1. For my own convenience, I have made a slight change in the ages of the characters. In my story, the Hogwarts letter arrives when you are twelve. That means when the story begins, Harry is fifteen years old.
2. Secondly, it came to my notice that the idea has been attempted countless of times, but I still wanted to try it. Also, many things are in common with other fanfics I have read, but that feels unavoidable. Wherever deserved, I have given credit, and have otherwise have tried my level best to keep the story as original as a fanfic can be.
3. There are some original characters in the story, but the most important of them all is Anaiah Malfoy, introduced in chapter 2. She is Draco's sister who is a Beauxbatons sixth year student.
The fuel was from hell. Like everything in his life, the fuel to his damned headache was from hell, by the spawn of the deepest pits of the forsaken inferno, born out of a million crimes and bred in the pool of sadistic tortures. Harry knew that it began because of the creatures that he had spent a year hating, and then training against. Dementors. If only he had been a bit more careful, he thought, his head wouldn't have been splitting open. The headache was massive, and Harry was no stranger to headaches.
At least Sirius got away. That was the important thing. Sirius was safe. Now if only his head would stop aching, he could get some much wanted and equally deserved sleep. He tried to think on other things, on the absurdity of the plan that made sure that Sirius avoided the kiss. Going back in time! Harry scoffed at the mere idea, regardless of the fact that he had, in fact, done just that barely an hour ago. He tried imagining a future with Sirius, when he wouldn't have to live with the Dursleys again. The image barely lasted a moment, before Pettigrew broke in on his happily ever after.
Harry swore to himself, the next time, he would stun first and ask questions later,
Pressing down a massive yawn, Harry turned to lie on his side, and immediately he could see Hermione. This was probably the first time he was sharing the Hospital wing with Hermione, and as she lay on her side facing him, Harry wondered how much the events of the night had affected her. She was looking at him- more like staring. Realizing he was looking, she immediately looked away, a slow blush rising to her cheeks. Harry blinked, confused.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
She looked at him again, and took a moment to reply. Her voice was a bit raspy. "Yes Harry. I'm fine."
She gave him a smile and he returned it. As he looked at her, he felt a huge burst of gratitude for his friend; if it hadn't been for Hermione and her time turner, Sirius would have been...worse than dead. He wondered if he had ever thanked Hermione for all she had done for him over the here years they had known each other, and with a pang of shame realized that he had been a horrible friend to her- especially this year. She had been looking out for him, something, Harry realized she always did.
Her eyes had drifted shut, but at Harry's gentle call, they opened. "Harry?"
He looked at her for a moment, wondering how best to say this. He was not good at conversations of this sort, not after the hell he had endured at the Dursleys. "Er...I...I wanted to thank you, for everything. If it hadn't been for you, I can't even imagine what I would have been...I- I...I just wanted to than-"
She cut across him in a gentle tone. "Harry, it's alright. You don't have to thank me for anything. We're friends Harry, and friends help each other." But he wouldn't have any of that, and in the quiet darkness of the Hospital Wing, illuminated only by the single torch burning overhead, Harry could see by the smile on her face that she appreciated his words. "No Hermione." He spoke a bit loudly now, making sure that she knew he meant what he was saying. "I have to thank you for a lot of things in my life Hermione, but that's not all...I, um, I...well, I would also like to apologise for how I acted when...I mean, I know you were looking out for me, like you always do, but I was a right git, and I'm really sorry."
She gave him a wide grin, "That's alright Harry, it's all in the past."
There was a long moment of companionable silence, cut only by the distant snoring of Ron coming from the far corner of the infirmary, and Harry finally found himself drifting into the arms of Morpheus. "Good night Hermione."
"Good night, Harry"
Harry dreamt that night. Regardless of the fact that he had defeated the Basilisk, Harry had been the tender age of thirteen, and a sixty foot long monster, the likes of which he had never imagined, roaring at him with its maw stretched wide, ready to devour him had been a terrifying experience, one that had left a temporary impact on his young psyche. Sometimes he dreamt of the snake. Sometimes he dreamt of his cupboard, and in those dreams he could hear the Dursleys laughing from outside the door. Sometimes in that dream, Harry would find water rushing into the cupboard from the tiny space beneath the door, and within seconds Harry would drown. He often woke up sweating during those dreams, and it was sometime later that he would fall asleep again.
But that night he dreamt of something else. That night he dreamt of monsters and men. He dreamt of the gates of hell bursting open, blown off the hinges of sins that had held them shut for eons, and of demons and diseases pouring out like so much flood. He dreamt of monsters devouring entire villages, of children staked to pikes dripping with gore and blood. He dreamt of men being crushed underfoot, of a tyrant freezing the world over, just as he had frozen over hell. And the most terrifying part? He himself was the tyrant.
Or at least he watched through the tyrant's eyes, as he plundered the world for all it was worth. He watched from behind the eyes of the man who had risen above and higher than the Gods themselves, walking alone on the paths no one dreamt of. He watched, a helpless prisoner, as Lord Voldemort ripped apart moments, and shattered the fabric of nature itself. He watched the Dark Lord spit in the face of the chaste, and embrace insanity, immortality, and all the blood that came in between.
Never had he been more horrified, or more disgusted, or for that matter so sick. Men after men, women and children, face after face, they all fell away- broken fragile glass, meant to shatter, ripped apart to bleed. Voldemort's wand was a blur throughout his dreams, dispensing green, red and a spectrum of colours that ruined and destroyed. He couldn't wake up, and he couldn't look away. For a boy clinging to the last shreds of his innocence, it was a torture of the worst kind.
It took Harry sometime, and in the dream it felt like ages, to realize that he was viewing memories...Lord Voldemort's memories. And those memories made him aware of a blindingly obvious fact- he was hopelessly outclassed. He saw such great feats of magic- the earth itself raising, like a loaf of soft, hot bread, the heavens raining down lightning as they raged against the Gods. He understood why Lord Voldemort's name was feared as it was. Harry saw the world fight against the darkest of all that was dark, and fall down to bow at its feet.
It was the darkest night Harry had ever been witness to, and so far there was no sign of dawn breaking through the miasma that had surrounded him.
He knew when he was awake. It was like he had been watching the telly, and someone had flipped the power switch. It was just so...abrupt. There wasn't any drowsiness, there wasn't any yawning. There was, however, a massive headache as his fertile brain tried to accumulate the memories of a lifetime. His scar seemed to be splitting open, and it took all of his willpower to not scream his throat raw. At the first sign that he could move, he bolted upright in his bed, clutching his head, as if trying to hold it from exploding.
But there was nothing he could do to prevent the images rushing in...So much blood, and power, so much power, it made him giddy in the knees. But the pain overrode all of it.
He barely heard the doors of Madam Pomfrey's office opening, as the witch came out to check up on her patients. Seeing Harry's curled upright form, she let out a squeak of surprise, and rushed to his side. "Mr. Potter! What is it? Where does it hurt?
"Mr. Potter!" She waited for barely a second before realizing the boy in front of her was suffering too much to give her a coherent answer. Before the elderly witch could lift her wand to cast a diagnostic charm, his headache was gone. His hands relaxed, but he dared not moving, unsure if the pain would return. He held still for a few tense moments, before looking up, into the eyes of the healer. She stood frozen, looking at the boy in front of her, confusion washing her face, trying to decide what was wrong with the wizard. Then she huffed a bit, her wand hand dropping back to her side, and glared at him. "May I know, Mr. Potter, what were you doing, making me think as if you needed serious medical attention?"
Harry, still in a bit of a daze, blinked owlishly at her blurred figure. "My...my head was hurting Madam Pomfrey...but...then it stopped all of a sudden..." He was still unsure what was happening to him, so it was hardly a surprise when she looked at him with a slightly disbelieving look on her face.
"If you say so- Oh dear!" her words were cut off as Harry reacted to remembering his dreams. He reached over to the side of the bed, and vomited the previous night's dinner. Madam Pomfrey, finally thinking that there was a grain of truth in his words waved her wand in a sharp efficient motion, clearing the mess he had made. He muttered a raspy thanks to the matron, before reaching for his glasses and wand.
As his vision cleared, he looked over to the adjacent bed, and found Hermione staring at him with wide sleepy eyes. She'd just woken up, but it took her barely a second to sit upright in a tiny motion that almost didn't exist, once she realized that Harry had just been sick all over the floor between them. "Harry! Oh god! Are you alright-"
"I'm fine Hermione, thanks." Harry knew his voice sounded unconvincing, and weak, but the rush of memories inside his head was an overwhelming storm, knocking about every shed of focus he had. He avoided looking at her when she asked him again if he was alright, and thankfully Madam Pomfrey chose that moment to turn on her and start Hermione's inspection. Harry needed space, and he needed it fast. He needed to be alone, so without waiting for Madam Pomfrey's approval, he started getting up.
He threw the covers off of himself in a swift movement, and swung his legs of the bed. "Hermione," he began, giving her the shortest of looks, "I'll see you after lunch...the library. We need to talk- it's important." And before she could say anything apart from his name, Harry was out of the infirmary, ignoring Madam Pomfrey's indignant squawk of protest, and Hermione's repeated cries for him to wait for her. He was thankful for the early hours, for the corridors and staircases were devoid of students, or even Filch and Mrs Norris.
He didn't stop running until he'd reached the edge of the forbidden forest, near the Black Lake. Despite having spent last night in a terrifying death defying adventure, Harry didn't have many qualms about entering the forest, not after what he'd seen last night. There had never been much of a child in Harry, and after last night's dream, there wasn't much of a boy left either. He was almost a man now, and it was only his intimate innocence that tied him from manhood.
He turned to look over his shoulder once, twice, to make sure he wasn't being followed, or watched, before bursting into another run into the forest. When he stopped, it was upon reaching as deep as he dared to venture into the forest. He hadn't cared for direction or distance, he had just needed a quiet place to think, and this was as quiet as it got. Panting heavily, he found himself a broad tree- its roots covered in soft green moss, and slumped against it, sliding down onto the earth.
It was a banyan tree, centuries old from the looks of it. He couldn't tell the mother trunk apart from the descending roots, but it was one of the most serene and beautiful trees he had ever seen. On its other side, the waters of the Black Lake lapped gently at the white sand that stretched for a few twenty or so metres. Harry had never been to the sea, but he was sure this was quite close. Or probably as close as he would ever be.
His thoughts raged, his anger roared, and his magic flared. He was angry, far more than he had ever been in his life. And he was angry at everyone. He had seen and heard...he'd lived another life, and now that he could compare it with his own, he found he hated what he saw. He was angry at the Dursleys, but that wasn't much of a surprise, considering the fact that he was always angry at the Dursleys. Once he'd seen how normal families worked, and how children were treated in those families, all the abuse he had taken quietly had turned into venom, burning him from the inside, boiling like so much acid, ready to purge the world at the smallest sign of misery and ignorance. Time would not heal that damage anymore, not now, or ever. He was angry at Dumbledore, for being a meddlesome fool, at himself, for being a lazy dumb-ass, at Sirius, for running away after Pettigrew all those years ago, when clearly Harry had needed him more. He was angry at Voldemort, for the monstrosity and atrocity he had unleashed upon the world, for having orphaned him, for having done so much, so wrong...he was angry at the Dark Lord, for burning the world down once. He was angry at Trelawney, for ever uttering the stupid prophecy.
The Dark Lord's life may have been sick and incredibly poisonous to watch, but at least it had been unbelievably informative. He knew things now, prophecies, magic, rituals, people- oh he knew some people in and out...It wasn't like he could do all that he had seen, but he knew where to begin. It was like watching a martial arts motion picture, he couldn't perform all the moves he had seen the actors perform, but he knew what they were, and how they could be done. It wasn't much, but considering what he had had previously, he'd just won the lottery.
If it was to be 'do or die', Harry decided he'd rather do.
He knew the prophecy now, and he knew how the Dark Lord viewed it. Do or die, kill or get killed, forever or never. Knowing the Dark Lord, and having seen what he could do, Harry knew that if the Lord Voldemort were to be resurrected, there would only be fire and wrath and hate and blood, descending from the heavens, and the defiant screamed their agony below.
He sat there, in the wee hours of the morning, enjoying the silence, cherishing it for the peace he knew it was, thinking about his slim chances, and the certainty of death in his future. He spent hours, sorting through the flood of information, reviewing what was useful, powerful and impressive, trying to forget what was really dark and sick, and wondering just how the hell was he going to learn Occlumency. He'd seen the vitality of Occlumency, how useful it was in a fight, especially against legends like Lord Voldemort, Snape, or Dumbledore.
He wondered who he could really trust- Hermione for one. Her he could trust with his life, he already did. Then there was Ronald, but Harry needed to make sure he would get off his ass and train himself. There was Sirius, sure, Harry would need to be a bit more comfortable around him, but Harry had liked what he'd seen last night. Maybe Professor Lupin, he had taught Harry the Patronus charm after all.
Harry decided he would see about the Headmaster. As far as Harry knew, the Headmaster had his own agenda, and Harry's survival was not a great influencing factor to it. And that was the end of the list, a pathetically short list of confidants upon whom Harry could count on if trouble arose, especially if it arose in the form of a resurrected Thomas Riddle.
But he would only tell Hermione about the dream, if he could call it that. She had always been the one who had stuck by his side till the very end; he felt she had earned the right to know. Besides after last night, he felt a bit closer to her than he felt to Ron.
As expected, he found her right outside the library, pacing back and forth beside the statue of the angel carrying a pot that stood in the corridor. She looked worried, and Harry knew it wasn't for herself. He stood at the turn of the third floor corridor for a moment, before she spotted him, and with an agitated "Harry! I was so worried!" rushed towards him. She came to a stop right next to him, and giving him a soft gentle hug that was very unlike of her, looked at him expectantly.
There was a moment of silence, and then she said, "Well, you said it was important?"
"It is. I'm just not sure how to tell you...it's as bizarre and messed up as the rest of my stupid life."
She put her hand on his shoulder and gave him a soft warm smile, though the worry was there in her eyes, lurking with the concern she always carried for him. "Begin at the starting, and we'll deal with it as it comes."
It was probably what she didn't say that gave him the strength to lead her inside the library, and to the farthest corner at the very end, whose French window overlooked the Black Lake. They settled down into the comfortable library chairs, around the small circular wooden table, and spent another moment in silence, which Harry used to gather his thoughts.
Finally, taking a deep breath, he began, eyes locked on the glittering surface of the Black Lake as he talked. "It was a dream, Hermione. Or at least, it was supposed to be. Now it's hanging like a ten tonne skeleton around my neck. I...I-...I feel like I've been contaminated, poisoned from the inside..." He felt her take his hand in hers, a show of support in response to his words. And so he told her, everything. He knew he didn't need to hide the gory details from her. She was one of the strongest people he knew. He told her everything.
He felt like a sadistic bastard when her eyes filled up and tears spilled, but the look in her eyes told him she wasn't crying- she was sad. For him. But he didn't stop, he couldn't stop. He had to let someone know of the path he had chosen to walk on, that morning, under the banyan tree, alone. He had to make sure that if the path became too much for him to handle, that if he succumbed to all that was dark, someone would know that that wasn't what he had intended to be. But it was his choice, it was his path. It was his road to take. He told her everything.
And she listened, without interrupting, without questioning him. Maybe it was his tone, or the intensity in his eyes, but Hermione found she could not interrupt him. She couldn't help but feel proud of him- she had never seen him so focused, so intense, but mostly she was sad. And scared. And angry. And sad.
Her heart broke when she heard of his burden, of the prophecy. Her world crumbled when she found of the Headmaster's interference. And she was lost when Harry told her of the things he had seen. But that was nothing compared to what she felt when he told her of his life with the Dursleys. She burst into tears when she couldn't take it anymore. And his eyes filled up too, but he wouldn't let the tears fall, he was the strong one. If the Hermione was the brains of the group, then Harry was the heart.
When he was done, they sat together in silence for a moment, before she got up and moved over to him to give him the tightest hug she could manage. When they broke apart after a few long moments, she spent another moment trying to make herself look presentable. When she looked back at him, he was studying her with a gentle smile on his face. "Thank you, for listening, and for being here, like you always are."
Her cheeks reddened, but at that moment, she couldn't care less. "You don't have to thank me Harry, I'm your friend, and you're my best friend."
"You're my best friend too, Hermione," he spoke after a few moments, "I mean sure, Ron is a good friend, but he...well, don't tell him that I said this, but he's not you. He's...he's not as mature as my life demands, and that's that."
Seeing the look of disbelief on her face, he gave her a smile, "Hermione, you're the only person who knows everything I've told you today. No one can know, alright?"
But Hermione launched into another tight hug, and when she pulled back, she was smiling as widely as he had ever seen her smile. "Of course, Harry! I won't tell anyone. I promise."
They stood close for a moment, before Harry spoke, "I need you to learn Occlumency Hermione. I'm sorry for asking you to work harder than you already do, but it's important."
They spent another hour discussing Occlumency, before they were interrupted by Madam Pince, who had a hard time believing the fact that students would venture into the library after the end of exams. But seeing Hermione calmed her down, though her puffy red eyes did make the librarian give Harry a stern and disapproving look.
Upon Hermione's insistence, they left the library, and took a walk down into the crowded grounds, where most of the students were taking refuge from the sweltering heat inside the castle. They visited Ronald for a bit before leaving the castle, but within half an hour were shooed out of the infirmary by Pomfrey, who insisted upon giving Ron another sleeping draught.
They talked about all that Harry had learned, and Hermione couldn't keep the excitement out of her eyes, or her voice when Harry promised to tell her anything and everything useful. He was still a bit sceptical on that one though. They talked about whom they could trust with this, and Harry shared his list with her. Hermione was a bit upset that Harry had lost all trust in the Headmaster, but when Harry shared his suspicions with her, when he reminded her all he had learnt from Voldemort, she couldn't help but agree with him.
There were a lot of questions among the two of them, some left unanswered, and some left sitting in silence. Like the question of why Dumbledore hadn't revealed the prophecy to him, or why had the Headmaster placed Harry with the Dursleys. Or the question of why Sirius had never received a trial. But the biggest mystery Harry could think of was why the dream had occurred, and as expected, it was asked by his brown haired friend. It scared him to think that there had been something of the Dark Lord lurking inside his head.
As to how the dream began, the answer came to him suddenly. Harry was sure he hadn't known of it before, but the answer came to him all the same. He suspected it had come from the Dark Lord's remains inside his head, but right now his head was such a mess, he couldn't really prove it.
His voice startled her slightly; it was slightly distant, and emotionless. But his answer made gasp slightly. "Dementia." He said.
She stared at him for a moment, amazed, before her brain took over. "Of course! How could I forget! Harry, you're right, it's dementia. I read it in the Restricted Section a while back; it's an after effect of too much exposure to dementors. It causes suppressed or forgotten memories to resurface...but of course, that's if you're lucky..."
Harry's mind was still hazy on the details. "And if you're unlucky?"
Her face lost a little colour as she spoke, "Well, if you're a bit unlucky, the dementors transfer their own agony and suffering onto you. That is what usually happens Harry...you were really lucky." Her grip on his arm tightened before she added, "And it's mostly a permanent effect, Harry."
His eyes locked onto the tallest tower of Hogwarts, vision near, but sight distant. "Believe me Hermione, if he returns, dementors are going to be the last of our worries. He had so many back up plans, it sickens me to see the measure he took. I have a feeling I'm going to see him much sooner than I'd prefer."