Title: Shadow Dwellers
Chapter: Nightmares 01/02
Parts: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Warnings: This story is set post OOTP therefore there are spoilers.
Summary: Harry has nightmares, he's had nightmares for a long time, but they used to be about Voldemort. Now they are about never ending darkness.
Author's Notes: Well blow me, if this isn't my first gen HP fic. The bunny bit and demanded to be written without a pairing in sight. Thanks go to Soph for the beta.
Link: Other Fic
Chapter 1 - Nightmares
Harry sat up clutching at his throat, trying desperately to breathe. He felt as if he was suffocating, that his air ways were completely blocked, and it took him long moments to convince his starved lungs to drag in air. When he finally managed it he sounded like an old man breathing his last as he gasped down the humid air of his dingy bedroom. Breathing hard he reached for his glasses, hoping that with clarity he could convince his body that it had only been a dream.
This was not the first time he had dreamt of the stifling darkness that surrounded him and filled him and tried to drag the life from him, but each time it was as if he sank further in and it was more difficult for him to wake up. It was becoming so he was scared to close his eyes; this time he had not slept for two days until eventually it had been too much and he had had to lie down. He knew he should write to Dumbledore asking for help, but he was still hurting from the feelings of betrayal and he could not bring himself to do it, so he suffered alone.
They were only nightmares after all, he had had worse with Voldemort in his mind, but these were not coming from Tom Riddle. Harry knew what he was dreaming about; he understood all too well the horrors his mind was conjuring up: he was having night terrors about The Veil. Terror filled him at the idea that he had condemned his godfather to an eternity of inky blackness.
Pushing the covers back he swung his legs off his lumpy mattress and stood up. His chest still hurt from where he had literally stopped breathing as his subconscious took over, but it was passing. Sleep would not return tonight, and he dragged himself towards the bathroom.
For once the Dursley household had adapted to him, rather than the other way around. At the beginning of the holidays his nightmares about the Department of Mysteries had caused him to wake screaming, and no matter how Uncle Vernon yelled, Harry could not stop them, so the Dursleys had taken to sleeping with ear plugs. This meant that Harry could move around without waking them, and he dragged his tired body into the bathroom to take a shower.
Glancing in the mirror he wondered absently if he had died and just not realised it, after all he was a wizard and Binns had not noticed. His skin was so pale it was almost grey and there were large, dark circles around his red-rimmed eyes. Somehow he had managed to grow some over the holidays. How he didn't know since his appetite was virtually non-existent, but it seemed that whatever Aunt Petunia had been forcing down his throat had kept him alive and healthy enough to gain height. His Aunt had taken the warnings from the Order seriously and she made sure he was fed if nothing else.
It was only as Harry stared at his blank reflection that it slowly dawned on him; it was the 31st, he was sixteen and he looked as if the life had drained out of him. Unable to summon up the energy to even be pleased that it was his birthday he slowly began to remove his clothes and then climbed into the shower; the water did little to help drag him further from his dream and the darkness lurked just behind his eyes, waiting to swallow him whole.
Usually, the longer he was awake the further away he could push the nightmare, but tonight it faded only a little and as he let the shower run over him it kept trying to come back. It was almost as if the dream was trying to take over his conscious mind and he had little with which to fight it. He turned the water to cold, willing the night terrors to leave him, but he found himself leaning against the shower wall, with starving lungs, not knowing how he came to be there.
It was then that adrenaline gave him the strength to move as he realised this was no simple nightmare, but even as he opened the shower door, he felt the darkness reaching for him again. Even as the water splashed off his back and through the opening onto Aunt Petunia's immaculate floor he began to fall. There was nothing he could do as his dream smothered his conscious mind and he collapsed to the ground.
Harry never felt himself hit bottom as sensations of the real world ceased, to be replaced by the stifling blackness that poured down his throat when he tried to scream, taking the air away from his lungs. He was dying as the airless mass of darkness squeezed him and stole everything from him, including precious oxygen. It surrounded him, filled him, took away all sight and sound, and leached the life from his body. This was the end, and in a moment of complete clarity Harry knew he could not escape. He would cease here: the blackness would consume him. Still he fought, but he knew it was hopeless; he would die, just like Sirius. His mind screamed its rebellion, but he could not free himself from the nightmare.
Even the sensations of suffocating began to fade as his senses started to shut down, and Harry realised there would be no waking from this dream. He felt as if he was suspended in a giant, airless mass of oil and life was about to escape him. Then something touched him, something alive and real and it sent electric shocks through his whole body.
[I have him,] a voice said, more in his mind than in his ears and suddenly air was rushing back into his lungs.
The suffocating blackness retreated and then the darkness became the blissful blankness of true unconsciousness rather than the horror of before.
"Wake up, Harry," a voice coaxed him and he reluctantly followed it.
He moaned and tried to move as consciousness brought with it an ache so pronounced that it was almost a stabbing pain. It was as if his whole body had been subjected to a blasting hex and he wished for the emptiness of oblivion again. Hands touched him and increased the ache where they met his body and he shied away, which hurt even more.
"Take it easy, Harry," the voice said this time and it was a startlingly familiar voice that his mind refused to believe, "you should lay still."
Even in his incredulity Harry's eyes flew open to see for himself what could not possibly be true, and his heart missed a beat. He sat up despite the pain and found himself pushing away from the figure before him. Yes this thing wore Sirius' face, yes it had his voice, but where his godfather's eyes should have been there was blackness, broken by ever moving tongues of iridescent fire. This had to be more of the nightmare and Harry squeezed his eyes tight shut again and willed himself to wake up.
"Harry," the mockery of Sirius said gently, but he refused to look at it. "Harry, I know this is strange and you're afraid, but it really is me."
Nothing in heaven or earth was going to make Harry open his eyes again; if he could not see it then just maybe it was all in his mind.
"I need your help."
Except that. Almost at the point of panic those words dragged Harry back from the edge and very slowly he opened his eyes just a little bit. The only thing he could see was Sirius. Wherever they were it was completely black and the only things that seemed to exist were himself and his godfather.
Sirius was wearing the same clothes he had been when he fell through The Veil, but he looked different somehow, other than the obvious. His skin was very pale and his hair inky black, and he almost seemed to glow in the darkness. The lines of suffering from his years in Azkaban seemed to have lessened, although they were still there, and his face seemed to be clearer than Harry had ever seen it, except in pictures of the Marauders.
"I know I look different," this copy of Sirius said gently, crouching down to Harry's level, "but it is the only way I can survive here."
It suddenly occurred to Harry that if his godfather had been changed by here then maybe so had be and his hands went to his face. He was not wearing his glasses and yet he could see.
"You're still the same, Harry," his companion said reassuringly, "you're not fully here. Most of your body is still out there in our world, but I went through the Veil."
"They told me you were dead," Harry replied, not quite willing to believe this version of his godfather yet, but feeling the hope begin to grow.
[And he would have been had his lust for life not been so strong and called us out of the darkness,] a voice said in his mind, and the fear came back to consume him again.
"I said I would explain," Sirius sounded annoyed and Harry knew he was not being spoken to, "you're frightening him."
[It is far easier to demonstrate,] the voice replied, [we have limited time.]
"What's that?" Harry demanded before his fear could consume him.
He stared around into the darkness, but he could see nothing.
"It's a who, not a what," Sirius said gently and slowly lowered himself into a sitting position.
[I am Facis,] the voice said in a much more conversational tone. [Your race once knew my people as the shadow dwellers, but it has been many generations since our races have interacted.]
Harry still could not see anyone but Sirius.
"Where are you?" he asked, his curiosity overcoming the fear of the strange method of communication.
"In me," Sirius said simply, "Facis is why you cannot see my eyes. It joined with me to keep me alive or the substance of this place would have consumed me."
"The darkness," Harry said, his mouth going dry and his voice almost failing.
His godfather appeared suddenly very remorseful.
"I'm so sorry you had to experience that, Harry," Sirius apologised earnestly, "but you were the only one we could reach. I would never have asked it of you if there was any other way."
There was such pain in his godfather's voice that Harry found himself reaching out and he placed a hand on Sirius' arm.
"I know," he said simply, and for the first time he was sure that he really was speaking to the real Padfoot.
[You were even louder than Sirius,] a voice said in his mind and it sounded almost exactly like Facis, but not quite. [I am honoured to meet a soul which burns do brightly.]
Harry did not really know how to react to that.
"Umm, thank you," he said eventually. "Who are you?"
[My name is Ignulus,] the second voice replied politely, [I am at one with your soul energy, to prevent you from harm. I must apologise for the discomfort, but it is unwise to exist in two places at the same time and your physical body is suffering for it, which is mirrored here.]
The whole idea made Harry uncomfortable, but he did not object as the memory of the touch which had caused the darkness to retreat came back to him. Now he recognised Ignulus' voice.
"Why are you helping us?" his life to this point had made Harry suspicious and he had to ask.
[Combining with physical beings gives us great pleasure,] Ignulus said openly, [it is more than enough reward for assisting you to survive in our place.]
[However,] Facis' more stern tone interrupted, [your kind cannot remain here and in your world for long, and those who exist here physically will become as we are in time. Hence our wish to return Sirius to your world.]
"How?" Harry did not even hesitate.
Those were the words he had been longing to hear and his heart swelled as he realised that his godfather could be restored. He was so filled with joy that he almost burst into tears, not that he was sure that was possible here.
[The Veil is a one way door,] Ignulus explained calmly, [for spirit energy it leads to the other side, for physical energy it leads here. It was someone's mistake. To return a body which has gone beyond the Veil another door must be opened from your world, one which leads from here to there. This may only be done by one of us. We may create doorways from there to here from this side, but we must be there to create those from here to there.]
Harry was confused; he did not understand why he was here.
"What do I have to do?" he asked, not sure what his role was to be.
"You have to take Ignulus back with you," Sirius said quietly, "and allow it to use your body while it creates the doorway."
Harry looked into the fiery gaze of his godfather and felt a little trepidation. It was not that he would not do it, he knew he would undertake any task to undo the tragedy he had instigated, but the idea caused the smallest stirring of fear.
"Like you and Facis?" he asked, not trying to hide what he was feeling.
[Almost,] Ignulus said gently, [but it would seem to you as if you were outside your body. It would be unsettling, but only one soul may reside in one physical shell in your world, without the most dire consequences.]
The ideas and foreboding that this revelation caused flowed round and round Harry's thoughts for a while, but slowly he nodded.
"What should I do?" he said firmly.
"You don't have to do this, Harry," Sirius said firmly as soon as he saw his fear. "What happened was not your fault and you don't owe me anything."
A laugh threatened to escape his throat then, but he realised his godfather was serious and he swallowed it.
"Yes I do," he said, and his decision made, the fear dissolved.
[Concentrate on waking up, Harry,] Ignulus said calmly, [and when you feel your body around you, do not resist when I push you out again.]
Harry nodded again and then on impulse threw his arms around Sirius.
"I love you," he said urgently, "and I will see you soon."
His godfather did not seem to know how to reply, but there was no time to talk. As Harry thought of waking this time he felt a sort of tug, almost like a portkey, and suddenly Sirius was no longer there. He felt his whole body convulse and pain shoot through all his nerves as he literally slammed back into his physical shell, but that was not the worst. Just as he realigned with his body he felt an agonising push and his instincts screamed at him to resist. It took all his will power to let it happen as for a second time he was separated from his body, and suddenly he was floating, looking down at himself.
The first thing he realised was that this was not the Dursleys and with a quick glance around he realised that he was in the hospital wing at Hogwarts. It had felt like he had been asleep only a few minutes, but it must have been a lot longer since he could see his body lying in a bed in Madame Pomfrey's regulation issue pyjamas.
Professor Dumbledore was standing at the end of the bed with Remus and Madame Pomfrey; all three appeared very grave.
"There has been no change, Albus," Poppy said quietly and cast a sad glance at Harry's body. "It is as if he is barely there."
"I should have taken him from that house sooner," Remus berated himself, and Harry wanted so much to reach out and tell his friend that it was all right.
"It is not your fault, Remus," Dumbledore said evenly, for once the twinkle gone from his eyes, "I knew Harry was depressed and I should have seen something like this coming. However, all we can do now is attempt to bring him back to us by any methods available to us. Ron and Hermione will be arriving this afternoon; hopefully their presence will assist in encouraging Harry to wake."
Harry's attention was drawn back to his body as his eyes flew open. For a moment he almost panicked as black pools filled with iridescent flame stared at him.
[Do not worry, Harry,] Ignulus' calm voice drew his reaction back to manageable levels, [it will not be long.]
All sound in the room ceased as Harry watched his body sit up. He did not think he looked like Sirius had looked beyond the Veil, in fact his body seemed to be moving more like an automaton than a human being, as if Ignulus had trouble controlling it here. Staring straight ahead for a while, his body simply sat there and blinked.
"Harry?" Dumbledore was the first to speak.
[The finer points of control take time,] Ignulus explained in his mind, [I do not believe I am able to speak. This may be somewhat traumatic for your friends, but it cannot be helped.]
[They may try to stop you,] Harry pointed out, finding the whole method of communicating by thought very strange in this state.
A mental laugh was what came back.
[They may,] Ignulus said lightly, [and I promise I will not damage them in return.]
Fascinated, Harry watched his body push back the bed clothes and climb to the floor before turning to look around the room. Ignulus was obviously looking for something, but Harry had no idea what it was. It must have found it because Harry's body took an unsteady step forward, followed by another, which was much smoother.
"Harry?" it was Remus who tried this time, and Harry could see wands being drawn from their hiding places.
Ignulus seemed to be ignoring the fact that he was not alone as he walked slowly, but steadily towards the other side of the room, and what to Harry appeared to be a stretch of empty stone wall.
"We must get him back to bed," Madame Pomfrey said decisively and began to move to prevent Harry's body from reaching its destination.
Now Ignulus took notice and turned to look directly at the school nurse. They must not have been able to see his eyes properly when he first sat up, or at least that is what Harry concluded as he watched Madame Pomfrey raise her wand, to be quickly followed by both Remus and Dumbledore.
"Mr Potter," Madame Pomfrey said firmly, "back to bed."
No one made a move to actually do anything and Ignulus turned back the way it had been facing, Harry could only assume that he had deemed the others to not be a threat. It was as Harry's body began to walk again that Dumbledore finally seemed to come to a decision and raised his wand. The full body bind fell off the headmaster's tongue with ease, but Ignulus did not stop and the spell never reached Harry's form. Ignulus raised one of Harry's hands and a wall of iridescent fire sparked into existence for a single moment, in time to absorb the oncoming enchantment.
"That is not Harry," Remus said with just a touch of fear in his voice.
It pained Harry to see his friends so worried and anxious, but there was nothing he could do and right now Sirius was more important. He concentrated back on his body, waiting to see what Ignulus would do next.
"That is not yet clear," Dumbledore said evenly. "Something has clearly occurred to change our perception of Harry, however, without drastic measures it appears we have little choice but to see where current circumstances lead us."
Ignulus was almost at its destination.
"Harry," the headmaster said firmly, "I cannot allow you to simply continue. Unless you wish to face me directly you must communicate."
[I do not wish there to be conflict,] Ignulus told Harry as he stopped the body walking. [It would have been easier had you been alone.]
[I never get to do anything the easy way,] Harry replied in a resigned tone and watched as his body once more turned towards the other three people in the room.
Speech was obviously still beyond Ignulus since it just maintained Harry's body just standing there, staring.
"Are you Harry Potter?" Dumbledore asked directly.
After a moment Harry saw his head shake slowly from side to side.
"Where is Harry?" the headmaster asked his second question quickly.
Ignulus raised an arm again and before Harry had a chance to react he found himself surrounded in the iridescent fire. For a split second he was looking directly into Dumbledore's eyes and he knew he could be seen, all he had time to do was nod.
"You are inhabiting Harry's body?" was the next question.
The headmaster did not sound anxious, but then Harry had rarely seen Dumbledore anything but in control. Ignulus nodded.
[Time is limited,] it told Harry, [I must continue with my task.]
[Just don't make any sudden moves,] was the only advice he could think of to give.
There was no way to make Dumbledore understand completely or he knew Ignulus would already have done it. As it was he watched as his body turned back to the wall. For a moment the headmaster appeared undecided and Harry prayed he had been able to communicate in that moment that this was what he wanted. When Dumbledore slowly lowered his wand Harry gave a sigh of relief, or at least he tried and then realised that he had no body to be doing that and here he did not even have the illusion of a body either.
Ignulus brought up both of Harry's hands, placing the palms together above his head. For a moment there was complete stillness and then, under Harry's amazed eyes he saw his palms part, both now covered in a much thicker blanket of the fire which had so recently surrounded him. Putting both hands flat on the wall Ignulus then began to move then down and apart in a rough arch shape, leaving a trail of fire on the stone work as it went.
To Harry is seemed to take forever, and he could feel the power moving through his body in intense waves even though he was disconnected from it. It was quite incredible to watch and the whole procedure seemed to have the three adults spellbound as well.
The moment Harry's hands met once more along the bottom of the arch shape the stonework inside vanished into complete blackness. Panic threatened in him as he saw it, the memory of the suffocating darkness reaching up to claim him trying to take away his control.
[It cannot hurt you, my friend,] Ignulus said gently in his mind, [it will never touch you again.]
"What is it?" Remus still sounded worried, but also in awe of what he was seeing.
"A gateway," Dumbledore said without hesitation and Harry turned to look at the headmaster.
He saw something in Dumbledore's face then that he had seen in the headmaster's office after the fiasco at the department of mysteries: regret and hope. Without a doubt Harry knew that Dumbledore recognised what he was seeing.
There might have been more conversation, but at that moment a shadowy figure appeared in the darkness. No details were visible, just a vague shape, but Harry could see Sirius' stance in the pale reflection, and every second the tones became clearer. It took long moments for the figure to become properly recognisable as a human being, and by then there were enough clues to show anyone who had known Sirius the truth. Harry heard Remus choke back a gasp as a pale hand appeared from the flat surface and then he was too involved to really be aware of what anyone else was doing.
His body reached out and took the hand, creating a circuit between this world and that beyond The Veil and power flooded through his system and his soul. He found himself only millimetres from his body with a desperate need to regain control.
[A moment longer,] Ignulus requested calmly, but holding himself back was almost more than Harry could bear.
As his body stepped back and pulled on the hand, staying separate from his physical shell was agonising. He watched in fascination as Sirius emerged from the gateway, but what was almost stranger was the shadowy form his godfather left behind: iridescent fire in a perfect copy of the man himself. Facis, it seemed, now resembled Sirius in every way.
As his godfather stumbled and fell into his arms Harry couldn't take it any longer and he obeyed the need to return to his body. It was like being slammed up against a wall as he was dragged back to where he belonged as if on elastic and he had absolutely no control of his movements as his mind tried to realign with his physical shell. For a fraction of a second he was suspended in place as the fire that was Ignulus surrounded him, and then he was falling to the floor with Sirius in equally dire straights.
Looking up he saw Ignulus come together into an amorphous blob of energy which slowly formed into a very indistinct human head and torso. With a start Harry realised that it was vaguely his shape, but Ignulus did not seem to have been with him long enough to have taken up his form as Facis had with Sirius.
[Know that it has been an honour and a joy to share your being,] Ignulus said in his mind as Harry struggled to keep his mind and body from shutting down. [If you need me, Harry Potter, I will be listening.]
And then a flame from the human form reached out and caressed him down the side of his face and his neck, before Ignulus moved almost faster than his eye could follow, straight at the gateway. Almost the moment the last flame of the incredible being vanished into the darkness the flame and hole in the wall simply ceased to be, and if Harry had not been holding a barely conscious Sirius in his arms he might have thought it was all a dream.
He wanted to laugh and cry at the same time, but his abused body was having none of it and he could do nothing but gracelessly pass out as his vision went silver and the room lurched worryingly.
End of Chapter 1
Parts: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2