|SIYE Time:20:51 on 18th March 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, All, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry had never friends, so he imagined one: a red haired girl he kept forgetting to name. Ginny imagined a shy boy with untidy hair and bright eyes, who knew nothing of magic, so she told him. He dreamt of a world of magic and of a girl who wanted to be his friend. She dreamt of a boy who loved to hear her voice, no matter what. Then dreams become a reality when Harry met Ginny.
Rating changed for later chapters.
*Nominated for 2014 November/December DSTA for Best New Story and Best Romance* *Nominated for 2016 January/Feburary DSTA for Best Comedy, Drama, and Romance*
Hitcount: Story Total: 102636; Chapter Total: 2439
Chapter Twenty-Two: The Goblet of Fire Part Nine
Sleep Is For Losers
Dumbledore returned to the tent a few moments after the announcement of the points. He spoke briefly to Madam Pomfrey, then beckoned to Harry and Ginny. Hermione waved to them as they got up and left the tent.
The walk back to the castle was cold. It was windy for February, and their wet clothes did not help. Harry was glad when they made it back to the castle.
Once in the Hospital Wing, Dumbledore found them uniforms and they drew curtains to change. Harry balled up his wet trousers and shirt, then scrubbed the last of the sand off the bottom of his feet. He pushed back his curtains and flopped onto his bed.
Dumbledore conjured a squashy armchair as Ginny moved her curtains. He lowered himself into it and wove his fingers together over his chest.
“When exactly did you wake up, Ginny?” Dumbledore asked.
“Um,” Ginny began. “I — Harry was reaching out to take my hand, I think. I — I don’t remember a lot.”
“You hadn’t yet touched her?” Dumbledore asked Harry.
Harry shook his head.
Dumbledore sighed faintly and drew from a fold in his robes a worn leather book. “I have deciphered more of Thaon’s diary. There are many passages containing no pertinent information, speaking merely of his own day or repeating old information; however, there are several that do contain news. One such passage I will read to you.”
Dumbledore flicked through the pages of the book and cleared his throat.
“The first day of the ninth month, in the year of our lord 1125. Eirene performed a magick on herself this morning. She is alive, but asleep and will not wake. I have tried everything, but she remains unconscious. I write this by her bedside, as she sleeps. Our nurse, Alasdair MacArthur, has promised to do his best, but he fears, as I do, that this might not be a sleep we can end. I fear it might not be a mere spell, but a potion. I curse myself for teaching it to her, yet Alasdair insists there was no way for me to predict she would use it on herself.
The Draught of Living Death is a complex potion, yet somehow Eirene must have brewed it. A simply spell could not have produced the effect that we are seeing in Eirene. I do not know what conditions she put into the potion for her awakening, or if she desires to wake at all. I fear that she has designed the potion to keep her in eternal sleep, never – It is time for the feast. I shall finish this later.”
Dumbledore turned the page and Harry and Ginny glanced at each other. She raised an eyebrow, he shrugged.
Dumbledore resumed. “Midnight has passed, making it the second day, but I am elated.” Ginny raised the other eyebrow. “I was required to be present at the Welcoming Feast for the students, but as the last of the new students entered the hall, one of them collapsed in the midst of the hall. Not that this was a good thing, but what happened later was. I assisted Tiberius in bringing the student, a boy about fifteen, to the medical wing for Alasdair to inspect. We laid him on a bed near Eirene’s and as Alasdair moved to check him for injuries, he surged up, and jumped away. He ran to Eirene, shouting aloud what Tiberius and Alasdair took to be nonsense, but I could understand. “My imagination!” he had shouted. “Impossible!” The boy froze before Eirene, simply staring down at her in shock. I explained what had happened to her, which alarmed the boy further.
“‘Is that why I could not hear her?” he asked me. “I thought I was just growing up, that I was growing out of it, but she’s here! She’s real!’
“I was just as confused at first, but then something seemed to click inside my mind. I asked the boy if he was a squire to a Saxon, and the boy answered yes, he served a knight who protected a monastery in Ireland. I asked him exactly what he meant by ‘hearing’ Eirene, and he answered, rather bashfully, that he had retained a fictional companion in his imagination and that my great-niece was this fictional companion, he was sure of it.
“‘Sir, I have loved her for a long time,” he answered. “But I was certain that I was merely creating a love for myself, since I was so lonely at the monastery. I thought she was my imagination.’
“This came as though music to my ears. I asked the boy to take her hand, just to see what would happen. The boy complied, but no sooner than his fingers touching hers, the boy bent and touched a kiss to her lips, gently and quickly. Eirene’s eyes opened, she gasped, and then slapped the boy. It was actually amusing, if I am entirely honest. The boy spluttered, let go of her hand, and backed away, as Eirene sat up. She seemed to have not noticed anyone but the boy, her face was shocked and disbelieving and there was a glimmer of hope in her eyes that I had not seen in such a long time.
“Eirene and the boy were silent a long time; they only stared into each other’s eyes, until finally she asked for his name. “Thomas,” he answered. She gave him her name, and Thomas’s face seemed to light up. The air around them was suddenly warm, in fact he was literally beginning to glow. Thomas took her hand again, and the dark circles beneath Eirene’s eyes seemed to erase themselves. I could practically see the cracks in her spirit mending, all her broken pieces coming back together. This was what I had been imagining: Two halves reuniting into one whole.”
Ginny looked at Harry with a thoughtful expression. Dumbledore looked up at them.
“This, I thought, was most important because Eirene was in an enchanted sleep and Thomas woke her up despite the fact that she had intended to not ever awaken. In the light of what happened this morning, I thought that the same thing might have happened. However, you say that you had not yet touched her when she awoke?”
Harry nodded again. “I was maybe a foot from her.”
Dumbledore ‘hmmed’ as he looked through the book again. He sighed and closed it, then tucked it back into his robes. “I must translate more to see if there is anything speaking of such a thing. I believe that it was a combination of Ginny’s resistance to such enchantments and your bond that caused her to wake before the proper time, but we will not be able to duplicate such a thing without drawing suspicion or risking further harm to your life, Ginny.”
“So what do we do?” Harry asked.
Dumbledore thought for a moment before answering. “We watch you, to see what side effects come up. Ginny, Madam Pomfrey wishes you to stay in the Hospital Wing four days so she may watch you; you will be excused from your lessons. Harry, I have convinced her to allow you to remain two days; on the third you will need to attend lessons but you may stay the night here. While Ginny has her final day, you will not be allowed to sleep here.”
Both Harry and Ginny nodded, then glanced at each other. Harry raised his eyebrows. Ginny narrowed hers.
They’re your dreams, he said.
I don’t like talking right now.
Harry sighed and turned back to the headmaster. “Sir, we have one more thing to tell you.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “And that would be?”
Harry looked back at Ginny. She stuck her nose in the air. He sighed again. “Ginny doesn’t want to explain it. She’s been having these… dreams.”
“And what about these dreams, pray tell, makes them odd?”
“Well, they’ve been coming true…”
Dumbledore looked intrigued. “How so?”
“The first one she dreamt was about the Tournament, that I would be entered.”
“And the next one, actually a recurring one, was that she would be swimming in the Black Lake, and in two of those she dreamt that she would drown.”
Dumbledore furrowed his brow. “Indeed…” he repeated, more softly.
“While I was in that enchanted sleep,” Ginny spoke finally. “I had another dream. And this has been playing off bits and pieces that have appeared in my normal dreams throughout the year; I dreamt about a — a thing, something sentient but not quite human…” she trailed off, looking down at her lap.
“She thinks it might be Voldemort,” Harry said.
Dumbledore’s eyebrows shot up. “What makes you say that?”
“It — it’s really complicated,” Ginny said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
Dumbledore drew his wand and conjured a small glass flask. “Ginny, there is an artifact called a Pensieve. It is a way to contain and replay memories. May I ask you to concentrate on the memories of these dreams and allow me to remove them from your mind?”
Ginny narrowed her eyes. “Remove them? How?”
“I will touch my wand to your temple,” Dumbledore said, holding out his wand, “you will focus on the memories, bring them to the forefront of your mind, and I will ‘capture’ them, you might say. A trace of them will remain in your mind, you will remember having those memories and the details, but you will not be able to recall the specifics of them. Do you consent?”
Ginny glanced at Harry and raised one eyebrow. He considered it, then shrugged. What’s the harm?
Ginny turned back to Dumbledore. “Yes, I consent.”
Dumbledore touched his wand to her temple. Ginny closed her eyes, then the headmaster’s wand tip began to glow.
“Do you have them all in mind?” Dumbledore asked. Ginny nodded. Dumbledore began to pull his wand away from her forehead. A strand of silver followed it; slowly, the strand broke and coagulated onto the wand tip. Dumbledore lowered his wand tip into the flask and the silver dripped from his wand.
“Thank you, Ginny,” Dumbledore said, stepping back. “I will examine these tonight and come back to you with my conclusions.”
As Dumbledore tucked the flask into his robes, the doors opened and Madam Pomfrey bustled in in a huff.
“Hungarians,” she grumbled, crossing the wing to Ginny’s bed. Dumbledore bowed his head and strode from the room. The matron began mumbling spells as she ran her wand over Ginny. Ginny turned to Harry and rolled her eyes.
“The Headmaster has insisted you be allowed to stay with Miss Weasley while she is recovering, Mr. Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said as she checked Ginny’s pulse, “so I must tell you that I have a no tolerance policy for shenanigans.”
Harry knit his eyebrows. Madam Pomfrey stared stonily at him.
She means you have to stay in your bed, Ginny thought.
Harry turned red and chose to focus his attention on his feet. His toenails needed clipping.
That’s disgusting, Harry.
Harry chose not to respond and tried to think of any spell that might clip them for him. He felt the need to hunch over as well and prop his head on his hand, resting his elbow on a knee. He flicked his gaze at her and she rolled her eyes.
“Yes, Madam Pomfrey,” Ginny said. Harry nodded, trying to avoid speaking as well. Madam Pomfrey huffed and strode away, muttering something about saltpeter.
What? I didn’t do anything! It’s a natural —
That is not what I was talking about, you were supposed to respond to Madam Pomfrey!
Ginny sighed and flopped back on her pillows. Harry stayed hunched over for the moment. She’s not pleased with you.
Well, it’s not my fault!
Ginny shook her head and rolled over. I’m tired.
Harry glanced around the wing, then slipped off his bed and sat down by her. He awkwardly rubbed her shoulder. I’m sorry, Ginny. I never meant for any of this to happen.
I know. None of us guessed that it was a person that riddle was talking about.
Harry nodded vaguely. He heard a door and jumped up, quickly dropping onto his own bed. It wasn’t Madam Pomfrey, it was Hermione, Ron, George, Fred and Percy.
Hermione immediately went to hug Ginny while the four brothers stood there looking uncomfortably protective and rather awkward.
“We get to stay a few minutes before we have to go to lunch,” Hermione said. “Madam Pomfrey said you two would get to stay here the next few days, how’d you manage that?”
“Dumbledore,” Harry said simply.
“Of course,” George said.
“Genius man,” Fred responded.
“Lucky,” Ron grumbled. “You get two days off school.”
“I’ll make sure to take extra notes so you don’t miss anything,” Hermione said, looking between the two of them. “Ron, you should too.”
Ron looked at her like she had two heads. “What for? You’ll be copying down what the teacher says word for word anyway.”
Hermione pursed her lips and looked away from him. Ginny met her gaze and rolled her eyes, causing their bookish friend’s expression to soften.
"Time is up,” Madam Pomfrey called as she strode across the wing with trays of food floating in front of her. Hermione jumped up from the bed as Madam Pomfrey lowered a tray onto Ginny’s bed.
“You may visit again after the afternoon lessons,” the matron told the group with a stern look at Ron and Hermione in particular. They waved and said their goodbyes, then left the wing. Madam Pomfrey lowered a tray onto Harry’s bed, then took the last one to a bed across the hall, where another student was sleeping.
Watch out for saltpeter, Ginny thought.
Harry looked quizzically at her. She raised her eyebrows and smirked. He rolled his eyes and stabbed a spoon into a pile of mashed potatoes.
The rest of their day was extremely boring. After lunch, Madam Pomfrey gave Ginny a dreamless sleep potion and set a small, silver object on her nightstand. She told Harry it was a device to monitor her as she slept, and if anything went wrong, it would shriek very loudly. Harry reached out to pick it up as the matron was leaving and accidentally knocked it onto the floor, where it commenced to shriek very, very loudly. Madam Pomfrey was back by Ginny’s bed in a flash, righted the object and silenced it. She glared at Harry for half a minute before leaving again.
Ginny didn’t wake up until close to seven, but that was only because Madam Pomfrey shook her awake for dinner. She ate about half of what was on her plate then fell back against her pillows to sleep again. Harry almost asked for a sleeping potion himself, but considering that the matron seemed very miffed that evening he decided not to.
It took a long time for him to fall asleep that night. He got up more than once and simply walked around the wing, because it felt like his joints were literally itching. Around one a.m., he knelt down by Ginny’s bed and brushed her hair away from her face. She stirred faintly, but didn’t wake.
The next two days were dull and empty. They spent a large amount of time conversing mentally, discussing everything from her dreams to Quidditch scores. In the afternoon, Hermione and Ron came by, Hermione with homework, Ron with news of Hogwarts. Or rather gossip. Harry could not understand why Ron was fascinated by gossip, but it must have run in the family because Ginny hung on to his words.
The third day, Madam Pomfrey kicked Harry out of the wing before breakfast, insisting he eat in the Great Hall. He did, with resignation, then went to his classes. That day’s schedule consisted of Divination for himself and Ron and Arithmency for Hermione in the first period, History in the second, followed by lunch, then a double period of Herbology. Harry ran back during lunch to drop off Hermione’s notes from Arithmency and History with Ginny, stealing a quick kiss before Madam Pomfrey could shoo him away.
The fourth day was less empty. First period was Potions, where Snape had them brew a Sleeping Draught and Ron added too much lavender and heat, ending with Neville getting woozy from the fumes and spilling his own potion when he leaned over Ron’s cauldron. Curiously enough, Snape didn’t give either of them detention. He did take thirty points from Ron and another ten from Harry for not helping. It was strange, Harry thought. The Potions Master was being nearly docile. Second period was Defense, and Remus had them trying their Shield charm’s strength against the Jelly-legs Jinx. Harry’s was fairly strong, at least he thought until Ron and Hermione switched places and her jinx hit him squarely in the stomach. Third period they had Transfiguration, and the day ended with another History lesson.
As Ginny’s fourth day in the hospital wing came to an end, Harry waited in the common room for Ron and Hermione to return from dinner. Dumbledore had asked him to stay out of the hospital wing that evening while Madam Pomfrey performed one last checkup on Ginny. He had also asked if they had felt any differences in their bond since then, but the answer had been no.
Harry did feel anxious for some reason. He had spent almost every minute with Ginny the past three days, but that day he hadn’t even been able to visit her for more than two minutes during lunch, due to Hermione’s insistence that they visit the library so she could pick up a stack of books on Shield charms. Now, with her conspicuous absence, something didn’t feel quite right.
You should have told Dumbledore that, Ginny thought.
I know, he replied. But I don’t know what’s wrong. How was I supposed to tell him what’s happening when I don’t know what that is?
Ginny huffed mentally. You should have said at least that you were worried about nothing.
Harry shrugged. He caught movement in the portrait hole out of the corner of his eye and turned to see who it was. It was just Dean and Seamus; they were laughing about something. They waved to him as they crossed the common room and he waved back.
How about we discuss something else? Harry asked Ginny.
Ginny ‘hmm’ed in her mind. How about what might be wrong?
Or about today’s Defense lesson! Remus is really drilling those Shield charms into us, isn’t he?
Isn’t that a 5th year spell?Ginny asked.
I think it might be. But, hey, pretty much everyone is getting it.
Harry felt her nodding. Remus is doing good. They rested in silence a moment, then Ginny thought: How’s Snape doing?
I can’t tell. He didn’t do much today; just wrote the recipe on the blackboard and had us go at it.
I think it’s odd that he didn’t take many points or even give a detention.
He took 30 points from Ron for what happened to Neville and 10 from me for just being there!
But considering he usually takes upwards of 50 points from Gryffindor…
True, Harry replied with a sigh.
The portrait hole opened again, and this time it was Ron and Hermione. Harry waved to them before Ginny replied.
I think something is wrong with him.
What do you care? Harry asked. He’s not giving us detention for no reason and not taking a hundred points from Gryffindor each lesson. I think there’s finally something right with him.
Ron and Hermione dropped onto the couch on either side of Harry.
“What’s up?” Hermione asked.
“Ginny thinks there’s something wrong with Snape,” Harry said.
“She’s right,” Hermione replied with a sigh.
“She is?” both Ron and Harry said.
“He’s depressed,” Hermione continued. “I asked Professor McGonagall about him after Transfiguration, and she told me that his mother died on Christmas. That was why he was gone last semester; he was taking care of her.”
Harry and Ron exchanged looks of shock.
“Snape has a mother?” Ron said with disbelief in his voice.
Hermione glared at him. “Of course he does; he had to be born somehow.”
“But she died?” Harry repeated. “On Christmas day?”
Hermione nodded. “Professor McGonagall told me she had some terminal illness. Probably cancer.”
Harry looked back at Ron with raised eyebrows. “Wow,” he said softly.
I hate to say this, but I’m almost sorry for the git, Ginny thought.
Harry tried not to snort. Hermione frowned, then she rolled her eyes. “You two,” she muttered, getting up and walking away. Ron looked confused for a moment, then he shrugged and looked at Harry.
“Wanna play some chess?” he asked.
Harry inhaled deeply. “Well, you won’t be challenged at all.”
“That’s all right, Harry, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.”
Harry chuckled as Ron got off the couch. “I’ll go grab my set.”
“Let’s play upstairs, there are too many people in here,” Harry said. Ron frowned.
“There’s only a few,” he said.
“Well, there’ll be more in a minute.”
Ron shrugged and turned towards the stairs. As they mounted them, the portrait hole opened and a gaggle of girls entered the common room. Ron glanced at them then kept going.
About an hour later, Harry lost three times and was rapidly spiraling into a fourth loss. Ron had just taken his queen and had put him in check when his lungs decided to stop working.
His hand shook as his fingers hovered over the king to move it away from Ron’s queen. His stomach flipped over and stirred with nausea. Harry opened his mouth, but he couldn’t force air out either. Ron looked at him quizzically.
“What’s the matter, mate?” he said. Harry shook his head, trying to suck in air, but his diaphragm refused to budge. Instead, his chest tightened. He looked around; the walls were suddenly pressed against him. The ceiling was lower than it should have been, and it was getting closer. Harry opened and closed his mouth; no air would cross his lips. He clapped his hands to his neck, maybe the gills had returned, but his neck was smooth.
“Harry?” Ron asked, shifting so he sat on his knees. “What’s the matter?”
Harry’s vision got splotchy. The ceiling was too close; it was pushing him against the ground. The walls; the walls were stopping him from breathing, that was it. He needed to get away from the walls.
Harry stumbled to his feet, scattering the chess pieces. They screamed in protest, but it sounded distant to Harry. The room swam before him; he staggered towards the door, then tripped over Neville’s trunk. Ron had shot to his feet and was by his side, saying something but Harry couldn’t hear it. His brain hurt from not having oxygen.
Something hit him in the back very, very hard. He coughed suddenly and violently, and air was forced into his lungs. Harry drew in a ragged breath, then the walls squeezed his chest again. There was faint shouting in the room, and whatever it was hit his back again. He coughed, and once again air was forced into him. A face swam before him; taller than him and darker. The face had arms attached to it; it pulled Harry forward and out of the dormitory. The walls pressed against Harry’s chest; the darker person dragged Harry down stairs and pushed him into a high ceilinged, spacious room. Then his back was hit again, and he coughed. Then he could draw in a gasp of breath, then another, then another. The spots faded.
“What’s the matter with him?” he heard an Irish voice saying.
“Claustrophobia,” said the figure before Harry. Harry drew in another wheezing breath; the walls were still just too close, but his lungs were stronger now. His vision steadied and he realized it was Dean in front of him, and that he had been clapping Harry on the back to force him to cough.
“What?” Ron’s voice. Ron came into sight; he gripped Harry’s shoulder with a hand. Harry pushed him off, stumbling farther into the room.
“Don’t touch him,” Dean said. “He needs to get over it.”
“What?” Ron said. “Get over what?”
“The claustrophobia,” Dean answered. Harry turned around and faced his roommates. Dean looked serious; Ron and Seamus were both confused. Then he noticed Neville, who looked scared.
“I — I — I’m not —” Harry stuttered. They all looked at him then. His tongue felt awkwardly large in his mouth suddenly. “I’m not — I’m not claustro —”
“Claustrophobic?” Dean said. “Clearly, you are.”
Harry shook his head. “But — but I’ve never — never before —”
Dean shrugged. “It happens like that. My little sister has it, probably worse than you, and she gets episodes all the time. Random, no trigger, they just happen.”
Harry opened his mouth and closed it several times. “But — but this never happened —“
Ron stepped forward and held out a hand. “Are you okay now?” he asked.
Harry tried to say yes. He would be okay in just a minute, once he got his breath back. He was okay; there was nothing wrong.
Empty laughter rang through his skull. Harry’s felt suddenly cold.
“Ginny,” he muttered.
Time was running out. He had to decode the damn book in just a few weeks, then begin the spell. It was almost March, but the spell and the potion both needed to be finished before June 24th. He had so little time; the damned book was resisting him. He had tried every decoding spell and every combination, every key, every random thought that crossed his brain that might crack the code, but nothing was working. It was as if the author had known every method he might use to crack it, and had installed safe-guards in the very binding of the book just to foil him. And while not breaking the code would be good for the Wizarding World at large, he had to break it; he had to prepare the spell and the potion. His wife’s life depended on it.
Harry shoved himself out of the portrait hole with four voices calling after him. The cold, cruel laughter was echoing still through his brain, but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the sound of Ginny’s mind on overload. The hallways were barely wide enough for him to squeeze through, and his lungs, his lungs; they kept seizing up as the corridors got narrower and narrower. The ceiling hung low over his head, and Harry stooped so it would crush him, but with every inch he bent down, the ceiling would get closer still. His brain screamed for air, his lungs screamed for space, and Ginny screamed. Ginny screamed.
Hands gripped Harry’s arm and pulled him off the ground. Harry hadn’t even noticed that he had fallen; he had just begun crawling on. He looked over and saw Ron pulling his arm over his shoulders. A wave of gratitude hit Harry. Ron probably had no clue what was going on.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Ginny,” Harry rasped.
“In the Hospital Wing?”
“All right, all right,” Ron grumbled. He and Harry moved forward like some grotesque, squeezed tight three-legged race. One whose track got smaller and smaller with each step. Harry struggled to inflate his lungs, then he felt a hand slap him on the back and he was forced to cough. He saw Dean jogging beside them, one hand on Harry’s back. He smiled weakly at him, then he had to shut his eyes tightly because of the screaming. She wouldn’t stop screaming. It wasn’t Ginny; her screams were louder and yet silent. This woman, she screamed and screamed in Harry’s ear. She screamed one word: “Mercy! Mercy! MERCY!” over and over right behind him. Ginny screamed in his mind; she screamed in his ear; he needed the screaming to stop.
Ron and Dean pushed open the doors to the Hospital Wing. Harry hadn’t even noticed that they had gone down the stairs, but they were there. He stumbled forward, pulling his arm away from Ron. Ginny seemed silent, but she was still screaming in Harry’s mind. The other woman’s screaming had faded to a whimper, and he could tell that there was more than one voice now. How many exactly, he didn’t care just then. Ginny was crying, and he was still laughing.
Harry dropped to his knees by Ginny’s bed. She was sitting with her knees pulled to her chest, her face resting on them and covered by her hair. His ears heard only faint whispers, but her mind was in such turmoil. He was still laughing.
Harry touched her arm. Ginny sniffled and looked up. She met his eyes and there was horror in hers.
“What happened?” she whispered.
“I have no idea,” Harry said.
“I was asleep,” she said, her gaze drifting away. “Madam Pomfrey gave me another Dreamless Sleep Potion, but I dreamt anyway. There was a man,” Ginny suddenly grabbed Harry’s hand. “A man, he’s trying to break something but it’s not working and if he doesn’t they’ll kill his — his something, I don’t remember —”
“Harry has severe claustrophobia,” Dean piped up helpfully.
“You what?” Ginny said, her attention jerking back to Harry.
“Er, yeah, I s’pose,” Harry mumbled.
Ginny frowned. You think that you’ve got severe claustrophobia and you’re worried about me?
Harry shrugged. You were screaming?
I wasn’t screaming.
Yes you were, I heard you. Mentally.
Ginny bit her lip. I was screaming?
Harry nodded. He — he was laughing…
Ginny’s hand drifted to her left arm. I don’t remember…
Harry took her hand and squeezed it. Your mind was pretty freaked out. Think it was that dream that triggered it?
Ginny shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know,” she said softly.
“Should I get someone?” Ron asked. Ginny looked up at him; her eyes unfocused a moment, then sharpened and she held out her arms. Ron frowned. He glanced between Harry and Dean, then hesitantly stepped forward and embraced Ginny. She buried her face in his shoulder, and whispered something. Harry didn’t hear with his ears what she said, but he knew what it was.
“You-Know-Who’s coming back.”
Ron’s face drained of blood. He stepped back with his face slack. Ginny glanced at Dean, then mouthed ‘later.’ Ron nodded, his brow furrowing.
“What is going on here?”
All four of them turned to see Madam Pomfrey hurrying from her office as she hastily tied her dressing gown. Her hair was falling from its braid and her eyes looked gummed from sleep.
“Err,” Harry said.
“Uhhh,” Ron added.
“Hi,” Dean said squeakily.
Ginny rolled her eyes.
Madam Pomfrey looked with irritation between all three boys. “It is nearly ten o’clock; explain yourselves!”
“Er, well, you see,” Ron began.
“Harry was — he was kind of feeling squished —” Dean stammered.
“I’m claustrophobic?” Harry finished.
Madam Pomfrey did not look satisfied. “Unless there is something wrong with you, all three of you boys must return to your dormitories immediately!”
“Harry threw up,” Ginny said.
All three boys looked at her with confusion. Then, in unison, they understood, and looked back to Madam Pomfrey with nods and attempts to look like this was not new information. Harry had felt nauseous, so it wasn’t much of a stretch.
Madam Pomfrey narrowed her eyes. “You did?” she asked Harry. He nodded again.
Madam Pomfrey sighed and stepped forward. She pressed her fingers to his forehead, frowned, then pressed the back of her hand against it. She drew her wand and touched it to his neck. Her eyebrows shot up.
“Your temperature is 89 degrees,” she whispered.
Harry’s eyebrows rose. “I don’t feel cold,” he said. Madam Pomfrey snapped her fingers and a blanket soared off a shelf beside her. She took it out of the air and wrapped it around his shoulders. “Lay down here, Potter,” she said, pointing to the bed beside Ginny’s. He pushed himself up and dropped onto the bed.
“You two, thank you for bringing him,” the matron said to Dean and Ron. “I will call Minerva to take you back to your dormitory.”
“Uh, is 89 degrees bad?” Ron asked.
“Bordering hypothermia,” Madam Pomfrey said. “Wait here, Potter, I will be right back.”
She bustled past Harry’s friends and entered her office. Harry and Ginny met eyes.
You’ve got hypothermia, she thought.
Bordering it, he said.
Ginny shook her head. She didn’t even check me.
She will when she gets back.
I look fine.
You look like you’ve seen a ghost.
The Gray Lady passed through here about half an hour ago.
Well, then the kind you weren’t expecting.
Madam Pomfrey returned and held out a steaming glass to Harry. He groaned. “Not a Pepper-up Potion!”
“Yes, a Pepper-up Potion,” Madam Pomfrey said. “With a Nausea remedy in it.”
Harry took the glass and sniffed it cautiously. It smelled like ginger. He took an even more cautious sip and grimaced. It tasted like she had poured ginger ale into a glass of pepper stew.
“Drink,” she insisted. Then she turned to Ron and Dean with stern looks. “You should have summoned Professor McGonagall to begin with,” she said, “however I am grateful you brought him to me.”
“He had a really bad episode of claustrophobia,” Dean said. “That’s why we brought him down here —” Ron elbowed him —“ aside from the vomiting,” he added.
Madam Pomfrey pursed her lips. “There is no cure for an ailment of the mind. I will speak to Professor Dumbledore about it if you wish, though, Potter.”
Harry shrugged his shoulders. “It —”
We should talk to him.
“— would be good,” he finished.
Madam Pomfrey nodded, glancing at Ginny. Then she knit her eyebrows together and looked back at her. “Miss Weasley, are you feeling all right?”
Ginny nodded vaguely.
You are most certainly not all right, Ginny.
You heard her; there’s no cure for an ailment of the mind.
Harry looked at his feet. He wasn’t wearing shoes or socks.
Madam Pomfrey nodded slowly. She stepped up to her and touched her forehead; she frowned then touched her wand to her neck.
“What in the name of Merlin?” she whispered.
“What?” Ginny asked.
“You have the exact same temperature as Mr. Potter,” said the matron softly.
Ginny and Harry met eyes. That’s weird, she said.
You feel cold?
Neither did I.
Madam Pomfrey summoned another blanket with a snap of her fingers, then after wrapping it around Ginny, she hurried back into her office. As she did, the doors to the wing opened again and McGonagall entered the hall followed by Dumbledore, Sirius and Remus.
What are they doing here? Harry thought.
Beats me, Ginny thought as she yawned. Harry pulled his blanket tighter around his shoulders and stared in curious confusion at them.
“Poppy?” McGonagall called.
“Here,” Madam Pomfrey answered, coming back out of her office. She didn’t look twice at the co-teachers of Defense Against the Dark Arts or the Headmaster. She strode to Ginny’s bedside with another steaming glass and handed the potion to her. Ginny grimaced and took a gulp.
“What happened?” Sirius asked hoarsely.
Ginny narrowed her eyes, taking in his unkempt appearance as well as Remus’s haggard one.
"Both of these students have low temperatures,” Madam Pomfrey said. “Both exactly at 89 degrees.”
“Fahrenheit?” said Remus.
“Yes,” Madam Pomfrey said, looking back at Ginny and Harry. “Mr. Potter has apparently also had a bout of nausea and claustrophobia.”
“Claustrophobia…” Dumbledore repeated softly. Madam Pomfrey nodded.
“How do they have the exact same temperature?” Dean asked. “Isn’t that statistically improbable?”
Harry raised an eyebrow at his friend. Since when had he used words like improbable and known what the statistics of matching temperatures were?
Ginny caught his eye and shrugged hopelessly.
“Very improbable,” Professor Dumbledore agreed. “But coincidences do happen.”
Professor McGonagall cleared her throat. “I will take Mr. Thomas and Mr. Weasley back to Gryffindor Tower. Poppy.” McGonagall inclined her head to Madam Pomfrey then beckoned to Ron and Dean. Ron waved at them as McGonagall led them away.
Professor Dumbledore watched them go, then turned back to the matron as the door shut behind them. “Poppy, you recall the talk I had with you a few days ago about Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley’s conditions?”
Poppy’s eyes narrowed. “Only that you were unwilling to give me many details.”
Dumbledore sighed. “Well, if what I suspect is true, this might occur more frequently in the future, so therefore you should know.”
Dumbledore then turned away and drew his wand. He waved it through the air towards the door, then turned it on each window, the entrance to Madam Pomfrey’s office, and the only other occupied bed. He gestured for Remus and Sirius to step closer to Harry’s bed as he himself stepped forward, and moved his wand in a slow circle over their heads.
“That should prevent our voices from carrying,” Professor Dumbledore said as he tucked his wand back into his robes. He clasped his hands together and rested them on his chest. “Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley are what you might call connected.”
“How so?” Madam Pomfrey asked. “And what do you mean that this might happen more frequently?”
“How so, you ask, I answer with this: They have a soul bond,” Dumbledore replied. “And why this situation might occur again, I believe it might —”
Madam Pomfrey raised a hand to cut him off. “Soul bond?” she repeated. “They are bonded?”
Professor Dumbledore nodded. “The first pair bonded as tightly as they are in my own lifetime that I know of. There are others who have a much looser bond that attend Hogwarts as we speak, but as far as I can tell there has not been a pair bonded so closely since the end of the Dark Age.”
Madam Pomfrey’s eyebrows shot up. “Soul bond?” she repeated once more. “As in, they share each other’s souls?”
Dumbledore nodded. “Two souls shared equally between two bodies.”
Madam Pomfrey touched a hand to her chest. “Oh my,” she whispered. “So — so on Friday, when she nearly drowned —had he not given her mouth to mouth as they were swimming —”
“Had she not survived, Mr. Potter would have either died or lost his mind,” Dumbledore said solemnly.
Harry met Ginny’s eyes. He hadn’t realized that, and by the look on her face, neither had she. He held out his hand, and Ginny stretched hers out as well. The beds were just close enough for their fingers to curl around each other.
Madam Pomfrey looked stunned. “A soul bond,” she whispered.
“Yes, but what about this happening more often?” Remus asked.
Dumbledore withdrew the worn leather journal of Thaon Kyrillos. “I translated more, and by accident I translated an account from several years later, one detailing an experiment involving two of Thaon’s students, who, incidentally, were bound even tighter than his niece and her squire.”
Madam Pomfrey looked confused. Dumbledore met her eyes and smiled. “I shall explain the journal later, Poppy. Anyway, the experiment consisted of the separation of the pair, for only nine hours. By the end of that nine hours, both were violently ill, the man had lost all his balance and the woman had begun to see and hear things to the point where she lost control of her magic in her irrational fear. According to Thaon, she nearly destroyed the North Tower in her hysteria, and her bond-mate wrecked the corridors going from the West Wing to the North Tower with his inability to move in a straight line.”
Ginny snorted. Harry shot her a look. It’s not funny!
She smiled sheepishly. It just sounds like they were drunk, she thought. Harry’s look of scorn intensified.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. Ginny sobered as quickly as she could.
Dumbledore looked down at the journal. “The point is, Thaon describe what he thought were the four levels of soul bond. The first level appeared to be that of a pair that simply clicked without any effort but could separate for years at a time. The second was the same though the separation period seemed to be shortened to months. The third he thought of as his niece and her squire; very emotionally connected, and able to separate for only a few weeks, though it eventually shortened to a few days. They experienced physical and some emotional pain when forced to separate, but again, the shortest was only a few days. The fourth level was the same as the two in the experiment, those who could not bear mere hours away from each other.”
Dumbledore met Harry’s eyes. “When was the last time you had physical contact with Ginny?”
“Around 1:30,” he answered.
“And when did the claustrophobia first begin?”
“Errr…” Harry said. “Around 9 or 9:30, I think.”
“Eight hours,” Dumbledore murmured. “This… might prove to be problematic…”
“How so?” Remus asked.
“If they begin to feel violently ill after eight hours of separation, then their sleep would be disturbed,” Dumbledore said. “For their age, they require up to 10 hours of sleep each night, and now they cannot leave each other for more than eight.”
“They won’t get enough sleep?” Sirius said. He sounded a little incredulous. “This worries you more than the fact that for some reason they have eight hours apart when a few days ago they could handle more than two weeks?”
Dumbledore frowned at Sirius. “Their immediate physical health is my first concern. What caused this must come after.”
Sirius clenched his jaw and did not reply. Dumbledore looked back to Madam Pomfrey. “Please, allow the beds to be moved closer together so they may have contact as they sleep. Clearly, they need to learn to hold hands now.”
All eyes snapped to Harry and Ginny and their clasped hands. Harry turned pink.
“Of course,” Madam Pomfrey said. She flicked her wand and Harry’s bed shifted a foot to the left. It was easier to hold Ginny’s hand now.
“Thank you,” Dumbledore said. “They should remain here tonight, and in the morning we will discuss the problem of their sleep.” He inclined his head to Madam Pomfrey and turned to leave.
“Wait!” Ginny said.
“I had another dream,” she blurted.
Dumbledore’s eyebrows knit together. Sirius, Remus and the matron looked confused.
“What occurred in your dream?” the Headmaster asked.
“A man is trying to break a book,” Ginny began. “It has a spell of some kind that will help You-Know-Who.”
The other three adults looked to Dumbledore with greater confusion. Dumbledore looked apprehensive.
“He is trying to break a book?” Dumbledore asked.
“A code,” Ginny corrected herself. “It’s encoded, and the writer made the code extremely difficult to break so he’s worried that he won’t be able to get it in time for — for something.”
“I see,” Dumbledore mused. “Was there anything else?”
“It was written in a weird language,” Ginny said. “I heard him muttering something about it being so weird that he could almost guess where the author was from.”
Dumbledore nodded slowly. “It was a specific dialect.”
“Yes,” Ginny said.
“And that is all you remember?”
Ginny bit her lip. “He — he has to do this,” she said. “He’s trying to save something precious to him. He feels guilty, but he has to do it. Whatever it is.”
Dumbledore nodded again. “Thank you, Miss Weasley. I will work on this new information.”
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