Many, many thanks to everyone that reviewed last chapter! I loved hearing from all of you!
So this is actually the longest chapter I've written so far, and it may end up being the longest in the whole fic...I just couldn't find anyway to divide it up, nor did I really want to...
Chapter Fourteen: Nightmares
Squinting through the heavy rain, Harry decided that the black shadow was indeed the same black dog and chewed on his chilled, wet bottom lip anxiously. That didn't last long though, as a yell alerted him to a bludger flying his way, he quickly swerved out of the way of the ball and after checking to make sure he was safe he once more checked back to where he'd seen the dog—it was gone.
This was turning out to be rather like a scary movie, and Harry had the chill running down his spine to prove it…though that was probably just from the cold rain, a shiver wracked Harry's body and he decided it would be best to focus on the game. Surely, he'd warm up if he just forgot about the cold…but the cold didn't seem to go away, it sank deep into his bones and he shuddered uncontrollably, to the point where it became difficult to hold onto his broom.
He could hear yelling, he was sure, everyone was yelling about something, but there was a woman screaming above all that, something terrifying was happening—there was a woman screaming, her voice was so familiar and she kept calling his name.
No, Harry realized with horror, she was begging and pleading for Harry's life to be saved, over and over and over. It was all he could hear, screams rang constantly through the cold cloud in Harry's head, the terrified woman constantly screaming, "No, not Harry, please not Harry!"
It was mentally exhausting and he felt like he'd never escape whatever terrible limbo he'd ended up in. Red, orange, blue, and white were moving around him like water, slowly creeping closer and closer as the woman screamed, "No, please no! Harry! No!" The woman continued shrieking, "Bad baby!" After that Harry wondered for a crazy moment if he'd gone deaf as the screaming stopped, but then he heard a few muttered spells followed by, "You're such a bad baby!"
There were a few more muffled sounding spells and the sea of colors disappeared around him, leaving the room dull and cold. After a few moments, Harry could see a red-ish, blue mass rush over to him, and he could hear himself cooing and giggling. Then he was lifted and the world spun for a moment, and all that was left was a red mass surrounding him, as if he were inside a red balloon. He was once again warm and felt safe, and that contented him more than anything. This was much better than the orange-red that had surrounded him seconds before.
"You have got to control your temper, Harry," the woman chided in a high-pitched coo. It came from very close, and Harry reached for the source of the noise and found a finger, he pulled it into his mouth and gurgled happily.
"Again?" a deep and amused man's voice asked from somewhere behind the two of them.
The woman laughed and said with her voice still full of laughter, "He'll grow out of it, I'm sure, but until then we'll just have to fireproof the whole house."
"Gives new meaning to baby-proofing, I suppose," the man said without any inflection in his voice and Harry felt his world spin once more, and he found himself out of the red mass.
"I'll get this mess cleaned up," the woman said from farther away, "if you get him new clothes."
"I'm amazed he didn't burn himself," the man's voice said, and Harry realized, with a jolt strong enough to wake him up that it was Snape. The dream remained strong in his mind even though everything was blurry; as if he hadn't been wearing glasses…it probably didn't help that he couldn't see in the dark of wherever he was.
Which begged the question: where exactly was he?
Harry groped around him until he found a table, and after patting around on the top of that he managed to find his wand, but not his glasses. He tried the other side of the bed and had much better luck then, he pushed his glasses onto his face and the world came into focus. The hospital wing, Harry realized.
He rubbed his face, under his glasses and tried to forget the strange dream with all of its odd swirling colors and, Harry grimaced, Snape. His mind felt as if he'd spun around in circles and couldn't think because of it, and if that's what happened it would explain why he felt like throwing up now. But Harry doubted that was why he was in the hospital wing now; spinning around in circles no matter how vigorously done wouldn't land anyone in the infirmary.
An odd feeling gripped Harry, he didn't know why he was here and there was no one around to ask. Even the usual line of light from under the door to Madam Pomfrey's office was absent, it was kind of creepy and after the equally creepy dreams he'd been having, well… Harry would really just like to leave right now, thank you muchly.
He pulled the covers off and turned to sit on the edge of the bed, listening to see if there was actually someone around that could explain things.
Frowning after a moment of eerie silence, in which Harry could swear he heard a rat squeaking a bit, he decided to get out of the hospital wing.
He pushed himself to his feet, and shuddered when his bare feet hit the cold stone of the floor—winter already seemed to be seeping into the stone of the castle. Paying it no mind after a second, Harry quickly slipped over to the door to the hallway and peeked out—no one there either.
Harry began walking down the hallway; it wasn't that he was scared of being alone because he often was. Especially at the Dursleys when they would lock him up to keep him from sight or to make him feel like a freak or whatever sick pleasure they got from it, Harry really couldn't bring himself to care enough to figure out what was wrong with them because it was pretty much everything as far as he could tell.
But that left Harry to wonder why he didn't want to be left alone with his thoughts right now, he already knew, in theory that Snape probably would have had to have been around at some point before his paren — wait, could Harry even call both the Potters that now? Besides, it was all most likely that Harry's dreams were just that—hadn't it been proven that you couldn't remember anything before you were three years old? That your brain hadn't been switched on right before that? And if your brain wasn't even switched on then not even magic could make you remember, right?
Harry's feet felt heavy and freezing cold, like they were completely made of ice, and it was then that Harry realized that he didn't even have his wand. Maybe he should go back for it, maybe someone would be in the hospital wing now, surely.
Harry turned around, intending to do just that, when he suddenly realized that he was in the hallway that housed Professor Lupin's office.
Biting his lip, Harry couldn't help but recall that Lupin said Harry could talk to him about anything.
Harry sidled up to Lupin's office door and nearly knocked, even though it was in the middle of the night before he realized that the full moon had been recently-ish, right? He hadn't been paying attention last astronomy class and he couldn't remember…so what if it was tonight, even though Professor Lupin hadn't been in class Friday…so did that make the full moon Friday or Thursday? What about the nights when the moon was kind-of-mostly-full, did those count as full moons according to Lycanthropy?
This was way too complicated and his arm was starting to hurt from holding his fist up as he debated knocking on the door.
He should find a window, then he could check and see what phase the moon was, and then he could knock if it was safe. Yes, that sounded good.
Harry turned to walk away and find a window when another thought occurred to him, hadn't Lupin been at the quidditch game? If so then that meant he would be okay now, right? But Harry couldn't really seem to recall either way.
All this thinking was really beginning to make his head spin, and he decided to sit down…you know, just until he figured out whether or not Lupin would be able to talk to him…
…That seemed like…the best idea…
Harry became aware of the sound of a clock ticking, and then not long after the sound of a quill scratching across parchment. Then the sound of a fire crackling nearby and he could feel the uneven heat of it on his face and see the brightness of it behind his eyelids.
The blankets on him felt unusually heavy, and they smelled oddly of something wet and musky. It reminded him, oddly; of the cabin Uncle Vernon had taken them to after Harry had started receiving Hogwarts letters.
Harry's eyes flew open and he jerked wildly trying to sit up and figure out where he was, because it was certainly no where he could remember being in Hogwarts.
"Are you all right?" Professor Lupin asked, his voice scratchy and hoarse, "Did you have a nightmare?"
Harry looked around and he could really only make out the fire, which was blurry and appeared to be a glowing, waving mass like…like he'd been surrounded by in his dream earlier. Could it be that he'd set fire to something in his dream…? Harry also couldn't help but wonder why Professor Lupin was here, wherever here was.
Harry recalled the accusations Hermione had made earlier and immediately brushed them off, he really didn't think Professor Lupin was like the werewolves she'd been reading about…if he even was a werewolf.
"Your glasses are on the floor," Lupin added, "are you all right, Harry?"
Harry bent over to run his hand against the floor and managed to locate his glasses, he pulled them on and saw that he was just in Professor Lupin's office…and he was laying on the chair he'd sat in when they'd had tea…though the chair was now more couch-sized. Harry wasn't quite sure how he was supposed to feel about waking up in the man's office, he did feel very odd and rather uncomfortable about it…he couldn't help but wonder how long he'd been here and why.
"Harry…" Professor Lupin said again, and Harry looked over at him. He appeared to be marking papers using the light of the fire to see, the fire was also casting heavy shadows across his extremely pale face. Lupin looked incredibly ill, and Harry decided that there was no chance that he'd been to the game earlier.
Harry blinked and looked around the dark room in confusion for a few more moments, before deciding that he couldn't see any reason to feel particularly afraid or alarmed by being in Lupin's office. Besides, he had been here before at least, and not for a detention, and he had been outside debating about talking to the man. It wouldn't be like if he'd woken up on Professor Sinistra's couch while she graded papers…or Trelawney, Harry shuddered at the questions she'd ask.
Professor Lupin seemed to be growing concerned and was looking toward the fire as if he thought it would somehow help the situation.
"I thought," Harry said slowly, trying to break the silence, and respond to the professor's questions so that he wouldn't look so frightened, "that you might be…" Harry's eyes went to the window as he tried to figure out which word would be best to use here, "indisposed."
Professor Lupin's eyes also went to the window; brows furrowed a bit in confusion, and then quickly went smooth again. He turned his attention back to Harry, his lips turned up a bit at the corners and he replied, "Not tonight."
"Yesterday?" Harry asked, and immediately regretted it. He flinched a bit and pressed back against the couch-chair hoping that Lupin wouldn't be offended.
Instead he corrected, "Thursday and Friday."
"I didn't pay attention in Astronomy," Harry said as an excuse, and then faltered a bit as he realized he shouldn't be saying that to a teacher.
"I didn't either," Lupin said with a smile, "of course, I didn't really have to."
Harry supposed that made sense, and then said, "Sorry, for bothering you."
"I wasn't overly bothered," Lupin replied, and Harry got the odd feeling that the professor was leaving something off by wording it that way, but he couldn't tell what it would be. "You, though, seemed to be the one being bothered by something—why did you leave the hospital wing? Was it because you were having nightmares?"
Harry wondered why Lupin seemed so convinced that Harry had been having nightmares, this was the third time he'd asked…must have been all the thrashing about Harry had done when he'd woken up.
"I wasn't having nightmares," Harry replied, "I left the hospital wing because there was no one there and I didn't know why I was there to begin with—I mean, I feel fine."
"Is that why you were unconscious and freezing out in the hallway?" Lupin asked wryly.
"I'd thought as much," Lupin said with a light chuckle, which sounded like an odd cough and made the man's whole body shudder from the strain. "But you really gave everyone a scare when Madam Pomfrey went to go check on you."
"She wasn't there when I left," Harry replied.
"I'd be most impressed if that was the case," Lupin replied, and Harry decided he needed to stop talking because he clearly wasn't being very intelligent right now.
"But—I don't even—why was I there to begin with?" Harry demanded, sitting up and pulling his blanketed knees to chest, "I can only remember part of the quidditch game."
"That's because you blacked out during the game," Lupin replied, marking a couple of things on the parchment in front of him, "the dementors felt that they had good reason to come to the pitch during the game—"
"That's why I had such odd dreams," Harry muttered and Lupin's head jerked a bit as if he had cat ears that twitched upon hearing anything.
"But that led to you passing out and falling from your broom," Lupin continued, "you were very injured, and you're only mostly recovered."
"Wait, but," Harry said slowly, "does that mean we lost or did we have to forfeit?"
Professor Lupin stared at Harry, incredulous, for long moments—long enough for Harry to decide that must not be an appropriate thing to ask after nearly dying—before replying, "Cedric Diggory did catch the snitch, but it's under debate as to whether it will be counted as a victory or not. The external influences have cast some doubt on the matter."
Harry wasn't sure if "external influences" was an accurate way to describe a dementor attack, but supposed that Lupin would be considered an expert on the matter.
"But Harry," Lupin said sternly, "I'm most concerned about what could make you leave the hospital wing in the middle of the night; I was informed that it was very unusual behavior for you to leave the infirmary without permission."
Harry wondered how Lupin had managed to talk to someone about him leaving the infirmary, and that conversation hadn't ended with Harry returning to the hospital wing. It seemed like that would make the most sense in this situation—not that Harry wanted to go back there, but it just seemed off.
"I had…some disturbing dreams," Harry explained, "I think they're from the dementors, I had a lot of odd dreams after they came on the train."
"Nightmares?" Lupin asked, and then said pensively, "You said on the train you heard screaming?"
"I heard-hear," Harry stumbled over the words, "my mother screaming as she was being murdered," Harry swallowed slowly, "but that's not what I'm dreaming about! They aren't the same and they're not nightmares but they're still…disturbing to me."
"They are still nightmares, though?" Professor Lupin asked, and Harry could see a sort of hardness in his face that seemed to imply there was no way Harry could convince him that the dreams weren't nightmares. That was odd, to say the least and it was quickly becoming a bit annoying.
"No," Harry reiterated, "they just bother me…"
"Then why," Lupin said, pointing the feather-end of his quill at the floor and then slowly traced a path in front of the couch over to a singed potted plant that Harry doubted was just a burnt Peace Lily. Harry then noticed that the stone floor around the couch was blackened as if it had been on fire, and it was also wet…and Harry knew now why Lupin was so convinced he was having nightmares.
"They aren't nightmares," Harry repeated firmly, "They just bother me a lot."
"Enough to set our subject for next week's class on fire?"
Yeah, that potted plant was definitely not a Peace Lily.
"Who said that was an accident?" Harry retorted smartly and the professor chuckled.
They lapsed into silence after that, and Harry nervously wrapped his arms around his legs when Professor Lupin asked, "Do you set fires in your dormitory when you have disturbing dreams?"
"No!" Harry exclaimed in shock, "This is the first time I've ever done anything like this!"
Professor Lupin raised an eyebrow as if suggesting Harry stop lying because he knew the truth.
"It's true!" Harry insisted, "This is the first time this has ever happened."
"You do know that you used to set fires whenever you were upset as an infant don't you?" Lupin asked. Then he blinked and seemed like he just remembered that he was even holding a quill, he marked something hastily on the parchment before him and then set the quill down on the blotter. He turned his full attention to Harry, his eyes gleaming eerily from out of his pale, sickly face...they glowed almost like a pair of little yellow suns...
Harry shook his head quickly, dashing those thoughts from his mind, and instead recalled another dream, the one he'd had in the infirmary, all the swirling reds and oranges and the heat. He'd clearly set fire to something then and if it was real…if he was dreaming about his mum, then that would mean what Lupin was saying was true, but then…how could he know that?
"My dream tonight," Harry said ducking his head so he didn't have to look at Lupin, trying to figure him out like he was a particularly complex puzzle, "was about something like that."
"About what exactly?"
"I think I'm dreaming about my mum," Harry replied, "but I don't know for sure, all I see is red, all around me…I can't see anything in the dreams," Harry explained and straightened his glasses, "but I can make out some odd things—"
"Like the red?" Remus asked.
"It's a woman," Harry added, "there's a voice that comes from it, and it's a woman's voice—it must be my mum," then he added simply, "she had red hair."
"She did," Remus agreed, blandly, "and it was very long when you were a baby and it would always fall over your face she held you."
Harry's brow furrowed, and again, he couldn't help but wonder why Lupin knew these things. How Lupin knew these things.
"And then," Harry added, "there's a dog."
"A dog," Lupin replied, in almost the same tone, but there was an edge to it, and Harry looked up at the man. His face was held cautiously calm, as if he was trying not to reveal something.
"A big black one," Harry finished, "Professor Trelawney said earlier this year that she saw me with the grim—I've been seeing and dreaming about them since summer."
Lupin studiously maintained the same facial expression and Harry couldn't help but wonder why he cared so much about the black dog. Even Ron said it was odd that he'd seen and dreamed about the black dog; maybe…maybe this was something Harry needed to look into and figure out.
"Did you dream about the dog tonight?" Lupin asked with that same edge in his voice. Kind of strong and forceful, as if he were doing the human equivalent of a growled bark…yes, Harry would definitely have to figure out what the deal with this dog was.
"No," Harry replied, "I dreamed about setting fire to my room…I think…it's hard to tell when you can't see, you know."
Professor Lupin bravely mustered up a smile, but it was obvious he wanted to do anything but, and asked, "Anything else?"
"Well," Harry replied, "Then I think my mum came in and put the fire out and held me until…"
Harry swallowed and then asked, ducking his head down so close to his legs that he worried Lupin wouldn't hear him, except he was a werewolf so he probably could no matter what, "You said I could talk to you about anything, right?"
"Yes, of course," Lupin replied, quickly and firmly, "anything at all."
"I," Harry's throat went dry and he had to swallow several times before he thought he'd be able to get the words out, and they did come out but in an odd croaking voice, "my father wasn't there, but…" Harry had to force the words out, and when he said them it was surreal to hear them said out loud...it was almost as if someone else said them for him.
Lupin said nothing for a long while and it made Harry wonder if he'd actually said anything at all, he didn't want to repeat it so he hoped that everything went right the first time.
"Yes," Lupin replied after a long while and then he dropped his head to stare down at the papers on his desk, "he would have been there."
Harry's head jerked up and he stared at Lupin for a long while. Their roles had somehow become reversed as Harry studied him for any reaction and Lupin carefully avoided making any eye contact with Harry.
"I knew…your parents…James, Lily, and Severus," Lupin explained finally, and Harry didn't know what to make of having the three of them referred to collectively as his parents. He also wasn't sure he liked having Snape called by his first name; it was awkward, like whenever someone called Dumbledore "Albus."
"So you knew that Snape was my father then?" Harry demanded, wondering what he would do if that was the case. Probably set the whole castle on fire, or at least Lupin—burn him to a crisp. Harry shuddered as he randomly remembered Quirrell screaming that Harry was burning him and forced himself not to think about that and he couldn't really figure out why that had triggered the memory in the first place.
"No one did actually," Remus replied, "and yes, that's true, don't look at me like that. Your mother and Professor Snape were always friends, if you can believe that—"
"No, I really can't," Harry exclaimed, slamming his hand against the worn couch, "I can scarcely believe any of this!"
Professor Lupin, bewilderingly, drew his wand and flicked it, sending a spray of water across the room…to douse the flame which had begun to eat away at an old tapestry on the wall. Harry flushed and returned to staring at his blanketed knees.
Harry realized he'd just used the word "scarcely," which was rather a Hermione thing to say, really.
"I'm just confused," Harry said finally.
"I think," Professor Lupin said slowly, and Harry glanced over at him and saw him staring at a wall, thoughtfully, rather than staring at Harry trying to dissect him like some sort of dark creature, "that's rather normal."
Harry started at that and felt his heart pound in his chest twice before settling down a bit. Now, there was something Harry couldn't ever say he'd been before.
"You've just had your entire world turned upside down, and if I'm right, I'm guessing I'm the first person you've confided in," Lupin continued without waiting for a response, and without looking away from the wall to see if he was right, "that's a lot for a thirteen year old to hold in, and on top of that your magic's gone a bit haywire which makes it even more difficult."
Harry blinked and rested his head against his knees, pulling the blanket up over his arms as he stared at Lupin appraisingly.
"I'm also relieved that you've spoken to me about all this, and you know that I have a damaging secret as well, so I can certainly relate to wanting to keep quiet about it. But that shouldn't mean that you're left completely unable to confide in anyone," Professor Lupin added, "It's not an easy way to live."
"The way I figure it," Harry replied slowly and thoughtfully, "neither of us can help who we are."
"That's where you're wrong Harry," Professor Lupin replied, finally turning away from the wall to look at Harry with a smile, "you have every bit of control over who you are, your identity is not tied to who your parents are. You've made it twelve years without them after all."
Harry hadn't really thought of it that way before…to him his parents had always seemed like ever-present shadows, supporting and loving him from afar. He often thought of them, even if it was mostly wishing that they were there to keep him from the Dursleys…
"But I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that I think you're entitled to burn a few things if you want to," Professor Lupin finished with a smile. "Just try to avoid hurting people."
I hope you guys like this chapter! There was a lot of conversation and not much else, so I'm not sure XD