The clearing where the meeting was supposed to take place was still empty. No sign of the "respected" businessman from Hogsmeade or his suspected Death Eater contacts - and yet there was screaming.
And eerie emerald flashes of light in the trees.
"They're on to us!" someone shouted.
Wand in hand, Colin raced through the trees, calling for his brother. "Dennis, where are you?"
Low hanging branches snagged his clothes, and bit at his skin. It was impossible to see in the darkness. Only the flashes of green, blessedly few, gave any illumination as he ran back to where he'd left Dennis.
Stunned by a too close burst of light, Colin tripped and landed face first. Someone grabbed his wrist.
"Colin?" a young, pain-filled voice desperately asked. “Colin?"
Relief flooded through him and Colin scrambled into the underbrush, pulling his younger brother with him.
"I can't see."
"Shh," Colin soothed, covering them both with rotting foliage while he tried to figure out how many of them were out there, how many of the good guys were left. "It's dark, Dennis, I can't really see either."
Small hands tangled in his clothing. "No. I can't - I can't see."
Colin ran his hand over Dennis' hair, petting his brother in a gesture he used to use to calm him when he was a little boy. Colin's hand came back warm, wet and sticky.
"I'm scared, Bug."
He didn't want to admit it, but so was Colin. He needed to be strong for Dennis. Needed to keep them safe until help came.
"It's gonna be okay. Someone will get away and fetch the others. They'll come and save us. Harry will come. Harry will make the Death Eaters go away and he'll know what to do to help you."
He continued to whisper in Dennis' ear about how Harry would find them and be so proud of Dennis as chaos reigned in the woods around them.
None of this should have happened. The man they had been sent to watch was just supposed to be some small time businessman with contacts in You-Know-Who's followers. They were just supposed to watch and see if they recognized anyone, there wasn't supposed to be any danger. He never would have brought Dennis along if it was supposed to be dangerous.
Harry should have known. Harry should have warned them.
"Why isn't he here?" Colin questioned softly, not noticing that Dennis hadn't replied in so long. Or that his brother's hands had gently slipped away.
"Harry will come and save us, don't you worry, Dennis."
Some small part of him knew, but the rest refused to admit it.
It was daylight before anyone found them and by then Colin's legs and arms were asleep. He didn't want to let go of his brother. His brother who looked so calm and sweet. Surely Dennis was only sleeping and he would wake up soon to tell Bug that he was being silly.
Someone cursed when Colin refused to let go of Dennis, but they eventually got the cold body away from him.
He just kept asking each new face the same question.
"Why didn't Harry come?"
That question was still ringing in his ears when Colin jerked awake, sitting up in bed. He was soaked in sweat and his heart was pounding.
It had been years since that night in the woods and still the nightmare came.