Chaos theory; a nargle flaps its wings in China, and Luna responds differently to Harry during their conversation before the leaving feast.. AU starting near the end of OoTP. Harry/Luna/Hermione. N...
Chapter 15: Fawkes.
When Luna returned to the room she shared with Hermione, she quietly slipped into bed and then softly said 'Nox' to cancel the light from her wand.
She lay silently for a moment, and then got out of her bed and approached Hermione's.
"Would you move over a bit Hermione, You haven't left much room." She asked, lifting the covers and waiting for Hermione to budge over.
"What…? Luna, why are you… what's wrong with your bed?" Hermione asked, a catch in her voice.
"Nothing's wrong with it," she replied, "but we need to talk, and you need a hug; and I can't very well hug you from my bed, and since it's a little chilly at this time of night I'd rather be under the blankets…" Luna said, and then continued without seeming to draw a breath "…but there isn't really enough room unless you scoot over a bit."
Hermione wasn't given much opportunity to argue, as Luna started climbing into the bed whether she moved or not, so she shifted herself further over to the other side of her bed. There really wasn't a lot of room, as these were little more than large single beds.
Hermione was about to tell Luna that she really didn't feel like talking, when the blond witch reached for her right arm, and moved it up so that she could crawl up against her side. Luna then placed Hermione's arm around her and then wrapped her own right arm around Hermione's waist, while her left arm wormed under her pillow.
Hermione froze as Luna placed her head on her shoulder, and then squeezed her in a hug.
"That's better." Hermione heard her murmur, and once she got over her shock at being held while lying in bed, she did feel a little better. Another tear slid down her cheek to join those she'd already shed since climbing into bed.
"Hermione, why didn't you ever ask Harry to be your boyfriend?" Luna asked softly.
"What? Why would you ask that?" Hermione said, somewhat hastily. "It's ok, Luna, I wouldn't try to steal y…your b…boyfriend."
"Oh Hermione, you don't have to worry about me thinking something like that about you. I'm actually quite good at working out what people are likely to do, and I know you wouldn't do anything like that." She said, reassuringly. "But, you are avoiding the question. You know he loves you, so why didn't you ever ask him?." She asked.
"Well, if he loved me, why didn't he ask me then?" Hermione said a little petulantly, as other tears slid unnoticed in the dark.
"Because he was scared of losing your friendship, and because he thought that since Ron wanted you, that meant he shouldn't get in the way. I also think that because of the way he grew up, he didn't have much of a chance to see how people who love each other behave."
Hermione hadn't really expected an answer, but having received one, she focussed on what appeared to be the root cause of her problem.
"Of all the stupid… why would he think that Ron and I would make a good couple? We argue all the time, we have almost nothing in common, except Harry. His table manners are appalling, and I don't think he has any interests other than eating, Quidditch, playing chess, and… and… and the colour orange." Hermione concluded, having exhausted her knowledge of Ron's interests.
"What really makes me mad though is that he ridicules me for my study habits, and then expects me to let him copy my notes and help him with his homework. Honestly, what am I supposed to find attractive about him?" Hermione asked.
"I don't know Hermione, as I don't think he's right for you either." Luna replied. "But we weren't talking about you and Ron. Why won't you answer my question?"
"I… I…" Hermione couldn't answer the question.
"You were afraid of losing his friendship." Luna stated, answering for her.
"Yes." Hermione agreed softly.
"You were afraid he didn't think you were pretty enough."
"Yes." Hermione agreed again, tears flowing freely. 'Oh Lord! On top of everything else I'm turning into Cho Bloody Chang, the human hosepipe'. She thought, miserably.
"You were afraid of being rejected if you asked."
"Yes." Hermione whispered, while thinking 'Please stop, I can't… I can't…'. It was as much as she could do to keep some semblance of control. As the silence after her reply grew, Hermione hoped that Luna had ended her interrogation.
"I suppose it didn't help that he spent a lot of his time looking at Cho Chang either? She asked.
Hermione wasn't going to talk about her feelings for Cho. That girl had hurt Harry.
"Well, I think it's quite obvious to me that you've got just as big an infestation of wrackspurts as Harry had this morning." Luna said.
Hermione wasn't prepared for that comment at all. Luna had just managed to get her to admit her biggest secret – the one she'd been trying to keep even from herself – and now she was talking about some of her made up nonsense creatures.
It was all too much! Especially on top of the realisation she'd had on leaving Harry's room that she was going to lose him. He'd start spending more and more time with his girlfriend now, and before long she would become just another Gryffindor to him, like Lavender or Parvati. A smile and a wave to her as he left the common room perhaps. Some idle conversation over lunch… She could see the progression from best friend, to close friend, to-
Hermione's rambling thoughts were interrupted as Luna had evidently given up waiting for any sort of response to her comment about wrackspurts; assuming she expected any.
"I also think that you should have used some of your Gryffindor courage and asked him out yourself. You could have saved each other a lot of grief. Harry has been starving for affection, and he had no way of working out how to show it. You should have been able to see that." Luna said, not quite as calmly as she had been.
Hermione couldn't hold her composure any longer, and gave in to the quiet sobs she'd tried stifling when Luna opened the door and came into the room. She tried to pull away from Luna and roll onto her side facing away from her, but Luna held her tightly and wouldn't let her move.
"Hermione, you can't solve a problem until you can see it clearly. Now that you can, how are you going to solve it?" Luna asked.
"I'm not. It doesn't matter anymore. He already has a girlfriend who is very good for him."
"But of course it matters, Hermione." Luna said emphatically, ignoring Hermione's compliment. "You and Harry have both been very silly about this, and I think it's high time you had a proper conversation about it."
"But he's already going out with you!" Hermione said. "What would be the point? It's too late to think about all the 'what-might-have-been's."
"Oh, you're being silly again. Harry's really only known me for a couple of days, and he's known you for five years." Luna said.
Hermione didn't reply at first. "But-" she started to say before Luna interrupted.
"No 'buts' Hermione. I do want Harry, but not this way. You probably know the saying; 'If you love something, set it free-'" Luna began.
"If it comes back, it's yours…" Hermione continued.
"If it doesn't, it never was." Luna concluded sadly.
"But, Luna-" Hermione started.
"No Hermione! No more buts!" Luna said angrily. "You two have to sort this out one way or another."
Luna's momentary anger faded, and she tried to explain to the other girl why it was important that she and Harry talked. "Please Hermione. I couldn't cope with Harry growing to resent me because he worked out sometime later that he should have been with you. I just… I just couldn't bear that. It… it would… Oh Merlin, this is so hard!" Luna said, bursting into her own sobs as she clutched Hermione tightly.
Hermione gripped her back just as tightly, and sobbed along with her, her emotions completely overwhelmed.
She wished she had just a fraction of Luna's courage. Yes, she'd tried to be happy for Harry and Luna, since he was obviously happy being with her. But that was easier to do when you assumed that you didn't factor into the equation anyway. Luna was braver than Godric Gryffindor himself though; she already had Harry, yet she was deliberately risking her own happiness to make sure that Harry wasn't making a mistake.
She wondered if she would have been able to try and push Luna and Harry together if their positions had been reversed. She honestly didn't know, but she wanted to believe that she would. In any case, Luna had proven herself beyond any doubt that she was worthy of him.
That was all Hermione had really hoped for; that he wouldn't be hurt again by another unworthy girl. That he'd find someone that would care for him as she would have wanted to. Now Luna was suggesting that Harry could have been hers ages ago; and perhaps could be even now. All she had to do was break Luna's heart, and the girl was handing it to her – forcing her in fact to take it into her hands.
What a perfectly impossible situation.
Their sobbing only subsided when, emotionally exhausted, they fell asleep still holding each other.
A very unhappy Albus Dumbledore strode through Hogwarts after his chance meeting with Severus Snape. What his potions professor had told him about Emmeline had shocked him to the core, and then there was Minerva!
As he pondered the ramifications of what had happened at Spinner's End, he wondered if things could get any worse. As he entered his office he quickly realised that they indeed could.
"Dumbledore, shut that bloody thing off NOW!" Phineas yelled at him from his portrait.
Dumbledore stood stunned as his ward monitor loudly announced that the blood wards were crashing at Privet Drive. 'No! They shouldn't be falling now, I still have at least two or three weeks to get Harry back. What could have happened?'
"Dumbledore! Look what it's doing to your phoenix! SHUT THAT BLOODY THING UP!" Phineas shouted.
Fawkes? Dumbledore's eyes went from the monitor to his companion's perch, and was horrified at what he saw. Waving his hand in the direction of his monitor, which finally silenced it, he rushed over to Fawkes who was lying awkwardly on the floor under his perch.
Fawkes, what happened? He thought, but could get no response. He caressed the bird's head and long neck, and then lifted him into his arms.
"What happened, Phineas?" He asked.
"That bloody device of yours happened! Something about it upset him, and eventually he tried to take off from his perch and flame away. But as you can see it didn't work. What the hell was it making that racket for anyway?" Phineas asked angrily. Fawkes spent a lot of his time in the headmaster's office, and while he never replied to Phineas, the phoenix did seem to listen to his rants about Dumbledore over the years. He considered Fawkes a friend, even if Dumbledore didn't have time for him lately.
"The wards at Privet Drive are failing, or have failed by now – I must go!" Dumbledore said, standing up and placing Fawkes on his chair. It was the most comfortable place in his office.
"Are you mad? What you MUST do now is save your phoenix!" Phineas yelled furiously.
"There are many lives at stake Phineas. I must hope that Fawkes will be able to recover now that the alarm is off, or at least hold on until I can get back and see to him."
Dumbledore moved quickly to the floo, and threw in some floo powder. As Phineas shouted questions about his ancestry, he called out his destination, "The Cattery," and disappeared from his office.
Phineas turned from his cursing of the headmaster and looked down at the motionless phoenix. He called out words of encouragement to him, which was all he could do, and exhorted him to hold on. 'Dumbledore should be here doing this, not abandoning his phoenix when he needed him.' Thought the magical echo of the former Phineas Nigellus.
After a while, Fawkes gave a shudder and then burst into flame. But there was no ash or baby phoenix left on the headmaster's chair. Fawkes was gone.
After apparating from Arabella Figg's house, Albus immediately inspected the wards at Number 4. They had all but failed! As they were, they'd be lucky to keep out a determined Kneazle, and left alone they'd be permanently gone in about a day; and that was being generous.
Albus drew his wand and cast a notice-me-not ward on the house. It was next to useless as a protection, but it was all he could cast without completely destroying what was left of the blood wards. Possibly Bill Weasley might know something obscure that could help, but that was a thought for later.
After knocking on the door, and eventually letting himself in with the unlocking charm, he quickly discovered the Dursley's had left. The signs of their hurried packing all too evident.
This was a disaster! Without the Dursleys here; or rather, without Petunia Dursley nee Evans here, the wards would be lucky to last a couple of hours. Where would the Dursleys have gone? Family?
Albus recalled that Mr Dursley had a sister, and recalled an unfortunate incident during the summer before Harry's third year. Taking advantage of his prodigious memory, he recalled that Marge Dursley was unmarried, and her address was…
He disapparated on the spot, and appeared with a pop outside a tidy looking house.
Striding to the door, he grasped the knocker and rapped loudly.
A stocky woman opened the door. Albus could see a small bulldog trying to get past one of her ever-moving legs, which was preventing the animal from escaping out the door.
She frowned at his appearance, but Albus didn't let it concern him.
"Ah, good lady, My name is Albus Dumbledore. I wonder if your brother and his family are here?"
She turned her head over her shoulder and let out a yell. "Vernon! There's some strange man at the door for you."
She'd barely finished yelling for him when Albus saw Vernon Dursley's head appear from a room. The head turned purple when he saw him.
"Shut the door Marge! It's one of those FREAKS!". The woman didn't bother to say any sort of farewell as she turned back to Albus, she simply slammed the door in his face.
Albus firmly believed that in some circumstances, admittedly very few in his opinion, that the application of force was quite justified. This appeared to be one of them due to the time pressures involved.
He cast a notice-me-not ward, his second in the last ten minutes, and then a Muggle repelling ward to help deter any interruptions. He had decided that a noisy demonstration of power might prevent the need for any other magic use, and help encourage the Dursley's to provide what he needed from them.
After casting a revealing spell to ensure nobody was standing behind the door, he cast a reducto on it and blew it off it's hinges to fly into the opposite wall where it broke apart on impact.
"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS-" Vernon had heard the bang and started yelling. However after seeing the remnants of the door and the now imposing looking old wizard standing in the entryway, he wisely stopped talking and he backed way into the living room he'd stomped from.
"Shall we assume that you have invited me inside?" He asked the four Dursleys after he had walked the few steps to the living room doorway. There was no reply from them.
"Very well," Albus began, "Mrs Dursley, might I ask why you and your family are not at Privet Drive?"
"Because it's not safe there." She replied. "The boy told us that the bridge was probably blown up by that evil wizard, and that our home wasn't safe for us any more. He said that YOU would probably find us somewhere safe to go!"
Albus frowned. 'Bridge?' he thought, before focussing on the object of his search. "You saw Harry today? At Privet Drive?" Albus cursed his ill fortune. If he'd been in his office instead of chasing all over Britain trying to find him, the ward monitor would have alerted him to Harry's return to Privet Drive.
"Are you calling my wife a liar?" Vernon asked him, angrily. His reflexive hatred of all things magical had briefly overpowered his self preservation instincts.
"Not at all." Dumbledore replied politely to Vernon. " I have been looking for Harry all day, and I was merely surprised.".
He turned his attention from Vernon to Petunia. "I did not mean to suggest anything by my words. In any case, I must ask that you return with me to Privet Drive for a day at least. If I cannot find Harry in that time, then I will return you here until I can find somewhere safer for you all to live." Albus said.
"It's not safe there. We won't go!" Petunia replied.
"Please, Mrs Dursley, it is very important that those wards are maintained. It may be that the safety they represent will be of vital importance to Harry in the future. If we cannot preserve them, they will be lost forever, and your sister may well have died in vain." Albus said, trying to appeal to her sense of family.
"My sister is dead, and despite what you may think, I doubt she would want me dead as well. I'm staying here. The boy has no intention of returning anyway, so there is no point."
"Is there nothing I can say or do to convince you to return?" Albus asked.
"No" Petunia said shortly, and was echoed by her husband a moment later.
"Very well." Albus said tiredly. It would have been better if they had been cooperative.
In a few short seconds, he had bound all of the Dursleys, and even stunned the bulldog that had charged for him. He apparated each of the Dursleys in turn back to Privet Drive, and then returned with their luggage, and finally their car.
Returning to Marge's house for the last time, he repaired her front door, and then obliviated her memories of the last few hours, so that she would have no memory of hearing from Vernon and his family. He then removed the wards he had placed around her house, ennervated the bulldog and returned to Privet Drive.
Raising his wand, he cast Legilimens on Petunia to find out what had happened that day. He was very relieved to find a memory of Minerva appearing in the Dursley's lounge room, unconscious, and Petunia providing her with some very basic care, but care nonetheless.
The next memories were very confusing, until he realised that they had been modified with some very specific obliviation so that he couldn't see or hear from some people.
He did get to hear a very disturbing news broadcast, and was alarmed at what it meant. Tom had given up waiting and was starting his campaign of mayhem and terror. That he hadn't informed Severus of the attack on the bridge was another concern.
He heard, Harry tell her to leave, as well as the reason. Then there was some general talk until he heard Alastor's voice talking about obliviating the Dursleys.
The next thing he knew he was listening to an implanted memory from Alastor Moody.
"Alright Dumbledore, here's the deal. We're going to take care of Potter for you, and give him some of the training that you should have been giving him since he first showed up at Hogwarts five years ago. We're going to have a bloody long conversation about the reason why you didn't some time, you can count on that. Now I don't know exactly what happened to Minerva, but she was stunned while visiting Snape. I know YOU trust him, but you already know what I think; once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater. Minerva's fine by the way, or at least she will be, and we will both be coming to see you on Friday. I'll be her bonder for the unbreakable vow she expects you to take, but we both know you won't do it, don't we? Feel free to make a bloody liar out of me if you like, I don't need the galleons. Now finally, a word to the wise; you'd best leave the Muggles where you found them, or somewhere safer. For some reason Potter seems to think they should be saved, but I could care less. On the other hand, if Voldemort finds them, he could use them as bait to trap Potter. Now I know you Albus, you've either got the Muggles back at Privet already, or you're about to take them there. Forget it. The blood wards are good, but not so bloody good that you have to turn everything on it's ear to try and save them. Besides, now that Voldemort has Potter's blood in him, do you really think they're as unbreakable as they used to be? Why don't you do something useful instead; like filling up that pensieve of yours that Minerva tells me you're giving Harry. I'll see you Friday. Don't try to find us."
Albus cancelled his legilimency and sank into the nearby armchair. What to do now? He wondered.
It was a weary Dumbledore that returned to his office some time later, and as he stepped through the floo his eyes immediately sought his chair and was surprised to find it empty.
"Fawkes?" He called out, looking around, and under his desk.
"You’re too late, Dumbledore" Phineas said, scathingly. "Fawkes burned up shortly after you left and disappeared. No ash, no bird, nothing! I do hope your mission was worth the loss of your phoenix."
"No Phineas," Albus said sorrowfully, "I'm very much afraid that it wasn't anywhere close to being worth it."
Harry sat on his bed, his back against the headboard, thinking. He'd been sitting here since Luna left almost an hour ago, and he was no closer to working anything out than he was when she'd left.
Deciding there was no way he would be able to sleep, he decided he might as well start working on the assignment from Minerva.
Seating himself at the desk, he thought about the approach he wanted to take, and started writing. It was surprisingly easy, since there were no textbooks that he needed to reference, not any instructions on how long it had to be, or even what needed to be covered in the assignment.
He was free to write whatever he chose to write about, and as the topic was really about Hedwig, he would make sure it was worth an 'Outstanding'. She deserved nothing less.
He'd been working steadily for an hour when he saw a flash of fire in the corner of his eye. He looked over and saw a juvenile phoenix slightly trembling in the middle of his bed.
"Fawkes?" Harry asked, moving over to the bed, and leaned in close to what he believed was the headmaster's phoenix.
He saw that the phoenix seemed to be shivering in the chill night air, and lacking any other inspiration, he picked the young phoenix up tucked him inside his shirt against his chest. Since he was wearing one of Dudley's old cast offs at the time, there was plenty of room for them to share.
Quickly deciding on a plan to warm up the phoenix, he cast a lumos and quietly left his room. With his passenger still in his shirt, he went outside and started searching for what he needed. Pocketing a number of smaller rocks and awkwardly carrying a couple of decent sized ones, he managed to make it back into his room with them.
He transfigured the larger ones into a large, but very rough stone bowl. He placed the smaller rocks and stones into it around the edges and repeatedly cast small incendio charms at them until they gave off a good heat.
With the makeshift phoenix bed ready, he looked down to see Fawkes' head poking out though his shirt and looking over at his handiwork. "So what do you think Fawkes? Is this ok for you? He asked
Fawkes gave a very soft trill, which Harry took as agreement, and then helped Fawkes out of his shirt and into the middle of his new, and very temporary, stone nest.
'I wish I knew what you were doing here Fawkes.' Harry thought to himself.
After checking that the phoenix seemed comfortable, Harry returned to his post owl assignment. He was far too distracted now to write anything else, but he could at least read over what he'd written so far.
Sleep was going to be impossible tonight.