Part 7 - The Dream Eater
All the world turns to his will--
he does not know worse--
but then arrogance grows;
the guardian of his soul
sleeps. That sleep is
too heavy, bound with affliction,
and the killer very near
who shoots his bow
with evil intent.
Then he is hit
in the heart,
beneath his armor,
with a bitter arrow--
he cannot guard himself
against the perverse commands
of his accursed spirit.
There is a story about Hogwarts that floats around from student to student. It's one of those stories that no one ever asks adults about, and so is never confirmed or denied. No one seeks confirmation of it; it is too mythical-sounding to be taken seriously. It begins at the beginning of time, with a creature. In some stories the creature is red and breathes fire; in some it is transparent, and its tears fill oceans. In all of them, the creature wakes when the earth is still burning, next to its mate. Together the enjoy the new world, shaping mountains, laying their feet in lava and digging out valleys and plains. They picnic on firey flowers, and forests spring up from the remains of their lunch. They scratch at the earth and bring forth the first spring of water, they marvel at it and drink. It tastes like nothing they've ever imagined before. It tastes like dreams. They are happy.
Then one day the creature's mate dies. There are a variety of stories about how this happens; the mate is thrown from a mountain, bitten by a poisonous beast, drinks too much water and is converted into a new kind of creature. The mate becomes air; earth; fire. In any case, the mate of the creature is gone, and there is wailing over the earth for two hundred years. And when the mourning song is finished, the creature curls upon itself and decides to sleep. The earth is still hot, and softens underneath the creature, making a space for it. And the creature decides that it has had enough of this world, and will sleep until it the earth is cool and then it will drift away. The new earth moves around it; mountains rise and fall over the sleeping form. And millennia go by.
There is a reason, they say, why there were no muggles on the spot where Hogwarts is built; there is a reason why Hogsmeade is free from them. For thousands of years muggles would discovers this spot, beautiful, perched on a cool, clear lake; next to a mountain; a clean, fertile plain, swamp, meadowland. They would attempt to claim it, and the spot with throw them off. They would stick a spade into the ground and the ground would grow angry and send them away. It would push them into water, face first; it would turn to quicksand and swallow them whole. It throw up trees around them; destroy their crops. It would fill in any holes they dug with mud and stones and clay. There were many stories of men being driven mad by the spot, found crawling through the forest with pebbles in their ears, rabbit's blood on their chins, babbling about the creature under the earth. Eventually the muggles decided to stay away. "It's a haunted place," they muttered to each other. "The earth doesn't want us there."
When Hogwarts was erected on this spot, there was no argument with the creature. They say that it was Salazar Slytherin who managed to talk to it, to soothe it, to determine its demands, to come to an agreement. The creature had not spoken in millennia; it had forgotten that there was such a thing as speech. They agreed not to disturb it, they explained that here they would teach their magical young. The creature was pleased with communication, it was pleased with the delicate and fragile minds of these new creatures. It agreed to let them stay, perched on its back. And after a time the creature developed a taste for the dreams of children.
It is not voyeurism, per se. The creature does not understand the cares and concerns of mortals. But there is a quality of the dreams of children that tastes to the creature the way that that first drink of water did; a cool freshness against it's black tongue that was reassuring and calming. And so the dreams of children help keep the creature under Hogwarts content.
"The creature eats your dreams," the upper years tell the firsties. "You won't remember them anymore, because the creature eats them. And if you do remember them, the creature will come to get you, because you stole its dinner!" The laugh and go back to eating their chicken pasties and green beans and pumpkin soup.
There are many stories about Hogwarts. It is true that the students rarely remember their dreams; but then, so few people do.
In the dream he is lying in bed in the darkness. He is aware of a faint chitter, a squeaking along the floorboards somewhere nearby, the soft groan of a castle centuries old settling into the night. The chittering is growing louder, footsteps approaching him, and then running away. He knows, somehow, that the footsteps belong to the person who kissed him in the darkness, whom he now knows with complete certainty is a boy, a beautiful, soft, gentle boy with haunting black eyes and long curling tendrils of dark hair wrapping around his nude body like vines. Harry feels that he has just woken, that moments before the gentle boy was lying in bed next to him, that this noisy waking has just frightened him away. He can still feel his warmth next to him against the blankets, and as he reaches out an exploring hand, his fingers curl around the stem of a stray leaf.
Harry rises, his feet uncertain and weak against the cold stone floor. He must find the boy again, and he's not sure if he needs to protect him or be protected by him. Harry finds that he is dressed in his Quiddtich robes, his broom brushes against his leg with each step, dropping twigs as he walks, leaving a trail like Hansel and Gretel as he moves to the door, opens it, and finds himself in the Forbidden Forest. Suddenly he is very afraid. He searches for the boy, but every time he thinks he has found him, he touches a wet tree covered with leaves; a delicate statue draped in vines; a ghost who smiles seductively at him and then disappears. He hears footsteps again, bare feet slapping against stone. A splash.
He can see something moving in the darkness, something floating just above the ground. He wants to run, run back out of the forest, back to school, he wants to hide under his bed. He turns and he finds that he is standing against a wall that reaches up into the sky, dripping with moisture and covered with moss. He hears a hiss behind him. Suddenly remembering his broom, he hops on and floats slowly and haltingly up, inch by inch. No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to move any faster. He hears the hissing growing louder, and hears words in a strange language. He pulls against the moss on the walls, trying to speed his ascent. The moss comes off in his hands like the dry, dead skin of a corpse, and his hand is full of worms. He feels something soft against his face, and realizes that it's the long, vine-like hair of the boy.
He is no longer in the forest. He is back in his bed, with warm arms wrapped around him. He feels naked breasts against his back, lips on his shoulder, a hot thigh curling over his hip. The boy, it turns out, is a girl, and her long hair is draped across his waist. Overwhelmed with curiosity he turns to see her, a tight longing for her growing in his lower stomach. But there is no one there. He smells leaves, and cries.
She is sitting in history class, and she isn't wearing any clothes. She can't believe it. How did she get to Professor Binn's class like this? How did she walk out of her dorm room without noticing that she didn't have clothes on? Why didn't anyone stop her? She clutches her knees together and pretends everything is perfectly normal. Somehow she knows that if she stays very still, no one will notice. It is as if there are clothes painted on the air for her, and as long as she stays in this precise spot, no one will know that she is actually naked. She is so embarrassed, but she is not cold. She is making plans. I will wait until the others leave, I will make an excuse. I'm looking for something, or my foot is asleep. No no, you go on ahead.
Draco is sitting in front of her, staring out the window, her wand between his fingers. She wants it back, but secretly enjoys seeing it in his hands. He twists it around taps the glass with it, scrapes it against the stone wall. He bends it between his hands and breaks it with a sharp snap, but it knits back together instantly, as somehow she knows it would. He turns around and stares at her. She still has not moved, and hopes that he will not see her without clothes, her arms lying nonchalantly across her chest. He looks bored, and drops the wand on her desk. It rolls down and drops on her bare lap, feeling like his fingers. It clatters to the floor, and she cannot lean to and pick it up.
He turns around again, and looks out the window. She can hear people screaming outside suddenly, crowds of people. She knows, somehow, that they are muggles, that they are storming the school. They hate wizards and witches and want to kill them all. Their hands are plying at the windows, and Draco is watching them. Pansy knows that he doesn't understand who they are, what they want. Fingers curl around the glass, pulling the window apart, reaching for Draco. When she tries to scream, to warn him, to tell him to move away from the window, she finds that she has no voice. Draco is staring at them, confused, and then suddenly he is gone. The fingers have pulled him through the window, and the voices are gone. Professor Binns is still speaking, and she still hasn't moved. Goyle is dooding in his notebook; Crabbe has fallen asleep on his desk. Millicent is twirling her hair between her fingers.
Before she knows it class is over and the room is empty. She rises, walks to the front of the class, and wraps herself in a stray piece of drapery. Now, she thinks, how shall I get back to the dorm without being noticed?
Before Ron fell sleep, he saw Harry sitting at the window, looking out into the night. He sighed. Harry had been a little absent lately, looking thoughtful. They had had a difficult day; Snape had yelled at Harry, Malfoy had teased him in the corridor; Lavender had accidentally stepped on his ankle when she rushed out of divination class on her way to the girl's room. He walked with a bit of a limp for a good hour after that. They had served roast beef with gravy for dinner, one of Ron's favourites; Harry had spilled gravy on his sweater and Seamus and Dean had laughed at him. Professor McGonagall had been unimpressed when Harry had transfigured a paperclip into a pencil instead of a picture frame.
"Harry?" He mumbled. Harry turned and looked at him. "Aren't you going to sleep?"
"Yeah, soon." He said. He opened the window and looked out. Ron heard the rush of the wind whipping around the tower, the soft hooting of owls, and drifted off to sleep.
He finds himself in a damp corridor. What he knows is that he needs to get back to school; he has left Hogwarts without permission, he his mortified. Why did he do that? Why on earth did he come to this place? He's going to be in so much trouble. He knows he can just turn and leave, the exit is behind him, but he's left his potions homework sitting on the table in the middle of the room on his left. He thinks that he can just duck in there, grab his homework, and nip off outside. He wonders if he's left his broom there, he had no memory of getting here.
Before he can think more about this, he notices that the room is jam packed with people. He has no idea who they are; they are all standing in the room, quiet, shoulder to shoulder. They are carrying weapons; knives, wands, stones, crossbows; various medieval-looking instruments with chains, spikes and metal balls. He can see his homework sitting there on the small table in the middle of the room (it's due in seven minutes), but getting it will be a struggle. Suddenly, looking into the room, seeing the cloaked and he is overwhelmed with a sense of power. He is fast; he is smooth and slick; he is strong. He pulls off his robes and realizes that he has wings.
His wings are thick and brown, like an owl's. He stretches them out and it feels very good; as though he's kept them tucked up behind him for far too long. He runs into the room, dodging left and right, rolling on the ground, grabbing for his homework and jumping into the air. But it's not his homework in his hands at all; it's Hermione, unconscious, and the people in the room are shouting furiously. He flights up into the air and heads for a tall, window glinting in the moonlight. He clutches Hermione to his chest, protecting her head with his arm, and breaks through the glass effortlessly, shards of paperly glass floating around him. The voices behind him cease; he is stronger than them, and faster than them. He flies back to Hogwarts, his legs kicking vaguely as though he's underwater. He flies so high that houses look tiny down below him; little streams and rivers, smoke rising, lights flickering on and off. Hermione feels nearly weightless in his arms. She is carrying his homework.
He wakes up suddenly. He is panting, and scared, but doesn't remember why anymore. He feels nervous about his foot dangling over the edge of the bed and pulls in back under his blankets, tucking it under his knee. What had he been dreaming about? He can hear Crabbe's snoring; Draco's even breathing. Everything else is shrouded in darkness and silence.
There had been a baby. Yes, that was it. A baby, and it was his own. He had given birth to it himself in the dream. He came out of his stomach painlessly, this bundle of pink, covered with blood and squalling. He didn't know where it had came from, and oddly, no one had laughed at him. His friends were there, as he lay on a cot in the hospital wing. Draco had smiled, the baby squeezing his finger with its tiny hands. It was wrapped in a cloak, and Goyle worried that the material was too rough for a newborn.
He went to class with his baby, who gurgled and giggled and smelled like power and lotion and warmth. Everyone was very jealous of him, because with the baby he could do things no one else could do; he got the best grades, everyone wanted to be his friend, he could be invisible when he wanted to. He could overhear conversations, read people's minds, make money appear out of thin air. He was on the front page of the Daily Prophet every day. He became a Quidditch star, his baby kept safe under his arm.
That was when the dream got terribly scary. It was Harry Potter who lost it. Goyle had just caught the snitch. The rules had changed, even the beaters could catch it and win. And catch it he had. Everyone was cheering, even the baby, tucked against his chest in a white blanket. And then it happened.
Harry Potter swooped in on his fancy broom and gave him a look. Goyle knew he was jealous, knew that Harry Potter was secretly evil and wanted to destroy him in any way possible. Need to win this Quidditch match or else he would be a nobody. But Goyle had beat him, and now he was angry. He grabbed the baby with one hand, pulling it easily from Goyle's chest, it's white blanket flapping in the breeze. Goyle reached to grab it back when Harry Potter dropped it.
Goyle froze, watching the baby fall through the air, not flipping around, just falling straight down, its eyes looking straight into his the whole time. No matter how far away it got, Goyle could still see its eyes; calm, peaceful, sad, and knowing.
Goyle woke up before the baby hit the ground. He shook his head. Baby? By the time he rubbed his eyes and turned over, the dream was gone.
She is sitting in a large auditorium filled with well-dressed people. They are all whispering excitedly. They have come to see a play; it is supposed to be the best play in the world. The Minister of Magic himself is there, wearing an elegant silver cloak. He is sitting next to a beautiful witch with bright red lips, a woman who Millicent notes is not his wife. There is a large, slimy green frog sitting next to her, wearing a suit. No one thinks this is odd, and neither does Millicent. The frog looks friendly, so she leans over and asks, "What's the name of this play again?"
"What," the frog says, aghast. "You don't know? You of all people"
Just then the lights went out and the curtain went up. The frog was quiet, and a Professor Spout stepped on to the stage. She was wearing a pink tutu and a long red cape. She cleared her throat. "We have a slight problem," she began. "We seem to have Oh! Millicent! There you are!"
Suddenly everyone turned and looked at her. She could see light glinting off a monacle here and there, off opera glasses and diamonds.
"Millicent!" Professor Sprout was saying. "Come up on stage! We need you, darling!" The frog pulls her to her feet. She doesn't understand what's going on. Soon she is standing on the stage. She is also wearing a tutu. There are lights on her, and she realizes suddenly that she is the star of this show, that it is all her and only her. She has no idea what the play is about. She looks into the audience, looking for a program with the name of the play on it. It's too dark to see much, and whenever she almost sees a bit of the title, someone puts the hand over it. She only knows that it starts with an M.
At a loss for what to do, she starts to dance. Suddenly the stage is covered with water; she is slipping and falling, standing back up and dancing again. Now that she's started she can't stop. The crowd is laughing, and the water on the stage gets deeper and deeper. Soon she is up to her knees in water, spinning around dancing, jumping up and down. There is no music. Professor Sprout is watching her unhappily from the wings.
"If you can't do better, Millicent, I'll have to give you a poor grade in herbology."
After the others have fallen asleep, Neville is still lying awake. He isn't crying anymore, just staring up into the darkness. He received an owl from his grandmother today. She told him something that was not meant to upset him, but did nonetheless. They were able to take your mother out of restraints today. The details of his mother's confinement are profoundly disturbing to Neville. When he was small they prettied his mother and father up for him; they put them in armchairs, sedated them slightly, put flowers in their hands. He would sit on their laps, under close observation, and cuddle into their chests like a puppy, watching his mother chew on a flower petal. As an adult, ostensibly, his grandmother had let him in on some of the details, perhaps to make him feel more connected. He listens to it dutifully, and he even requests news when it's not immediately offered. He has come to understand this part of his life as a kind of punishment. When he hears the stories of restraints and medication and violence and words mumbled and the impact of diet of their mental state, he thinks about the potions he has ruined that day, spells he muffed up, passwords forgotten, the times he didn't pay attention in class. It is right that he suffer like this. It is his job to endure.
When he falls asleep, he dreams of gray. He is in a gray box, with gray walls, gray ceiling. He is wearing striped gray clothes; the room is filled with books, all illegible because the ink is the same gray as the page. When he looks at his hands, he sees that his skin is gray too.
The dream begins in the usual way. She is lying on a couch, leaning back against Harry, who is playing with her long black hair. It is draped over his lap, and tucked over the arm of the couch, the tips of it dragging along the floor. In this dream he takes a pair of scissors and cuts her hair in chunks. She is not worried about this; in fact, each cut feels wonderful. She closes her eyes and concentrates on the feeling of the scissors slicing thickly and audibly through her hair. The gentle tug against her scalp feels like fingers lightly stroking her. For every cut, Harry leans over kisses her lightly on her lips, the scissors behind her head closing with a firm, metallic snip as he does. She is wearing her new corset, a long red dress, and fishnet stockings. She has shiny black shoes as well, but they are sitting on the floor beside the couch; her ankles are crossed delicately on the arm of the couch. There is a growing pile of extraordinarily long hair on the floor, which moves around like dying fish, or like snakes.
The door opens. (Snip. Kiss.) She watches black-booted feet walk into the room, sinking into the thick Persian carpet. She hears wind, and a door closes somewhere else in the house. The figure now standing in front of her is wearing Quidditch robes, in green and gray. Ginny feels something in the pit of her stomach and her eyes travel up the body standing there. (Snip. Kiss.) She sees his chest heaving, the snake on his patch just under his left shoulder is slithering around the silvery borders. His mouth is open, as if he is about to speak, or he is about to kiss someone.
Suddenly she's not lying on the couch anymore. She's standing in a field, still wearing her corset and long red skirt. She has not been crying. She is radiant, and her hair is still long and is brushing on the ground. She is standing face to face with Draco Malfoy. He grabs her by the neck and kisses her hard and passionately. She moans and wonders where Harry is. Ginny hasn't noticed that Draco has pulled out his own pair of scissors, which are more like gardening shears. She knows that he is doing this, pulling them out from behind them, the varnish wearing thing on the old wooden handles, before her dream self knows. She feels a deep regret at not being able to warn her dream self. When she finally does notices the shears in Draco hands, she sees that there are pieces of grass stuck the blades, as if Draco had just trimmed the edge of the lawn. She smells grass, and pumpkin juice, leaves. Her lips still pressed against his, which are oddly cold, she feels him cutting off her hair. (Snip. Snip. Snip.)
This time she is afraid. With Harry she knew her hair would come back; somehow no matter how much he cut off, she never lost any hair. But Draco cut it all off. He stepped back from her, and she could feel a cool breeze against the back of her neck, and something dripping. Her hair was bleeding, the cutting was too violent. She started to cry. Draco grinned, and, holding the shears in two hands, shoved the point into her chest.
He can walk through walls. That's how he knows that it's a dream. Draco often has lucid dreams, and he doesn't think that this is strange or unusual, even when he's awake. In this dream, he runs through the halls and into strange rooms through portraits, who look confused as they see him pass through them. He sees McGonagall sitting quietly at her desk, he peers over her shoulder to see his grades. Professor Binns still lecturing as if there are students in his class room long after everyone has gone to bed; he lectures about sex, cruelty, and the relationship between cats and historical change when he is alone. Next he runs through the Ravenclaw sixth year dorms and sees a naked shoulder poking out from a blanket, a foot, a mess of curly hair against a pillow. There is a large tree growing in the centre of the Ravenclaw common room, with a dead Raven tied against its trunk. He runs through the dungeons and sees Snape sniffing at a potions bottle, his left leg a thick, green tentacle.
The more he runs the better he feels. The walls pass over and around him like water, like air rushing through his hair during a Quidditch game. When he finds himself at the foot of Harry's bed, he stops. He watches Harry's chest rise and fall gently, his eyes only half shut. He is wearing his glasses; his arms are spread wide against the blankets. Draco forgets that he is dreaming, forgets that he has dreamed of running through walls to get here. He forgets that it is at least strange, if not impossible, for him to be standing in the Gryffindor dorm room in the middle of the night. He presses his forehead against the post of Harry's bed.
For the moment Draco isn't sure if Harry is awake or asleep. His eyes are fluttering behind his glasses. Draco feels certain he is being watched. He knows all of a sudden that Harry is awake, and that when Draco kissed him on his birthday Harry knew exactly who it was. He knew that it as him and he was disappointed that it had ended so abruptly. He was disappointed that Draco had not been brave enough to come to him. Draco stands still in the moonlight, gripping the bedpost tightly with one hand, running his fingers through his hair with the other. He climbs on to the foot of Harry's bed and waits for a reaction. He is terrified. Harry is naked and gleams in the moonlight; his scar is glowing, but Draco doesn't find this out of place.
Suddenly Harry starts to speak. Draco can see his mouth moving, but hears nothing. He sits up, blankets falling around him, looking confused, anxious, and then angry as he speaks. He seems to be asking questions, but Draco can't hear him. Harry's hands ball into fists against his blankets. Draco looks at him in confusion. He tries to answer, to explain, but as he opens his mouth, bits of paper fall out instead of sounds. Without looking at them Draco knows what the paper is; it is pieces of his letters, his diaries, the ones he went through on his birthday and tore to shreds and burned. He knows that the bits of paper say terribly damning things; about Death Eaters, mudbloods, his fathers secrets, old curses he has memorized, fantasies he's had about Harry. Fantasies about killing him, fantasies about fucking him. Draco is embarrassed, he tries to grab the pieces up, but Harry is too fast. He is reading something out loud, he is laughing.
Harry stands up, no longer naked, but wearing his school robes. He picks Draco up as if he's a ragdoll and walks over to the window. Draco looks up and sees himself, another version of himself, hovering on his broomstick, transparent, smirking. His transparent self curls into smoke, and then turns into his father, his signet ring pressed against his cheek, a quill in his hand. He is writing an obituary. Harry opens the window and drops Draco out. Suddenly he is no longer at Hogwarts, but is at the top of a deep cavern, red with blood and silent. As he falls, Draco does not know that this is a dream. When he wakes he is screaming.
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