Sitting in the corner watching a whole class of people learning to Apparate was not the most pleasant of experiences for Harry, in fact it was downright nasty. Each time one of the class disappeared and reappeared he felt the universe shudder, which sent shockwaves through him, and although no longer debilitating, they were very unpleasant.
It was the second week of the real classes after they had been sorted into their groups and so far the classes were turning out to be challenging, but kind of fun, mostly. This was the second time Harry had sat through an Apparating class. It wasn't the Advanced group, because Draco was in that one and they had both agreed it was better if Draco did not try anything complicated when it came to Apparating while Harry was under duress. He stayed well away from that class and did his very best to pretend he couldn't sense anything through Draco.
After being in the Great Hall only fifteen minutes he was not sure how much more he could take, and Draco, who was sitting in on Professor McGonagall's Animagus class, even though he did not really need to, had told him it was time to give up at least twice. He had made it longer than the previous try, at least. Last time his maximum stay at any one time had been seven minutes and twenty seconds, with very long breaks in between. He was determined to do better this time.
Moody, who was teaching the class, had been sending concerned glances his way for the last two minutes, and Moody was not a man who normally did concerned. If the headache and growing nausea were anything to go by then Harry suspected he was deathly pale and wincing at the slightest sound, let alone when someone actually Apparated; however, he was not about to give up yet.
This was after all about building his tolerance to the familiar form of travel and he had promised himself at least twenty minutes. Until then he was staying put, even if it meant heaving up his breakfast as soon as he left the room. With this in mind he gave Moody an encouraging smile as the man looked at him yet again, and settled back to reinforce his mental barriers for what seemed like the hundredth time.
His control was beginning to slip and the magic in the room was becoming more and more visible, but he was determined to tough it out. After reading up on the subject rather than just reading about how to do it, Harry had discovered that Apparating was in essence a matter of blasting a hole in the fabric of space-time, as the Muggles liked to call it, converting yourself into energy, projecting yourself through your hole before it closed and then reassembling yourself at the other end.
The reassembly was really the tricky part, requiring a firm sense of self for the spell to work with. Knowing how Apparating worked had left Harry surprised that more wizards and witches didn't splinch themselves. The whole spell was very complicated, which was why it was difficult to learn, and Harry was sure there had to be a better way of doing it.
For a start, as he watched a bright burst of magic surround yet another member of the class and felt the universe shudder as the explosion hit it, he decided that if nothing else the whole blasting a hole was messy, dangerous and could not possibly be the only way of going about the entire business.
It was the blasting part that made Hogwarts' wards and places like it impervious to Apparating; the knife point of magic required could easily be diverted and spread out making it useless. If someone tried to Apparate into Hogwarts without opening the wards, or from place to place inside the structure it would simply be a huge waste of magic as the school absorbed the power and defused the spell. The way Harry pictured it was like a jet of water hitting a sponge; the jet would become a spray and most would be absorbed and some redirected with much less force.
Blowing a hole in something was really rather an unsophisticated bit of magic to go with the complex and delicate spell for converting a person's atoms, and not only did it grate on Harry's magical senses, but it offended his sensibilities as well. Draco had laughed his arse off when Harry had let that piece of information slip the first time and called him a spell snob, but he couldn't help it if now he could appreciate the finer points of magic. It wasn't as if he was against using a good blast of power every now and then, but the combination of something so delicate and something so blatant set his teeth on edge even before he felt the repercussions.
He watched and cringed as two more members of the class tried their hand at moving a couple of feet and wished he could think of another way for this to work. He mused on the problem while watching Moody give one of the girls a lecture on having nearly splinched herself. It occurred to him that the whole process would be much easier on those doing it, as well as the universe, if the transmission of energy could be achieved along another line.
A hole was the obvious thing to poke anything through, but if there was another way of linking two points in space and time that was not as destructive, it would surely take less magic and make less of a reverberation through the universe. The floo network was in essence a whole set of magical conduits, now if only it was possible to set something similar up in general space, it would make life so much easier.
He thought about it, picturing the type of thing he was thinking about in his mind, and since Moody was still talking, he lowered his barriers slightly to see if he could see anything remotely resembling it in the room. At first he saw nothing except the usual threads and pools of magic in the surrounding area, and he was ready to put his musings to the back of his mind and shield again when he shifted his mindset again.
He wasn't sure where the idea came from, but, suddenly, as if he'd just opened his eyes on the world for the first time, he perceived it differently.
The universe was not matter, it was energy; in many different forms undoubtedly, but nevertheless energy. What was more was that it was old energy, never destroyed, only converted, and as his mind grasped at the concept he recognised that energy had memory. Almost as if his mind was waking up the same way it had done when he first saw magic, he perceived that where energy had touched energy it maintained a connection. At a fundamental level the whole universe was connected and it was rather a mind blowing thought.
Dragging himself to his feet he decided he needed some air as possibility after possibility flowed into his head taking his breath away. All it would take was finding the connection between the two places; where you were coming from and where you were going to, and then transferring yourself would be easy. As he staggered out of the door his surroundings began showing him their connections and it was all too much.
Before he had gone more than a few steps he fell over and rolling onto his back he stared up blankly as the world became a glaring mass of pinpricks of light.
* * *
Draco copied the diagram Professor McGonagall had just drawn in the air with her wand. Harry had passed his entire knowledge of the Animagus transformation to him in the blink of an eye, but McGonagall had spent a lifetime studying the subject and had some very interesting information Draco was finding fascinating. Just because he could transform did not mean he knew everything there was to know and he was finding the lessons very interesting.
Ignoring the discomfort coming from Harry was becoming more difficult as his soulmate became more agitated, but he was doing his best. Extracting the promise from Harry to leave after twenty minutes had been quite a challenge as well, but with a little bit of emotional blackmail and a good dose of reverse psychology he had extracted the assurance from his very Gryffindor lover.
How Harry had survived to be eleven and become a wizard, let alone after that, baffled Draco; but then again how any Gryffindor made it out of childhood was the great mystery for all Slytherins to solve.
He was halfway down his page when he dropped his quill and stood up rapidly. The feelings of alarm and complete shock from Harry were very sudden and almost overwhelming.
"Mr Malfoy, is everything all right?" Professor McGonagall asked urgently as he just stood there trying to work out what was going on.
"Um," was the most coherent response Draco could manage as he tried to deal with the unfamiliar sensations coming from Harry, "I ..."
It was nothing he had felt before, not even when he had first woken up and discovered he was connected to his soulmate.
"Harry," Draco tried again, but failed to find very much coherence, "have to go."
After which he turned to the door and literally ran out of the room. Information began flooding down their link as if Harry couldn't stop it and Draco skidded into a wall as his vision flashed out and then in again. This was like the incident in the first Animagus class only about a hundred times worse, and it didn't seem to be about to stop. With a groan he pushed himself off the wall; he needed to reach Harry and he needed to reach him now.
His logical mind flipped out for a moment and his less coherent, but at that moment very much more active, instinctive thoughts gained the upper hand. They had just been presented with a huge amount of information and they used it. Draco really had no idea what he was doing, but grabbing at something he did not fully comprehend he sort of, but not quite, Apparated.
Stunned amazement could wait until later as he fell to his knees beside his motionless soulmate. Harry was lying on his back staring directly upwards with an unfocused expression which would have suggested he was looking at nothing, if Draco had not known the truth. Without even thinking he reached out his hands and placed them on either of Harry's shoulders, at which point it was as if he'd flicked a switch.
Harry reared up off the floor with a huge breath as if he had been dragged back from drowning, and came to a stop in a sitting position. The deluge of information into Draco's brain stopped in the same instant allowing his more coherent thoughts access to his mental capacity. As Harry turned to him he looked his lover in the eye and instantly they shared the experience together in a bid to understand what had just happened.
The dread took hold of both of them at exactly the same time.
[Oh Merlin,] Harry voiced their combined fear, [Hogwarts is defenceless.]