Harry did not even try to pretend he was going to get any sleep that night. By the time he made it to one of the empty guest rooms, the weak hold he had on his emotions was cracking. He threw his pillow down and then gripped hard at his hair. He had hurt Cattie. He had caused her enough pain that she screamed. He had gotten her kidnapped and just when she was supposed to be safe, he had hurt her.
Sleep was so far out of reach it was a foreign concept. Harry spent most of the night sitting on the guest room bed, leaning back against the headboard and going over and over what had happened. Every time he blinked he could see Cattie flinching away from him. He could see her mouth dropping open and that awful scream wrenching from her throat. He only saw a flash of her eyes; wide and luminous with fear and looking at him like he was the source of her nightmares. He would never forget that moment for the rest of his life.
He just didn't understand what exactly happened. He would have thought that maybe he had just scared her but the way her body had seized away from him…that had been actual pain. There were no injuries on her body so there was no way his touch had pressed into a wound or a bruise. Had he somehow lost control of his magic in his worry and it lashed out at her? He didn't understand exactly what he had done. So he ended up staying awake all through the night trying desperately to figure out what he had done, he didn't want to risk hurting Cattie again. By the time the sun had risen, Harry was no closer to an answer but he was resolved to be extra careful around Cattie from then on. Just until he knew exactly what it was he had done wrong.
He crept out of the room twenty minutes or so after sunrise and dragged his exhausted body out into the hallway. The house was hushed with early morning stillness and Harry found himself wanting to savor it. He made his way back to his and Hermione's bedroom and when he nudged open the door to peer inside, Hermione and Cattie were cuddled close together on the center of the bed. Sunlight was streaming in through the curtained windows, muted and soft and brushing over their identical curls. He wanted to soak it in, revel in their peace over the anxious thrum of his heart because he couldn't help but feel like this was the calm before the storm. He wanted to step inside and lie down next to them, soak in that peace until the tension that tightened his chest melted away. But he couldn't. After last night he wasn't going to risk hurting Cattie again.
Harry left his family to sleep and moved back into the silent hallway. He considered heading downstairs and grabbing something to eat but he cringed at the thought of eating. He was exhausted and worried and he was sure anything he tried to put in his stomach would come right back out. So food was a no but he was going to make his way to the dueling room and try to work off as much of his anxiety as possible. There was a restless energy that buzzed over his shoulders like foreboding and he wanted to shake it off. He only spared Bronson and Caterina a fleeting smile in greeting before he slipped into the dueling room. He was still in his pajamas, flannel bottoms pooling around his bare feet and his hair in insane disarray around his head but he felt battle ready. He felt off-balance and helpless and that just made him want to fight and destroy. He shifted, spread his legs apart and moved one foot behind the other and dropped into a light crouch. He lifted one hand with his palm facing upward and with a twitch of his fingers the battle figurines grew and sprang to life. Destroy he would.
An hour later Harry was standing in the middle of the room surrounded by bits and pieces of the figurines; sweaty and even more exhausted than he'd been before but feeling a little more like he was standing on solid ground. He was still him. He hadn't lost control. He was a little friendlier to the portraits when he left the dueling room a few minutes later.
"Good sparring session, my boy?" Bronson asked from his place in Caterina's frame, grinning wide. Harry returned the smile with a small one of his own and a nod.
"Yes, I needed it."
"Of course you did! Nothing does the body and mind as well as the rush of battle." Bronson looked like he could go on longer but Caterina's deep, accented voice broke in.
"I do not think now is the time to speak of battles, Bronson." She said gravelly, watching Harry with concerned eyes. "Let us allow the young man to his family, yes?" Bronson looked confused but slowly he nodded and Harry began inching towards the stairs. He shot the dark haired woman a grateful look before turning and returning downstairs.
It was a little before 8 o'clock when Harry reached the landing of the second story and decided to look in on Hermione and Cattie once more. He wasn't sure if they would be awake just yet; Cattie was generally an early riser but they had all had a long night last night and he didn't know if either of his girls would be ready to face the day just yet. Merlin knew he wasn't. When he did return to his and Hermione's bedroom the door was already open. He gripped the door frame and poked his head inside, eyes scanning over the room for a sign of any curly heads. Neither Cattie nor Hermione were in sight. Slowly he pushed away from the frame and stepped inside; his eyes immediately landed on the bed and he flinched. He swore he could still see Cattie scrambling away from him.
He sighed heavily and dug the heels of his palms into his eyes. God he was just so…tired. Tired of every horrible thing piling on top of him and his family and being unable to protect them from pain and fear, from him and the horrors that followed him every moment of his life. He was just so tired of causing pain. He dropped his hands from his eyes and let them rest limply at his side for a moment before he forced his feet to move. Not only was he mentally tired his body felt like he was on his last legs. The scant hour he had been able to sleep last night before Cattie's nightmare had not done him much good and the lack of sleep after that coupled with his workout in the dueling room had Harry feeling like he could collapse at any moment. He blinked down at the couch he was standing next to—how had he even gotten over here?—and contemplated allowing himself to just pass out on it but the thought of sleep didn't actually sound all that appealing. He didn't trust his own mind right now. He wasn't ready to face whatever images it would no doubt conjure up for him.
Harry shuffled past the couch and went straight for the bathroom. A shower would have to do to wake him up, not to mention wash off the sticky feeling of sweat on his skin. He groped around in the wardrobe and grabbed the first shirt and pair of jeans he could find before trudging towards the bathroom. The bathroom was warm with steam and scented with Hermione's shampoo when he stepped inside which told him she had showered not long before he came in. He shrugged his pajamas off carelessly and stepped into the shower, turning the water until it was as hot as he could stand. Why wasn't it possible to wash fear and pain and memories? If he could just stand under the scalding spray until it was all just drowned away…he would do it.
Harry was still a damp and still tired when he eventually made his way downstairs. From the hall he could hear Hermione and Cattie in the family dining room; Hermione was speaking soft enough that Harry couldn't make out the words and he worried for a second that she was trying to soothe the little girl once again but then he heard a childish giggle. His steps faltered halfway to the door, oddly afraid of intruding. After last night Harry didn't really know if Cattie would be happy to see him; he didn't want to disrupt any happy moment she was having. But at the same time he needed to see for himself. If she was laughing, then she was okay and he needed to see that. He made his feet begin moving again until he was through the dining room door. There was an instant silence when he stepped inside and Harry gave an internal flinch, eyes carefully avoiding looking at either Hermione or Cattie. He knew this would happen. He would step in an instantly put a damper on any happiness in the room; there was no way the two of them wouldn't have last night fresh on their minds, he most definitely did.
"We were wondering when you would finally come down, sleepyhead." Hermione said mildly, the first one to speak after the brief pause. Harry looked away from the window and caught her eye. Her face was warm and in her eyes he could see an encouraging reassurance. Her words were causal but her gaze was saying 'Its okay'. If Hermione thought he should be worried or tread carefully, she would have let him know. If she wasn't worried for Cattie's well-being then maybe she was okay…so Harry finally allowed himself to look at the child seated next to her mother. He had expected to see some apprehension in her expression or—god forbid—that horrible closed-off blankness but instead Cattie was looking up at him with her face pleased and open. He blinked.
"Morning Daddy!" Did she not remember? Wasn't she afraid he would hurt her again? But no apparently not because she was lifting her arms for a hug and Harry was moving towards her without thinking.
But then he stopped. Cattie might not look worried but he was. The last time touched her something had happened that hurt her and they still didn't have an answer as to why. He wasn't prepared to risk it. Not even when Cattie was looking up at him with wide, confused eyes. Instead of giving in and scooping his daughter into his arms, Harry gave her a smile and sunk down onto the chair across from Hermione. From his place across from them Harry couldn't miss the look of shocked disappointment on Hermione's face or the way Cattie just seemed to crumble in on herself. Harry felt that like a bludger to the gut.
"Good morning, Kitty-Cat." He did his best to keep his tone light and loving but she was still looking at him with hurt confusion. "What are you having for breakfast?" There was no way he was going to ask her how she slept.
The little girl blinked down at her plate like she had forgotten it was there. This was a new habit of hers also, coming back to the present with this faintly confused expression like she had forgotten what she had been doing. "Oh just…eggs and toast."
"Eggs and toast? Why I thought you only liked great big sugary things for breakfast! Like pancakes or French toast or an entire cake." He knew the joke was weak but he needed to dispel this tension. Cattie still looked confused but she cracked a smile; Harry carefully avoided looking at Hermione but he could feel her eyes drilling into his forehead. He spent the rest of breakfast trying to keep Cattie smiling and for the most part he did succeed, even drawing out a giggle or two with silly jokes and comments but a tense air still hung over the table. He didn't even remember anything he ate.
As soon as Cattie finished eating Hermione turned to her and smiled. "Why don't you go on upstairs and I'll meet you in the library in a tick, okay?" Cattie's eyes lit up with panic and Hermione was quick to reach down and run a hand over her head. Her voice was slow and comforting when she spoke to the little girl. "I'll be right behind you in a few minutes, right behind you."
"…Okay." Cattie said quietly. She was obviously hesitant but she slid off her chair and padded out of the room, throwing furtive glances back at her parents before disappearing through the door. Harry had kept his eyes on her the entire time she was leaving, both because he couldn't help it and because a large part of his just didn't want to look at Hermione. He could feel her staring hard at the side of his face but he stubbornly refused to meet her eyes.
"Harry look at me please."
He was tempted to ignore her but this was Hermione, it was impossible for him to ignore her. He slid his eyes away from the empty doorway and forced himself to look into her face. She was leaning forward with her arms crossed on top of the table and instead of the disappointment he was expecting to see, there was only patience and understanding.
"You're doing that thing you like to do where you blame yourself for something that was out of your control. You need to stop."
"But 'Mi you saw what happen-"
"Yes I did." Hermione continued, cutting him off firmly. "And I'm as worried as you are but I also know whatever happened was not your fault. I want to know what happened too but right now Cattie is more shaken up about her dream than anything. I spoke to her this morning and she doesn't remember anything hurting her at all, just that she had a nightmare and that she was scared. But listen," She leaned even more forward here and reached to rest on top of the hand he had resting on the table. Automatically he turned his hand over so they were palm to palm and he could catch her fingers between his. "The dream brought back some details she didn't remember before. I think I might have an idea of where they kept her."
And just like that Harry went from anxiety to excitement so quick his heart skipped and jumped to catch up. "What do you mean?"
"She said she dreamed she was back in that place-with the cold floors and the woman—and she opened her eyes and the woman was reaching for her and she remembered her hands." Hermione's voice took on an edge of excitement. "She had on a ring Harry, a ring with an M in the center. Do you know what this means?"
Harry would have to blame his lack of sleep for the few beats it took him to catch what she was driving at but when he did he reeled back—still holding her hand—with his mouth open. Hair white like Tonks's, an initialed ring with an 'M'…
"Are you saying..."
That actually made quite a bit of sense. Lucius Malfoy was one of Voldemort's inner circle and therefore one of his more trusted followers; it made sense that his wife would get the same consideration. It made sense that if the Dark Lord needed Cattie alive, Narcissa was probably a better choice for the task than say, Bellatrix. But that only gave a suspected 'who' and not a 'where'.
"Okay if Narcissa Malfoy is maybe involved, how does that tell us where they kept Cattie?" Harry asked. Hermione gave him that impatient look he usually associated to late homework assignments and goofing off.
"It's simple logic, Harry. Voldemort could not risk having Cattie wherever it is that he's hiding out on the off chance that we managed to find her before the scheduled meet up, therefore finding him. He also couldn't risk having her anywhere his less loyal death eaters would have free access because they could leak her location or worse hurt her because…" Here she sighed and a grim expression crossed her face. "Because we both know there is more to this and he needed her alive and well for something."
The bottom dropped out of Harry's stomach and he reluctantly nodded, just as grim. He had obviously been hoping in vain that only he was having suspicions about how everything went down during Cattie's rescue. It was a ridiculous thought really. This was Hermione; she probably had come to the conclusion that something was wrong long before the thought first crept into his mind. Hermione continued on after a heavy pause between them.
"So yes, he needed somewhere she could be watched but also properly hidden away with someone he sees as having unfailing loyalty. I had a few places in mind before but after Cattie's dream, I feel like there is a good chance she was being kept at Malfoy Manor."
Harry frowned and lifted his free hand to run thoughtfully at his chin. He just wasn't sure. It was not as if he disagreed with Hermione's argument, just that they didn't really have that much actual evidence to prove that Malfoy Manor was the place Cattie had been held. If it had been Malfoy Manor that was almost a guarantee that Voldemort had not been hiding out there and Harry had been hoping that when they figured out where Cattie had been imprisoned, they would at the same time be finding out where Voldemort was. But Hermione's argument made a lot of sense and she was looking at him so expectantly…so he agreed.
"You might just be right." Hermione looked pleased and her shoulders slumped in relief. She must have been afraid of him disagreeing with her. Her grip on his hand tightened and she looked towards the doorway where Cattie had been not even ten minutes ago. When she looked back at him she was biting her lip and her eyes looked sad.
"I'm really worried about her, Harry." She said after a moment in a hushed voice. "She's been so far away lately. She's right there with us, as close as she can get but…god Harry sometimes I feel like I'm reaching for her and she's slipping right through my fingers. Last night she terrified me. A small, horrible part of me is glad she dreamed because we got more information but I never ever want to see her like that again."
Harry reached and grabbed her other hand so he was clutching both of them but he didn't know what to say because he felt exactly the same way. He couldn't even try to reassure her because he felt as helpless as he knew she did, worse because when Cattie was trapped in that nightmare he hadn't been able to do anything but make it worse for her. Hermione of course caught the moment the guilt started to push Harry's shoulders back down into a defeated slump.
"Don't start that again, Harry." The look she gave him was tired but the reprimand was said with little heat. Harry tried to pull back but the attempt was half-hearted at best. Hermione only tightened her grip on his hands, the touch warm and grounding. He exhaled a breath hardened with frustration that had his next words coming out strained and agitated.
"I need to know what happened last night. I need to know what I did so I can make sure I don't do it again."
"I can't explain exactly what happened when you touched her but whatever it was, it had no lasting affects and this morning she didn't even remembering any pain. We will figure out what happened but in the mean time, you can't avoid her. She needs us both too much right now." She gave his hands a quick squeeze before releasing them and standing up from her chair. He immediately missed the warmth. "Now come with me upstairs. We're going to go sit with Cattie and you are going to spend some time with her. You're not going to hurt her."
Harry didn't even think to argue but he couldn't pretend he didn't feel apprehensive when he followed Hermione out of the dining room and up the stairs. Hermione walked close next to him down the second floor hallway, allowing their shoulders to brush here and there, but they didn't speak. When they got to the large doors that opened into the library, Hermione took a small step back to allow him to enter first. Harry paused to look back at her over his shoulder and she jerked her head towards the door, a clear 'Go on'. Harry took a steadying breath, immediately felt silly for it, and then pushed open the door. He spotted Cattie almost as soon as he stepped inside because she was sitting in one of the plush green armchairs in the immediate center of the room, a place Harry noted as being the closest bit of seating to the door. There was a matching chair and a large cushion on the floor near her and Trouble was lounging on the cushion looking wholly disinterested in all of them. Cattie's legs were pulled up onto her chair and though a thick book was resting on her knees it didn't look like she had gotten past the first page; she must have been waiting for them. She didn't get up from her chair when her parents stepped inside but she perked up at the sight of them, her entire face brightening. There was a warm rush of affection Harry associated with his daughter and he couldn't help but smile.
"Hello there, Kitty-Cat." He nudged Trouble off the cushion—ignoring the disgruntled meow he got in return—and dropped down onto the plush softness with an exaggerated groan, just to hear Cattie giggle. "What are you reading?"
The little girl blinked down at the book in her lap as if surprised it was there and Harry held back a cringe. There is was again. That momentary lost look of forgetfulness that made Harry worry all the more that something more than the forced Dreamless Sleep potion had been done to her. Cattie flipped over to the cover of her book before answering. "Obliviated Omissions: The Magic of Memory Spells."
"Why are you reading that?" Hermione frowned as she settled on the arm of Cattie's chair, resting her arm along the back of it. Cattie shrugged but the gesture wasn't casual like she probably intended; it was too sharp, too tense and she wasn't looking at them, choosing instead to pick at the spine of the book with agitated fingers. Hermione slipped a hand down and laid it on top of her smaller one, stilling those fidgety fingers. Cattie caught her bottom lip between her teeth, glancing up at Hermione for a second before staring back down at her book.
"Everything I remember is all fuzzy and broken up and I don't like it." She frowned. "I don't know if I'm remembering things or dreaming things and…its all mixed up in my head and I feel like something's wrong with me." Harry and Hermione both opened their mouths to rush and reassure her that there was nothing wrong with her but Cattie kept talking, her eyes taking on that glassy look Harry hated.
"I can't even remember when they took me, it got all fuzzy too." She murmured a hand reaching up to finger the thin chain of her necklace, a nervous gesture he hadn't seen from her before.
"You don't remember what happened right after they grabbed you?" Harry winced the moment the question left his mouth. She just said that she didn't remember anything so the question was useless and insensitive but…it was something he had been wondering about for the past few days. In the time between Cattie being taken from Grimmauld to when she was given the dreamless sleep potion, what happened? What had she seen? But she just looked lost and unsure and he honestly did not think she remembered a thing. He could only hope it was just a side-effect of the potion.
Cattie only shook her head in response and Harry could physically feel the distance settling in. Desperation not to allow her to drift away had him reaching out to grab her hand. He realized what he was doing half a second before he touched her but it was too late to pull back. He was choking on panic before she even flinched, a step from falling into a guilt spiral by the time he noticed that it wasn't pain that caused her to start the way she did, only surprise. Surprise because she had been drifting out to sea and his touch had jarred her back into the present. He hadn't hurt her at all. If anything the hand he grabbed gripped his fingers tight in a hold that told him she wasn't letting go anytime soon. Harry didn't have to look at Hermione to know there was an 'I told you so' written all over her face. He would never get tired of her being right.
All Harry knew was that his touch wasn't causing Cattie any pain; this was nothing like last night. He had to clear his throat past the burn of emotion because he really wasn't hurting her. The relief he felt was palpable, like he was releasing a breath he hadn't even known he was holding and his body sagged with it. For the first time since he scooped Cattie up from the floor of that burned out school Harry felt an honest moment of complete happiness.
Cattie seemed as pleased as him and she was so busy beaming at her father that she almost forgot to answer his question. "No…I only remember when we were running in the house and then…being in that room."
Harry clenched his teeth on the beginning of a heavy sigh. Yet another thing to add to their ever growing pile of mysteries. He was beginning to feel like it was only a matter of time before he was smothered under the weight of everything they didn't know. He hated being this blind. Cattie must have taken the troubled expression on his face as being directed at her because the next thing he knew she was apologizing.
"I'm sorry." She scooted forward on her chair and dropped her feet to the floor, eyes darting back a forth between her parents. "I know if I could remember it would help or something but-"
"Calm down, sweetheart." Harry interrupted, squeezing the small hand he still held. "We're not upset with you in the least bit. Whatever happened to it was in no way your fault, your mum and I are just trying to figure everything out."
Cattie looked back at her mother and Hermione was quick to back Harry up with a decisive nod and a comforting smile. "We don't blame you for not remembering, we're just trying to gather all the information we can. You understand?" After getting a nod from Cattie, Hermione clapped her hands together and hopped off the arm of the chair.
"Good! Now let's put this book-" She plucked the tome off on an unresisting Cattie's lap. "back where you got it from and then find something better to read, hmm? As a matter of fact, why don't we each find a good book and have a bit of family reading time?"
Harry groaned loudly but it was more for the laugh he got from Cattie than any actual protest. Honestly settling himself somewhere comfortable with a book and his two favorite girls sounded more than perfect. All the worrying he had done left him feeling to exhausted to do much else but maybe nap anyway. Hermione stretched down to slap him lightly on the shoulder, eyes sparkling.
"You hush before I make you read ten books." That drew another giggle from Cattie and Harry and Hermione exchanged a delighted look over the top of her head. Last night seemed to be behind Cattie and Harry. Maybe things wouldn't be as hard as Harry had been expecting. Maybe he and Hermione would be able to figure out what happened and what to do next while also helping Cattie find sure footing. If they could keep her from falling to the wayside, they could help her heal.
Harry really should have known that nothing could come that easily to them.
They had only been in the library for maybe and hour and a half—Cattie still commandeering the armchair while Harry and Hermione sat on the cushion below, Hermione settled between Harry's legs with her back to his chest and his arms bracketing her in—when Harry began nodding off. Hermione was reading the book she had taken from Cattie and Harry was supposed to be reading over her shoulder but twenty minutes in he realized his brain wasn't up to retaining a single word. He did his best to respond to the random comment from Hermione with a semi-interested 'hmm' or 'oh really' but after awhile he wasn't able to keep up the charade and he dropped into a light doze with his cheek resting on the top of her vanilla scented curls.
"Alright Harry James Potter." Hermione's voice startled him so much his head snapped back and all he could do for several seconds was blink owlishly down at her amused face.
"What?" Came his intelligent grunt of a response. Hermione rolled her eyes and there was a barely stifled snort from somewhere behind him.
"I think you could use a bit of a lay down, Harry."
Hermione twisted out of his arms and a vague protesting noise left Harry's mouth. He was quite comfortable where they were, why was she moving? He tried to tug her back towards him but all he got in return was an exasperated yet fond look from Hermione before she stood up and reached for his hands. She began tugging him to his feet and though he had no desire at all to move, even to his tired brain he knew fighting Hermione was a lost cause.
"Can't I just stay sitting down?" He grumbled but still allowed himself to be pulled into a standing position.
"Not when you're seconds away from drooling on my hair." Harry didn't have the energy to be appalled at the insinuation that he drooled so all he could do was frown petulantly and rub tiredly at his eyes. When he dropped his hands down to his sides there was a helplessly fond smile dancing on Hermione's lips. She stood on her toes and planted a kiss on his cheek that warmed him all the way to his toes; there was another noise from behind Harry, this one more mocking disgust than amusement and he couldn't help but grin. He opened his mouth to say something when Hermione cut him off.
"Come on, bed time." A glint appeared in his eye and Hermione rushed to cut him off again. "To sleep."
"Are you leaving?" Cattie's voice didn't sound panicked exactly but it did have a distinctive note of unease. Harry's teasing mood instant shifted to concern and he turned completely around to reassure her that he wasn't going anywhere when Hermione cut in for the third time.
"I'm just going to go and make sure your dad actually goes to sleep but then I'll be right back. We'll just be down the hall." She said all of this with a calm reassurance that left little room for argument. Cattie did not look like she was happy about it but she nodded, holding her book to her chest. Harry moved closer so he could lean down and kiss her forehead, forcing himself not to hesitate in making contact. There wasn't even the slightest flinch and he felt relieved all over again.
"Sorry Kitty-Cat, I do kind of need the nap but I'll be back as soon as I'm no longer a sleep walker." The smile she gave him in return for his joke was just as weak as the joke itself but she didn't look unduly upset. Hermione reached under Cattie's chair and pulled out a protesting Trouble—Harry hadn't even known he was there—before gently depositing the cat in the little girl's lap. Cattie abandoned her book to gather her pet in her arms and Harry could immediately see some of the tension leave her shoulders.
"Trouble is going to keep an eye on you until I get back." Hermione gave Cattie one last kiss on the cheek before linking her arm with Harry's and pulling him towards the door.
They didn't speak too much on the way to their bedroom, Harry yawning one too many times to get any words out. Hermione tugged him over to the bed and pushed him to sit; he reached down to pull off his shirt but yawned and gave up halfway through. He hadn't noticed how exhausted he really was until the worry that came with thinking he would hurt his daughter was lifted from his shoulders. All that was left was a bone deep weariness that reminded him he didn't actually get any sleep last night.
Leaving the shirt where it was, Harry flopped back down onto the mattress and began pushing down the blankets with his feet, eyes already beginning to close. Hermione tapped him lightly on his bare stomach and laughed. "Do you need help taking your shirt the rest of the way off?"
"No." He grunted. "Too much work."
He scooted down a bit until he was under to blankets, covers pulled up to his shoulders. His eyes stayed closed so when the room stayed quiet and there was no response from Hermione, he assumed she had left. He was floating in that place of half asleep but still aware when he felt a weight settle on the mattress next to him. Eyes still closed, he waited for her to say something but she stayed quiet and eventually he forced one eye open and peered down the bed at her.
"What is it?" He asked, not lifting his head. He could just see Hermione; sitting on the bed with her hands in her lap and facing towards the door. She didn't turn and look at him when she spoke but he could see her begin to frown.
"I'm just thinking a bit. Sleep Harry."
Harry sighed and rolled forward until he was half sitting up. "Speak Hermione."
"I'm worried about Cattie." The words burst out in a torrent, as if she couldn't stop herself. "This not remembering thing."
"I know I'm worried too." Harry says, dragging a hand over his face. God he was tired. He just wanted to lay down and sleep, escape all these questions and all this worry for awhile but…he couldn't brush off Hermione's worries for the sake of a couple hours of sleep. Not when he was feeling the same way. "But DeeDi said there weren't any other curses or charms cast on her. If Cattie was obliviated or given some kind of memory potion, DeeDi would have been able to tell us."
"Yes I know that but something isn't right here. There's so much we don't know and we're not getting and that terrifies me, Harry." Her voice cracks and he's up, moving up behind her and laying his chin on her shoulder and reaching around to grip one of her hands in his. "I'm absolutely terrified."
"I'm scared too, love. I hate the not knowing more than anything."
Hermione half turned and looked up at him with watery eyes. "None of it is making sense to me and it's driving me insane. And we can't ask anymore of Cattie. I honestly think there isn't anything more she knows and-and I can't put her through anymore questioning."
"We won't." He pressed his forehead against hers for a moment before pulling back. "We're not going to question her anymore but there's somewhere else we can get answers."
The next morning sunrise found Harry leaving home.
During the night Cattie had slipped back into their bed; not because of a nightmare but because she couldn't seem to get to sleep. She had climbed in between Hermione and Harry and though he had determined that his touch didn't continuously cause her pain that had been in the morning time. He didn't know for sure that it wasn't something connected to her sleeping or dreaming so during the night, Harry slept stiff and unmoving, afraid that something would happen and he would hurt her all over again. Eventually he was so scared that he would accidentally hurt her he left the bed while Cattie and Hermione were asleep that he gathered up his pillow and headed for the couch. When he woke up that morning, Cattie was still asleep but Hermione was watching him from the bed with a distinctly sad expression.
He hadn't said anything; he looked away from her, avoiding her gaze until she eventually fell back asleep. As soon as he was sure she was asleep, Harry pushed himself off of the couch and padded over to their wardrobe and grabbed a change of clothes. He debated hopping in the shower before deciding to forget it, stripping and pulling on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt right in the middle of the room. He scooped his trainers and a leather jacket from the wardrobe before leaving the bedroom, closing the door behind him as silently as he could.
Manny was already waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs; Harry dropped down to sit on the last step and smiled up at the elf, beginning to pull on his shoes. "Were you able to deliver the message?"
"Yes Master Harry, Manny did just what yous asked." He answered with a proud little bounce.
"Thank you Manny, you did very well." Harry reached out to pat the elf's shoulder and Manny beamed.
"DeeDi prepared breakfast for yous to have before you go." Manny gestured towards the door to the dining room and though Harry's stomach did give an interested gurgle, he was way too keyed up to sit and eat.
"Give DeeDi my apologies." Harry said with a shake of his head, pulling his last shoelace tight. "I'll have to skip out on breakfast today."
Many looked absolutely aghast. "Breakfast is not to be skipped, Master Harry. It is not good for yous to leave without eating."
"Or without saying goodbye."
Hermione's voice had Harry whirling around to look behind him. She was making her way down the stairs; she had her dressing gown wrapped around her and her arms crossed over her chest. Her lips were pressed together and she was glaring down at him, exasperated and disapproving in a way that immediately had him rushing to defend himself.
"You were tired, you know you were, and I just wanted to let you sleep in."
"I'm sure you did." By then she was reaching the step above his and she sat down sideways; behind him but to his left so they could maintain eye-contact. "I'm also sure that you didn't want to talk about your self-seclusion last night either."
"Hermione…" Harry sighed, running a hand through his hair and looking away. He blinked in surprise to see that Manny had quietly slipped away sometime during the exchange.
"Don't worry Harry we're not going to talk about it right now because I know you need to get going. But we will talk later." She obviously had no intention of listening to whatever response he came up with because she leaned down and pressed a light kiss to his lips before standing up and turning to go back up the stairs.
"Oh and Harry?" She said, turning back to face him. "I know we agreed that I would stay here to be with Cattie but that doesn't mean you can leave me behind without a word. Don't do it again." She continued up the stairs and couldn't think of a thing to say.
So five minutes later Harry was stepping outside and closing the door behind him, each step towards his bike feeling guiltier than the last. Hermione has been right; his reluctance to wake her had only partially been due to wanting her to stay peacefully asleep curled around their daughter. A larger part had been because he just wasn't up to dealing with his fears just yet, not when he could be focusing his energy on finding out more about what happened to Cattie. He and Hermione had spent a few minutes the day before—during the time she was supposed to be sending him to take a nap—going over what exactly their next course of action would be and Harry had suggested the obvious thing. If they wanted to know if Malfoy Manor was actually the place Cattie had been kept, there was only one person who would be able to tell them for sure. Draco.
As soon as Andromeda seemed stable enough to travel, the Lupin family along with Draco and Andromeda had essentially fled from Hogwarts. From the few communications Harry and Remus had been able to share over the past few days, it came down to an almost daring escape involving several members of the D.A. and the Room of Requirement. Dumbledore in no way wanted to let the closets connections to Harry slip through his fingers but somehow they had managed to do just that. According to Remus, the safest place for all of them was the Tonks family home in the muggle world. Harry had offered them one of the many Potter family properties that had been left to him—places he hasn't even visited let alone had any intention of living in—but Remus had declined the offer. He assured Harry that he and Tonks would work out their living situation themselves and Harry wasn't much inclined to push the issue.
Even with his helmet on, the roar of his bike sounded deafening to Harry's ears and he sped down the deserted country roads that led away from the Potter family lands. After a quick look through his visor in front and around him to make sure no one was around, Harry felt around for the small buttons hidden on the bikes handlebars and pressed two. In the blink of an eye invisibility cloaked the bike and both it and Harry faded from view. He pressed down hard on the gas, picking up speed until the world was a blur around him and slowly but surely, the motorcycle began to lift from the ground. Soon Harry was above the trees and that gloriously familiar bottom-dropping-out-of-his-stomach, weightless, utterly free and joyous feeling overtook him and a wild grin split his face. There really were very few things in the world better than flying. Harry always felt like he was literally leaving every stress and worry and fear on the ground below where they could not reach him. It reminded him there was still light and joy in the world and it was just what he needed to breathe a little life back into him. His grip on the bike's handles tightened and with another press of a button, he was rocketing forward.
As usual with the bike, all he had to do was tell it where to go and it took less than half the time it should have for him to reach his destination. Just under two hours later Harry was flying above Windsor in muggle London. The home of Andromeda and Ted Tonks is located along the Thames; close to town but located in a community of homes spaced far apart and surrounded by oak trees and weeping willows, giving everything a hidden and secluded air. The house itself was a bit more modest than Harry had been expecting for the area; a two story traditional white and brown cottage sort of look but large and well-spaced in a way that breathed elegance and touched on wealth. When Harry touched down in front of it he had to rethink his assumption that Tonks had come from more humble beginnings. He pulled the bike to the end of a narrow driveway and parked close to the side of an oak tree, the leafy shade giving him as much cover as he could get. He was sure the extra precaution wasn't necessary with how far away the Tonks home was from any of their neighbors but better safe than sorry. He cut the engine and hopped off the bike and the moment he did, the invisibility spell deactivated. He pulled off his helmet and tossed it into the compartment under his seat before trying in vain to smooth down his hair. You would think that with all the other bells and whistles that came with the bike the helmet would have some kind of anti-helmet hair charm. Giving up on the ever-losing battle with his hair, Harry shoved his hands into the pocket of his jacket and started walking up the driveway, gravel crunching under his feet. The neighborhood was so quiet; the only sound Harry's footsteps, the wind moving through the trees, and the distant sound of ducks on the stretch of river at the back end of the property.
He could understand why Andromeda and Ted had chosen to live here. While it was still close to civilization, the wide space between any other houses and the covering of trees kept any magic going ons hidden. While Ted had been a muggle, Andromeda and Tonks were not and he was sure they hadn't wanted to risk any exposure. It also made it difficult for anyone to pop in on them without having to be told specifically how to find them. Harry also knew for a fact that there was just about every ward and seclusion charm placed on the house save the Fidelous. Remus had let him know that after Andromeda left the Black family for Ted, she had always been terrified of one of them coming to find her and her new family. She was the one who warded the place to the teeth. Harry could feel the magic of it brushing over his body when he was about halfway up the driveway. It was about then that the front door swung open.
Harry's steps faltered for a second, not quite sure what to expect but it was Remus who stepped out onto the porch. He was still in his pajamas with a dressing gown thrown over his shoulders and he looked worn and sad but also warm and open and bone-deep happy to see him. Harry's steps picked up double time and three large strides had him right in front of Remus and wrapping his arms around the older man. He had not noticed that he'd grown an inch or two taller than Remus in the past few months and it should have made the hug awkward but Remus just pulled him in tight and rested his chin on Harry's shoulder.
"It's good to see you, Cub." He said gruffly.
Harry found himself swallowing past an amount of emotion he hadn't been expecting. He wasn't until just then that he realized just how much he had missed the older man, how worried he'd been with only a scant few messages here and there. Remus was one of the few—and probably most important—adult figures in his life that Harry was able to completely trust. Remus was one of the few Harry knew loved him for him and never once considered what they could get from him. Remus was as much family as Hermione and Cattie and Harry needed him almost as much. Remus and Tonks, Jack and Andromeda, and hell to an extent even Malfoy had become people that felt like real and true family. People he wanted to protect and keep safe. God how Harry wished he had been able to keep Ted safe too.
"It's really good to see you too, Moony."
After a long moment Remus released him and took at step back, clapping at hand on Harry's shoulder before pulling him inside.
The Tonks family home was designed with comfort and family in mind. There were warm colors everywhere and more than enough windows to let in the morning light. Scuffed wood floors and a countless amount of muggle and magical pictures featuring members of the Tonks family throughout the years gave a comfy and well-lived in feel to the place. Seated where he was in the open kitchen, Harry could even see aged notches against a far wall where Tonks's growth had been measured as a child. Everything just seemed warm and comfortable and well-loved and Harry could only think that Tonks had been lucky to grow up here. He was sure that this house once been full of light and laughter but now…an obvious pall hung over everything.
Even with never once stepping foot in the house before, even Harry could feel Ted's loss hanging over it like a shroud. Next to the sink a coffee mug with the words 'World's Best Grandad' still sat. Both Remus and Harry had avoided taking the chair at the head of the table where they sat because there was a copy of last week's morning paper still spread out in front of it. Everything still sat as if waiting for Ted to come waltzing through the door to reclaim his rightful place; a mischievous grin on his lips and a vaguely inappropriate joke dancing in his eyes. Harry desperately wished he could make that happen; return Ted back to his home and his family where he belonged.
"I haven't the heart to touch any of his things." Remus said quietly, picking up on where Harry's mind had drifted. "I don't think either Andromeda or Dora are ready for it. I don't think any of us are."
"I wish it hadn't happened." The words came out of Harry's mouth less saddened like he had intended and more fierce and angry. It infuriated him; the thought that Ted had died for essentially no reason. That he had been killed trying to protect his family in a situation he should have never been in. harry was so sick and tired of all these senseless deaths happening as a result of someone else's convoluted plan for power. The death of Ted Tonks was one more that would way on Harry's mind for the rest of his life.
Remus gave him a long, measured look before sighing. "Me too Harry, me too." He shook himself before straightening in his chair. "So what was it you needed to speak to me about so urgently?"
"Actually…I needed to speak to Malfoy." Those were definitely words Harry never expected to come out of his own mouth and they felt as awkward as they sounded. Remus's brows shot up to his hairlime but he didn't say anything, just gave a slow nod.
"He's upstairs with Jack right now. I can send him down for you." He pushed back from the table and stood to head towards an arched doorway to his left. But before he walked out the door Remus paused and half turned to face Harry. "How is Cattie? I know you said she's been doing well but I worry, you know? After everything…"
"No no, there's nothing to worry about. Cattie's fine she's…she's fine. Just like her old self." Harry hastened to put a reassuring smile on his face but it was forced, brittle. Remus looked anything but convinced but again, he kept whatever it was he wanted to say to himself and he only nodded in return. He turned and then disappeared through the door. Harry's shoulders sagged and he sunk down into his chair, rubbing a tired hand down his face and holding in a sigh. He wanted to tell Remus that he was worried too; that something was going on with Cattie and everything in him was screaming that there was something deeply wrong. He wanted to tell him that he was scared but…he couldn't. Harry couldn't bring himself to add anything else to Remus's shoulders when the man had his own child to worry about and his own family to try to keep from falling apart.
Remus had not even been gone that long before Malfoy came shuffling into the kitchen and Harry was…taken aback. This was most definitely not the Draco Malfoy the world was used to seeing. His hair was in disarray; pale strands hanging limp and tangled over his brow and falling into his eyes. Eyes that were no longer the sharp silver Harry was used to seeing but a flat, lifeless gray and Harry was reminded of that day so many months ago when he'd found the other boy in Knockturn Alley. Malfoy looked like he did then, like the life had just slipped right out of him and he didn't have the energy to try and catch it. Harry might not personally think that the death of Lucius Malfoy was any great loss to the world but he couldn't imagine what it would do to a person to kill their own father, even if said father was Lucius Malfoy. And to lose Ted on top of that, Harry was legitimately shocked to feel a stab of genuine sadness for Malfoy.
Harry felt oddly off-balance, not quite sure how to react to the other boy. Usually their interactions began and ended with an exchange of something nasty and cutting but right then? Harry couldn't muster up the usual amount of animosity. He looked at Malfoy and even though the other boy's face was completely devoid of emotion, Harry could see the heavy darkness of grief dragging him down. He looked at Malfoy and he could see his own exhaustion reflected back at him. The blond did not even seem up to rallying his usual brand of dislike; he tried for a sneer but it melted off his lips before it even had a chance to settle.
"Potter." He greeted flatly, dropping down onto Remus' abandoned chair.
"Malfoy." Harry nodded in return. There was an awkward moment of silence as Malfoy stared blankly at a spot past Harry's shoulder and Harry himself tried to figure out exactly where to start. He couldn't exactly go with, 'Hey sorry that you had to kill your father and lost a member of your surrogate family. Oh and by the way, I think your mother helped to kidnap my child and I need you to confirm it.' Maybe he should start a conversation about Quidditch and try to casually slip the question in. No matter where he started, he didn't exactly see a way for the conversation to go anywhere but badly.
Malfoy was the one to break the increasingly tense silence. "What do you want, Potter? Being dragged out of bed to have a staring contest with you isn't exactly on my to-do list."
Harry stopped himself from pointing out that one, Malfoy still wasn't even looking at him and two, it didn't look like the blond was getting much sleep anyway. The bags under his eyes were so dark they looked like bruises. It made Harry all the more unsure as to how to tackle the question.
"I need you to tell me about Malfoy Manor." Or he could just come right out with it.
That made a crack in Malfoy's emotionless facade. His eyes shot to Harry's face, wide with surprised confusion that quickly flashed to anger before disappearing all together. The show of emotion was so quick it seemed that by the time Harry blinked, Malfoy's expression had smoothed back into careful blankness. Malfoy clasped his fingers together on the tabletop.
"Is this about my father?"
Malfoy's voice stayed cold and level when he spoke of his father, like he was talking about a stranger, someone far removed from him. His eyes were hard and intent on Harry's face and Harry had to consciously stop himself from shifting in discomfort.
"No this isn't about your father, this is about your mother." If anything Malfoy only seemed to grow colder. Everything about him went so unnaturally still Harry had to fight back a wince. He pushed on before the other boy had a chance to speak. "I think that she might have been involved in Cattie's kidnapping. Cattie told us things and some of those things seem to point to your mother but more specifically, Malfoy Manor. We think she might have been kept there."
Considering Malfoy was already pale as a ghost, it was shocking that his face managed to lose anymore color. He looked wounded. Shocked all the way through and shaken.
"What?" He croaked. "She was involved in…"
For some reason Harry wanted to apologize. There was a sick taste at the back of his throat that felt uncomfortably like guilt and he wasn't even sure why. Before he got here, the only thing on Harry's mind had been getting the information he needed. He hadn't really thought about what it would be like to sit across from Malfoy and bring up the people who raised him and subsequently abandoned him. What kind of life had that even been? Raised like a pampered prince for the majority of your life, mind filled with sick ideals and hatred from birth, entire life planned onto a dark path and the moment you step out of line, you're beaten and cast aside.m birth, exty of your lifels and hatred led with sick ideas and hbly like guilt and he wasnt raised him. What kind of lifr h There were some uncomfortable reminders of Harry's own childhood but for the first time, Harry gave actual thought to what might have been like and he couldn't wrap his mind around it.
Now wasn't the time for any deep thinking about Malfoy's childhood and Harry wanted to get this done quickly, for both their sakes. "It seems likely she was involved but I mostly need to confirm so things about Malfoy Manor, not about your mum."
"Don't call her that." Malfoy snapped out, low and harsh and he seemed as surprised as Harry at the sound. His lips pressed tight together and he looked away, glaring back into that blank space over Harry's shoulder. "She's not…just. Don't."
Harry had not felt this uncomfortable in a conversation in awhile and he wondered if he was supposed to say something. Tell Malfoy to relax, give some kind of apology, offer some kind of comfort he wasn't sure he was equip to give to soothe the other boy's obvious distress. In the end he elected to ignore whatever emotional war was going on in Malfoy's head and he cleared his throat before continuing on.
"…Okay. Cattie remembered a woman that seemed to fit your…Narcissa Malfoy's description. Then she mentioned somewhere cold and dark with a lot of stone. Is there somewhere like that in the manor? Like a cellar or something else stone of that sort?"
"A dungeon. There's a dungeon on the lower levels." Malfoy answered, short and rough. Harry rolled his eyes because of course there was. Malfoy took no notice of him though and he kept speaking. "My grandfather ordered it to be dug beneath the manor grounds when Grindlewald was in power to hide objects and…people from any Ministry inspections. My father brought me down there once, told me the history." A quick glance down and Harry could see the blond's hands clench, knuckles white. "It is fairly large, the dungeon, as if you could peer into the darkness and the shadows would go on forever. It spreads out beneath the manor and out below the grounds and the north most lake. A full walk through takes near an hour-"
Malfoy stopped short when Harry put up a hand, glancing away from the wall to level Harry with a glare. He had been speaking as if he was trying to push out as many words as possible, put out as much information as he could before Harry could get a word in and ask any questions he did not want to answer. His tone had been monotone the entire time yet each word was held as rigid and tense as his body. It was making Harry uneasy.
"You say the dungeon goes out below a lake? Have you been to that part? Do you remember what it looked like?" he asked. It had been Hermione to suggest that Cattie's description of wet and 'smelling like rain' suggested that where she had been held was very near water.
Malfoy continued to glare. "I was only there once Potter I didn't have time to catalog every crack in the stonework."
"Just answer the questions, Malfoy."
Harry knew that if Malfoy had not been so obviously desperate to end this conversation as quickly as possible he probably would have done more than just sneer before he continued speaking.
"It was cold. Damp. Water was dripping through the stones and I thought-" he cut himself off here with a shake of his head and a swallow. "Ivy or something was growing on the walls. More water on the floor. That was it, not much to see."
Harry knew it was not the smartest idea to jump the gun and come to a conclusion so soon but right then he knew. He felt it, without a single doubt he knew the dungeons in Malfoy Manor were where Cattie had been kept. It was like a fire being lit inside of him, determination heating his chest and spreading out through the rest of his body because now he knew what to do. Finally he knew what his next step was and some of the helplessness that had been dragging him down since Cattie was taken burned away. Harry didn't even notice the grin that had begun to split his face but Malfoy did and the blond seemed to shrink further into himself.
"Suspicions confirmed then?"
Harry was suddenly reminded that this wasn't exactly a victorious moment for Malfoy. He tried to curb his excitement, that odd guilty feeling returning and the grin slipping from his face. It wasn't that Harry felt somehow responsible for Malfoy's misery or that he felt the two of them shouldn't be having this conversation, he just felt kind of like a shit person for never once thinking about what kind of impact this conversation would have on the other boy. As weird as it felt to acknowledge, Harry knew that Malfoy did in fact care for Cattie. How must it feel to find out barely a month after you're forced to kill your own father that your last remaining parent kidnapped someone you care about? Harry looked at Malfoy and he could see that he was barely holding it together. The best comfort Harry was capable of offering the other boy was ending this conversation before he fell apart.
"Yeah, thanks Malfoy. You were a lot of help."
"Whatever Potter." Malfoy obviously took this as the end of the conversation and he noisily pushed his chair back, hopping to his feet like he couldn't get out of the room fast enough. He didn't spare Harry another glance, just turned on his heel and started walking towards the door he'd come through.
"Goodbye to you too." Harry muttered. Malfoy paused in the doorway, facing away with one hand on the frame. Harry waited for the snarky response or the insult but instead when Malfoy spoke his voice came out stilted, uncomfortable.
"When you go to the manor…I'm coming with you."
Harry's brows shot up his forehead. He hadn't expected that one. He wasn't surprised that Malfoy had figured out his next step—it was rather obvious—but he was surprised the blond wanted to involve himself any further. The silence was tense as Harry tried to think of how exactly he should respond. Did he say he didn't want him there? But who knew what they could be walking into and he wouldn't mind some help. Could he say that he didn't think it was a good idea for Malfoy himself? But that wasn't really his businesses though, was it?
After a moment Harry nodded reluctantly, then realized Malfoy couldn't see it with his back to him and he spoke up. "Okay."
And then Malfoy was gone.
As soon as he was sure the other boy was gone, Harry laid his palms flat on the tabletop, pressing his fingers hard into the worn wood. He took a deep breath and let it out slow in an effort to calm the sudden restlessness running up and over his arms and shoulders. He was itching to move. His body wanted him to bound out of the house, hop on his bike, and fly to Malfoy Manor so he could get his hands on Narcissa Malfoy and shake every bit of valuable information out of her. But now wasn't the time. He needed to say goodbye to Remus and he needed to get back to Hermione so they could decide what to do together.
Harry released another slow breath and let up on the table, choosing instead to rub a hand over his face. When he dropped his hand back into his lap and looked up, Remus was standing in the frame of the kitchen door. Harry blinked at him once, twice, trying to figure out how long the older man had been standing there. He was suddenly unsure as to how much time he'd spent trying to calm himself down.
"I spoke to Draco." Remus said as he moved back into the kitchen. He didn't take the open chair across from Harry, choosing instead to lean against the edge of the table closest to Harry and cross his arms over his chest. If possible, he looked even more tired now than he did half an hour ago.
Harry leaned back a little to look at him. "Yeah?"
"Yes. I passed him on the stairs…he told me about your suspicions of a connection between Cattie's kidnapping and Narcissa Malfoy."
"Suspicions? He might think it's a suspicion but its more fact at this point." The words came out more defensive than he intended and Remus lifted his hands in a placating gesture.
"That was my phrasing, not Draco's. He just said 'Narcissa had Cattie' then disappeared into his room."
"Oh." Harry mumbled. "Well Malfoy helped to confirm a few things Cattie told me and Hermione. About where she was kept and pretty much by whom."
Remus frowned. "Where did they take her?"
Remus seemed to sigh with his entire body, a soft swear escaping his lips. "Were Andromeda and Draco the only ones to escape that that family without being irrevocably damaged?"
Harry resisted the knee-jerk reaction to say something snide about Malfoy but it was a near thing. He felt his second bout of Malfoy induced guilt in an hour. It was a rhetorical question anyway and Remus continued on. "So what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to go back home to talk to Hermione and after that, I'm pretty sure we're going to Malfoy Manor." He hesitated a moment before speaking again. "Malfoy says he wants to come along."
"I can't say that I didn't expect that." When Harry looked at Remus in surprise he elaborated. "Draco just lost his father. He's going to crave some kind of contact with the parent he has left, no matter how volatile that may be."
"Are you going to come too?" Harry asked hopefully. After Hermione and Ron, Remus was someone Harry could trust without a doubt to have at his back. A conflicted expression passed over Remus' face though and after a moment he shook his head.
"No…I don't think it would be good for me to leave Andromeda and Tonks just yet."
Harry winced. He hadn't thought of that. "How are they? Andromeda and Tonks?"
Remus didn't answer for several long minutes and as the silence stretched on Harry began to feel like maybe he had crossed the line, asked something he shouldn't have. Remus looked older, the frown on his face throwing every wrinkle into stark relief and making the darkness in his eyes that much more hard to look at. Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair and just when he was thinking he should apologize and move on, Remus spoke.
"Andromeda is…not herself. She's only said a few words here and there since Ted was killed and she doesn't seem inclined to do much more than sleep and…I haven't seen her shed a single tear. I don't know what to make of it. As for Tonks-" he cut himself off there. His face took on a distinctly pained expression and Harry wanted to tell him he didn't have to go on but there was something about the way he was speaking, with this singularly desperate edge to his words that told Harry Remus needed to talk more than he needed Harry to listen. Harry kept silent.
"There are days when Tonks seems like her old self. She plays with Jack and she jokes and talks as if nothing happened and I start to think that maybe she's okay but then I'll look into her eyes and even when she's smiling, there's a bleakness there. And then there are the days where she doesn't have the strength to pretend and no matter what I do she's a thousand miles away from me."
Harry hates it. Hates how horribly familiar it all sounds and the understanding of how much it hurts to look into the eyes of someone you love and know you cant reach them. Remus was describing Cattie and Harry had to dig his nails into his palms to focus the pain somewhere else. Remus just continued to speak without taking any notice and Harry tuned back in to hear the last part of his sentence.
"-know what to do. It's like a piece of her soul is missing."
It hit him like a brick to the head. Those last four words pressing an idea into Harry's head his entire being wanted to recoil away from. His stomach twisted and he swayed forward just slightly, hands coming up to grip at the table in front of him. No that wasn't. It was ridiculous. It was horrible. He couldn't…But the words kept going round and round his head.
…like a piece of her soul is missing…soul is missing…a piece…soul…
Remus took Harry's haunted expression and sudden loss of color as something else and he rushed to apologize but Harry barely heard him.
"I'm so sorry Harry, I shouldn't be laying all of this on you when you already have so much of your own to handle." He laid his hands on Harry's shoulders and squeezed. "Andromeda and Tonks will be fine. We just all need a bit of time I'm sure. Okay Harry?...Harry?"
Harry finally looked up at Remus, feeling thrown and disoriented and having to blink blearily at him several times before he could make out the look of guilt and concern on the older man's face. Harry gathered what little control he had left and nodded, not even sure what he was responding too.
….a piece of her soul…missing…soul…a piece…
"It's-I'm fine. I'm just not feeling too well all of a sudden." He pushed his chair back and Remus's hands fell from his shoulders but his look of concern seemed to ratchet up several notches. "I think it's about time I head back home."
"Maybe you should stay a bit longer? Have a cup of tea and some chocolate…"
"No no I need to get home." Remus's brows shot up at the desperation in Harry's voice and Harry rushed to force a smile. "Really I'm fine. It's probably best for me to get home before it gets too late."
Remus could have easily pointed out how they still had several hours before that needed to be an actual worry but instead he just nodded; slowly and reluctantly but he took a small step back from Harry. Remus stayed silent as he walked Harry back through the living area and to the front door, not saying anything until Harry stepped out over the threshold.
"Harry…" There was hesitance in his voice and Harry couldn't look at him, kept his eyes staring straight out into the sundrenched yard. It was amazing how the world could still be so bright and warm and full of life when all Harry could see in front of him was darkness. Remus sounded resigned when he spoke again. "If you ever need to talk about what's going on, I'm here." Harry nodded with his back still facing the older man. It made it easier for both of them to pretend that was actually what he'd wanted to say.
"I'll see you later Moony."
Harry didn't hear the door close behind him and he could feel Remus watching as he crossed the yard and swung onto his bike. He knew he should probably say something, wave a goodbye or shoot a smile over his shoulder to reassure Remus that he was mostly alright but that would be a lie anyway. So he reached behind and grabbed his helmet and jammed it on his head. He didn't look back once before revving his engine and speeding away from the home of Andromeda Tonks as quickly as he could.
…a piece of her soul…a piece…soul…
The flight home was a blur. Harry spent the entire ride with a white-knuckle grip on the handlebars, doing everything in his power to keep his mind as blank as possible, focused solely on the correct route home. Every time he would allow his thoughts wander for a moment his suspicions and his fears would slip in like some slick sort of poison and he would lose his grip; his bike would dip or sway and he was left clutching on for dear life. He would not let himself think about what he was suspecting. He couldn't. He just needed to get home and see Cattie and push these horrifying thoughts out of his head.
Somehow he made it home without crashing on the way and he was soon rumbling down Ainsley Road, shaded on either side by towering oak trees and seemingly cut off from the dangers of the outside world. The gates swung open at his approach and as the house came into view, Harry sighed with a relief he had not expected to feel. He didn't know exactly what he thought he would see, maybe something about his home damaged or irrevocably changed in some way but everything was where it should be. Aged stone and endless acres of grass, everything drenched in cool fall sunlight and the air of comfort and home. Nothing dark and destructive could be within those walls. He wouldn't allow it.
He parked his bike in its usual spot next to the stairs and climbed off. The house was silent when he stepped inside and that wasn't too unusual; Hermione and Cattie both could spend several hours tucked away quietly reading and well, Cattie was just generally quieter these days. But that didn't stop Harry's new foreboding feeling of fear from rearing its ugly head and he called out.
"Hermione? Cattie?" His voice echoed through the entrance hall and he swallowed back panic. He bypassed the stairs and peered into the family dining room still calling their names, then the formal dining room and not seeing anyone at first glance, he was all ready to go running through every single room until he found them when he noticed the door that opened out onto the backyard was propped open. He crossed the dining room and called out again.
"Hermione?" He was halfway across the room when she finally answered.
"We're outside, Harry!"
He was out the door in a second, half jogging out onto the deck and sagging with relief when he saw her face. She was sitting on the last step, dressed in a thick sweater and dark colored tights but he could see that her feet were bare, stretched out onto the grass in front of her with a closed book on her lap. He must have looked as frantic as he felt because she had an alarmed, worried look on her face.
"What's wrong? Did something happen?" She made to stand up and Harry quickly lifted a hand to stop her. He smiled faintly and it was only half forced.
"No no, nothing happened. I just got a little worried when I didn't see you and Cattie."
"Oh." She looked sad and all too understanding for Harry to handle right then and he spoke before she could say anything to try and comfort him.
"Where is Cattie?" Hermione's expression immediately into a bright grin and instead of answering, she beckoned him with a wave of her hand, patting the bit of step next to her. Perplexed Harry stepped down off the deck and sat next to her; Hermione reached up and gripped his chin, turning his face to the right and it took him a second to focus on what she wanted him to see but when he did, something inside of him settled. It was Cattie. She was far from them, much further than she had allowed herself to be since they'd brought her home. He could just see her, dressed in a sweater he was amused to see was the same deep red as Hermione's, hair a wild tangle all over her head and laying on her stomach in the grass. She was dangling her heart necklace in front of Trouble, giggling as he tried to bat at it with his tiny paws. It made a lovely picture, it really did but what really struck Harry was the blinding smile he could see on his little girl's face. She looked like your everyday happy kid, carefree and happy. This was a Cattie Harry hadn't seen in much too long.
"Do you remember when you first brought me here?" Hermione's voice startled Harry out of his enrapt staring at their daughter and he looked over at her sitting close to his side. She wasn't looking at him but at Cattie and Harry's eyes were drawn back.
"How could I forget?"
"When Cattie woke up this morning I looked at her and I saw myself, how I was back when I was in that group home and that terrified me. The thought of Cattie feeling even a bit as trapped and lost as I did then was horrible and I needed to remind her that she isn't either of those things. She didn't need to stay inside because she isn't trapped and she isn't lost because she's home. You should've seen her Harry…when she stepped out here and she took a breath I saw her settle, you know? I could tell it felt for her like it did for me all those months ago, right in this very spot with me and you and the rain. When I stepped off these stairs and I knew I was home and I was safe." There was a waver of emotion in her voice and though she still didn't look at him, she reached out and gripped his hand and he gripped back. He lifted her hand and pressed his lips against her knuckles, suddenly fiercely grateful for Hermione and everything she was.
"You made this place my home Hermione." He said softly. "And you are an amazing mother."
He looked over at her and saw her blinking rapidly and smiling. That sat in comfortable silence, watching Cattie as she continued to play with Trouble until she looked over and finally caught sight of Harry. She jumped to her feet and the next thing he knew, she was running towards him with the brightest grin on her face, curls streaming behind her and the gem on her necklace catching the light with every step. His heart clenched almost painfully in his chest and for a second he hated himself, hated that he had allowed a single dark and suspicious thought to enter his mind. Cattie was recovering, slowly but surely she was healing and he couldn't allow a single negative thought when she was looking at him so bright and sweet and full of life. He stood and reached out his arms and just before Cattie reached him, Hermione spoke from behind.
"She's going to be okay, Harry. We're going to move on from this as a family."
Harry believed Hermione, he really did but later that night after they put Cattie to bed and they had spent several hours going over everything he'd learned from Malfoy, he couldn't sleep. Hermione was curled on her side with her back facing him and Harry was lying flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling. Hermione's words had done a lot to reassure him, had pretty much stumped down every suspicion lurking in his mind but…he was still worried. There was a stubborn voice in the back of his mind screaming every lingering doubt inside. He didn't want to fall back into those horrifying thoughts Remus' words had brought on because he didn't believe them, he couldn't believe them because if he did…his world would end.
He just needed to stop the thought going round and round his head. He just needed to prove himself wrong so he could sleep, so he could focus on their plan for Malfoy Manor and hopefully discovering Voldemort's whereabouts. These things were legitimate worries not the living nightmare his brain seemed hellbent on forcing him into. So at well past two o'clock in the morning, Harry slipped out of bed as carefully as he could and crept out of the bedroom. He would just look in on Cattie, perform the spell, prove himself wrong and never allow himself to think of it again.
He hated himself for every step he took down the hall, felt like a fool as he stood outside of his daughter's room, and whispered every prayer he knew that he would prove himself wrong as he stood at the foot of her bed. This was the first night she had slept in her own bed in awhile and she looked completely at peace, deep asleep with Trouble curled up near her head. The cat barely cracked open one glowing eye before settle back into Cattie's hair.
With his heart pounding in his ears and suddenly feeling something close to terrified, Harry lifted his hand and hovered it over the bed. His breath shook as he breathed it in and cast the spell. Immediately a bright red glow began to surround Cattie's body, tendrils of a sickly black swirling through it, running over Cattie's arms and surrounding her still peaceful face.
Harry stumbled back from the bed.
No no no.