Chapter Three: An Uninvited
"If I am afraid at all
It's only in my dreams."
-Maya Angelou: "Life Doesn't Frighten
The coldness of the stone floor penetrated through
his bones; numbing ache bringing a welcome dullness to the torment which
still raged through his frame. He lifted his head limply in the darkness;
the total absence of daylight removed all hope. There was no escape.
There was nothing: just the wish for oblivion. Death.
Sudden bright light was scorching through his brain, the beam making
him wince, recoiling away from the black hooded figure. The pain intensified,
jerking and twisting his body with involuntary spasms. The chanted repetition,
Screaming. Wild uncontrolled shrieks of agony, blurred with merciless
laughter. The sensation of a cold metal blade against his bare flesh,
cutting through it with throbbing savagery. More hooded figures, swimming
in and out of focus before his eyes.
"I will not!"
Ginny. He had to keep her safe. Blood dripped, splashing on the
flags below. A dizzying sensation. Fighting, struggling against the
bonds that confined him. He couldn't move, but he had to. He couldn't
The agony was back, worse than before. No air. He couldn't
breathe. He had to
Hands gently touched him. He flinched.
"Harry, you're safe. I promise," Ginny's voice calmly broke
through the torment, offering him a lifeline. Her hand grasped his tightly.
He opened his eyes, trembling violently and drenched in the cold sweat
of pure terror.
He was in Ron's room. The orange paint was oddly reassuring in the
inky blueness of the night, as he tried to collect his breathing and
reassure himself that these were memories, only one of those many visions
that regularly haunted his sleep.
"It's OK," she whispered, smoothing his damp hair back from
his forehead. "Everything's fine."
"Sorry," he mumbled shakily, his heart thumping heavily against
his ribs. "I didn't mean to wake you again."
"I'm glad the scar woke me," she said softly, caressing her
hand down his cheek. "That sounded like it was a bad one; I can't
believe Ron slept through it." She nodded across the lump on the
bed in the corner that was her brother, soft snores emanating from him
in a regular soothing rhythm.
"Yeah," he responded, sitting up to wrap his arms around
her, and leaning his forehead against hers. He gave her a wry smile.
"Thanks," he muttered.
"Don't be silly," she whispered, hugging him tightly. "I'm
hardly going to let you suffer through all that on your own, am I?"
She sighed softly, and looked steadily into his eyes before voicing
her question. "It was last March again, wasn't it?"
Harry nodded silently, the fear gripping his stomach again as little
images burned into his mind. He closed his eyes, feeling himself still
shaking in her embrace. She said nothing, but simply held him; her hair
tickled against his nose, bringing with it a pleasing sense of the real
world, rather than those nightmarish remembrances.
"I'm OK, Gin," he said at last, grinning a little at her.
"You'd better get back; you'll be murdered if anyone finds you
"Not if I can help it," she chuckled quietly, so as not to
wake Ron. "Anyway, this is far easier than when you were having
these dreams at Hogwarts. I had to get past four other people then,
not just my brother, to make sure you were all right!"
"Ginny," Harry whispered, feeling horribly guilty. He couldn't
articulate what he wanted to say, and had to resort to squeezing her
"Shove up," she said suddenly, with a warm smile on her face.
"W-what?" Harry stammered, obediently retreating towards
the wall. "Gin?"
"Nothing like that," she chuckled, curling up beside him,
and kissing him gently. "You need to talk this through, and I want
to be with you. We could go downstairs if you want, but at least if
we're caught here, we can point out that Ron's been with us the whole
Harry reached for her, and held her close, face buried in her sunshine
scented hair, reminding him of the wildness of the fields and meadow.
Very slowly he began to recount his dream, Ginny helping where he faltered
and feared to continue.
"And the Constrictum spell?" she asked quietly.
"How did you know?" he whispered, his voice seeming hoarse
as it caught in his throat.
"I had the same dream," she responded softly, her brown eyes
fixed upon his own. "It wasn't just the scar that woke me
tonight, Harry. It was your dream."
Consciousness gradually came upon him, bringing with it the sense of
being completely and totally happy. The warmth of his bed surrounded
him, and he breathed deeply, feeling a smile playing across his lips.
He dimly registered the sound of the swallow chirruping merrily from
the eaves above them, whilst a light breath of warmth brushed against
his cheek. His eyes slowly opened, to find Ginny slumbering beside him,
her hair cascading all over his pillow and glinting in a shaft of early
morning sunshine. His heart skipped a beat in a combination of pleasure
and nervousness. How could they have fallen asleep like this?
The Burrow was thankfully still silent, but Harry knew that it wouldn't
remain thus for long. Ron could wake up at any second and if anyone
found them like this
"Ginny," he whispered, shaking her gently. She mumbled something
incoherently in her sleep and shuffled against him with a contented
sigh. "Ginny," he repeated, more urgently, kissing her cheek.
"Come on, wake up."
"Mmm?" she murmured sleepily, eye lids flickering open a
little, making Harry's heart melt. Suddenly her eyes snapped fully open
as she realised where she was. "Harry!"
There was a brief moment of confusion, then realisation and she sat
up rapidly. "What time is it?" she asked, anxiety clearly
evident in her voice.
"No idea," Harry replied in an undertone. "But you've
got to get out of here. I don't think we've got long."
At these very words there was a grunt from Ron, and the blankets on
his bad shifted as he rolled over onto his back. They froze. An eternity
later, his regular rhythmic breathing began again and Harry let out
a long slow breath of his own.
"Watch the squeaking floorboard over by the wardrobe," he
whispered, as she levered herself silently to her feet, and bent over
to kiss him. "Thanks for the nightmare rescue."
"Any time," she grinned, squeezing his hand, before padding
stealthily across the cluttered bedroom. Nervously Harry watched her
picking her way through the obstacle course that was Ron's room, each
noise amplified in the stillness. He'd never noticed that that other
parts of the flooring creaked and groaned, each causing a lurch of the
nerves currently surging in his stomach. She reached the wardrobe, and
turned back to him, mouthing the words,
She gesticulated at the floorboards in front of her, and pulled a face
at him. Despite the gravity of the situation, Harry had to fight back
"On the left," he communicated silently with her. She nodded
her understanding, and in a swirl of hair, reached out a tentative foot
to continue. Harry held his breath.
"And just what do you think you're doing young lady?" came
a shocked voice, seemingly out of nowhere. Harry almost jumped out of
his skin and he heard Ginny give a surprised gasp. His heart was racing
in his chest, as he looked around frantically for the speaker. What
was going to happen to them now? Although nothing untoward had happened
between them, if felt like he had betrayed the Weasley's trust, and
that thought was not something Harry got any pleasure out of. Heart
pounding, he glanced over at Ron, fearing the worst, but felt a surge
of relief to see that his best friend was still sleeping.
"Nothing," Ginny hissed back at the mirror. "Honestly.
I'm just going."
"And so you should," the mirror said sharply. "Really,
the things going on these days. It was only yesterday that your brother
"Shhh!" Ginny pleaded with the mirror. "I'll go now.
You can watch me."
Carefully, she stepped across the squeaking floorboard and continued
her cautious journey. Passing by Ron's trunk and then reaching the chest
of drawers, Harry slowly began to grow more hopeful that she would make
Suddenly there was a solid thump of a noise, and Ginny's face contorted
in anguish. He could see her biting down on her lips to avoid making
a sound, but the tears flooded into her eyes. She stood on one leg and
rubbed her stubbed big toe gingerly, moving slightly up and down with
the pain. A tiny whimper escaped her lips. It took all of Harry's self
restraint not to leap out of bed and rush over to her. Hobbling slightly,
she moved awkwardly towards the door, reaching her hand for the doorknob.
Slowly she twisted it: a gentle click and the door swung towards her,
creaking noisily. Ron groaned, shifted onto his side, muttering beneath
his breath and shuffled back under the covers. Ginny looked at Harry
with tremulous eyes, and was about to take her final steps when something
completely shattered the silence of the room.
Pigwidgeon, flapped his wings noisily and began to hoot, as he enthusiastically
bounced around inside his cage.
"Will you shut up?" Ron yelled, half-sitting up to fling
his pillow in the direction of the tiny owl. Ginny disappeared swiftly
around the door in a flurry of hair, and swung it shut behind her.
"It's just Pig again," Harry said loudly, to cover up the
noise of Ginny's departure. He was feeling rather as if he'd been playing
the most gruelling Quidditch match of his career, and flopped back on
his pillows in sheer relief.
"Great," Ron said grumpily. "As long as I know who it
is making this racket, that's all right then." Harry grinned to
himself, and ran a thoughtful hand over the still-warm spot where Ginny
had been, sincerely hoping that she'd make it back past Hermione without
being detected. Pig continued to twitter, outraged by this treatment,
and Ron finally growled in exasperation. "Harry?"
"Yeah?" Harry replied, shifting onto his side so he could
"You're nearer," Ron said emphatically.
Harry groaned, and sat up intent on sorting Pigwidgeon out, one way
or another. These early morning wake-up calls were always a bit of a
nuisance, and Harry, for one, was convinced that Pig had some cockerel
genes in him somewhere.
"Not like that, you prat," Ron chuckled, sounding considerably
more awake. "Make the most of your new-found talent as an adult
wizard. Try a silencing charm or something. Means you don't have to
get out of bed."
Harry grinned. He'd forgotten it was his birthday, never having really
celebrated it in any shape or fashion with the Dursleys, but this one
was special. He could now use magic outside school. He grabbed his wand
from beneath his bed and pointed it at the tiny owl.
Pig was instantly and effectively silenced, and it was only as he settled
back in bed that it slowly dawned on Harry; he could have used the same
charm to help Ginny escape.
Breakfast was even more chaotic than usual in the cramped Weasley kitchen.
It was Saturday, and if Harry had expected things to be calmer than
a weekday, then he was very much mistaken.
"Molly, I've got to get into the office," Mr Weasley was
saying frantically, fumbling as he buttoned his robes. "They need
me to try and smooth over last night." He broke off as he saw Harry
and Ron emerging from the shadowy hallway. "Happy birthday, Harry,"
he said smiling warmly at him, dark circles clearly visible beneath
his eyes. "Sorry I can't stay, but I should be back later. I know
there are some interesting plans afoot for this evening."
"What's happened now, Dad?" Ron asked curiously.
"Same old story," his father sighed, grabbing a book from
the dresser. "Some of our defences are down, and they just can't
resist showing off their power."
?" Harry began, eager to at least do something.
"No," Mr Weasley responded slowly. "Thank you, Harry,
but not just yet. Let's see how things go, shall we?"
"At least take some toast with you, Arthur," Mrs Weasley
said, looking at him with concern. He smiled gratefully, and toast in
hand he Disapparated to the Ministry with a small pop.
Before the kitchen had had a chance to draw breath, Fred and George
crashed noisily into the room, laughing uncontrollably about something,
and stopped immediately as they set eyes on Harry.
"It's the birthday boy," Fred said, grinning wickedly at
"Harry!" George exclaimed, sounding as delighted to see him
as if Harry were a large sackful of Galleons. "We've got a little
present for you."
"Here you go," Fred grinned, pushing a small gift-wrapped
box across the table.
"I'd advise against touching that," came Ginny's sleepy voice,
as she trudged into the kitchen in an old chequered dressing gown of
Ron's and helped herself to toast and a mug of tea. "It'll only
explode or something."
"Ginny!" George exclaimed, sounding rather hurt by the suggestion.
"You know we only reserve such special treatment for our little
"So you're going to turn him green, then?" she laughed.
" Fred said with an air of mystery.
"OK, then," Harry chuckled unable to resist. He grinned quickly
over at Ginny. "Let's see what it is." He unwrapped the box
and slowly raised the lid. Sparkling fragments escaped, shooting into
the air, and showering down on Harry like a form of fairy dust. Harry
felt a strange tingling sensation in his limbs, and an irresistible
urge to get to his feet. His chair suddenly crashed over backwards,
bouncing slightly off the stone floor, and his feet began to perform
a complicated tap dancing routine. Ron and Ginny burst out laughing,
and after a second or two, Harry joined in.
"Dancing Dust," Fred chuckled, watching Harry's feet perform
a complex triple time-step. "Hey, you're good at that Harry."
"Stop off at the shop later, and you can have a real present,"
"The shop?" Harry echoed, shuffling more slowly as the magic
began to wear off.
"Well, we thought it'd be nice to go to Diagon Alley," Hermione
remarked, leaning unobserved against the doorframe. She grinned and
added, "Nice footwork, Harry."
The smell of bacon and eggs gradually faded from the cosy kitchen,
and Harry enjoyed the chatter of the morning. Presents seemed to engulf
him, and he was a little embarrassed by the fuss. Hermione had got him
his own copy of "Quirks with Quaffles," and Ron had
laughingly given him some Chudley Cannons socks, explaining that they
were really to keep his sister's feet warm. Ginny, however, pulled him
into the living room when Ron and Hermione were getting ready for their
trip to Diagon Alley.
"I did this for you," she said quietly, passing him a circular
flat package. "I read about the idea in a Muggle book of Dad's,
and got Ron to do some magic on it for me. I thought it might help.
He tore apart the bright purple wrapping quickly, and was intrigued
to see something that looked like the finest silken spider's web stretched
across a circular hoop, beads and feathers suspended from it.
"What is it?" he asked curiously, revolving the object in
"The original idea is a Muggle dream catcher," Ginny explained,
smiling gently up at him. "You hang it over your bed to keep good
thoughts near you when you're sleeping. The circle represents your life,
and the hole in the centre there is to let the nightmares escape. I've
added a bit of magic to it, though."
"What does that do?" Harry asked hugging her closely.
"Keeps me right beside you when you're sleeping," she said,
blushing rather pink, and biting her lip. "See those strands of
hair? That's right where the magic is."
"It's perfect," he said simply, noticing that the long wisps
of hair were exactly the same shades of red as those running through
her head. "Thanks Ginny."
"Well, I think it's going to save more embarrassing moments,"
she chuckled wickedly. "I can't believe we fell asleep last night."
"I can't believe we didn't get caught," he said fervently.
The day in Diagon Alley was a very pleasant one; and they eventually
settled down to eat ice cream in the sunshine outside Florean Fortescue's
Ice-Cream Parlour. Despite being forcibly dragged away from Flourish
and Blotts on more than one occasion, Hermione had still managed to
acquire two new books: "Dark Magic: A History," and
"Honestly, I don't know why you've got these," Ron sighed,
picking up the weighty history tome. "They're not even on the booklist
for next year."
"They look interesting," Hermione smiled at him, then her
face quickly became more serious. "And with the way things are
going, I thought the Dark Arts one might be useful. The more we know
about that side of things the better."
"Yeah, I suppose so," Ron agreed reluctantly, flicking through
the pages. He laughed suddenly. "Hey, you're in this one, Harry!"
"Let me see," Ginny said, scrambling onto the chair beside
her brother and vying for the volume. They tussled briefly for a few
seconds, and Ginny emerged victorious.
"Cheat!" Ron protested, still giggling from her tickles.
"Now where is it?" Ginny grinned, searching down the page
with her finger. "Ah yes. 'Harry Potter, the sole known survivor
"Put it away," Harry interrupted her, groaning loudly and
burying his head in his hands.
"Just thank your lucky stars they don't know about you, Ginny."
"I suppose so," she said, closing the book a little unwillingly
and passing it back to Hermione. "Good teasing material, though."
"We'd better get going," Hermione said, checking her watch.
"It's after five and your mum will be worrying."
There was a murmur of reluctant agreement, and gathering together their
assorted parcels and packages, they headed through to the fireplace
in the joke shop. Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was faring very well as a
business, and the formally painted exterior of the shop was rather deceptive.
Upon setting foot within, you never quite knew what was going to happen
next. Quills disintegrated in your hands before you could use them,
little piles of knuts turned you purple when you picked them up, and
explosions regularly shook the little shop violently. Crowds of small
excited children were perpetually thronging in the shop, or grouping
round the window, laughing at the effects of Canary Creams and other
such inventions. Sickles and Galleons changed hands rapidly.
Straightening up in The Burrow's hearth after a particularly unpleasant
Floo Powder journey, Harry was stunned to see a distinctive figure with
a long white beard sitting at the kitchen table speaking seriously to
Mr and Mrs Weasley. Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, regarded
the four of them with affection and nodded.
"Birthday greetings are in order, I believe, Harry," he said,
his bright blue eyes twinkling the way they always did.
"P-Professor," Harry stammered.
"Why are you here?" Ron asked curiously, then blushed bright
red. "Sorry," he muttered. "I didn't mean that to sound
quite like that."
"Things have a habit of just coming out, I find," Dumbledore
said, smiling at Ron. "I remember one of my students
me, this seems like such a long time ago
but I digress. Harry,"
he said calmly. "I need to speak with you about something, and
Ginny, this undoubtedly concerns you too."