During the train ride before third year Harry has a close encounter with a dementor that causes him to absorb the soul fragment within him, granting both knowledge and power. Features Harry with a ...
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"Seven of them," Luna commented dryly, having finished counting naiad faces. "That makes this a particularly strong lake. Most that do qualify have only enough mystical energies to support two to four, in some cases five."
Then she looked back from the lake at Harry. "What are you doing?"
"Searching for secret passages," he replied, going over every inch of their small cave carefully. "I noticed that the top of the cave mouth is still within easy reach of the water. So if we try to climb or fly out, they can still grab us as we pass through the opening."
Luna began nodding. "The strength of a naiad is only a little more than human when grabbing at things outside of their lakes, and boats are one of their weaknesses. But you are still quite correct, they could easily pull us down. What about the source of our small breeze?"
"Too small to stick my arm in," Harry replied testily. "First place I checked. The stream comes in from the same source."
"We're trapped?" Hermione looked around in alarm. "I thought you said fairies aren't out to harm anyone?"
"Hermione," Luna sighed, dropping her gaze. "We don't know what brought us here. It could have been anything. We only know fairies found us before we woke up, and that's not surprising since this is one of their refuges."
The bookworm's panic ground to a halt on that observation and the intellectual in her forced its way forward to question, "How do you know this is a fairy refuge?"
"Enchanted stone nine feet thick on every side," Harry grumbled, moving his questing fingers to exploring the ceiling. "An entrance so small only they can use it, an auxiliary entrance guarded by something so dreadful not even the most desperate predator would try to pass, in case the main entrance gets guarded or blocked up. Fresh air, fresh water, edible flowers on the plants, and magic wards I don't recognize that almost have to be fairy magic... No, it's simple, but Hogwarts is not so well defended. Welcome to your first Fairy Fortress, more commonly called a Fairy Mound. Not many ever get to see inside of one. Fewer still get out to tell about it. If they have more of these I could be totally wrong about the fairy losses to acromantula depredations."
Hermione had started to go through her clothes. "I've lost my wand!"She exclaimed.
"So have we," Luna and Harry chorused despondently. Harry went on to say, "That's the first thing I checked for, and I have more than enough charms on my wand holster to have stopped ordinary loss or theft. Point is, my holster is also missing. So it is no accident we are here and unarmed."
"Fairies might have done that, independent of whatever force moved us here," Luna considered thoughtfully. "This is one of their refuges, and they have a right to feel nervous about armed outsiders of unknown intentions."
Harry placed his hand upon a section of wall and intoned, "Thrice from mine and thrice from thine, and thrice again to unmake nine. Peace! The charm's no more malign."
The boy sat down heavily, hanging his head. Luna also looked distressed.
"What happened?" Hermione glanced around, knowing she was missing something and judging from their looks, it wasn't something good.
"The fey love secrets and riddles." Luna mourned. "That used to be away to bypass a wall of nine. Obviously they changed the answer."
"I found the secret passage," Harry interpreted without looking up."But the pass code has changed. Not a surprise, the muggles got a hold of that one during the Middle Ages and turned it into a nursery rhyme they taught their children, and then Shakespeare got ahold of it to adapt into one of his plays. That's spread too wide to call it a secret anymore, so obviously they changed it. Pity is, people get inside Fairy Mounds so rarely we had no way of checking that for centuries. Now we know it doesn't work."
Hermione brightened considerably. "So, to escape all we've got to do is answer a riddle? I can do that! Where is it written?"
Harry raised his face to her, and didn't look happy. "Hold your horses, Mione. Don't be angry with me, but to avoid people shouting every answer that pops into their heads, fairy doors lock down on receiving a wrong answer. The new moon will grant us another opportunity, and every new moon beyond that one will reset the lockdown again. But we might be here for quite some time."
"WHAAAT!?" bushy hair stood on end.
"Don't be angry with him!" Luna scolded. "If you met a sphinx, and it asked that age old riddle: What walks on four legs in morning, two legs at midday, and three legs at evening, you would answer: Man, just like everyone would. The same applies here. We had a known answer to a solvable problem. Fey are just trickier than sphinxes, that's all."
"We're going to miss TWENTY DAYS??!" Hermione cried, outraged at her own, very accurate, count of days til the next new moon. She was a good student at Astronomy, after all, just like all of her subjects. "That's not fair! We're going to get so far behind in our classes."
Luna pierced the girl with an otherworldly gaze that froze her on the spot. "Twenty days? Yes, that was how long it would be til the next new moon back at the time we presume we entered this cave. Would that we'd be so lucky. Time does not mean the same thing around the fey. The story of Rip Van Winkle is a true warning."
"You mean the farmer who spent a night bowling and drinking with magical creatures and woke up forty years later? Isn't that a fairy tale? I mean, it goes directly against Throckmorton's seventh law!" Hermione recoiled.
Harry resumed a smile. "Yes, Hermione. Throckmorton is correct. Space can be altered by magic, but time cannot be. However recall your own words: Fairy tale. Do not think that means to wizards what it does to muggles."
Luna also seemed amused. "Time travel is impossible by magic, yes. However didn't I just tell you that fairies routinely perform magic that is impossible by the laws as we know them? It may be impossible, but fairies do it all of the time. It seems almost a game to them, and one they play very well."
Hermione opened her mouth to ask, but Harry cut her off. "The Time Turners you and I use. Yes, I know that's going to be your next question. Do you know what makes up the dust they use in Time Turners? Powdered fairy wings. Around seven hundred years ago it was observed that fairies can move through time in ways that mortals don't. Five hundred years ago that was quantified, to an extent, and someone had the bright idea: Hey, you know WE can't do this, but THEY can, so what if we find some way of harnessing their ability, like horses to a plow? And around four hundred years ago those experiments succeeded in inventing the Time Turner."
The boy gave his friend a very sober gaze. "That discovery kicked off a 'Gold Rush', so to speak for fairy wings. Everyone wanted some and went out to find what fairies they could to harvest their wings."
"That led to the virtual extinction of their race outside of sanctuaries like this one," Luna completed softly.
Harry inhaled deeply and sank back against a cushion of moss. "The Ministry came back in the seventeen hundreds with a law passed to make it illegal to hunt fairies or traffic in their wings. That at least stopped the poacher incursions into the Forbidden Forest, and other preserves. But even so it took a while to really take effect. The race has never really rebounded."
Hermione sat back on her hands, humbled by that information.
"So it is entirely possible," Luna conjectured, "For us to get out of this place after what seems like months to us, and discover when we reach society that no time has passed since we entered, or that five hundred years have, or watch ourselves led to this cave by whatever creatures put us in here, or to go so far back in time that we become our own mothers or father. It all depends on whatever games the fairies are playing with us. Now we are within one of their places of power it would be impossible for them to resist doing something to us to amuse themselves."
"So we might be forced to build our own school and rename ourselves Godric, Rowena and Helga," Harry offered with a wry smirk.
"The fey are prone to playing games such as that," Luna softly agreed."But it is equally possible for us to grow to a ripe old age and after a long and fulfilling life here exit this place on the day after we entered; or to leave it regressed in age to children and find ourselves going to school with the kids or grandkids of the people we saw just yesterday. Unpredictability is one of the unique... charms, of the fey." She finished with a wry grimace, focusing her gaze on Hermione. "And time has virtually no meaning around them. It can flow backwards or forwards, fast or slow, or even sideways sometimes."
"But they do play by rules, even if they are obscure or hard to understand for mortals like us," Harry observed, getting up to his feet and going to the cave mouth over the naiad lake. "And one of the things I'd like to avoid is going to sleep in here again. They work most of their mischief on mortals as they are sleeping. So the more times we do that, the more drastic whatever change we eventually face is going to be - Probably."
"Probably?" His brunette best friend stiffened.
"It really is hard to tell for sure," Luna agreed. "Fairies are many things, but do not count predictability among them. Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', was practically a documentary. Misfired love potions, transformation and so on are light entertainment for the more powerful fey."
"Which makes me very eager to get out of here," Harry admitted.
"Especially before we eat anything," Luna nodded firmly.
Harry perked up at this, checking his potions belt, before sitting down before the two girls and regarding them seriously. "Ok, Luna has just brought up a very real danger. One of the rules fairies live by is that their worst tricks all wait upon some kind of 'agreement' on the part of the recipient, and I use that term very loosely."
"Any kind of acceptance, whether of food, trinket or token qualifies,"Luna frowned at herself. "Which meant I was very foolish for having picked a flower, as I now almost certainly qualify. I should have been more careful."
Hermione scooted a little further from the walls in fright.
"However," Harry admitted with a downcast face, before raising it to them again in determination. "I told you both before that I carry many potions. I even gave you a partial list of my medical and weapon-like potions."
"Your other two categories were enhancement and utility potions," Hermione remembered, as if from a favorite teacher's lecture.
Harry was honestly flattered.
"That's right," he nodded. "I don't have much in the way of enhancement potions on hand just yet, as I'd been planning on doing most of those in the form of Everlasting Elixirs that don't wear off."
"What were you going to have?" Hermione interrupted.
He gave her a smile. "Oh, the usual. Memory potions for making it easier to recall things, potions for stimulating mental agility, strengthening solutions for our bodies and wit sharpening potions for our minds. Any great witch or wizard does some measure of that. I'm lucky in that I could add re'em blood for truly impressive strength. But I was also going to sneak in a beautifying potion for each of us. If you make it in an everlasting elixir, then take only a drop or two a day while you're a growing teenager like us, it takes effect so gradually people think you are just blooming into your own natural beauty."
The two females stared at him in shock, so impressed they couldn't speak.
Hermione blinked several times. "Mother always said the best makeup job is one where no one can be sure you're wearing makeup."
Harry shrugged, but could hardly take credit. That was one of Tom Riddle's tricks, only it had gotten overwhelmed by later dark rituals. "Beauty has a strong effect on the human mind," he agreed. "Pretty people get away with things that ugly people don't. And because this is an 'everlasting'elixir, it grants the kind of beauty that only gets dignified with age."
Both girls turned their heads away to avoid being caught drooling. The sad fact was that most pretty girls went to pieces as they got older, and didn't look very good at all. It was something that no one looked forward to, yet happened far more often than not. Just about any girl could expect to lose her looks sometime around middle age; some sooner, some later.
Harry inhaled to sigh. "But that was something I was working on, not anything I happen to have with me." He leveled a serious look at them both."However, in my 'utility potion' supply I do have some polyjuice."
Luna gasped. "Harry! That..!"
"It's not that big of a deal," the bushy haired one reassured the blonde."We took some last year. It worked out fine for Harry and Ron." Then she made a face. "Of course, I made a mistake and took a hair from a cat. Polyjuice was never intended for non-human transformation."
"And that is exactly what scared her," Harry supplied, looking straight at his best friend. "Because transforming into each other isn't going to get us out of this mess. However, if we pluck a hair or two from some fairies we can use their own exit to get out of this place."
Now it was Hermione's turn to go pale. "But! Madam Pomphrey said... it took her WEEKS to undo the partial transformation from me last time!"
Luna swallowed heavily, looking quite distressed. "Let's save that for our last resort, hm? It's better than staying in here for months or possibly centuries, and definitely better than getting drowned by naiads, but not so safe that I'd risk it before checking all other options."
"Agreed," Harry nodded, to both girls' immense relief. But then he brought up a separate issue. "And I'm doubly reluctant to use it, because fairies like to taint food they find on your person. My potions will probably work, but the likely side effects are... well, we could be more than weeks having Pomphrey return us to normal if we choose to get out that way."
The boy leaned back. "Actually, I have enough polyjuice to charge some with doses of our own hair. So, theoretically, we could change into fairies, fly out the long but narrow main entrance they use, then return to normal quickly by drinking the potions charged to change us back into ourselves."
"It reduces our risk somewhat, but it's still risky. Considering that each dose would cross the human/non-human boundary, one going, one coming, stress on our bodies might be more than we could bear. I'd prefer to keep that as an option of last resort," Luna hesitantly allowed.
Harry leaned forward, crossing his legs and sitting Indian style. "Fair enough. But we'll probably want to charge some to return us to ourselves in any case, just as a precaution against any other transformations."
"Agreed, but you sound like you had another point?" Hermione asked hopefully as she and Luna both separated out stray hairs to hand to Harry.
He inhaled deeply. "Yes. I do. It's not so much a full option as a possible route to discover one." He reached into his belt and produced two hard candies that looked very much like cough drops - if cough drops could be as brightly and brilliantly colored as the fairies constantly flitting about them.
"Language lozenges?" Hermione asked in puzzlement.
"Fairy language lozenges," Harry agreed. "I have two: my own, and the one I was going to give you on your birthday. But the spells are strong enough on them we could cut a third off of each and each take two thirds of one. The magic could take slightly longer to activate, but we'd all achieve full fluency. The reason I suggest this is because of that passcode I tried to use to open the door earlier. The fey can be tricksters, but they do leave clues about. In our current state we are unliable to recognize them. But if we can read their system of writing we have a much increased chance of finding the new code or solving whatever puzzle could get us out of here intact."
Hermione was about ready to jump for joy, but Luna was already frowning."The trouble with that course is they are still something edible, thus likely to have been changed as a form of trick." Seeing the other girl slump, hopeless, she quickly added, "Oh! They'll do what they're designed to do, but we could easily get donkey ears out of ingesting them."
"Donkey ears are easy to fix," the bookworm petulantly scolded. "So that's worlds better than being released from this place thirty years into our pasts and becoming our own parents."
"Which the fey are all too liable to do." Harry nodded, wincing. "They've got memory charms that could make it easy to arrange, and that's exactly the sort of thing many of them think is funny."
Luna was also nodding gravely. "I love my father... just not that way. I agree that taking the risk is better than going to sleep in here again, which would tempt our hosts almost beyond bearing into mischief of that sort."
"The longer we stay here, the more extreme their tricks are liable to be," the bushy haired one quoted from cautions her friends had already given her.
"Actually, strictly speaking, the ordinary variety of fairy surrounding us now are just what I said before: obsessively vain, but not out to do anyone harm." Luna corrected. "It is the stronger sorts, larger, more human-like that we have to fear. But a refuge in a sanctuary is exactly the sort of place to find them, if they could still be found anywhere."
"The words of the guy who wrote Peter Pan come to mind," Harry grinned, getting down on his hands and knees by the lake entrance. "He said Tinkerbell was too small to have more than one feeling at once, and when she was good, she was all good. But when she was bad, she was all bad."
"Honestly, most fairies are stuck on 'conceited' rather than good or bad, but you do make a valid point," Luna allowed.
"What are you doing?" Hermione pressed around to see what Harry was up to.
He'd drawn a sword from a concealed sheath on his body, and was extending the bare blade outside of the large cave entrance, just above the surface of the naiad-populated water. "Trying to see some of what is around this cave, using the sword as a mirror - I figured they won't grab an edged blade."
Moments later he withdrew the sword and sat down heavily. "Bad news, girls. I can confirm the existence of wooden walkways and gazebos around the lake - the broad grassy lawn, the hedge, everything. There's even an overgrown island in the center of the lake."
"The Shrine of the Fairy Queen," Luna whispered, frozen in stark terror.
"That's bad." Hermione confirmed.
"I think I'd take being at the heart of a volcano, or raging tribes of cannibals over it just about any day of the week," Harry acknowledged, before his eyes went terribly wide. "And that only makes this development more chilling."
Pushing at it from below the surface of the water, the naiads had opened up the boathouse and brought forth a wide rowboat, which they guided to the mouth of the cave, grounding it on the sands there.
Luna went from paralyzed in fear to scrambling away from it in stark terror, pressing herself up flat against the far side of the cave from the water, her eyes bulging as she considered this offering.
Hermione had something else to occupy her. "Wasn't that Gryffindor's sword?"
"Yes," Harry nodded, resheathing the weapon where it had been concealed on his body. "And before you ask, yes, I'm still carrying the other artifacts I got from the Founders. Frankly, it had become habit, and I forgot."
Putting the sword away, his robes tore open along a seam, revealing the silver armor he wore concealed.
"That too?" Hermione asked, finding a moment of merriment in teasing him.
"Yes. Although this stuff really ought to have decomposed." Harry tapped his armor several times, yet still found it sound.
"That's because it's living silver," Luna supplied, still pressing herself against the back wall of the cave and staring in fear at the boat the naiads offered. "The ritual to create it is complex, but it involves ramora scales and occamy eggs, both highly magical biological silver."
"Oh?" Harry blinking in surprise at his own suit of armor.
"I thought I overheard someone calling that Goblin Silver?" Hermione mused.
"Goblins stole the techniques for creating it from the dwarves, who originally developed the secret process. There might be more, but I'm having trouble recalling it because at the moment I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought," the blonde girl stated calmly, still staring at the boat.
"Oh," Hermione murmured softly.
What sort of response was there to that?
"Luna, why are you scared of the boat?" she asked.
"It's not the boat. It's that naiads are offering it," she was answered.
Hermione looked back and forth between the boat and the blonde. "But that's good, right? You did say that boats were one of their weaknesses."
"Exactly." Luna nodded, still staring at the conveyance. "Hermione, how many times have you had a vampire corner you, who then offered you a cross and wooden stake to wield against him?"
Hermione froze. "That... wouldn't happen."
"Exactly," the blonde nodded, eyes still on the boat. "So if it does, you know that either the item is trapped to not work properly, or that normal rules have gone out the window."
Harry grew sober, and chimed in, "In which case you're even worse off than normal, as knowing the rules is the only kind of safety you can have with magical creatures."
"Uh huh," Luna nodded, still staring at the boat like it was some sort of dangerous wild animal that might leap out of the water and bite her.
Actually, in light of where they were, and Harry's last statement, Hermione spent a moment examining it herself - it just might!
Another patch of cloth disintegrated under Harry's hands, as he gave an experimental tug on one of his sleeves. Grimacing, he intoned, "You know, I have good news and bad news."
"I'd like to hear some good news," Hermione chimed.
"Even bad news could only be better than that boat," Luna mumbled ominously.
"Right." Harry inhaled deeply. "Well, the good news is that I've identified the mischief that was worked on us last night, I think. Since fey creatures seem to stick by a rule of 'one prank per opportunity' if we can get out of here before we fall asleep again, we ought to be able to get out of here in our own time period, and not rub shoulders with King Arthur, or whatever."
"That's nice," Hermione agreed, feeling great relief over that problem.
"The bad news," Harry continued. "Is that our clothes are disintegrating."
Hermione jerked in surprise and one of her socks came apart, exploding into tatters under the pressure of staying around her perfectly normal leg.
"It seems they did not survive the ritual last night," Harry continued in a monotone. "Or rather I should say they suffered some overload damage, but even so they couldn't, shouldn't be decomposing this fast. So the time magic we've been fearing was probably used to speed up their decay. On the plus side, when you consider what they are capable of, the prank on our last sleep session was something fairly mild. Embarrassing rather than debilitating."
"Humiliating mortals is sport for most types of fey," Luna almost seemed relieved by this revelation. Leaning forward she left a large patch of lint fluff where she'd pressed herself so hard against the cave wall.
Hermione pursed her lips. "Do you mean to say that if we stay in this cave any longer, say long enough to go to sleep again, that not only might we be joining Buck Rogers in the 25th Century when we do eventually escape, but we are liable to be NAKED!?"
"That does appear to be an accurate summation, yes," Harry acknowledged, before he met her eyes with a wan smile and repeated Luna's phrase. "Humiliating mortals is sport for most types of fey."
The daughter of dentists scowled fiercely, holding out her hand. "Gimme that language lozenge! We are going to spend a half an hour hunting for runes, and if that doesn't work..."
She reached out a hand and somehow yanked a small tuft of hair off afairy when she'd never been able to catch one before. "You are going to charge some polyjuice, Harry!"
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This is one of those points when an author has to sit back and think'There are SOO many possible places to take this story from here!' I mean, literally anything can be possible at this point, some of the potentials the characters already described, and many of them have never before been explored to my satisfaction.
There's an almost irresistible draw to that. Yes, some of those have been tried before, but never once have they been done RIGHT!