Friday, March 9, 2007

Harry Potter and the Prince of Nightmares

Chapter Seven: Gods, Souls, and Spirits

Hermione leaned over to Harry and interrupted class rather uncharacteristically. "You really shouldn't attempt the spell," she whispered.

Harry snuck a peak at Professor Snape, who thankfully didn't seem to hear Hermione's chitchat. Professor Snape was lecturing another use for the new DADA spell: tandemus contigo. On a piece of paper—because Professor Snape always seemed to catch him chitchatting—he wrote, I think I have to... I don't think Snape would let me not try the spell.

Carefully, Harry pushed the piece of paper across the desk toward Hermione, who scanned the missive discreetly.

Just as Harry was taking the paper back, though, Snape's voice spoke from behind him, "Potter, why don't you try the spell. With Longbottom."

Harry looked behind him, and just as he had expected, Snape was eyeing the piece of paper with a disgusted expression on his face. It was an expression reserved for Gryffindors, Harry suspected, because he couldn't imagine the Hufflepuffs or the Ravenclaws surviving DADA class if Snape turned this look on them.

Then, Harry looked at Longbottom apprehensively. Because of Snape's association with the Malfoys, Harry suspected very strongly that Snape knew exactly what was happening between Harry and exactly why he couldn't perform the spell.

Furthermore, tandemus contigo was a spell that two wizards or witches did in tandem, to use each other's magic to protect themselves. This was because a wizard's own magic had a tendency to be pulled back within the wizard, and therefore any shell-like protection spell would hold for barely a second. With foreign magic that the body naturally rejected, though, the protection was much more effective. However, the spell was also very draining, and so two wizards had to exchange magic to not be depleted too quickly.

The likelihood of Neville performing such a complex spell correctly the first time under the pressure of Snape's direct scrutiny, though, was practically nil, even if Harry had somehow miraculously recovered enough magic.

Once both Harry and Neville stood at the front of the room, the class fell silent. Harry heard a snort of disbelief and looked over at Draco, who sat as if he didn't have a care in the world. As if he didn’t care—and Harry knew he did—and as if last night didn't happen...

Harry felt his own face heating up at the thought and decided that he might as well try the spell and fail. If he died, at least he'd take Draco's sniggering face with him.

With one final speaking glance at each other, Harry and Neville decided to perform the spell.

"One," Snape started counting without preamble. "Two. Three."

"Tandemus contigo," Neville and Harry shouted at the same time. Faint green light shot out of their wands and enveloped the boys.

Harry felt surprise and satisfaction that he proved Snape wrong, but then the lights went out almost immediately with a thud. Neville had fainted.

The Gryffindor half of the classroom ran toward Neville and tried to ennervate him as the Slytherin side watched. But the Gryffindors parted for Snape as he stalked his way toward Neville.

Snape kneeled down in front next to Longbottom, his black robes pooling around him.

After a short while, he pronounced, "Longbottom is fine, but Madame Pomfrey would want to see him anyways. Since you three never seem to learn anything anyways—" This, of course, was directed at Harry, Ron and Hermione. "—why don't you carry your housemate to the infirmary. Noble Gryffindors and all."

"Professor Snape is a genius," Hermione declared unexpectedly.

Harry and Ron both looked up from their transfiguration essays due tomorrow to stare at Hermione's announcement. Of course, Hermione had already finished the essay, but she was seated comfortably in one of the big armchairs and reading a book, as usual. The only other person in the room was Ginny, but she seemed absorbed in her thoughts as she stared into the fireplace.

Noticing Ron and Harry's disbelieving faces, Hermione elaborated, "The tandemus contigo spell. Of course, Neville fainted, but—"

At this, Ginny looked up. "Neville fainted?"

Hermione nodded. Ron offered, "You know the way Snape is with Neville. At least Snape doesn't teach Potions anymore."

Harry grumbled, "I don't think DADA is an improvement."

"Neville's in the infirmary?" Ginny asked.

Hermione nodded again. "He's been there all afternoon."

At this, Ginny stood up quite suddenly. "I've been wondering where he was." Then, without saying another world, she rushed out of the Gryffindor common room, startling both Harry and Ron.

"It's quite close to curfew," Harry observed.

Ron only stared at the closed entrance to the Gryffindor common room. "Ginny... Neville? Harry, you don't think... That Ginny and Neville..." Seeming too horrified at the thought, Ron couldn't even finish his sentence.

Harry knew what Ron meant, though. "I wouldn't know..."

"But what happened to that guy? Za... something. I think his first name was Mitchell or Michael or something." Ron asked.

Hermione rolled her eyes in exasperation. "That was ages ago. If you don't notice these things, it'll be too late by the time somebody actually tells you."

"But I noticed this time," Ron defended himself.

"Anyway," Hermione continued. "Snape managed to replenish Harry's magical energy. It's not good that Neville fainted, of course, but Harry needs his magical energy more. Besides, Harry didn't drain Neville dry, so he'll probably be fine."

"Wait, wait, wait," Harry interrupted. "What do you mean?"

"Tandemus contigo is a spell based on raw power," Hermione explained. "And because you had a lot of need for magical energy, your body simply absorbed it."

"But it's foreign magical energy," Harry pointed out. "Snape—who, according to you, is a genius—said that the body repels foreign magical energy."

"Well..." Hermione trailed off as she started thinking again.

"Well?" Ron echoed impatiently.

"Well, I think it's like this." Hermione looked at both boys to make sure they were both paying attention. "Harry, your mother died to protect you. I think she somehow gave all of her magical energy to you when she died. So your body is used to foreign magic and it has a storage well for foreign magic before it converts it to your own magic."

"So I took Neville's magic?" At least now, Harry knew for a fact that it was he who had put Neville in the infirmary. "But I don't see how my mother gave her magical energy to me."

Hermione was silent for a moment as she thought of a way to explain what she thought had happened. "You know the Malfoys?"

"The Nightmares?" Ron asked.

Hermione nodded. "And you know how they are both pretty cold and mean and basically don't care about the world?"

"It's because they have no hearts," Ron said derisively.

"No, it's not," Hermione said. "It's because they have no souls."

Harry's green eyes widened at this. "What do you mean?"

"Well, technically, they do have souls," Hermione corrected herself. "The thing is, the human brain is split into two hemispheres with different functions—hemispheric lateralization. The basics of it are that the left part contains the logical and rational part. It also contains what we call the spirit. The right part of the brain contains the instincts and the morals. It's where your conscience is. It's also where the soul is."

In her enthusiasm, Hermione put down the book she was reading, Nightmares and Nightmares, and leaned forward in her seat. "In human brains, these two parts are connected. The soul part can love and hate and have faith. It's these 'soul-deep' feelings that make magic. Then, it sends the magic to the spirit, which makes up reasons for it. The spirit also makes it known to the conscious mind, so that something can be done.

"In muggles, the soul and the spirit are so closely tied together that any magic sent to the spirit gets sent back almost immediately to the soul. They don't have a magic reservoir. In wizards and witches, though, the connection from the spirit to the soul is weaker. And when you get a 'soul-deep' feeling, the magic gets sent to the spirit, but if the feeling is too strong, the spirit can't send all of it back soon enough, and something magical happens, as the spirit tries to funnel off the extra magic.

"Part of Hogwarts training is so that we can contain more magical energy within ourselves, because otherwise, the magical energy will be depleted too quickly, and the soul will have nothing left to feel with. Like Riddle, who was rumored to use a lot of magic even before he started getting trained for it. It made him unable to love. Even trained wizards and witches, though, have a hard time feeling love and hate as deeply as muggles because of this. This is why there are so many arranged marriages and marriages for convenience in the wizarding community."

"That's not true," Ron protested. "My parents are happily in love."

Hermione waved airily. "It's the exception that proves the rule. Besides, they love all things muggle, and I think that has done something to strengthen this connection. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that Lily Potter poured all of her magic into Harry when she died for him, because she loved him. Love is a soul deep feeling and so all of the magical energy in her soul probably transferred directly into Harry and deflected the killing curse."

Harry thought that what Hermione said made sense. At least, it had passed through Hermione's eminently logical mind already. Still, one question remained, "What does this have to do with the Malfoys?"

"The Malfoys are Nightmares, which are described in detail in this exceptional book." Hermione picked up Nightmares and Nightmares to show Harry and Ron. To them, it didn't look exceptional at all, just exceptionally old. "They have a myth for why they don't have souls, but the scientific explanation is that the connections from their spirits to their souls are basically nonexistent. After several years of depleting the soul of magical energy, the soul basically shrivels. And you get—"

"The Malfoys," Ron finished for Hermione.

"Exactly," Hermione said. "Which is also why they need a mate to provide them with magical energy. What they do get, though, is a highly developed spirit that can basically make their magic do whatever they want it to."

Harry thought aloud, "I thought books on Nightmares were banned."

"Well, yes," Hermione admitted reluctantly. "But Nightmares are allowed to have them."

Ron's eyes widened. "You mean you borrowed it from Malfoy?"

"Sort of," Hermione hedged, making Ron even more suspicious. Hermione almost never hedged. "Blaise borrowed it from Malfoy for me."

"Blaise? Blaise Zabini?"

"Yes," Hermione answered clearly and defensively. "He was very polite about it all."

"And you just accepted a gift from a Slytherin?" Ron pursued.

Hermione's eyes narrowed at Ron's tone of voice. "It's just a book, and he lent it to me. He didn't give it to me."

"It's just a book," Ron repeated incredulously, throwing his hands in the air. "Yeah, well, Ginny just wrote in a diary her first year. And Quirrel just wanted a stone our first year. Hermione, he could've hidden any number of hexes in there and it would be too late for you as soon as you looked at the book."

"Well, guess what? It's a risk I chose to take." Before Ron could berate her again—and really, did Ron really think he knew that much more about the magical world?—Hermione continued, "And besides, the book has been very enlightening. I have to remember to give Blaise a thank you gift with the book when I return it."

"But..." Ron said weakly. "Blaise Zabini...?"

Hermione didn't say anything. Instead, she smiled at Ron, the corners of her mouth stretching a little unnaturally, Harry thought.

"Um..." Harry said when neither Hermione nor Ron said anything. "So I don't really have to sleep with Draco anymore?"

After a pause, Hermione answered, "Apparently not."

"Draco?" Ron repeated. "Since when did he become Draco instead of Malfoy?"

Neither Hermione nor Harry answered Ron's bewildered question. Harry didn't really feel like answering and Hermione thought Harry might as well deal with his relationship now instead of later.

Seeing that neither of his best friends was going to answer, Ron covered his face with his hands despairingly. "God save me from Pansy Parkinson."

"Well, thanks for sending advanced warning," Snape said as he found Lucius in his suite moments after a frantic owl had tracked him down in the corridor. "Half-minute advanced warning is better than nothing, I suppose."

Lucius ignored Snape's sarcasm and nodded gracefully. Truly, Snape thought, if you took away Lucius's horrible personality, he would be God's piece of artwork. Draco, too. But as they were, they were quite troublesome to deal with.

"Well?" Snape prompted. He knew he sounded irritated, but he didn't care enough to hide it. He had had a full day of classes today, and double DADA with Potter. Even worse, he had had to help Potter without letting anybody know about it. "It'd better be important. The Dark Lord was throwing the Cruciatus curse left and right yesterday, and since you haven't healed me, I'm not completely healed yet."

"It's my fault, of course," Lucius accepted. "I decided that neither Narcissa nor myself will associate with Voldemort any longer."

"Well, so glad you have a choice." Snape found a chair to sit in. Lucius had taken his favorite chair, again. "Next time, think about us mortals who don't." Snape found himself shifting in his chair. It was really very uncomfortable, which was why he usually made the students sit in it. "I can't believe Narcissa just went along with it."

"Well," Lucius answered vaguely. "I have ways of persuading her."

Snape snorted. He had finally settled to sit in the chair backwards, so he could lean forward onto the back of the chair. It was not a very elegant way of sitting, but then Snape doubted anybody could compare with a Malfoy in the room. In fact, Snape had seen Lucius sitting in just such a way. Elegantly.

"Wonderful," Snape said dryly. "I would much rather not know. And I certainly hope you didn't just come here to tell me that you were the cause of all the pain I went through."

"Of course not." Lucius leaned back in Snape's favorite chair and steepled his fingers. Snape had to envy how beautiful Lucius looked, with his pale blond hair and beautiful silver eyes. From the tips of Lucius's long fingers to the folds of his black robe, Lucius defined the purpose of breeding.

Snape did not envy Narcissa, though. Or Potter, for that matter. Actually, Snape had never envied anybody much, except for Black. But Black was dead now, so that was that.

Lucius continued serenely, "We had a High Councilor meeting yesterday."

"I know. You have one every Sunday."

"And Typhulus brought up an interesting subject—"

"Typhulus?" Snape interrupted. "Damien Typhulus?"

Lucius nodded. "He is a Nightmare who spies on Nightmares. He's a betrayer."

Snape leaned his forehead against the back of the chair and groaned. "He's promised the Dark Lord an alliance with Nightmares. Voldemort will be angry when Typhulus doesn't deliver."

"Not necessarily," Lucius said. "Typhulus brought up the idea of an alliance just as the meeting was ending. He wanted to discuss it in depth at the next meeting."

"What's the point?" Snape asked. "It's not as if the Nightmares are going to ally somebody trying to kill the mate of their prince, and therefore kill their prince. You've told me that Nightmares don't work like that."

"They don't," Lucius confirmed. "But by next Sunday, over thirty days would have passed since the ancient law was invoked. If Potter still hasn't accepted the bond by then, there is a big chance that he won't before the bond withers away."

"And if he won't," Snape finished for Lucius. "Draco will die anyways. If for nothing else, the Nightmares would want to kill Potter out of revenge. You included."

Lucius nodded. "Of course."

"So, let me guess," Snape said, his tone betraying quite clearly his distaste for Lucius's upcoming request. "You want me to somehow persuade Potter to accept the bond."

Again, Lucius acted as if he only heard the words Snape said and not the tone of his voice. "That would be of great help. I would really rather not have to kill Potter." Lucius paused thoughtfully. "Voldemort is quite strong, you know, and Potter still managed to defeat him... numerous times. Disgracefully numerous times for a Dark Lord, actually."

When Lucius looked at Snape expectantly, Snape spat out, "Fine. I'll see what I can do, but I don't think Potter's very inclined to listen to me. I haven't been the nicest person to him."

Lucius nodded regally. "It will be fine, as long as you succeed."

"Isn't that just comforting." After a pause, Snape asked, "Don't tell me that you stopped being a Death-Eater because you decided that the Dark Lord was disgraceful."

"That was part of it," Lucius admitted. "The purpose of being a Death-Eater is the elevation of social status. And disgrace definitely has to do with that."

At this, Snape closed his eyes and sighed. He supposed he could see why he never went very high on the pureblood social ladder, even with his acquaintance with Lucius. Snape just didn't understand these things, and really, he would really rather not. If it hadn't been for trying to compete with the Marauders, he might never have aimed for social status at all.

Lucius still sat in Snape's favorite chair when Snape looked up. "Well?" Snape grumbled. "Don't I at least get healed for all this trouble you're putting me through? Spying on Voldemort, keeping an eye on Dumbledore, looking out for Potter... Especially looking out for Potter."

Lucius smiled but didn't move from his chair. "What's the magic word?"

Snape glared at Lucius. "Fuck you."

"That was two words," Lucius pointed out. "Besides, it's the action that makes the magic, not the words itself. But I'll be nice and heal you anyways."

At this, Snape grumbled sarcastically, "Oh, thank you, Lucius."

On Tuesday, Hermione finished Nightmares and Nightmares. She was carrying it around with her when she saw Blaise in the hall.

"Hello, Blaise," she called to his back.

Blaise stopped and turned around. When he saw that it was Hermione who had called out to him, a smile lit up his face. "Hi, Hermione."

"I want to thank you again for letting me read Nightmares and Nightmares," Hermione said as she started digging around through her bag. "It's the most fascinating book I have ever read. But I have promised to give it back once I finished reading it. So, here it is."

Blaise took back the book hesitantly, for once unsure of what he should say to a girl. Finally, he decided on, "My pleasure."

Hermione smiled. "That's so gentlemanly of you."

Inwardly, Blaise winced. He didn't want to be a gentleman. He wasn't a gentleman. He wanted to win Hermione over so that he could be the single most eligible bachelor in all of Hogwarts. And maybe Witch Weekly, too.

Then, Hermione added, "And I stuck a pass to the Restricted Section in there, as a thank you gift, you know. If you ever need it." As she thought about it, though, she blushed. Really, everybody wasn't a bookworm. Not even most.

"Thank you, I'm sure it will come in handy," Blaise replied, sounding sincere. Despite that he would very probably never go to the Restricted Section, he did appreciate the thought. There was something very refreshing about a gift without an agenda... or at least, a very innocent agenda, because the worst that Blaise could think of was that Hermione would want to borrow more books in the future.

A bell rang somewhere, and Hermione looked up with alarm. "I really have to go now. Otherwise, I'll be late to my class. I'll see you later."

Faced with Hermione's retreating back, Blaise was suddenly unsure what to do. "Hermione," he yelled to her back.

Hermione stopped and turned. "What is it?"

"Um..." Blaise fought not to blush. He actually didn't know what it was. He hadn't wanted the conversation to end. He had wanted to see her genuine smiling face again. But he wasn't going to tell Hermione that. Instead, he searched for something else to say. Dammit, he was a Slytherin!

Finally, Blaise settled with, "Which class are you going to?"

"Double Magical Theory," Hermione answered easily. She didn't seem to have found his question inane, Blaise thought with relief. "I actually quite recommend the class, but I really have to hurry now."

"Okay," Blaise said, flashing her one of his famous Zabini smiles, hoping that it matched hers in brilliancy. "I'll see you around."