Harry James Potter wasn’t one to panic easily, but he’d been jolted awake in the middle of the night by a burning sensation on the underside of his wrists, right on his pulse points. He’d been dreaming a rather pleasant dream too, and he couldn’t remember much more than hands holding his and warm sunlight, but still, any dream was better without Voldemort.
“Bugger,” Harry hissed through his teeth, trying not to wake Ron. His wrists weren’t burning so much as throbbing now; the pain was a deep ache that settled in his bones. Harry rocked back and forth as the bedsprings squeaked and the moonlight filtered through the window in silvery wisps.
What was this, some kind of extra Voldemort honing signal?
No, he decided. Whenever his scar hurt it felt more like getting stabbed in the forehead; this was something else.
He gritted his teeth and tried to wait the pain out, focusing on the sound of his heartbeat and breathing in through his nose, trying to remember the imprint of safety the dream had left in his mind.
The pain faded after who-knows-how-long. Harry gingerly brushed his wrists with his finger- tips, and sighed in relief when his they didn’t hurt at all. The moonlight was a soft, comforting glow, almost like an embrace. But wait a minute—Harry squinted--
There was writing on his wrists.
With shaking hands, he reached for his glasses, and after almost knocking over a roll of crumpled parchment, Harry put his smudged glasses on and looked tentatively at the writing.
On his left wrist, in neat, blocky print, read Cho Chang 张秋.
On his right wrist, in bold script, read Cedric Diggory.
“Fuck,” Harry whispered, and, miraculously, went back to sleep in a matter of seconds.
“Harry, are you quite alright? You look a bit pale.”
Harry jumped, nearly causing his eggs to slide off his plate. “What? Oh, no, I feel fine.”
Hermione frowned. “Are you sure? Does your scar hurt? Is it that Triwizard Tournament nonsense everyone keeps talking about? You can’t enter your name, you’re too young. Maybe you—“
“Come off it, Harry isn’t stupid enough to enter his name into that goblet. Harry, mate, you look like you’ve seen a ghost! What’s up?”
The two of them sat across from him, fixing their friend with curious, concerned gazes.
Harry wanted to hide under the table and never come back. “Nothing’s wrong, alright? It’s just—well—“
Harry sighed. “It’s something I’ve got to tell you in private.”
Ron and Hermione exchanged bemused glances. “Alright,” Ron said, still frowning, while Hermione said rather primly, “Let’s talk after class.”
The day was a blur of Snape glaring a hole into the back of his neck, Mcgonagall nearly turning him into a goat because he hadn’t been paying attention, Professor Moody shouting, “Constant vigilance!” and Trewlawny murmuring, in her breathy voice, “Be cautious of books this week, my dear; I sense danger lurking in their pages.”
It was just—he thought the names on his wrist had been part of the dream. He kept pulling his robe sleeves up just to make sure the names were there at all. Sure enough, every time he checked, they remained.
Harry tried very hard not to panic, because he knew what this was, what those names had to mean, but still—
“Harry? Harry, let’s get you to the common room, you look like you’re gonna be sick!”
Ron helped him carry his things while Hermione stayed behind for “a quick chat with Flitwick, honestly!”
The common room was mostly empty; Seamus and Dean shuffled out quickly, hair askew, exchanging guilty glances, and Angelina Johnson strode off to find Katie Bell, who had been absent from the previous Quidditch practice. Harry found himself sitting in his favorite armchair while Ron plopped next to him. “So,” Ron asked, “What’s on your mind? It’s not—it’s not You-Know-Who again, is it?”
“No,” Harry answered, throat dry, “Nothing like that. It’s—er. Something else.”
Ron snorted. “Well, out with it then. It can’t be that scary if it isn’t You-Know-Who deciding to plonk himself into your dreams, can it?”
Harry swallowed and stared at his shoes. “Yeah. Last night I had this dream, and it wasn’t Voldemort, it was nice actually, and I woke up and I think—I think I know who my soulmates are.”
“What?” Ron whisper-shouted, mouth agape, “Are you sure? Merlin’s beard! I mean, I know everyone finds out about that stuff in different ways, but—wow. Who is it?”
“Ronald Weasely, stop asking Harry questions he might not want to answer.” Harry nearly flew out of his seat as Hermione strode towards them, eyebrows raised imperiously. Her hair was in a frizzy bun, and ink splotches were splattered on her dark skin; she was in no mood to joke. “Look,” she said brusquely, sitting in the armchair on Harry’s other side, “Harry doesn’t want to talk about it, look at his face. We should just leave him be—“
“No,” Harry blurted out, voice cracking, “Stop, I—I want to talk about it. I don’t know much about this stuff, it’s not like Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon would talk to me about these things. Why did this happen, how did this happen, and why do I have two soulmates? That doesn’t happen often, does it?”
Ron stood up, shaking his head in disbelief. “I need tea for this, be back in a mo.”
Hermione tapped her quill against her armrest. “From what I’ve read, discovering one’s soulmate isn’t an exact science, and everyone experiences their discovery differently. Some people are born knowing, others have a tally-mark system, and a few don’t see color until they see their soulmate. But I’ve never read about someone having more than two soulmates who aren’t related to them.”
Harry hung his head, feeling his insides churn as the fire from the hearth made him sweat even more. “Is this a mistake?”
Hermione looked at him pityingly. “Oh, don’t be silly, Harry! This isn’t a mistake, this is just—well—“ she trailed off as Ron nearly tripped towards them, careful not to spill his tea as he finally sank into his armchair.
Harry groaned. “Then what is this?”
Ron sipped his tea thoughtfully. “Do you know them at all? Can you talk to them, at least? That’s what I’d do, just to clear things up, y’know?”
Harry shook his head. “I mean, I know who they are, but I’ve never even talked to them before. At least, not really.”
Hermione patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry Harry, we’ll help you with this. Would you mind if you told us their names? It’s perfectly alright if you don’t, but it might be useful—“
“Cedric and Cho.”
Ron almost spewed his tea. “You can’t mean—?”
Hermione tried her level best not to look flustered as she accidentally got quill-ink on her cheek. “Obviously Harry’s telling the truth, Ron—“
“So Cho and Cedric are apparently my soulmates, yeah,” Harry finished, determined to plow ahead.
The three of them sat in silence as the fire crackled merrily, oblivious to their plight.
Finally, Ron burst out, “I’ve got it! You can write to Sirius! I bet he knows something about this.”
Hermione frowned. “I’m not sure that’s the best idea, Ron. Sirius has been in Azkaban for the past twelve years, I think he’s had other matters to attend to.”
Harry sighed in defeat. “Yeah, I dunno if he’d be able to help. Besides, I don’t want to bother him with stuff like this, it’s not like this is life and death. I think I’ll just go to the library and look it up.”
Hermione stared at him as if he’d just said Snape was a competent teacher. “Harry, there aren’t any books about having two soulmates, believe me, I’d know—“
Harry shook his head, fear fizzing into an idea. “That’s why I’m gonna break into the Restricted Section. Tonight.”
Hermione threw up her hands. “No, Harry, absolutely not! Madam Pince will take off so many points—“
Ron smirked. “Hermione, Harry has his invisibility cloak, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
Hermione blushed to the roots of her hair. “Oh. Right.”
Harry nodded, resolute. “It’s settled then, I’ll go tonight.”
“D’you want us to go with you?”
“We could help you look if you’d like.”
Harry looked at his friends’ eager faces and felt an immense rush of gratitude. “Thanks, but I think I’ll go alone on this one. It’s, uh, really personal, yeah?”
“Oh, yeah,” Ron said in a rush, “No problem. Good luck, mate.”
Hermione played with a loose curl and bit her lip. “Yes, and please, please be careful!”
After a short-lived game of wizard chess (Ron kept trying to tell Hermione and Harry where to put their pieces, and it ended when a vicious knight gleefully slayed Hermione’s king after Harry’s chess pieces fled from the board), all three of them went to supper. Harry and Ron refused to think about the homework they had to do over the weekend while Hermione had already completed half of it; it was just another Friday at Hogwarts. Harry had almost forgotten about the names on his wrists.
But then night arrived, with its winking stars and cold draft, and Harry carefully draped his father’s cloak over his head.
It was time to get to the bottom of this.
The library seemed to have a mind of its own; every so often there would be a creak, or groan, or hiss, like Madam Pince lived underneath the floorboards.
Harry wandered through the maze of books, passing row upon row, until he reached the Restricted Section’s locked, rusted entrance. He whispered, “Alohamora,” and tried his best not to make a sound.
The air was still and musty, and there was barely any candlelight to illuminate the books and scrolls and the occasional jar filled with dark, smoking sludge. Muffled voices were suffocated by their book’s pages, and the air had gotten to be dank and much colder; it was like being in Potions, except illegal.
Harry barely breathed as he lit his wand, searching for something, anything, that would help him. He saw everything from The Dark Arts Personified to Hogwarts: Haven or Hellhole? but nothing about soulmates. Harry suppressed a sigh; was there really nothing that could help him?
He rounded a corner dejectedly, head down, when he smacked into something solid.
The voice rang through the stacks of books, and Harry glanced up in shock. Of all the people to run into—
Another voiced called out: “Cho, is that you?”
Harry yanked the cloak off his head and pulled it around his shoulders, because Cho Chang was pointing her wand straight at him. Her dark eyes widened. “Harry?”
Cedric Diggory appeared behind Cho seconds later, alarm shifting into surprise. “Oh. Hello, Cho, hello, Harry. Nice cloak.”
They stared at one another.
Harry had never wanted to run away so much in his entire life, he was sure of it.
Cho coughed. “Well, um. Might I ask what you two are doing here?”
Harry couldn’t be certain under the dim light, but he could have sworn Cedric was blushing. “I’m here for—uh—a House dare.”
Harry felt his ears redden. “And I’m here because… I need to get something for Hagrid.”
Cho looked at them in askance. After a few more moments of unbearable, trembling silence, she asked, “So neither of you are here because of these?” She rolled up her sleeves, and on each of her forearms—Harry felt a terrifying jolt of recognition—were Harry and Cedric’s names, in their own handwriting.
Cedric rubbed the back of his neck and looked away. “Sorry, Cho, Harry. I shouldn’t have lied. I’ve got your names, too. Cho, your name is on my right shoulder, and Harry, yours is on my left. I just got them last night, didn’t know what to think of it.”
Harry nodded, forcing his feet to remain rooted in place. “Yeah, same here.” He turned his wrists over, and both of them looked at their names with barely concealed wonder.
Harry held his hand behind his back and willed his voice not to crack. “So, um, how’d you two get in here, anyway?”
Cho started. “Oh! Well, it was easy really, I just talked to the Gray Lady; she has unlimited access to the library, plus I know some useful spells in case anyone spotted me.”
They both stared questioningly at Cedric, the model student, and waited. Cedric smiled awkwardly. “Let’s just say Madam Pince owes me a favor.”
“What favor?” Cho asked, sounding genuinely curious. Harry tried to imagine Madam Pince oweing a student anything and came up short. Cedric sighed and ran a hand through his wavy dark hair; Harry felt his face warm. “Well, since you two are, you know……I guess I can tell you. But don’t tell anyone else, yeah?” Cho and Harry nodded vigorously. “I was in the library, and I didn’t even notice how late it had gotten because I had a Potions exam the next day, and, er….I accidentally saw Madam Pince reading a book called The Forbidden Chamber of Love.”
Cho started to giggle, and Harry couldn’t help but notice now nice it sounded. “Did you-- ? Did you catch Madam Pince reading adult romance novels?”
Cedric hung his head in shame, though a grin twitched across his face.
Harry snickered, he couldn’t help it: Madam Pince, of all people.
All three of them started laughing as quietly as possible, high-strung with adrenaline and nerves; Cho covered her mouth, Cedric’s shoulders shook, and Harry muffled his laugh with the cloak.
After a while, Cho managed, “Ok, so. What exactly are we going to do about this…thing?” She gestured around them, and Harry suddenly noticed how close they had all gotten; Cho’s long black hair, streaked with brown, gleamed in the candlelight, cascading down her back like a waterfall on a summer night, and Cedric’s eyes didn’t look like the gray on a cloudy day, but rather the gray on a windy autumn afternoon, the kind that had strands of sunlight peeking through the clouds.
“So,” Cho began, and Harry snapped out of his thoughts, “What are we going to do about this?” Her voice squeaked at the end; Harry felt a strange sense of comfort knowing that he wasn’t the only one unsure about this.
Cedric was quick to answer quietly but firmly. “We don’t have to do anything that we don’t want to do. Since we don’t know each other all that well, and we’re all in different years…I think it’s best that we respect each other’s boundaries and, uh, not engage in any….romantic activities.”
“Yes,” Harry blurted out, “I think that would work. No offense to either of you, but, um, I’m not sure what to think about any of this, and I haven’t found anything about anyone having two…you know.”
Cho frowned, tapping her chin absentmindedly. “I haven’t either, but we can’t just ignore this, can we? I agree that we don’t have to spend every waking moment with each other, and I definitely think we should define this however we want to, but I don’t see the sense in ignoring each other either. We’re soulmates, and whatever that entails, it means that we’re connected somehow. For me, it’s not logical to pretend that this didn’t happen. So I think we should try to get to know each other, on a strictly platonic basis.”
Cedric nodded, shoulders relaxing just a bit. “Yeah, I think I like that idea. There’s no pressure to figure out whatever this is, and we do it on our own terms. I certainly don’t dislike either of you; I’d be honored to get to know you both. Harry, what do you think?”
Harry couldn’t believe that they looked at him like they really wanted to know his opinion, like he wasn’t a stranger, like he wasn’t the Boy Who Lived. “Er….yeah, that sounds alright. But I think I need some time to think, y’know?”
They both nodded. “Yes, of course,” Cedric answered, smiling slightly. “I think we all do. So let’s just take this one step at a time, yeah?”
Cho hummed in agreement. “Sounds fine to me.”
All three of them looked in different directions as the seconds crawled by. One of the books was getting particularly mouthy, and Harry almost sneezed as dust floated down from the high shelves.
“I suppose this is good night then?” Cedric asked blusteringly, frowning and smiling at the same time.
“Yes,” Cho said in a rush, “Good night, Cedric and Harry!”
Harry yanked the cloak over his head. “G’night!”
He practically sprinted out of the library, making sure not to run into either of them, and by the time he got back to his bed, Ron was already asleep.
As he burrowed under covers, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Cedric and Cho had been in his dream, and were just as scared as he was.