Hello all. This is something of an experiment to me, being the first pure Harry Potter 'fic I've written. I finally caved into the demands of my muse to write--of all overused things--a fifth year 'fic. I hope I've made it interestingly different enough.

I would also like to note, just in case anyone cares, that this is more or less a response to Severitus' Challenge. However, that is not the only main focus of this story. But . . . with such a fascinating idea, how could I resist?

Severitus' Challenge, obviously, belongs to Severitus. I'm just glad it's a challenge, so I can steal with impunity. *grin* Harry Potter and Co. belong to J.K. Rowling. And if I ever get around to adding any original characters in, they'll belong to me. But nothing else does. Unfortunately.
He's going to find out eventually, you know.

I know, oniisan. I know. A shuddering sigh, as the shorter of the two figures buried his (her?) head against the other's shoulder. I can't believe he hasn't figured it out already. He was there, you know.

Ssh, Harry. It will be alright.

But . . . Tear-streaked face was raised. . . . why? I always thought you would hate me . . . when you found out . . . and I couldn't bear the thought!

A laugh drawn unwittingly from the taller of the two as he ruffled the other's short hair. Harry, Harry. I may have hated, once, the ideal that Harry Potter represented . . . but I've known you as my imouto for much longer than I've known you as Harry Potter. Besides, haven't I helped you each year--where I could--in trying to stop You-Know-Who?

She sighed. I don't know what I would have done without you and Hermione. I never could have made it without you.

Without you, I probably would have gone on and become another Death Eater, just like Father. The taller grimaced with disgust. I will protect you from him, Harry. I promise.

Green eyes flashed open with a suddenness that would have startled onlookers, if there had been any. I promise. Those last two words seemed to hang in the air for another long moment before dissipating completely.

A dream. The inhabitant of the bed fumbled, sliding glasses on before turning to look at the clock. Just as he turned, the number flashed in change. 12:00 had become 12:01. Wry smile. Happy birthday to me. He whispered, then leaned back, eyes searching out even in the dark familiar bumps and cracks in the ceiling. He grasped for details of the dream.

There had been . . . two people. One had been . . . blonde? Maybe? . . . the son of a Death Eater. He shuddered, thinking of those minions of Voldemort. The other had been . . . he frowned. Himself? He vaguely remembered that person being referred to as Harry Potter. But surely that couldn't be right . . . the Death Eaters and sons thereof that he knew of, he certainly weren't friends with.

What had they called each other? Oniisan and imouto? Not English, obviously . . . he doubted they were words from any language he had heard of. Still, he wondered what they meant--they might provide a clue as to the meaning of the dream . . . or at least the identity of the taller individual.

With a sigh, he rolled over. He'd owl Hermione tomorrow . . . erm, later today? . . . and ask. Surely she'd know. For now, he'd just enjoy the sensation of being a year older.

Fifteen. He was fifteen now. Perhaps it was the dream, but for once he truly did feel like he was a different person at fifteen than he had been, even just the previous day. Holding to that thought, hoping that for once in his life the change--whatever it was--was a good one, he slipped fitfully back into sleep.
Kill the spare.

The sun was only beginning to peek over the horizon when he woke back up, scar still tingling in sympathy to the remembered agony of that night. It was the dream he had had at least once every night since the end of the previous school year. He knew he ought to tell someone about it, that it was foolish to hold it all in . . . but he couldn't.

The others, even Ron and Hermione . . . even Dumbledore . . . they wouldn't understand. Understand how it felt to be forced to stand by while Cedric . . . poor, brave, honorable . . . dead . . . Cedric . . .

In away, he was glad the nightmares recurred so frequently. They would ensure that he never, ever forgot. If anyone else knew, they'd probably try to force him to take some potion that made him sleep deeply, without dreams. They wouldn't understand why he wanted to keep them . . . because they were all that was left of Cedric. And no matter what he told himself, how hard he tried to convince himself . . . he couldn't help but believe that Cedric's death was all his fault.

Somehow, he had the feeling . . . that the Harry Potter in his dream would understand.
For about the twelfth time that day, Harry rubbed his arm. He didn't understand . . . no matter how hard he watched, he kept on bumping into things--things he could have sworn he had watched out for. At the top of the stairs, he tripped suddenly, bouncing and rolling to the bottom, where he silently said words of thanks that the Dursleys were out somewhere. If Dudley . . . heck, if any of them had seen that, he wouldn't have heard the end of it for months.

Dudley would probably even learn to use the owl post for the joy of making fun of him even after he got back to Hogwarts. Absently, he noted that that was the eighteenth time he had tripped. He rolled his eyes upwards. Becoming suddenly accident prone for my birthday. Just what I've always wanted as a present. Thanks.

For a moment, he wondered if this was some sort of nefarious plan of Voldemort's. But . . . if Voldemort was able to get close enough to him in this, his home', to cast a curse that made him accident prone, he'd have been more than close enough to just kill Harry and be done with it. Harry had no doubt that Voldemort would have no problems conscience-wise with killing him in his sleep.

He wondered if he could come up with some good proximity alarm charms for when he got back to Hogwarts. He couldn't use any of them now even if he found them, for obvious reasons--no underage magic. He could, however, start researching.

Research. Harry snorted. He was beginning to sound like Hermione. He could almost imagine her now . . .

Proximity charms? Oh dear, we haven't gone into them much yet, have we? Have you looked to see if there were any in The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 4)? How about Grade 5? Surely you've read it over already . . . hm. You know, I believe I read something about proximity charms used to guard Hogwarts in Hogwarts, A History. That might also be a good place to check . . .

And on, and on . . . Perhaps he wasn't turning into Hermione quite yet after all.

He worried at his lip, wondering if he ought to owl the brown-haired girl about his recent streak of . . . accidents'. But no . . . it was probably just a phase that all children went through or something. Nothing to worry about, and certainly nothing to worry Hermione about.

He drifted into the kitchen, made and wolfed down a peanut butter sandwich, then (out of some misplaced filial feeling, he supposed) quartered a grapefruit, ate the smallest quarter, and wrapped the rest and placed it in the refrigerator. Carefully, watching the placement of his feet with an extremely paranoid eye, he climbed back up the stairs and returned to his room.

Back in his sanctuary of sorts, his eyes brightened as they fell on Hedwig and the message the snowy owl held in her mouth. Perhaps Hermione had already found out what those strange words meant. He unrolled the parchment, a feeling of eagerness that seemed quite overdone stirring in his stomach.

How are you doing? The Dursleys treating you okay? Remember, you can always give me a call if you have some sort of problem.

Where on Earth did you hear those words? It took me ages to figure out even what language they were from! I did, of course--they're in Japanese. Oniisan' means elder brother' and imouto' means younger sister'. Now spill! You know that once my curiosity is wakened, there's nothing that will stop me from figuring out what is going on eventually.

Do you have a Japanese pen pal?

C'mon, you've gotta tell me now!

--A rather frustrated Hermione

P.S. On your birthday no less! Happy fifteenth, by the way. See you at Ron's (I hope) and you
better let me know what's going on before then.

P.P.S. Or I'll tell the entire school you're secretly in love with . . . um . . . Snape! And that your fondest wish is to have a threesome with him and Colin Creevey.

Harry grinned. That sounded just like Hermione--except for the threat. That was considerably more evil than she tended to be. Perhaps he and Ron were rubbing off on her at last. After a moment's thought, he scribbled out a brief reply, thanking her but only saying that he had heard the words somewhere'.

For some reason, he felt unwilling to divulge the dream--at least until he had figured out what exactly was going on with it, why it was coming to him, and who that mysterious second figure was. And why the son of a Death Eater, good friend or not, was calling dream-himself little sister'.

As he was about to give the note to Hedwig, he pulled back, suddenly thinking of some addition he wanted to add. He scribbled out an additional question as to how one would say elder sister' and younger brother' in Japanese. As a postscript, he pointed out that if Hermione was to do as she threatened, he'd tell the school that her fondest desire was to engage in a threesome with Malfoy and Professor McGonagall.

Satisfied that he had gotten his point across, this time he didn't pause before handing the note to Hedwig and instructing her on where to go. Still feeling somewhat restless, he dug out his copy of The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 4) and, on a whim, Hogwarts, a History as well (Who knew? It might be useful) and flopped down on his bed (banging his right elbow for the ninth time and his left knee for only the third), ready to engage in a hunt for proximity charms.

He might as well be doing something useful with his time, after all.
Time passed. Slowly, Harry adjusted to being accident prone--or at least, he began watching his surroundings a great deal more closely, always wary for the next object he was to knock over or the next invisible crack he would trip on. Luckily, he managed to pull off his most embarrassing accidents--tripping down the stairs twice more and tripping at one point or another on the way up four separate times--when the Dursleys were out or otherwise occupied.

At one point or another, he bruised nearly every place there was to bruise--of that he was sure. He had been keeping track. Still, except for one spectacular black eye (running into a doorway. For that one, at least, he had a halfway decent excuse--he had been three-quarters asleep), the Dursleys seemed not to notice.

Even in the case of the black eye, Uncle Vernon had wanted to know all the details about the fight' he was so sure Harry had been in mostly because he wanted to know if he would have to pay the other father restitution of any kind.

Hedwig had returned with news that elder sister' was oneesan' and younger brother' was otouto'--close, in both cases, but not close enough--and a postscript that detailed the likelihood of a relationship between Harry, Malfoy, and Professor McGonagall.

With his reply of thanks, Harry retaliated with the suggestion that she take Snape off his hands and add Ginny Weasley to the mix. The Lovelife War was on, and neither side was willing to relent.

All joking aside, Harry found that he truly did enjoy this battle of complete silliness--although he had never quite expected it would be Hermione he would be exchanging such barbs with. About midway through, they agreed that Hermione's jab of Mr. Filch had been uncalled for, but that the return snipe of Mrs. Norris was equally reprehensible if not moreso. Afterwards, both made a point to avoid Fang, Fluffy, and other beings of that nature . . . although Harry suggested one of the centaurs at one point.

Harry kept a chart of all the relationships that had been mentioned--both by himself and by Hermione--to make sure that he didn't repeat himself. He suspected--this was Hermione, after all--that his friend was doing the same thing.

And, of course, the dreams continued, dreams of himself-yet-not that segued into the eternal dream of Cedric, Wormtail, and Voldemort. Often, he did not even wake between dreams anymore, yet he could still remember both quite clearly.

The dreams of himself-yet-not did not come every night, but two to three times a week; very rarely two nights in a row. Still, he was slowly gathering information on the other Harry Potter--and found himself wondering if the other Harry had similar dreams of him. The thought made him feel . . . self-conscious . . . but then, if she knew he was dreaming of her, she'd probably feel self-conscious too.

She? Yes, that was one of the first things he had discovered. In this other place where these dreams originated from, the Boy-Who-Lived had been born a girl.
Two weeks left to summer. He was going to the Weasleys' house for the rest of the break, as would Hermione. Although their little war continued, Harry persisted in not mentioning the dreams as the source of the words he had asked her about. He was almost, in fact, to the point where he was considering seeing if he could get a Japanese pen pal--if only so that he could use that as a semi-legitimate excuse.

He wondered if other-Harry was Japanese, or raised that way? But then, in that case her brother' would almost certainly be full Japanese--and he was pretty sure that blonde Japanese people were something of a rarity in real life. Even if Tokyo especially seemed chock full of them (and people with fire engine red, blue, green, purple and more as shades of hair . . . naturally) in anime--one of Dudley's newest obsessions.

Somehow, though--and for more reasons than just the hair objection--the thought of that Harry Potter living and growing up in Japan seemed . . . off. She too, he was almost certain, attended Hogwarts. He couldn't pinpoint what exactly had driven him to this conclusion, but it was a conclusion he was sure of.

Downstairs, the doorbell rang. He sighed. Not for him--he wasn't sure the wizarding world understood even the concept of a doorbell. Even if whoever came for him, did come in through the front door, they certainly wouldn't ring the doorbell. He looked around anyway, though, just in case. Except for his wand and Hedwig's cage--one in his pocket and one sitting on the desk--everything else was already packed away in his trunk, which he had already taken downstairs and stored back in the cupboard for the time being.

Uncle Vernon roared. It's for you!

At that, Harry's eyes widened and he dashed out of the room. Pausing at the top of the stairs, he looked over. Hermione! What are you doing here?

Nice to see you again too. The girl replied with a grin. Now come on. My parents are driving me to the Weasleys', and we're picking you up on the way. I assume you are ready to go?

Harry grinned. He ducked back into his room, grabbed Hedwig's cage, and came down the stairs--one hand gripping the railing tightly just in case. He did not want to trip down the stairs while holding Hedwig. At the base of the stairs, Hermione came forward to grab Hedwig while he dug into the cupboard and dragged his trunk out.

The two fifteen-year-olds made it out to the car with everything still intact. Harry made a point of showing wide-eyed astonishment at the fact that Hermione had not . . . increased the car's trunk size slightly, which comment earned him a playful bop on the head and an idle remark about himself, Justin Finch-Fletchly, and Millicent Bulstrode. As a rule, they tended to stick to threesomes, the more far-fetched the better.

Harry turned and waved jauntily at the Dursleys. Bye! See you next summer! Hopefully not. But, knowing my luck . . .

So? How has your summer been so far? Hermione asked as they both got themselves adjusted, fastening seatbelts, in the back seat. A narrow look made it clear that his recitation had better include where he learned those Japanese words. Or else.

He shrugged. Actually, the most tolerable since before I can remember. They seem to have decided that they're willing to ignore me as long as I don't do anything too he wiggled his fingers mockingly freakish', and stay out of their way. Considering the restrictions on underage magic, the first was unlikely to happen and I was just as happy to adhere to the second. The less I have to see of those people, the better.

And . . . Her stare was growing flintier. He made a point of ignoring it.

So I stayed in my room a lot. Got pretty much all of my homework done for once. Was it just me, or was the Potions assignment easier than usual? Charms too. Actually, he had been quite surprised. It was not like Snape to go easy on anyone--except perhaps his precious Slytherins. Certainly it was completely out of character for him to give an assignment that was anything less than completely, brain-meltingly hard to the despised Gryffindors.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. Charms was obviously easier because of all the practice with hexes and counters you got last year. You should know by now that different forms of magic exercise different areas of the brain, and the more an area of the brain is exercised, the easier it is to access again. Or at least, that's how magic works.

She leveled a reprimanding stare in his direction that reminded him of Professor McGonagall before continuing. But please, Harry. I know you're trying to distract me, but try to come up with a statement a bit more believable than your first next time. Potions was just as hard as it has always been, and you know that very well.

Harry, about to protest, shut his mouth. Something strange was going on, something besides his dreams of other-Harry, if he found almost laughably easy something that Hermione--the brain herself, the smartest girl in their year and perhaps even the entire school--had some trouble with. He'd keep quiet until he figured out what was really going on. Aware that he had let the silence grow almost too long, he forced a mock-sheepish expression onto his face. Well, I had to try!

Harry . . . Hermione sighed plaintively.

The black-haired boy caved in. I heard the words in a dream.

Not . . . Her eyes widened.

He made a point of shaking his head quite vigorously. No! As far as I can tell, Voldemort has absolutely nothing to do with that dream. My scar didn't hurt or anything. I was in the dream, talking to . . . someone . . . I can't remember who. Those words just came up in the conversation.

He shrugged and began to lie through his teeth, hoping Hermione couldn't tell. It only happened once and I really don't remember much at all. I just happened to have written you that letter when the incongruity of those words was fresh on my mind. Otherwise, I'm sure I would have forgotten it completely. He felt a bit guilty about lying to Hermione, but he really didn't feel like sharing the dreams with anyone. They were his.

He could tell Hermione was still somewhat doubtful, but she thankfully decided to take him at his word and accept his explanation. They both left it at that, and the conversation moved on to other things. He would tell Hermione everything. Just . . . not yet. Not yet.
As his time at the Burrow lengthened, Harry was silently glad that he had had two weeks to adjust to his new problem', enough time to where he didn't trip too much or otherwise make a fool of himself. If any of the others noticed how much more aware of his surroundings he was--he carefully attempted to avoid using the word paranoid' even to himself--no one said anything.

As he basked in the warmth of his friendship with Hermione and Ron, he also found reason to be glad that he no longer woke up at night screaming because of the dream of Voldemort's resurrection. That would worry them, his screaming would. Then, the inevitable explanation, the inevitable attempts to persuade him that it hadn't been his fault.

What he knew no one would believe is that he knew it wasn't his fault. If anyone's, it was Voldemort's fault, as so many other things had been. Unfortunately, he had a harder time convincing himself to believe that there was truly nothing he could have done. In the end, nothing anyone said would convince him to believe that it hadn't been his fault; only he could do that. And he couldn't, yet.

So he continued on, pretending everything was alright and just the same as it had always been. Constantly fighting a losing battle against his newfound clumsiness, against the bittersweet anguish brought on by his nightly dreams of that night, always searching for new clues as to the meaning of the other dreams of girl-Harry.

Everyone, it seemed, was changing this summer. Ron had shot up and was now taller than both Fred and George, to his delight and the twins' disgust. Hermione, following the trend she began the previous year, had grown a bit taller as well and was beginning to fill out. There was no longer any doubt whatsoever that their childhood friend was a girl. Ginny, too, was beginning to look more mature.

They were all, Harry admitted reluctantly, growing up. He too was taller, though not as tall as Ron by any stretch of the imagination. Although he had been of the opinion that he ate enough--he certainly didn't get all that hungry--this process of growing seemed to have stretched him to the point where he looked, well, gaunt in the mirror, and Mrs. Weasley tried to find a delicate way to ask him if the Dursley's had been starving him.

They hadn't. It's true that, in the past, there had been times when he had been locked up in his cupboard for a day or two without any food as punishment, but that hadn't happened recently. He could have called following the diet starving him, except the fact that he hadn't followed the diet all that closely. Especially not since the Dursleys seemed to be off doing one thing or another a lot more often this summer, giving him plenty of opportunities to sneak a little something from the refrigerator or pantry.

Of course, watching Ron around Hermione was always fun, and vice versa. Especially if the topic had anything to do with the time this summer that Hermione had spent in Bulgaria as a guest of the Krums. He supposed it was hormones. Whatever it was, he felt oddly aloof from it, observing from the outside. He knew that both Hermione and Ginny were girls and that they were, in their own ways, quite beautiful girls. But he felt no need to do anything about that beauty other than appreciate it.

He supposed that meant he was different in yet another way from the rest of humanity. By this time, he almost expected it. It didn't seem quite right, after all, that he be allowed to be normal in any way. He was the Boy-Who-Lived. He couldn't possibly be just a normal boy too.

Oh well. Watching Ron make a fool of himself was enjoyable enough, and he supposed he didn't really mind not feeling compelled to make a fool of himself too. On the other hand . . . it was another change in himself that made him feel almost like he no longer knew who he was, much less knowing anything about anyone or anything else.

Perhaps to compensate for this, he threw himself into his books. If the world was changing around him, if he himself was changing, he needed something solid to hold onto. Looking through the books from the previous year, he found that there were still things he didn't understand, an understanding he had neglected because at the time he had seen no reason. Some of these topics, he realized he had not understood because he was missing background information that he had not properly understood in the years before.

He found connections between disciplines that fascinated him. By the time they went to Diagon Alley to get their books and supplies for the coming year, he was looking forward to seeing what their new books were like. For perhaps the first time in his life, he found he truly wanted to learn. This wasn't his early fascination with the concept of magic. This was . . . he had no words to describe it. Knowledge, his lifeline in a mutable world, had also become his friend.

Ron and Hermione noticed, of course, his newfound interest in things academic. Hermione was congratulatory, warning him with laughter in her voice of the consequences if he displaced her as top student in the year. Ron just got a mournful look on his face and said it was horribly unfair, since he no longer had anyone to slack off with. After a moment's thought adding in a mock-fierce tone that this fascination with schoolwork had better not take too much of his attention away from Quidditch. But for the most part, they were too wrapped up in each other and in pretending that they were not wrapped up in each other to really pay him much attention.

Harry figured that whoever had decided that the OWLs were to be taken this year, when--if indications turned out to be true--even Hermione would be distracted, had definitely had a very warped sense of humour. Either that, or they understood young people so little that it wasn't even funny.

And still the dreams. The other Harry suffered from them too, the ones about Cedric, and she felt the same as he did about them. She, unlike Harry, was willing to talk with her brother (?) about them, and the conversations they held helped Harry, too.

I know this sounds strange coming from me, he had said, but when we get back to Hogwarts, I want you to be kind to Cho Chang. Go out of your way just let her know that you care. Cedric's death hit her hard.

He ruffled the other Harry's short hair. It doesn't do to wallow in your guilt and your grief. Everyone dies eventually. Your job is to try to prevent what deaths you can. But people will die. We've grown up with stories of what things were like back when Father attended Hogwarts; Voldemort is even less likely to be merciful this time around.

A sigh. People will continue to die, and if you let every death weigh you down, you will be locked so tightly to your indecision that you will hesitate too long at just the wrong moment, and more people will die. Grieve, but don't let your grief destroy you.

Harry hadn't. He threw himself into his books, reveling in his new joy at learning. He played Quidditch with the Weasleys and even Hermione occasionally, throwing himself into the pure feelings of joy that flying always brought welling up into his heart. He watched as Ron and Hermione nervously maneuvered, each interested, each unwilling to admit it, trapped in their own little world of each other.

He lived, and liked to think that, in a way, he was living vicariously for Cedric's sake too. For the sake of Cedric, his parents, everyone whose life had been cut tragically short by the scourge that was Voldemort.
It had taken an intensive search, but he had finally found it. Gathering his courage, he opened the sliding door and stepped inside, shutting it again quietly behind him.

The sole occupant of this particular compartment looked up. Oh. It's you. Her dark eyes were curiously blank, as if she was making an effort to suppress every hint of emotion. You know, don't you, that I'm still not interested? The tone of voice was deliberately harsh.

Harry blinked. He had almost forgotten. Looking at his fellow Seeker now, the only emotion he felt towards her was sympathy. Yes . . . er, I mean, no I didn't know, but that's not what I came here to say.

Then say it and leave, Potter. I hope you will excuse me if I say that your face is not one I'm terribly fond of, just now. Her voice was completely monotone as she bowed her head, focusing her attention on her hands, folded in her lap.

That hurt, but not as badly as he had expected it to. I just wanted you to know . . . he licked his suddenly dry lips. . . . that if it had been my choice to make, Cedric would have been here with you right now. He paused. Or maybe not, since he would have graduated . . . he shook his head. I'm getting off topic. I--if I hadn't told him to take the Cup with me; if I had greedily accepted his offer to allow me to take the Cup, even though he got there first; if I had only been fast enough . . .

He wiped his hands angrily across suddenly wet eyes. I don't expect you to forgive me--how can I, when I haven't even managed to forgive myself. But . . . for what it's worth . . . I am sorry.

He was looking down now, so he didn't note Cho's sudden glance, the everpresent anguish now curiously muted by speculation and pity. She had been so wrapped up in Cedric's death that she hadn't noticed--or, to be truthful, cared--how he, the only one who had been there when he died, had taken it.

How . . . Now it was her turn to lick strangely dry lips. But . . . she had to know. She swallowed. How did it happen?

Harry's head shot up, green eyes wide with astonishment.

Please tell me. She would not beg.

He shook his head briefly, then slowly nodded, his eyes now never leaving Cho's. Groping slightly, he took a seat on the opposite side of the compartment. If you're sure . . . He evidently saw something in her eyes, a silent determination. . . . okay.

We emerged into the clearing with the Cup at nearly the same time. There was a monster chasing Cedric, but he and I managed to dispatch it. He was closer to the Cup, and one of my legs had been injured.

Then, out of some obscure Hufflepuff sense of honor and loyalty, he decided that I deserved the Cup more than him. We argued for a while--each trying to convince the other that they deserved the Cup more--until I suggested that we both take the Cup.

He swallowed. And now, the part he remembered so clearly, the part that was in his dreams every night. So we took hold at the same time. There was . . . well, you already know it was a Portkey, right? . . . so it took us somewhere. We were trying to figure out what to do--we kind of thought it might be part of the Tournament still.

He closed his eyes. And then . . . his voice. Voldemort's. Cho flinched. At the name, yes, but also at the way Harry's voice had gone flat. Kill the spare. That's what he said. Kill the spare. I wasn't fast enough . . . there was a flash of green light . . . his body hit the ground, and his eyes were open, blankly staring into nothing, and he looked so surprised. The words had been coming faster and faster and now his voice cracked as he saw again the face that haunted his dreams each night.

Cho watched as Harry slowly crumpled, curling up on the seat. The train lurched and almost instinctively she jumped up to catch him. She continued to hold him as he began to cry, long, hard, heartbreaking sobs. And through the sobs came words. And then I knew . . . that he was dead . . . that he'd never come back . . . just like my parents.

His grip on her arms strengthened to the point where it verged on becoming painful, and he raised his red-rimmed eyes to look into hers. Just like my parents. He continued, his voice frighteningly intense. I couldn't save my parents, and I couldn't save Cedric. I'm supposed to be so special, so why can't I do anything to stop it?!

Harry . . . she began, still cradling him, cursing for the first time her analytical Ravenclaw mind that really had no idea what to do in situations such as this. . . . you're only human. And, she realized, it was true. They all put him up on a pedestal and expected him to do miracles. He was their talisman of hope. But somewhere along the lines, they had also forgotten that he was also nothing more than human.

Even she had fallen into the insidious trap. That was the main reason, she realized, why she had been so angry at him for Cedric's death. He had managed, time after time, to pull off miracles. And this one time, when the outcome mattered so much to her, he had managed the miracle of getting himself out alive but not the one in which he brought Cedric back, alive, with him.

And she had never forgiven him for that.

You can't do everything by yourself. Everyone seems to have forgotten that, but it doesn't make it any less true. I am sorry, Harry, for resenting the fact that you couldn't do something that even . . . that probably even Dumbledore couldn't do.

A quiet snort. Dumbledore can do anything. He slowly disentangled himself from her comforting embrace. Thank you. I didn't know . . . but I needed that.

Cho hesitated, biting her lip for a moment. Look. I'm still not interested. But . . . if you ever need a shoulder to cry on . . . But surely, if he needed that, he could go to his friends in Gryffindor. She knew he had some. Or his family. Surely they would help him.

Harry grinned. It was a pale shadow of his usual brilliant smile, but it was a start. I'll tell you a secret--I'm not either. He shrugged. Don't know how to explain it . . . but . . . Another shrug. I'm not.

For a moment, Cho was at a loss. She supposed she had expected nothing to have changed. Yet, with the simple admission, she felt a great weight fall away. Let's just be friends, then, shall we?

The grin was stronger now. I think that's a wonderful idea.
They sat together on the same seat now, leaning slightly against each other. And then he looked me straight in the eye and said gravely I wasn't spying on your team. That would be dishonorable. I was spying on you.' She chuckled. I wish, now, that I could have seen my face when he said that.

I idolized him, you know. Harry confided. He was so . . . so tall, and so much older than me, and Seeker and Captain of the Quidditch team, and brave and honorable and . . . well, he was everything that I wanted to be. He made a face. And then, suddenly, he turned into the nastiest being on Earth when I found out that he and you were together. Snort. Jealousy. Hormones. Pfeh.

What about the girl you took to the Yule Ball? She was one of the Gryffindors from your year, right?

Oh, Parvati. Yeah. I feel rather guilty about the way I acted towards her now. I only took her because I had to take someone, and then I proceeded to ignore her completely in favor of sulking over you and Cedric. He laughed. Juvenile, huh?

I wouldn't say, that. Cho said dryly. Cedric never realized that I had been watching him far longer than he had been watching me. Since second year, at least. And every time I saw him with another girl, I practically ate my heart out. I was horrible to everyone I came into contact with because I had to lash out at something. Jealousy is like a disease. Nearly everyone is susceptible to it and there's no cure. You just have to wait it out.

And either you get what you want eventually, Harry interrupted with a smile, or you grow up and grow out of it.

More or less. Cho agreed. A comfortable silence fell. So . . . how was your summer?

Enjoyable for the most part. He acceeded. It took me a while before I was able to sleep through the night without waking up in the middle, screaming. He leveled a glare at her. And if you tell anyone I said that, I will flatly deny it and get back at you in the most humiliating way possible. I don't want anyone or anything messing with my dreams. Period.

What do you see? She asked quietly. Is it . . .?

Yes. There are some variations, but most of the time I'm standing over the Cup, seeing my own excitement reflected back in his eyes. Then we touch the Cup and I can hear Voldemort saying Kill the spare' and then Cedric is falling, dead before he can hit the ground, and I can hear myself screaming even though I didn't in real life and then I wake up.

Every night? Cho looked horrified. Harry . . .

No. Someone has to remember, Cho. I won't let him be forgotten. And . . . the dreams are all I have left of him. I know it's silly, but I feel like . . . as long as I can remember, as long as the dreams are still there, he'll continue to live on in some fashion.

He'll live on anyway in our memories of him. I-- she shifted uncomfortably --I feel slightly hypocritical saying this, but I don't think he would have wanted you to dwell on his death forever. You're going to need to move on eventually. Her arm folded around his shoulders and squeezed encouragingly. But until you come to terms with those dreams yourself, I won't try to press you into taking Dreamless Sleep Potion or anything like that.

Harry sighed. You don't know what that means to me. My other friends . . . they would have kept bothering me, trying to force me into it for your own good'. They wouldn't have understood . . . but somehow, I get the feeling that you do.

My mother died when I was five. She said quietly, an apparent non sequitor. It was so stupid. She had taken me out shopping with her at a nearby supermarket--my mom was a half-blood, and she grew up as a Muggle--and someone held up the store we were in. She pushed me away, telling me to run . . . and tried to stand up to our captors. Cho choked, and it was Harry's turn to put his arms around the older girl as silent tears ran down her face.

Finally, she began again, her voice still wavering slightly. They shot her. One through the head, the other through the heart. She probably died almost instantly. Then she fell, and blood splattered everywhere, all over me, and I just stared at her face and pled for her to wake up and then I started screaming and everything . . . shattered.

It was my first display of magic. All the glass in the store--including the windows--broke into millions of tiny pieces. Instantly. The guns in their hands melted. It was the shattering glass that brought the police to investigate; they captured the robbers, but they could do nothing to bring my mother back.

For weeks afterwards my father was so distant. I know now that he was just coping with the grief in his own way, but at the time I was convinced that he believed it was my fault, so I came to believe that too. And everytime I went to sleep, all I could see was the blood.

They started giving me Dreamless Sleep Potion. It allowed me to get a full night's sleep without dreams, but at the cost of shoving everything down deeper. Those nights when for some reason I didn't get the potion were ten times worse because of everything that had been suppressed. It took years before I stopped dreaming in shades of red.

So I know what it feels like. And I know that trying to suppress it will only make it harder once you let go--and you will have to someday.

To a certain extent, I already have. He answered, surprised to feel that the burden had, indeed, lifted the slightest bit. I think . . . it's because of you. I . . . well, I knew you cared for Cedric, but it was abstract knowledge. You've reminded me that I'm not the only one who grieves his loss, and I'm not the only one who will remember him. And . . .

No one, you know, actually asked me how Cedric died. Well, Dumbledore, of course, but it was more incidental than anything else. The information he was truly interested in was that which had to do with Voldemort's rebirth. Cedric was just . . . I don't know. An unfortunate side-effect?

I have no doubt that he cared. Harry went on hastily. But . . .

But it wasn't the same.

He tilted his head upwards slightly. You know, that advice you gave me applies just as much to you. You're going to have to move on, too. With a small smile, he quoted other-Harry's brother. Grieve, but don't let your grief destroy you.'

Before today, if someone had said that to me, I would have told them to sod off. Cho admitted. I was, to be frank, wallowing in my grief still. But . . . it helped immensely, not just to hear the truth of how he died, but also just to have someone to talk with Cedric about. She gestured around at the otherwise empty compartment. Everyone is walking on eggshells around me, and no one will talk to me. She snorted. It's as if they believe I'll go postal if the subject of Cedric even comes up. She paused as if suddenly remembering something. That means . . .

I know what it means. Harry said. I grew up around Muggles too. I wonder if the wizarding world has an equivalent?

Go owl? Cho suggested, her lips twitching. Their eyes met, and they started laughing.

Harry shook his head. That's an unregistered Animagus. They laughed even harder.

Can you imagine Snape as an owl? Cho asked through her giggles. He does have that whole silent stalker' image going for him, after all.

Harry Looked at her. What are you, crazy? Snape would be a bat. Duh. Which remark, of course, set them off with a fresh set of howls.

Oh . . . Cho groaned. Snape does come off as rather vampiric, doesn't he? That was a question that needed no answer. The five minute warning rang through the train, and both stared at each other in considerable surprise.

I suppose I'd better go. Harry said awkwardly. See you?

Cho agreed quietly. Then, with curiousity, What about your friends? Won't they have been worried?

Harry laughed. I rather doubt they noticed my disappearance. At her incredulous look, he smirked. As I said before. Hormones. Pfeh.
It turned out he had done Ron and Hermione a disservice. They had indeed noticed his absence--around the time Draco Malfoy had decided to pay him a call.

Where were you, Harry? Hermione asked. We were worried about you.

He waved a hand dismissively. There was something I needed to get done. Sorry I didn't let you know, but you seemed rather wrapped up in each other when I left. I didn't want to disturb you.

As Harry anticipated, this statement--although complete truth--also served as a distraction. Both his friends exploded in a storm of protests of the absolute untruth of his words.

Subject closed.
As they rolled up to the castle, Harry spared a thought of mild regret that he wasn't with Cho. He felt distanced from his friends--through no fault of their own--and was missing the closeness he had shared with Cho during the train ride there.

He leaned his forehead against the glass and gazed up into the blue sky. It was a very nice shade of blue, with only a few wispy clouds, small enough to where they added to the atmosphere of calm and peace instead of detracting. The sky soothed him, conspiring along with the memory of his conversation with Cho to put him in a better mood than he'd been in in quite a while.

He'd had good moods every once in a while over the summer, especially recently, surrounded by his friends and aided by his newfound love of learning. This wasn't merely a good mood, however. This was a good mood.

As they entered the Great Hall, his eyes swept the faculty table. There were old faces and faces missing--notably Hagrid and Professor Moody'. Professor Lupin was back, though, he noted with glee. Perhaps he would be teaching them Defense Against Dark Arts again this year.

Snape looked snarky and greaesy and mean as always, although he seemed even more cadaverous than ever. But then, if he had returned to spying against Voldemort, he had a reason for looking so awful. And two new faces. A man and a woman, both looking like they were in their mid- to late thirties.

One, he assumed, would be replacing Hagrid as Care of Magical Creatures Professor. He wondered what the other would be doing. Well, he'd find out eventually. Soon. After all, one of the first things Professor Dumbledore always did was introduce the new teachers--of which there had been at least one every year since Harry had come to school, because of the jinx' on the DADA position.

He smirked. There was a way to get rid of Snape for good. Just let him take the DADA job, as it was rumoured he had always wanted. Then again, knowing Snape, he'd probably break the jinx before the jinx had a chance to break him. No matter how little he liked the Potions professor, he had to admit that the man had no shortage of courage and determination.

Idly, he scanned the rest of the hall, his mind still for the most part on the intriguing little problem of The DADA Jinx' vs. Severus Snape. He almost wished it would happen, simply so he could sit back and watch. As his eyes passed over the Ravenclaw table, Cho looked up and smiled. He smiled vaguely back, catching her eyes for the briefest of moments, and moved on.

Then his eyes reached the Slytherin table and his heart stopped.

In the back of his head, a tiny voice murmured, blond hair . . . son of a Death Eater . . . tell me, just exactly how many blond sons of Death Eaters do you know? Idiot.

Despite the acidic commentary, though, he could do nothing but stare at the single person his age who had done his best to get Harry Potter expelled, suspended, perhaps even killed (he didn't know if he would go that far . . . though he wouldn't be terribly surprised), and generally make his life a living hell.

Mind blank, he had only one thought as he stared at Draco Malfoy.

End Note: Well?

On a side note, I'm taking ideas on pairings. You can register votes for both Harry and other-Harry; I would rather that the two of them were not put together. *makes face* That would be rather like the ultimate incest.

And yes, other-Harry does get a name of her own. But identifying her as a Malfoy straight off would rather have ruined the surprise, don't you think?

Do you think she counts as an original character? If so, she belongs to me.

. . . yeah, I didn't think so either. Bummer.