The Sugar Quill
Author: Mingo Cortez  Story: For in that Sleep  Chapter: Default
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For in that Sleep

 

Author’s Note: It took many, many months for this story to get out of my head and on onto paper.  And many, many months after that to get it from a sketchy rough draft to this (hopefully) finished version.  I would like to thank all the people (and there are quite a few of you out there) who helped along the way.  I’d especially like to thank my beta, Night Zephyr, for all the help and attention she gave to this story.  Hope you enjoy! And please, even if you don’t have much to say, review!   Oh, and standard disclaimer applies, and all that.

 

 

For in that Sleep


 
To sleep: perchance to dream: aye, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come…

                                                            -- Hamlet, Act III, Sc. I


The summer evening was deceptively peaceful. Warm air spread like a still blanket, disturbed only by the shouts and laughter that rang from the Burrow.  It was hard to imagine that there could be any sadness or worry on an evening as lovely as this. 
 
Harry sat removed from the noise and bustle, his back pressed against the rough bark of an oak tree, sifting his hands listlessly through the cool grass.  The heavy drone of summertime insects filled the air, and for a brief moment he allowed himself to almost forget.  He closed his eyes, inhaling the deep smells of earth and July sunshine.
 
An object hurtled through the air hitting the tree above his head with such force that it ricocheted back, landing several feet in front of Harry on the grass.
 
“Oy! Heads up!”
 
Harry steadied his nerves, trying to cover the fact that he’d nearly jumped out of his skin. 
 
Ron Weasley skidded to the ground and dismounted his broom.  “All right there, Harry?  We weren’t aiming for you, honest.”
 
“Yeah, fine.” Harry shrugged, and stood up.
 
“C’mon Harry, play with us.  We’ve got an uneven number.”  Ron bent to pick up the Frisbee.  His father had brought it home from the office one day with a sheepish grin, mumbling “Bless them—so simple, yet genius, really.”   It was the twins who’d first gotten hold of it and made up their own version of the game, involving brooms and teams and strange rules.
 
Harry shrugged again, forcing a weak grin. “In a bit, okay Ron?” 
 
Ron sighed, trying to hide his disappointment and worry.  “Maybe… it’d do you some good, do you think?  Get your mind off… things?”
 
He frowned, unable to suppress the first pinpricks of irritation.  “Maybe later,” he offered, though he didn’t plan on following through.

 

He didn’t really expect Ron to understand—being alone sometimes was the best way to “get his mind off things.”  It was so much easier to forget the violent events from earlier that summer when he could escape from Mrs. Weasley’s worried glances, from the sad, tired shadow that crept across Lupin’s face when he thought no one was looking, from the discreet looks of concern that Ron and Hermione shared whenever conversation turned unpleasant or someone carelessly let slip Sirius’s name.  He just couldn’t relax with everyone tiptoeing around him and staring at him as if he was made of china and sitting just a fraction too close to the edge. 
 
“What about Quidditch then?  We could start up a match…” Ron pressed.
 
“I dunno…” Harry shrugged.
 
“Right, then,”  he sighed glumly and made his way back to the match with his broom on his shoulder.
 
Harry slumped back against the tree, and raked his hand through his perpetually messy hair.  He usually thought of the Burrow as an escape and comfort, but today he felt as if he were weighed down, rather than being buoyed up by everyone’s good thoughts.  It was Harry’s sixteenth birthday, but he hadn’t felt at all like celebrating.  Throughout the morning, various members of the Order had assembled, and he could be sure that when Mrs. Weasley put dinner on the table, nearly everyone would be there.  It was difficult.  This was the first time Harry had seen everyone together again without his godfather present.  It was easier to force the absence out of his mind when he was at the Dursley’s, or in Ron’s company because Harry didn’t expect to see him.  But Harry had lost track of the times he’d heard someone Apparate or knock on the door and he’d felt his heart skip up in his throat for a moment, expecting Sirius to waltz in with a birthday gift and his devil-may-care smile.  
 
He closed his eyes and tried to empty his mind again—thinking about it caused a very unwelcome burning feeling in the base of his throat. Instead, Harry listened to the leaves above his head, to his own steady intake of breath giving a pulse-like rhythm to wind.  When a stray image of long, swooping black hair and an evil yet feminine grin pushed into his mind, he thought harder on the drone of insects until the noise enveloped him.
 
The droning died to a murmur, like hollow voices that  he could not be deciphered no matter how hard he strained.  Voices that came from another room… or another world. 
 
The air was suddenly stale and old.  He was standing on cold, stone steps that led steeply downward toward a raised dais. In the middle of the dais stood a crumbling gate, from which a tattered veil fluttered eerily in the still air.  Quickly, he descended the steps, his eyes locked on the veil.  He felt an odd, displaced sense of determination—he couldn’t be sure why he was blindly rushing towards the dais, but he knew he needed to get there.  As he approached he heard the voices again, soft and urgent.  He was intent on reaching it, on discovering the source of the voices.  His wand was poised.  He strained to understand the fading whispers; they pulled him forward, promising to reveal their secrets if he would just come closer.  They murmured like a thousand lost souls using all their powers of persuasion to tempt him forward.  He had lost choice in the matter—the pull was that strong.  Blindly he climbed the steps, reaching the gate with a feeling of uncontested triumph. 
 
“Wait, Harry!” a voice called. 

 

It was a shrill disturbance to the soft murmurs.  He slowly extended his hand toward the veil.  The whispering grew louder, more urgent. 
 
He heard a pair of light footsteps running down the stairs.  “Harry, please! Don’t touch it!”
 
Why was she trying to disturb him? Why couldn’t she just let him be?  Didn’t she know what was beyond the veil? Couldn’t she hear him?
 
“Leave me alone!” he demanded, anger crackling irrationally inside him. The murmuring took on an irritated, impatient pitch.  He knew that everything would be better if he could just get past the fluttering black cloth.  It would be quiet and cool and dark.  And those murmuring familiar voices would be revealed… no, not just revealed—reunited.  He took a deep breath and pushed his hand forward.
 
“Harry…” her voice came as a quiet, panting whisper.  She stood alone at the base of the dais, out of breath and exhausted.  “Harry, please… we need you here.”
 
Harry slowly withdrew his hand and raised it to his forehead.  He touched his fingers to his scar.  The skin felt hot, prickling.  He closed his eyes.  There was a lull in the whispering—a silent promise of rest, as if passing through the veil would somehow wipe the mark he bore from his forehead. 
 
There was a strange noise behind him—the sound of muffled grief.  He twisted to look over his shoulder.
 
Ginny Weasley stood, with her head bowed, one hand tiredly wiping her eyes.  “We need you,” she repeated, looking strongly up at him.
 
“Can’t you hear him, Ginny?” Harry asked desperately. 
 
“Yes,” she nodded, still choked by tears.  “I can.  I can hear them all.  But we need you, Harry.  You have to come with me now.”
 
“But Sirius! I can hear him! Don’t you understand? They’re in there!” His voice suddenly drained of anger.  He looked back at the veil and sighed quietly.  “I’m so tired.”
 
“Harry, look at me,” Ginny demanded. 
 
It took a conscious act of willpower to drag his gaze away from the veil and meet her eyes. 
 
“Now is not the time,” she said firmly. 
 
He stared at her for a moment.  The whispering was just as loud.  He felt as if he had no energy for a free movement or thought.  He looked at Ginny who brought so much color and strength to this dark, ancient room.  She determinedly held out her small hand to him and, after a moment, Harry took it.  
 
Suddenly his mind felt free again.  Some smothering weight was cleared from his brain as he felt her warm, smooth hand lightly pulling on his own. 
 
“C’mon,” she said quietly.  “Let’s go.”
 
He followed her, with only a vague understanding of what was happening.  He knew that he had just walked away from Sirius… from his parents… from a chance to unload every burden life had bestowed upon him and he had done it all because Ginny Weasley had asked him to.
 
He came to a stop at the door to the amphitheatre and glanced at her for a moment.  Her hand was still in his; he could feel how slight it was, yet it seemed to be all that was leading him out of the chamber.   He turned back to look at the veil.  It fluttered softly… carrying a lost whisper of a voice across the darkness.   
 
“Harry?” Ginny asked, looking up at him with concern. 
 
He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.  It was hard to think; his thoughts seemed to be slipping away from him faster than he could grasp them—the veil… voices humming to him… Ginny calling his name… A low rustling, like wind through the leaves, distracted him.  Ginny… fingers curled tightly around his… a burst of smooth orange… white skin and worried eyes…

                                                                       
A voice cut across the haze, calling his name.  He shifted slightly, as if to respond and his body reacted with a jolt. 
 
“Oh, there you are, Harry!”
 
He sat upright, blinking in the evening sun.  He felt the cool grass under him and the warmth of the summer air. 
 
A dream, he realized.  He had been dreaming.  He hadn’t been in the Department of Mysteries.  There was no veil.  No voices.  Just Ginny Weasley standing in front of him in a yellow cotton summer dress.  She was giving him a worried look that was strangely familiar. 
 
“Are you all right, Harry?”
 
He shook his head.  “Yeah.”
 
“Well?” she asked expectantly.
 
“Well, what?”
 
Ginny laughed.  “Didn’t you hear me yelling?  Mum’s all but got dinner on the table.”
 
“Oh,” Harry got clumsily to his feet, still staring at Ginny as if he’d never seen her before.
 
“You’re sure you’re all right?” She furrowed her brow and took a step closer to him.
 
“Yeah,” he replied, rubbing his hand over his face. “I just…” He shook his head, feeling unsettled. “I’ll be right there.”
 
“Okay… if you say so.”  Ginny gave him another curious look and turned away.
 
“Wait!” Harry reached out quickly, grabbing her hand, his mind racing for words that he felt but couldn’t form.  
 
She turned, startled, glancing from their joined hands to Harry’s face.
 
He opened his mouth as if to say something, but shut it again.  He wanted to say thank you—but it had only been a dream.  He wanted to say that he had found his strength in her, but it would mean nothing.  He wanted to tell her that he finally understood what she meant to him… but wasn’t sure that he actually did. 
 
The way she was looking at him unnerved him, making it all the more difficult to find words.  She had a shadow in her eyes—a look of comprehension with such depth that it should have come from a soul ever so much older than fifteen. 
 
“Wait,” he repeated, his mind fumbling for some adequate response or explanation. 
 
Ginny understood.  She understood much more clearly than Harry.  She lightly squeezed his hand before pulling hers away and gave him just an echo of a smile.  “Don’t worry, Harry.  I will.”
 
Then she turned and walked out of the clearing, her dress fluttering against her calves in the breeze.  
 
Harry watched her, feeling mildly stunned.  He looked down at his hand for a moment, the one Ginny had squeezed—the same one she’d led him away from the veil with—and then followed her away from the clearing towards the noisy gathering that was his birthday dinner. 


 

 

 

 

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