"As for who we are, that would be the work of many ages to answer. As for where you are, you are nowhere…and everywhere. As for what is going on, you are at the point of Becoming."
Harry had honestly tried to follow this explanation, but such involution was worthy of a centaur talking in prophecy. The unknown woman wove her shuttle through the threads she had selected, passed it to her other hand and brought down the reed to settle the new weft thread in place. The whole weaving seemed to sparkle and move in the suffused light.
"Can't you give me a straight answer?" Harry demanded. He knew he was being rude and impatient but in mitigation, he had the strangest feeling that time was not on his side in this conversation.
"Is there such a thing? Everything is curved- even light- or so they tell Us." The woman working with a drop spindle spoke as she sauntered over to him and the thread around the whorl sparkled in the light, distracted him. It drew the eyes as it twirled round, dipping slightly with each revolution. Harry stared…
Back and forward, in and out, past and present, up and down, present and future, front and back, fate and choice, right and wrong… Was a voice whispering in his ear? Or was it imagination?
Harry tore his dazzled eyes away and rubbed them, hard. The regular sound of the shuttle between the threads and the reed falling made him think of a heartbeat, pumping steadily, but one where the rhythm was failing.
Now feeling light-headed and suddenly consumed with a sense of urgency Harry looked wildly around. At the corner of his eye he saw another arch and staggered across to it, hoping for the way out.
Just beyond the dim opening, another woman was sitting. She turned and a stray beam of light enhanced the only feature of her shadowed face that Harry could see clearly: her eyes.
He gasped involuntarily -they were completely black. There was no coloured iris or white to the eye; despite the threat he could sense, the eyes had a hypnotic quality that drew him unwillingly and he took a step forwards without knowing it.
"Yess… yess, that'ss it…come to me. You have met my ssisters…now come to me." Her sibilant voice reminded Harry of the cold sound of Parsletongue and the voice of a long-dead Basilisk. He shrank back, afraid/unwilling although he couldn't say why. Her eyes drew him forward. Harry exerted his will to resist.
"No! I don't want to."
She extended her graceful arm to him and just for a second, Harry would have sworn on his mother's grave he saw the claw-like hand of a skeleton.
"We have not made the choice. He is not yours yet, that-which-must-necessarily be."
The hidden voice was strongly male and emotionless. Harry craned his head to try and see past the grisly woman but she loomed nearer to him, reaching out again and showing more of her veiled face.
There was a scraping sound suggestive of a blade being sharpened close at hand and Harry quickly turned away but he felt dizzy and dropped to his knees. The scissoring noise sounded much closer, Harry pushed himself up forcing his knees to straighten and support him so he could escape whatever it was.
"Let me have him, Lord. He cannot resist much longer."
"Nobody's taking me anywhere!" Harry shouted defiantly, his dizziness increased and his surroundings began to spin into a twist of shadow and colour. Harry dropped full length on the cool floor and lay motionless…
As one dead…
"Shit, Hermione! He can't afford to lose any more blood. Wait a minute." Ron was gasping, sounding hollow, as though his voice was coming down a long tube. Harry was cold, so cold. He felt himself being lowered to a slumped sitting position.
"Harry? Harry? Oh God, Ron, what are we going to do?" Hermione sounded close to tears. Well, now Harry knew this was some weird cycling nightmare. Hermione was panicking!
"Bloody hell, it's soaking his robes at the back as well!" Ron's voice shook as he spoke and Harry felt wetness dribble down the outer aspect of his right leg.
That explained the coldness and the faint dizziness, he was bleeding to death. Was this real or another dream? He had to exert himself, pull his scattered wits together. Ron and Hermione needed him.
"Hermione! Go in my jeans pocket and get the ampoule out, the one Dumbledore gave me."
"What? Go and what?" She sounded flustered. Harry thought the idea of going in Ron's pocket might have something to do with it.
"My hands are too slick with blood, I'm scared I'll drop it. Get the phoenix tears, quick!… Shit!… You know what to do! I'll hold them off!"
The rustle of cloth implied that Hermione had done what Ron wanted and Harry heard his first and best friend shouting out a rapid series of curses and hexes. Others sizzled past his ears.
Harry found the darkness receding and he began to sense his fingers and toes again. He pushed his aching body upright and found Hermione watching him anxiously.
"Harry? Can you hear me?"
She sighed with relief and gave him a quick hug when he nodded. He had to help Ron.
"Wand?" he breathed, and Hermione looked horrified.
"Harry! No way! You just took five minutes of the Cruciatus off Voldemort!"
"Give me my wand," Harry demanded, his breath coming more easily. He was sore in places he hadn't known had nerve endings, but that didn't matter. He had to stand up and save Ron and Hermione. He was the only one who could. He groped through his sticky robes until his fingers closed over the familiar length of wood.
Somehow he got to his feet and his head spun, making the blackness rise up again but he took a deep breath, kept still and forced it away.
"Ah, Potter. There you are. I thought you had tired of our little game. She is still here, my little puppet. Come and take her…she is boring me now, the silly little girl."
Harry's scar blossomed with pain, but the phoenix tears had given him new strength. He noticed Ginny sobbing on the floor and he hardened his heart. "Riddle," he muttered.
He waved his wand in an encompassing circle and yelled out, "Quemadmodem speravimus in te," but the encompassing Death Eaters laughed harshly and Voldemort's cold voice rang above them all.
"No, no, Potter. Did you not pay attention in classes? That will not avail you!"
He pointed his wand at Harry and in a lazy manner repeated his previous curse. Fire lit up Harry's brain. It felt like Bonfire night and he was the effigy of the guy, going up in flames.
Harry slid unwillingly to his knees, holding his head and his wand dropped from his nerveless fingers…
So much fire in every nerve…
…And then he was lounging indolently against the wall on the sixth floor corridor. He was lying in wait for someone and he had chosen this spot because it gave him an excellent view of both sets of stairs that passers-by had to negotiate to get to Gryffindor tower. He sighed and checked his watch. Where could she be? He shivered with anticipation; she was proving to be more of a challenge for him. It wasn't something he was used to and it intrigued him.
Normally, he just turned on the infamous Potter charm and acted all innocent and the object of desire fell straight in his arms and if he felt like it, into his bed. Why wasn't she? Why wouldn't he just give up on her as a lost cause and chase someone else?
He had considered it, even tried it; his resolve had lasted from ignoring her at breakfast to seeing her smile over one of his grumpy remarks at lunchtime and that small encouragement had set him longing for her all over again. Somehow, the one he was waiting for was the one who set his pulses racing and turned his insides to water in a way no one else ever had.
"Steady on, Potter, don't go down that road. It's just the thrill of the chase that's all," he muttered.
The sixth year Ravenclaw Merula twins came round the corner saw him and waved.
Still watching the staircases Harry barely noticed the fact that both pretty girls were dressed in clinging Muggle clothes. To his chagrin, they strolled towards him and he felt unusually irritated when both slipped an arm around him and pressed a lingering kiss on each cheek. Not even the novelty of two at once detracted his attention from waiting for his prey, besides they were blocking his view…
"Shouldn't you be in the Ravenclaw common-room or something?" Harry asked trying to extricate himself from their twining bodies.
Now this was unusual!
He didn't feel remotely interested, and his body wasn't reacting. The way they were moving against him and the things they were whispering in his ear, he should be feeling something other than impatience.
"Yeah, okay, whatever, just not now. Go on," he told them indifferently, separating himself and sending them on their way with a half-hearted smile that they took for the promise of more. They moved away, their hips swinging in unison. Harry tugged his robes straight and neatened his tie quickly. He hated looking rumpled.
He was considering his strange reaction to the offer he'd just refused when he saw her turn round the corner and his heart speeded up. The twins were forgotten in a trice.
She had her arms full of books and Harry grinned. Loaded up like that she stood no chance of fending off his advances. She couldn't afford the fines she'd get for dropping and scuffing all those volumes. Madame Pince was very strict, except where he was concerned. He had the old vulture eating out of his hand.
"I've got you now!" he muttered, satisfied.
Harry ducked into a convenient alcove and waited until she had gone two paces past him then he slipped silently out after her in pursuit. He tapped her on the left shoulder and when she turned to see who was there, he appeared on her right and she leaped most satisfactorily when she turned back and saw him.
"Hi, Weasley, whatcha doing?" he began, smiling engagingly. Ginny sighed.
"What d'you want this time, Potter?" Was that resignation he heard?
"I've told you before, all my friends call me Harry."
Ginny twisted her face into an expression of wry disbel