Sweet Dream Sweets
Harry paced his bedroom at Grimmauld Place impatiently, while Ron lay on one of the beds in the room idly flicking through the pages of a comic book. The attempt to appear calm and relaxed was failing miserably, since he was holding the comic book upside down and, although this style of reading worked for Luna Lovegood, he had not actually looked at a single page for over fifteen minutes.
"Where are they?" asked Harry, not for the first time. The black bags under his eyes and gaunt features a testament to his current inability to get enough sleep.
Ron tossed the comic aside and yawned loudly. His eyes too were showing the distinct signs of sleep deprivation.
"Look, mate, if you work yourself into a state you won't be able to sleep even if they do show up. You need to calm down," he said, also not for the first time.
Harry stopped his pacing and glared at Ron angrily, his comical moving snitch covered pyjamas making the glare appear less than ferocious.
"That's easy for you to say. You don't have a homicidal maniac sending you dreams of people you love getting tortured and murdered every time your head hits the pillow," Harry tried to snarl, but a yawn ruined the effect.
Ron tried to reply, saying, "Yeah, but I've got to share a room with someone who does," but another huge yawn escaped instead, turning his answer into something less than coherent.
Seeing how tired Ron was, the heat went out of Harry, and he collapsed on to his bed.
"I'm sorry, Ron. I am just so sick of it. If I wasn't so tired I would go find Tom right now to put an end to it," said Harry, trying to stifle a yawn as he lay down.
Ron sat up higher in the bed, a look of alarm on his face.
"Mate, that's exactly what he wants you to do. You know that," he said, watching Harry closely. Then he yawned again as a direct result of seeing Harry yawning.
"I know," said Harry, after a particularly loud yawn.
Ron was just about to respond to Harry's yawn with his own bed-shaking one, when the door burst open and his twin brothers leapt into the room dramatically.
"Never fear," shouted Fred in his best mock 'heroic' voice.
"Help is here!" finished George.
Harry, startled at the sudden entrance, leapt off the bed and had his wand halfway out before his brain caught up.
"About time," he moaned. "I nearly fell asleep. Do you have them?"
"Of course, potential brother to be…" said Fred, in a tone and manner reminiscent of their usual crowd-pleasing product announcements.
"We have brought you your miracle cure…" continued George.
"Your saving grace..."
"Your light at the end of the tunnel..."
"Just shut it and give it to him already!" snapped Ron, cutting off what he knew would have been a ten minute long routine, had it been allowed to continue.
His natural snappiness was augmented by the recent lack of sleep. Harry's nightmares had been keeping Ron from getting a decent night himself, but he refused to let his friend suffer alone and was always there to wake him up and to offer as much comfort as he could.
Shocked at Ron's short temper, the twins stopped talking, and then with a flourish, each produced identical carved wooden boxes from within the folds of their robes and held them open for Harry to inspect.
Inside each box were several ugly, misshapen, dark green lumps.
"Behold, the latest-"
"-defence against Dark Lord mind-probing," said Fred solemnly.
"Our newest product line-"
"Created by request, especially for the Saviour of the Wizarding world."
"Guaranteed to inflict severe punishment on said mind-probing Dark Lords," added George.
"Sweet Dream Sweets!" they both chorused in union.
Harry screwed his face up at the sight of the dubious looking sweets.
"They look awful," he said, poking at one sticky lump with his wand and lifting it halfway out before its weight overcame the stickiness and it fell back with a soft 'splat'.
The twins gave each other an exasperated look.
"We didn't have time to make them pretty," said Fred.
"Although if you want, we can take them away and come back in a month or two with something a bit more presentable," added George.
Harry didn't look impressed, his tired brain not catching the implied threat.
"No, that's fine. Just so long as they work," he said, picking up one of the sweets with the tips of his fingers and examining it closely. "They do work, don't they?"
The twins glanced nervously at each other.
"Finest quality ingredients."
"Best enchanters and magical food makers in the world we are."
"You haven't actually tried them, have you?" asked Ron suspiciously.
The twins, caught once again mid-tirade, stammered a bit.
"Not actually eaten one, no," said Fred.
"We were in a hurry, you see," explained George.
"Can't be any worse than what I have to put up with now," he said, and then popped the sweet into his mouth and chewed it. "Ewwwggh. Tastes awful too," he said, screwing his face up again at the horrible mixture of sweet and bitter flavours. "Bit like cabbage-flavoured jelly."
"Oi," shouted Fred, somewhat alarmed, "you should lie down first!"
He was too late, and Harry fell to the ground, asleep before his head hit the floor.
Far away, in the depths of one of his secret bases, Voldemort felt Harry fall asleep through the strange link they shared.
While it had been months since Harry had mastered Occlumency enough to protect his waking mind, his sleeping mind could still be easily invaded by the most powerful Legilimens in the world.
For the last two weeks, Voldemort had been sending Harry dreams of the horrors that would be inflicted on his friends. Sometimes he would send a true vision of a murder or a torture, and then leave the victims where the Ministry Aurors or the Order of the Phoenix would find them, ensuring Harry would eventually discover that it had been more than just a nightmare.
It was all part of an orchestrated campaign designed to drive the boy mad and make him abandon the protection his friends were providing. It had worked well before, and was showing signs of working once again.
Already Voldemort could feel the youth's will eroding. Every night it was easier to invade his mind. It would not be long now before the boy would break and do something foolish.
Tonight, Voldemort decided to wait an hour before attacking. Each time he had let the boy sleep for a different length of time, increasing the anticipation and dread. Dreamless sleep potions had become less effective as the boy's body became tolerant. He was close to becoming addicted to the increasingly strong potions the Order was using.
Carefully, Voldemort began to build the vision he would be sending. It took much time and effort, but the result would be well worth it.
Almost exactly one hour after he had felt Harry go to sleep, he opened the link and threw his mighty mind into Harry's dreams.
Instantly, Voldemort was in excruciating pain!
Never having felt the touch of the Cruciatus curse, it was the most pain Voldemort had endured since his first try on the baby Harry's life had failed. Waves of agony smashed into him, destroying any attempt on his part to fight back. He was struggling to build a single coherent thought, let alone retaliate or break the link.
Hearing the cries of their master, several Death Eaters rushed into the room with their wands drawn, just in time to see their lord and master fall to the ground unconscious as the pain finally overwhelmed him.
The next morning, Harry rose from his bed, fully rested for the first time in weeks. He had slept for almost twelve hours and only had vague memories of a brief nightmare.
Leaving Ron snoring in the bed next to his, Harry changed and went downstairs. A short time later, he was sitting at the kitchen table digging into an excellent breakfast and listening to the twins explain to a rather irate Hermione.
"Let me get this straight," she said tersely. "You made Harry eat an experimental concoction, which would hopefully let him sleep, without even testing it to be sure there were no adverse side effects? How is that any better than him taking another sleeping potion, besides being incredibly dangerous and irresponsible?"
"Hermione, you wound us!" exclaimed Fred, clutching at his chest dramatically.
"Drive a wooden stake through our hearts she does!"
"And not a sharp one at that, oh brother of mine."
"Indeed. Blunter than a Slytherin snake's tail it was."
"Although slightly preferable."
"As if we would just make a different kind of sleeping potion."
"And disrespectful to boot."
"Indeed. Very disrespectful."
"Almost makes me weep with sorrow hearing those words."
"Harsh words do bring a tear to my own eyes too, my brother."
"This was a masterpiece of alchemy and spell work," said George.
"A triumph of brilliance-"
"A strike at the heart of evil-"
"Enough!" shouted Hermione, losing patience at their tennis match-like banter. "Just tell me what you did."
The twins appeared to be about to embark on another longwinded story that, while amusing, would likely end with both of them being hexed, when Harry decided to intervene.
"Remember how I told you about the Department of Mysteries, when Voldemort tried to possess me?" he asked Hermione. "My love for Sirius drove him from my mind. It was painful to him."
Harry's voice dropped as he recounted one of the darkest moments of his life, and Hermione looked as if she was resisting the impulse to reach out and touch him, or to ask any of the hundreds of questions that constantly occupied her thoughts.
"I asked the twins if they could make me something to help protect my mind from Voldemort while I slept, and what we came up with was a combination of dreamless sleep, daydream, memory charm, and love potion."
"Love potion!" said Hermione, shocked once again at the dangerous nature of some of the twin's products.
"Yep. Love potion. The antidote is imbedded in the sweet too, but it is only released after several hours have passed, which is about how long the dreamless sleep lasts."
Hermione's brilliant intellect was already putting the pieces together before Harry had finished speaking.
"That's absolutely pure genius," she said slowly, causing the massive smiles the twins were already wearing to broaden into 'face breaking' proportions. "When Voldemort tries to get into your mind, you will be in the middle of a pleasant dream caused by the daydream charm, and he will be assaulted with the unconditional love invoked by the love potion."
Suddenly, her smile faded into a typical worried expression.
"But isn't it dangerous for Voldemort to be seeing your love for someone? He could try to use that information against you! And what is the memory charm for?"
The twins sniggered a bit before answering, and even Harry smiled.
"We didn't like the idea of our young Harrikins here possibly having, how do we say-"
"-less than platonic?.."
"Yes exactly, well put, better half of my brain. Less than platonic dreamsies about our favourite sister…"
"-So we decided to make his dreams about someone we don't have fraternal fondness for."
"But such a dream itself might constitute a nightmare to the 'Boy Who Needs a Decent Night's Sleep' when the true light of day dawns..."
"-So we erased said dream with a little memory work-"
"Completely harmless of course!" they both added.
Hermione frowned. Memory charms were never completely harmless and should only be used in the direst of circumstances. Once again, the slightly dangerous nature of the twin's jokes bordered on recklessness. A suspicion suddenly arose in her mind and was clearly evident in her expression.
"Whom did you make the love potion for?" she asked, after a moment's thought.
"That particular sweet-"
"Which was chosen by Harry himself-"
"With no prompting mind-"
"Indeed. Completely at random you might say."
"Was none other than-"
"Our favourite ferret of course-"
Hermione's jaw dropped as she struggled to assimilate this information. For one of the few times in her life, she was left completely speechless; her mind refusing to believe Harry had allowed them, or possibly even encouraged them, to give him feelings of anything except the sheerest loathing for one of the people Harry hated the most in the world, no matter how temporary the effect, or how soon it was forgotten.
"You know of course, this is going to ruin you," said Harry thoughtfully to the twins.
The smiles quickly disappeared of their faces, as if by magic.
"What do you mean?" asked Fred, his worry at Harry words evident.
"Well, you will never be able to top this one, will you?"
This earned confused looks from the twins until Hermione started laughing. Harry smiled as realisation came to the redheaded terrors, and they looked at each other in dismay.
"Yes boys, you have reached the pinnacle of your careers. From here on it can only go downhill," said Harry, as seriously as he could. "After all, you did just prank the Dark Lord."
Faraway in the depths of one of Lord Voldemort's hidden lairs, Draco Malfoy shifted nervously from foot to foot as he waited to be called through the door that led to Voldemort's audience chamber. He didn't know why he had been urgently summoned by Voldemort, but his intuition was screaming at him that it was not for anything good.
He was right.