"Please," Harry whimpered, his voice filled with panic and desperation yet still almost inaudible. "Please let me fall asleep." The sound was swallowed by the silent emptiness of the family room at the Burrow, and yet it seemed piercing inside Harry's mind, where even the slightest noise, the creaking of the house for instance, echoed and increased in volume, continuing on until the next noise took its place. It was maddening.
This was Harry's second week at the Burrow, and tonight marked the seventh day he had gone without sleep. It was the summer holidays, and Mrs Weasley had invited Harry to stay at the Burrow, along with Hermione who was currently sleeping soundly in Ginny's room.
The first week had been fine. In fact, it had been one of Harry's best holidays to date, which really wasn't that difficult to achieve after spending the first few years of your life with the Dursley's, locked inside a cupboard or small room and only allowed out when chores were to be done. Yes, the first week had been just fine, but now that some of the novelty had begun to wear off, Harry had become uncomfortable. This was mainly due to the extreme heat of this, one of Britain's hottest summers to date, which made even the slightest activity physically exhausting. The nights provided no relief, with the air remaining warm and dry, without even a small breeze to offer refreshment. Another factor which contributed to Harry's lack of sleep, he had concluded, was the intense, almost revolting shade of orange which covered Ron's room from floor to ceiling, the colour of his favourite quidditch team the Chudley Cannons. Trying to sleep in that room was like trying to ignore a sun while also standing on it. And that was why Harry was now downstairs, away from the orange and still unable to find sleep.
"Why? Why can't I just go to bed and sleep like any normal person?" Harry was on the verge of a mental breakdown, with confusion quickly being replaced by panic. The feeling of complete exhaustion, a result of the heat and the week he had gone without sleep, was not enough it seemed to make sleep possible. And with each passing day, Harry was becoming even more desperate.
Quiet sobs wrenched themselves from his dry throat as tears began to pour down his cheeks. His body rocked back and forth on the couch, arms held across his bare chest, as if they were the only things holding him together. He felt about ready to scream, and struggled to hold it back. To keep it inside. Nobody must find out about this. Just another thing that set him apart from everybody else. There would be no pity for 'poor Harry' who couldn't even sleep. No. He would tell nobody.
"Hello?" A deep, smooth voice filled Harry's mind, pushing from it all the blaring noises of the night which were driving him insane. "Who's there?" Again that voice, and Harry looked up to see a figure, silhouetted in the moonlight, standing in the kitchen doorway.
"It's ju- just me. H-Harry." His voice was weak and the pain in it was blaringly obvious despite his best attempts to cover it up. He tried to suppress the sobs which still escaped from his mouth, quickly raising his hand in an attempt to wipe away the tears.
"Harry? Are you alright?" The figure moved closer until it was kneeling just in front of Harry, who was still rocking in place on the couch. The face was that of Charlie Weasley, the Weasley families second eldest and, to Harry at least, most mysterious. "Are you hurt?" Charlie's voice sounded caring and slightly worried, his deep blue eyes expressing concern as they peered into Harry's green ones.
"No, no. It's just, well you see... I'm just really tired is all. I haven't really gotten any sleep in about a week and, well. It's really nothing. I'm fine" he lied, and, judging by the tilt of Charlie's eyebrows, it was a pretty poor lie.
"A week!" Now Charlie's voice sounded more than concerned. "A week with absolutely no sleep?" Harry nodded, turning his head away from that piercing stare. "Why haven't you said anything? We could have helped you sooner."
"I don't need any help!" His voice had come out louder than he had intended, and the tone was harsh. "I don't need any help," he repeated, this time quiet and tinged with sadness.
"Ok." Charlie's voice was soothing, "But will you let me help you? I want to." Charlie's eyes were still full of concern, and Harry really didn't want to make a big deal about it. "Let me." And with that, Charlie took hold of Harry's hand and led him upstairs and into his bedroom.
"Thanks" Harry said, his words mumbled slightly due to exhaustion. His legs could barely keep up with Charlie, and his head hurt as it moved from side to side. They reached Charlies room, which was on the floor below Ron's, and Charlie pushed Harry softly towards the large bed that occupied one side of the room.
Flopping down carelessly onto the pillows which covered it, Harry curled up slightly and looked up at Charlie, his eyes already half closed. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it. Goodnight." He waited for a response, but Harry had already fallen into a deep sleep, his chest rising and falling gently with each breath.
*** *** ***
"Charlie dear? You wouldn't happen to know where Harry is, would you?" Molly's voice betrayed a hint of worry, almost concealed behind an indifferent attitude and calm composure. "It's just, when Ron woke this morning, he wasn't in his room and nobody else seems to have any idea where he could be."
Charlie looked up at his mother, quickly chewing and then swallowing the remainder of the toast that filled his mouth. "Actually, he's probably still asleep in my room."
With that, Mrs Weasley turned to face him, an expression of surprise on her face clearly indicating that an explanation was necessary. The others at the table, Ron, Hermione and Mr Weasley, also turned to face Charlie.
"Well, he hadn't been getting any sleep, and it was really getting to him. I found him out here last night and offered him my room. So, he's probably still asleep." He had repeated that last part in response to the confused stares that were now being passed between those seated at the table.
"Well this is certainly the first I've heard of it. I think I would've noticed if Harry hadn't been sleeping for... How long did you say it was again dear?"
"A WEEK! What? A whole week without sleep! How could he even stay awake for that long? I do hope there isn't anything seriously wrong. But why didn't he tell us? We could have helped." Mrs Weasley now looked both worried and slightly hurt.
"Well," Ron spluttered, his mouth still full of scrambled eggs, "he really doesn't tell us everything, does he? I mean," he quickly added, noticing the glare forming on his mothers' face, "maybe he just wanted to deal with this himself."
"And maybe he just wanted to appear normal for once, and not have everybody look at him as if he was some freak." Hermione hastily continued, looking around at everyone to make sure that they understood.
There was silence for a few minutes as they all considered Harry's behaviour. All that could be heard was the scraping of Ron's fork as he continued to shovel food into his mouth.
"But I still don't understand it," continued Molly. "What was causing him to stay awake? I mean, I know it's a tad hot, but everybody else seems to be getting to sleep just fine, don't they?" As if to make sure, she quickly looked around at the faces of those seated at the table, no doubt trying to find signs of sleep deprivation.
"Well, Harry has always had some trouble sleeping, what with nightmares and his scar and voices. But it's never been this bad. Maybe the heat is just making it worse."
"That disgusting orange in your room can't be helping either. It would make anybody sick after a few nights. How can you live in that?" Charlie added teasingly. "It's probably better that Harry stay in my room for the time being. It is much cooler than the rest of the house, and he does seem to be able to sleep quite well in it."
Mrs Weasley looked as if she was about to object, however having no reason to, she agreed. "That sounds like an excellent idea. And when he wakes up, we can take him down to see somebody about sleeping draughts. Everything will be-"
"No mum. Harry obviously doesn't want to cause a commotion. I think it's best if we just let it go. And don't say anything to Harry; it'll only make things worse." With that, Charlie left the room, leaving behind a few confused, thoughtful faces.
*** *** ***
Harry's eyes blinked lazily in the faint sunlight that streamed in through the bay window across the room. Soft pillows caressed his bare skin as he rolled over onto his side. He reached for his glasses, which had been placed carefully beside the bed, placing them on his head before looking around. "Huh?" His eyes were not met with that orange which so haunted him. Instead, they fell upon soft, grey walls the same shade as heavy storm clouds. The confusion quickly disappeared as he remembered last night, and Charlie offering him his room.
"So this is what Charlie's room looks like." He spoke out loud, noticing that he was alone. Looking around again, he noticed Charlie's bed, white sheets hanging from the sides and pillows bunched up on either side. The floor was covered in a thick, shaggy carpet of the deepest black, while the ceiling rose up from the walls, meeting in the centre and creating an almost grand atmosphere in the room, which was much larger than Ron's, Harry noticed. The wall opposite the door was entirely taken up by a single long, legless desk which seemed to travel through the walls at either end. It was covered in rolls of parchment, which were strewn about almost carelessly, as well several thick, expensive looking books which stood to one side. The final wall, which was opposite the bed, was more window than wall, with a huge curving bay window filling it almost entirely, lighting up the large space nicely.
Harry stood up, walking over to the desk, eager to examine the books. The front cover of the first read: Dragons Scale to Tail, a Complete Guide. The one behind that featured a large sapphire on the cover, which sparkled brilliantly in the light. "Wow," he breathed. But before Harry could examine any of the others, he heard a soft chuckle and spun around. Charlie was leaning against the door frame, his deep blue eyes looking straight at Harry and the corner of his mouth pulled up in a slight smile. He was wearing light brown leather pants and a thin white shirt, and his deep red hair stuck out messily at every angle, reaching down to his broad shoulders.
"Morning Harry. Feeling better?" he asked, his voice and smile friendly while his eyes conveyed concern.
"Yeah, much better. Um... Thanks for letting me sleep here Charlie."
"No problem. You're much more important than a room, and I didn't really need it yesterday anyway." The smile on his lips grew slightly larger, as if he was laughing on the inside.
"But didn't you sleep here last night? I mean, just because I'm here doesn't mean that you can't use your own room."
Charlies smile turned into soft laughter as he continued to watch Harry, his expression becoming more and more confused. "Actually Harry, you've slept here for almost two days now. I came in yesterday morning and you looked so peaceful I decided to let you sleep. The other night, you looked just so exhausted I felt it would be the best thing. And so you slept all through that day, and that night, and now it's morning again." His smiled did not disappear.
Harry began to understand. "Oh. So I've... err. Sorry." How could he have slept for so long? And why was Charlie being so kind. It's not like he's ever shown an interest in him before.
"Don't apologise Harry. It was no problem at all, and you really needed the sleep. I mean, when I told mum that you hadn't slept for a week she almost feinted. And-"
"You told your mum?" Harry's voice sounded angry and slightly hurt. Charlie stopped smiling then as he realised that Harry hadn't wanted anyone to know.
"Well, I had to tell them something," Charlie tried to explain, "what with you sleeping in my room for almost two days. They were worried about you, and I'm sure they won't make a big deal of it. I've told them that you were having trouble sleeping, and they agree that it is probably best if you stay in my room for the remainder of the holidays."
Harry wasn't quite sure, but he was grateful that Charlie had already told the others because that meant that he no longer had to. "Thanks. But I don't understand why I should be staying in your room. I mean, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with it. It's really quite nice. But I don't want to cause you any bother. I could just as easily stay in another room." Harry thought for a second, and then quickly added: "Maybe not Ron's."
Charlie smiled again. "I think you're missing something. Come and stand over here with me," said Charlie, beckoning Harry with his hand. Harry walked over to where Charlie was standing at the door. Strong hands grasped his bare shoulders and moved him out into the hall, where Harry immediately felt the difference.
The hall seemed to be about ten times hotter than Charlie's room had been, which seemed positively cool in comparison. Harry stepped back into the room, and coolness spread through his body once again. He repeated this twice more before finally turning to Charlie with a look of curiosity.
"I thought wizards didn't have air conditioning." There was a hint of accusation in his tone.
"We don't, but we do have things that muggles don't. Mainly magic." Charlie walked over to the long desk, taking from one corner what looked to Harry like a large stone sphere. He passed it to Harry, and it then both looked and felt like a large stone sphere.
"That, Harry, is a very powerful magical object. It was found in a tomb in Egypt by Bill, probably used in one of the ancient wizards' houses. It can maintain a comfortable temperature indefinitely. Very useful in Egypt, however just as useful in Britain with these heat waves. Bill gave it to me as a gift a few years back."
Harry looked at the stone, expecting to see symbols or something similar. But it was just an average stone. Well, an average stone with the power of an air conditioner. "Cool."
"Exactly," replied Charlie, his smile widening to expose gleaming white teeth behind his pink lips.
Harry turned around, eager to examine the rest of Charlie's room. Even though he had spent years in the wizarding world, he was still just as impressed by magic as he had been when he first entered Diagon Alley. Before he could however, his stomach gave a loud rumble which reminded him of just how hungry he was. He had been asleep for two days, and before that hadn't eaten much anyway. By this time, he was starving.
"Come on Harry," Charlie said, the tilt of his eyebrows and smile telling Harry that he too had heard the rumble, "let's go down and get some breakfast."
*** *** ***