Dreams of Cold Fusion
Chapter the Second
Waking up held that moment of dissonance between one reality and the next – which was doubly so when the witch waking up was an Apprentice Dreamweaver. The room was dimly lit, which was helpful. The clients were sitting in the next room, whether they’d been waiting there the whole time, or just happened to be sitting there when she’d finished, she’d never know.
“Well?” the older one drawled. She’d never liked him, and this engagement hadn’t improved that at all.
She stretched in the doorway before moving to a seat opposite the clients. She noted with amusement and annoyance where the younger one was looking whilst she stretched. He hadn’t changed any either.
“I was able to reach his mind. He’s within normal parameters. I was able to start and shape the dream, he saw me as I wanted to be seen, and he’s now in a dreamless state; he’ll stay that way until I can return for the next session,” she said, accepting the cup and saucer offered by the older one.
“Next session?” the younger one yelped.
The older one sniffed derisively. “Yes, next session, it’s not like breaking into someone’s bedroom and reading their diary,” he said in a patronizing tone. “Am I correct on that?”
“Yes, especially when the subject is already under a layer of protective magic,” the Dreamweaver replied.
“Do you have any notion what that magic is?” the older one asked.
“Storm-shield, most likely, or some variation thereof – it protects both the body and the soul; the Norse wizards used them in the third century against the first Dementors,” the Dreamweaver said.
“I never read anything about that when I was studying Dementors,” the younger one protested.
“Well, it’s not a terribly useful spell, insofar as it leaves the subject in something resembling a coma, which, of course, is why I’m here. I’m fairly certain that it was the enchantment used in the story of Sleeping Beauty, though,” the Dreamweaver opined.
“When will you be back?” the older one asked.
“Tomorrow after dinner all right? I need to eat and sleep myself, it’s a rather tiring bit of magic,” the Dreamweaver said, smiling when the older one nodded his head.
She rose quickly and pulled her cloak over her shoulders. “Well, until then, adieu,” she said.
“Goodnight, Gretel,” the older one said.
The Dreamweaver smiled. “Goodnight, Severus.”
She Disapparated with a hissing crack, taking care to make just a short hop to a safe location where she could check herself for tracking charms and the like; although she’d accepted the engagement, and the payment for her services, she didn’t trust her clients in the least. The discovery of a tracking charm on her cloak confirmed her suspicions. She contemplated sending the cloak to Gringotts or to the Auror office in the Ministry of Magic building, but as amusing as that might be; she was bone tired and eager to collapse in her own bed. She cancelled the charm and then Disapparated again, appearing at the Apparation point outside of her mentor’s house. If she managed to pull this job off successfully, perhaps she’d consider the apprenticeship completed, although how they’d convene the necessary number of Dreamweavers for a guild meeting posed a problem – but that was the mentor’s problem, not hers.
She entered the house, noisily slurped down a bowl of cereal, as she didn’t want to bother with cooking anything, and after removing her shoes, fell into a deep, dreamless sleep as soon as she was horizontal. Even Dreamweavers have to rest.
He woke with a start, stretching his arms as he blinked at the late morning sun filtering in through his window. He began to rehearse what all he had to pull together before heading off to the training centre before realizing that it was Sunday and he didn’t have to go anywhere, or do anything, which in turn meant that yesterday was Saturday.
The day he took Millicent “I-am-the-Slytherin-enforcer” Bulstrode on a date.
The day he’d snogged her – and enjoyed it thoroughly.
“I did not snog her,” he said, arguing with his own conclusions. “One kiss does not a snog make.”
He stripped off his t-shirt and headed into his shower. “Yeah, right,” he said to himself as he turned the water on in the shower.
Many minutes later, after completing his ablutions, he discovered, notwithstanding his errands on Saturday to re-supply his modest larder, he was out of toilet paper. There were certain types of shopping that he enjoyed (iron mongers and Quidditch shops) some upon which he was neutral (book stores) and others that he loathed (grocers and American style big-box stores). The latter category, he had concluded one day, was because it reminded him that he was well into his adult life and alone.
And so, without a lot of deep thought or reflection, he found himself knocking quietly on the door to Millicent’s flat. The short-haired woman swung the door open suddenly, breaking into a smile as she recognized him.
“So, back for some more, are you?” she asked.
“Good morning, Esther,” he said, pleased that he remembered her name.
“Coffee?” she asked, gesturing to a nearby kitchen island with stools.
“Sure,” he replied.
“Millie is in the shower, but she should be out soon,” Esther said. She poured two mugs of coffee with the practiced air of a barista. “Look, I don’t know you from Adam, but I’ll say two things: one, when she came home last night, she was happier than she’s been since I first met her, and two, if you break her heart, there’s no place in Toronto that you can hide from me.”
Wanna bet? Harry said, silently to himself. He knew a lot about hiding. “I’m kinda surprised that we hit it off last night – we had some negative history when we were in school,” he said.
“Evidently you grew up some,” Esther said. “Milli’s one of the sweetest girls I know. Look, do you want toast or anything?”
“No, I’m good,” he replied.
“Ah, the shower’s stopped,” she said. “Hey, Milli! There’s a man looking for you, should I send him on back, or do you want to get dressed first?”
There was no verbal reply to this question, but the sound of a door slamming resonated through the flat. Minutes later Millicent appeared, dressed in flip-flops and a tan coloured bathrobe. Her hair was combed out, but still dripping pearls of water onto her shoulders.
“Hi,” she said, making eye contact with Harry before smiling. “I didn’t expect to see you this morning.”
“Yeah, well, it’s kind of unexpected for me, too. I discovered that I’m out of stuff and wondered if you needed anything from the big box store,” Harry said.
“What sort of stuff?” Millicent asked.
“Toilet paper,” Harry said, trying to keep a straight face.
“Ah yes,” Esther said. “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
“Let me get dressed and I’ll go with you, if that’s okay,” Millicent said.
Esther spent the time while Millicent was dressing, opening and shutting cupboard doors, writing up a quick list, which Millicent tucked into her pocket, along with her own.
“Be good, kids,” Esther called out as they left the flat.
“Yes, Mum,” Harry replied.
They walked down the stairs to street level.
“Well, where’s your car?” Millicent asked.
“Car?” Harry replied.
“Yeah, how else are you going to get there? Not to mention hauling it all back?” Millicent asked.
“Magic, I’m a wizard, you see; I thought we’d Apparate.”
“Uh, Harry, I’ve never been there,” Millicent said hesitantly.
“I have the coordinates,” Harry countered.
“I’m pants at Apparating to somewhere I’ve never been, and I never could get the hang of doing it by coordinates,” Millicent said.
“Not to worry, I’ll take you,” Harry said, reaching both arms around her.
Millicent, apparently misinterpreting his actions, closed her eyes and kissed him. When she opened her eyes, she was standing alongside Queen Elizabeth Boulevard in front of the big-box store.
“That was different,” she said, getting her bearings as she looked about.
“I’ll say,” Harry said with a smirk. “Never let it be said that Harry Potter can’t show a girl a nice time on a Sunday afternoon.
After showing his card to the clerk at the door, they grasped a cart and began to stroll through the store, stopping to examine, play with, and upon occasion, ridicule various items on display in the warehouse.
“C’mon,” Harry said, “who really needs 800 coffee filters? That’s more than a two year supply.”
“Not if you’re a restaurant, or you’re my Great-Uncle John,” Millicent countered.
“He owned a small restaurant – went into the place in the wee hours of the morning to open up, and by lunch time he’d personally consumed at least twelve cups of coffee,” Millicent explained.
“That can’t have been good for him,” Harry mused.
“It wasn’t – he had a stroke before he turned fifty and died a month after that,” Millicent said.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said.
“You didn’t do it to him,” she replied.
“I can still be sorry,” he said with a huff.
They continued winding their way through the store, gradually filling up their cart as they went, including the oh-so-important bale of toilet paper rolls. They agreed to split the bale between their two flats after finishing their supply run. Finally, after turning the corner of the last aisle, they reached the checkout. Harry began to fidget as they waited in the line closest to the exit. Millicent watched the situation for a moment and then began to rub his back. Harry closed his eyes for a moment before turning to her.
“Why are you doing that?” he asked.
“You’re tensing up,” she answered. “I’ll stop if you’d like.”
“I just feel so naked, waiting here in line – it’s a lousy tactical situation,” he explained.
“I’ll skip the naked part for now,” Millicent said, flashing a quick grin. “What’s wrong with the situation, there’s plenty of cover – scads of people to hide behind.”
“I’m not going to hide behind non-combatants, and besides, how do you know who’s who?”
“The people who are shooting at you are bad guys, and the ones who aren’t, aren’t,” she offered.
“It’s a little more complex than that,” Harry retorted.
“Card please,” the cashier said.
Harry fished the card from his shirt pocket.
The cashier and her assistant methodically emptied the cart through the pricing scanners and then refilled the cart, presenting Harry with a bill. He presented another card, which was processed for payment.
“You do plastic?” Millicent asked.
“Hermione made sure I was properly set up before I left,” he explained. “Unlike a lot of pure-bloods, I don’t have any problem using Muggle banks. I don’t care for cheque books, and I don’t care to carry a great deal of cash on me.”
“So, how are we schlepping all of this home?” Millicent asked.
Harry grinned. “Are you a witch, or what?” Grabbing the push-bar of the cart, he pushed the cart into the car park, settling for an area that was light on shoppers. He then cast an aversion charm that would cause all but the most determined observed to look elsewhere, and then shrank the contents of their cart until it could slide easily into Millicent’s purse. Next he carefully slid the cart into the cart-return stall, crooking his elbow out for Millicent; a blink and a muted crack later; they were in front of Harry’s flat.
“Can I come on up? I’ve never seen your flat,” Millicent asked.
“Sure, it’s a bit of a hike, fourth floor, no lift,” he said, opening the door for her. Millicent charged on ahead, ascending the stairs.
“When’s your furniture going to arrive?” she asked as he opened the door to his flat.
Harry smiled. “It’s all here – I tend to travel pretty light – I’m still at the stage in my life when I can pretty much fit everything into my school trunk.”
“This place is bare, Harry!” Millicent exclaimed.
“I don’t entertain much,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. Millicent emptied their cargo from her purse onto Harry’s very small kitchenette table. Harry cancelled the shrinking charm on the items he knew were his, taking care to split the bale of toilet paper in half before shrinking Millicent’s share back to its teeny travelling dimensions. “Can I walk you home?” he asked.
“Nah, I have some other errands to run,” Millicent said. “I will say that this was the most fun I’ve had shopping for boring supplies in a long time.”
“I was about to say that myself,” Harry said.
Millicent leaned in, planting a chaste peck on Harry’s cheek. “I’ll see you at the training centre, eh?”
“Sure,” he replied, opening his cupboard to tuck his purchases away.
“I’ll let myself out.”
Monday began a new unit in the Auror programme: tracking and surveillance, most of which was practicum, the class being evenly split between hiders and seekers. By the end of the week, the only student who’d established a perfect record for both hiding and seeking was Harry, who’d had a wealth of experience doing both during the years he’d been hunting Horcruxes. He made a mental note more than once to remember to thank Tonks for the training she’d provided over the course of a rather rainy week in Liverpool at the end of the summer after Dumbledore died.
Millicent showed up a couple of times that week, once bringing take-out for dinner, and another time to use Harry’s living room to study.
“Esther’s got a gentleman friend over, and I don’t want to watch, or hear, what they’re getting up to,” she explained.
“Yeah, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for,” Harry said sympathetically.
“They’re not too quiet once they get going,” Millicent said.
“Trust me, I don’t want to know,” Harry said.
Millicent spread her stack of books out on Harry’s kitchenette table, which he’d courteously enlarged for the occasion. She opened the largest book to a place she’d marked, reading through with a highlighter pen tucked behind one ear and a Muggle biro in her hand, making notes in the margin of the books. Harry lay sprawled across his couch.
“Harry?” Millicent asked.
“Hmm?” he grunted.
“Can I ask two questions without starting a fight?”
“We haven’t fought yet,” he replied.
“Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m asking,” Millicent said softly.
“Sure, go ahead,” he said, sitting up on the couch.
“Exactly how did Dumbledore die?”
“You don’t know?” he asked incredulously.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking. We knew that Death Eaters attacked, and that he was killed,” Millicent replied tartly.
“Draco Malfoy let a squad of Death Eaters into Hogwarts, using a Vanishing Cabinet. He’d promised Voldemort that he’d kill Dumbledore, but didn’t have the nerve at the end, so Snape did it for him,” Harry said blandly, as if reciting last night’s Quodpot results.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“I was there,” he said, going back to his book. After a long, long silence he looked up. “What was the second question?”
“What’s a Horcrux?” she asked, looking up from her book.
“Why do you want to know?” he said, trying to not look startled.
“The chapter I’m reading for Crime Scene Investigation mentions them as being a particularly dangerous artefact, but then it doesn’t say anything about how to identify them or neutralize them,” Millicent explained, bringing her book to him.
Harry read the passage and grunted. “Yeah, that’s correct. Remember how Dumbledore’s hand was burned and withered during our sixth year? He got that way destroying a Horcrux,” he said.
Millicent raised her hands in exasperation. “But what’s a Horcrux? The field guide says that they’re bloody dangerous, but it doesn’t tell me how to detect one, or how to defuse it!”
Harry began to rub his temples, sorting through the warnings he’d received from the British Ministry of Magic before leaving the country.
“You’re not too likely to find one anytime soon, Millicent,” Harry began, wearily. “When you murder someone, you shred your soul a bit. Your soul will mend itself in time, but if you do a certain ritual while the tear is fresh, you can nip off a bit of your soul and seal it into a physical object – it could be anything, a piece of paper, a cup, a spoon – anything; the more durable the better. If you die after making the Horcrux, the Horcrux acts as an anchor; it prevents your soul – or what’s left of it – from translating into the next phase, so you’re effectively a puny little ghost.”
Millicent looked as if she were mulling this notion. “But why would you want to do that?”
“I wouldn’t want to, ever,” Harry replied.
“You know what I mean,” Millicent said, carrying her book back to the table.
“If you had a burning desire to live forever, this would give your disembodied soul an opportunity to possess animals or weak-willed people until someone could cobble together a new body for you,” Harry said.
“So that’s what Voldemort did, right?” Millicent asked, lowering her voice as she gave a nervous glance around the room.
“He’s dead, Millicent, he’s not going to jump out of the closet,” he said.
“Sorry, but at least I can say his name without flinching, much,” she said.
“I’ll grant you that.”
“So, why is it so dangerous?”
“Well, first off, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to bind the bit of soul to the object, so when you shear that bond, all that energy is released, all at once. Then there’s the problem of the little bit of soul – if the soul belongs to a particularly nasty bugger, it will try to possess the nearest possible host, which isn’t a pleasant experience by any means,” he said, taking his glasses off, polishing the lenses on his tee-shirt. “Voldemort was particularly fond of booby-trapping them too – and he had a particularly fertile imagination where that was concerned.”
“How many of them did you destroy?” Millicent asked, moving back to the couch, lying down with her feet in Harry’s lap.
“What makes you think that I destroyed any?” Harry said slyly.
“You dropped out of school and went missing for two years before you killed Voldemort,” Millicent said. “I don’t think you were organizing your stamp collection all that time.”
“Dumbledore destroyed one – it cost him his hand and almost cost him his life,” Harry began. “Ron, Hermione and I rounded up the rest and destroyed them at the end – it took us a good long while to figure out a way to destroy them without blowing ourselves up, although even then, it was rather touch and go at the end.”
“How’d you do it?”
“Without giving too much away, we split the objects and then fed the residual bits to Dementors,” Harry said. “It’s not too pleasant to be in the middle of a Dementor feeding frenzy; it was the coldest night of my life.”
Millicent nodded sagely.
“As far as detecting them goes, the standard Dark Magic spells work just fine, once you get close enough, so it shouldn’t pose too much problem in the field,” Harry said. “Just treat every Dark artefact as cursed and you should be all right.”
Millicent startled as an electronic warbling rang out from Harry’s bedroom.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Mobile phone,” he said, pushing her feet off of his lap. He padded off to his bedroom, returning a moment later with a sour expression on his face. “Wrong number,” he said, slipping under her feet to sit down on the couch again.
“You’re such a Muggle at times,” she said.
“I’m not too fond of Floo, and this is something left over from the war,” he explained.
“You used mobile phones?” she asked incredulously.
“The Death Eaters weren’t too technology savvy, plus, Hermione wanted to be able to talk to her mum from time to time. It helped keep us sane when we were out in the field,” he said.
“Does she still have one?” Millicent asked.
Harry smiled. “Yup,” he replied, rattling off a number. “One of many useless bits of information inside my skull, including the combination to my locker in primary school.”
Millicent slipped off her shoes, which was her not-so-subtle sign that she wanted her feet rubbed. Within minutes she was squirming a bit, murmuring with pleasure.
“Did I ever tell you that I’m thankful for all the hell you went through?” Millicent asked.
“At least once,” he replied.
“You’re really special, Harry,” Millicent said with a sniffle.
Harry didn’t say anything more for the next hour.
Waking was a bit more difficult this time – which was to be expected, as this dream was longer, deeper and more detailed. The room was dark, with only a faint bit of light coming from under the closed door. The Dreamweaver did her usual stretches and then made her way to said door, blinking as she entered the light of the next room. A cup of tea was waiting for her, kept warm, no doubt, by a warming charm.
“Well, Gretel, what’s your report?” the younger one asked.
“Where’s your boss?”
“He’s not my boss, and he’s gone for the night on matters that don’t concern you,” he replied.
The Dreamweaver sat down primly, crossing her legs and then sipped at her tea.
“Well?” he asked imperiously.
“He trusts my character, in fact, I think he might fancy me a bit,” she began.
“Oh, puh-lease!” the younger one said, pulling a very sour face.
“In interrogations, you gain far more through trust and friendship than you do through fear and brute force – it’s the same in my field,” the Dreamweaver said. “He admits to knowing something about the objects, but we didn’t discuss any specifics. I’ll probably get to that next session. I thought it would take a week or more, so you’re getting a bargain here.”
“Oh, of course, every Brewster and Spinster tells you what a bargain you’re getting whilst peddling trash,” he said loftily.
“I’m not the one with a price on my head,” she replied.
“I shall make an effort to remember that when I’m ruling at his side,” he said, trying to look dignified.
The Dreamweaver laughed. “You’re not going to rule, he’s going to use you and then toss you aside when you’re no longer useful.”
His face coloured quickly. “You ignorant slut!” he screamed, looking straight into her eyes. “You know nothing of these matters!”
She held her tongue – it would not do to display too much knowledge. “Yes, m’lord,” she said, dropping a curtsey. “And on that note, I’ll take my leave.” She Disapparated as soon as she was past the door, reckoning the risk of Splinching was lower than being cursed whilst her back was turned. She made the usual check for tracking and tracing charms, and then Apparated to a Muggle village, breaking the fifty pound note she kept in reserve for such occasions, buying a dreadful meal at a fast-food store, which lifted her blood sugar enough for the next task.
Looking around carefully, she stepped into the booth, casting a number of charms to insure that she would not be seen or overheard.
She dialled the number carefully, speaking as few words as possible.
“I know where he is, where can I meet you?” she asked.
The other party was equally terse in reply, which was good, as the booth was not that comfortable.
Placing the handset back in the cradle, she smiled a bit and then looked at her watch. It was a pity she wasn’t going to get a nap before the meeting, but time was not on her side.
Copyright © 2007 – J Cornell – all rights reserved.
As always, thanks to Runsamok and GardenGirl for betawork - all errors are mine, not theirs.
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