At 3.18am 7 pairs of eyes flew open in perfect unison. Ginny blearily looked around her room in confusion, she had no idea what had caused her to wake. That was until she heard another muffled scream from across the hall. Her heart leapt into her throat as understanding dawned on her as to the source of that noise and she leapt out of bed and flung open the door to her room. Andy’s room was the closest at the far end of the corridor and Ginny saw him and Kat run into the corridor as she entered Harry’s room.
It was dark in the room except for the light streaming in from the hallway and Ginny sent a silent spell out to light the 2 bedside lamps as the rest of the household piled into Harry’s room and another hallowing scream echoed out of room.
Harry was writhing in his bed and moaning in pain. His legs and arms fought out against the sheets that were tangled around him and his face was screwed up in pain.
Lily and James rushed over to his side and tried to grab hold of his flailing limbs while calling to him to wake up.
‘No please. Let me go,’ cried Harry as he fought against the bed sheets, his parents grasping hands and his own unconsciousness.
‘Lily, James, you gotta let go,’ Ginny cried as Harry let out a scream of agony.
‘What are you on about? We gotta wake him up,’ James replied now with one of Harry’s wrists in his own hand.
‘No Dad, she’s right,’ J answered with desperation to many confused faces about the room. He took a steadying breath and explained. ‘Harry’s reliving what happened to him and there’s nothing we can do about it. I can’t give him any potions and he’s just going to keep reliving everything they did to him.’ The last bit came out as a choked cry and Matt placed an arm around him.
Matt continued as J sobbed into his shoulder. ‘He must be reliving being held down while he was tortured.’ He swallowed hard as he began to imagine the horrors his almost brother had suffered. ‘If you hold him down he’s just going to panic more, we’ve got to find a way of waking him up.’
As if to confirm what Matt said, Harry let out another agonising scream to which his parents released his arms with shock.
It was at this moment when Ginny had an epiphany as to how to save Harry from himself. She walked towards his bed slowly.
Andy put a hand on Ginny’s shoulder, ‘Gin, what are you doing?’
Ginny faced him and J and explained with an empty face, ‘What did you do when he was little when he had nightmares?’
J and Andy shared a confused look and then J said, ‘I used to stroke his hair to calm him down and Andy would hold his shoulders. Why?’
‘Do it now,’ Ginny ordered as she moved closer to Harry’s bed and gently placed a hand on his sweat soaked chest without checking if the two brothers were following her.
‘Gin, what are you doing?’ Kat said quietly as she watched the 3 of them lay hands on Harry’s writhing form.
‘Giving him what he needs,’ she whispered almost just to herself. ‘He needs some way of remembering that he isn’t really in that horrible place anymore. He needs to feel something that he only associates with comfort and safety.’
With that she turned back to Harry who had grown quieter and stiller under their calming actions. ‘Come on Harry,’ she whispered lovingly into his ear. ‘You know it’s not real. You can fight it, come on.’
Suddenly Harry’s eyes flew open and he shot upright in his bed effectively head butting an unuspecting J.
‘Bloody hell!’ J cried, falling backwards away from the bed and into the arms of an even more surprised Kat.
‘J, you ok?’ she said as he grasped his head with both hands.
Matt seeing J in Kat’s arms, said with a smirk to Kat, ‘Hey! That’s my job!’ To which Kat let out a gentle laugh and set J back on his feet.
Harry was breathing heavily as he stared wearily around the room looking for possible danger. He vaguely became aware of a familiar hand on his chest and another familiar and welcomed grasp on his hand. He turned and confirmed his beliefs as he saw Ginny held her hand against his chest while Lily held his hand in both of hers.
‘Harry, it’s all alright,’ James said about a foot from Harry’s face, looking him directly in the eye and seeing too many years of worry and pain staring back at him.
Harry seemed to contemplate these words for a moment, deciding whether to believe them or not. James saw a tear escape his right eye as his breathing began to slow and his body visibly sag from the release of tension.
‘I’m sorry,’ he muttered as he leant back against the headboard and stared at his lap with shame.
Lily released his hand and with more sincerity than could be possible if she wasn’t a mother, placed a hand on either side of his face and said, ‘You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for Harry. I’m sorry that you have to go through this but I can promise you it will get better.’
Harry looked back at her and gave her a slight nod feeling more like her little boy than her grown up son and at that moment in time not minding in the slightest.
Then as quickly as his eyes had opened, Harry flung them wider in shock and horror as he realised what this nightmare meant.
‘Oh no,’ he cried, desperation thick in his voice. ‘Please no. I can’t take any more please. Make it go away.’ He gripped onto his Mother’s arm as Ginny stroked his back gently.
‘What is it Harry?’ Lily asked holding him close.
‘It’s the charm, it’s still active,’ he said as he began to shake in fear.
‘What charm Harry?’ James asked his trembling son with concern thick in his voice.
Harry took a huge breath and looked directly at his father as he explained, ‘When I was... there, they cast a charm on me. They called it... called it a nightmare charm.’
J inhaled sharply, ‘Harry I’m so sorry.’
Harry just looked back at him with grateful eyes, that he now wouldn’t be the one that had to explain it.
‘J what is it?’ Lily asked her middle son, but it was James who answered her.
‘They were all the rage last time Voldemort was on the rise. It’s... the final method of torture.’
Tears slipped down Lily’s face as she held Harry’s trembling form closer, James continued, ‘They are cast on prisoners so that whenever they slip into unconsciousness they experience their worst nightmare.’
‘So like a boggart?’ Kat interjected looking worryingly at Harry who she thought of as her own brother after all these years.
‘Worse,’ James said in a flat voice, barely showing the anger that was rising in him. ‘A boggart just makes you view your worst fear, you’re still aware of where you are. But a nightmare charm puts you in the situation you dread most. You hear, see, smell and feel everything as if it were real. Death eaters started using them when their prisoners lapsed into unconsciousness. They got fed up of waiting for them to wake up so devised this way of torturing them with what was closest to their heart in the one place they thought they could escape to. It leaves you with nothing, no freedom. Not even in your own dreams.’
They all stared at Harry, shaking like a leaf in fear of his own subconscious.
J sat on the edge of the bed and looked at his brother, ‘Harry. We’ve known about this charm for a while and although it is horrible we can get rid of it quickly and easily.’ As he said this Matt handed him a glass of a pale purple potion, which he had just measured out. ‘All you have to do is take this. I promise it won’t hurt.’
The sincerity in his brother’s eyes had Harry reaching out for the glass almost instantly. At this point, he was willing to do anything to stop the charm so little convincing was necessary.
The effect was instantaneous. Once he swallowed the last drop of the potion his body slumped back onto Lily who was still tightly holding him, and his eyes closed.
‘That’s what’s meant to happen,’ J explained seeing the panicked looks on his parents’ faces. ‘He’s been under that bloody charm for so long that his body is physically exhausted. I wouldn’t be surprised if he slept for more than a day.’
And sure enough Harry’s once pained face was now relaxed and reflecting the calmness of un-interfered dreams. As if to confirm J’s prediction, Harry began to softly snore bringing all the occupants of the room to muffled laughter.
Lily pulled the covers up around him and stroked his head gently as if she could catch his unruly hair off guard. ‘Right, come on you lot. Off to bed.’
They all tip-toed out of the room and back to their own rooms. Once the room was empty Lily turned around to see Ginny curled up in the armchair by Harry’s bed, her eyes locked on his softly rising and falling chest and her hand locked around his. A small smile came to her lips as she found herself looking at a mirror image of herself and her husband around 30 years ago when he suffered Dragon Pox, she hadn’t left his side each night.
‘Goodnight Ginny,’ she whispered and walked back to her bed and her man.
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