Title: We Are Nothing
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: Snape's Occlumency lessons have shattered the last defences of Harry's mind. Now, completely unprotected, his dreams have become home to a nightmare other than Voldemort. A nightmare that has taken on a life of its own.
Author's Note: Not entirely sure where the idea for this came from, perhaps it was a dream, but here it is!
"We are nothing; less than nothing and dreams. We are only what might have been, and must wait upon the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages before we have existence, and a name."
- Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia, Dream Children
Now I lay me down to sleep
"Same time tomorrow, Potter."
The words, Snape's dismissal, were almost enough to make Harry cry.
Staggering out of the potions classroom, he didn't bother making any farewells. It wouldn't have mattered if he had, Snape would never deign to return them. Certainly not in a polite manner, though he may have taken the chance to further insult and belittle his supposed student.
The journey from the dungeons up to Gryffindor tower was a difficult one, mostly thanks to the excruciating migraine that was pounding through Harry's temples. Moments like this made him feel an almost nostalgic longing for the lesser pains that he had experienced in the past. Like the Cruciatus Curse.
Suffice to say, Harry's mental health was more than a little muddled.
Reaching the portrait of the fat lady, Harry mumbled and garbled the password so badly that the entryway refused to allow him entrance. His second attempt met a similar fate, as did the third. Finally, on his fourth try, he managed a somewhat coherent, "Requiem."
Pulling himself through the portal hole, he felt a small measure of relief to find that nobody had been waiting up for him. He really wasn't feeling up to listening Ron rant about Snape's greasiness, or Hermione's lectures on putting more effort into his Occlumency studies. On top of his detentions with Umbridge, her recent appointment as Hogwarts' headmistress (following Dumbledore's abrupt departure) and his nightly visions of Voldemort; Harry wanted nothing more than a single night of decent sleep. What truly made things even worse was the knowledge that he was unlikely to find that decent sleep.
His progress up the stairs to the fifth-year boys' dormitory was almost as difficult as the trip up from the dungeons. He had to stop twice to steady himself as the pain throbbing through his head became too much to bear. Pushing open the door, Harry was further relieved to find his roommates already asleep. Ron's rumbling chainsaw snores were almost a physical thing, especially considering the delicate condition of Harry's head.
Stripping off his school robes and kicking off his shoes, Harry lurched over to his bed and collapsed in a boneless heap. He tried to remove the rest of his clothes, or at least loosen them somewhat. He was in no condition to fully undress and then change into his pyjamas. Too tired to change, too tired to even get under the duvet, he crawled up the bed until his head was resting on his pillows. His position was an awkward one; only one leg on the bed and his right arm trapped under his body. He didn't care.
Not bothering to remove his glasses, which were horribly skewed across his face, Harry surrendered himself to unconsciousness.
It was that damned vision again. Or a dream. Whatever the hell it was called, it was the same imagery that had been plaguing Harry's sleep since before Christmas, night after night after night. He honestly didn't know whether to scream, laugh or cry. All three were tempting in their own ways.
The corridor stretched out before him. It was perfectly straight, he knew, yet it seemed to twist and skew as he looked down its length. It was like being on an unsteady ship in the midst of a typhoon. The lights mounted along the wall flickered and cast a surreal air over the scene. And there, at the end of the corridor, was the focus of the vision; the door.
Oh, how he wished he knew the significance of it. He wanted to know. He needed to know. This door, and what lay beyond, was important to Voldemort. It was important to Dumbledore as well. Why else would he seek to guard it? Yet, as always, nobody bothered to tell him anything.
His ignorance caused a stab of anger to run through him.
That anger promptly changed to alarm as an unfamiliar voice spoke out.
"Now this is one boring ass dream, kid."
Harry, who would much rather have been dreaming of Cho or some other pretty girl, could not bring himself to disagree. Instead, both curious and worried by this unexpected change, he looked back and forth. There was nobody between him and the door. There was nobody behind him. So who had spoken?
"Who's there?" he called, his voice echoing strangely off the stone walls.
Harry spun round at the soft whisper, yet found no-one. He frowned in confusion; the voice had been different. A young child. A girl? He turned around and stared at the door. Perhaps whoever had spoken was behind the door?
"...he's coming for you."
This time Harry turned so quickly that he lost his balance and his footing; falling on his arse. Yet, again, there was nobody to be seen. Just the same, unchanging corridor that stretched into the seemingly endless distance. Scrabbling to his feet, he looked about frantically, beginning to feel an up swell of panic as his searching still failed to reveal anything.
"Who are you? Where are you?" he yelled, clenching his fists tightly.
"You want to know what's on the other side of the door, dontcha?"
This was the other voice, the one that had spoken first. A male. Deep and guttural with an unmistakable America accent. Not Voldemort. Harry licked his lips, trying to ignore the shivers that ran up his spine. That it was not the dark lord was a relief. On the other hand, the last thing he needed was another madman chasing after him. He really wished he had his wand with him, but despite being dressed in his uniform and robes, his wand was not to be found in any of his pockets.
"Dontcha?" the voice insisted.
"Yes," Harry cautiously replied.
"Then what are you waiting for?" asked the voice. "Open it."
"You can. Open it."
"If you won't..." the voice mused, "then I'll have to do it for you!"
With the words came action. The door swung open with unexpected violence, crashing against the corridor wall with a loud bang. Harry, startled and not about to let himself be dragged unwillingly into yet another life-or-death situation, spun on a heel and began to run. He had managed not a single step away from the now opened door before it became glaringly obvious that he was no longer in the corridor.
It was a Muggle factory of some sort. Everything, from the floor and walls to the ceiling was bare metal and concrete. There were pipes. Lots and lots of pipes. They ran back and forth in innumerable numbers. Side to side. Up and down. Harry could not even begin to guess what their purpose was. The air was stifling hot and thick with humidity amidst the glaring reds and oranges that illuminated the place. You could not find a place further removed from the magical world.
"Where the hell am I?" Harry asked in confusion.
"Three, four, better lock your door."
The child's voice whispered softly behind him and Harry turned just in time to see the open doorway slam shut, a loud clang echoing throughout the factory. But it was no longer the door he had grown familiar with. This was a large and heavy slab of cast and riveted steel, with an unwieldy looking wheel for a lock. Even as he watched, the wheel spun round in a blur and sealed the path behind him.
"Ah, at long last... a visitor."
Harry twisted round in a full circle, looking for the source of the voice. As it had been for the entirety of this encounter, he found nothing.
"Where am I?" he demanded angrily.
"Now, normally I prefer girls," the voice announced, ignoring him, "but you'll do just fine as an appetizer. The rest of your friends... they'll be the main course!"
"What?" asked Harry. He had a sudden feeling that the corridor had been much safer than his current locale.
Harry just about jumped out of his skin at the piercing screech that now echoed through the factory. It was like a demonic version of nails scraping against a blackboard. Somehow, he got the impression that he most emphatically did not want to encounter the source of the noise.
It was hard to tell, thanks to the echoing nature of the pipes, but damned if it wasn't drawing closer.
"Come on, kid... run," the voice urged. "I really love a good chase."
That sounded like the best advice Harry had received since the end of the Triwizard Tournament.
A flicker of light caught Harry's eye and he turned to stare at a nearby junction of pipe, where another corridor intersected the one he was in. More lights flashed. On and off. Off and on. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he realized that he was seeing an approaching collection of sparks. Sparks caused by the source of that dreadful screeching noise; the sound of metal scraping against metal. Sharp metal.
Harry did as the voice suggested.
He began to run.
"Come, Watson!" the voice called in a purely awful attempt at an upper crust English accent. "The game's afoot! Ha ha! Ha ha ha hah!"
Trying to ignore the insane laughter, Harry scampered down one corridor and then another. In the back of his mind he knew that he was hopelessly lost. Not only was he unfamiliar with his surroundings, but each pipe-lined passageway he turned into looked exactly the same as the last. His efforts to flee were not helped by the occasional burst of hot steam, which soon had his glasses completely fogged up. He was literally running blind.
And the madman chasing after him was gaining ground.
Rounding a bend, Harry cursed as his footing slipped, almost sending him crashing to the steel grate floor. He recovered quickly though, his years of experience at being chased by Dudley and his gang serving him well. However, even as he fumbled against one wall to retain his balance, one dark corner of his mind commented crossly that he was always running away. There were times when it seemed to be the only thing he could do.
Harry's unhappy reminiscing came to an even unhappier ending as he discovered that the corridor he was currently running down was, in fact, a dead end. This was revealed to him as he reached said dead end and found that there was nowhere left to turn. Cursing floridly, he turned in the hopes of backtracking, but discovered that retracing his steps was not an option. His pursuer was blocking the way.
It was impossible to make out any details, especially with his foggy glasses. The man was standing backlit by ominous red and orange light, trails of steam wafting around him. With his body cast in darkness, only his profile provided any hint as to his appearance. His clothing seemed that of a Muggle, or at least he was not wearing any wizard robes. Perched on his head was a battered hat of some sort, maybe a fedora. And his right hand... extending from his fingers were gleaming steel blades.
"Aw, over so soon?" the shadowy figure asked mockingly.
Harry frantically searched for a way out as his tormentor began to approach. There was no escape. At least, no obvious escape. To his right, a hole formed out of many pipes that followed a common path. But it was small. Very small. Harry would have had no trouble crawling through such a space in his pre-Hogwarts years. Now, however, after four and a half-years being fattened up by regular meals in the Great Hall, not to mention Molly Weasley's cooking, Harry doubted he would be able to make it. The screech of knife-like fingers against nearby pipes made the decision for him.
"Sod this," muttered Harry.
Not wasting another second, he hurled himself into the tiny space. It was a tight fit, perhaps too tight. His shoulders protested as he folded them inwards as best he could, his arms desperately scrabbling for enough purchase to pull himself along. His legs, trailing behind him, kicked and pushed him further into the dark jungle of steaming pipes. The sharp clang of steel against steel spoke of his close escape. But he was not yet truly out of danger. He had managed to painfully wriggle his way through perhaps five metres of narrow conduit before the sound of scraping metal reached his ears from behind. The race was on.
Elation and relief filled him as the end suddenly appeared before him. Redoubling his efforts and ignoring the pain it caused him, Harry drove onward. He felt the cold scrape of bladed fingertips nibbling teasingly against the soles of his shoes. The maniac chasing him was close. Very close. With a yell of both terror and exertion, he reached out with both hands to grasp the opening of the tunnel and hauled himself out into the open in a single fluid movement. He fell with a clatter to the floor of what appeared to be a suspended walkway of some sorts. He looked up and found himself kneeling before a massive Muggle furnace and boiler.
He turned back to stare into the black hole he had escaped from. In a blur of movement, a claw of steel exploded into view, reaching out for him. Harry flinched back as the razor-sharp blades nicked his shoulder, cutting the fabric of his already torn robes. Miraculously, though it cut through to the skin, it did not draw blood.
"Merlin!" he exclaimed, shocked by the close call.
Rolling to his feet, he took off down the catwalk, not bothering to risk looking back.
"Run, run, as fast as you can," the man called after him. "I'm still gonna catch you, little gingerbread man!"
Now desperately trying to flee, Harry leaped down a flight of stairs, jumping them three at a time. He hit the floor below at a dead run, almost twisting his ankle when he landed badly. Reaching an intersection on the causeway, he turned randomly down one of the branches. He was so frantic by this point that he didn't know if he had gone left or right.
As he rounded the corner, he looked over his shoulder. Nothing. Despite the apparent lack of pursuit, he did not slow. If anything, he picked up the pace and made a point of divesting himself of his ruined school robes, hoping to gain some extra speed without their encumbering weight. After several more turns, which lead him off the catwalk and back into the heavily piped corridors, Harry skidded to a halt alongside a steel ladder that was set into the wall. Glancing back once again and again seeing no-one behind him, he scaled the rungs of the ladder as quickly as he could.
"Going up!" the man's voice announced, seemingly coming from all directions.
Cursing that his ploy to throw his hunter off track had failed, Harry climbed up to the next floor and resumed running. To his extreme relief, he saw an unwieldy metal door directly in front of him. It was identical to the one that had brought him to this place. He slammed into the closed door with enough force to bounce off and leave himself with several colourful new bruises. Grabbing hold of the wheel, he pulled and twisted with all the strength his arms could muster.
"Ah, there you are."
Hearing that the madman chasing after him had finally caught up, Harry intensified his efforts. With a loud groan of protest, the wheel began to spin in his hands. After what seemed like a short eternity of frenzied twisting, the wheel could turn no more and he pulled the door open and squeezed his way through the available space even before it had fully opened. Spinning round, without bothering to identify the place he had entered, Harry braced one leg against the wall and pulled the door shut as quickly as possible. He gripped the locking wheel and spun it round and round until the doorway was firmly bolted shut.
Understanding that his pursuer could just as easily open the door from the other side, Harry backed away several steps and grabbed his wand. He never questioned why it was now present when earlier it had been missing from his apparel. He immediately pointed the wand at the door and began casting.
"Colloportus!" he screamed, casting the generic locking charm.
Feeling that he was at least somewhat safe, if only for the moment, Harry bent over and propped his hands on his knees. He had just managed several long, deep breaths, in the hope of calming his rapidly beating heart, when the locking wheel gave a sudden jerk.
"Aah!" he yelped, flinching back and falling on his arse. Despite the spell cast upon it, the wheel began to slowly unscrew and with it the bolts securing the door. With a speed born from sheer terror, Harry raised his wand and screamed, "Colloportus! Colloportus! COLLOPORTUS!"
The magic behind the repeated locking spells was enough to make the door shimmer, a faint blue glow surrounding it. The wheel was now frozen in place. Harry waited, wand held at the ready, hoping that this time it would be enough. The locking wheel remained perfectly still.
Taking a deep breath and releasing it in a massive sigh of relief, Harry began to take stock of his surroundings. He was quite surprised to find himself inside the Great Hall of Hogwarts. The door in front of him had replaced the wooden one that lead to the small antechamber just off the hall, where the Triwizard Champions had assembled the previous year.
Bolstered by being back on familiar ground, Harry turned towards the exit, intent on finding a way out. Or, at least, a way to someplace relatively safe. He had taken just a single step when a sharp sound reached his ears. It reminded him of the sound made when a can opener punctured a tin of food. The connotation of this was a frightening one, but there was little time for it to register in Harry's mind. Another, now horribly familiar, sound picked up where the first had led off.
"Oh, bollocks," Harry spat, turning to face his fate. There would be no more running.
One of those monstrously sharp and strong steel knives had been jammed through the door's face and, not unlike a can-opener, was tearing its way up the length of the steel frame. Reaching the top of the door, it withdrew, only to be immediately reinserted, this time to allow for horizontal movement. With the same rapidity, the blade cut along the top edge of the door.
Harry began to slowly back away. While he no longer intended to flee, he retained enough sense to know to keep his distance from an opponent that wielded blades. The extra room would give him, with his wand, an advantage over the much shorter ranged knife fingers.
In a manner not unlike a massive tree toppling over, the steel door collapsed inward, kicking up a small spray of dust as it crashed against the stone floor. Harry readied himself and peered into the black passageway. He absently wondered where the earlier light that had illuminated the boiler room had gone. Long seconds passed and nothing happened.
Then, a head emerged from the shadows and popped through the now open doorway.
It took all of Harry's restraint, admittedly very little, not to immediately fire off the worst curse he could think of. His foe was truly hideous to finally behold. As the man calmly stepped through the door, his shabby figure was revealed. He was wearing a grimy and badly frayed sweater, coloured with horizontal stripes of red and green. A battered and stained fedora adorned his head and his right hand was adorned with a glove whose fingers trailed off into long and wickedly sharp knives.
But it was not his clothing that caught Harry's attention. No, it was the man's face. Or what was left of it. Not a single inch of skin was unmarred, but instead was a twisted and painful looking mass of scar tissue. He looked like a badly overcooked steak. Having more than a little experience in such matters, the Boy-Who-Lived recognised the disfiguring marks as being the result of burns. Whoever this was, he had clearly been burned alive at some point.
"Well, it's not Springwood, but - I - like - it!" the horribly scarred man exclaimed, taking in the sight of the Great Hall.
Harry stared uncertainly at the man. This was hardly what he had been expected. Truth be told, he hadn't known exactly what he had expected, but this ragged looking figure was definitely not it. Seeing that his pursuer was otherwise preoccupied, Harry slowly began to edge away, towards the doors leading to the Entrance Hall. He also made sure to keep his wand at the ready, tip never wavering away from the other man.
"There's potential here. Lots and lots of it," the man mused, absently trailing his clawed hand over the top of the teacher's high table. He grinned wickedly, the grin of someone who enjoyed inflicting pain on others. Harry had seen a muted version of that grin on Dudley often enough. Pressing harder, the man's steel claws dug deeply into the wooden table top. He looked up to Harry and purred, "So many children to play with. So little time."
"Five, six, grab your crucifix."
The unexpected whisper from behind caused Harry to jerk sideways, keeping his wand on the man as his eyes sought out the source. He almost dropped his wand at what he saw in the vicinity of the doors he had been retreating towards. There, wearing a pristine, frilly white dress was a little blonde girl. She was hopping over a skipping rope and singing too softly to properly hear her words. She was apparently unaware that she was not alone. Harry's eyes flicked to the man and saw that he too had noticed the girl.
"Ah, little Heather. I liked her," the man's tongue snaked across his lips. "Tasted just like chicken."
Whether the man was joking or not, Harry felt the bile rising up in his throat at the implication. He glanced back to the girl in question and was not too surprised to see that she had vanished. He promptly focused all of his attention on the only other person present. One that, unfortunately, had not vanished.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded.
"People call me a lot of things," the man admitted. "Usually it's 'No! No! Please, I beg you! No! Arrrgh!' Or something like that."
Harry stared at his companion and concluded that his first impression had been the correct one; he was in the presence of a madman. Already leery, he took aim and fired off what had become his mainstay. "Stupefy!"
The man jerked his attention back to Harry, a look of surprise on his face. But it was too late. The bolt of glowing red magic caught the man dead centre of his chest and knocked him back and off his feet. He collapsed in a heap several steps back from where he had been standing. Sighing in relief at having gotten the drop on this latest complication in his life, Harry began to lower his wand.
"Ho ho!" the man exclaimed, cocking his head to look down the length of his body at Harry. He quickly pulled himself to his feet. "So, the Boy-Who-Lived isn't a complete wussy after all. Good. That'll make this so much more fun."
Harry stared at the man in shock before pulling himself together and trying again. "Stupefy!"
This time the spell splashed across the man's chest and barely staggered him. He smirked and wagged his bladed index finger. "Uh uh, Harry, that's not going to work twice. Fool me once and all that crap."
The full body-bind seemed to work. The man's arms and legs snapped to his sides and he began to totter unsteadily in place. But before he could topple over and land on his face, he inexplicably relaxed and resumed his loose stance.
"Aw… did that not work either?" he asked mockingly.
Harry swallowed nervously as the man began to slowly advance. He snapped up his wand again and tried something else. As the more benign spells were having no effect, he upped the ante with something a little more dangerous. With a brief horizontal slash, aimed across his adversary's throat, he cast a severing charm.
"Gak! Gurgle! Arrgh!" the man gasped, clutching his throat with his unadorned hand. For a moment, Harry had some hope that the spell had worked, but this faded as the man continued to wheeze and fling himself about in an overly dramatic fashion. Perhaps sensing that his act had been divined, he ceased his playing and stood straight once more. "This is my world, kid - I'm the only one allowed to slice and dice a person."
Irritated by the use of the word 'kid' to address him, in a manner not unlike Vernon Dursley's preferred appellation of 'boy', Harry narrowed his eye and grit his teeth. The scarred man resumed his approach and walked straight into an anger-fuelled flame curse.
A fireball of bright yellow flame erupted from the tip of Harry's wand and raced to engulf the man. But, even as the fire covered his body from head to toe, the man reacted with terrifying calm. This time there was no showmanship. Instead, he took a big step forward and left the flames behind. With nothing to sustain it, the fire, quickly died out.
"Look at my face you stupid little turd," the man commanded, for the first time without the black humour of his earlier tone. "Do I look like that matchstick fire could scare me? You'll have to do better."
The blasting spell smashed into the man's face, causing his head to whip to one side. He recovered almost instantly, turning back to Harry with a sneer. "Heh. Pathetic," he said. "How d'you think you're gonna protect your friends if you can't even hurt me?"
Clenching his jaw so hard his teeth hurt, Harry held his wand in a white-knuckled grip and tried another spell.
This worked better, but not much. The man was knocked him back a step, but nothing more. Harry knew, from his experience teaching the D.A. that the duelling spell would have flung an ordinary opponent through the air with little difficulty.
"Better, but still not enough," the man assessed as he scratched his chin with a bladed finger. His grin was grew dark as he asked, "You need to do better, Potter, or I'll be having me some good, ol' fashion fun with your friends."
Frustrated by his inability to land a decisive hit, Harry snarled, "Shut up, you bastard!"
The insult, weak as it was, washed over the man to much the same affect as the spells. His dark grin shifted into a lecherous one. "Maybe I'll start with the little chink bitch you're so fond of," he mused. He licked his lips in gross anticipation as he cupped his groin. "Maybe I'll give her a real reason to cry... when I split her in two!"
Despite the troubles plaguing his relationship with Cho Chang, Harry was under no illusions as to why his opponent would make such a suggestion. It was to hurt him, purely on an emotional level. It also, he mused, was intended to provoke him. To provoke a response. It succeeded.
Harry snarled and jerked his wand at the advancing figure. "Crucio!"
The curse was fuelled by his anger, his anger at everything that Harry perceived as being wrong in his life. And there was hatred there too. Hatred that he was unwilling to admit to having. His hatred of Umbridge and the torture sessions she disguised as detentions. His hatred of Snape and the torture sessions he disguised as Occlumency lessons. His hatred of Draco Malfoy for mocking and denigrating him as he endured both. His hatred of Dumbledore for allowing these things to be done to him without care or reprisal.
Suffice to say, it was an impressive Cruciatus Curse that erupted from Harry's wand.
"AAAAHHH! SON OF A BITCH!"
The man staggered under the curse and fell to his knees. While not writhing in unadulterated agony, his body was twitching uncontrollably. Harry took a step closer and twisted his wand, focusing more power into the curse. To his amazement and horror, however, the man refused to collapse. Instead, he actually fought off the curse's effect, slowly lifting up his clawed hand and pointing back to Harry.
"ENOUGH!" he roared.
A wave of rippling air exploded out from him, moving in all directions. It slammed into Harry and knocked him down. He rolled with the blow and was quickly back on his feet, but it was too later. The burnt man was once again standing tall. But something was different. He was looking at Harry with a strange expression on his charred face.
"I actually felt that!" he muttered, as if surprised by this revelation.
"I should bloody well hope so!" exclaimed Harry, preparing to have a second go of it. He was understandably surprised when his opponent stepped back, as if disengaging from the chase.
"What do you fear?" he unexpectedly asked.
Harry blinked and considered. Deciding not to answer, lest he give his enemy a weapon to use against him, he settled for keeping a close eye on the man that was now pacing back and forth. Wavering slightly, he asked, "Why d'you want to know?"
"Fear... that is my greatest strength… my gateway into the dreams of the children," the man explained, "but you, Harry, you're not afraid."
"Not of you, I'm not," Harry blustered.
"No, you're not afraid," the burnt man concluded. "You're angry."
Knowing that this was true, Harry did not deny it.
"So very, very angry."
The man stopped his pacing and turned to face him. "Not my cup of tea," he admitted, taking a slurp from a fine china teacup that had suddenly appeared in his unadorned hand. He smacked his lips in false appreciation and grinned, "But I can work with it."
"Seven, eight, gonna stay up late."
Swallowing, inexplicably nervous at the attention now focused on him, Harry had to ask, "Who the bloody hell are you?"
The reply came in a throaty chuckle, rich with a perverted amusement.
"Me? I'm the stuff of nightmares!"
"Harry? Harry, mate, are you all right?"
The boy in question stared dumbly up at his best friend, not entirely certain when he had made the transition from dream to reality. He drowsily looked about the room and noted that Neville and Dean were looking on with almost as much concern as Ron. Seamus, who had been somewhat on the outs with Harry, was trying to appear apathetic, though his sidelong glances spoke of his interest.
Pushing himself into a sitting position, Harry stared unhappily at Ron and asked, "You woke me up?"
"Well, yeah," Ron nodded.
"You woke me up."
"I had to - you were having another nightmare. Thrashing about and-"
Ron's explanation was cut off as Harry's fist smashed into his face, knocking him off his feet and to the dormitory floor. Harry glared down at him, waving his clenched hand threateningly. "You dumb bastard," he snarled, "What the hell did you do that for! Did I ask you to wake me up? No, I didn't! So why did you interrupt my perfectly good nightmare?"
"Harry... you're yelling at Ron because he woke you up... from a nightmare?" asked Neville uncertainly.
"Um, don't take this the wrong way, but why?"
"Because!" snapped Harry. "That was the most normal nightmare I've had in months - and he ruined it!"
"What was it about?" asked Dean, trying to steer them into a somewhat less inflammatory line of discussion.
Harry paused and frowned thoughtfully. The dream, or nightmare, had been amazingly vivid. Yet, now that he was awake, it was beginning to slip away from him, growing more and more disjointed. "I was - I was in a Muggle factory," he said. "It was hot, very hot, with lots of steam. And there was a man..."
Ron, having recovered somewhat, immediately asked, "It wasn't You-Know-Who, was it?"
"No," said Harry. "It wasn't Voldemort."
"Piss sake, Potter," yelped Seamus, "why can't you be like decent folk and not say his name all the time?"
"He had knives on his hand," Harry continued, ignoring the Irish boy, "like - like really long fingernails. He was scraping them against the pipes before he tried to cut me with them."
"And you're complaining because I woke you up?" asked Ron incredulously.
Harry, however, ignored Ron. His attention had moved to himself, or more specifically; his clothing. He had taken off his robes before going to sleep, but not the rest of his clothes. While his memory of the previous night was a bit spotty, especially the time following Snape's lesson, he knew for a fact that he had not been wearing a sweater. He was also certain that he did not own any such sweater. It was worn and dirty and scratchy, with broad red and green horizontal stripes.
Exactly like his nightmare visitor had worn.
"Are you sure it wasn't You-Know-Who?" asked Ron cautiously.
"Pretty sure," Harry replied. He was fast growing sick of how everyone suspected Voldemort's involvement in everything. He flopped back on his bed, closing his eyes and wishing he were still asleep. Despite having slept through the night, he was still feeling horribly tired. The only good thing thus far was that his headache had faded away.
"I don't know - it might be a trick."
Harry opened his eyes and glared at Ron. "Unless Voldemort stuck his head in an oven and fried his face like a slice of bacon, then I rather doubt he had anything to do with it. I can have a nightmare that doesn't involve a homicidal dark lord, y'know."
Ron looked uncertain, but unwilling to risk another punch. "Well, if you're sure..."
Harry barely heard him, focused instead on the sweater he was now impossibly wearing. He fingered the rough woollen fabric as his mind played over the events in his nightmare. A mournful and sinister children's song repeated itself in his mind.
"Nine, ten," he whispered, "Freddy's back again..."
Author's Note: Yes, Harry Potter is having nightmares, though not on Elm Street. Suffice to say; there's going to be quite the body count before this is over. I'm also going to be trying something new, a phenomena otherwise known as the "anyone can die" trope. Should be entertaining, no?