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Chapter 34 ~ A Midsummer Night's Dream
The boy stood lost in thought, staring out through the window at the hillside of yellow tussock grass waving gently in the breeze. There was no glass in the window; it was just a square hole in the rough stone wall of what used to be a shepherds’ summer shelter, high up in the mountains. He was a handsome boy, with dark brown hair and warm affectionate brown eyes. His height was about average. He wore a faded yellow tee-shirt, a pair of khaki shorts, and sandals. It was a beautiful summer’s day. Small flocks of wrens and alpine finches chirped and twittered as they fed on the grass seed. The breeze carried the subtle sweet scents of the mountain grasses and flowers. But the beauty of the day was lost on the boy. He did not delight in its sweet smells, or the charming songs of the birds. He was completely oblivious to the beauty all around him. This was his special place – where he could be alone with his fantasies. The real world that lay far below could not intrude upon him up here. He could pretend, for a while, that it didn’t exist, that it wasn’t real. Up here, he lived in his fantasy world. He could believe that it was the real world. He had always had a vivid imagination. But since the accident, he lived more than ever in his fantasy world. Sometimes he found it hard to tell what was real and what was imaginary. The accident.... Their car had skidded on the icy mountain road and broken through the safety barrier. It was a miracle that he and his parents had survived – they had been certain they were about to die. Fortunately, after a short plunge, the car had landed in a thicket of dense bushes, vines and small trees, in which it became entangled – preventing it from plummeting thousands of feet further down the mountainside. After the accident, he lay in a coma for weeks in hospital. When he finally regained consciousness, it was hard to believe at first, that he was back here – or still here – in this world. Was the other world really just a dream, a figment of his imagination? It had seemed so real – so fantastically real – so utterly wonderful. Could it simply have been his imagination, and the effect of the head injury and the medication? He was fully recovered now – in body at least. When he awoke in hospital, and found himself, once more, in this world, he felt a sense of profound loss. He was back in the same dull, two-dimensional, monochrome existence that he had known. In his imagination, he had experienced a far richer world – a world in which he felt truly alive. A world for which he desperately cared; where he had a great purpose – and his life had meaning. But most of all, it was a world in which he found love.... How could it all be just a dream? he asked himself over and over again. He felt bereft. He longed for that world. His heart ached ... for her. His reverie was broken as something on the hillside caught his eye... a movement, a colour, which seemed somehow out of place in the sea of yellow rippling tussock grass. There it was again, a flash of brown, disappearing for a few moments and then reappearing. Whatever it was, it was coming up the hillside towards the shelter. He stepped outside to try to catch a better view of it. It was an animal of some sort, but unlike any he had ever seen up here in the high country. Finally it left the cover of the tussock grass and unhesitatingly began to lope up the rough-trodden path that led to the shelter. It looks a bit like a fox, he thought in surprise. I’ve never seen or heard of foxes around here ... a fox wouldn’t move like that – out in the open – in broad daylight.... Is it possible? Could it be? No, of course not! That whole world isn’t real ... it only exists in my imagination ... it was all just a dream. I’ve got to get a grip on myself ... I’m confusing the real world with my fantasy world.... The fox continued up the path until it reached the shelter. It stopped a few feet from the boy and looked up at him, fixing its gaze steadily upon his face. The boy was stunned. It was her – there was no doubt about it – right down to the bushy fur on its head. But how can it be her? She isn’t real ... it was all just a dream ... wasn’t it? He hesitantly reached his hand down to the fox. It didn’t flinch or try move away, it just continued to regard him with those intense brown eyes. Gently, he patted it on the head. “Hermione?” he whispered, unbelievingly. He jerked back his hand as the fox seemed to twirl around. First, a head appeared, followed by arms and legs. When the transformation was complete, standing before him was Hermione Granger, smiling joyfully. “Hermione? B-but how? ... How can this be?” he asked in a shaking voice which betrayed extreme emotional turmoil and mental confusion. “Is it really you, Hermione?” Or have I finally gone over the edge? he asked himself fearfully. “Rick! It’s me,” she said staring at him rapturously, “and I’ve missed you so much!” Part of him wanted to throw his arms around her ... and never let her go. But another part of him recoiled from her in disbelief and fear – fear for his own sanity. “B-but you’re not real....” stammered Rick. “You’re a character out of a book ... how can you come to life like this? It’s not possible!” Hermione resisted the impulse to throw herself into Rick’s arms and kiss him, as she had dreamt of doing endlessly, since he disappeared that day on Druids Barrow. She could see that he was in psychological turmoil, not knowing what to believe. Had he lost all memory of his time in her world when he returned to his own? “Rick, do you remember being at Hogwarts for nine months? Do you remember Squibbing Voldemort? Do you remember that ... we were....” she asked, blushing as she spoke the last words. “My name isn’t Rick, it’s....” he said, his voice trailing off as he sorted through all the thoughts, memories, and dreams which were swirling wildly around in his mind. He was trying desperately to distil what was real from what was not. Finally, he continued speaking. “But, after the accident, while I was in a coma, I dreamed that I was Rick ... Rick Godfry. I dreamed I was a student at Hogwarts and that ... you and I.... The dream ended abruptly, when I Squibbed Voldemort. When I regained consciousness, I found I was still here in this world – the real world – the one in which I grew up. Then I knew it had all been a dream – just a wonderful, beautiful, amazing dream.” “It wasn’t a dream, Rick! It was real – it all happened. But when you Squibbed Voldemort, you vanished.” “But it was a dream – it must have been a dream. Otherwise ... otherwise, I’ve gone completely crazy,” he sighed. “And how do you explain the fact that I’m standing here, right before you, having just transformed from a fox?” asked Hermione, smiling gently. “I must still be dreaming ... you’re not real,” he said, shaking his head from side-to-side, desperately wanting to believe she was real – but afraid that to do so would be a leap into madness. “Well, I think I can prove just how real I am,” said Hermione with a grin. She threw her arms around Rick’s neck and kissed him passionately. He responded immediately, embracing her desperately, as if his very life depended upon it. “Oh, Hermione,” he gasped as he released her. It felt so good kissing her ... so real ... but was it real? Or was he crazy? In that moment, he decided the only thing to do was to act as if it was real. If it wasn’t, it would soon become painfully obvious – they’d be dragging him off to an asylum. He wanted desperately to believe it was real. “I’ve missed you so much, Hermione. Life has been unbearable without you,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “It’s been unbearable for me too,” said Hermione, tearfully. “That’s why I came.” “How long can you stay?” asked Rick, realising with a sudden pang that they were almost certainly doomed to separation, again. “The Gateway of Reality, through which I came, is open for two hours only,” she replied. Then looking at her watch, she added, “I’ve got another hour and forty minutes.” Rick felt as if a knife had been thrust through his heart. He struggled to force back the tears. He had less that two hours with Hermione – he was determined not to allow himself be miserable – there would be plenty of time for that later.... They sat down beside each other on the wide step in front of the doorway, staring out over the yellow tussock grass waving about on the hillside. “Hermione, how did you manage to get here ... how is it possible?” asked Rick. “We’ll get to that later, Rick,” said Hermione, sounding like she had a clearly ordered agenda for their short time together. “First, I want to ask you about that day on Druids Barrow. Why did you use the Squibbus Curse on Voldemort? What were you thinking?” Rick closed his eyes, casting his mind back to that day. He had thought over the events of that fateful day so many times – but he had been accustomed to thinking of it as a fragment of a dream – now he had to alter his perspective and treat it as if it were real – perhaps it was – there would be time to decide on that later. “What happened to Harry?” he asked urgently, “Is he OK?” “Harry’s fine,” replied Hermione with a reassuring smile. “He and Ginny are the happiest pair of lovebirds you ever saw ... but, Rick, please answer my question ... why did you use the Squibbus Curse?” “Well, although it all happened rather quickly, when Harry, Voldemort and Dumbledore all screamed the Killing Curse together, things had been moving in that direction for a while – which gave me time to think over the possible scenarios. Because of his Mirror of Fate spell, whoever killed Voldemort was certain to die as well. If Harry got his curse in first, then Voldemort and Harry would die. If Dumbledore beat Harry to it, then Voldemort and Dumbledore would die. But, when Harry used the Somes Leviosa charm and started jumping about – unprotected by a Reflecting Shield – there was a third possibility: Voldemort’s Killing Curse would win – killing Harry. In fact, given his experience with the Killing Curse, it seemed the most likely outcome. Dumbledore’s curse would then kill Voldemort ... and all three of them would die.” “So you cast the Squibbus Curse to save Harry or Dumbledore – probably both of them?” asked Hermione. “Yeah, that’s right,” said Rick. “I had to. The Squibbus Curse is instantaneous – so although I cast it at the same time as the three of them began their Killing Curses, I knew I could Squib Voldemort before he finished his Killing Curse – or Harry’s or Dumbledore’s curse got to him. But there was another reason as well. Regardless of whether Harry or Dumbledore killed Voldemort, it wasn’t going to be permanent ... Voldemort was certain to return – some day.” “Yes, I know,” replied Hermione. “After the four of us got back to Hogwarts from Druids Barrow, we had a long talk about it in Dumbledore’s office, trying to piece together what had happened – Ron and Snape were there as well. Dumbledore pretty much figured out your motives, just as you’ve explained. Squibbing Voldemort, and destroying his magic, had three significant consequences: Firstly, it stopped him killing Harry. Secondly, it neutralised his Mirror of Fate spell, so that neither Harry nor Dumbledore would be killed when their curse killed Voldemort. And, thirdly, it destroyed Voldemort’s bond to the dark energies which made his spirit immortal. So when the Killing Curse struck him, he died – utterly – never to return. That was your plan, wasn’t it Rick?” Rick laughed. “You can read me like a book, Hermione. So, whose curse did actually reach Voldemort first?” “Harry’s,” replied Hermione. “There were no pyrotechnics or drama as you described from the time at Godric’s Hollow when Voldemort tried to kill Harry as a baby, or in the Nightmare Reality when he tried to kill you – thinking you were Draco Malfoy. Voldemort just dropped down dead – like a Squib. How ironic – the great Lord Voldemort died as the thing he most despised – a Squib. In that same instant, you disappeared....” “So although the Prophecy was wrong it many ways, it right about one of them killing the other – it was Harry, who killed Voldemort in the end,” reflected Rick. “Yes,” said Hermione, her mind clearly occupied with more important things than Trelawney’s ridiculous Prophecy. “Rick, when you were thinking over all those scenarios, didn’t it occur to you that if you Squibbed Voldemort, that you, too, would be Squibbed?” she asked, in a shaky voice. “Yeah,” answered Rick slowly, sighing heavily. “I knew I’d be Squibbed by Voldemort’s Mirror of Fate spell, because it would act instantly before his magic had been destroyed – but what was the alternative? Let Harry or Dumbledore – or both of them – die? Allow Voldemort to come back again ... and again – until he succeeded in turning the world into that Nightmare Reality. How could I allow all of that to happen – just for the sake of keeping my magic? Voldemort’s Death Eaters and Dark Creatures were already destroyed. Once he was dead – permanently – the task I’d been sent for was completed – so it didn’t matter if I lost my magic....” “Oh Rick,” cried Hermione, “How can you say that? What did you think would happen after you Squibbed Voldemort? I’m not suggesting even for a minute that you shouldn’t have done it.... It was the right thing to do, it was terribly brave, and I’m enormously proud of you. But what did you think your life would be like after sacrificing your magic?” “I didn’t expect to just disappear and end up here, back in my old reality,” he replied. “I realised that, as a Squib, I’d have to leave Hogwarts ... but there wasn’t time to think any further ahead. If I hadn’t disappeared – if I’d stayed in your world – I guess I would have lived a quiet life as a Squib somewhere, maybe in that little village of Stournmouth, where I Squibbed all those Death Eaters. It’s a real mixture: wizards, witches, Squibs and Muggles. I wouldn’t have wanted to leave the magical world entirely.” “And what about me?” asked Hermione, hesitantly. “I don’t know, Hermione,” answered Rick sadly. “I would have felt the same way about you ... I still do. But would you have felt the same way about me if I was ... just a Squib?” “Oh, Rick! How can ask such a question? It’s you I love, not your magic ... or the magic you had. I would have wanted to be with you – in Stornmouth ... or anywhere else – after I’d finished school ... I mean, if you wanted to be with me.” “Hermione,” said Rick pulling her close, “I want to be with you more than anything in the....” But he stopped, as he remembered that he couldn’t ... soon she would have to go.... Pushing away that dreadful thought, he asked, “Did you ever talk to Dumbledore about why I disappeared? When I first came to Hogwarts, he said after the war was over, and my purpose was fulfilled, I’d remain in your world. Do you understand why I didn’t?” asked Rick sadly. “We talked about it a lot ... Dumbledore was quite certain it wasn’t because Voldemort was dead and your mission was over. He said it was almost certainly because you were a Squib.” “But why?” asked Rick, puzzled. “Why didn’t I remain in your world as a Squib?” “It’s difficult to explain,” said Hermione, focussing her eyes on a distant clump of tussock grass. “What allowed you to appear in our world was magic. The magic was bestowed upon your spirit by the great witches and wizards of the Light, before you appeared at Hogwarts. You were only able to appear in our world because of that magic. Once it was gone ... you couldn’t remain.” “But how did you find me?” asked Rick. “How did you even know I was alive?” “It’s strange Rick,” replied Hermione. “You know I’m not one for extra-sensory phenomena, and all that nonsense – like Parvati and Lavender – but ... well, it was as though I could still feel your presence ... somehow. It just felt to me like you were still alive – somewhere.... Dumbledore said that if the magic which brought you to our world had been suddenly voided by the Squibbus Curse, then perhaps you had not died in your world, after all....” “But Dumbledore told me I had died before I appeared in your world,” said Rick, confused. “Yes, that’s what he thought – but there’s another possibility. It’s sometimes referred to as a near-death experience. Your heart stops – the body is clinically dead – and your spirit is temporarily freed. But then the heart begins beating again, your spirit is pulled back, and you live. Or maybe it’s the other way around – maybe your spirit decides to go back, and so your heart starts beating again. Perhaps that happened to you. When your spirit left your body, the witches and wizards of the light chose it for their mission ... and you – Rick Godfry – appeared in our world. But when you lost your magic, it was as if all of that was undone. Your spirit returned to your body in this world, and it started functioning again.” “Well, actually, something like that did happen. Just after they got me to the hospital I did die – clinically– but they revived me, and my heart began beating again. Afterwards, I was in a coma for weeks. But it still doesn’t make sense, Hermione. I was clinically dead for less than a minute, yet I was in your world for nine months.” “That’s because they are completely different realities. There is no correspondence between them in any way, including time. In fact, the only common thread between them is you – your spirit,” said Hermione. “Once I realised that you might be alive ... somewhere, in some other reality, I was determined to try to find you ... it became an obsession.” “What about your revision schedule and the exams?” asked Rick with a smile. “I threw away my revision schedule – how could I think of studying? I sat the exams, of course —” “And still came top in all your subjects, I’ll bet,” said Rick with a smile. “Err, yes, I did,” replied Hermione modestly. “But only because you weren’t there. Rick, I would have preferred to have come second – to you – and not be the sixth-year dux. You have no idea how miserable and lonely it’s been for me,” she said, a tear rolling down her cheek. Rick put his arm around Hermione as they sat together on the step. She wiped her eyes, lifting her chin, and continued. “I went to the Forbidden Forest and had a long – and rather confusing – conversation with Firenze. It’s notoriously difficult getting a straight answer from a centaur. He said that the reflection of all realities, and all times, could be seen in the Heavens ... if one knew how to look. When I asked him about you, he said something like ‘His light still shineth’. When I asked him if there was any way for me to get to your reality, he just looked up at the sky and said, ‘This forest hides many secrets and doorways from you humans ... I shall consult the stars’.” “Professor Dumbledore allowed me to miss classes, and arranged special access to the Ministry of Magic Reference Library; I spent weeks there doing research.” “Research into what?” asked Rick. “My first topic was to identify where magic actually resides in a witch or wizard,” replied Hermione. “What was the point of that?” asked Rick, curiously. “I was trying to discover if magic was located in the body, the mind, or the spirit. It’s not a subject that has ever been seriously researched. I searched through hundreds and hundreds of books. Finally, I found some clues in a very ancient text that goes back almost to the time of Merlin.” “But, Hermione, why were you doing that? I don’t understand....” said Rick becoming more and more perplexed. “My second topic of research,” continued Hermione, ignoring Rick’s question, “was into how charms, curses and hexes act on a person. It’s really fascinating. Some of them, like the Immobulus, Impedimenta and Cruciatus curses, work on the body. Others, like the Cheering and Confundus charms – as well as the Imperius curse, work on the mind. In all my research, I could find only two spells that work on the spirit. The Avada Kedavra curse is one. It severs the spirit from the body – causing instant death without any apparent physical damage.” “What’s the other?” asked Rick. “The Squibbus Curse,” replied Hermione, looking at Rick significantly. “But, how can you know that?” asked Rick. “Because it destroys the magic of the witch or wizard,” answered Hermione. “That means it must act on wherever it is that magic resides. The conclusion of my first research topic was that magic, very probably, resides within the spirit. But the most conclusive evidence, in fact, is you.” “Me?” asked Rick. “The magic you received from the great witches and wizards of the Light was bestowed upon your spirit,” said Hermione, smiling at Rick. “Yeah, I guess that’s true,” agreed Rick. “But what does it mean ... I don’t quite follow the point of all your research ... what were you trying to achieve?” “Well, isn’t it obvious?” asked Hermione. “I was trying to find out how to reverse the effects of the Squibbus Curse.” “What?” asked Rick, completely stunned. “But it’s irreversible ... isn’t it?” “If the Squibbus Curse affects the body,” said Hermione, unable to contain her excitement, “it wouldn’t be possible to reverse it – because your present body is not the one that appeared in our world – although, it looks identical. But, my research suggests that the Squibbus Curse acts on the spirit. My other research, points to the spirit as the place where magic resides. The spirit that is within you now, is the same spirit which was blessed with all the magic of the great witches and wizards; it appeared in our world and it was damaged by the Squibbus Curse ... Don’t you see Rick? I may be able to heal you and —” “Heal me? What do you mean heal me?” asked Rick, a ray of hope suddenly bursting through the cloud of gloom which had become his constant companion. “Many curses work by causing injury of some kind. If the Squibbus Curse works by injuring the spirit, I may be able to heal it, and —” “What?” asked Rick, incredulously. “You mean I’d get my magic back? I’d become a wizard again? But what would I do in this world as a wizard?” he asked. Hermione laughed. “Don’t be silly, Rick, I’m not leaving you here – you’re coming back with me! I’ve come here to get you!” Rick was stunned. He turned with his mouth agape in disbelief, staring wordlessly at Hermione. “Err ... maybe I should explain the whole plan,” continued Hermione, as Rick seemed temporarily incapable of speech. “After I’d completed my research and concluded that it might be possible to heal the injury to your spirit, caused by the Squibbus Curse, I had another conversation with Firenze about getting to your reality. He said: ‘At the Solstice Full Moon, which is the rare conjunction of Midsummer Eve with the full moon, the two Realities will briefly intersect for an hour on either side of the cusp of night. There is a primordial chasm sequestered deep within this forest, known as the Gateway of Reality. It is unreachable to humans – witches and wizards, included. Come to this spot as a fox, fifteen minutes before the crucial time, and I will lead you there.’” “I asked Firenze how I would find you when I reached your reality. He said, ‘When you descend into the chasm, which is known as the Gateway of Reality, you will come to a labyrinth of tunnels. If you focus your mind unwaveringly upon that which you seek, your animal instincts will guide you.’ It was just like he said – I knew exactly which way to go as I threaded my way through the maze of tunnels, until I came out just down there,” she said, pointing to a spot a few hundred feet further down the hillside. “That’s amazing,” said Rick, shaking his head in wonder. “But how can you take me back with you?” “I’m going to try to reverse the Squibbus Curse, and restore your magic. Then we’ll both transform into foxes, and return, the way I came. You’ll be magical again, so you’ll be able to live in our world,” she added, betraying more than a trace of anxiety. Rick continued to stare at her. The idea that he might return to the world he loved – with the one he loved – was tantalising beyond belief ... it seemed, somehow, too good to be true. “A lot of things could go wrong, couldn’t they, Hermione? I’m sure you’ve already figured out all the possibilities ... so, you better tell me.” Hermione let out a long nervous sigh, as she stared up at the sky. “Nothing like this has ever been done before. There is no way of knowing what the chances are of success. The first thing that could go wrong is that you’ll die from Snape’s potion.” “Snape’s potion? What potion? Is Snape in on this too?” “Err, yes. It was mainly Professor Dumbledore who helped me with the plan, but Firenze and Snape helped too. Snape brewed two very rare and difficult potions. The first one, the Draft of Dissolution will ... err ... kill you, but —” “Kill me?” gulped Rick. “Err ... yes, just for a while, though. You need to be clinically dead again, for me to work on your spirit. I will heal your spirit, and then Snape’s second potion will kick in. It’s an ancient potion used by Necromancers, which will nullify the first potion, and then revive you. Err ... it’s Dark Magic, but Dumbledore agreed to let Snape brew it.” “Err, Hermione,” I hate to state the obvious, said Rick. “But how am I going to drink Snape’s second potion, if I’m ... dead?” “Oh, but you drink the second potion first,” explained Hermione, “immediately before the Draft of Dissolution. Snape added something that delays its effects for three minutes, to give you time to, err ... die, and for me to heal your spirit. It’s risky, I know ... and if you don’t want to take the risk, I’ll understand. I’ll just stay here with you ... if you’ll let me,” she added shyly, looking down at her feet. “But of course I’ll take the risk!” said Rick emphatically. “This life ... without magic ... without you ... it’s so empty and pointless. I’d risk anything to go back with you. But why are you talking about staying here?” “Well,” said Hermione, looking down shyly, “I identified a number of scenarios which would prevent you from returning with me. You might not have wanted to risk taking the Draft of Dissolution – and I wouldn’t have blamed you if you didn’t. Or, Snape’s potions may work perfectly, but I may not succeed in healing the injury to your spirit. That would leave you without magic, which means you couldn’t return with me either. I decided that if either of those scenarios eventuated, then I wouldn’t return – I’d stay here with you in your world ... err ... if you wanted me to.... I left a letter with Professor Dumbledore to give to my parents ... in case I don’t come back.” Rick couldn’t help but kiss Hermione affectionately. He found it difficult to speak. Finally, he said in a thick voice. “Thanks, Hermione ... but, as much as I want to be with you, I would never let you give up your whole world for me. Anyway, it probably won’t come to that. I’m going to put my fate in Snape’s hands and take both the potions; and I have absolute faith in your ability to heal my spirit.” “I’ll try to deserve your faith,” said Hermione, blushing. “And you can trust Snape to have done his very best for you, too. He’s been a different person since you removed his Dark Mark, and the death of Voldemort ... he’s almost pleasant, at times. Ron keeps muttering about how scary it is. Snape was really eager to help. I think he feels a great debt to you, both personally and for the wizarding world. He’s one of the few who really knows what happened on Druids Barrow, and what you sacrificed for us all. Err ... there’s also another scenario I haven’t mentioned, yet,” said Hermione, nervously. “What’s that?” asked Rick. “Well, even if everything goes to plan and you get your magic back ... Firenze wasn’t certain it would be possible for us to get back the opposite way through the Gateway of Reality. I tried to find out what the probability was of that happening, but centaurs are so vague – I really have no idea at all. We may both be stuck here – the only witch and wizard in this reality....” “Well, that would be a whole different adventure,” said Rick thoughtfully. “If it has to be two out of the three, having you and having my magic are the two I would choose, said Rick. “Me too,” said Hermione. “But let’s try for three out of three.” “Yes, let’s ... I’m ready,” said Rick turning to kiss Hermione.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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