Harry came slowly back to awareness of his surroundings. He was not really surprised to find himself in the hospital wing. I have got to break the habit of winding up here.
He tried to sit up and the room started to spin around him. Then again, maybe I could just move in.
"You're awake!" That was Ron's voice, somewhere to his right, though he couldn't see him for some reason. His tone was a mix of relief, worry, and lack of understanding that promised a painful and incomplete explanation of how he had gotten here. Wait, when did I get so good at analyzing Ron's voice?
"Madam Pomfrey! Ginny's awake!"
Ginny? Was Ginny here too? Harry started to sit up again…
…and with a mental wrench his mind left a body that was half-sitting and found itself in one still lying down. A body that felt familiar, which finally served to call attention to the fact that his last one hadn't. His vision cleared, or at least to the normal fuzziness of pre-glasses day.
Harry sat up and turned to his right. No one was there. He turned to his left and saw Ron, who had just turned back away from him and towards the next cot. Ginny was seated in that one, her head turned towards him and a look of horror on her face.
Ron spotted the expression too. "Ginny? What's wrong?"
"Harry? Was that you?" Ginny's voice trembled. Harry had never seen anyone so deeply terrified. "Please tell me that was you!"
"I think it was," Harry answered slowly.
Ginny slumped, her head falling forward. "Oh, Merlin," she whispered. Tears fell from her eyes onto the hospital sheet.
Ron was looking back and forth between them, clearly with no clue as to what they were talking about. "What was you? What did Harry do?"
Harry remembered a vision of a Hogwarts robe covered in blood. "I sat you up, Ginny. It wasn't…Tom."
"Sat her up how? You haven't left your bed!" Madam Pomfrey sounded brisk and authoritative as she came striding over.
"I think we need to see the Headmaster, Madam Pomfrey." Harry's eyes never left Ginny. Should he go over there and try to hold her? Or would that be the wrong thing to do? Not for the first time he wished he understood more about the way relationships were supposed to work.
"He's on his way. Let's have a look at you two."
Madam Pomfrey had finished examining Harry and had just started on Ginny when Dumbledore came striding into the hospital wing, trailed by Hermione.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Potter, Miss Weasley. Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger have been taking turns keeping an eye on you. I am glad to see you among us again."
"How long were we out?" Harry asked.
"Almost a full day, Mr. Potter. I rather hope you can tell us what happened."
"We, well," Harry paused, marshaled his thoughts, and started over. "We were in the Great Hall, and I looked at Ginny, and then, um, it was like I was watching a movie with the wrong soundtrack. I could see…some things from my second year." Harry tried to cover for Ginny, knowing how much she hated what had happened that year, but decided Dumbledore needed the full story. "Well, from Ginny's first year, really, but I heard," Harry paused for a deep breath. This never came easy. "I heard Voldemort killing my parents."
"And yourself, Miss Weasley?"
Ginny sniffed back tears, and with visible effort, looked up. Her cheeks were streaked with tears, but her voice was steady and clear. "I heard Tom taunting me in the Chamber when he took me down there for the last time. But all I saw was a flash of green light, like a spell hitting my face, over and over again. Then I was sitting up, but I was sure I hadn't sat up myself. It was just like with Tom – I knew someone else had made my body do something, but I couldn't remember what. Harry says he thinks that was him."
"Could you explain that a little more fully, Harry?" Dumbledore asked gently.
Harry tried to think of how to explain the odd feeling of a body not quite his own, and decided that it was probably better saved until Ron wasn't in the room. This was Ginny they were talking about, after all. "I heard Ron's voice to my right, and I tried to sit up, but couldn't, then I tried again and suddenly I found myself over here, still lying down."
"I see." Dumbledore closed his eyes for a moment in thought.
"I see," he repeated, opening them again. "I think it would be wise to attempt to study this under more controlled circumstances. After Madam Pomfrey has made sure you have recovered, please come to my office. The password is ‘Twix'."
Harry and Ginny sat in front of Dumbledore's desk. Former headmasters watched avidly as Harry and Ginny recounted everything they could remember about the two instances where their minds had merged. Dumbledore merely sat there with steepled fingers, occasionally asking a minor question.
When Ginny finished recounting for the second time the odd feeling of waking to find herself sitting up, there was silence for a few moments.
"I note that there are more differences than similarities in these two instances. This seems to support my belief that the bond between the two of you is quite complex. However, I do see a few common elements. Eye contact seems to be necessary to begin the process. It also seems that you must be thinking similar thoughts at the time."
"It happened in the Great Hall both times, as well." Ginny put in.
Dumbledore nodded. "That is true. However I would tend to guess that is a coincidence. Magic involving the mind generally depends on the people involved, not the physical surroundings.
"I think an experiment is in order. Harry, Ginny, if you would turn your chairs to face each other and focus on the first time you met. That should be a fairly clear memory for both of you, I believe."
Harry looked into Ginny's eyes. Soft. Soft and brown, warm and…this isn't what you're supposed to be thinking of, Potter! Harry pursed his lips and concentrated. I first saw her just outside of Platform nine and three-quarters, along with her mother and brothers. She'd known the platform number, and she'd wanted to go to Hogwarts, too. When she heard he was on the train, she'd wanted to come meet him, and he'd seen her running up the platform as the train pulled out, trying to follow it. I don't think this is working.
"I don't think this is working, sir." Ginny had turned to Dumbledore, and Harry noticed her cheeks were decidedly flushed. Well, those first memories were a bit embarrassing.
"Perhaps a more recent memory. Can you think of some recent experience which you both remember quite well?"
Harry felt his face burning. He glanced at Ginny and saw that her face was nearly the color of her hair. I think we're thinking of the same thing right now. In general, at least.
"Um. Maybe, err, remember right after I got back at the start of term, Ginny?"
Ginny nodded. Harry was relieved that she didn't say anything about what they had done.
They faced each other, and Harry stared into her eyes again. The warm feel of her in my arms as we kissed for the first time, the sensation that there was nothing in the world but the two of us, soft lips joined….
"I think, from your accounts, Harry, that you will need to have your eyes open." Dumbledore's amused voice interrupted Harry's memory, and his eyes snapped open. Ginny's blush had faded somewhat, and the smile on her face made Harry wish that she smiled more often. For that matter, he was grinning like a fool himself.
"I gather neither of you felt anything unusual?" Both Harry and Ginny shook their heads. "Well, we shall have to wait and see. I thank you both, and please let me know if anything unusual occurs."
When Harry returned with Ginny to the Gryffindor common room, he was puzzled to find it almost silent.
There were the usual number of students writing essays, reading textbooks, and practicing wand movements, but the study groups were huddled together like sheep sheltering from wolves, and several faces were pressed so closely into their books that Harry was sure they couldn't actually read them.
The reason quickly became apparent, at least to Harry.
"Oh no, they're at it again, aren't they?" And Ginny, too.
Ron was seated in front of the fire, staring at Hermione. She was staring back, her arms folded across her chest. Harry wondered what would happen to anything that got between them – spontaneous combustion, possibly.
Harry turned to Ginny, raising an eyebrow questioningly. She turned her head toward him slightly and nodded. Harry nodded as well and walked over to sprawl in a chair next to Ron.
"So, mate, what's going on?" His tone wasn't fooling anyone, but from the looks of it there was no one to fool anyway.
Ron's eyes never left Hermione's. "Maybe you should ask Vicky that."
Oops. Harry braced himself for the inevitable.
"His name, Ronald Weasley, is Viktor. In case you had not noticed, he is on our side." Each of Hermione's words came out coldly and precisely. Harry had a sudden mental image of icicles plunging down from a high roof to impale Ron.
"On your side, you mean. ‘Cause he hasn't exactly been writing to the rest of us, has he?"
"Perhaps, Ronald, that is because none of you have been writing to him." Big icicles.
"You know, I preferred it when they shouted at each other all the time." Ginny had sprawled next to Hermione, mirroring Harry across the fireplace.
"Oh?" Harry had no idea what her exact plan was, but was happy to play along.
"Yeah. Sooner or later one of their voices would give out, and in the meantime they'd clear the common room out, and we'd have the place to ourselves."
"I guess we'll just have to go someplace else then." Harry sighed dramatically. OK, Ginny, I'll play along, I just hope Ron doesn't kill me.
"Yes. Well, there's that broom cupboard on the second floor…."
"No good," Harry shook his head firmly. "Filch nearly caught us last week."
"Caught you doing what, Harry?" Ron transferred his stare to Harry. It had lost none of its venom.
"Why, practicing, dear brother." Ginny turned a completely innocent look on her brother.
"Practicing?" Ron's look had switched to confusion.
"Practicing wand movements," Ginny said pleasantly. "You know I have O.W.L.s coming up, and Harry's been kind enough to help me study." Her gaze hardened. "Unlike some other people I could mention."
Ron coughed nervously. "Well, you know how it is, being Quidditch Captain and everything…."
How does she do it? Harry wondered. Of course, Ron's a lot easier to deal with than…
"I'm glad to see you've got your priorities in their usual place, Ron!"
The next half hour was unpleasant, but at least Ron and Hermione were talking to each other again.
Remus Lupin resisted the urge to just set his head down on the bar and let the world wash over him for a while. Coming here on his way home for a steadying drink after a bad day was one thing. Staying here until all hours was another. He knocked back half the firewhiskey and went over to a table in the corner as the familiar heat burst inside him. It didn't take away the pain, but it numbed it for a time.
Remus looked up in surprise to see a waitress standing in front of him.
"Floo call for you, sir. You can take it in the other room." She pointed to the back, near the loo. Remus shrugged and stood. Dumbledore was practically omniscient. It was hardly a surprise that he'd been able to track him down. Lupin mentally shrugged, set his drink down, and stood up.
He walked into the room, and just caught a glimpse of green flames before they faded to red. He waited for a moment, expecting Dumbledore had something come up and would call again, then shrugged and walked back out to his drink. If it had been really urgent, Dumbledore would have sent Fawkes for him, after all.
He took another sip of firewhiskey and felt it burn as it slid down his throat. Of course, if he was needed, he really shouldn't linger either. He took a healthy gulp of his drink, feeling the burn again, and froze with the glass an inch above the table.
A man was standing across the room from him. A man with a face he would never forget. A man with a silver hand. He was making no effort to hide, just standing there, with his eyes locked on his former friend.
Remus dropped the glass as his hand darted for his wand, but Peter held up his silver hand, its back towards Remus, and vanished.
Remus felt his body relax. Whatever Peter had intended, he was gone. Gone like the burn of the firewhiskey….
But the burn wasn't gone. For that matter, firewhiskey had never burned like that. This burn felt more like the burn of…
…Silver! In a sudden burst of clarity, Remus saw and remembered the things he'd failed to really notice the first time. A waitress in a bar that didn't have a waitress. A floo call when no one knew he was here. The look of sadness on Peter's face, and the way he had held up his hand, to draw attention to it.
Someone had tried to poison him by putting silver powder in his drink. And Peter had tried to warn him.
Why? Why now?
But that wasn't important. Or rather, it might be, but he didn't have time to wonder about it. Even as the burn spread through his body, creeping through him, he jumped to his feet to Apparate to Hogsmeade.