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Tetraphobia by Lostmyheart
Format: Short story
Chapter 1: Chapter One
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* * *
scopophobia // the fear of being seen or stared at by others
It was the faintest sound of leaves rustling that changed my life.
Little did I know that it would change my life completely within a few months. I wish now that I had not paid so much attention to it. I wished that I had walked on, hand in hand with Ron, and not even questioned what had caused the leaves to rustle.
Unfortunately, my year with Harry and Ron on the run had deeply affected me, more than I dared to admit. So I did question the sound, and stopped for a minute, staring intently at the forest in my search for the answer.
I never got it, for Ron quickly told me to let it go, “It’s probably just an innocent deer.”
So I did as I was told - I let it go, and we walked on.
Despite the sudden intense feeling of being watched, I walked on. I resisted the urge to turn my head one last time, to see if there was anyone out there – maybe the reporters had found us again.
I hoped that they would leave us alone from now on.
* * *
As I washed the dishes by hand, I enjoyed the sight of the forest through our kitchen window. The birds flying, happily chirping their songs despite the brown theme of the nature.
Ron was sitting by his desk, reading today’s edition of the Daily Prophet, sometimes giving a comment or two so I could hear what they had to say.
I smiled and focused on my hands, and every once in a while I replied. This went on for a few minutes, and as I was almost finished with all the plates, I noticed how quiet it was outside.
I looked out the window; the sun was almost gone – not quite, for there were still some rays of light that softly illuminated the ground.
It was the birds… they had stopped singing, which was odd since they usually stopped when after the sun was down, and not before. Never before.
I stood still, as my eyes were glued to the trees twenty metres from our house. I thought I saw something dark move through the trees.
The sudden feeling of being watched emerged again, this time it was more intense.
My heart started to race, and my hands began to shake. I quickly grabbed my wand, swung it, and instantly all the curtains of our home pulled together, hiding us from the outside world.
Ron jumped up from his chair. “What was that all about?” he asked. “You scared the crap out of me.”
“Ron, I think the reporters have found our house,” I explained, still feeling my heart beat fast. “We really ought to do something about it.”
He instantly noticed how shook up I was, and hugged me, consoling me. Tomorrow we would contact the newspapers, asking them to leave us alone for a while. I agreed, and I planned to cast several spells around the house tomorrow, when the sun was up again.
Something about the forest frightened me.
* * *
The weeks went on, and slowly the feeling of being watched grew stronger. It only seemed to stop whenever I left the forest where I house was, and as soon as I returned, it started again. I did not see anything move in the forest again, the spells seemed to work – for a while.
I could feel the fear creep on me, every time the sunset came. It was a sign of loneliness, a sign of darkness and the sudden disability to see what was in the forest.
I could not rest until Ron got home from his nightshifts at the Ministry.
I could not sleep until I could feel his arms around me.
achluophobia // the fear of darkness
The winter came, and the sun’s hours in the sky shortened. It worried me; it prevented me from enjoying life outside… It scared me more than anything did – for that meant that I could not see what was out there.
“You’ve lost weight, Hermione,” he whispered. I could hear worry in his voice, his tone too soft and careful, as if I might break from hearing the truth.
He was right; I had lost some weight. I knew that because I could not fit my jeans anymore, they were loose around my thighs. I had not slept well for a long time now, even when he was there, even when his arms protected me from the darkness. I had seen myself in the mirror, I was beginning to develop dark circles around my eyes, and my hair was now flat, my skin pale and almost sick.
“There is something out there, Ron. I’ve told you that so many times before.”
He did not reply - he just looked at me with a disappointed look in his eyes.
Despite his disbelief, he did check the forest for me, and found nothing out of the ordinary, nothing suspicious.
However, that did not stop me from being scared of the darkness, of the embodied eyes that I can feel watching my every move. There was a monster out there, shadowed by the darkness of the night.
I was restless, I had to check the windows constantly, and I had to watch the forest. The darkness lurked in every corner, and before I knew it, it had consumed the world once again. The sun was no longer comforting; it only showed me that darkness would come again, and soon.
And as soon as we went to bed, I could hear the faint sound of footsteps around our house. The sound that I tried my best to believe was the wind playing tricks with my mind.
* * *
“You need help,” he said to me. I did not listen, for I knew that I was not crazy.
Nevertheless, he continued. “I know that you don’t want to walk outside, so I wrote to a healer and asked him to come here instead.”
I was outraged, how could he do that? I stormed out of the living room and he left me alone for most of the day, until the healer came.
I was not crazy. I knew that. I was sure somebody was watching us, in the darkness. I could almost feel its eyes burn on me whenever I forgot to close the curtains.
How could Ron not feel that?
The examination was over within thirty minutes, and he did not say much, just listened to my explanation and every now and then, he checked my eyes and my heartbeat.
Ron and the Healer then walked out of the room, and I could hear their whispers in the hall. Ron’s concerned voice almost broke my heart; I really wished he would understand me.
“I don’t know what to do,” he whispered. “For the past few months she’s been getting worse and worse. I can’t really do anything to comfort her and… I am beginning to feel that maybe it is all up in her head, because… I can’t find anything out there ”
“She does look very tired, and she really needs to eat and to rest. My first thought was maybe she has developed post-traumatic-stress, as a result from the war,” the Healer explained carefully. “But there may be some sort of phobia in it too.”
“Phobia?” Ron asked, with confusion in his voice.
“Yes, I am afraid so,” the Healer replied. “There are many different types of phobia, and in her case it may be several at once. It sounds like it started with a phobia of being watched, and it has developed to a phobia of darkness.”
There was a moment of silence, before Ron whispered again. “Is it curable?”
“We have several treatments to offer you, but that requires her to stay at one of our facilities for quite a while,” the Healer offered. “There are also some things you can try at home, where you help her to face her fears. Try to make her sit in a room with no light on, you can do it gradually – start with light, then slowly make it darker until it is completely dark. Walk with her in the forest during the day, and perhaps try it during the night, to show her that there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Ron did not reply, and I could hear him breathe heavily. He was concerned.
“She’s not crazy,” the Healer whispered softly. “She’s just deeply affected by the war, and that’s natural, it can happen to everyone.”
I sat in silence, feeling my heart throb violently. Maybe the healer was right, maybe the war did affect me to get scared of certain things… but that did not explain the movement I once saw in the forest.
Could my eyes have played a trick on me? Or my mind?
tetraphobia // the fear of monsters
It was the day after the Healer had visited us, and I felt the tension in the air, it was so thick I could cut it with a knife. Ron was thinking things through, I could see it, and it hurt me that I was the reason to why he worried so much.
I had to do something.
When he left for work for another night shift, I had everything planned. I needed to face my fears; they were, after all, nothing but imaginations of my mind. There was no one watching us, there was nothing in the darkness, lurking around the forest with its beasty eyes focused on our house. There was no monster in this world, only in my mind.
I sat in the living room, nervously biting my fingernails.
I could do it.
I had to.
I rose from the couch, took my wand, hesitated for a minute, and then swung it, opening the curtains.
I felt bare, I felt exposed, and every inch of my body screamed in terror, telling me to close them again.
I stood still, my breathing quickened, and my heart throbbed violently.
With great effort, I sat down again. My body was stiff; I was on constant alert, and my eyes avoided the black world on the other side of the windows.
I tried to control my breathing. Nothing is going to happen, Hermione, I thought. Everything is going to be just fine.
I was just about to put my wand down, when I heard a familiar sound. A sound that scared me more than anything did.
Footsteps of someone, or something, walking on our patio in the backyard. I froze, my heart ached and twisted painfully as I realized that maybe I was not imagining things…
The sound of footsteps stopped to my right, and I felt whatever it was staring at me. Was all of this an imagination? Had I really gone mad, insane, and lost all sense reality? Maybe this was not phobia; maybe I had developed a form of schizophrenia.
I felt a tear glide down my cheek.
Would all of this have happened if I had ignored the rustling of leaves?
I slowly turned my head; I needed to get the answer, the answer to everything that had happened these past months.
I felt my body tremble as I moved my neck, my eyes slowly searching for the window where I felt the burning stare come from.
I was met with a pair of inhuman eyes…
My Slytherin Fall Writing Challenge Entry - Prompt 2
Beta read by the sweet luvinpadfoot @ HPFF Forums
Chapter Image made by me (apparition. @ TDA)
I plan to add more to the story, hopefully before christmas, because I'm kind of swamped at the moment. So if you feel the story needs a little more of something, please don't hesitate to mention it, if you decide to leave me a review :)
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
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My lungs ached and my heart throbbed beneath my ribs, threatening to rip my chest apart. I stood still and stared at the curtains that were still swaying from when I'd closed them. My head felt dizzy and foggy; I was unable to focus clearly and my legs felt like they could collapse at any moment.
Pictures and drawings of different magical creatures flooded my mind, blinding me as I searched for a name, a description, anything.
What had I just seen?
It had disappeared the second I blinked. I had quickly swung my wand to close all the curtains, stopping the creature from looking in - if it was out there still. I hoped it wasn't. I would be unable to defend myself, given the state I was in right now. I felt weak, exhausted from weeks of little to no sleep. Could this be a nightmare? Had I fallen asleep without knowing and drifted off to face the creature that haunted my nights?
I tried to listen for the sound of footsteps, something moving, of someone breathing, but all I could hear was the drum of my heart. The thundering was deafening me and I knew I had to do something before Ron got home from work. What would he say this time, finding me panicked with no actual evidence of what I saw?
I could not go to St. Mungos; I would not let myself sink so low. I can fix this, I can win over this, phobia or not. I can do it. I'm not crazy.
I ran into the kitchen, searching through the potions until I found the purple liquid. I quickly took three large gulps and put it back, already feeling the effect it had on my body.
I crawled into my bed and within seconds darkness overpowered me. I drifted into a deep sleep where birds flew across the sky singing their songs.
It'd been a while since I'd heard them sing.
The bright light blinded me; I could see nothing but whiteness. Serenity washed over my tired body and I felt my muscles relax. A tear glided from the corner of my eye and down my cheek. So this is what death felt like? I liked it and welcomed it with open arms.
"I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough," I croaked, hoping that Ron would forgive me for giving up on life so easily.
"You're stronger than you think you are, Hermione," a voice replied.
I didn't reply as the comforting whiteness consumed me whole.
"We can get it removed, you know," Ron told me softly. My eyes moved from my scar to his face, his expression worried with a hint of exhaustion. I hated that I was the cause of it. "We can get it removed and you'll never have to look at it as a reminder of the war, of what she did to you. I know it hurts you to look at it; I can see it in your eyes whenever you catch a glimpse of it in the mirror. You can't wear long-sleeves for the rest of your life."
My eyes travel from his blue orbs and onto my scar again, the words mud blood forever cut into my skin. I carefully touched the bumpy texture of the scaring, my thumb caressing each letter, one by one. Bellatrix did this to me, making me bleed and scream until my lungs hurt, until my throat gave up and until I could taste the metallic blood in the air. My own blood, red as hers, yet I was the one who was disgusting.
"I have thought about it," I replied, remembering a clinic in London that was advertising about removing deep scars with a special mix of potions and spells. I felt his arms wrap around me, his lips trailing soft kissed down my neck.
"I hate to see you like this, Mione," he said. I could hear the pain in his voice, and it shot daggers into my chest. We stood there for a few minutes, him wrapping me securely and making me feel loved, stronger, and able to fight this off.
"I'll do anything to help you," he whispered into my hair. What would I do without him by my side? I would probably have broken down a long time ago.
Yet I say nothing about what I saw the other night. I felt like I was cheating on him, I felt disloyal to him and our relationship, but I couldn't stop thinking that if I told him about what happened yesterday, hed send me to St. Mungos. I was not ready for that, I could fight this; I could fight the problem even if it was in my head.
If it was inside my head.
The uncertainty was slowly killing me, leaving me unsure of everything else in my life. I grew tired of it and it all reminded me of Moody's words. Constant vigilance. However, here in Ron's embrace, I felt safe and the uncertainty peeled off my skin and bones. I felt protected.
I hoped this feeling would stay forever, but I knew it would disappear as soon as he left for work.
The darkness would once again consume me, willing or not.
I could not escape its grasp on me.
I sat on the couch, hugging my legs and listened as the winds rustled the dead leaves on our yard. The storm was looming closer, making the weather dull and grey, whilst the wind made it impossible to listen for footsteps.
Books about phobias were scattered around me on the floor, on the coffee table and on the couch. I have read each and every one of them and scribbled a list of what I can do to overcome my fears. One of them was to face the problem, to see for myself that there indeed was no one out there watching me, hiding behind the trees.
The sun was still up, just hiding behind thick clouds. I have been sitting here for an hour, trying to convince myself to go outside; surely, nothing would happen to me while standing on the porch?
It was early afternoon and the darkness would not fall for another three hours.
I felt my heartbeat quicken by the mere thought of the sun dropping down and hiding behind the mountains and trees, once again casting shadows over my life. I couldn't live like this, constantly afraid of the darkness, the invisible eyes of the monsters lurking through every corner. I suddenly felt stronger and stopped hugging my legs.
With my newfound confidence, I rose from the safety of the couch, quickly opened the door and stepped out to the porch. The cold wind was harsh on my skin, whipping my hair across my face, and I could hear nothing but the whooshing sound of the wind dancing through the forest around our house.
I stood still, clenching my fists and looked directly in between the trees.
There is nothing in there. There is nothing in there. There is nothing in there.
You can do it. You can do it.
The feeling of being watched grew and paranoia erupted inside my chest.
I couldn't handle it, I felt the evil glares drilling into my skull, stripping away the confidence I had built up prior to stepping out. I turn around to go back inside and during my movement; I thought I saw a black mass move behind one tree to another in the corner of my eye. Long legs, short body and fur as black as coal. My heart leaped in fear.
I sprinted inside, locked the door and pulled the curtains.
I collapsed onto the floor, panting and feeling sweat form in the palm of my hands. I started crying. I hated my life, I hated myself and I hated whatever was after me, making my days miserable.
I hugged my knees and did my best to convince myself that I wasn't crazy.
I'm not crazy. I'm not crazy. I'm not crazy.
"Hermione?" I heard Ron's voice ask and his concerned face and wild red hair blocked the bright white light.
"Mione, it's me," he smiled, cupping my face delicately with his hands. He smile turned into a laugh and tears formed in his eyes.
Why was he crying?
"Merlin, I've missed you so much," he choked and kissed me hard my lips. I grinned as we broke the kiss and placed my hands above his. He confused me.
"Ron, I've always been here," I told him and he just continued to smile, biting his lip to stop himself laughing with what I presumed was joy and relief. Something about his behaviour made me feel like I had been gone, when really I hadn't.
"Of course," he whispered and kissed me again. "Of course you've always been here." He pulled me onto his lap and wrapped his arms around me, kissing my forehead. The bright white light made me think this was heaven, had he been waiting for me? Was he dead as well?
Before I could ask him where we were, I felt a tiredness overwhelm my heart. "I'm so tired, Ron," I said and felt his hug tighten.
"Then rest, you deserve it."
I slowly drifted into a deep sleep, listening to him whisper his love to me.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, and in panic, I searched for my wand. They were after me. The Death Eaters had found our hiding place. Panic overwhelmed me and I couldn't breathe.
I felt a pair of warm hands grab my shoulders and I tried to hit whoever it was.
I wanted to live.
"Hermione! Relax, it's only me!" I recognized Ron's voice and surprised I turned to face him. His red hair tousled and his eyes slightly swollen. I must have woken him up. I looked around and saw we were in bed. I must have had a nightmare.
"I'm so sorry," I apologize to him. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." I started crying, covering my face with my hands. I felt embarrassed to wake him up like this. He hugged me and I laid my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat as I drifted into a dreamless sleep.
I looked at my scar through the reflection of the mirror; the edged words were clearly visible, as if they were carved into my skin last week.
I pull down my sleeve and see that my blouse didn't fit me anymore. It was a little too big for me now, meaning I had lost weight again. I sighed and forced myself to walk away from the mirror, sparing me from another hour of judging myself.
Ron was at work again, I forced him to go even though he wanted to stay home with me. I knew he was worried sick about me but I needed to face these things alone. I needed to know whether I was crazy or not. Was the monster real or was it all in my imagination?
Harry and Ginny rarely visited anymore. Ron probably told them to give me some rest and that I wasn't ready for company yet. I was not sure what I felt about that, I was too exhausted most days to even care about company.
Christmas was getting closer and I felt the need to try to fix myself before the holidays started. I owed that much to Ron. He should not have to worry about me anymore - he deserved so much more than this. I only burdened his days even more by constantly screaming at night, waking him up, wandering around the house all day without eating. This needed to end.
I walked out to the porch, the sun high in the sky, the wind still as strong as it was last week. I could see dark clouds threatening to darken the day, kidnapping the sun. I sat down by the stairs that lead to the lawn, by the bed of the forest. I sat still, hugging my knees, watching the trees.
I tried my best to control my breathing, steadily in and out.
You can do this, I whispered to myself and felt the corners of my lips turn up. I could do this.
There was nothing out there, nothing but innocent animals, leaves and trees. Nature.
I watched the forest for an hour, taking in the beauty and as soon as the clouds covered the entire sky, I rose from the stairs and slowly walked towards my biggest fear.
I walked between the trees, listening intently to the sound of the dry leaves crunching beneath my shoes. I was alone, I was sure of it.
I walked deeper and deeper into the forest and stopped at a point where I felt was enough. I couldn't help but smile at myself. I did it. I had entered the forest and now, thirty minutes later, nothing had happened. No eyes watching me, no fear of darkness looming over me, no fear of the monsters.
It was a big step and I could not wait to tell Ron about it.
I turned around to walk back home, maybe I could surprise him with a homemade cake when he returned from work. Hope sparked in my chest, a feeling I had long forgotten.
Just as I turned around it felt like I had hit a wall. I froze as I saw the black monster stand in front of me, watching me with its yellow eyes.
I felt the blood drain from my face and a strong uneasy feeling of fear churn in my stomach. It growled, baring its teeth while it took a step closer to me.
I felt like crying. This was it. I wasn't crazy at all; I was sane as I could be. This was not the work of phobia. I stumbled backwards and pulled out my wand. Its long legs mimicked my every move, its curled fur shining darkly, oddly enough reminding me of someone.
"Mud blood," it rasped. The most scaring sound I had ever heard in my entire life.
It jumped towards me and with a swing of my wand, I screamed "Stupefy!"
Beta-read by the wonderful Lottie! She's Chazzie in the archives and the forums. Incredible writer and a wonderful friend.
Chapter image by me (apparition. @ TDA)
The third (and last chapter) will be posted this month, September.
Please leave a review and let me know what you think!