Chapter 1 : Betrayal
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Author's Notes:Slight change D'oh! - Lucius is in Azkaban at this time so replaced in this story by Yaxley.
"Yaxley, this project has great merit. Lucius has done well." A cold voice uttered in the darkness.
"Yes my lord."
"He began training these people all those many years ago?"
"Yes my lord. It was in preparation for your return."
"It seems I have underestimated Lucius. And where are they now? What skills have they acquired?"
"Two of the three are very good indeed. The third is exceptional. Naturally talented and trained well beyond any normal level in the dark arts but particularly gifted in deception and illusion."
"Excellent! But I would like to be more certain, Yaxley. I would like to ... modify Lucius' plan."
"'Modify' my lord? I ... the three would..."
"I would like to ensure that one of them at least is successful."
"The most promising one shall work alone."
"As you wish my lord."
"The other two shall take a ... shall we say, a supporting role."
"What might that be?"
"They shall be sacrificed." the voice still lacked warmth yet one could detect a certain enjoyment in its tone.
"Sacrificed! But sir, my lord..."
"If the first were to betray the other two... That would greatly enhance trust would it not?"
"My lord, as ever, you see more deeply, more quickly, than all of us. I will see that it is done."
"Let me know the progress of Lucius' protegee. I might even consider arranging for Lucius' freedom if this project can bring me the prize. Meanwhile, Yaxley, I wish you to continue the stewardship of Malfoy Manor and maintain its security. It should prove a useful base for us one day. I'm sure Lucius will be delighted to let his home be used for our cause. Well, he can hardly object can he?"
There was the sound of continuous screaming, yelling, as if someone was trapped in the dark, unable to escape. And a shaking; a shaking ... and someone else. On and on it went till it could be withstood no longer.
Harry Potter sat upright in bed, drenched in sweat. "There's someone shouting, shouting..."
"It was you mate." explained Ron Weasley. "I've been trying to shake you awake. You have to get help with these dreams. You can't go on this way."
"Is everything all right?" Mrs. Weasley was outside on the landing. Harry was staying at the Burrows for the last few weeks of the summer holidays.
"It's OK mum - bad dream is all." answered Ron.
"I'm doing all I can..." continued Harry not noticing the interruption.
"I don't mean occlumency. Some temporary spell to relax you, help you cope with them."
"I can't keep taking a dreamless sleep potion. That leads to hallucinations and paranoia."
"Maybe Hermione can come up with something else, something simpler. She's good with..."
Harry exploded. "I can't be helped. Some problems just can't be solved. Live with it!"
"OK, mate." replied Ron, knowing when not to push, but added in a low voice, "but I'm still going to have a word with Hermione tomorrow."
The next morning found Hermione asking Ron about Harry before Ron had even said hello. It seemed that Harry's shouts had woken everyone in the night and now they were all looking at Harry with concern around the breakfast table. Fred and George said nightmares were due to indigestion and recommended that eating no food for six months would definitely cure the problem. Ginny remarked that they all had had the same meal last night. Mr. Weasley looked as if he wanted to say something but kept quiet.
"Same old thing." Ron told Hermione quietly once everyone else was involved with their toast and cereals, "these visions and dreams are tormenting him and he doesn't think there is any solution."
"Perhaps the dreams can be weakened somehow. Or even if they are vivid, perhaps their effect can be reduced - so they don't tear Harry apart like they do. Sometimes one needs to think in new directions instead of just trying to stop something."
"Got any ideas?" asked Ron hopefully.
"None of the well-known potions will help or Professor Dumbledore or Madam Pomfrey would have recommended them by now. There is a huge book in the Hogwarts library called Collected Works of Unusual Potions. It's all old stuff that I've browsed for curiosity more than anything else but I've not really studied it in depth."
"Why not?" joked Ron, "I'd have thought you could read that on those boring walks between one classroom and the next."
"I would have but it's not curriculum so not recommended; probably disapproved of actually," replied Hermione, taking Ron's remark seriously, "I'll give it the once-over next time I'm in the library once we get back to Hogwarts."
"Sure. Sooner you than me. I'd need about fifty once-overs myself."