Praesentia

Chapter Twelve--Dream Scrying

"(Thoth) I invoke,
Blessed power of dreams divine,
Angel of future fates,
Swift wings are thine,
Great source of oracles to human kind,
When stealing soft,
and whispering to the mind,
Through sleep's sweet silence and the gloom of night,
Thy power awake the sight,
To silent souls the will of heaven relates,
And silently reveals their future fates."

----

She was running up stairs, many of them. She was all too aware of the hollow sound of her breathing. It was harsh and breathless, almost desperate, and she didn't understand why.

A voice, which had to be middle-eastern (or was it?) was whispering now, above the sound of her ragged breathing. Reaching a landing, the voice called out to her, and she knew she no longer needed to climb.

Jogging down the corridor, she reached a corner and clung to it, almost fearing what she would see around it.

The long hallway stretched out in front of her. It was the same as before, and the strange voice still beckoned. Telling herself she must go down the hallway, she began to run. Again, she found herself struggling against the current of something pulling her legs back. This time, she was angry.

"I'm not giving up this time, do you hear me? I need to get through that door!"

Hearing her very clear voice reflected back to her from the walls was startling. She was surprised by the ferocity of her will against whatever was pushing her down this hallway. She would get through the door this time. Nothing would distract her from her goal.

The voice was still urging her onward, and once again she struggled. It became harder and harder to move her legs.

"Just one more step! One more!"

Her voice was choked as she forced each leg to move one more time. And she was there.

Her fingers were on the door handle. With the last of her strength she twisted it open with her fingertips.

She fell through the doorway, a sense of exhilaration flowing through her. Her legs were burning with an intensity she had never felt before. Struggling to stand, she tried to brush off some of the grime that now clung to her from the dirty floor she had fallen onto. Sweat mingled with the dirt, and she knew she must look a mess; but it didn't matter now. She'd made it.

The maddening voice that had pushed her on was gone now, but she knew its presence was still there, watching her. She could feel it. Swallowing, she shook herself and tried to drink in her surroundings.

The room she had fallen into was probably one of the dreariest places she'd ever been in; it was far worse than 12 Grimmauld Place. Cobwebs covered every inch. Several cells that looked like cages were built into the walls, and the beds inside them were filthy and stained. She was afraid to move, afraid to breathe, afraid the think in this room.

A soft moan interrupted her thoughts. Whirling about in fright, she eyed the dark corner behind her, where the sound was coming from. She pulled her wand out from inside her cloak.

"Help me...please help," the voice called, and it sounded vaguely familiar.

She moved toward the dark cage, and saw something moving inside it. A frail figure drew itself up and fell against the bars toward her. She gasped.

"Viktor?"

"Herm-oh-ninny...please help," Viktor flailed his arms out to her from between the bars. He looked dreadful; his arms were covered with festering sores and his face and chest were tremendously pale. He was covered at the waist by nothing more than a tattered rag that could have once been shorts.

"Viktor..what happened? Where's Milena?" She instantly thought of Viktor's fiance, wondering if something had happened to her.

Rushing closer to the cage, she saw a hint of confusion on Viktor's face. It was gone quickly, however, and he began waving his arms more energetically. "Please, Herm-oh-ninny, get me out of here. I luff you, Herm-oh-ninny. They've hurt me, and you can help me. Please..."

She frowned, strengthening the grip on her wand. "Who hurt you, Viktor? How did you get here? Where is this place? What happened to your family?"

"Hermione, I need you. Please, let me out," Viktor rasped, his eyes bugging, and his breathing intensifying. He continued to flail as his thin arms struggled against the bars.

She knew something was wrong. It was the way he was speaking; it simply wasn't right. Knowing this person wasn't Viktor, she must continue with caution. Whoever it was, they were obviously in distress. She knew she had to help him somehow, but she also knew she couldn't trust him.

Raising her wand, she pointed it toward this man who looked like Viktor. "I know you're not Viktor. Who are you and what do you really want?"

"I want out!" the man uttered harshly, and this time grasped the bars and rattled them with more strength then he had exhibited before. He let out a tremendous cry, a very distinctive cry. Suddenly she knew what she had to do.

Waving her wand with a flourish, she pointed it directly at him and shouted clearly, "Aperio vobis!"

The figure of Viktor shriveled instantly, and in its place was a very nasty looking creature. It had pointed ears like a cat with dark fur covering its body. It opened its mouth to her to stick out its lizard-like tongue and it flashed its very red eyes. It was a formschieber, a very rare and very deadly creature. She'd read about them from a book in the restricted section of the Hogwarts library. They were only supposed to exist only in the Swiss Alps, and she was sure one hadn't been seen in at least a century.

The formschieber was now jumping up and down on the dirty bed, making clouds of choking dust swirl about her. It cackled heartily. She moved away quickly from the cage, trying to breathe, and was sincerely glad she hadn't let it out. Its power was to use a memory to lure the victim their death. One bite from it and she would have died a very painful, very long, and very grotesque death.

Turning away from the formschieber, she bit her lip and wondered if there was a way out of this room. No longer afraid and more sure of herself, she walked the perimeter of the room several times. Once, she tried to open the door she'd come in from, but it wouldn't budge. None of the spells she used on it worked, either.

"Oh, come on," she muttered in frustration. It was becoming hot in the room as warm sunlight flowed in through a cracked window high above.

"Hermione, help me," a new voice whispered as she wiped her grimy brow.

She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. The formschieber was trying to trick her again.

"Hermione, please...I love you."

She turned to take a look at the cage in the dark corner. The formschieber was still jumping about, now throwing something dark and stinking at her. It keep missing but was cackling with glee.

She shook her head. Ron? Where was he?

Running the circumference of the room again, she could now hear the other voice. The voice of the woman.

"What is it? Where do I go?" she shouted, and ran around again. The voice got louder every time she came to a particular wall.

And then she saw it. Light was glimmering through what had to be a crack in the brick wall.

She rushed toward it, but then her body was being pulled back.

"No!" she muttered irately.

"Hermione, let me kiss you. Let me love you."

"Let me go...I need to--"

----

Hermione opened her eyes. She was being held very tightly, and sunlight was pouring in her window and falling directly on her face. Ron was kissing her neck. She prodded him, but he continued to mutter incoherently against her. She knew at once he was still deep asleep. She could feel the hardness of his very male body pressed into her hip, and she inhaled sharply. A warm coil of heat flowed through her body instantly.

Grasping his shoulders very tightly, she nearly shouted. "Ron, wake up."

He let out a little gasp and pulled away suddenly. "What? How did I--?"

"You were dreaming," she said, and gave him a penetrating look.

"Oh," he muttered. "Damn it." He rolled over completely and put an arm over his eyes.

Hermione sighed and pushed the quilt off her. "I don't think I'll need to ask what your dream was about."

"Oh Merlin, it was so..."

She tut-tutted as she riffled through her wardrobe for clothes. "You'd better leave, Ron. I'd like to join your lovely fantasy, but I've got work to do."

"Huh?"

Still riffling through her clothes and choosing what she was going to wear, she placed it aside. "I've got to go and talk to your mum, and you'll have to talk to Ginny."

Ron was moving about on the bed now. The springs creaked and she heard him padding barefoot toward her. He gasped.

"It's fucking cold; that's enough to cool me off! I'll light a fire. Now what are you babbling about, Hermione?"

"Hush, Ron. Just light your fire and I'll meet you downstairs," Hermione had already stripped off her thick pajamas and tried to contain her shivers as she tugged on her jeans and jumper.

Ron was crouched before the fireplace, rubbing his eyes blearily and muttering swear words without impunity. Hermione noticed he had just lit a piece of kindling and was placing it into the fireplace, when he looked up at her.

"For Merlin's sake, Hermione...what the bloody hell--?" Ron was staring up at her. "You're already dressed, it's probably not even eight yet, and you're up and about and all excited. What's going on?"

She sighed, and shook her hair free from the long braids she wore to bed. "I don't have time to explain. I just need to talk to your mum, and maybe things will make more sense. I also need those books now, so I've got to send for them. In the meantime, can you please talk to your sister about what we agreed on last night? I would so appreciate it, Ron."

"But--"

Hermione took the time to stoop down quickly and kiss Ron gently on the lips. She stood abruptly, slipped her feet forcibly into her trainers, and opened the door. She skipped down the stairs two steps at a time.

----

Ron was tremendously puzzled. Once he'd actually woken up enough to think about the events of the morning, he certainly couldn't think of any reason why Hermione would need to talk to his mum. It had been such an urgent need, it must have been very serious. While lighting the fire, he briefly wondered if it had something to do with him and his agreement to his mother not to be intimate with Hermione until the stone was recovered. He'd originally voiced the discussion to Hermione, and ever since she'd been insistent they follow his mother's instructions.

The thought had been dismissed immediately. She would never go to his mum and tell her he'd sneaked into her room last night.

Of course, that didn't stop the rather large pit of fear that grew in his throat every time he thought about how angry his mum would be if she knew about it. Especially when he knew he'd been groping Hermione that morning and wasn't sure how much he'd done to her.

He was now searching for his sister even though his need for breakfast kept trying to pull him downstairs. He was also extremely curious about what Hermione was up to, but he figured he'd better keep her on his good side by doing what she wanted him to.

Nearing Ginny's door, which she was now sharing with Luna, he hesitated and was about to knock. The discussion he heard from inside, however, stopped him cold.

"But I thought...I mean...didn't you like Ron?" Ginny was saying in a confused voice. "I mean, it's really hard to get over the first person you love."

"Well, that was so silly, wasn't it? I was so young back then. After all, he was the first boy to ever kiss me. It didn't mean anything, though. When I saw him at Hogwarts, I have to admit I thought he was good looking. But he could care less. He really loves her, doesn't he?" Luna said crisply, neutrally.

"Yes, he does. But who do you like now?"

"Mmm, can't say. I told you, though, that's not the reason why I wanted to talk to you. How did we get on this topic? I wanted to tell you I think someone really likes you...someone you've wanted to like you for a very long time," Luna said, with the slightest bit of irritation edging her voice.

Ginny let out a huge sound of frustration. "I already know about that, Luna. It doesn't matter now. I'm in love with Neville. I don't care if anyone else has those feelings for me."

"You're lying," Luna said matter-of-factly.

"No, I am not lying! Why would you think that?" Ginny breathed hotly.

"Nobody can love someone like you did and then get over them that fast. Sure, you've tried to lose yourself in these other boys, but I know you, Ginny. We've been friends for a long time," Luna said soothingly.

"You obviously don't know me very well," Ginny said in low voice, and Ron swallowed. He knew that voice, the voice that said you've almost crossed the line.

Without warning, the door Ron was practically leaning against flew open. Ron stepped back swiftly and shuddered. Ginny gave him a great withering look.

"Ron? What the bloody hell do you think you're doing, listening in on private conversations? You great prat!" She slapped his shoulder fiercely and walked past him to stomp down the stairs.

"Ginny...damn it, I need to talk to you!" Ron whimpered harshly after her. She flashed a rude gesture behind her back.

Now Ginny was angry with him. He'd never hear the end of this.

He sighed and clenched his fists until he heard Luna laughing inside Ginny's room.

"You have no sense of timing whatsoever," she said lightly through her laughter and brushed past him out the door.

Ron shook his head. Was there--or was there not--a double meaning in that?

He scratched his head for a minute, looking at Luna's retreating back, and started to walk numbly down the stairs with only one thought.

He was too young to let women get to him.

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Credit for the dream scrying poem at the start of this chapter goes to a website on the topic. I'm apparently not allowed to post the link. I wanted to make you aware I didn't write it.

Please keep up with me on this, folks. It'll all make sense soon, I promise. Well, at least I hope it will.