Harry gaped as the faces of his friends and confidants came into view from beneath the lowering hoods. His eyes darted from one face to the next. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Luna, Neville, Lupin, Fred, George, and....
Harry felt the color drain from his face. “You’re dead! I saw you die! Both of you! You’re both dead!” Harry felt his knees weaken and buckle, and would have fallen onto the floor if not for the figures—his friends—rushing forward and catching him, as Harry stared at the last two figures in line. Both of them were wearing cheerful expressions as they supported him along with the others from falling at the sight of the two of them standing before him, his godfather and the Hufflepuff Triwizard Champion, Sirius Black and Cedric Diggory, in perfect health and good humor.
“How... How is this possible...?” Harry mumbled as they gently lowered him to ground, his vision going blurry from shock.
He heard Ron’s voice coming from his right side, “Easy, mate, easy.”
Hermione was taking charge, telling the others to prop his head up. He felt something soft under his head, and heard her telling someone to go and get a cup of water, then footsteps walking away and a few moments later returning, presumably with a goblet full of water. A few moments later, Harry felt the rim of the goblet at his lips, coupled with Ginny’s voice telling him to drink.
As the water flowed down his throat, the room swam back into focus, leaving him looking up at a crowd of his closest friends with concerned looks on their faces.
“Alright there, Harry?” Ginny asked, helping him to a sitting position.
Harry shook his head to rid himself of the stars before his eyes, and said, “I’m all right. Just give me a moment...” After steadying himself, he looked up at Cedric and Sirius, and said, “You’re not really here, are you? None of you are...”
Sirius smiled, eyes twinkling, and said to Harry, “Do you think the dead that you love ever truly leave you? Do you think that you don’t recall us, more clearly than ever, in times of great trouble? We are alive in you, Harry, and we show ourselves when you truly need us.”
It took Harry a few moments to realize why that sounded so familiar. Feeling distinctly flat-footed, he asked, “How did you know what Dumbledore said to me after you escaped on Buckbeak?”
This time it was Cedric’s turn to smile. Tossing a book to Harry, he said, “Found this in the library. Absolutely fascinating reading. Check page four-twenty-seven.”
Harry did so and collapsed again. There, written down word for word, was his conversation with Dumbledore after Sirius had escaped. Ginny caught his head as he fell back again, with the book landing on his face and sliding off onto the floor. Fred and George chuckled. Getting back to a sitting position again with Ginny’s help after a few moments and several reassurances that he was alright, Harry shook his head again, like a dog shaking off water, but more to clear the cobwebs rapidly wrapping around his brain.
He then picked up the purple-and-green bound book and examined the cover, hoping that it would clear things up a little. Instead of a title, as he had expected, he found a series of headings written in gold:
And so on, in three columns of medium-sized type packed over the front cover, was every topic contained in this book.
Getting to his feet with a grunt and Ginny’s assistance, he handed the book over to Sirius, who pocketed it in his cloak. Harry, feeling steadier by the second, asked, “But how is this possible? You and you,” indicating Sirius and Cedric, “standing there, when I saw you both die in front of me...”
Then it suddenly hit him. Alive in you, Sirius had said moments before... Horcruxes preserving a piece of someone’s soul...
“Sirius, Cedric, this is some sort of dream, isn’t it?” His heart soared when they both nodded yes. “And you two are here, in this dream, so this is the only way that the two of you could talk to me, because I couldn’t see you when I was awake...”
Oh, god. Harry thought, Have they been trapped in literally the back of my mind for all of this time since they died... Have I been carrying around pieces of their souls since they died? Can I help them? How could they... Rather, how DID they make the jump in here? Was it something about that arch or Voldemort’s Avada Kedavra curse...?
He nearly jumped out of his skin, and most certainly his horrified reverie, when Hermione spoke up from behind him.
“I’m so sorry to say this, Harry, but you’re wrong about that idea. Well, half wrong,” as the bottom of his stomach dropped out from under him. “Cedric and Sirius aren’t really here, nor are they really Cedric Diggory or Sirius Black. But then again, none of us are really here or who we appear to be. We’re aspects of you, your mind. I’m your intelligence...”
“You’re WHAT!?” Harry said, incredulous and astonished.
“Aspects of you, facets of your personality, mental representations of parts of your mind,” Hermione said patiently.
Ron looked up at Harry and said, “I’m your sense of loyalty.”
Hermione continued, “Ginny is your ability to love. She’s probably the strongest one here...”
Too right she is, Harry thought, as the Ginny-aspect in question caught him in a bone-crushing hug. “Ah, Ginny, Ginny, please be careful, love... my ribs!” Harry said, only half-joking. She grinned and loosened her grip fractionally as Harry felt relieved, somewhat, that he had been wrong moments before.
“...Sirius is your impulsiveness...” Harry smirked. How appropriate...
“...Luna is your sense of skepticism and suspicion...” Harry experienced severe abdominal pain from laughing at the irony, especially when the Hermione-aspect arched her eyebrow, obviously amused.
“...Remus here,” she continued, indicating Lupin, “is your determination...”
“...the twins are, rather obviously, your mischievousness and sense of humor...” as the two of them removed about a dozen small objects from their pockets and began juggling them between themselves.
“...Neville is your humility...”
“...and I’m your sense of respect,” finished Cedric.
Harry looked around at all of them, feeling both surprise and happiness, along with a small amount of foreboding. This is going to take some getting used to...
“Wait a tick,” Harry turned around to face the Hermione-aspect. “Hermione, you said I was half right. How was I half right if these two, if all of you, are really just aspects of my personality?”
His sense of foreboding growing with each nervous glance that was being thrown among the images of his friends, Hermione started, somewhat cautiously, “Well, Harry, you thought that you were in a dream of some sort, and that you had someone else inside your mind aside from yourself.”
“Well?” Harry prompted, his apprehension feeling absolutely overwhelming.
“You’re in a coma, Harry,” Sirius said bluntly.
Harry’s knees nearly gave out from under him again; if Ginny hadn’t still been holding him, he probably would have ended up back on the floor.
As Harry steadied himself on Ginny’s shoulder, Fred and George cut in; both of them had stopped their juggling and looked deadly serious. “And you’ve got an uninvited guest in here, too, mate,” said George.
Harry asked very quietly, “Who is it?” fearing he already knew the answer.
No one answered him. Looking down at Ginny in her black cloak, still holding on to him as if welded, he asked, ever so softly, “Who is it, Gin?”
She looked up from her current view of his chest and met his gaze. Then she said it.
“It’s Tom, Harry. It’s Tom.”
Ron and Hermione had spent the last several minutes watching the readouts hanging in midair over Harry’s body with increasing levels of anxiety. For the better part of an hour, after Healer Alexander had cast the monitoring spell, everything had been fine; the two of them had had to fight falling asleep, the slow and regular tempo of Harry’s heartbeat and the comfy chairs having had a lulling effect on them.
Then, several minutes ago, the floating spell display had started screeching at them, flashing blue, clearly trying to get their attention as Harry’s vital signs went haywire. Jumping to their feet, Ron and Hermione had yelled for a Healer, any Healer, and watched in horror as Harry’s heartbeat had imitated a drum roll.
Healer Andrews had returned to the ward within moments, but the incident was fading rapidly, and Harry’s heart and lungs had returned to their regular pace within a minute or two and stayed there. For a few minutes.
Then the display went insane again, as Harry’s heart rate, breathing and a variety of other functions proceeded to scatter all over the map. Andrews almost panicked, but before he could do anything, Harry’s vital signs returned to normal, the entire incident having lasted only heartbeats. Ron and Hermione’s heartbeats that is; Harry’s heart had been busy setting a tempo more suitable for a rock concert.
Now the three of them were watching the floating displays intently; so intently, in fact, that they nearly missed hearing Harry softly say, “Ginny,” at a volume that was barely louder than his normal breathing, so soft it was almost a sigh, an exhalation, notable only for the change in sound from the ordinary; it might've been easily overlooked, ignored, missed.
But they didn’t miss it.
Ron looked up, startled, and caught Hermione’s gaze.
“Did he just say—?”
“—Your sister’s name? I think so,” Hermione said.
They looked down to see a change on Harry’s face for the first time in hours. He was smiling. They stood there for a few seconds, slightly stunned.
Ron spoke up first. “Well, that proves it. The prat’s definitely dreaming. I don’t know whether to hug him for still being alive after all of that, or hex him for dreaming about my sister. Think he’s snogging in there?” he said, a relieved look on his face, coupled with a knowing grin.
“No, I don’t think so, Ron... Look!” she said, pointing to the display, which had gone crazy again; at the same time, the smile on Harry’s face disappeared as if someone had flicked a switch.
Within moments, the readouts were back to normal. Unfortunately, so was Harry’s face, without a smile or a frown marring his features, completely and totally blank.
Ron and Hermione both looked up at the same moment, exchanging panicked glances, until Healer Andrews, largely ignored at the back of the room, coughed lightly to get their attention. It worked, as the two of them nearly jumped out of their skins at the sound.
“Uh, Mr. Weasley, it occurs to me that, um, considering the, um, current situation with Mr. Potter and what just occurred...”
Ron glared at him. We don’t have time for this. “Spit it out,” he said to the nervous Healer.
“Well, with what just happened, with Mr. Potter mentioning your sister’s name and then reacting like that, well in a case like this, she might have some sort of insight to offer us that might help us...”
“No. She’s not coming here and seeing him like... like this!” Ron said, indicating Harry laid out on the bed. “I’m not going to let her see Harry like this! She doesn’t need it! And she’s in enough pain as it is!”
“Ron, please, consider what she would do to you if she heard you say that,” Hermione interjected, smiling very slightly.
Ron stopped in the middle of his diatribe, looking as if he had been hit with something very heavy in the face, visions of flying bogeys, facial boils, unreachable itching, and the results of an assortment of other hexes undoubtedly very vivid in his mind.
Hermione continued in a very even and reasonable tone, “And if she ever found out about this, and that she could have helped, but we wouldn’t let her know about it, she’d feel terrible. Then she’d make us feel worse than her, or have you forgotten how many hexes Harry taught her?”
Ron started sputtering. “But she’s my sister!”
“And she loves Harry.”
And with that parting shot, Hermione settled back into her chair, watching Ron’s face, knowing what he was thinking. His sister’s anguish or possibly his best mate’s life? She knew what the answer was going to be, and when he reached it; Ron sat back down in his chair and held his head in his hands. He said, from in-between his palms, to Andrews, “She’ll be at the Burrow on winter holiday from Hogwarts.”
The Healer said, “I’ll go and get her right away,” and got up from his chair and strode to the door. He stopped and said softly to Ron, “Thank you.”
After the door closed behind him, Hermione reached over and patted Ron’s back. “You did the right thing, Ron.”
He groaned into his palms. “Mum’s going to kill me.”