Potterpuffs: Ravenclaw

Ravenclaw: We're smarter and stranger than you are

Methods be damned; I just want to be the smartest

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OSW Secret Santa 2012
Potterpuffs: Ravenclaw
amylan


It would happen every night he fell asleep, without fail.

He would come back from the Stray Sheep bar, drunk on beer. He would sink into sleep, filled with dreams he wouldn't remember. And it was just as well that he didn't.

Every time he fell asleep, he would find himself confronted with them. Sometimes he would find them flooding into his room like water to smother him under their weight. Sometimes they would be huge and try to cut him in two, chasing him endlessly. Sometimes they would be hanging from the ceiling, helpless until he pulled them apart.

Every morning, he would awaken in a panic, not knowing what it was that filled him with fear.

***

It started after the wedding.

"I haven't changed from that night, you know," she told him, looking hurt. That expression was quickly turning to one of annoyance as the argument went on, though. She had her arms crossed before her (large, voluptuous, FAKE) chest.

He tried not to look at her. He knew more than he had wanted, and what had once seemed like a young man's paradise now seemed like the property of a waste bin. "I didn't know then what I did now. And you should have told me!"

"Why? If you're going to spout off about how I'm your true love, then you should be able to accept anything, right? Anyway, you're the one who was in such a rush."

"You were a guy! I slept with a guy, and I'm not gay! Why didn't you tell me before we did… that!"

And she glared at him, like she had any right to complain. "Because silly me, I didn't think it was going to be such a big deal! Look, I used to be something I'm not. The person I am now? This is the person I've always been. I thought you'd be able to accept that!" And she threw the towel she used to wipe down tables in his face.

The other guys weren't any help either. They already knew about her… his little secret. They knew that he was a guy and they didn't warn him. They just let him make a jackass out of himself.

So every night he'd get angry and sulky with them until he huffed and sat somewhere else (Vincent wasn't there as often because Katherine wanted him to be more responsible, though sometimes he came anyway and sometimes he brought Katherine along with him). And every night he would go home, drunk off his ass, and drink even more. He would drink until he could barely make out the ceiling and then collapse into bed.

And then the dreams would begin again.

***

One night, he found himself inside a confessional.

"What is this…?"

And a familiar voice answered him, "This is the World of Nightmares. You were chosen and now, you will come to this place every night, until you can escape your dreams."

"Why was I chosen? Did you put me here?"

A sinister and unnervingly effeminate giggle. "No. I'm merely an observer. Someone in the real world made the decision to put you here and have you suffer. My only purpose here is to ask questions to test your worth. So I'll have you answer my question."

"Does life begin or end at marriage?"

What sort of question was that? "It begins, of course!"

"So that's your answer," the voice mused. "That's surprising."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded, but the voice remained silent, and the confessional faded away to expose him to a cresting wave of ants.

***

The next day at the bar, he was reticent enough that she spoke to him again, even though he had treated her so coldly. Actually, she seemed to be ignoring his anger. "Are you feeling alright? You look like you're sick."

"'m fine," he mumbled. He looked up and scowled. "Go away and leave me alone. Don't… don't need you around. I'm going to find a real woman."

There's a look of skepticism, amusement, and annoyance on her face, and she crossed her arms over her (very nice) chest. Part of him wanted to yell at her again, and part of her wanted to follow her home.

He managed to keep his mouth shut for a while. Katherine wasn't there that night, and it's obvious why—the other guys were talking to him like he was on tenterhooks, and they very carefully suggested that maybe he should apologize to Erica.

"Why should I be the one to apologize? She—HE's the one that kept stuff from me!"

"We all told you not to go rushing into things," Jonny reminded him. "If you hadn't gone plowing into things, maybe she would have told you in her own time."

"But she didn't," he responded, and that's that.

***

The guys didn't linger long after that—Orlando and Vincent both had their wives to think about, and even Jonny had better things to do than argue with him all night or let him sulk. He was alone at the bar when a sultry voice spoke up. "Mind if I sit here?"

He turned to tell the woman off when his heart got caught in his throat. Definitely older. Buxom. Wearing a policewoman's uniform. She touched her hat. "Nice to meet you."

"…Nice to meet you too."

***

Every night, he would find himself in the confessional and every night, he would have to answer whatever questions that "observer" put forward.

"You must kiss one of these. Choose: a cephalopod-like alien or a beautiful corpse."

"Ew! An… alien, I guess?"

"Which is more "cheating"? An emotional affair or a physical fling?"

"An emotional affair! I mean, not that I would have sex without being in love first, so that would be cheating too…"

"Is age just a number?"

"All that matters is love!"

And so they went on, and when he woke up, he was covered in ants.

***

The woman's name, he learned, was Catherine. "I have a friend whose wife is named "Katherine,"" he told her one night.

"Really? Well, it is a common name."

"Yeah… hey, can I call you Cathy?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Aren't you being familiar?"

He grinned at her. "Aw, come on. We've been spending a lot of time together, right? I think we're friends by now!"

Then she came over, and he could tell she was forcing that smile. "Can I get anything for you two?"

"I'll have another margarita," Catherine told her.

"And another beer for you, right? You're a big strong man, you can carry your own drink, right?" It was a weak attempt at a joke, but the way she was glancing from him to the bar and back again is a direct enough hint that he could pick up on it. He followed her over to the bar, far enough that Catherine couldn't hear.

"What's going on?"

"You shouldn't be hanging out with her," she told him.

"Why, what's wrong with her?" His stomach dropped down into his feet and he whispered, "Is she like you?"

"What? No!" She looked like she wanted to attack him for that, but his stomach bounced back up again so quickly he feels nauseous. "Just… I've seen her around before and she did a lot of harm. You should be careful."

"You're not my mom," he muttered, but the same part of him that looks when she bends over the table reminded him that she's just trying to watch out for him.

***

Eventually, he started to see a pattern to all the questions. "Why are you asking this stuff? Is it because of what I said to her?"

"What makes you think that?"

"You keep asking questions about how I would treat people and how I feel about differences!" He threw up his hands. "Who are you, anyway? And who's responsible for these dreams?"

"My name? Once upon a time, my vessel was borrowed by Ishtar. For the time being, my name is Phobetor. We watch these dreams come through the gates of horn and guide them to the dreamers, but this is a world of your own design."

"What's that supposed to me?" he sputtered. "You mean all these ants and things? You're saying that I made these myself?"

"From the gates of horn come dreams that echo the real world," Phobetor answered simply. "When you've figured out that truth, then the Oneiros will release you from your self-made prison."

***

When he woke up that morning, it was with the vague, nagging sense that there was something he needed to do. He figured it would go away once he woke up, and got ready for work.

But the feeling didn't disappear, even while he was trying to fix a customer's engine. As Jonny admonished him for staring off in the distance on company time, he finally asked, "Have you ever had the feeling that you had a dream over and over again, and you learned something, but you couldn't figure out what?"

That stopped Jonny mid-sentence and he grabbed his shoulder. "You're not dreaming about blocks, are you?"

That again? "No," he answered, scowling. "You guys played that game way too often. I think it stuck in your heads permanently."

Jonny looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "It's really Vincent you should be asking about that, but… yeah. We all had feelings like that." And he walked away, shaking his head, hand already moving for a cigarette.

***

That night before the others got in, he cornered Vincent. "Jonny said that you would know about if I were having dreams where I thought I learned something and then I couldn't remember again. And it doesn't have to do with blocks," he added quickly, because it started to look like Vincent was about to march over to the Boss (why?).

"I've had dreams like that," Vincent told him, settling back into the booth. "Listen, it's important for you to try and remember what it was that happened. It might save your life."

He laughed at that. "Come on, dude. I don't think my life's in danger from some dreams."
Vincent just looked skeptical, and then the others showed up.

***

It took him a while, but every time he saw her, something niggled in his brain. It was a good night and he lasted without trying to retreat and sulk by himself—and he has been sulking, he had to admit. Still, every time Erica came around, the others got quiet. It's just… awkward.
So he excused himself from the table and cornered her away from the bar, where it was harder to see. "Hey, Erica?"

"Hey. What's up?"

"Listen…" And he couldn't quite look her in the eye while he was talking, or keep from rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm really sorry about all that stuff I said earlier. I was upset and… I kinda get why you never said anything. It was my fault and I was being stupid, so… I'm sorry."

She looked him over carefully, then smiled. "Hey, it was probably a shock to find that out about your first love. You apologized, so let's just forget about it, okay?"

"Okay." He felt light.

"Sooo…" Then she was sidling up to him and he's suddenly very aware of her chest again. "Did you want to go for a repeat?"

It's almost too late when he noticed the teasing glint in her eyes, but he managed to turn his panic into a laugh and respond, "Let's just stick to being friends for now, okay?"

"Got it. Now shoo, I have customers to get to."

He turned back to his friends and spent the rest of the night laughing and making jokes with everyone. The others were calmer with things settled between them, and it was like things were back to normal, only better. He never noticed that Catherine didn't show up that night.

***

Tobias has a dreamless sleep that night, and wakes up refreshed.


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