The Sugar Quill
Author: roadrnr  Story: Disturbing Dream  Chapter: Default
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Disturbing Dream

Hermione rested her sleepy head on the pillow with the thought that too much hot chocolate just before bedtime may be bad for you.  Maybe too much of anything wasn’t good in general.  These thoughts followed her as she fell deeper into sleep....

 

... The world was becoming dark.  Hermione was searching desperately for Harry and Ron, but they were nowhere to be found.  Hmph, she thought.  They were undoubtedly gallivanting off somewhere, trying to impress some Veela.  But something didn’t fit.  Why was she searching for them anyway?  And what was happening around her?  People appearing before her were at a panic, and had taken to glancing frequently and anxiously behind them.  They were bustling past Hermione, who felt like she was floating through the worried hordes of people.  Where was she and why was everyone so frightened?

 

"You-Know-Who has returned..." Hermione overheard one passerby muttering to another.  Every person she encountered had the same frightened look....

 

Other thoughts gathered slowly before Hermione like images floating through a dense fog.  Every image was an answer to a question she asked herself and every answer only brought more questions.  Voldemort has come back.  How?  Wasn’t he still an ethereal remnant of himself?  Maybe he had possessed another unsuspecting person.  But such a union couldn’t last very long.  Certainly it shouldn’t enable him to return to full power.... 

 

While still pondering this dilemma, a terrible image was appearing to lay the worse answer before Hermione: the young Tom Riddle, alive, now walking amongst the escaping throng.  Tom Riddle looked exactly as Harry had once described to her: a little older version of Harry, but with a menacing look that hinted at the darkness emanating from his very being.  He was the very personification of evil.  And as he surveyed all before him, one could only cower in anticipation at what he was capable of doing.  He had joined with his elder spirit.  But how did he manage to do that?  And what would be in store for the world at the feet of a combined Riddle/Voldemort?  Together the two versions of the same evil person would surely be too much to bear.  From behind Voldemort a small mouse of a man appeared – Peter Pettigrew.  Hermione screamed but she heard no sound.  It was evident to her that the former Scabbers had found his master.  With a wicked smile, Peter handed Voldemort a wand from the folds of his cloak.  Hermione could only wonder helplessly how Pettigrew’s master intended to exact his punishment on society.  As if to confirm her fear, Hermione watched Voldemort concentrate on the retreating crowd before him and, with a flick of his new wand, instantly decimated everyone in his path.  The ground was suddenly covered with bodies, and there was no room to walk.  Even legions of Ministry wizards appearing to do battle before him (summoned as though by Hermione’s will) fell as one, and there was much chaos and carnage....

 

Hermione expected that Voldemort would wreak havoc once again, but with a new vigor embodied by his younger counterpart, who would serve as the perfect vessel in which Voldemort could properly rule the world.  Didn't Harry say once before that the weak spirit of Voldemort, thwarted from using the Stone to restore himself, sought refuge somewhere, while he looked for a suitable host?  What better person to join with him than his younger self?  Tom Riddle, freed from his diary, would gain all the powers and experience of his older spirit without suffering through the many magical transformations that would have wracked his body, as what had happened (Hermione supposed) to his elder version.  The resulting incarnation would create a new, younger Voldemort: twice as evil, and twice as powerful.  How would Harry be able to cope with that?  And worse, the answer had been revealed to Tom Riddle as to how Voldemort had been dispatched while trying to destroy Harry all those years ago.  Surely with such knowledge it would be easy to counteract Harry’s protection charm, and a world without the Boy-Who-Lived would be a world too easily conquered....

 

... Speaking of whom, where was Harry?  And Ron?  There was the vague urgency still pushing Hermione to seek them out.  Surely Harry would be around somewhere; Voldemort could not have gotten to him so soon.  More thoughts came to Hemione’s view through the fog....

 

... Hermione found herself surrounded suddenly by the Weasleys.  They (including Mrs. Weasley) had materialized around her somehow, and they all appeared in a different place, away from a rampaging Voldemort.  Hermione surveyed the scene hazily.  How did she get here?  Where was she now?  It seemed that she was back in Ottery St. Catchpole, on the hillside overlooking the village and the Burrow.  The twins, Fred and George, knelt in front of Mrs. Weasley, who was sobbing hysterically.  Did Mr. Weasley die in the battle with Voldemort?  No, he appeared behind Mrs. Weasley, supporting her in shared grief.  He too was inconsolable.  Charlie, Bill and Percy were hovering around all, speechless and gloomy. 

 

"Where's Ron, Percy?" Hermione dared to ask the Weasley sibling closest to her.  At first Percy didn't seem to notice Hermione's presence, but then his eyes wandered down to hers and he gestured towards the top of the hill.  Hermione recognized this as the same hill she had climbed not too long ago.  Following his gaze, she made her way to the top of Stoatshead Hill and found herself facing another mysterious scene....

 

In front of her, Ron and Harry were both kneeling over something on the ground, neither saying a word.  She wondered why this was so and was about to ask them when she stumbled upon the reason for their behavior.  What she saw made her cry out noiselessly in despair.  Why hadn't she thought of it before?  And why didn't she realize it when she saw the previous grieving scene on the hillside?  Ron and Harry were unmoving, with their backs to Hermione.  They were kneeling over a cleared piece of grassy lawn.  On the ground at the head of this grassy plot stood a single piece of stone, on which was inscribed one name: 

 

GINEVRA M. WEASLEY

 

Of course! Oh, Ginny!  How else could Tom Riddle have come back, if it wasn't for him stealing your precious life?  Something must have gone horribly wrong in the Chamber of Secrets.  Harry must have been prevented from reaching you in time.  Perhaps the cave-in trapped him, Ron and Professor Lockhart on the same side, away from the entrance to the chamber.  Perhaps that was precisely the delay Riddle needed.  And so Tom Riddle had succeeded in his restoration.  Oh, poor Harry!  He must feel so responsible.  Hermione looked upon Harry’s bowed head, and he seemed to confirm her thoughts.  She looked over and lingered her gaze at Ron.  He was thinking about failing Ginny as well.  They were both in the chamber and were both helpless to prevent Ginny's death.  Hermione was overcome with an enormous feeling of sadness.  She didn’t know firsthand how it is to lose a sibling, but she knew that if she lost someone like Harry, that would be enough. 

 

Instinctively, Hermione rushed over to hug her best friends.  She was already sobbing uncontrollably.  Oh, how could this have happened?  Voldemort had claimed yet another innocent life in his quest for dominance and power.  It may be too late to stop him now, and the world will never recover...

 

“Oh Ron! Oh Harry!  It wasn't your fault!  There was no way you could have stopped him...” Hermione buried her head between their shoulders and shut her eyes.  They seemed soft to the touch, firm but yielding.  All Hermione could register was the smell of the fabric as her nose was smothered in their cloaks.  It was an odd distracting sensation.  Smelled more like bed linen...  No, wait.  That just couldn’t be possible.  Ron and Harry dissolved in her grasp and Hermione was thinking different things... This new flood of images started to interrupt her previous train of thoughts and she began to re-question everything in earnest.  New images rapidly supported her questions.  There wasn’t any cemetery on the top of Stoatshead Hill, was there?  “No there wasn’t,” Hermione decided, and a dreamy image of the hilltop came to her as desolate as ever.  Ginny couldn’t be dead, then... She wasn't left to die in the chamber at Hogwarts... Didn’t she come along with us on the train last year?  Yes... She sent Harry the get-well card when he was injured after the match with Hufflepuff... And Sirius!  Oh, Sirius.  He escaped from Azkaban to prevent Pettigrew from harming Harry and delivering him to Voldemort... Voldemort, who hadn’t yet returned?  No, Ginny couldn't be dead.  Voldemort couldn’t be here.  So Ginny must be...

 

"Ginny!  Hermione!  You must wake up!  Quickly, no time to lose!"  Mr. Weasley had come into their tent, and was visibly disturbed.  Hermione was awake in a second, and she sprang up from her sleeping position and focused on Mr. Weasley, who stood near her.  He scrambled around to fetch their coats.  Hermione was not quite completely sure, however, that this wasn't another dreamy thought that entered her head.  It had been almost convincing, her foggy dream world!  But her mind wasn't fooled for long and her senses returned her back to a world that was real, without You-Know-Who, a world that was sensible and filled with...

 

"Is something wrong, Dad?"  Ginny groggily responded nearby.  Hermione looked over to the opposite bunk and she was filled with relief. She was inwardly glad that this world contained a Ginny.  She quickly got up and took hers and Ginny's coat from a waiting Mr. Weasley, who hovered before them.

 

"I've woken the boys; they're waiting for you outside.  Quickly now, you must follow me!"  Mr. Weasley looked shaken and appeared to have dressed in a hurry.  But he remained steadfast and alert, determined to get the two girls going.  

 

Ginny still sat at her bunk, where she tried to blink away her sleep.  Hermione didn't wait for Mr. Weasley to repeat himself.  With her own coat partially on, she went over to Ginny to help her up.  Ginny looked at her father questioningly, then at Hermione who seemed to be looking at her a bit differently.   She shrugged and reached out with both hands to receive her coat.

 

"Let's go," Hermione said.  She surrendered the coat and took Ginny’s free hand and pulled her up.  Hermione couldn’t help holding on a little longer, still reassuring herself, and she threw Ginny a quick smile.  While they tried to pull on their coats, Hermione noticed some loud commotion outside their tent and she furrowed her brow.  She still couldn’t ignore the emotions left behind by her dream, and her initial feelings of relief were replaced with the realization that something had definitely gone wrong in this world as well.  New questions filled her head, but she kept them to herself as she regained her composure.  Mr. Weasley held open the tent flap for them, and the two girls rushed outside.  The tumultuous roar of the chaotic campsite filled their ears.  With Mr. Weasley close behind them, Ginny and Hermione ran towards Harry and Ron, who waited for them outside their adjacent tent. 

 

******* *******

 

Author’s Notes:  Since this is my first beta-read SQ story, I’d like to express my gratitude to Lone Astronomer for her important edits & suggestions.  Thanks to those other kind souls out there (both familial and friendly) who freely and repeatedly offered encouragement – you know who you are.  Thanks to those who always ask questions; otherwise my mental wheels won’t spin.  And thanks (most of all) to Ms. Rowling, whose website indirectly supplied me with a key piece of information that I was able to incorporate into my story during the final edit!  It was an unexpected ‘eureka’ moment of karmic proportions.

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