Flashing lights. Three wands raised. Her brothers, in anger. And the charming stranger, showing his true terrifying face at last.
She wants them to stop, but her words once again fail her, so she draws their attention the only way she knows how. She runs towards them, her magic beating and writing within her, between the flashes of light and blasts of impulse and emotion.
And then Ariana Dumbledore knows no more.
He has felt only guilt since his brother died.
Every flash of light, every stray beam of sunlight against a mirrored surface, every loud pop or electrical discharge reminds him of the camera. The camera that had shown him a world full of wonder, where photographs moved and will was reality, that his brother had been so glad to share with him. A world that he'd loved.
Until he grew older, and he saw the darkness lying underneath, and his brother died in the final battle to save the rights of people like him.
It was hard to tell what was more painful. Magic, or the loss of Colin.
And like so many others after the war, Dennis Creevey spent more and more time among muggles. On the border of two worlds – one filled with wonder and terror, the other mundane and safe, yet swiftly transforming.
"I have these dreams," she says to him, over a cup of tea in his flat. "They weren't so bad when I was a child, but they got so much more vivid around 2000."
Dennis has dated Ariana for almost a year now. She's a Muggle, as far as he knows. All the pictures in her flat are static and unmoving, and portray a very Muggle personal history. The topic of magic still hasn't come up. All she knows is that he lost his brother in a domestic terror event sometime in the 90s. He knows that they have a future together – she's hinted at it, and hoped for it, and they've already danced around the question of children – but he's afraid.
Magic runs in families. Colin had it. Dennis had it. Any kids Dennis has will have it too. And he knows it's not safe. He's tried to live among Muggles as best he could, but he still gets cards from the Potters every now and then, and still orders the Prophet just in case he needs to flee the country. He's seen the news stories about "Voldemort's Daughter".
The war isn't over, and it might never be.
"There was a monster inside of my chest," Ariana says. "It wasn't a monster, but it was part of me. But I turned it into a monster because I had to."
Dennis frowns, and grabs her hands.
"I had two brothers, and they weren't happy about it," Ariana says. "Both of them loved me, but one of them wanted something more from life. And this would have been a hundred years ago, or more, back before the Great War. And there was this stranger, all dark and handsome and now that I think about it, as gay as a summer rainbow."
He raises an eyebrow at that. She's never been homophobic before, but if this is a start—
"And it's never clear in the dreams, but now that I'm awake, it's obvious that one of my brothers is madly in love with him," she says.
Dennis leans back. "Are these… just dreams?" he says.
"There's a part I'm not telling you," said Ariana. "It feels forbidden, like I can't, or I shouldn't. Because in the dreams it kills me, and it's why I have the monster anyways."
"If it's just a dream, it's fine," Dennis says. He's got secrets of his own.
But she shakes her head. "They're not just dreams. They feel like memories, like a life from a long time ago. And in the dreams, I die."
He just holds her, and looks at her. She isn't meeting his eyes.
"And I don't want to tell you what happens next, because it would dredge up your memories of Colin," she says.
"I won't get mad," he promises.
"My brothers get into a fight with the stranger," she says. "And then one of them kills me. I still don't know who."
It's just a dream. It was kind of her not to want to dredge up memories of Colin, to not want to die so intimately the issues of death and brotherhood—but these are just dreams, and she's clearly bothered by them but couching it in terms of his pain, and he's glad she trusts him enough to tell him these things. But she's looking at him. "Don't you want to know how?"
"That's a very morbid question," he says. In truth, he doesn't want to, not really. Death has never been a comfortable topic for him. The Battle of Hogwarts, as terrible as it was, had a certain sterility and cleanliness. Few corpses were mangled or maimed. Most died beautifully.
She knits her fingers together. "Magic," she says, at last.
"Magic," he says.
She nods. "And that's why it must be a dream," she says. "Because my brothers and the stranger were wizards, and they all have magical wands, and they were shooting magical spells at each other, and I ran into the middle of their spellfire and that's what killed me. And magic is the monster that's in my chest. And it's always the same dream, and the details never change, and it always feels like a memory, and it feels real, but it can't be, because magic isn't real."
He can't speak. But the truth is she seems as distressed as he feels, as if she desperately needs it to be just a dream, desperately needs it to not be true, because then she would know that her brothers lost her, that she left them behind, that they felt what Dennis did upon losing his own brother. Or maybe she can't accept that she's died once, and somehow come back, because that would be absurd in the Muggle world.
"And besides," she said with a laugh. "I looked at the genealogical records and at all the maps. There are no towns named Godric's Hollow, and no Dumbledores who lived there."
And Dennis knows now that he can't run from fate.
But perhaps it's better this way. Perhaps it's better that he found someone who knows just how dangerous the Wizarding World can be, because it's already killed her once.
So he pulls out his wand.