After the death of Sirius, and learning the contents of the prophecy, Harry gets the opportunity to get away for a while. Independent Harry. H/LL, H/SB, but more friendship than romance.
Sumary: After the death of Sirius, and learning the contents of the prophecy, Harry gets the opportunity to get away for a while. Independent Harry. H/LL, H/SB, but more friendship than romance.
Disclaimer: I'm not J. K. Rowling, nor do I own Harry Potter or make any money from him. If wishes were fishes....
Chapter 1 Lost and Found
"They always come back in the end."
Harry wandered Hogwarts with Luna's words in his ears. He didn't feel so depressed. But he still didn't want to talk to anyone. His feet followed their own logic and he found himself in front of a door with an "Out of Order" sign. He hadn't been in there in years. He went in.
No one interrupted him, although the only one he expected to do so was Moaning Myrtle the ghost. He opened the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets with a Parsletongue hissed "open." He stared at the pipe leading down. He couldn't conceive of Riddle casting his dignity aside to slide down that dirty thing. Plus, there had to be some way to come back up.
Harry guessed and commanded in Parseltongue, "Stairs!" The dark tube, wide enough for a phoenix's wingspan, turned into a spiral staircase. As he stepped on the stairs they started moving, and he rode down, similarly to how the spiral staircase to Dumbledore's office worked. He was carried to the bottom (where it changed from a spiral staircase to something resembling an escalator) and came out in the bone strewn room, dignity and hygiene preserved. He made his way through the tunnels to the cave in. He cast a mending spell on the ceiling, and watched as much of the fallen rubble rose to fix themselves in their former locations. When the process was complete, the repaired section actually looked stronger than the surrounding stonework. Hmmm, maybe he would have to repair the entire tunnel to make sure it didn't fall down again, he thought.
He made his way to the Chamber proper. Hissing "Lights," he illuminated the room. It stank like the reptile room in the Surrey Zoo that he had been in so many years ago. No, it smelled even worse than that. That had been the reek of reptile urine on cement. This added decay to that smell.
The stench of decay came, surprisingly, not from the the corpse of the basilisk, but from the floor surrounding it. The snake's skin had dried out and the flesh beneath had shrunk, though it was otherwise the same as it had been in life. Dead rats lay all about, having found that the snake was poisonous as well as venomous. He turned away from the dead animals. He'd had enough of death. That's not what he needed.
He looked around the Chamber. Why was this here? Obviously, it housed the snake. That wasn't right, he said to himself. The snake came from the mouth of the statue. It had to be opened by Riddle. Harry noticed the mouth was still open. If the snake lived beyond that, what was the rest of this?
He approached the statue, which was built into the wall opposite the door. He couldn't see a way to climb it, so he decided not too. He turned and faced the room.
Standing right between the feet of the statue he looked at the far door between the snake-covered columns. The place seemed symmetrical. The columns came in pairs, left and right.
Wait a minute! That third column on the right was just like the third column on the left. All the other columns on the right were mirror images of the columns on the left. Harry walked over to it.
It was like the others, about a meter in diameter. A snake wound around it and held a sconce in its mouth near the ceiling. He examined it closely. Yes, right near the tail -- a straight line in the stone. He went to a few of the other columns and checked them. Nothing. Back to the interesting one, then.
He pushed, pulled, twisted, prodded, but couldn't do anything. He tried the Aloramora spell to open it. Again, nothing. He started guessing in Parseltongue.
"Open. Reveal. Exhibit. Free. Twist. Come on! What does it take? Open Sesame?"
Apparently it did. The end of the tail disappeared, revealing a small enclosure. Inside were three levers.
"You've got to be kidding. You use magic to hide mechanisms? What do they do? Open the real secret compartment? Why not just use the magic to do it?"
Why not, indeed; unless this was a trap. You had to stick your hand in the column to pull the levers. He didn't like that idea.
He looked at the levers, then searched for a tool.
"Beggars can't be choosy," he muttered and severed a dead rat's tail. He curled the end, and used a variation of the first transfiguration spell he ever learned and turned it into a shiny, metal hook.
An enlarging charm lengthened the hook to a size where Harry felt comfortable. He was able to stay mostly out of the direct path of something coming from the direction of the levers.
He put the hook in, got it around the leftmost lever, moved his body as far to the side as possible, and pulled.
He leaped out of the way as a cascade of fire poured out of the torch far above and fell around the base of the column. It burned hot for a few minutes then dissipated.
He tried the right lever next, on the assumption that most people would go for the middle lever first, and that would be the most likely to be trapped. Harry didn't get a chance to determine if the middle one was trapped, as a section of wall near the column opened as he pulled the right lever.
Entering the room carefully, he checked it out. Bookcases, a desk, a few chairs, a fireplace, a bed, and a water closet. He looked at the books.
At this point, he was pretty sorry that he hadn't taken the Ancient Runes class. There was only one book of the dozen or so that was written in English. Another was written in Latin. He could make out something about death and several of the pages had wand motion diagrams. The English book, like the others, wasn't titled and was hand written. The first page did have a title above the handwritten words:
Practical Instruction in the Exercise and Enhancement of a Magical Trunk.
That didn't sound too exciting; a whole book on Moody's luggage? The size enhancement spells were probably very interesting, but did they warrant a whole book? He glanced at the first paragraph beneath, and realized his mistake.
What the author called "Magical Trunk" was now referred to as a "Magical Core" the magical, internal well from which you drew your magical power. That might be more interesting. It was generally thought that your magical core was by chance -- what you were born with was what you got. Exercise could help it -- but mostly help it "learn" to replenish the magic quicker. It was said that some duelists could replenish their core while they dueled, so they would never magically exhaust themselves. He glanced through the rest of the book, looking for wand motion charts to see if he could find any spells that he could use before he left. But there weren't. Looking through it he did find a strange picture in the otherwise unillustrated work. He looked at the text around it, and found a chapter heading:
On the Use of the Lovers' Mark to Share Your Trunk.
He started reading how lovers could use a ritual and a shared tattoo incorporating magical runes to basically end up with one combined magical core in two bodies. Harry skipped the description of the ritual, but read of the advantages (fairly obvious) and disadvantages (you were likely to die if your lover did, you would both get sick with certain magical diseases even if one of the pair wasn't exposed, things like that). He put the book down and continued his exploration of the room.
The desk held a few brittle quills whose nubs had been worn down, and an empty bottle of ink. There were some glass vials in the draw, but nothing in them, and that was the only draw. Harry transfigured the ink bottle into a bag and loaded up the books. He was about to sit on the stuffed chair when he decided not to. He pressed it with his hand, and the smell of mildew filled the room. He shrugged and pulled the cushions off the chair. He did find a galleon and two Knuts. He often found change under the cushions at the Dursley's house and was rather amused that the same held true here. He looked at the bed. He looked under it then lifted the bedding off. There, under the pillow, was another book. He opened it up and read the title on the first page:
My Search for Immortality by Lord Voldemort.
Harry's heart started racing as he read on.
As I have learned from many others, so I record my research into immortality. However, as I have charmed this book to be unintelligible to anyone but myself, it does you no good. As you are probably at this moment casting spell after spell on this book, all in vain, may I add, you will learn nothing but the depth of your own inferiority; I laugh at you!
It went on like that for several paragraphs; then went into a section on the Philosopher's Stone. Harry skipped ahead. The next section was on something called Soul Jars, followed by a section on Lichs and Necromancy. The next chapter was about something called Horcruxes. That sounded familiar. Harry looked through the other books and found what he was looking for. It was a Greek book, and the first page was titled with an omicron, rho, kappa, rho, chi. He had sounded it out to see if he knew what the word was, but he still didn't know. He read some of the chapter of Voldemort's book and got an idea of what a Horcrux was -- an object to store part of your soul in so should you die, you will continue, and could regain a body. That sounded like what happened at the cemetery at the end of the Triwizard Tournament.
The next chapter was titled Core Marks. That sounded remarkably like what the other book talked about. Harry started reading.
It was similar to the Lovers' Mark, but Voldemort had come up with a way to make it one way -- he could draw upon the magical cores of his followers, but they couldn't draw anything from him. Nor would their death affect him, asside from the loss of the additional magical core.
Harry kept reading. Voldemort must have done a number of rather lethal experiments on his own minions for him to be able to make some of the statements he was making. The earliest attempts weren't as successful as the later ones. He had to re-mark his first few surviving followers when he incorporated the magic of a Soul Jar into the mark on his own arm. According to this, it would allow his soul to posses one of his followers should he ever be "killed." The quotes were put there by Voldemort.
Then what happened, Harry wondered. Voldemort had taken over Quirrell in Harry's first year, but he was under the impression that that was the first re-appearance of Voldemort since his encounter with Harry on that Halloween when Harry was one. Not thinking of any solution, he went back to reading.
There was the answer in the next paragraph. Since Voldemort had already made a Horcrux he thought that method of immortality would keep his soul on this "plane" and stop him from possessing a follower, but he wasn't sure. But by making the Horcrux an active agent, all someone would have to do would be to read it and become entranced by it, and he could regain his life that way, so either method would work.
Harry read on about the Dark Mark, learning far, far more about Voldemort's sexuality than he wanted to. There was symbolism in the snake from the skull's mouth that he could have lived without knowing.
As he finished the chapter, Harry realized two things. Voldemort had described his experiments and modifications to the original Lover's Mark in great detail. Harry felt he could mark someone, with a little work to make it work with his own picture.
The second thing he realized was that he was exhausted. He loaded up the books, and headed out of the room. He guessed "Close Sesame" to shut the compartment in the column. That caused the secret room to close, too. Harry left the Chamber, entered the room full of rat skeletons, and found the base of the pipe stairless again. He incanted "Stairs" and took several tries before he said it in Parseltongue. He rode up the moving stairway and when he reached the top, he found that the entrance had closed behind him. It automatically opened for him as he approached. Stepping out he made his way back to the Gryffindor tower. It was going on three in the morning. He was going to be tired tomorrow. He collapsed into bed, setting an alarm spell.
Morning came and he dragged himself out of bed. He packed quickly, but messily, and made his way to the Hogwarts Express. He began sitting with Hermione, Ron, Neville, and Ginny. He got up to use the loo and Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were hexed into slimy things by a group of the DA who saw the three Slytherins sneaking up on Harry. Harry noticed Luna sitting in a compartment by herself, and decided he didn't want the noise of his friends' chatter.
"Mind if I sit here?"
"Come in and be welcome," Luna said, dreamily, as she looked up from her copy of the Quibbler. "Why aren't you sitting with your friends?"
"You're my friend, right?" Harry asked, rhetorically.
Luna seemed to think for a moment. "I guess I am. That's a strange feeling, having a friend. I don't know that I've ever had one my own age before. Not that you're exactly my own age. I suppose there might be someone who was born at the same second as I was; but generally my age. No, I'm very sure that I've never had a friend near my age."
"I thought Ginny was your friend."
"Ginny is friendly, most of the time. But she still calls me "Loony" and at times isn't very nice."
"I'm sorry. I hope I always treat you well, but I have to confess, that there were times during this past year when I didn't treat my friends very well. I realize now that I was under attack from Voldemort. It sort of affected the way I reacted to people."
"Oh, well, it's not like you could control that, is it? It's not like you asked He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to attack you. I assume this was before the trip to the Ministry?"
"Yes." Harry put his head back. "A lot of nights Voldemort was sending me visions, trying to make me go to the Ministry, and in the end he succeeded.
"Thank you for coming, by the way. The whole thing was incredibly stupid on my part, and I'm sorry I got you hurt. But you did very well. You and Neville were the ones who were hurt least, and he didn't have a wand for most of the time."
"Thank you for the compliment, I think. But I don't think you were stupid. You were tricked. It sounds like it took the Dark Lord a whole year to get you there. I've been tricked, too, and it took a lot less than a year to trick me. I want to thank you for including me, and becoming my friend.
"It's a beautiful day," she said, a little uncomfortable with the topic. "It's a shame we have to spend it in the train. Wouldn't you love to be running barefoot through that field?"
"I don't know. I've never run through a field, barefoot or otherwise. And Aunt Petunia would have a fit if she caught me barefoot outside, let alone tracking dirt into her house!
"I don't want to go back there!" Harry almost howled. This whole conversation invoked more emotion than he had experienced all week. It was tiring. He realized his eyes were closed, and opened them.
"Sorry, Luna. I'm just so tired."
"Go ahead and lie on the bench and take a nap. I doubt anyone will disturb me. They usually don't."
"Thanks, Luna." He lay down on the bench but sat up after a few minutes.
"What's the matter, Harry?"
"I can't get comfortable," he grumbled.
"Let me help," Luna said, moving to his bench. "Now lie down. No, with your head this side' right on my lap. Better?"
"Yes. Thank you, Luna."
"It's what friends, do, right?"
Later, Harry woke to Luna saying his name, and rubbing his shoulder and arm.
"Good morning," he said.
"It's late in the day, Harry," Luna answered matter-of-factly. "I thought you'd want to get out of your robe."
"Thanks, Luna." He pulled his robe off, and sat down next to her.
"Harry, why don't you want to go back to your home?"
"It isn't my home. It's just the place I stay."
"That's too bad. Do you ever get away? To the beach or a pool? Go on vacation? Anything fun?" Harry was shaking his head as she talked.
"Would you like to go on vacation?"
"I don't know. I've never been on one. Well, I suppose the few days I spent with the Weasley's two summers ago, going to the World Cup, sort of qualifies. The game was great, but the overall I'd have to say that the rest of that vacation was a disappointment. And then there was the "vacation" last summer where I spent it cleaning my godfather's house. The Weasleys and Hermione were around, so that wasn't so bad; and my godfather. That was nice, but we had to stay inside that dreary old house the whole summer."
"You didn't get outside at all?"
"No. But the summer after my first year in Hogwarts I spent several weeks at the Weasley's after Fred and George rescued me. We relaxed, flew, played. Yes, I suppose that was a vacation. I did some chores around their place, but really it was great."
"Rescued you? Rescued you from what?"
"Uh, from my relatives. They had me locked in my room and were only feeding me once or twice a day through a slot in the door, and there were bars on the windows."
"You were a prisoner?"
"Yes, sort of."
She looked at him with those large unblinking eyes.
"You can't go back there now."
"You can't go back. You've been tired since your grandfather died, right? You haven't wanted to talk to anyone? You've been too tired to care? You feel very sad, or else you don't feel at all?" Harry was nodding his head to all this. "You are depressed, Harry Potter. If you go back there, you will fall further into your depression. In the worst case you might try to kill yourself. I don't have enough friends to let them kill themselves. You are coming with me and Daddy to Sweden." Luna was looking at him intently with her silvery eyes, her face serious.
"I can't go to Sweden," he said, disbelievingly.
"And why not?"
"I don't have a passport, first of all."
She waved a hand dismissively, and smiled. "Oh, Harry, we're witches and wizards. We were crossing country boundaries before there were countries. And the ancient Celts had an agreement with the Vikings so we don't need passports."
"But it would cost you too much."
"Poppycock. We already have the portkey paid for. You have all your stuff packed. You'll stay in our tent. Three can eat almost as cheaply as two."
He finally got to the real argument, and said in a dead voice, "But I need to go back to my Aunt and Uncle's to renew the blood wards."
"The what?" Luna asked.
Harry explained what he had been told.
"Are you even sure they're still there?"
"I don't know. How do I tell?"
"There are ways, but you have to cast spells. But if the wards survive as long as you consider that place home, they're long gone. You already told me that it isn't your home, just the place you stay."
"True, but. . . ." Harry's voice trailed off.
"Oh!" Luna suddenly said, drawing away from him. "I'm sorry. That was really presumptuous of me; never mind."
"What? Oh, no, Luna! I'd love to go. It's just that my Uncle would never agree. If he even thought I might enjoy myself, he'd object in a second. I really would like to go."
"If we got your uncle's permission, would you come?"
"Faster than he could tell me I can't go."
"Well, then, that's settled."
"We just have to get your uncle's permission," she said as if everything was settled.
"But he'll never agree!"
Luna looked at him with those large, silvery eyes, and said, "Don't whine, Harry. It's unbecoming in a hero."
"I'm not a hero!" He said, angrily.
"That's better. Just don't make it a habit to be angry. Only be angry when it's appropriate and it serves your purpose."
"Go get your luggage and I'll meet you on the platform," she said as she reached for her trunk. The train pulled into the station, and there was a lot of action in the corridor.
Harry went back to the compartment where the other people who had gone with him to the Department of Mysteries were sitting.
"Good, mate!" Ron said. "I was going to go wake you. Hermione said you were sleeping in Luna's compartment."
He looked at Ron, still feeling confused by the last part of his conversation with Luna. "Er, yes."
"She should have woken you sooner, so you'd be more awake by now."
"Why'd you go to Luna's compartment, Harry?" Ginny asked.
"The quiet, mostly; I didn't want you to have to be quiet just because I wanted to nap, and she was just reading, so I wasn't interrupting her."
"Oh, so you didn't. . . ." Ginny voice trailed off.
"Er, talk to her?"
"Sure we talked. It would have been very impolite for me to just barge in and take over half the compartment, wouldn't it? But she was nice about letting me sleep there, so it was fine." Harry stuffed his robe into his trunk, and started maneuvering into the corridor and off the train. He met Luna on the platform and talked briefly with her. They stood in the middle of the platform while students moved past.
"Hey, Harry!" Ron said as he headed towards the exit. "Come on!"
"In a minute, Ron!" Harry called back. A wizard dressed in sky blue robes (with fluffy clouds moving around on it) appeared next to them. Luna introduced Harry to her father Oddment Lovegood. She also explained that she had invited Harry to go to Sweden with them. Harry found it quite strange how Mr. Lovegood just accepted his daughter's decision. He shrunk Luna's trunk and stuck it in his pocket. They then made their way to the Muggle part of the station. He asked Luna and her father to give him a chance to convince his uncle before they came to help.
He found his uncle looking very uncomfortable with several wizards and a witch confronting him. Mad Eye Moody nodded to him as he came up.
"We told 'im that we expect a note from you every three days saying you're fine. If he gives you any trouble, we'll be nearby." Tonks and Arthur Weasley said goodbye and walked away. He also said a quick goodbye to Ron, Ginny, and Hermione. Harry turned to his uncle, whose face was turning red.
"Uncle Vernon, I had nothing to do with that. . . ."
"Obviously, you've been lying about your treatment, boy. If you think I'll let you get away with that. . . ."
"I never told them anything about my treatment, uncle. It's just that they're not stupid. They can see that I'm underfed each year I return to school. They can see that I'm given rags to wear, while the rest of the family wears nice clothes. The Weasleys rescued me that summer and they saw the bars on my windows. It doesn't take any words of mine to tell them how you treat me. My condition speaks volumes."
"If that's the way you feel, why do you keep coming back? I'll tell you! Because you're worthless and they know it! They won't have you. . . ."
"Funny you should mention that. I've been invited to join a classmate on vacation. So, if you don't want me, I'll be going."
"Wait, boy! What about that lot?"
"I'll send the owl every three days saying I'm fine. Don't worry. Bye!"
Harry left as Uncle Vernon cursed ungrateful freaks for making him come all the way to London for nothing.
Harry rolled the trolley with his trunk and Hedwig over to the side where Luna and her father were waiting. They went back to Platform Nine and three quarters. Mr. Lovegood shrank Harry's trunk and pocketed it. They then all held each other and Hedwig's cage with the protesting bird as Mr. Lovegood activated the portkey.
As he felt the "fishhook behind the nevel" sensation, Harry reflected that he hated portkeys.
Author Note: Before anyone complains, I know that's not JKRs first name for Mr. Lovegood. But I like it better.
Thanks to Swordchucks and Evan Mayerle for their help with finding errors. And they did, so if you find more, blame me, as I'm always fiddling about and probably added them afterwards.