Catherine or Cate
What Should Have Been
Neville pulled himself from his four-poster bed and went through the motions of getting ready for his morning run vaguely aware that Harry was already ready and waiting.
Harry was good. He could cope with Harry. Harry was better than Hermione who continually looked at him with pity in her expression or Daphne who tended to hover these days. Neville knew that this was just his friends supporting him in the best ways they knew how, but it didn't mean he liked it.
His missed his Grandmother. There was this aching hole in his chest.
Neville missed his mother. He'd just started to get her back. Her warm hugs and happy smiles.
He missed his father. His father who had recognised him for the first time in fifteen years the morning of the attack.
Christmas morning, when his family had been killed.
It was exactly one month ago.
Lacing his shoes with magic and snagging a sweater against the cold Neville stood and silently walked side by side with Harry out the Slytherin common room. Within minutes out the front doors of Hogwarts.
As he had every morning since Christmas, Neville quickly set a brisk pace and moved toward the longer running track, Harry silently at his side. This was why he could cope with Harry.
Harry was always there. He never said anything, but he was there.
They were finishing a second lap when Harry twitched his hand, pointing up towards Hogwarts castle.
"Breakfast?" his raven-haired friend asked.
Neville shook his head. "I think I might run one more. You go. Catch up with Daphne and the others."
"I can go one more," Harry replied, good naturedly.
"Harry. I need this one on my own this morning," Neville said slowing to a stop. "I need this one."
His friend nodded.
"Just today," Harry replied, warningly, as he walked backwards.
Neville pulled an expression which was nothing like the smile he was aiming for but Harry seemed to understand.
"I'll see you back at the castle," Neville said with a nod and started to move once more, easily falling back into his rhythm.
There was a tight pain in his chest as he felt the tell-tale trickle of several charms hitting his shoes, charms that would monitor his wellbeing, making sure he was okay.
Neville could cope with Harry. Harry didn't hit him with a cheering charm like Draco would have.
Breathing deeply and trying to block out all other thoughts Neville began this third loop of the lakeside track, concentrating on the beat of his heart as it pounded in his ears.
Harry walked into the Great Hall pressed and dressed to have all his friends faces sink when they noticed he was alone.
"He sent me off," Harry explained sitting down as Draco and Daphne filled his plate between them. "Went for another lap."
"Another?" Hermione asked.
"Tracer Charm has him half way through a second solo lap," Harry replied. "I think we should just let him run until he drops so he can actually sleep."
There was a hum of approval from the two young women of their friendship group.
"Did you try a Cheering Charm?" Draco asked.
Harry shook his head negatively. "I was thinking that we could ask Dumbledore for a Portkey to the Longbottom Estate. Take Neville to the Mausoleum. Let him grieve."
"Harry," Hermione said sceptically.
"I feel better after sitting at my parents' graves," he replied. "We are at the point where we have to do something. We are losing our Neville. I can't take this numb silence any longer."
"I'd prefer screaming and nightmares," Daphne replied. "I know how to deal with screaming and nightmares."
"So, we ask for the portkey. Harry'll take him to Longbottom Estate for the afternoon. That's Plan A," Draco declared.
"Plan B would have to be booze," Blaise said speaking up from the edge of their group where he sat with Jemima. "Get him drunk."
"Or just lace him with potions so he gets enough nourishment and sleep for at least a day," Hermione muttered. "Neville's lost a lot of fat in the past weeks and it wasn't like he had any excess fat he could afford to lose."
"Maybe Su Bones could offer some comfort?" Draco suggested.
"Do you not remember anything?" Daphne snapped. "Where were Harry and Hermione the other night? Oh, that's right," she continued sarcastically. "They were out conducting experiments on Ginny's uncles and taking the Dark Mark off a certain member of the Bones family."
Harry wrapped an arm around Daphne and pulled her closer. "What Daphne means to say, Dray…"
"Don't be a pig," Hermione interrupted, a disgusted expression on her face. "It could have very well been your mother on Christmas Day, Dray. If it was, you would have been equally gutted as Neville is."
"Mimi!" her boyfriend tried. "You let me cry. Neville needs someone to hold him as he cries.
Hermione shook her head. "Everyone grieves differently. We can't force happiness upon him. . It will never work and I won't let you. I owe Neville this much. I owe him for what he did for me when Granger died," Hermione said, her voice dropping to a whisper as she stood. "I'm going for a walk. I will see you all later."
After pacing the hallways of Hogwarts for twenty minutes and releasing the rest of her anger, frustration and grief on a trio of duelling dummies in the Room of Requirement, Hermione headed down to the Tri-Wizard Champion dorms to look over her research.
It was easier to keep most of it there, where it could be spread out, hung up and left so she could spot the patterns. Most importantly, away from prying eyes in the Slytherin Common Room.
Heading straight to the room that had been Fleur's, Hermione looked over the Who for the umpteenth time. In this room they had the lists and faces of dozens of Death Eaters, proven and suspected plastered all over the walls. In the past week, with help from Moneypenny, Professor Snape and Professor Malfoy she had branched out into known associates and children.
Taking up the pile of notes that had been left on the desk the last time she worked, Hermione began to sort.
"Lunch?" the voice asked sometime later causing Hermione to look to the doorway where Draco stood with a tray.
"What time is it?" she asked, pinning a piece of information to the wall with a tack, Muggle style.
"Half two. Harry and Neville have just gone to the Longbottom Estate. Daphne has gone to source some decent booze as per Plan B."
"And I am sorry for being a pig."
Hermione sighed. "Being comforted by someone you care about is not a terrible idea, Draco," she lectured. "But the way you said it, as if sex or a good snog would shock our friend out of his grief was crude and thoughtless."
"So Daphne said. And Jemima. And Harry did that frowny thing to show he was disappointed in me."
Hermione turned and raised an eyebrow.
"I'll try not to do it again," Draco finished. "How's this all going?"
"Slowly," Hermione replied. "Masks conceal faces so no-one really knows who is behind them and as far as we can tell, for now, Voldemort has not marked any new Death Eaters."
"Not enough soul left to split?" Draco asked.
"Or he's onto us after the whole thing with your father," Hermione said frowning. "Neither is a good option."
"We could ask the Heads of House," Draco suggested. "Get them to identify the most unsavoury sorts of the last thirty or forty years."
Hermione tilted her head as she sipped on her juice before nodding. "Go get everybody," she said. "It's worth a try."
Draco grinned, kissed her cheek and darted off. Meanwhile, Hermione moved into Harry's old room and gathered up the yearbooks, floating them out to sit on the coffee table and carrying up the self-updating Register of Magical Births, Deaths and Marriages for the British Isles.
"I'm sure we will be able to remove a candidate or two this way," she muttered.
Draco grinned and held Hermione to his side as the four Head of House defaced books with Daphne's help. The five of them were crossing out the dead and putting circles around alumna they thought would be sympathetic towards Voldemort's cause as Hermione cringed.
"It has to happen," Draco whispered in her ear as school photo after school photo was duplicated, enlarged and hung on the wall.
"There are more photos going up then I would like," Hermione muttered.
"More than any of us would like," Draco responded. "But its somewhere to start. We can contact Moneypenny and he will track them down. We will know where they live, who they associate with. We will find out if they deserve to be on this list."
Draco turned to the door and saw Harry and Neville entering.
"Who's that?" the blonde demanded, pointing to an image hanging on the wall. "WHO IS THAT?"
"Alecto Carrow," Hermione said, reading the name from the bottom of the image.
Neville turned on his heel to leave.
"Nev?" Daphne called after him.
"She broke my arm!" Neville called back, disappearing down the corridor.
"She broke his arm?" Draco repeated as the truth dawned on him.
"She broke his arm," Daphne confirmed, getting to her feet as the four of them moved to follow their friend.
Outside the room, Draco hung over a banister looking up, as at his side, Daphne looked down.
"Split up!" Hermione instructed already heading for the stairs leading up! "I am going for the Room of Requirement and the duelling dummies. Check the Common Room, the running track, the green houses. Go!"
Harry took off like a cheetah down the stairs. "Going outside!" he yelled over his shoulder.
"Take the Common Room," Daphne shouted from behind Draco. "You'll get there faster. Check his weapons are with his stuff."
Draco waved and picked up his pace.
Daphne didn't hesitate.
She knew where Neville would be going. She knew where she would be going if she were Neville and Neville was rather predictable for a Slytherin.
Daphne was headed for the front gates.
If it had been her parents, her grandmother, Daphne would want to kill those that had killed them. If Alecto Carrow had been at St Mungos on Christmas Day it was more than likely that she had taken part in that massacre.
Throwing open the front doors of the castle, Daphne could see Neville running in the growing darkness. Cursing Harry for taking a short cut out one of the side doors to the Greenhouses, she shot up sparks.
"Neville!" she called, running as fast as she could across the grass after her taller fitter friend. "Neville! Wait!"
Throwing up more sparks hoping someone could see them she saw Neville dodge sideways but keep running, throwing a blasting curse over his shoulder at whatever had been in his path.
He didn't stop.
"Neville," Daphne called.
"Neville!" she heard Harry bellow.
She looked sideways over her shoulder to see Harry coming from the direction of the lake.
"Neville!" she called again as something hit her leg, hard.
She looked down and saw the snake, coiled, ready to strike again. It was as thick as Harry's upper arm and several metres long. It also had gaping holes in its head where it's eyes should have been.
Daphne's world began to go fuzzy, but she threw out several slicing curses.
"Harry!" she screamed. "Basilisk! Harry!"
She waved her wand and her Patronus appeared.
"Daphne!" Harry roared.
"Hermione. I've been bitten by a blinded basilisk loose on school grounds. Seal the school. Neville got away. Tell my sister I love her. I love you, like a sister."
The patronus disappeared in the direction of the school.
"Daphne?" Harry's voice asked in her ear.
She looked around.
"How did I end up on the ground?" she asked as her mind fought the fog. "Harry! There's a blinded basilisk."
"Open up!" Harry instructed, shoving something in her mouth before stroking her neck. "Swallow, Daphne. Please, darling. Swallow the bezoar."
Daphne swallowed and smiled. "What part of basilisk did you not understand?" she asked, able to see the beheaded snake lying a few metres away in the grass. "It wont work."
"Fawkes!" Harry screamed, tears streaming down his face. "Fawkes!"
"I love you, Harry. I love you so much," Daphne whispered, trying to reach up to touch his face, one last time, but her heavy limbs wouldn't comply.
"I love you too, Dee. You just hold on," Harry ordered, throwing sparks up in the air. "Fawkes!"
Daphne shook her head as her eyes closed.