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SIYE Time:3:05 on 18th August 2017


Splinters
By GHL

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Nymphadora Tonks, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 277
Summary:

In the secret mists of time, a truth has been shattered. The path to victory has been cursed with despair... and nobody realizes it.

It is 1995 -- the summer of their discontent. Sequestered within the grimy walls of Grimmauld Place, Harry and Ginny begin having strange dreams of an era long past and events yet to come. Are the dreams somehow real? Is fate taunting them with tragic visions of doom, or are they being granted a precious chance to survive... and fall in love?

Note: this story presumes canon until Chapter 4 of OotP... beyond which things begin to go haywire.


Hitcount: Story Total: 36162; Chapter Total: 1705
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:

It's fascinating how a few small points in a plot map can suddenly expand into a full blown chapter! I admit that it's taking me forever to get to the Ministry of Magic, but hopefully you'll find the plot and character development in this chapter to be worthwhile!

It also took me longer than usual to write the thing because life has been outrageously busy. That may continue for a while, but this story has momentum right now, so it will remain a high priority.





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Chapter 7. Hope (August 11, 1995)

Ginny took a seat at the breakfast table and gratefully accepted a cup of tea from Harry.

Hermione accepted neither a seat nor tea. She paced near the door, her gaze flitting between Harry at the stove, and the corridor which, at this early hour, was still deserted. After about a minute, she huffed and turned to glare at her two friends. “Okay, out with it! I don't think anyone else is awake, and we'll probably have a half hour before the others come down, so come on — I want full disclosure!”

Ginny smiled sweetly. “Out with what? What should we be disclosing?”

“Secrets!” Hermione resumed pacing. “I've been kept in the dark long enough, waiting, helping you, covering for Merlin knows what — you owe me a complete explanation.”

Harry held up a handful of field mushrooms, checking them for bruises, then shrugged. “Secrets? Explanation? Ah, well I hardly meant to be secretive about it, but the explanation for this morning's special breakfast is that today is Ginny's birthday.”

“Oh!” Hermione's hand flew to her her mouth. Wide-eyed, she turned to Ginny. “Oh my, I completely forgot! Ginny, I'm so sorry!”

Ginny grinned. “Don't be, Hermione! Harry's the only one determined to make a fuss over it. I'm fairly certain now that my entire family forgot.”

“So is that why you came to our room this morning, Harry?” Hermione wrung her hands as she resumed her pacing. “I feel terrible. It never once occurred to me that you just came down to wish a happy birthday. I thought…”

Ginny laughed. “No silly! Harry was there because of secrets! Deep, dark, eerie secrets like the ones we haven't been disclosing to you.”

“Oh… er, secrets?” Hermione scratched her head. “I, uh, well now that you mention it… ummm...” She took a seat at the table and glanced uncertainly toward her two friends.

Ginny smirked as she slid a cup of tea toward the older girl. “Well, seeing as how nicely she asked, and how helpful she's been, do you suppose we should fill her in a bit, Harry?”

“Yes, I suppose we might as well,” Harry replied as he finished sprinkling herbs over a tray of ripe tomatoes. He turned to face the two girls. “Again, it's not that we were deliberately trying to keep you guessing, it's just that things have been rather confusing, even for us, and would have been hard to explain. We're still hazy or clueless on a lot of details, but at least we're finally starting to gather enough ideas to be able to offer a rough sketch.”

Ginny nodded. “Agreed. Why don't you start, Harry?”

“Sure.” Harry turned to face Hermione. “As you probably guessed, this relates to dreams that both Ginny and I have been having. Very vivid and detailed dreams...” He paused for a moment to slide the tray of mushrooms and tomatoes into the oven and begin warming a skillet. Taking a seat at the table across from Hermione, he resumed. “Obviously Ginny and I are aware of each other's dreams. But what you might not have fully grasped is that she and I are sharing dreams.”

Hermione frowned. “Sharing? Like you tell her about yours, then she describes hers to you?”

Ginny shook her head emphatically. “No, real sharing, in the sense of one dream with two participants! Harry appears in my dreams just as if we were going on adventures together in real life, and I show up in his.”

Harry nodded. “As a result, the morning after a dream, we can sit and compare notes. Now that we've been doing it for a while, we often remember a lot of the same details.”

Ginny waggled her tea spoon to interject. “Similar details yes, but our recollections aren't identical. It's like we're seeing the same dream through different eyes. I imagine the same thing would happen if, say, he and I were to go for a walk down to Black Lake together. On the way there, he might notice the birds and the sky, while maybe I'd remember the trees and the flowers.”

Harry fixed her with a quizzical look. “You prefer trees and flowers?”

“Stay on task!” Hermione thumped the table, then jumped at the unexpectedly loud noise. She paused for a moment to listen for any resulting sounds from the rest of the household. Things remained quiet, but she lowered her voice just in case. “Okay, so what are you dreaming about? Romans and Britons?”

“Yes, there's that, and also...” Harry trailed off distractedly. Without resuming, he stood, returned to the stove and began placing bangers onto the hot griddle.

Hermione followed him with her eyes. “Yes, please continue.”

Happy and relaxed only a minute ago, Harry's eyes had taken on a grim cast. He stared blankly at the pan for a moment then straightened up to look questioningly at Ginny. She smiled her most reassuring smile, so Harry forged onwards. “Okay, well I'm also... dreaming about my own death.”

Hermione gaped at him. “What? Er, you're…? When…?”

Harry pushed the sausages toward the side of the frying pan with a fork, and laid crumpets to brown in the hot center. Both girls watched — Hermione with impatience and Ginny with concern.

Hermione cleared her throat softly. “Can you tell me about your dream, Harry? How do you die? When?”

Harry's eyes scanned the cooking food one more time, then he returned to his seat and cradled his tea thoughtfully for a long moment. Finally, he raised his eyes to meet Hermione's inquiring look, then gazed off distantly. “The death dream varies from night to night, but it seems to take place a few years in the future. Last night I finally heard a date. It was 1998.”

Harry took a long drink of tea, then pinned Hermione with a sharp glance. “It seems that I'll likely die dueling Voldemort.”

Hermione gasped.

Ginny regarded the shocked girl sympathetically and nodded solemnly. “I suppose the thought of another terrible confrontation between Harry and Riddle is almost to be expected, considering how their paths are constantly crossing…”

Ginny's eyes strayed inadvertently toward Harry… his stoic face… those ever-expressive eyes… and her breath caught. Ginny coughed slightly to ease the lump in her throat, and forced herself back onto the original train of thought.

“It's strange…” Ginny's voice sounded distant, almost like a breeze rustling in high branches, then it strengthened again. “The thought of the dream was getting me just now. But for the most part it's not been so awful lately. The last couple of times I experienced it, the imagery was, well, tolerable. It feels to me like Harry and I aren't there to die, or even to watch anybody die, but rather to solve a mystery.”

Harry nodded, but Hermione stared. “A mystery?” she asked.

Ginny put a finger to her lip for a moment. “Yes, a mystery. Something in that scene is not what it's supposed to be. It feels like the story should have a happy ending; like Harry isn't really supposed to die, and in his dream state he knows it.”

Ginny regarded Harry thoughtfully for a moment and also nodded. “Yes, I do believe that's correct — in the dream Harry is truly supposed to win! He's the picture of confidence. Everyone around is paralyzed with fear; I'm bloody terrified; even Riddle looks scared, but Harry is so calm.” Ginny's voice quivered slightly, but she persisted. “It's like Harry is absolutely certain that he has a key advantage over Riddle.”

Harry tapped his tea cup, staring at a few leaf fragments that had escaped the bag and were swirling around. “Well, whatever I'm certain about, it must be misleading… because I do invariably wind up dead.”

Hermione's eyes flared; she shook her head hard, sending a mound of thick curly hair tumbling over her face, but she whipped it aside. “Harry, this is daft! You know very well that you're terrible at Divination! I'll grant that you've had some scarily accurate dreams about the present, but these visions of the future have about as much chance of coming true as they would if Trelawney had read them from her dander flakes!”

Harry smirked, but Hermione barreled on heedlessly. “Have you considered that maybe the visions are non-magical? It could be a plain old recurring nightmare — terrible but meaningless. Or maybe it's something worse! Maybe Voldemort is messing with your thoughts, trying to break your will!”

Ginny glared at her. “If so, then old snake-lips hasn't got so much to be chuffed about, yeah?!”

Harry grinned at his friend's blazing defiance. He shook his head in agreement. “No, Hermione, if this is Voldemort's scheme to tear us down, I'd say it's going bust. A couple weeks ago, everything in my life seemed to be plummeting toward despair, but this has completely changed my outlook. There's a puzzle in there somewhere, and we're going to crack it! You may feel I'm daft, but so be it! I know there's a hard road ahead, but I haven't felt so confident in… in… well, never!”

“All that because of dreams Harry?” Hermione replied with a raised eyebrow. “Sure you've been cheerful lately, but I'm sure that's only because you're in...”

Hermione froze, leaving the statement to hang self-consciously. She chanced a nervous glance, first at Ginny then Harry, wondering whether they were going to ask her to complete the sentence, but both seemed to be lost in their own thoughts, not paying her much attention. Knowing she'd been saved from an indiscretion, Hermione quietly exhaled, closed her mouth and tried to appear inconspicuous.

Ginny sipped her tea and shrugged. “Frankly Hermione, we didn't really figure that you or anyone else would believe us. It took us a while to convince even ourselves that the dreams were worth believing, so we've been in no rush to foist them on anyone else. No point in getting ourselves branded a pair of nutters.”

Harry smiled equivocally. “I'm not going to argue the point about Divination. No way you would catch me claiming this future Voldemort duel dream as a prophesy. But the one thing I simply can't ignore is how wildly realistic and accurate the dreams from the past have been.”

“Exactly!” Ginny leaned forward enthusiastically. “All of a sudden Harry and I are spouting loads of very specific details about Roman era Britain that neither of us had ever read or been taught about. People, places, customs...”

“Right!” Harry rose to finish breakfast preparations. “We've even learned new magic. The Romans and the Britons had a lot of different spells back then and Ginny and I have been picking some of them up. The techniques are fascinating!”

“New magic?” Hermione blinked in surprise. “You think you're learning new spells in your dreams?”

Harry and Ginny both nodded.

“But how can you be sure they aren't purely imaginary?”

Harry laughed. “Well, it's true that I haven't gone off and tested many of them while I've been awake. I'm already facing one underage magic hearing, if you'll recall...”

“Pah!” Ginny waved him away. “We could show her a few, don't you think? There's so much magic dripping off the walls in this place, there's no way the Ministry would detect the occasional underage spell here. You should have seen the stuff Fred and George used to get away with at the Burrow, without even the slightest peep from the Magical Law Enforcement.”

“No! Harry, Ginny, please don't try anything. Things are bad enough already!” Hermione shook her head emphatically. “But as I said, if you haven't tested the spells, you have no way of knowing they're not imaginary.”

“Agreed — we'll try to behave ourselves Hermione, but to answer your earlier question, remember that I said I haven't tested 'many '.”

Hermione stared at him. “You mean you've tried something? From a dream??”

Emaculo!” Ginny whistled softly in recollection. “It's a beautiful spell!”

Harry prodded at the crumpets with his spatula to loosen several from the bottom of the pan, then put the utensil down to return his attention to the table. He nodded. “Yes, Emaculo. The healing spell.”

“It's easy, powerful and very useful. It makes Episkey seem like salt and sandpaper by comparison,” Ginny said with a grin to Hermione. “We can teach it you when school starts.”

Hermione blinked. “Wasn't that… the spell you cast the night Ginny hit her head?”

Harry and Ginny both nodded.

“Oh my.” Hermione gazed blindly toward the pantry. “You really are learning completely new things, aren't you…?”

Ginny and Harry exchanged a momentary glance. Ginny mouthed something inaudible out of Hermione's line of sight, and Harry nodded.

“So, I'm with Harry in saying that we're not claiming to really predict the future...” Ginny paused for a moment as Hermione snapped out of her reverie, then continued. “But one thing we've both found fascinating and mysterious is that the amazingly vivid dreams of the past seem to have an influence on the dreams of the future.”

Hermione scratched her head. “Er, can you run that by me again please?”

Harry leaned forward to catch Hermione's attention. “It's like there's some dreamland equivalent of cause and effect. If the wrong things happened in ancient Britannia, then the situation in 1998 will really fall apart.”

Ginny nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, and it seems that if we fix the right problems with the Celts and the Romans, the conditions in our own dream future get better.”

“This sounds so preposterous.” Hermione exhaled wearily, massaging her eyes. “The two of you are thumping about at all hours of the night helping each other interfere with one set of dreams so that you can make a different set of dreams turn out better?”

Harry and Ginny exchanged another glance. Ginny rolled her eyes dramatically, and Harry smirked.

“To be honest, I don't much care whether or not you think there's any substance to this, Hermione,” Harry said as he began assembling breakfast plates. “At the very least, it's been an interesting diversion. Touring around Roman era Britain is a far sight more entertaining than getting slimed by Gobstones or listening to Weasleys snipe at each other. Er, aside from Ginny, that is!”

Ginny sniffed theatrically. “I'm so touched that you find my sniping entertaining, Harry!”

Harry and Ginny shared a quick laugh, but after a moment Ginny's face reverted to an earnest, engaged expression, and she leaned in close to Hermione. “Seriously though, these dreams aren't just fascinating. They feel so real that when things go well in one of them, it seems like a huge accomplishment. I'd swear, Hermione, that when things go well in our dream or we find out something interesting, there's this rush of adrenaline — almost as if we're truly doing something useful to thwart Riddle!”

“You may well be,” Hermione said, just as her mouth disappeared behind a tea cup.

Harry blinked. “I'm sorry, could you repeat that please?”

“I said that you may well be doing something to fight Riddle.” Hermione lowered her tea and shrugged. Waving off their surprise, she poured herself a fresh cup and blew on it before resuming. “If you recall, I didn't say that it truly was preposterous — I just thought it sounded that way.”

Ginny burst out laughing. “Okay, I'll grant you that! As a bystander to most of the Harry Potter capers to date, I have to admit that they've all sound a bit outrageous.”

Harry chuckled as he began circling the table, laying down breakfast-laden plates at their places.

Hermione tapped her chin thoughtfully. “One thing in particular makes this all rather strange but very compelling, Ginny. That is this whole thing about you and Harry actually experiencing the same dreams.” She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Are you certain you're not imagining all that? You're aware of the power of suggestion, aren't you?”

“We're not deluding ourselves,” Ginny stated. “When Harry and I compare notes after a night of dreams, we're like two gossips whispering over tea, digging slightly different shades of dirt on the same story. Until last night, that is...”

“Why not last night?” Hermione lowered her gaze to her plate for a moment. “Oh! Lovely breakfast, Harry.”

“Thanks Hermione!” Harry smiled as he took a seat and met Hermione's inquisitive gaze. “Last night was different in that we didn't share much of our dream time. Our dream characters were sundered by circumstance… until the end.”

Ginny huffed. “End indeed! It was damn near the end of us, too! We can't let them go off in different directions like that again, Harry! We both knew full well it was a bad idea to separate. Look what a blasted mess it nearly caused!”

“Well, yes and no.” Harry's head bobbed equivocally. “We managed to salvage things at the end, and maybe they truly needed to break apart for a while. I learned some interesting and puzzling things that I might not have discovered if the princess had been present to moderate the Publican's judgment. But I admit fully that if we'd lost the Publican right now, it probably would be disastrous for us. It's also clear that he misjudged the situation. From what I could tell, he truly did have a bad feeling about splitting off like that, but despite the fact that you and I had all that foreboding about Camboricum, his worries were misplaced. He was fretting dreadfully that the princess and the queen would be ambushed by the plotters. It never seemed to occur to him that he was the one who would need rescuing. He basically hoped that maybe he would be able to rush down to the garrison, bequeath his responsibilities to the empire, and then race back north to rejoin the princess, hopefully before anything bad happened to her.”

“Yes, well obviously not, yeah? But you do plan to tell me what happened, right Harry?” A harder edge had crept into Ginny's voice than she intended, but her face quickly softened. “You gave me such a fright. Twice!”

“Sorry.” Harry smiled contritely, before continuing. “So, yes, we definitely need to go through as much detail as possible and brainstorm about it, but not yet, okay? Let's first enjoy your birthday breakfast!” Harry gestured toward Ginny's untouched plate.

Ginny gave a small rueful laugh. “Sorry — you've gone to all this trouble, and I keep obsessing about dreams!”

“Don't be sorry! I put us both through a rough ride last night, and now I'm trying to make up for it.” Harry paused a long moment to savour a tender mushroom. “Mmmm! So, did you learn anything interesting while you were up north?”

“Learn?” Ginny gazed distantly for a moment. “That's a tough question. Did I see anything interesting? Yes! Did I hear anything interesting? Absolutely! But, did I learn anything…?”

“So the story got a bit confusing?” Harry surmised.

“Well, let's say a few things left me a bit mystified.” Ginny sliced her tomato thoughtfully. “Did you realize that the thestral we rode was sentient?”

“Oh really? Helpful sentience or just, like you said, mystifying?

“Both! It was really the thestral that rescued you. He was acting completely on his own in charging straight through the wall and floor to break you out of there.” Ginny smiled in contrition. “Everything leading up to that was all bollixed; my own plan failed miserably. I have no idea how or why he took charge, but I'm bloody grateful Harry! I really thought for a moment that it was all over...”

Harry pushed back from the table for a moment, steepling his fingers. “Don't sell yourself short, Gin'. Maybe the thestral was feeding off your subconscious — kind of like my wand does at times. Every once in a while, in the tightest spots, it fires off spells without me realizing it.”

“Could be… but I don't think so Harry. I just get the feeling that the thestral felt some vested interest in the outcome and basically decided to overrule me.” Ginny paused for a moment to stare at her plate. “But is that even possible? Has anything been written about whether thestrals have intelligence, Hermione?”

Ginny and Harry both turned to their unexpectedly subdued friend. “Hermione?” Harry prompted. “Hermione? Yoo hoo! Is there anybody in there?”

Hermione's shell-shocked stare tracked slowly from Harry, to Ginny and back again. Slowly, she blinked her round eyes and her throat rasped a bit as she finally spoke. “You dreamed all that?”

Harry gave her a quizzical look. “Er, yes. That and a lot more.”

Hermione shook her head. “This is incredible! It's silly to call it gossip — you two sound just like old friends rehashing a memorable vacation!”

“Vacation??” Ginny grinned. “Oh no no no Hermione! Adventure, maybe, but last night was certainly no vacation.”

Hermione nodded. “Sorry, poor metaphor. But this level of detail is extraordinary!”

“That's what we tried to tell you earlier,” Harry agreed. “Now eat your breakfast, Hermione. It's getting cold!”

Hermione stared at her forgotten plate; she picked up her fork then paused. “Wait Ginny… we still never really discussed how you could possibly be sharing dreams with Harry.”

Harry gazed at Hermione unconcernedly. “Yes, well it's an interesting question but we really don't have much to go on yet. I guess for the time being we'll just have to chalk it up as one of life's little mysteries. Right Gin' ?”

Harry and Hermione turned to find that Ginny had frozen in mid-chew.

“Is that correct, Ginny?” Hermione asked. “You have no idea how it is that you're getting caught up in Harry's dreams?”

Ginny held her rigid pose for another few seconds, before finally finishing her mouthful and taking a long drink of pumpkin juice.

“Well, I… So, you see...” Words, suddenly, did not seem to be Ginny's strong point. For lack of a good phrase, Ginny finally reached inside the pouch of her cardigan. She hesitated for a moment, then pulled out a silver brooch...


Hermione growled and slammed the book back onto the shelf… then gaped in horror. A small new crack had formed on its centuries-old binding!

“Sorry,” she whispered plaintively, gently fingering the crack. For a moment she thought of using her wand for a simple Reparo spell, but quickly reminded herself of Harry's underage magic hearing tomorrow.

With a final apologetic glance at the book, she turned and slumped into the chair by the cold library fireplace. She took a deep breath and scowled; her ire focused not on the three remaining tomes on the table beside her, but rather on the two friends she had been arguing with earlier.

“Irresponsible, inconsiderate, impetuous…" Chewing furiously on a loose lock of hair, Hermione reached for the nearest book, and continued to mutter to herself. "Ginny, Harry, if I find out that your blasted little chunk of silver is even the slightest bit dangerous, I swear I will kill you!”

With nobody else around to point out her hypocrisy, she took another calming breath and opened (somewhat more carefully) the “Encyclopedia of Ancient Magic”; leafing her way toward the end of the C's.

Cupla mysticum: charmed object designed to communicate emotions from the object's owner to the object's bearer (frequently a relative or loved one). The magic underlying Cupla charms was considered to be basic but very effective, enabling the transmission of simple communications over vast distances. In most cases, only vague sentiments could be conveyed although, in rare instances of superior craftsmanship, the exchange of complex emotions, images or even messages may have been possible.

The magical concept underlying the Cupla Mysticum was believed to have originated during the time of Alexander the Great (ca. apprx. 350 B.C.E.), and likely spread to Roman wizards via the Ptolemaic Academy of Magic. The use of Cuplae likely peaked in the Roman Empire sometime around the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117 — 138 A.D.), but began falling into disuse shortly thereafter, as the Roman magical community became increasingly insular, with minimal participation in Roman Imperial affairs. The last known written specifications for the fabrication of Cuplae Mystica were lost in the Theophilline destruction of the great Library of Alexandria (391 A.D.).

Hermione scrunched her face reflectively at reading yet another description of what appeared to be harmless light magic. By all accounts she'd found, it seemed that Ginny and Harry might indeed be right. The brooch itself might truly be both innocuous and helpful.

But that did not excuse their recklessness!

Hermione still couldn't fathom how Ginny could let herself use a strange magical object to connect with Harry's dreams without telling him. And Harry…?! Upon seeing the brooch, had he recognized the risks of a young, inexperienced girl employing an unproven, potentially dangerous charm to tap into his private subconscious? No, of course not! Harry had merely laughed — as if this was merely a delightfully simple resolution to some amusing brain teaser!

Needless to say, Hermione had not found the situation as amusing as Harry might have… and her bad mood had proven fairly contagious. Hermione hadn't really meant to start a controversy; she had only been looking out for everyone's best interests when she had requested that the brooch be taken away so that Professor Dumbledore or Lupin could examine it for dark magic, but the proposal had not been well received. Especially by Harry...

This is not some Christmas gift broom stick to mess with, Hermione! There's more than a Quidditch match at stake this time — our very survival could hinge on that thing, and who's to say what critical events we might miss while some disbelieving adult goes off to tinker with it!”

Hermione's eyes stung as memories of the bitter Firebolt episode from third year streamed back to her. Low blow, Harry — that hurt!

But happily for all, that had been the worst of it. The vitriol had evapourated fairly quickly. The situation had proceeded to get better; calmer heads had prevailed, and Hermione was (despite some residual anger) very relieved to avoid a reincarnation of one of the infamous spats from years past.

Hermione wondered for a moment if, in the last year, she and Harry had matured, and were starting to learn how to resolve arguments like calm adults? Perhaps that was part of it, but Hermione also had to admit that there was one other key difference now. They had swapped Weasleys within the trio… and the whole dynamic had shifted.

Hermione pushed her hair back from her face, contemplating how things had changed. For reasons she didn't fully grasp, Hermione truly still had a soft spot in her heart for Ron. She couldn't help but admire how Ron set his convictions and stuck by them — rather like his own mother — but the more Hermione thought about it, the more she understood that in a constant swirl of shifting circumstance, it was the flexible pragmatist who could best keep the peace and get things done. Indeed, among the younger folk in this house, that was proving to be Ginny.

Although Hermione often found herself thinking of Ginny as a sweet but naive younger 'sister', she had to admire the maturity the girl had shown this morning. In the course of Hermione's nearly ten minute diatribe, she knew that Ginny's initial contrition had to be giving way to anger… but Ginny had managed to defy the Weasley way. She had not let personal feelings get in the way of common sense.

Indeed, with Ginny at the table, the three of them had (despite some edgy words) worked past their differences and managed to achieve a viable truce. Hermione had backed down from requiring that the brooch be immediately turned over for examination. In exchange, Harry and Ginny had agreed to at least put the charm securely out of reach until after tomorrow's visit to the Ministry.

Now, as morning stretched past noon, Hermione felt her bitterness and stridency continue to lighten. In fact, as she put down the encyclopedia and massaged her temples, she actually sensed the corner of her mouth begin to curl upward a little in satisfaction. After all, Harry and Ginny had left the breakfast table acknowledging that a broochless day and night might be a good thing. They would probably get a welcome break from distractions, as well as the good night's sleep they needed in order to have a productive trip to the Ministry tomorrow.

Correspondingly, Hermione now could admit her own bit of personal growth. She was actually finding more relief than annoyance in uncovering more and more evidence to suggest that perhaps her instinctive worries about the brooch were unfounded. Yes, this was one time when it was good to be wrong — if her friends were safe, then she didn't need to be right.

Hermione's mouth slid into a genuine smile. Sometimes one had to take a step back and cherish life's little victories…

That, however, did not mean that her work was done. She rose and reshelved the books on ancient charms, and turned her attention to prowling the shelves, tracking down one final reference — a book of condensed biographies of famous wizards and witches.

Settling back into her chair, she began scanning the index, searching for the name she had seen inscribed on the brooch.

Peasegood… Pennifold… Penrose… Perkins… Peverell…

Hermione frowned. The inscription had said “P. Peverellivs”, but Harry (whose suddenly detailed grasp of Roman culture and society both amused and somewhat irked her) had reminded her that Imperial Latin did not employ the “v” consonant sound, suggesting that the proper transliteration was Peuerellius.

But then Ginny (whose acquisition of the subtleties of old Gaelic had also piqued Hermione's curiosity and envy) had reminded both of them that the Britons had a habit of condensing or splitting Latin diphthongs. In a Celtic culture without Latin educators, the pronunciation of a name like Peuerellius would probably evolve after a few generations. Exactly what it would change to was difficult to predict, but Petherellis, Pefferells or Peerlis were all possible. So were Peverellis and even Peverell.

Hermione browsed back to the P's, and located the following:

Peverell, Antioch ( ? - ? ). See 'Peverell, brothers'.

Peverell, brothers. The three brothers Peverell, Antioch, Cadmus and Ignotus, were semi-mythical wizards of reputedly prodigious magical skill and ambition. As featured in Beedle the bard's famous children's fairy story, “Tale of Three Brothers” (see 'Beedle, the bard'), the brothers Peverell were depicted as having encountered and attempted to inveigle a ghostly personification of death. In the course of this confrontation, the brothers supposedly brought into human possession three powerful magical artifacts, including the Wand of Destiny, the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility (sometimes referred to collectively as the 'Deathly Hallows').

While such a death personification is almost certainly fanciful, the existence of the Peverell family was documented in antiquity, and magical historian Edessa Skanderberg (see separate listing) wrote in 1498 that the dialogue between the brothers Peverell and 'Death' was most likely a metaphor for dealings with one of the dark magic cults that have existed in European society for most of written history. The existence of three artifacts bearing the superior powers attributed to the Deathly Hallows is unproven and doubtful, but the Peverell family was recognized throughout the first millennium A.D. for producing charmed magical objects of exemplary craftsmanship, and may have devised commodities of a formidable nature that might have inspired such fables.

The patrilineal lines of all three Peverell brothers are long extinct, with the last known records of any English wizarding families bearing the Peverell name (probable relations to the youngest brother, Ignotus) dating to the late thirteenth century in Godric's Hollow, West Country. Various families in magical Derbyshire claim matrilineal decent from the second brother, Cadmus. Antioch Peverell, the eldest of the three brothers, was not known to have produced any descendants.

Peverell, Cadmus ( ? - ? ). See 'Peverell, brothers'.

Peverell, Ignotus ( 1214 - 1291 ). Prominent craftsman with widely celebrated mastery of magical charms. A resident of Godric's Hollow, West Country, Ignotus was the last recorded wizard of the male lineage of the British Peverell family, as rendered famous by Beedle the bard's “Tale of Three Brothers” (see also 'Peverell, brothers', and 'Beedle, the bard').

Hermione sat back for a long while, pensively scanning the text and then staring off into the distance. Finally she leaned back over the table and took out a quill and parchment to write a short note.

Ginny,

Some interesting coincidences:

* Brooch inscribed to Peuerellius = Peverell?
* Brooch more powerful than most Cuplae Mystica charms?
* Peverells = masters of charms?
* Peverells lived in Godric's Hollow?
* Potters lived in Godric's Hollow?

I'm writing these down for you in case you have time tomorrow to look into any of these possible connections.

- Hermione

Hermione carefully rolled up the parchment and slipped it into her purse. She sat for a long while, thinking quietly, before finally rising to put the books away and make her way downstairs for a late lunch.


Harry had a pile of books stacked by the side of his bed, and for the past hour he had been gazing haphazardly at various of them, ostensibly trying to learn about the Oracle of Delphi, about dark magic societies in the Early Roman Empire, and various other topics that had flitted through his mind.

But no such luck…

Harry's concentration was probably suffering from the disrupted night and an early morning. He knew his brain would work better if he took a nap but, when it all came down to it, he wasn't sure that he wanted to. He realized that it was all a bit silly, but he was willing to wager that if he was to lie back and close his eyes he would quickly fall asleep and… not dream.

At least, Harry was fairly certain he would not have the right type of dreams. Harry knew that Ginny had hidden the brooch away in a deep corner of her trunk and, if he guessed the implications correctly, that would probably mean that she would no longer be joining his dreams. He also suspected that all those imaginary trips to Roman era Britain, or to the Hogwarts Great Hall of 1998, were quite possibly canceled for the time being.

The brooch, after all, seemed to be the key. He was almost certain now that it was at the very heart of many of the strange, exciting things that had been happening to him and to Ginny since he had arrived here at Grimmauld Place a few days ago. It was very likely the source of the fascinating dreams. It might well have been prompting the surge of renewed optimism he'd been experiencing. Maybe it explained why… a certain someone… had become such an addictive part of his life?

Perhaps.

If, indeed, Harry had started to experience something like addiction, then perhaps he was now beginning to learn what withdrawal was all about — feeling diffuse and distracted; melancholy, uncertain and insecure.

In short, the way he felt today was rather similar to many past days in his young life. Having known confidence, exhilaration and a burgeoning sense of fulfillment, Harry cringed at the thought of what the rest of his (probably short) life might be like if someone took the brooch away.

Alone. Disheartened. Quite possibly doomed.

Cynically, he could sum all of that up in a single phrase... 'Harry Potter'.

Harry shook away the doldrums and girded his resolve. Yes, he was having a bad day. There were plenty of logical reasons why he might feel worn and weary, and most of those reasons did not condemn him to be forever alone, disheartened and doomed.

Even if Ginny had put the brooch away today, there were still many grounds for hope. Ginny was still his friend, after all. She was quite certainly still poring over books herself at this moment, all for the sake of a project that she would never have gotten embroiled in if she didn't care about him.

Or course, it was fair to wonder whether she would ever have gotten embroiled in all of this in the first place if she hadn't found the brooch?

Harry frowned as his mind shifted track onto that still-unexplained issue… how, exactly did Ginny find the brooch??

Ginny herself had no explanation; the best that she could offer was to shrug and say that 'the Publican gave it to her'. She had gone to bed one night having never seen it before, and then woken to find it clutched in her hand.

Needless to say, that had not exactly satisfied Hermione. The thought of how much Hermione bristled at such a preposterous claim, and how Ginny had rolled her eyes theatrically in response, was enough to bring a smile to Harry's face.

For a moment.

Then he stopped smiling. He was too tired.

Grumbling to himself, he finally pushed the book away, kicked off his shoes, and stretched out flat on the bed. Closing his eyes, he let go of the six different trains of thought competing for access to his mind, and let his other senses wash over him. He felt his heavy head sinking into a down pillow. The quilt somehow felt far softer than he had remembered it — warmly ensconcing his aching limbs. The usual inane noises from around the house buzzed lightly in his weary ears… Ron and the twins bickering about something in the drawing room... the portrait of Mrs. Black cursing and groaning down near the entranceway...

Entranceway…?

Funny, there was no shrouded portrait in the entranceway. The room was actually rather quiet. Harry paused to listen carefully, and could make out no sounds except footsteps… his own footsteps, tapping rhythmically along a hard polished floor. Puzzled, he looked around and realized that the entranceway must have been remodeled — the room was much longer, narrowed and darker. The peeling wallpaper and worn carpet were gone…

As Harry walked along, his eyes adjusted to the dim light and he focused on the only feature he could detect in the otherwise unadorned corridor — a plain black door set at the far wall.

Harry had seen that door before, though he couldn't quite remember when. Perhaps he had seen it in a dream. The dream must have been some time ago, though — back before he had started having more interesting ones about princesses, duels, horse-headed staves and thestrals who crashed through ceilings.

For a moment Harry thought about the princess and Ginny. In that brief moment, he dearly missed them both… but he quickly pushed them out of his mind. This was not their dream! Wherever it was that Harry had found himself, he did not want to drag them along because, frankly, he did not want to be here himself!

Unfortunately, Harry was too tired to resist. His feet kept carrying him, one step after another, onward, forward. The forbidding black door at the end of the corridor grew closer, larger.

Hairs prickled on the back of his neck. He once again found himself wrestling; his brain locked in a losing battle with compulsive legs.

Harry tensed himself, attempting to retreat, but failed to halt his progress. Frustration tore at him. “I don't want to be here!”

Stay Harry.

Harry gasped at the subliminal voice.

Come along through the door, Harry.

“No! This is not my dream! I'm going to wake up now!”

Stay… You're going to stay, because you are ever so curious… aren't you Harry?

“No!”

Surely you want to know what's behind that door?

“No! I don't care!”

Yet Harry's hand was already reaching for the door. He pushed the cold dark slab inwards… and he found himself stepping across the threshold into an eerie circular room. In the dim light, he gazed down at a gleaming polished floor that reflected twelve flickering blue candle flames and eleven black doors identical to the one he had just stepped through.

Still struggling, Harry staggered and lurched toward the center of the chamber… He stumbled to one knee, grunted… then burst upright again! He whipped around, back toward the entranceway…

And saw the door closing! He lunged for it just as…

SLAM!!

“Oi mate! Easy does it!”

Blinking like mad, it took Harry several seconds to resolve the figure in front of him. It was Ron. His hands raised defensively in front of him, the tall boy wore a sheepish look on his face. “Sorry Harry — didn't mean to wake you! I didn't think you'd be in here; reckoned you'd be off with Ginny or something...”

Harry exhaled and settled back down onto the bed. “No worries, Ron. I'd just dozed off; I must have been dreaming...”

Ron laughed. “Blimey, there's a lot of that going around these days! Why just last night I had this barmy one about you lying in bed… you were snuffling or something, and Gin...” Ron stopped and frowned to himself for a moment. “Anyway, yeah, I had a strange dream myself...”

“Do you suppose this place is all driving us mental?” Harry asked with a chuckle.

“I've, uh, well, been meaning to ask you the same thing. You doing okay, mate?”

Harry met Ron's quizzical gaze. “Sure — things are fine, but thanks for asking, Ron!”

Ron eyed him. “Really? Because, I know you have that thing tomorrow at the Ministry which isn't likely to be much fun, and… you see, this morning I was lying in bed and heard you and Hermione mouthing off at each other.”

“No, things are okay — really!” Harry offed his best artificial smile. “I'm sure tomorrow will go all right, and don't worry about Hermione. She, Ginny and I patched things up before we left the breakfast table.”

“You serious??” Ron scratched his head. “”Hermione doesn't usually give up that easily. Neither do you!”

Harry shrugged. “Give a little; take a little. We're fine mate!”

“If you say so… but listen, if she goes all... Hermione... on you, don't forget that I'm always here for you. I know how to handle her, okay?”

Harry suppressed a smirk. “Sure Ron. I appreciate it.”

Ron sat on his own bed, staring at the floor for a long moment. “Say, about tomorrow…”

“It will be fine, Ron,” Harry assured.

“Er yeah, good… but, uh… So Ginny is going with you and Dad?”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “She's coming along too, yes. Not to the hearing though — she's going to put in some time in the Archives, doing some reading.”

Ron nodded. “Yeah, that.”

Harry gazed at him for a moment as Ron sat silently, uncomfortably, staring at the floor. With the conversation seeming to dwindle, Harry reached for the book he'd been working through a while ago and began hunting for his page.

“Interesting stuff?”

“Huh?” Harry put the book down again and looked over to see Ron watching him.

Ron shuffled his feet. “Er, the stuff Ginny is going to be reading about in the Archives — is it interesting?”

“Sure!” Harry sat up to face Ron again. “Magical society in Britain during the early Roman Empire. Learning about it actually tells us stuff about how things got to be the way they are today.”

“Huh...” Ron did not seem particularly convinced.

“Death Eaters, blood purity — all that seemed to get started around then.”

“Huh...” Ron appeared more pensive this time. “Huhhh. I suppose it beats doing nothing, yeah? Chess, Gobstones and Snap don't seem to be your thing.”

“Too true.” Harry shrugged and began, once again, to leaf through the book.

“Bet you wish we could be playing Quidditch in the paddock, though?”

Harry raised his head to gaze at his mate who wore a wistful, almost plaintive expression. Harry returned a soft smile. “Yeah I do Ron. I'm sure we will again. Someday.”

Ron nodded. He fell silent, fidgeting slightly, but otherwise letting Harry read in peace. After a while, he quietly (almost wearily) rose and left the room.


Ginny's fourteenth birthday had started well enough! Opening up one's eyes to gaze straight into a brilliant pair of green ones — how could one top that?

Not easily, it turns out. The day had rather slumped a bit after that.

Although revealing the brooch had set into motion a spiral of consequences that had thrown things off track, Ginny's conscience kept telling her that she had done the right thing. After all, Harry deserved to know how she had become such an integral part of his dreams, and Hermione would probably have kept doggedly tugging at loose threads, so it made sense not to delay any further. The initial conflagration had left a few scars but the outcome could have been far worse. They had walked away from the table peaceably enough, especially considering that Hermione, other than promising to do some personal research, had agreed not to take any drastic actions.

The only problem was Harry…

No, no, that wasn't right at all!

Harry did keep featuring in Ginny's thoughts, but he certainly wasn't the problem. He had handled the revelation perfectly well — a bit of surprise and a few minutes to synchronize his own memories and knowledge with those of the Publican but, unlike Hermione, Harry had not seemed the least bit upset to discover that Ginny been using it. He had stood by her in countering Hermione, arguing that the charm was very helpful to them, and that no tangible harm had come to anyone from it.

But had that belief been correct after all? Had the brooch truly been harmless?

That question was at the heart of the problem.

Might the brooch instead have been very subtly treacherous and misleading?

This morning, when she and Harry had first awoken to each other's eyes in the sparkling dawn, so many things in their world together had seemed so simple and straightforward. Each of them was the best friend that the other had ever had; they understood each other; they could smile and laugh together as they could with nobody else; each would go to the ends of the Earth (or the ends of time) to protect or save the other.

Then in the moment when, by mutual agreement, Ginny had locked the brooch away in her trunk… everything had changed.

The change was not cataclysmic. Most people would have noticed little difference, but as the morning slogged its way into dreary afternoon, Ginny could sense that things were definitely off, and evening had brought no respite. Harry was still friendly, but he was weary and taciturn. He still smiled at her whenever their paths crossed, but it was clearly his I-want-you-to-think-nothing's-wrong smile. Ginny herself had begun feeling fears and childish insecurities she thought she had long since discarded.

In short, it seemed like she and Harry had suddenly run short of hope.

Several times, when she was supposed to be reading, Ginny had caught herself staring at the trunk into which she had stowed the brooch, asking herself what would happen if she never again picked up those charmed silver wings? Or worse, what would she be left with if the brooch was taken away for study and she never saw it again?

For the time being it seemed, more than anything, that she would be left with questions...

Was the brooch truly the cause of the visions? What did they mean? Where they truly a key to fighting Voldemort, or merely elaborate hallucinations?

Was she truly being helpful to Harry? Without the brooch, would she ever again be of use to him?

Those feelings she had when she was with him… the ones that the brooch helped her believe were being reciprocated… was any of that real?

Ginny exhaled deeply, kicked idly at some clothes strewn on the floor, and finally convinced herself to return to the study desk that her mother had asked Sirius and Lupin to haul into the bedroom.

Taking a seat, she took a book from the top of the stack, opened it to a random spot in front of her… and collapsed, face down onto the page, emitting a long, slow groan of ennui...

“Harry, we need to talk...” she murmured to the paper stuck to her cheek.

Knock knock.

Ginny burst upright. “Who is it?”

An awkward pause, followed by an intake of breath, then... “Er, Ginny… it's me. Is this an okay time to talk?”

HARRY!!!

Ginny leaped across the room, and popped the door open like a Champagne cork.

“Erk!” Bereft of its resting place, Harry's left shoulder lurched through the doorway, pulling the rest of his body into the room. Ginny's hands darted out to steady him, one catching his upper arm, while the other unthinkingly grasped his right hand.

They stood there, blinking at each other in their impromptu embrace.

“Hi...?” Their hesitant queries and shy, bewildered looks almost perfectly coordinated, the pair gazed at each other quizzically for a moment, then emitted light-hearted laughs.

After the cathartic chuckle, Harry offered her a comfortable, relieved smile. “So, have you been doing okay since… you know?”

“Not really. You?”

Harry shook his head. “Kind of glum and, uhh, well, angsty. I suppose some people would say I've been acting like a right old 'Harry Potter '.”

“You? No, that's impossible!” Ginny shook her head sternly, then broke into a grin. “So sir, what brings you down here this evening?”

“Well, as you asked, I jotted down some suggestions for things to look into tomorrow.” Harry decoupled his hand and reached into his back pocket for a parchment to offer her. “But mostly I just wanted to reach out… make sure everything was okay with you and, errr, with us?”

“With us, Harry?” Ginny wore a quizzical expression.

Harry's eyes went suddenly wide, as if he hadn't really thought through this line of conversation. An unintelligible rasp followed; his vocal cords apparently losing much of their resonance.

Having not yet released Harry's upper arm, Ginny squeezed it gently. “I don't know what the brooch may or may not have been doing to us, but it didn't make me do or think anything that I wouldn't have done or thought on my own.” She lowered her gaze and took a fortifying breath. “So, if you meant to ask whether I'm still as keen to help you as I was before putting the brooch away, then the answer is yes."

Taking another breath, she raised her eyes to find Harry nodding. Heartened, she continued with more confidence. "If you're wondering whether I still consider you the perfect best friend I never knew I had, then the answer is yes.”

Despite obvious sincerity in his eyes, Harry could still do little better than mouth a creaky whisper. “Yes!”

She smiled and met his eyes.

He met hers.

Above the coursing beat of her own heart, Ginny distinctly heard her voice (sounding bolder than she ever remembered it) saying, “So, was there anything else that you were going to ask about us, Harry?”

Gazing deeply into those exquisite emerald pools, Ginny inhaled… her lips parted…

Harry closed his eyes; Ginny followed suit and tilted her head back, just a little…

And then Harry spoke.

“Would you, uh, be…?”

Harry's vocal cords were still having difficulty. He coughed awkwardly.

Ginny opened her eyes and peered at him questioningly. She nodded her head slightly, encouraging him to continue.

“I, er…, well, was just wondering if you would…?”

Ginny nodded, wide-eyed.

“… if you'd still be such a great friend… even if it, uh, took me a while to sort through, errr, some things?” Harry finally finished.

Ginny deflated… but then the great actress took charge, and smiled gamely. “Of course, Harry. I will always be your friend — as good a friend as I can be.” She met his gaze for long enough to make her words seem convincing, before letting her eyes drift downwards.

As Ginny lowered her gaze, Harry could not help seeing, for just a flicker of a second, the downcast expression in her face. His heart sank, feeling immediately so dreadful for... well... for whatever he'd just done to sadden this kindest and bravest friend of his. And yet, a slow wave of astonishment washed over him, for in that moment he began to understand, on this strange and dismal day, what it was that he had just said… or not said.

Harry opened his mouth. He longed to tell her what his heart had been proclaiming so fervently these past days; he longed to see whether he could once again brighten her eyes, back to those glowing beams of life and energy he had seen many hours ago when this evening's setting sun had first just risen.

But not yet. His brain told him the time was not yet right... for pleasures that implied promises... promises he wasn't sure he could keep.

His straining heart conceded… he denied the longing in his tongue, and closed his mouth. And yet in a day filled with compromise, his brain and heart reached an accord. A glimmer of moisture in his eyes, Harry reached his free arm around Ginny and, with an awkward tremor, he pulled her close.

“Thank you Ginny,” he whispered.

“Uh huh.”

Ginny leaned forward. Reaching her hand and pressing it firmly to Harry's back, she buried her face into her dear dear friend's shirt, discreetly hiding… emotions.

A vista of complicated, sparring emotions…

Not the least of which was hope.

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