There was a dark and stifling silence in the small, disheveled bedroom at the top of the stairs. The room wasn’t much to look at, but it was arguably a great improvement over the cupboard under the stairs. The shadows of the room held a troubled boy with dark, unruly hair and an unmistakable lightning bolt scar. In torment, he writhed in his bed as he slept.
It was frustration and fear rolled into one. He felt as though he were being held back from something, or perhaps from someone. He awoke suddenly with a jolt and found himself hopelessly tangled in the sheets of his bed. He was soaked in a cold sweat, his heart was pounding fiercely against his chest, and he was completely breathless, again.
"Bloody dream!" he growled in aggravation as he struggled to disentangle himself from the jumble of bedding. Falling back against his pillow with a sigh, he attempted to settle into the calming silence of reality.
For the last several nights, Harry Potter had been having horrible dreams. Under normal circumstances, this would be nothing new for the Boy-Who-Lived. In fact, Harry had actually grown rather accustomed to fitful nights over the years, but this was different somehow.
His dreams were typically filled with screams of his mother begging for Harry’s life, or visions of Cedric or Sirius being snuffed out before his very eyes. These visions were much more than dreams. They were flashes of memories from events of his life, horrible and frightful, but nonetheless, memories.
In an attempt to improve his nightly lot, last year Harry had finally resolved himself to the fact that he would need to master Occlumency if he were ever to sleep properly again. During his sixth year at Hogwarts he had suffered through countless nights with Professor Snape in the dungeons, trying to block his repeated neurological invasions into his thoughts and memories.
Spending extra time with his least favorite professor was miserable, but that was not the worst of it. Actually, his time with Snape pulled a close second to the countless snide remarks from Slytherins who were told he was taking remedial potions, again. Those two factors were motivation enough to master it and be done with it, even without his best friend Hermione nagging him constantly to "concentrate and take it seriously." By the second month of the term, things had improved for him. He seemed to truly be taking control of his mind and he felt he might actually begin to rest at night.
However, that was then and this was now. Another long summer holiday at Privet Drive was staring him in the face, and Harry was already beginning to feel alone and lonely. He still had over another month before he could return to his real home at Hogwarts. He knew the Dursleys wouldn’t care that he was having nightmares. He would even be willing to wager that they might take a perverse pleasure in the fact that he was having trouble sleeping.
As he lay staring up at the ceiling, he wondered why, once again, the peace of his nights was under attack. This time it was not by mere memories though, at least not his own, but by flashes of someone else’s misery.
What truly troubled him about his dreams was that he couldn’t know for sure if it was just a nightmare or if it was really happening. Did Voldemort have another innocent victim that he was repeatedly torturing for sport simply to seep into Harry’s thoughts and make him watch?
Harry kept trying to reach out to whoever was being tormented, but could never quite reach far enough. In frustration, he tried to close himself off. Despite his attempts to block the dreams through Occlumency, they continued night after night. He did have suspicions about why it wasn’t working. Harry suspected that the part of him that wanted to prevent the dreams was continually being beat out by the larger part of him that needed so badly to find her and help her. He had realized that deep down he was almost willing the dreams to continue.
Although there were many things he didn’t know, there were a few things he had determined. He knew that this felt different from when he had dreamed about Sirius or the attack on Mr. Weasley. Instead of a clear and vivid image, it was more like sounds, a fragrance, flashes of images, and a ‘sense’ of a person that he experienced.
Each night it was the same. He felt he was trying to get to a person who needed him, but somehow could never find them. His dreams had become filled with the screams of a faceless, nameless person. The only thing he could discern was that the person was a young woman. Night after night, the helpless woman’s tormented screams seemed to tear through Harry’s chest like the steely blade of a dagger.
The other troubling thing was that he felt he knew her and wanted desperately to help, if only he could find her. Tonight he had come closer than ever before to reaching her, so close it was maddening. He’d reached the chamber where she was held, opened the door, and felt a surge of excitement mixed with dread wash over him. His heart pounded with anticipation to finally see her, help her, but even as he moved forward, the sharp edge of fear crept in on him while he imagined what he might actually see when he did. As the door swung back to reveal the mysterious young woman at last, he awoke just before he could look into her face.
Frustration plagued him as Harry mulled over his options. Should he actually do anything at all or should he continue keep this new nightmare private? Following his dreams as fact had not always proved prudent. That was a lesson Harry had learned all too painfully at the loss of his godfather’s life.
Several times he considered sending an owl to his best friends for advice. Upon weighing the good with the bad, he had decided against it. Ron would definitely go into panic mode wondering if in fact someone was actually being tortured. He didn’t anticipate that Hermione would be much more helpful than Ron. Harry was certain that she would tell him to contact the Order straight away. Neither option seemed favorable to him at the moment. Why should Ron and Hermione worry too? He had no firm information to pass along to the Order, so it seemed useless to tell them now.
The only outcome he could envision was another barrage of stares and lectures. Snape’s reaction in particular played out in his mind. He could just picture the potion master’s sneer as he told them of his nightly quest.
"Well, I’m having dreams again," he said aloud, voicing his thoughts. "Someone is in trouble, but I don’t know who… or where…or if it’s real…What do you think?"
How lame does that sound? Harry wondered to himself. Snape would surely insist Harry wasn’t using his Occlumency properly.
Dumbledore would probably gaze at him over those half moon spectacles contemplatively and respond evenly "Really? Indeed. Tell us if you learn more, but for now don’t leave your aunt’s home."
That was not a speech he wanted to hear again. No, he definitely needed to know more before he told anyone. It was his private fight, his secret, at least for now.
A/N: I would like to thank my wonderful betas, Tante and Sonicdale for all of their help in the evolution of this story. This has been a challenging and enjoyable experience.