Chapter Two: Beyond the Veil
"Should we wake him?" Ron asked doubtfully, looking down at Harry's still form. "I mean, we don't know what Dumbledore said to him."
Hermione hesitated, then shook her head. "He'll wake in a moment anyway, he's never asleep for too long."
She was right: barely a minute later Harry groaned and put a hand to his head. "It was Cedric," he muttered.
"Last time I was in the woods, I saw a kid 'bout my age. I saw him again just now, it's Cedric."
"Diggory?" Ron questioned. Harry nodded.
"'In the woods', you make it sound like you were actually there."
"It feels like I was," Harry yawned, rubbing his eyes. "Till I forget all the details."
"What was Diggory doing in your dream?"
"Not much. I called out to him, and he saw me and looked really shocked … and that's when I woke."
"What did Dumbledore say to you, anyway?" Hermione queried, sitting down on the common room sofa next to Harry.
"Well, Voldemort's been ruled out, but he still has the feeling they're not normal."
"What else could it be?" Ron asked, looking at Hermione.
"I don't know," she murmured. "I could do some research, but … if Dumbledore doesn't know, then I can't expect to find a clear answer."
"Don't worry about me, guys," Harry insisted. "You've got your own NEWTs to pass."
"And we'll help you to pass yours," Hermione said firmly. "How do you feel?"
Harry sighed. "Really tired. All the time. It's like … like the dreams are so vivid they're keeping me awake … does that make sense?"
"Er, sort of. I think."
"You're no help, Ronald," Hermione reprimanded.
Harry chuckled wearily and rubbed his dark-ringed eyes again. "Well, they're not letting me have any rest, if that's a better way of putting it."
Hermione nodded. "Maybe we could make a potion. I know of one that relaxes you but doesn't let you fall asleep – it's worth a try."
"Great." Harry's grin was interrupted by another yawn.
He must have been imagining things.
Cedric stretched out further on the grass and picked up his book that he had dropped. Why should someone enter the netherworld and then vanish almost immediately?
His mind was playing with him. Or it was a trick of the light.
But for a minute, he had been sure he'd seen an old friend.
Harry had already missed the afternoon classes, first by visiting Dumbledore and then falling asleep in the common room after the Headmaster gave him permission to take the afternoon off. After his conversation with Ron and Hermione between their classes, he moved up to his dormitory and promptly fell asleep again.
As always, he lasted in the dream world slightly longer than the last time. Cedric was still there, lying beneath a large oak tree reading a book. Harry drew nearer warily and was only a few feet away when Cedric suddenly looked up.
Harry blinked. "What are you doing here?"
Cedric chuckled and pushed his book away. "I think I should be asking that. What are you doing?" He looked Harry up and down critically. "Are you dead?"
"Er … Not that I know of."
"Well, you should be if you're here. I've never met someone alive beyond the veil."
"Veil?" Harry said quickly. "What veil?"
As he posed the question, he felt his head beginning to pound. Cedric and the wood around him faded and Harry awoke crying out "What veil?"
"Harry, are you okay?"
Harry rubbed his eyes quickly and saw Ron standing over him, his freckled face creased in anxiety.
"Are you okay, Harry? You were saying something about a … veil."
Harry let out all his breath in one go and rested his head on his knees with his eyes closed. "I'm okay," he replied finally. "That was the first time I've spoken to anyone. In my dream, I mean."
"Yeah." Harry lifted his head from his knees. "He said something about a veil … Damn it, it's going."
Ron visibly bit his lip. "You should inform Dumbledore. And Hermione's already got started on that potion – she sneaked the ingredients out of Snape's store cupboard."
"Same way as last time?" Harry inquired, referring to the incident with the firework when they had needed ingredients for the Polyjuice in second year.
"Don't think so. She got them between lessons, no classrooms have exploded, and she didn't take the Invisibility Cloak, so that's out of the question. She won't tell me how she did it. And don't change the subject." Ron paused for breath. "Harry, I don't like this."
"What, you think she did something … unconventional … to get them?"
"Not Hermione! I mean your dreams, or whatever they are. I know Dumbledore told you not to worry but I'm worried. I mean, if they're not normal and they're not Voldemort, what's left?"
"I dunno. Maybe I've just got a strange subconscious."
"No arguments here."
Harry gave him a shove. "What's the time?"
"Dinner time. You going to come down?"
"Yeah, might as well." Harry slid out of bed. "D'you think I should tell Dumbledore about Cedric?"
"I guess if it can help, you should. What did he say to you, anyway?"
"I don't really remember. All the details go fuzzy." Harry paused. "Maybe I'll go and see Dumbledore now."
Dumbledore looked up in surprise. "Harry! To what do I owe this second pleasure today?"
"Cedric Diggory, actually."
The Headmaster raised his eyebrows. "Oh?"
"It was him in the dreams; I actually spoke to him last time. I thought you ought to know."
"That is interesting." Dumbledore paused. "Can you think of any particular reason why he might have popped up in your subconscious?"
"Nope. And I can't really remember what we talked about. The conversation didn't last long before I woke up, then it went fuzzy like it always does."
"Cedric Diggory …" Dumbledore murmured thoughtfully. "You haven't seen anyone else in these dreams?"
"Hmm. Well, thank you for updating me … I'll continue some research … Maybe you could ask Madam Pomfrey for some Dreamless Sleep Potion? See if that does the trick …"
The grass was littered with autumn leaves, brown and red and gold, which crunched satisfyingly under his feet. The dew was glistening in the sunlight streaming through the trees.
Harry spotted Cedric first. As Cedric looked up and saw him coming, Harry noticed he was not alone.
Harry froze in his tracks. There were three adults standing there, staring at him as if they could not believe their eyes. Two men and a woman. At least thirty seconds had to have passed before one of the men unfroze and rushed at him.
"S-Sirius?" Harry gasped.
"Harry!" His godfather swept him into the tightest hug Harry had ever experienced, including the ones from Dobby and Hagrid. "It's so good to see you … But what the hell are you doing here?"
"I-I'm not really sure," Harry stammered. Suddenly he realised tears were rolling down his face. "I've missed you, Sirius."
"I've missed you too, kiddo." Sirius started crying into Harry's shoulder. Harry spotted Cedric slip away, leaving them to it. His eyes moved from him to the couple watching them. His throat tightened.
"Mum?" he whispered hoarsely. "Dad?"
"Harry," Lily breathed. "Is that really you?"
Sirius finally let him go, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. "That's him, Lil."
"You're right, he does look like me," James remarked.
"I believe his exact words were 'spitting image'."
Harry's voice seemed to have dried up. All his life he had wondered what he would say to his parents if he had the chance … Now he couldn't think of any of them. His brain was having a hard job processing the fact that they were there, in front of him, talking to him …
Lily drew hesitantly nearer, and reached out a hand to brush him cheek. "My baby," she murmured. "Look at you, all grown up."
Harry was crying again as he clasped her hand with his. A pain was starting to build in his head, and he clung onto his mother like a lifeline. "No! I don't want to go back …"
His parents and Sirius faded, and Harry jerked back to his dormitory. He tried to focus on the dream, remember everything, but already the details were going fuzzy. He spotted the Dreamless Sleep Potion on his bedside table that he had forgotten to take, and smashed it on the floor.