smoothing down her baggy tee-shirt and shorts which were visible underneath her school robe.
"What are you doing up here?" he asked her looking slightly puzzled.
"I just wanted to see if you were ok," she told him, looking slightly worried at his reaction, "you know, about everything that happened today…"
He looked back out across the scenery, "I'm fine," he said stoically, "how's Catalina?"
"Crashed out," she said, obviously not buying his brush off one bit, "it's been a long day…"
"Yeah," scoffed Harry, thinking over everything that he'd seen and heard and felt that day - it had lasted a lifetime, "longer than a History of Magic lesson."
She gave a slight laugh and he was aware she was standing right behind him, "Come and sit down."
He shifted over so that she could squeeze in next to him and patted the empty space. After a moment's indecision she climbed up and dangled their legs over the edge and Harry gave her a brief smile before turning to look at the view again. They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes before she spoke.
"It was so bad today, in Dumbledore's office," she said, obvious pain still in her voice.
"Yeah," he said heavily, not giving anything away.
This seemed to annoy her slightly and she shifted around so she could see him better.
"Can I ask you something Harry?" she said worriedly, twisting her hands slightly in her lap.
"Sure," he shrugged.
"What were you feeling, in Dumbledore's office…" she began, sounding slightly anxious when he looked away, "I mean, you were just standing there…all I wanted was for you to say something, shout or cry or rage but you didn't…"
Harry watched the mountains unseeingly as he replayed those agonising five minutes in the headmasters that his life had crumbled down around him.
"I just wanted to know what you were feeling…" finished Hermione lamely, knowing he wasn't going to answer.
There was an incredibly long silence.
"I just never realised-"
He broke off, obviously embarrassed by what he was going to say and she looked at him with renewed curiosity.
"Realised what?" she prompted gently, knowing she was finally getting through to him.
He was silent for a long time and she began to think he wasn't going to reply at all when he spoke up.
"That it would hurt so much."
"What would?" she asked slightly worriedly, thinking back to his scar pains.
Again he was silent for a long time, and when he answered he addressed the mountain range off to one side.
"Oh," she said sadly nodding with understanding. "You didn't lose her."
"I thought I did," he replied, his voice sounded slightly constricted, "and you know what the worst thing was?"
"You and Ron being there with me, together," he stated in a heavy voice, "I was standing there in Dumbledore's office and I knew I was going to be alone forever, but you two weren't. You still had each other, You still had your parents, you still have a future…and I'd lost all that - and I-I hated you for having it. What kind of a friend does that make me? That I would wish them you that pain to make me feel better?"
"Oh Harry," she said quietly, picking up his hand, "it's just human nature. Sure you'd be jealous of what we'd got because it's what you want most of all but just can't have. Everyone gets jealous. But you know deep down that if it were possible for those things to happen to us you'd do everything in the world to stop it from happening."
He nodded heavily and Hermione secretly marvelled that Harry had managed to speak for so long on a subject they'd never broached before. Although they were best friends her and Harry never really talked about their feelings, it was just a given that they loved each other and would do anything for each other, they didn't need to voice it out loud.
"But it all turned out alright in the end," she continued, watching the stars with a faraway expression on her face, "Catalina was safe and sound all that time…"
"Yeah, we survived to see another day," joked Harry in a black comedy moment.
"That's not funny," she said with a frown and Harry gave a shrug, but didn't take it back.
Hermione saw a shooting star pass overhead and pointed it out to Harry and they spent the next few minutes looking out for more. Harry fancied he could see a lot more than Hermione but some began to realise they were just dots of light that flashed in front of his eyes during particularly violent throbs of his scar. He didn't know whether he should be worried about this or not, probably he thought with a sigh.
"You know, I think this is the first time we've ever really sat down and talked for a long time," said Hermione, giving him an encouraging smile, "it's not so hard is it?"
"No I guess not," he laughed.
"I guess we've been spending a long time with Ron and Catalina on our own…" she said, with a slightly sad smile, as if she'd just noticed this loss.
"If it's all the same to you I don't really have any particular desire to see you and Ron on your own," he said with a smirk as she blushed and slapped his arm.
"Well at least I'm proactive," she said in mock-snobbishness, "unlike some people I could mention."
"Proactive," said Harry with a bemused smile, "is that what you crazy kids are calling it? In my day it was called sucking face."
"Harry!" yelped Hermione, looking scandalised, "I don't suck face. That is so crude!"
Harry dissolved into a fit of laughter and soon Hermione had no choice but to join in. When they had finally stopped, Hermione wiped the tears away and tried to look as composed as possible.
"That's a nice change," she said contentedly, "there's too much doom and gloom about at the moment."
"Well if the pasts anything to go on there'll be more to come," said Harry, coming down from his high with a bump as his scar stabbed in pain again.
"Let's not talk about the past," she said, noticing but not saying anything about it, "we'll talk about the future instead, how about that?"
"That's an even more tricky subject," said Harry with a fake laugh, feeling slightly queasy at the thought.
He still hadn't told Hermione or the others about the Prophecy. He didn't think he ever could. Maybe it was because he couldn't take their reactions - Ron would shocked and then dismiss it awkwardly, Hermione would get upset then rush to the library for answers and Catalina…well, who knew what she'd do if she found out.
Deep down Harry seriously doubted he would eventually be able to defeat Voldemort, so why would the others think he could? He couldn't stand looking into their eyes and seeing what his death would mean to all of them, not only for their own grief, but for what it would mean for the rest of wizard kind. Talking about the future was not one of his favourite pastimes as it looked like his days were seriously numbered. In short he didn't really think he had one, so what was the point in planning?
"Short term at least," she said, as if sensing his troubled thoughts, "what are your plans?"
"Pass my NEWTS and graduate I guess," he shrugged.
"Then what?" she prompted him, laughing at his thoughtful expression, "don't bust a brain cell or anything, there must be something you'd like to do?"
Survive, thought Harry grimly. Be left alone. For himself and his friends to be safe.
"I thought about playing Quidditch," he said finally, "you know, professionally."
"Well do that then," she said simply, "we could write off to some of those summer training schools and you could get a place in the under 21's or something. When the war ends you could just do that."
If the war ends for me, he thought sadly.
"Yeah maybe," he said in a non-committal way, "what about you, you got any plans?"
She let leaned back against the crenallation, looking thoughtful "I'm not quite sure yet, maybe something in the Ministry - when the wars over they'll need a lot of help rebuilding everything."
"You don't want to work for the ministry," said Harry, who had a healthy mistrust of authority figures now, "I know you. What would be your dream dream job?"
"I like to work with S.P.E.W," she said, almost shyly, "I really think I could make a difference…"
"Well, why don't you do that?" asked Harry simply, ignoring the fact he thought it was a foolish job and a waste of her talents, "set up S.P.E.W inside the Ministry…get people involved?"
"Yeah maybe," she said, repeating his self-same non-committal tone.
It seemed they both didn't really believe that a time would come where they would need to worry about things such as jobs. It was a sobering thought, but they didn't put it into words, they both knew they'd probably accepted their destiny.
"I'm sure something will come along," she said in a hopeful tone that he wasn't quite sure was real, "but in the meantime I think we should try and live life to the full, have some fun…travel, like Catalina does, I always liked the thought of that. Her whole life spent in all those places - imagine what you'd learn?"
"Not exactly a stable way to grow up though is it?" asked Harry, thinking it hadn't done Catalina much good, being in all those different schools and country's.
"Maybe not for her," conceded Hermione, thoughts travelling back to the funeral that morning and the missing body, "but now we're older…I don't know, there's so many places I want to go, things I want to see before…in my life."
Harry sensed her slip, she was almost going to say 'before I die'. Harry had never wondered what Hermione thought her role in the war would take her.
"Where do you want to go?" he asked her curiously.
"I'd love to go to China," she said at once, and Harry could tell this was a long held desire, "I used to watch all those programmes on tv and just wish I was there - the culture, the heritage and history…"
"You could go with Catalina," Harry said with a slight laugh, "she told me once that of all the places she'd been, it felt like home there. I guess she'll live there when she leaves Hogwarts…"
Hermione could hear the worry in his voice and wondered if he'd go with her, but decided to save that conversation for another day.
"How about you Harry," she asked carefully, "If you could go anywhere or do anything, what would it be?"
Harry gave this due thought and consideration for such a long time that Hermione began to snigger at him. He shoved her playfully and tried to get her to shut up.
"I don't know really…somewhere nice and hot maybe," he said finally.
Hermione tried to hide her laugh behind her hand but was quite unsuccessful, "Wow, original…Can't you think of a single place you want to go to?"
"I did a project in school once on the River Nile," he said suddenly, "I thought it would be nice to sail down it. Except for the crocodiles anyway. And the hippos…"
"Yeah, I always was fascinated by Egypt - Ron loved it. How about we do that then, all of us," she said with certainty, "when all this is over, we'll sail down the Nile together - avoiding the crocodiles and hippos of course."
"It's a deal," he said with a smile, knowing deep down it would never happen.
Hermione nodded happily and was off in her own thoughts about foreign places when Harry slapped a hand to his forehead, a familiar reflex action she'd seen him do many time before.
"Is it still hurting?" she asked anxiously, their light-hearted conversation disappearing into thin air.
"Yeah," he said, rubbing it a little viciously but moving his hand away, "perhaps we ought to get off this high tower."
He tried to make it sound like a joke, but Hermione didn't want to think about Harry falling off from his scar pains and got down hastily. He almost looked unsteady on his feet but recovered quickly and frowning in confusion.
"It's gone…" he said almost happily, "excellent."
"Really?" she asked, "that's a little sudden…"
"Hey, who's complaining? Maybe I'll get a decent nights sleep," he laughed.
"Haven't you been sleeping well recently?" she asked him, shrewdly sensing his slip.
"I've been sleeping fine," he said with a smile.
She could tell he was lying.
"Ron hasn't said you've been sleeping badly," pressed Hermione, worried by this new revelation.
"Have you got him babysitting me?" he asked, more annoyed by this than he felt he should have been.
"Keeping an eye out more like," she told him calmly as he picked up his invisibility cloak.
"Oh come on Hermione," said Harry peevishly, "if there was anything really wrong don't you think I'd tell someone?"
"No I don't think you would," she shot back, "not me and Ron anyway."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked, forgetting his annoyance instantly at her almost upset tone.
"Nothing," she breathed, "I just think you ought to tell us more often even if it's not serious - we are here for you, you know, for anything."
"I know that," he said blankly, staring at her in wonder, "I will…in future."
"Good," she said with a smile, "anyway, Ron's probably waiting for us and we better get back before you get in trouble for being out of bed."
"Implying you wouldn't," teased Harry, pulling the cloak around him.
"I'm a prefect remember," she said, before watching him disappear, "but how about once more for old times sake? It's more fun being out after dark this way."
Harry chuckled and pulled her under the cloak too. He had to stoop slightly for it to properly cover her now and they made their way slowly down the towers stairs.
"I can't believe the three of us used to get under this," she said as they made there was down the second floor corridor.
"I know," he said, thinking fondly back to their incredibly dangerous yet exciting midnight adventures they'd had under the cloak.
"Bend down a bit Harry our feet are showing," she cautioned him sternly, "you're getting too tall for this now."
The only sound to be heard in the large chamber was the steady drumming of sharp nails on the wooden arm of the throne.
Tap tap tap.
The collected semi-circle of black robed figures were staring impassively ahead, trying not to look at the six people in the centre of the room, the focus of the drummers displeasure.
Tap tap tap.
They had just filed in and were now awaiting punishment for their actions, but they were awaiting one more person.
Catalina Stared at the canopy of her bed, unable to empty her mind enough to fall into sleep. She couldn't stop thinking about the funeral, Dr Rahn's secret, her father turning up, the attack, the house…It seemed like enough had happened in that one day to occupy her mind with new questions and fears for the next five years.
She remembered the look on Harry's face when she turned back up in Dumbledore's office and smiled to herself slightly, despite everything that had happened, she still felt a slight happy lurch of the stomach when she thought about him.
She felt a sudden twinge of a headache develop and she gave an irritated sigh – typical, not only did she have to contend with all the bad stuff, now she had a headache on top of it, and insomnia.
It occurred to Harry in a sudden flash of understanding that he was dreaming, but he was unable to wake himself up. Instead, he watched in mounting panic as the assembled Death Eaters gradually filed out of the room, leaving the six that were still sprawled across the floor to crawl out themselves.
When the last person had gone, the door was pulled shut and the noise reverberated around the room. Voldemort rose from his throne and stared down malevolently at Firelight with his blazing red eyes. He held Voldemort's stare, straight backed, chin thrust forward with the kind of pride Harry had begun to associate with the man - though he'd seen the same stance on Catalina when they argued.
"Are you also above showing the proper respect?" Voldemort finally asked in a silky voice, "or is that to above your contempt as well as following orders?"
"No my Lord," Firelight replied graciously, voice equally as smooth as the creatures in front of him.
"Then bow," he said, lip curling with displeasure.
Firelight bent low in a sweeping bow and Harry could see the displeasure in his eyes at it - Voldemort must have too.
"Lower," he continued, looking down from the pedestal with a terrifying smile.
Firelight did as he commanded baring the back of his neck to Voldemort, who raised his wand and brought it down. The prone figure was pushed to the floor and Harry understood what he had done, that feeling of immense pressure on your spine, as if a giant invisible hand was forcing you down - Voldemort had once forced him to do that. It seemed like such a long time ago now...
"You think that because of your heritage and your powers, you are somehow better than me?" he said finally, standing over Firelight, who was now prostrate on the ground, forehead touching the cold flagstone floor.
"No my Lord," came the reply.
"You think that you are above my wrath because of your skills?" he continued, pacing from side to side.
"No my Lord," Firelight repeated.
"That you are indispensable because you channel your power a different way to me?" demanded Voldemort harshly, pacing faster now.
"No my Lord."
Firelights inability to give him a proper answer, or maybe just the mounting anger that was burning through both himself and Harry was evident in the creatures eyes and with a flick of the wand he pulled Firelight up until he was dangling in the air like a puppet. Red, snake-like eyes were brought within centimetres of the coal black ones of Firelight, who didn't flinch.
"Your daughter is alive on my grace," he told him furiously, "grace which can quickly turn to displeasure when my servants take it into their minds to overthrow me."
"I did not attempt to overthrow you my Lord," replied Firelight calmly, though Harry could feel his mounting panic almost radiating from his limp form, "I merely saw an opportunity and decided to take it-"
"I had already decided that action would not be taken on this day!" screamed Voldemort suddenly, destroying Firelights façade of calm control.
"I know my Lord, but-" began Firelight hastily.
"Do not question me Charles," came the deadly whisper, "Crucio."
The pain hit Harry with the force of a million hot knives, carving their way under his skin until he could do nothing but scream for it to stop, for the torture and pain to end. He forgot who he was, where he was, only being able to focus on the pain, the horrible, torturous pain…
And suddenly it did. He felt like he was kneeling down on the floor, gasping for air in blessed relief that it was over, even though he was nothing more than a presence in the room. Instead he looked down of Catalina's father, who was doing just that.
"I have always served you, my Lord."
Harry felt, in a disembodied sort of way, his own mouth saying these words, even though he was looking down at Firelight, who managed to choke them out as he pulled himself to his feet.
"You serve yourself Charles," said Voldemort, lip curling in cruel amusement, "but I'm going to have to break you of this habit, in any way I can…"
He twirled his wand through his spider like fingers, before pointing it at the man's heart.
"In any way I can…"
"Well I'm not coming in," Hermione's whisper came from the spiral staircase to the boy's dorm, "it's against the rules and you know it!"
"You're a prefect," pointed out Ron as they approached the door.
"I don't care," stated her voice with a humph, "it's not right - just go and get it and bring it out to me."
"Fine," came his sigh as he pushed open the door quietly and tiptoed in.
He walked over to his trunk, thoughts so full of Hermione's bickering tones that he didn't hear the noise for a few moments. However as he bent over his bed he felt a sudden chill chase down his spine and he jerked upright, alarmed and alert. Ears suddenly homing in on the familiar sound of Harry tossing and turning, mumbling in his sleep.
Feeling the familiar icy dread, he hurried over to Harry's bed a ripped open the hangings to see Harry sprawled out, tangled up in the sheets which he was kicking at already.
"Hermione!" hissed Ron, realising Harry was in deep again, "get in here!"
"Ron, I told you-" floated her voice up the stairwell before he interrupted.
Hermione was in the room like a shot, peering into Harry's four poster bed looking stricken, "Oh no, I knew this would happen! Wake him up!"
"Harry?" whispered Ron, shaking his best friends shoulder firmly, "Mate? Come on, wake up…"
"He's drowning in sweat," observed Hermione in a quaking voice as she reached forward too, "Harry, wake up now…Harry?"
It didn't work and Harry continued to mumble. Before suddenly giving a huge gasp and giving what looked like a convulsion, back arching as he screwed his face up in pain.
"Ron," whimpered Hermione, tugging on Ron's sleeve in panic, "do something!"
Ron looked around desperately, spotting the pitcher of water on his bedside table and making a lurch for it. He held it above Harry, hesitating momentarily before dumping the entire contents over his head.
Ron looked across to Hermione in panic, who suddenly clamped a hand over her forehead and gave a yelp of pain.
"Hermione?" cried Ron in bewilderment, as she lowered her hand and saw it glistening in the moon light with something crimson in colour.
"My heads cut," gasped Hermione, tears pricking at her eyes, "Ron! My heads cut!"
Ron gaped in shock, unable to say anything for a few short moments as he stared at the cut across his girlfriend's hairline, which was freely bleeding down the one side of her face. He moved towards her to comfort her in someway before a sudden sound made them both turn and stare at Harry.
"That hurts doesn't it?"
The voice that came out of Harry's lips was like nothing they'd ever heard him sound before, in was a low, cruel hiss that issued from the lips of the slack, sallow face, before it suddenly contorted with pain again.
Ron gaped at his best friend.
"What the…" he began.
"It's gone…" whispered Hermione suddenly, wiping her forehead suddenly and drawing back a clean hand, "Ron…the blood gone, the cuts gone! What's going on! I did just…didn't it?"
"Yes," replied Ron hoarsely, dodging backwards as Harry suddenly flailed an arm out.
"What's going on Ron?" asked Hermione, working very hard to keep her voice the right side of hysterical as they both backed away slightly.
"I - I don't know, he's never…" he tried in bewilderment, before they both jumped as Harry made a deep throated cry of pain.
Harry arched his back once again, his fingers curling around the sheets until his knuckled went white.
"Get Catalina," he said suddenly, "I'll just…just try and wake him up some more…"
"Are you sure? He's not safe," began Hermione, wringing her hands in panic, "maybe we should get a teacher…"
"No!" shouted Ron above another gasp of pain from Harry, "she's closer…she can help him, I know she can. Go on!"
Without another word Hermione stumbled backwards across the room and disappeared out of the door. Ron turned back to his friend and gulped, pulling out his wand and casting a soundproof charm around them and then the other beds, before edging forward.
"Harry, mate," he tried weakly, shaking Harry sweat-soaked shoulder, "wake up now…I know you don't want to feel this…come on…"
Neville slid open the door to greenhouse three and stepped in, breathing deeply the aroma of wet earth and manure mixed with the pungent fragrances of the plants around him. He tried to see how many he could identify by smell alone.
"Come on Neville," came a voice from next to him, "we have to choose our favourite flavour before the meeting can start."
He nodded solemnly, that was true.
"Wait for me Ginny!" called Neville, running after the redhead, who had darted in front of him, lost within the plants.
He pushed back the vines and walked deeper and deeper into what had now become a deep forest teeming with life. He stopped for a few moments to admire the animals and colours around him before Ginny disappeared into the undergrowth further ahead. He tried to follow but every time he caught a glimpse of her it would be just as she was darting out of sight, her echoing laughter all he had to guide himself deeper into the tropics.
Then suddenly Neville felt different. It was almost as if an icy mist was invading the landscape, rolling towards him, not physically in the jungle, but in his mind. Later he would have described it as something pushing its way into his head, his dream.
Then the screaming started.
Ron tried to grit his teeth against the pain, clutching his hand close to his chest as his fingers one by one began to scream in agony.
"I can snap your fingers Charles," hissed Harry in another moment of slack faced calm, "as easily as I would snap a wand…"
As the horrible voice died away Ron felt another blinding pain in his third finger as he tried to hold in the cry of pain he was threatening to release, bewildered at what was happening.
"Come on mate," he managed to gasp weakly, "you don't want to be doing this, I know you don't."
Then, as suddenly as the pain had come, and as if Harry had indeed been listening, the pain vanished. There was a moment of absolute silence from Harry and Ron heard, in a detached sort of way, the other boys in the room stirring or muttering in their sleep. Then Harry gave another gasp.
"No…please…please don't, no," Harry began to mumble in his own voice, tight with emotion.
Ron was beginning to wonder whether he ought to send for Professor Dumbledore when he heard two pairs of feet banging their way up the stairs. Catalina burst in, slamming the door open and running across the room to Harry's bed, closely followed by Hermione. Ron could see how pale and worried she looked, even in the moonlight.
Without a word she pushed past Ron and reached out to Harry, grabbing his wildly flailing arms and trying to pin them down.
"Catalina, I don't think you should get close to him," Hermione began in an anxious voice, "he's hurting us with his powers…"
If Catalina heard Hermione, she didn't acknowledge her, instead began to talk to him in a low, soothing whisper in a language Hermione couldn't put her finger on. It hardly made any difference that she could see, Harry was still writhing around in pain and gave another deep throated noise that Ron was sure was trying to become a scream.
"I better go and get…Dumbledore," he said, backing away slowly, but transfixed by the sight in front of him.
"No!" cried Catalina, "it's ok, don't worry, it's fine."
"What part of this is fine Catalina?" he demanded angrily, gesturing to Harry.
"I can sort this out, it's ok, I'll explain later…" she said quickly, "but don't get the teachers."
Hermione and Ron shared an uneasy look, both obviously battling with themselves not to run from that room that very moment. However, they were spared the moral dilemma when Catalina suddenly climbed up onto the bed towards Harry.
"Catalina!" hissed Ron anxiously, "get away from him!"
"Get down now!" cried Hermione as they both rushed towards Harry's bed, "he might hurt you!"
"He won't hurt me," she told them firmly, before switching back into the foreign tongue she was using before.
She crawled towards him, protecting herself from his flailing limbs as she straddled over him, kneeling above his stomach, talking to him softly.
"Catalina," tried Hermione weakly, "what are you doing…?"
She didn't reply, merely bent down and began to smooth his sweaty fringe away from his face, unbeknown to Hermione and Ron she checked his scar, it was red hot and looked raw again. She continued to stroke his cheek, bent down close to him so that her hair shielded their faces from view.
Harry gave a violent start and hid mouth opened in the 'o' of a silent scream as whatever was causing the pain wracked through his body. She placed a hand on his chest and concentrated, finding that spot where Harry's emotions used to reside and opened it up. The dull ache she had originally felt began to build, sharpening and defining the pain until she could feel herself begin to shake.
She tried to keep a clear head as he began to relax slightly, focussing on drawing the pain out of him. She leaned her forehead against his for support as the black began to wash in front of her eyes. Then suddenly there was illumination in the dark.
A pair of red, snake-like eyes stared back at her for one brief flickering moment. She heard the faintest sounds of a voice before she found herself being forcefully pushed out of the connection. She jerked her head away from his in confusion - had that been him or You-Know-Who? Looking down she saw Harry's lips moving.
The hiss ended and she watched in horror as a dark trail began to trace it's way down his cheek, crimson blood seeping out. It looked as if an invisible person was running a sharp nailed finger down his cheek and she shuddered at the thought. She placed her hand over the deep cut and healed it instantly, before looking over to Hermione and Ron, who were huddled together at the foot of the bed. They hadn't looked like they'd heard him speak.
"Maybe you should just…stand back a bit?" Catalina managed to say, finding her voice shaking slightly from the pain of before.
Hermione nodded hastily and pulled Ron across the room, who was staring fixedly at Harry's bed, before dragging his gaze to his fingers, which he began to flex experimentally. She turned back to Harry, since the cut he'd been silent, but the pain hadn't stopped, he just wasn't shouting anymore.
"Harry, wake up," she whispered to him.
He didn't respond still and she cast a desperate look around to the others before closing her eyes and gathering her strength. She placed the palm of her hand on his chest so that the scar rested across his heart and concentrated on Harry.
The familiar building of pain started and she used her mind to start mentally shaking him awake. She could feel him beginning to come around when she felt a sudden pressure on her arm, Harry was gripping her tightly.
Then everything suddenly went black. She could hear voices, screaming and the sound of pain. Harry's voice was shouting, and she could hear magic, curses being thrown, someone moving. Then Voldemort spoke.
"It seems you've got an audience Charles."
Catalina's heart hammered madly - Harry was dreaming about her father?
"Let's show Potter what I'll be doing to him when I catch up with him."
The pain was too unbearable. Harry could feel too much, Voldemort's presence, Charles' pain, then someone new…the pain was further away now, the present came rushing back…
He awoke as a cry of pain tore from his throat, clawing his way back into consciousness with his entire body burning.
He arched his back against it and raised a shaking hand to his face, pressing the palm of his hand against his scar and as he gritted him teeth. He willed it to stop, for his heart to stop beating so madly, for his body to stop shaking and aching.
He slowly became aware he wasn't alone and he opened his eyes slowly, bracing himself for the dread of who, or what it was. He could make out only the blurry outline of a person leant over him, and he tried to focus desperately, breathing deeply.
"Harry?" asked the voice. It was shaking.
He closed his eyes against the voice he recognised and dropped his head back against the pillows, trying to get back his breath and figure out what had happened. He could remember everything he saw so vividly he thought to himself as a wave of nausea overtook him.
"Can you hear me?" she asked again from right above him.
He swallowed through his tight throat and gave a slight nod, before pressing his hand tighter to his forehead, it burned too much. He felt someone lean over him and when he opened his eyes he saw Catalina's pale face looking at him - there were tears in her eyes. She gently pulled his hand away from his scar and put her own on it.
After a few moments he felt the pain beginning to recede and he began to un-tense his muscles, becoming more conscious and noticing the sounds in the room. Hermione's voice entered his head first, whispering quickly, the Ron's apparent responses.
He closed his eyes wearily, begging for peaceful unconsciousness.
Unbeknown to the others and safe inside his own sound proofed bed, Neville sat bolt up right. He had emerged from his nightmare feeling sick, pressing his hand to his forehead and the burning scar.
It took him a few moments to realise he didn't have a scar and he gently lay back on his bed and stared at the canopy, shaking.
Hermione was racking her mind, sorting through the catalogue of things she discovered when she'd investigated Harry's scar - both her own theories and one's she'd gleamed off the professors, but still couldn't understand what was happening. It was her way of blocking out the horrible sight.
She wondered in a detached kind of way what Catalina thought she was doing. The way she'd crawled up onto the bed, straddling over him and trying to wake him up - why did she do that, it obviously hurt her. Then the way that a few moments before he'd woken up she'd broken away and hastily scrambled backwards away from him, look of horror on her face - what had she felt or seen?
Now she was fussing over him again, obviously distressed.
Hermione walked closer to see Harry attempting to get up. At first Catalina tried to prevent him but something must have stopped her because she suddenly backed off and Harry crawled out of bed. He got to his feet, legs shaking terribly before he lurched toward the door, stumbling right past her and Ron, apparently not seeing them.
"Go with him Ron," Hermione whispered to him.
Ron quickly followed Harry out of the room and Hermione cautiously walked up to Harry's bed, on which Catalina was still knelt, face burrowed in the quilt. She sat down next to her and regarded her worriedly.
"Are you ok Catalina?" she asked quietly.
"Yes," came the muffled answer.
"What…" she began, before giving a bewildered shake of the head, "what happened?"
"He had a nightmare," Catalina told her, straightening up and running a shaking hand across her eyes, "a bad one…"
"How should I know?" she said, fighting hard to keep the tears from overtaking her, hand clutched to her heart.
Hermione knew she was lying. She crept up onto the bed and sat down next to Catalina, and wrapped a comforting arm around her. Catalina shrugged it away, angrily brushing away her tears.
"It's not me who had the dream!" she burst out, "save it for Harry!"
"Catalina," began Hermione in a shocked voice, "What's wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with Harry you mean!" she continued, in an uncharacteristically high pitched voice, "when Magus's are supposed to start developing their powers, around 16 to 18, they can have dreams when they manifest what they think they're seeing! It's never this bad - I spent a few weeks in a room with strange animals or turning peoples hair pink…I never hurt people…"
"But Harry had a nightmare…" said Hermione gently, taking all this new information in her stride, "One of his nightmares-"
"I don't care it's not fair!" she yelled, her voice ringing around the quiet, thankfully soundproofed, dorm, "Harry doesn't deserve this! We've had a horrible, horrible day and then this evening we were so happy and I'd forgotten everything because he was there and we were ok…"
She broke off with a sob and Hermione dared to put her arm around her best friend again, who didn't shrug it off this time. When she continued to rant it was done in a voice choked full of emotion that Hermione could hardly understand what she was saying.
"And it hurts so much - how can he stand the pain? I couldn't breathe and I-"
"So you did connect with him," Hermione interrupted, "do you know what he saw - do we need to tell the Professors to send out Aurors? Who were the targets?"
"I didn't see anything," maintained Catalina, brushing away her tears now.
"Catalina," warned Hermione fiercely, "I know you're lying! What did you see? Who are you trying to protect here? Harry-"
Catalina looked visibly affronted, as if she just been slapped and had Ron not reappeared in the room supporting Harry at the shoulders at that precise moment serious fireworks were about to go off. As it was they merely stared at each other in silence for a long second before Hermione rushed over to help Ron with Harry, who wasn't using his legs too well. Catalina turned to his bed and whipped off all the old bedding, giving it a quick wash and dry between her hands before spreading it back out, frowning deeply at Hermione's words.
When she was finished she turned to see them all standing by the side of the bed and Catalina studied Harry intensely. His legs were shaking badly and his hair was wet, sticking up at every angle - he'd obviously just had a wash and wasn't focussing on anything due to his lack of glasses. His skin was a yellow waxen colour that made him look positively jaundiced in the candlelight.
He was placed on the edge of the bed and Hermione lifted his legs up and tucked him in. Catalina was worried that he hadn't even spoken yet, not to her anyway and that it was because of what she had heard in his head.
"We better let him sleep - he's exhausted," said Hermione finally after they stared at him for over a minute in silence.
"Let me just…say goodnight," asked Catalina in a faraway voice moving towards the side of the bed.
"I'll wait for you downstairs," said Hermione in a tight voice.
She turned on her heel and marched out, closely followed by Ron and Catalina surreptitiously looked around the dorm. All of the boys were deeply asleep and safely out of earshot due to the soundproofing charms. She crept up to the bed and sat on the side, reaching out and brushing away his wet fringe from his face in what she hoped was a soothing manner.
"Harry?" she whispered, "are you awake?"
He didn't respond.
"Do you want to talk to me?" she tried again.
He gave a low hum and she wasn't sure if this meant yes or no, she thought she'd try again.
"Does it still hurt Harry?" she asked him quietly.
"Hmm," he said, still not opening his eyes, "tired…"
"I'll leave you to sleep then," she told him, trying to stop the tears in her eyes from falling, "can you just tell me…was the dream just about my father, or is there someone who needs help?"
He prised his eyes open and looked up at Catalina, even without his glasses he could see the tears.
"Just him," he mumbled, before turning over, effectively ending the conversation.
She stepped back uncertainly, silently cursing herself for letting him see she was upset - now he thought she was probably more worried about her father than him. She tried to say something that would be comforting and helpful, but couldn't find any words. She stood with her mouth stuttering for a few moments before turning and heading out of the dorm in silence. When she shut the door she leant against it and breathed a heavy sigh.
She looked down at her arm, flinching at the horrible yellow and purple bruise that had already developed there, highlighting each of the finger nail marks. She rested her other hand on it and when she pulled it away the skin was clear. She tried to clean her face up and arrange her expression before walking downstairs, Ron and Hermione was stood by the fire waiting for her.
"Is he ok?" asked Ron as soon as he heard her coming.
"He's asleep now," she told him, purposefully avoiding the question.
"I better go and keep an eye on him," said Ron, casting a furtive, anxious look at Hermione before leaving quickly.
Catalina watched him go with a glum feeling that it was because he sensed an argument was on the horizon. Sure enough when she looked over to Hermione she saw she was standing with her hands folded across her chest and a very determined look on her face.
She waited for her to begin.
"You put all our lives in danger tonight," she finally said, "including Harry's."
"I didn't Hermione, I kn-" Catalina began before Hermione cut in.
"You did and you know it!" she ranted, red in the face, "How did you know that you could wake him up? Why wouldn't you let us get a teacher?"
"Because I knew I'd be able to help him more than they could," she said feeling stung at this reprimand when she had indeed woken him up.
"How? Huh? How exactly did you know that?" countered Hermione, "Has this ever happened to you before? We know absolutely nothing about how these powers are affecting Harry so how can you say-"
"What do you mean affecting him?" Catalina asked her angrily, "it's not like some disease or something Hermione! I told you before, it's natural, it's just what happens to us!"
"You said you never hurt anybody!" pointed out Hermione equally as harshly, "so why did Harry?"
"You've already said it was because he was having a nightmare Hermione!" shouted Catalina, angrily gesturing to her friend, "You know he has nightmares so stop trying to make this my fault!"
"I'm not saying it's your fault," Hermione told her in slow, angry tones, "I'm just saying that there must be a reason why all of a sudden one of his dreams effects him like this - he's never usually in so much pain and he's usually able to keep conscious afterwards!"
"And you think that reasons me?" shouted Catalina incredulously, unable to believe Hermione was saying those things to her.
"Not necessarily," said Hermione, "I just know that you know a lot more than you're telling us, and I want to know why."
"Because it's none of your business!" shouted Catalina angrily.
Hermione looked visibly affronted, and stepped back, staring back at her with a mixture of shock and fury. Catalina knew she'd pushed Hermione too far. Then they both heard a third voice, which was also fighting the anger for calm.
"How can you say that Catalina?" asked Ron carefully, walking back into the room and standing next to Hermione, "He's our best friend and we've been through more together than you can possibly even imagine. So how dare you say that this doesn't concern us."
Catalina looked between the two faces, angry and confused at what to do next.
"I only meant that it's not even any of Harry's business what he's seeing, it's an accident," she stuttered worriedly.
"So you do know what he was dreaming about!" Hermione cried, leaping on her statement with a sudden ferocity.
"Fine, yes, I admit it! Ok?" she cried, waving her arms up in the air in defeat, "I know what he was dreaming about! Are you happy now?"
"You think that makes me happy?" asked Hermione in a dangerous voice and narrowing her eyes at her.
Catalina didn't say anything, staring stubbornly back at the two. Hermione looked livid and Ron's face was strangely impassive, though his eyes were blazing.
"So you know what he was dreaming about," began Hermione, "and you wouldn't let us find or tell a teacher…makes me wonder if you're trying to protect someone you saw."
Catalina visibly paled at this comment and stumbled backwards, too shocked and angry to speak. Hermione seemed to realise she'd said something a bit too harsh but didn't take it back.
"You think I'm protecting Death Eaters?" whispered Catalina, feeling horrified that her best friend would say that to her, "you think…how could you think that of me?"
"I don't think that," said Hermione, looking slightly ashamed, "it came out wrong…I think you might be protecting one Death Eater in particular…"
Catalina blanched at her words.
"My father?" she whispered hoarsely, stumbling backwards until she hit the wall next to the stairs, "how could you think that…how?"
She couldn't hold it in anymore, the tears that had been building up behind her eyes began to roll down her cheeks. She sank to the floor and buried her head in her arms, sobbing at the thoughts and memories that Hermione's accusations had brought to mind. She felt like she couldn't breathe, like a huge weight was pushing on her chest and the pain and anger was drowning her. She was alone, she needed Harry here for her, she wasn't protecting her father…she was protecting Harry….
Suddenly she became aware that someone had wrapped their arm around her shoulder and her heart leapt - it must be Harry! She looked up to see Ron crouched down by her. She gave a choked sob, feeling a sudden, crushing and inexplicable loss.
"Harry was dreaming about You-Know-Who torturing Charles Firelight," he said in a slow voice.
Catalina felt ice flood her veins as Hermione gasped out loud.
"How…how do you know that?" asked Hermione in a distressed voice.
"Because when you went to get Catalina he was talking in his sleep. He was saying what You-Know-Who was saying…" Ron trailed off, as Catalina stopped crying as a realisation stole over her, "he must have been angry about what your father did today at the funeral…"
She shrugged off Ron's arm and hastily got to her feet, stumbling away from the pair. She felt confused and bewildered by her friends sudden display or hostility.
"You knew that…why didn't you just tell her!" she yelled at Ron, "why are you letting her say things like that if you know why!"
"I just thought that-" he began hesitantly.
"No!" she shouted, pointing an angry finger at him, "you just wanted to see what I'd do and say if Hermione pushed me far enough! You're just like the rest of them, always thinking I'm up to something devious, that I'm keeping secrets, that I'm doing this for me!"
"Well you're wrong! I love Harry and I would never do anything to hurt him! What good would it do to have more professors poking around him and making him relive seeing Voldemort torturing someone! You've got no idea what he saw, you've got no possible idea what it's like to see someone broken like that!"
Ron and Hermione were stood rooted to the spot, staring open-mouthed as Catalina shouted louder and louder until the tears were spilling down her cheeks again.
"And as to me not possibly being able to imagine what you've been through with him? You've never been there when it really mattered - you've never seen Harry tortured, you've never seen him duelling with Death Eaters for his life, you've never seen him face Voldemort with his own death in his eyes."
"So forgive me if I wanted him to have one night where for once he wouldn't have to relive it, when I could for him."
She turned on her heel and marched towards the portrait, tears streaming down her face unchecked.
"Where are you going?" asked Ron weakly as she was climbing through the hole.
"To tell Professor Dumbledore what happened."